Somewhere between reflection and hindsight, “Anatomy of a Race track” have been a staple in post-race analysis for us in 2018. With many repeat venues and repeat tracks on the UCI World Cup circuit it has proved pretty fruitful to dig into the key characteristics and core features that (or break) these tracks. Having these “anatomoy” posts to look back on and review before we hit the same venue again or even race at different tracks that have similar characteristics allows us to set tactics for practice and racing that meet strategic goals.
The usefulness of digging into the core features of a given track is probably a lot less “rigid” than I’m making it sound but in a nutshell lines, sectors, sections, tactics and techniques needed can be more readily quantified and qualified if we use some standardised review and reflect systems… Anatomy of a Race Track is just that. Review & Reflect.
For your conviencene here’s the 2018 season’s crop of AoaRT all in one spot for your scrolling pleasure. Comments & Questions welcome. Enjoy.
Now we’re eating road! Back to back World Cups are what we all want, like other series at the pinnacle of performance in their disciplines and sports, the rolling weekly circus keeps the fans, media and spectators keen, with not enough down-time between events for the lingering taste of race day blood to dissipate!
Fort William needs no introduction, nor does Leogang. It’s wall to wall hardpack and balls to the wall speed. One track held in high esteem, “Fort William’s” Nevis Range monster snaking it’s way down Aonach Mòr, sixteen years after its debut as a world cup it’s still crunching wheels, hurting bodies and crushing dreams! Leogang’s “Speedster” track has gotten progressively faster, straighter and arguably easier in recent years! But as we’ve said before, easy doesn’t mean simple and racing it well seems to be something that eludes many riders, male and female, with time gaps between 40th and 1st always wider at the much “easier” Leogang compared to its Scottish counterpart.
As race week for round 2 in Fort Bill has just landed the excitement seems genuine, the riders, racers, fans, teams, staff and media are beyond keen to get racing….training no matter how real, how “specific” or meticulously planned becomes monotonous, stale like bread! So you’ll se a glut of social media ramblings about how excited everyone is to go racing. Even though the track is well, the same it’s length, physical challenge and speed seem to keep the riders attention captivated. No let up! The same seems to hold through for those who put in test time and British national race time too. Although the risk of coming in over-down and as a result being underwhelmed come race day is real. In the men’s field it has happened plenty in the past and will be the case again today. There’s a lot to be said for testing and training under the eye of the clock, but the dosing can tip over into the too much of a good thing category quite quickly especially with the much needed principle of variation being so tough to come by at the “Fort”! Those with that winning formula know the value of down-time, the off switch and variety of stimulus.
Leogang, as I waffled about in the 2017 edition of “Hurly-Burly”, is a venue that everyone loves. The track takes a bashing from those who skirt the top ranks, but the venue is simple, central, efficient and stacked with quality accommodation! So invariable riders and staff moods are high, food is good and with a few days down time between events most people hit Friday’s Day 1 practice with fully stocked motivation. 2017 saw some serious safety issues with riders having to judge entry speeds (at nearly 80 km/h) for the final jump but otherwise the track was the same old story, gone were the rock gardens, up went the speeds. Should this track be raced every year…..no is my answer! But it always seems to provide an spectacle in all categories come race day. So mouth shut and tools up!
Fort William’s bog, lets not call it a wood, but 2017’s bog is gone, gone forever. Now like the Leogang rock gardens of years past it’s man made rock sections. The replacement for the “bog” of 2017 is awkward as nature never intended, but from the rider feedback to date the section provides a good challenge and an interesting break in rhythm from the high speed, new in 2017, section just above there. Coming storming in, arms tingling as you anchor down heavily!
So with this new addition after last years bog protests the famous Fort Bill track is 100% hardpack and with a record dry spell hitting the highlands the loose over hardpack will become more and more treacherous as race week wears on. Meaning, potentially, that like so many of 2017’s sweltering races the word of the week will be patience. Pushing as hard as traction allows where it allows it and being supremely patient not to push to hard to often in sections that don’t warrant or reward it. For such a wild piece rocky hill, lightness of touch always seems to pay come race day.
