Variations on a Theme: Threshold Work for Cyclocross

If you've been racing all summer, your power at threshold has declined as you focus on racing and recovering. Click through to read Coach Christian's suggestions to increase your FTP for the CX season.

Bills, Bacon, and Beer: Mastering the Extracurricular Skills of Cyclocross

Cyclocross racing is different. And we don't mean just the dismounts, carries, and bunny hopping.

Using a Power Meter in Cyclocross

Cyclocross has a unique set of demands, and it's almost impossible to hold a steady power during a race, but your power meter is still an invaluable asset this season.

Racing and Riding in the Rain

Rain changes things, but it doesn't have to keep you off your bike. Coach Marianne shares some tips for those rainy days.

Three Common Racing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

It's hard to win. And in all our efforts to win, we make mistakes. Read about three of the common errors made in racing, plus tips on how to avoid them.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hunter Allen Reviews the Pinarello Dogma Think 2

Peaks Coaching Group Pinarello Dogma Review Hunter Allen

A bike should go fast, handle great, and keep you comfortable throughout the ride. The Pinarello Dogma Think 2 does just that! When I first built up my frameset and got it all together, I was impressed by the incredible attention to detail on the Dogma. She is a real beauty, inside and out! Outfitted with the MOST handlebars (which I love and have put on all my bikes for the last eight years), my Dogma Think 2 has an incredible combination of good looks and functionality. I’ve admired and ogled the Pinarello for years; to me they are the epitome of Italian style and raciness, and they remind me of the sleek, curvaceous, sexy, super-fast cars that also come out of Italy, of which I am also a big fan!


I said it once and I’ll say it again: this thing is a “velvet hammer.” I’ve been fortunate over the years to ride many high-end bicycles and can detect slight differences in geometry, stiffness/flexibility, and handling. When I pushed the Dogma to its limits, I learned one key thing: no matter how smooth it made things feel, it was faster! To be honest, this surprised me. My immediate impression was a super-smooth, rock-solid bike that was comfortable right out of the build, but this can sometimes come with a slight penalty in handling and acceleration. Not with the Dogma. I am a decent sprinter, so I want a bike that will accelerate instantly and give me the feeling of instant speed, as well, and the Dogma does that perfectly. The more miles I put on it, the more I was able to push this bike. As I rode all my local favorite fast spots and big downhills, it was confirmed that I was faster, often 1-2 mph faster.


The Dogma handling is pure smooth, with some unique handling properties. For descending and hard corning, the Dogma is highly predictable. My standard test of a new bike is to climb up my local 25-minute climb and then descend back down it. Now, I have probably descended the mountain over 500 times in the past 30 years, so I know every divot and bump in the road, along with the perfect line. This makes me a bit demanding with a bike’s cornering ability; when I want that thing to carve, I want it to carve THEN! I don’t believe in taking a casual “run” down the mountain, so the first time down on a new bike, I just make sure the brakes are working and the skewers are tight, and then I go for it. I pushed the Dogma down the mountain, pushing the handling to the limit, and this thing just sticks the turns and glues you to your lines. Most importantly, it turned exactly when I wanted it to! The feeling of this is highly confidence-building, and when I compare the data, I am always faster on the Dogma than on my other bikes.


Here is another major plus for the Dogma. The long-term comfort of the bike is excellent, and knocking out four hours or more of a training ride is a breeze (from the comfort aspect, anyway). The solid feeling and road-absorbing quality carbon does a lot to smooth the ride. I’ve ridden a lot of pro-level bikes that can beat you up over time, but not the Dogma.

Power Testing

Stiff! The dogma performs as well as any pro-level bike I have ridden or tested, with the addition of the smooth, controlled feeling I mentioned above. Combined with the MOST handlebars (which I highly recommend), I cracked the elusive 1500-watt barrier for a peak one second, and I did it three more times to make sure it wasn’t a recording anomaly with my power meter. The bike is not an insane quick-handling, darty bike (which I neither want nor like) as some bikes can be, which is great, and it contains the perfect combination of handling for cornering and descending, along with the power numbers that tell me the feeling of smoothness isn’t also a flexing that causes a loss of power.

