Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cycligent Virtual Racing World Cup Recap

The Cycligent Virtual Racing (CVR) event in Paris was absolutely mind blowing.  First off, CVR rented the entire velodrome for the event,  and then it was an incredible production.  Camera crews,  lights, sound, TV broadcasters, MASSIVE internet upload capability and then all of the riders.  40 riders(20 male, 20 female) from around the world were selected to come to Paris to race head to head in the virtual world in the real world.  Huh?   Well, the riders were there in the real world, all on smart trainers, with computer monitors, fans, keyboards, lined up in a row, but they were all racing each other inside the Zwift virtual cycling world.  

Each rider had an avatar, raced in the kit of their choice and raced as hard or harder than they would have in the real world.   It was amazing.  There was a qualifying event on Friday which seeded the top riders into the “Elite” category and then the rest in the “Performance” category.

The Top riders were top.  We are talking over 6.1w/kg for the winning male rider and over 5.2w/kg for the female, so it was not a simple effort that anyone could have done.  The qualifying event set up for a 3 stage, stage race on Saturday where the riders had to compete in a Hill climb, a Road Race and a criterium,  with only 5minutes separating each event for a total of an hour and half of racing.   Again, this was an incredible production with commentators (including yours truly) throughout the event and culminating in some incredibly exciting racing at the finishes.  

IRL(in real life),  there were about 200 spectators at the event.  In the virtual world, there were nearly 10,000 people that watched the event and “cheered” for their athletes.   You could “cheer” for your athlete by contributing to the prize pool by adding a dollar or 20 bucks, whatever you wanted.   The prize pool total was OVER $45,000!  Yes, you read that correctly.  Real money. In the real world for racing in the virtual world.   The winners took home over $3500 and the prizes were equal between men and women.  The men’s elite winner, Ian Bibby, a pro for the JLT Condor pro team noted,  “This is great. I just won $3500 and I don’t even have to split the winnings with my teammates!”

I came away from the event, both excited and encouraged by this new medium in which we can all compete.  I believe that you will see a lot more coming from CVR in the future and I know that Peaks Coaching Group will be involved.   Stay tuned in this space!

Have a look at the CVR facebook page to see the pictures and to watch the coverage of the race, and see yours truly do some fun interviews down on the racing floor.

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group. He has coached over 500 athletes ranging from professionals to fitness enthusiasts, and has helped many athletes achieve dreams and goals that they didn’t think were possible.  He specializes in coaching cyclists with wattage meters and is on the forefront coaching with cycling’s newest tools.   He has online training programs including Cyclo-Cross plans available at    and you can contact Hunter directly

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Not a pro? Why would you need a coach? - By PCG Coach David Ertl

Professional cyclists and triathletes typically hire coaches.  This makes sense as their career and income depend on their results.  Paying someone to help them be successful is good business.  But what about recreational and amateur athletes who hire coaches – what is the rationale there?  For an aspiring amateur wanting to get to the professional level, coaching just makes sense.  However, many  athletes who purchase  custom coaching through Peaks Coaching Group are avid cyclists/enthusiasts with no intention of racing let alone ever attempting to become a pro.  Many don’t even consider themselves athletes.  They may just want to keep up with their fellow cyclists on group rides, participate in a local or regional triathlon, compete in or just complete a gran fondo.  In many cases, they have no aspirations of entering, much less winning, a race.   So why would an amateur athlete invest good money in a custom coaching program when there is absolutely no financial reward?

To answer this we have to look at the reasons why these amateur athletes participate in their chosen sport. While not pros , most athletes who hire a coach are very committed to their chosen sport, often giving it a priority in their lives only behind family and jobs in importance.  They are very invested in their sport as evidenced by the hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars they invest in training and equipment.  If athletes are willing to commit this much time and money to their sport, doesn’t it make sense for them to invest in their own “motor”, which will have greater impact on their results than equipment ever can?  There are a number of benefits that an amateur athlete can gain through coaching. Let’s take a look at them:

Time: Most amateur athletes have time constraints such as full-time jobs, families and other obligations. They certainly can’t devote large blocks of time during the week and even on weekends training like the pros do. So they need to get the most of out their limited training time.  Additionally, because of their other obligations, their recovery time is also limited and may be impeded by work and family obligations.  Also, because of their busy lives, they may not have time to develop their own training plans.

