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Elements of Cycling (cross post)(11 posts)

Elements of Cycling (cross post)lonefrontranger
Jun 4, 2002 3:24 PM
I sometimes don't recall this stuff until someone else triggers my extremely blonde memory...

Hopefully this topic is of some use to those on Racing who tend to avoid the rants, flames, trolls and flogging of dead horses on the General board ;) Someone on General was confused on the difference between "skill" and "talent". This was something the coaching manuals and my mentors were pretty specific about.

As a former coach I used to break down what I called the "elements" of cycling for the benefit and analysis of student progress:

#1 Talent= your raw proclivity for cycling; something naturally inborn / genetic which cannot be taught, like long femurs, an incredible VO2MAX capacity or featherweight / small build for climbing.

#2 Skill = something that is taught / learned through practice, i.e. trackstanding or Salvodelli's phenomenal descending skills.

#3 Attitude = mental fortitude for the intense demands of the sport. This cannot be emphasized enough.

#4 Fitness = the time a rider devotes to developing their physiology to its maximum potential

These elements are further enhanced by:

#5: experience; a subset of skill + fitness

#6: "savvy"; a subset of attitude + experience

Naturally, all riders and racers posess these 4 elements and 2 subelements in varying quantities. Examples include:

Johan Museeuw: a rider long on Elements 2 and 3, off the scale on #s 4, 5 and 6, and average to mediocre (by his own admission) on Element 1. A "hard worker" or everyman-in-the-trenches sort of rider who's a wily old fox when it gets right down to it.

Jan Ullrich: a rider off the scale on Element 1, fair to middling on #2, and good to excellent at getting to #4 when it matters, but who took quite a while to develop #3. He is still "growing into" #s 5 and 6.

Lance Armstrong: a rider off the scale on Elements 3 and 4, with above average gifts on #1 and who works hard at #2. He struggled at first with subelement #6 but now uses that to his advantage (re: playing "dead" on Stage 10 in last year's Tour).

George Hincapie: a rider off the scale on Elements 1 and 2, above average on #3 and 4, getting there on #5, but who reportedly struggles a lot with subelement #6. We had a saying for this: "strong like bull, smart like tractor" and it's frustrating as hell for both the rider and the coach.
re: Elements of Cycling (cross post)DougSloan
Jun 4, 2002 7:51 PM
From what I read, Lance was darn near the top of the scale on 1, also. He wrote that he was winning tri's and road races at 15 years old, and they kept bumping him up categories because he was cleaning up. He was the youngest world road racing champion ever at 21. I'd say that now he's pretty much off the scale on everything.
there's another story therelonefrontranger
Jun 5, 2002 10:41 AM
Lance himself and all his coaches along the way have always said he was gifted yes, but not more than your average Cat 1 who makes life hard on the local hammers in the weekend crit. The difference is that his drive, motivation, determination to excel and will to win are what puts him head and shoulders above the field.

At 15 he was a VERY angry young man with serious family issues at home; racing was the outlet for all the fury he felt. Have you ever heard this LA story? According to his own writings, he sucked so bad as a swimmer that at age 13, they put him with the 8-year olds - and they kicked his BUTT every week! Well he stuck it out in that pugnacious LA kinda way, improved and started laying it down in the tris. He was DFL at his first pro event (San Sebastien) so bad that all the finish line crew had packed up and gone home. Even his coach told him to bag it, but he finished anyhow. As a coach I'd hafta say that sounds more like #3 than #1 to me.
You Almost Forgot Something =)BigLeadOutGuy
Jun 5, 2002 6:53 AM
In element number 1 you had forgot to list gigantic legs with lots of fast twitch muscle fibers to be able to turn over a 53/11 and sprint to the finish line at over 35 mph!!!
Hmmmph...dont forget about us sprinters LFR!!!
its always about the climbers isnt it?
yeah, the pathetic little malnourished rats :)lonefrontranger
Jun 5, 2002 8:17 AM
did you happen to see my reply to the "what's with all the fast fat guys" thread on General? Actually I'm simply jealous, since my cycling hero was and always has been Andy Hampsten, the original poster child for flyweights everywhere. I've met him in person and he STILL looks like a twelve-year-old boy.

BLG, I've missed your sunny posts, how's it been going? You must be having fun because you've been too busy to hang out around here much lately!

You remind me of one of my old pals from the Cserve cycling forum of yore. He is a an enormous burly Texan trackie who used to tell stories about his exploits as a budding Cat 3 sprinter at the Houston velodrome. Other riders who knew him claimed he was so big and powerful it was like drafting the keirin bike, so he'd get all these skinny dudes glued to his wheel during the points race. His answer to that was to nonchalantly roll up the boards trailing a daisy-chain of wheelsuckers, then he'd turn all that bulk loose from the top of the banking and leave them gasping in his wake with the unholy equation of gravity + mass * power. His war cry as he took maximum points each lap: "Eat more beef, boys!"
yeah!!! skinny little rats!!BigLeadOutGuy
Jun 5, 2002 11:07 AM
Hey Lone!!!
Its good to hear from you =)
Ive been doing pretty well...riding lots and loving it...althought my GF has other ideas! hehe
Other than training and racing..not much is going on...finally my training is finally coming together and my last bunch of races I havent placed less that 3rd. I only need a few more points to upgrade to to my next category so I'm pretty happy bout that =)
Track racing is pretty cool...I was thinking about getting into that...I think that I my genetics are more geared toward that type or racing...but I just love road racing, crits and more so...I love climbing =) I dunno if there is a better feeling than having one of those malnutritioned rats launch an attack thinking that they are gunna blow the race up and than just nonchalently countering their attack and having them play catch up =) whod ever think a big guy could climb? definatley not them! hehe
well I am off for now
it was good hearing from you. ill be around more so i am sure youll get sick of hearing from me soon enough =)
till than...
re: Elements of Cycling (cross post)JSchneb
Jun 5, 2002 10:39 AM
Where would you rank LeMond?