Riding the amazing Pinarello Dogma has been a pleasure. It is easily one of the most enjoyable bikes I have owned that delivers on the promise!

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of Training and Racing with a Power Meter and Cutting-Edge Cycling, co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Hunter can be contacted directly through

Monday, August 25, 2014

Carter Jones Takes USA Pro Challenge

by Stephen McGregor, Ph.D., PCG master coach and personal coach to Carter Jones
Peaks Coaching Group Carter Jones USA Pro Challenge
Vail TT.    Photo Credit: VeloNews
On the back of four impressive top-ten finishes, including a fourth and sixth on the first and third stages respectively, Optum pro Carter Jones cemented his place as the top American GC rider in the domestic peloton at the UCI 2.HC USA Pro Challenge. Were it not for a well-publicized neutralization on Stage 2, which resulted in a case of hypothermia for Jones that dropped him to twelfth overall, he likely would have finished in the top five on GC. Regardless, in the last weekend of racing he attacked the elite group of GC men at the top of Hoosier Pass on Stage 5, then improved eleven places on his 2013 performance in the Stage 6 Vail TT to finish tenth on the day. Then in the Stage 7 finale, he again made the final group of GC contenders and showed off his great form by coming out of the last turn first, leading out Optum sprinter Jesse Anthony and finishing tenth himself. 

This accomplishment comes only two weeks after Carter finished seventh on GC in the UCI 2.1 (and America’s toughest stage race) Tour of Utah and several months after his May finish of eleventh on GC in the UCI 2.HC Tour of California. These high placings in America’s three premier UCI stage races have garnered Jones much attention in the press and make a strong argument that he is ready for a shot at the World Tour.

Congratulations, Carter! We can't wait to see all the places you'll go from here!

Carter Jones Peaks Coaching Group USA Pro Challenge
Attack on Hoosier. Photo Credit: VeloNews

Carter Jones Peaks Coaching Group USA Pro Challenge
Final circuit in Denver. Photo Credit: VeloNews

Click below for additional information:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Variations on a Theme: Threshold Work for Cyclocross

By Christian Sheridan, PCG elite coach
Peaks Coaching Group Iain Banks Cyclocross Workouts Christian Sheridan
PCG elite coach Iain Banks powers over a cyclocross course
Original photo credit: Alex Pline
It’s the time of year when thoughts turn to cowbells, barriers, and mud. Yes, it is time for cyclocross. Rider approaches to cross vary widely; for some, cross is the focus of the season and they’re just ramping up their training, while others are winding down the road season and thinking about extending the racing with some cross. In both cases, there is a need to rebuild FTP (functional threshold power), but in a cross-focused way.

If you've been racing all summer, your power at threshold has declined as you focus on racing and recovering. Even if you haven’t spent the summer racing on the road and instead put in some long base rides to build aerobic fitness and endurance, you'll want to get a good block just topping off the tank, as it were. Nearly all riders know that riding in their sweet spot (88-93% of FTP) is one of the most time-efficient ways to increase FTP, but for cross there are some minor adjustments that can be made to make the workouts even more specific.

When it comes to specificity, let’s think about what makes a cross race different from other races. First, think about the start. The first half to full lap of a cross race is perhaps the hardest few minutes you can experience on a bike as everyone fights for position into the first technical sections. So the first recommendation I make is that EVERY workout begin with a five-minute blowout effort at VO2max intensity (zone 5 power).

The next thing about cross is that the effort is never steady; instead, there are lots and lots of jumps at near max intensity. In this way cross is like a technical crit, but with a key difference: in cross there is no pack and very little drafting. Yes, there are moments when you aren’t pedaling, but it’s not because you’re being swept along by the pack but because you’re setting up for a corner or obstacle. Besides those moments, you need to be on the gas, so we design workouts that mimic that kind of effort.

