Any cunning coach committed to building his or her team of cardio athletes knows there are a thousand-and-one ways to put a cracker under the clacker of an ambitious punter of the peloton and secure their patronage. One such way is to refer to the aforementioned punter as a ‘cardio athlete’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Another way is to move from that initial flattery to marketing your services on the grounds of ‘prestige’ and ‘scarcity’.
In my bunch, The Old Cranks, Miguelito “El Dingo Loco” de Pared was hooked from the beginning. At best, he is a recreational randonneur with little prospect of rising to the dizzying heights of rank amateur. But now, apparently, he is a ‘cardio athlete’.
“Our training programs cater for everyone from recreational cyclists doing their first sportive through to competitive cyclists at the national level,” the website said. Prestige. Miguelito couldn’t help but imagine that he was leaning a little towards the competitive end of that spectrum.
“We only take on ten cardio athletes at a time to ensure that everyone gets the individual attention they need to achieve their goals.” Scarcity. Better join the program while you can.
And he did. Within days of stumbling upon this online pitch Miguelito went from a self-managed, devout follower of Greg LeMond’s Complete Book Of Cycling to a born-again-bicycling-boot-camper with cycling coach, nutritionist, core strength trainer, masseuse, Yoga instructor and acupuncturist. He’s now looking for a second job just to maintain his growing entourage.
History will judge LeMond’s 352 page cycling manifesto as a classic text from a golden era. Only the foolish would deny that it was prophetic, ahead of its time, while remaining an ode to all things ‘old school’. To the uninitiated, the three paragraphs on page 214 dedicated to breathing will be a revelation, despite one’s direct experience of the involuntary nature of the respiratory function.
Nevertheless, LeMond had clearly over-engineered the whole shebang and large slabs of this epistle from one of pro-cycling’s celebrated apostles remain inaccessible to your average pedal pusher.
Chris Carmichael’s The Time Crunched Cyclist is a modern example of the genre. The promise is that you will be “fit, fast and powerful in six hours a week” – at first glance, an unnerving claim coming from someone long associated with Lance Armstrong. But to his credit Chris has developed an innovative high intensity, low volume program for folks with busy lives.
Unfortunately, all of those hours you save by abandoning your low intensity, high volume program are spent trying to understand what your body does with adenosine triphosphate, calculating oxygen usage in millimetres per kilogram per minute, and interpreting graphic depictions of “steady effort powerful intervals”.
I think, when all is said and done, Dr Marco “The Maestro” Pierfederici was the best at demystifying the art and science of cycling. The Maestro worked with the great Eddy Merckx. In addition to overlooking The Cannibal’s standard stage-race diet of steaks and beer, he kept Eddy focused on the three things a cyclist should do.
“Very simply, the training that a competitive cyclist should do is based on riding a bicycle,” Marco said. Sounds a tad obvious, but eminently doable. Ride the bike. Tick.
“Once the season is over,” he went on, “there is another thing the cyclist should do — and that is to ride a bicycle.” It’s technically the off season, but again, doable. Ride the bike. Tick.
“When the cyclist doesn’t know what else to do, he should do a third thing,” The Maestro said. “Ride a bicycle.” Tick. I think I’ve grasped the essence of his philosophy.
It’s not rocket surgery folks but, let’s face it, if it’s good enough for The Cannibal, it’s probably good enough for you and me.
At present, the only other training method that makes more sense to me than Pierfederici’s three pronged plan has come out of Tezza’s shed on the south side of Springwood.
Tezza is a sparky by trade who wields his soldering iron with the sensibilities of an artist and turns a screw driver with the precision of a cardiac surgeon. In a moment of inspiration, he hooked-up his old Giant roadie to a 24 volt, 200-watt electric motor.
Tezza now has an entire training regime built around his capacity to run domestic appliances. On an average morning in the shed he can run his Marantz record player and ride to the original vinyl release of Johnny Diesel and the Injectors. At the peak of his powers Tezza can run a laptop and buy Penrith Panthers footy shorts and socks from Peter Wynn’s online store.
He has high hopes for his son Matt, who he believes will one day power-up the old Panasonic television and play River Raid on his Atari 2600.
The only other technical innovation in Tezza’s approach is his unique adaptation of the Rate of Perceived Exertion: completely stuffed, really stuffed, stuffed, not quite stuffed, and riding towards stuffed.
Of course, Tezza’s method won’t work for everyone. It is advisable to explore the full range of training options and there are few better ways to do so than by talking to a pro. I’m being indirectly mentored by the Australian cycling legend Amanda Spratt who comes home to Springwood for the handful of months wedged between the UCI Worlds and the Australian National Road Championships. Spratty and I have never actually spoken, but last summer I lost 25 pounds and added two miles per hour to my average speed trying to catch-up with her for a chat along Hawkesbury Road.