Have got, need not!
“Skill” is the application of the right technique at the right moment in the appropriate dose to achieve a desired movement outcome. Well that’s my definition at least and neither fort Bill nor Leogang demand the full spectrum of MTBers technique toolbox. Again though that’s not to say that neither track provides a challenge, they just don’t provide the full spectrum of challenge like a circa 2007 Schladming did or arguably Mont Sainte Anne does to this day. What 2018’s rounds 2 and 3 do demand though is pristine mastery of high speed change of direction, pumping and crisp choice of lines over the granite boulders of Fort William.
Benchmarking changes or improvements in the ladies field off of the performances of their male counterparts allows us to dig into both inter and intra individual changes quite nicely. Always keeping the “context” of any result up front and centre. Fort Bill’s physicality sees bigger percentage gap between the ladies and men’s winners. So a winter of smartly heavy strength work for the ladies could see that gap drop just a little. Defining worthwhile meaningful change is a real challenge. Comparing two fast dry races like 2015 and 2017 in Leogang, we saw that the ladies winners, Atherton & Seagrave respectively were both exactly 30 seconds behind the male winner Gwin. Following a similar line of investigation, 2014 was an odd season for the male field and as mentioned above longer tracks = bigger sex gaps. Expression of Strength being the defining characteristic of performance?
The list of potential useful statistics coming into these two races is long. Therefore huge Potential for paralysis by analysis. Pretty stable track layouts when comparing too previous years means “key sectors” can be dissected. Past performances of individuals lined up with present performance potential in the light of current constraints is the essence of using analysis and stats to your advantage. Always remembering that while the clock doesn’t lie “performance” and outcome are not the same thing.
If you are after some straightforward stats though, we’ve visited Leogang 8 times before, Fort William 16. In the men’s field Aaron Gwin hold 50% of Leogang’s victories. 4/8. The Fort has been around much longer allowing Minnaar to rack up 7 victories over a VERY impressive time-span. A period spanning a serios changing wheel-sizes, bike design, reliability and competition structure.
The easy money is put on these two riders at those two venues. For me the potential of massive upset provides a lot of excitement. The ladies races are far less clear cut, other than Mosely and Ragot, Atherton is the most prolific winner at the Fort but by no means dominant, ending a stunning victory streak under her own volition in 2017 at the Fort she’ll look to redeem herself this year. Confident and healthy Seagrave and Nicole will make for a battle royale. Leogang is even less clear cut than the Fort for the ladies. Seagrave rolling in as reigning champ will mean little unless that momentum is kickstarted on Anoch Mòr!
Because the tracks change little, last years results will certainly sway the bookies odds, but other than the victors of 2017 & maybe podiums, the results sheet can leave you less than optimally informed. “Form” that lovely mix of fitness – fatigue + motivation is a transient quality. Comes, goes etc… Key things like physical preparation and team environment not to mention bicycle performance all play their roll. The mental puzzle solving that underpins all DH performance is the one we need to look at coming into round 2. I’m hazarding a guess at 2-3 newish faces on the Fort William podium but an experienced packed Leogang steps for the men and well for the ladies “recent form” points to a 3 way battle between Myriam, Tahnée & Rachel.
A side-note to it all is watching how practice and racing goes at the first of this double-header for those who have camped out at the Fort for a week before versus those who fly in Monday. A little jet-lag versus a little over-exposure!
The stand-alone season opener in Croatia means many companies and teams probably have some “new tech” to showcase or hide in Fort William, do we really truly care? Emm no, but rumours are a certain 27.5 stalwart team have a 29er ready but won’t ride it. Santa Cruz have a new bike, some guys kits will match their hubs and pedals, the main point is that if you’ve not tested it don’t race it. Throwing back to 2017 and there were a scandalous amount of racers bending 29” wheels in Fort William and struggling to hoard tyres for Leogang to come. The self-inflicted wheel size head-fuck of 2017 is all but behind us I think, so I for one am stoked to see results with asterisk added on come Sunday!