There are two ways I address this with my athletes: intervals with jumps and intervals with bursts. Essentially you perform tempo or sweet spot interval (e.g. 45-60 at 80-85% FTP or 2 x 20 at 88-93%) and at set intervals you perform either a jump (a 10- to 12-second sprint) or a burst (30 seconds at 110%+ FTP). The jumps help with accelerating after a slow corner or a remount, the bursts with those times in a race when you want to respond to or initiate an attack. But the key is that after the intense effort you don't let power fall below the zone for the interval. This forces your body to make a hard effort without easing off to recover, just like the uneven efforts you find in cross races.

Below are two of my favorite variations on classic workouts aimed at cross. I usually start with the tempo-with-jumps workout and begin with 30-45 minutes (depending on the length of the race) and work up to an hour.

Cyclocross Workout 1: Tempo with Jumps

WU: 10-15 minutes working into zone 2, with 3 x 1-minute fast pedal/low power efforts with 1 minute recovery between.

MS1: 5-minute blowout VO2max effort. Do 5 minutes at 110% FTP or Zone 5. Think of this as the first few minutes of a cross race; even if you’re not going for the hole shot, you need to maintain or improve your position. Recover 3-5 minutes afterwards (as you get stronger, decrease the recovery interval).

MS2: Ride 60 minutes in Zone 3. Within this effort do 12-20 all-out jumps of 10-12 seconds. Recover immediately to Zone 3 after each jump. Start with 12 jumps (every 5 minutes) and add more each time you do the workout.

CD: 10-15 minutes in Zone 1.

Cyclocross Workout 2: Sweet Spot with Bursts

WU: 10-15 minutes working into zone 2, with 3 x 1-minute fast pedal/low power efforts with 1 minute recovery between.

MS1: 5-minute blowout VO2max effort. Do 5 minutes at 110% FTP or Zone 5. Think of this as the first few minutes of a cross race; even if you’re not going for the hole shot, you need to maintain or improve your position. Recover 3-5 minutes afterward (as you get stronger, decrease the recovery interval).

MS2: 2 x 20 minutes sweet spot, with watts 88-93% FTP. Within this effort, do 5 x 30-second efforts at 110% FTP. After the 30-minute effort, return immediately to sweet spot, never letting watts fall below 88% FTP. Recover 5 minutes between efforts.

CD: 10-15 minutes in Zone 1.

Christian is a Level 2 USAC cycling coach, an assistant professor at Bridgewater College, and a father of one living near Charlottesville, Virginia. He has coached athletes at all levels and has helped several athletes upgrade from Cat 5 to Cat 2. Christian can be contacted through or

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Peaks Coaching Group Continues to Expand Internationally

Peaks Coaching Group Hunter Allen International Expansion India Brazil Brasil

Peaks Coaching Group Expands in Brazil, Japan, and India
Bedford, VA, USA – August 6, 2014

Peaks Coaching Group is the leading international endurance-based power training company for cyclists and triathletes. The founder and CEO of Peaks Coaching Group, Hunter Allen, is widely known as one of the top experts in training with power and is the coauthor of the authoritative book Training and Racing with a Power Meter. Peaks Coaching Group has been growing rapidly in the last several years as power training has become the new norm for competitive cycling and endurance training. We are pleased to announce that PCG now has affiliate groups in two countries, Brazil and Japan. Both groups are owned and operated by PCG coaches who have been trained and mentored by Hunter Allen. In addition, PCG continues its international expansion through coaching two professional cycling teams in India, Trek Firefox and Specialized Kynkyny.