Expertise, Knowledge and Technology:  Amateur athletes typically do not have the knowledge and tools to create a scientifically sound training regimen. One alternative to coaching is to buy a pre-built training plan, but the athlete would need to know enough to adjust it specific to their own situation. Analyzing data from workouts is an area where a coach typically has far more education and experience than a self-coached athlete.  As new methods and devices become available (heart rate monitors, power meters, GPS computers, motion sensors, software tools), the amount of data collected on a simple ride can be overwhelming. A coach can help sort through and identify the critical pieces of data to examine.  

Interest level: While some very motivated athletes are fully capable of designing a workable training plan for themselves, others are not.  Even those that are, often choose to hire a coach simply because they don’t want to invest the time (see Time above) and energy in coming up with a plan. They would rather let someone else do the planning for them so they can focus on training and following the plan. When the coach takes on the responsibility of crafting the plan, the athlete can get back to doing what they like doing (riding their bike and training) rather than doing something that they have to do (creating a custom training plan).

Accountability: This is a big one.  Often amateur athletes need some accountability for remaining on task and following the plan , especially for busy folks or those lacking discipline.  A coach provides that accountability. For the athlete, knowing the coach will be taking a look to see if they followed the Training Plan as prescribed provides much needed motivation at times.

Perspective:  Another big one.  Self-coached athletes tend to let their emotions get in the way. A coach can be more objective and help the athlete keep perspective when things aren’t going well.  A bad ride or an illness may seem like the end of the world to a committed athlete while the coach can assure the athlete that it is only a minor setback.  A coach can also provide objective feedback on training progress and provide positive feedback when the athlete is doing well and is showing improvement. A coach evaluates and determines your actual strengths and weaknesses and gets to know you on a very personal level.

Intensity and Recovery: As often as not, a coach needs to help an athlete understand the importance of intensity, which is a bit of a “double edged sword” in itself.  Amateurs aren’t going to have the physical capacity to handle professional level workloads so, workouts should be tailored to the individual client’s needs. Recovery is too often downplayed significantly by self-coached athletes.  Self-coached athletes tend not to push themselves hard enough when they should be training hard.  But then again, they don’t take enough easy days (really easy) either. They tend to do most of their training going moderately fast but never pushing the limits (which will lead to improvement ) and then not allowing adequate rest and recovery (where that improvement really  occurs!).

Setting Achievable Goals & Measuring Progress: While a  fair number  of athletes coached through PCG do race, a surprising number don’t – they just want to improve. This can create real challenges for the athlete in measuring improvement.  The first step here is to assess the athletes current condition and with their input determine achievable goals.  A coach can help them establish goals and in turn convert those goals into data points without the need for race results.  Using speed, heart rate, power, cadence and now motion analysis, a wide range of goals can be determined and metrics can be used to measure progress toward those goals.

Coaching Bonuses:  A coach looks at the complete fitness picture and can schedule in mobility routines, appropriate warm-ups and cool-downs, foam rolling, pedaling drills, strength training and even nutrition - aspects of training that are very often forgotten by athletes who are too busy ‘training’, when these can be important components of training as well.  Something often overlooked is the positive influence a  good coach can offer by providing encouragement and motivation, read “cheer leader” for an athlete.

Equipment and Ride Recommendations: Need a new head unit , power meter or even a bike?  Ask your coach for advice.  Looking to venture into giving gravel, mountain biking or CX (Cyclocross) a try and don’t know where to begin? Want to give racing a try? Do you want to try an endurance ride? Maybe just a medio, piccolo or gran fondo?  Even a big group ride? A coach can help here too.

Yes, coaching costs money, yet your time spent on the bike can be made much more efficient.  Those new carbon wheels you just bought could have paid for a year or more of coaching and you could be so much faster on your “old” wheels with coaching.  Over the long-haul, you may even save money and time off of the bike by preventing overuse injuries. 