The excitement to go racing again is HUGE! I can’t wait, can’t wait to help athlete’s do their best all week long. Faced with classic tracks and venues, motivation and attention will be keys to performance. Practice builds race-runs, it’s not just their to convince yourself you know what you are doing or to burn brake pads. So managing motivation and expectation will be the name of the game.
Classic track, classic venues are in every great sport; F1, MotoGP, MX, Alpine skiing, Soccer, Sailing and Road cycling. We however don’t have the luxury of black tarmac or a fresh covering of snow. Unique in demands, DH needs some unique solutions to allow us all to keep the motivation peaking. Races like Leogang and Fort William on bi-annual rotation in the future….? Yes please!
This is a re-post from the Point1 Facebook page; because frankly Facebook is a horrible medium for longer, dribbling narrative! Enjoy.
So, to carry on from Friday’s yip-yap on Posture and Technique…
One of the relationships (some were trade-offs) listed was
The first term above being a misnomer – deliberate at the time. The correct term in fact would be, I think,
Prospective. Prospective control.
And as is becoming very clear in my own development as a coach, the relationship of qualities, traits and sub-systems within the athlete (rider) is of utmost importance, this must be respected & understood.
Relational thinking TRUMPS categorical thinking….always. When we speak about performance improvement at least.
“Prospective control refers to the means by which actors (read: rider in our case) adapt behaviour in advance to the constraints and behavioral opportunities afforded in/by the environment” ~ Fajen, Riley, Turvey; 2009
Prospective control is thus ESSENTIAL for the emergence of skilled actions. Without it all you would do is react to what the trail/race-track is giving you. But as we all know, reaction is after the fact, it is, no matter how “fast” too late. Too late for you the rider to successfully navigate each distinct section of trail in such a way as too link up distinct sections into fast, flowing, effective riding.
So when you see your favourite, rider, athlete or celebrity carry out some reactive “eye-hand” co-ordination drill in the gym, remember that reaction is too slow; and regardless most of the “reactions” we make, when riding an MTB well, are somatic reflexes, not reactions…and once that gym “drill” is learned then it would be the prospective control of posture, position that would allow for faster “reaction” to emerge. So again, full circle, relational thinking; reaction to a stimulus is much faster with better prospective control!
So in the immediate term what does this mean for you if the whole notion of prospective control is new too you?
– Posture = Prizes; the whole reason the “attack-position” bares so many hallmarks and similarities (attractors if you know Dynamical Systems) among good riders is. That that position/posture allows for joint angles, muscle length~tension relationships, peripheral nervous system function, afferent control & force production to operate within an optimal bandwidth to deliver the required technique on trail in the fastest way possible. Prospective control of posture given the trail affordances means “skill” emerges to perfectly match speed. This in essence is “trail efficiency”!
So what can we do to improve our potential to always display usable posture regardless of the trail demands? A shortlist only below….
1. Cultivate & Maintain adequate control, mobility, proprioception, strength and stability through all joints and movement patterns.
2. Develop adequate and ever evolving strength of your “hip hinge”; both eccentric and concentric muscle action, with a stable spine achieved through excellent function of all torso musculature from hip to shoulder (and likely more)!
3. Identify “rate-limiters” to postural maintenance and re-setting. These could be anything from foundational physiological qualities like aerobic metabolism to very specific characteristic qualities like your interaction with a particular size bike, with a certain tyre pressure on certain gradient of terrain!
4. Given the minute detail of the last point above it becomes clear that developing, year on year, season on season, a large physical/physiological buffer of foundational qualities that support good posture on trail will reduce the likely hood of poor mechanics or characteristic rate limiters cropping up under duress/fatigue or emotionally demanding situations.
5. True sport form and improvement in Prime Postures can only be viewed, refined, quantified and understood if enough training takes place in the environments you race in...so that means shredding your bike like fuck in the mountains, up the mountains, down the mountains etc… sounds like fun!
To wrap up a quite abstract post; prospective posture allows for prospective position on trail and that allows for fast, smooth, efficient technique application on trail; which will look to the observer like skill. This is basically all we want as a rider – as skillful navigation of long sections of trail reward us with a sensory and neuro-endocrine response that trumps many experiences in life.