In Brazil, PCG elite coach Cris Solak owns and operates Peaks Brazil. Cris has been coaching for over fifteen years and is an accomplished pro triathlete himself and a Brazilian National Champion. Hunter Allen commented, “Cris has been part of the PCG team for over five years coaching PCG athletes as well as working at PCG training camps. Brazil has always been a hot spot for power training, and now we have Cris and his team to handle the needs of so many interested cyclists and triathletes in Brazil.” Cris is excited about bringing power training to Brazil. “As a coach,” he said, “I combine my extensive racing experience and years of athletic studies with Hunter’s proprietary power training education, and I can provide the ultimate coaching experience for my athletes.” You can read more about Cris and his coaching on his website:

In Japan, PCG elite coach Takashi Nakata owns and operates Peaks Coaching Group Japan. Takashi is an experienced coach and athlete with twenty-five years of road, track, and cyclocross racing at national and international events. “I have always wanted to pass on the cycling knowledge that I have obtained in the US while traveling in California, as well as Hunter Allen’s expertise of power training and education, to help Japanese riders achieve their potential,” said Takashi. “The scientific and quantified approach to training that Hunter and the PCG team bring to the table will be exciting to help advance the Japanese cycling culture to a more international level.” Hunter Allen, who has mentored Takashi, commented, “Takashi is a sponge for power knowledge. His analytical mind and background studies mixed with his racing background are perfect for really grasping the technical power concepts that are needed to run Peaks Coaching Group Japan.” Takashi has begun to translate the PCG blog into Japanese to bring Hunter’s power knowledge and articles to the Japanese cycling community: Takashi’s site already has over 1,300 reader hits a day, and as Hunter said, “Coach Takashi’s future with power training and Peaks Coaching Group in Japan has huge growth potential!”

In India, PCG president Tim Cusick has been working closely with renowned Indian coach Srinath Rajam to develop two pro teams. The response and growth from the Indian athletes has been tremendous. Tim developed a team coaching approach for the India teams that includes not just the pro team but over 100 competitive cyclists training and competing regionally and nationally. The PCG coaches have been teaching and training the athletes about power, as well as race tactics and strategy. “It has been an honor to work and coach with Sri and the Indian cyclists,” Tim said, “and it’s been exciting watching them grow and become strong international teams.” Srinath Rajam has coordinated and sponsored this aggressive cycling development in India and is looking forward to UCI pro status in 2015 for Team Trek Firefox and Team Specialized Kynkyny. Click here to find out more:

For more information, contact:
Kathy Watts

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos

from the kitchen of Jen Sommer, PCG nutritionist
Image Credit:
This simple recipe packs a bunch of flavor for its small ingredient list. It's vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free (if your tortillas are), and delicious!

1 large sweet potato
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 can black beans
1 small yellow onion
1 avocado, cut into bite-size pieces
½ bunch kale
8 6-inch tortillas (white corn/wheat mix works well)
Cumin or coriander
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pre-cook sweet potato in microwave for three minutes, then cut into ½-inch cubes. Toss cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until tender and golden.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the beans over low heat, adding a pinch of cumin or coriander midway through.

Dice onion and sauté in olive oil until tender.  If you're feeling adventurous and have a dark beer around, cooking the onions in beer instead of olive oil yields a nice flavor.

Rip washed kale into bite-size pieces and sauté over medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Divide sweet potato, beans, onion, kale, and avocado evenly among eight tacos, and enjoy!

Jen is a registered dietitian, a certified specialist in sports dietetics, a former NASM certified personal trainer, and a self-appointed mountain girl. As a cyclist, skier, hiker, and runner (among other things), she knows firsthand the importance of proper nutrition and training. She offers nutrition coaching and consulting through Peaks Coaching Group. Find more great tips, recipes, and articles at Jen's blog, Mountain Girl Nutrition and Fitness.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bills, Bacon, and Beer: Mastering the Extracurricular Skills of Cyclocross

By Gordon Paulson, PCG elite coach
Image Credit:
Cyclocross racing is different. Apart from the mount/dismount, suitcase carries, step-through dismounts, and bunny hopping, a CX race can present rare and mysterious challenges unlike those of a typical criterium. You’ll need to be prepared. Before you line up for your first CX race, make sure you’re ready for that ‘cross-distinguishing element: the hand-up.

Now if you want to get technical, there are most likely rules against accepting hand-ups in your ‘cross races, and there’s no feed zone. But it’s ‘cross; what’s a few rules to get in the way of general craziness? Hand-ups are as much a part of the culture as the dismount.