If hiring a coach simply isn’t in your budget, ask about other resources your coach can offer, like consulting which could include goal setting, writing a custom training plan, or even just finding the correct pre-built plan while you save up some money.

David Ertl is an Elite coach with Peaks Coaching Group. His Coaching Focus is on Road, MTB,CX,TT. 

Find out more about David

Friday, August 25, 2017

LEOMO TYPE-R and the PCD - Power,Cadence,Dead Spot Score

The PCD (Power, Cadence and Dead Spot Score) Map is an excellent tool to review on a regular (daily) basis.  The PCD map consists of   Cadence on Y axis, Power/Wattage on X axis) the frequency of your “dead spots”.  As the  percentage of  dead spots within a particular Power and Cadence range the increases, the box will change color from Green to Red.  The opacity of the box has to do with count of the total “cycles” within that power/cadence combination.    If you mouse over the box, you will see the Dead Spots in relation to total cylces or revolutions.  This map was developed by myself, along with Dr. Michael Coco and the team at LEOMO in order to solve the seemingly “unanswerable/ultimate” question:  What is your optimal Cadence and Power combination?    It turns out that using the TYPE-R motion  analysis device, your power meter, and the PCD map, you can darn near if not outright answer the question.  (And the answer isn’t “42” for all you “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” fans).   

After having studied many of these maps now, I have found that each of us have multiple “optimal” cadences.  What the real question we should be asking is: What is our optimal “gearing” for a specific cadence and power combination?    This is what the PCD map is showing you.   Where is the pattern on the map that gives you the least amount of dead spots?   These are your optimal gearing combinations.

Let’s take a look at what I would consider one of the best PCD maps I have seen. This rider is PCG coach Gary Hoffman and he has been racing bicycles for over 45 years now, had tremendous success at local, regional and national levels on the road and the track.  Gary is the epitome of efficient and economical.  He wastes no energy ever on the bike and when you see him ride, it appears even more effortless than the best TDF pros.   He’s clearly honed his pedaling technique with millions upon millions of revolutions. Notice how his “pattern” that I have so precisely(sarcasm) drawn over his map.  This pattern is a diagonal from bottom left all the way across his entire power band to the upper right at the highest cadence values.  This shows his Optimal cadence for each power output across the entire map.  Not many people have this ability across all wattages and cadence ranges.

Not only does he have great range, but both legs are basically identical! This is what you are looking for: A pattern in your map where there are less deadspots.
Let’s contrast this with another PCD map.  This map was created by an athlete that has been riding for 20 years, went on a long ride in the middle of summer with 95 degree heat, got dehydrated and over-heated.   First, have a look at the first half of his 5 hour ride.  Clearly over 90rpm, he produces less dead spots, but as soon as he drops below 90rpm, his frequency of dead spots increase.

Now, have a look at the second half of the ride.   This shows just how much fatigue can contribute to poor motion patterns, which in turn contribute to more fatigue and a downward self-replicating spiral.

The second half PCD map displays a lot more red especially with the right leg and across all wattage and cadence ranges.  His left leg seems to be pretty decent still above 90rpm, but even at lower wattages (under 150w) he has more dead spots with the right leg in the second half of the ride versus the first half of the ride.  Clearly an example of fatigue.
Let’s take a look at another rider in a recent training ride. This was a tempo ride that had two intervals of 20 minutes each at his “Sweetspot” (88-93% of FTP).

Here we see that above 100rpm, the frequency of his dead spots are significantly reduced and in some cases, half of what they are at 91-100rpm.  The right leg clearly likes a little faster cadence and the left is fine at 91-110rpm.  What is obvious from this map, is that below 100rpm, the number of dead spots dramatically increase and become very noticeable between 71-90rpm.
From these three different riders, we see different patterns of the “Optimal” power and cadence relationship.  There really isn’t a “Norm” for all riders, and has been the case with over 50 riders that I have analyzed now and each of our optimal combinations are a little different.  However, once you discover your pattern, it will be pretty much the same unless you make a change to your “pedaling print” in some way.   The next step is to determine your optimal for different types of riding:  Hills, flats, races, etc.