Here's my assesment:

Greg Lemond: a rider off the scale on Elements 1, 2 and 4. Very good on Elements 5 and 6. Remedial on Element 3.

Some may disagree on Element 3; until last year I overlooked how much LeMond whined... His comments re: the 2001 Tour and Lance sounded like nothing more than sour grapes to me. Looking back now, and watching the old interviews & videos, I think his attitude was seriously lacking.
hafta agreelonefrontranger
Jun 5, 2002 10:50 AM
When things were going well, LeMond did fine and lapped up the adulation like a cat in a cream barrel. Despite the face he presented to the media, riders who raced with him claim he tended to be a bit of a bully and jackass in the field. The coaching euphemism for this is "psychologically fragile". Andy Hampsten had similar troubles, but his was more that he lacked self-confidence and let the "star power" in the big tours overwhelm him (the "I am not worthy" syndrome) Bobby Julich has major problems with this.

Bottom line, if the mind ain't there, all the talent in the world won't help you.
Is talent a myth?Sherpa23
Jun 5, 2002 12:59 PM
I often hear people talk about talent and cycling. When I started 6 years ago, there were plenty of other "beginning" cyclists better than me but somehow, 6 years later, many have stopped racing or stalled out in cat. 3 or cat. 2. Does that mean that I have more talent than they do? I think not. I really think that I always KNEW that I would be where I am today (and further) and I always worked to that end. I always trained more, I always had more patience, I always was a little more optimistic when things sucked (they always suck from time to time - believe me) and to that end, I have accomplished more and gone further in cycling. So for years, I have truly believed that talent is a myth. Then I started training with my regular winter training partner who does the TdF every year and we have this same conversation from time to time. The last time we had it, I said talent is crap and "we never would have gotten to our respective levels without working," and he replied, "yeah, but a lot of people don't have the capacity to work like some of us, and if you consider that part of talent, like I do, then you can't truly believe that talent is a myth." And the more I think about it, the more I realize that he is on to something. Some people are natural pedallers and some people have to work at it. If I can pedl perfectly through more work than the next perfect pedaller, does it really make one of us better than the other? Not really, but if we both want to be able to reach the point, physiologically where we can ride 100 mile races in 3:30 and still be able to sprint at 70 kph at the end then we have to work to get there. If I can do the workout day after day and improve and get to that level and my friend does the same workouts but gets slower then am I better than him at that point? Yes, obviously. So talent is really only a small part of the equation in terms of initial abilities but a big part in terms of capacity to do the work required to get to the next level. So many of us may think that we don't have the talent but in fact, we actually do because it has nothing that we can see inherently in our bike riding but something that becomes evident over time. And a side note in regards to your burly track racer comment, all I have to say is that I am 5'10 157lbs (not that big, IMO) and when I show up at an international endurance track event, I am pretty much the biggest guy out there. Llaneras, Gilmore, Slippens, Pommereau, Alzamora, Galvez make me look like the hulk (well, maybe not Alzamora but I think that he might have a 2nd job as a porn star)and when we get going those guys are certainly NOT in my draft suffering like dogs. When I first met Etienne DeWilde one of the first things I told him was thanks for showing me that I don't have to weigh 140 to be a good endurance track guy. He laughed because when he started, everyone looked like him (and me, I guess). In regards to big track racers, we smaller guys usually have the endurance events dominated enough that you have to be an incredibly strong big guy (i.e. Mike Tillman) to pull it off in an endurance track event because the smaller guys get a better draft and kill you with their small draft shadow.
where does Eddy Merckx fit in on the scale? and Miguel Indurain?weiwentg
Jun 6, 2002 7:32 PM
Merckx and Indurain = not high on my radar screenlonefrontranger
Jun 7, 2002 9:24 AM
I'm afraid neither of them piqued my interest much. Merckx is much more intriguing to me now as a fat old chain-smoking Belgian framebuilder who makes incredible bikes, digs his beer and frites, and gives his kid unqualified and undemanding support in the pro peloton. Apparently that discussion went something like: "Go to college Axel, it's a better opportunity"... "no Dad, I wanna be a bike racer like you!"; so Eddy just shrugged and got on the phone to his industry contacts. Indurain was sort of boring to watch; one never got the sense there was a human underneath that shell. Of course I've read about them and others' analysis of them, so I'll give it a shot. Anyone feel free to correct these with specific knowledge.

Merckx: off the scale on Elements 1 and 3 and far above average on #4 until he broke his back and rode for 2 seasons almost exclusively on talent and courage. A rider so far above the rest on other attributes that he didn't need to work hard at #2 but did anyway due to his desire to win. Somewhat lacking on #6 but only as it related to letting others on his team(s) share the glory (he wasn't well liked by some teammates and competitors for this), hence the nickname "Cannibal". A once-in-a-generation (lifetime?) natural talent coupled with the "anger" and mental fortitude to ride through adversity and an overwhelming drive to succeed at all costs.

Indurain: Off the scale on Element #1, despite the drawbacks of being a size XL in the mountains, because his ungodly aerobic giftedness easily made up for that. No one was ever truly certain about #3, although IMO this might have proven the chink in the armor at the very end - not to say he was fragile, just not as strong as the competition in this respect when the **** hit the fan psychologically. Well above average on #6 in the sense that he was a controlled rider who managed his lieutenants and domestiques graciously and never showed pain to his rivals. Struggled at times with #4 but never as badly as someone like Ullrich.