There are basically three types of hand-ups you should prepare for: bills, bacon, and beer.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Carter Jones Does It Again!

Carter Jones Peaks Coaching Group Coach Stephen McGregor
Image credit: VeloNews
Optum pro Carter Jones, coached by PCG master coach Dr. Stephen McGregor, notched three top-ten performances at the 2014 Tour of Utah that culminated with a sixth place on the final stage and seventh on GC. The Tour of Utah has come to be known as America’s toughest stage race, and this year it lived up to its billing. With most of the race above 6,500 feet and including climbs with extensive grades between 10 and 20% topping out at 9,000 feet, it’s a race for the toughest of stage racers.

Jones was the Optum team’s GC hope, and he didn’t disappoint, with an eighth place finish on the first critical stage (stage 4) that finished on the brutal Powder Mountain climb. On stage 6 to Snowbird ski resort, a break including former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans got away, and although Carter was fifth out of the main contenders, Evans jumped over him on GC. On the final stage that climbed Empire Pass and finished in Park City, Jones and Evans battled up the climb in an effort to reel in the leading four riders, including overall winner Tom Danielson and second place Chris Horner. They didn’t make contact before the final descent. Evans put on a descending clinic to get the win, and Jones finished sixth, just ten seconds back and five seconds behind Danielson. In the end, Jones finished seventh overall, the top-placed non-World Tour rider.

Next up is the USA Pro Challenge, another opportunity for Carter to demonstrate his climbing prowess. Hats off to you, Carter!

Image credit: VeloNews
Click here to read more about Carter's win:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Using a Power Meter in Cyclocross Training and Racing

By Hunter Allen and Dr. Andrew Coggan
an excerpt from Training and Racing with a Power Meter, Second Edition

PCG elite coach Christian Sheridan crushes cyclocross.
Using your power meter in cyclocross is not only effective but arguably one of your best weapons in pushing yourself to the next level. Cyclocross has its own unique set of demands: you must be able to create quick bursts of effort over small obstacles, leap off the bicycle, and run while carrying it for up to thirty seconds, all while maintaining a pace at your functional threshold power (FTP) and above for 40-75 minutes. It’s nearly impossible to hold a steady power or even look at your power meter during a race or hard training session. However, you can use your power meter to learn quite a few things about the demands of CX and tailor your training so that you’ll be ready for the next race.

Power meter files from CX races typically average about 20-40 watts below an athlete’s actual FTP, because there is so much down time when the athlete is either coasting down a technical hill or off the bike and running, and because of the lack of traction on many of the courses. Putting the power to the ground skews the power down, and one has to take this into consideration when reviewing CX power files.

Because of these running and technical coasting sections, it’s hard to determine the exact muscular demands of CX. When viewed in a quadrant analysis plot, a CX race contains the largest amount of the effort in QII, which represents slow pedaling and higher force, but QIII (slow pedaling, low force) and QIV (fast pedaling and low force)  are also heavily involved in CX.

Peaks Coaching Group power meter cyclocross race racing training

When you examine your power file from a CX race, one of the first things you might notice is that it looks a lot like some of those criteriums you did earlier in the year. Loads of stochastic power spikes, easily discernible laps, and big race-winning type efforts are all commonalities to road criterium races. Many aspects of a CX power file are very interesting, such as the power bursts needed in the race, the amount of rest in each lap, and the overall training stress accumulated in the race.

One thing that is important to identify in a CX power file is the number of watts above your FTP and how long each of these efforts were; in other words, how many matches you have to burn. A CX “match” is a little different than a match in a road race or a criterium, because most likely you’ll already be at your FTP and then have to do hard efforts above it, depending on the terrain and your competition. The matches are really just bursts of flames coming up from the already raging fire! However, identifying these flames and their intensity will allow you to train more specifically for the effort. Use the “fast find” feature in WKO+ to help identify them.

Peaks Coaching Group power meter cyclocross racing training

After reviewing hundreds of CX race and training power files, I have determined that another specific training workout good for CX is a variation on the Level 7 micro-burst workout. I call this workout the 30-30-30 workout because it’s comprised of 30 seconds at 150% of FTP, 30 seconds coasting (0% of FTP), and 30 seconds of running. By extending the intervals to 30 seconds, it changes the type of workout from a level 7 to a level 6 workout, since at 30 seconds the anaerobic capacity system is highly utilized. The 30-30-30 workout is done continuously for 10 minutes, and then a rest is taken for 5 minutes before doing two to four more sets total.

The 30-30-30 Cyclocross Workout

1. 15-minute warm-up at level 2
2. 5-minute hard effort at 110% of FTP
3. 5 minutes easy at level 2
4. 2 x 10 minutes of 30-30-30, which is 30 seconds riding hard as you can, 30 seconds coasting and not pedaling, 30 seconds dismount and running fast. Ride 10 minutes at level 2 after each 30-30-30 effort.
5. 4 x 2 minutes anaerobic capacity work at 150% of FTP. Rest 2 minutes after each.
6. 10 minutes at level 2
7. Finish with 10 x 1 minute fast pedaling at 110+ rpm; 1 minute on, 1 minute off at 80 rpm.
8. Cool down for 15 minutes.

One of the most important reasons to use a power meter is for the ability to train to the demands of a specific event, and this is highly applicable for cyclocross. Addressing the specific need of a strong anaerobic capacity, along with highly tuned technical skills (dismounting the bike, running with the bike, and remounting) creates the perfect blend of a workout in the 30-30-30. Along with this anaerobic capacity workout, CX demands a strong FTP, so the traditional level 4 FTP workouts done at 4 x 10, 3 x 15, and 2 x 20 minutes at FTP are important for the successful CX racer.

Sam Krieg, PCG coach and elite cross racer, said, “The ability to train with power on your ‘cross bike and develop specific ‘cross workouts has allowed me to not only coach ‘cross riders more specifically but also improve my own fitness. My favorite workout is the 30-30-30 that Hunter developed, because of the structure it provides, the nearly identical similarities to my ‘cross races, and it forces me to go hard for the entire ten-minute set.”

Kris Walker, the national champion in the 2009 masters (45-49) time trial and the 2008 masters cyclocross events, adds, “As a classic steady-state rider, my forte is my ability to hold a constant power for the entire event, and cyclocross is very challenging to me because I have to train my weakness, anaerobic capacity. After reviewing my power files with Hunter, we were able to determine just exactly how much anaerobic work I was going to need in order to be on the top step of the cyclocross national championship podium.”

Cyclocross is another discipline within cycling in which using a power meter to train more quantitatively and also more specifically to the demands of CX allows users to improve their performance. A key component of this improvement hinges on the ability of the athlete to mimic the demands of upcoming CX races and develop training routines for them.

Good luck out there!

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of Training and Racing with a Power Meter and Cutting-Edge Cycling, co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Hunter can be contacted directly through

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Should You Eat Chia Seeds?

By Jen Sommer, PCG nutritionist
Peaks Coaching Group Chia Seeds Jen Sommer nutritionist

Ch-ch-ch-chia! If you were around in the 80s, your first association with chia seeds was probably the same as mine: growing weird little grass pets. I have to admit that because of this association I was at first skeptical about eating them when they started to get popular. Nowadays chia seeds are toted as a nutrition superstar, capable of everything from controlling hunger to aiding in weight loss, hydrating you, fueling your workouts, and fighting cancer and heart disease.

But do they live up to the hype?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Racing and Riding in the Rain

by Marianne Holt, PCG elite coach

Peaks Coaching Group Racing and Riding in the Rain

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”
- Bob Dylan

Whether you love rainy days or hate them, it’s very likely that you will find yourself riding in the rain at some point; probably racing in it, as well. And rain changes things. As you watch the weather report, here are a few things to keep in mind when faced with the drips.