Do this often enough and you get that “flow” feeling…and that leads to intrinsic motivation to shred, removing the space for strange extrinsic motivators like health, weight-loss or victory and in there you find endless drive to improve and a near total lack of anxiety.
So as I said above – relationships of qualities; not categories of qualities please!
Winter’s on it’s way! Nothing better than a massive bowl of ohh so very nutritious chilli to fuel you up after training and keep the immune system rocking.
Honestly there is so much awesome in this pot it’s mind-blowing. You’ve got some pics below and then the recipe with full nutritional breakdown in PDF form for you guys to download, print, share, save and use!
This chilli can be served anyway you like – I usually go for “lettuce-wraps” with homemade buckwheat and seed crackers for pretty much the most tasty nutrient dense feed any man, women, man-child or wee-man could ask for.
Energy bar, “power-bar” (that’s a Nestlé brand..be careful now), “cereal bar” (certainly not, cereal is mainly for horses), pro-bar, a serious slab of home-made awesome! Call it what you will these bars are made with a basic “corner-stone” recipe that can be modified as needed to up any particular macro nutrient content you want, cover on or off the bike micro-nutrient worries or just simply to taste awesome and cover your energy needs out on a big old ride!
Other than in a prolonged flat out race like XCO, a time-trial or similar I’m a big fan of covering your energy needs via small, frequent intake of solid food and an electrolyte or “light” energy based drink.
These bars cover all of the needed bases, taste, texture, energy, micro-nutrients, simplicity, portability!
Pretty easy to make, simple to adjust, hold together well, have plenty of carbohydrate from multi-transportable sources and don’t stick to tin foil making an uneatable mess in your pocket.
So here goes! Choc-Nut-Protein-Fruit-Energy-#Point1-Pro-Bar – Surely there is a catchier name than that?
1 cup of Medjool Dates or other re-hydrated or moist fruit
1 scoop of Chocolate or Vanilla Protein Powder
1 teaspoon of Cocoa powder (if desired, depends how “dark chocolate” you want them to taste)
Half cup of Rolled Oats
Half to 3/4 cup of Apple Sauce
1 cup of frozen Raspberries
Half cup of dried, unsweetened Coconut
5-6 tablespoons of honey
Handful of nuts of choice – I used hazelnuts only in this recipe
Texture of batter should be thick, smooth and slow running – you can add a small amount of liquid or dry ingredients to the above to achieve this texture – It all depends on your fruit “dryness” I think – But choose extra ingredients carefully – Think of Macro content!
Mix/Blitz the medjool dates with a teaspoon or two of water in a large bowl with a handheld blender – This may take a while (the dates will need to be pitted and chopped before you start)
Add all of the wet ingredients to the Dates and mix until you get a nice runny consistency – The honey may have to be heated slightly to stop it sticking. Add in your frozen Raspberries or other frozen fruit and mix well.
In another bowl thoroughly mix all of your dry ingredients – Slowly add the wet mixture to the dry until a nice smooth batter is achieved!
Poor this into a baking paper lined dish and place in a pre-heated oven at 170c – (I used a fab oven so adjust temperature accordingly)
Cook until a little crispy but not black on top – a small knife should come out clean – To get a nice texture for storage and use on the bike it’s important to use a try big enough so that the batter pours out to an even 1cm – 1.5cm while wet in the dish. After cooking this should rise to almost 2cm and be perfect to cut into consistent but moist bars.
The above recipe makes from 10-14 bars depending on how you cut them.
Please feel-free to comment on how you’ve modified the recipe or even if you like the taste or have any thoughts, tips or tricks!
I do alot of cooking/baking and all-around tasty performance eating. Just because something is supremely healthful and conducive to performance doesn’t mean it has to taste bad!
These pancakes are a perfect example. Packed with protein, a variety of carbohydrates and a small dose of tasty fats. They make a perfect afternoon snack, a pre-training meal about 1 hr out or even better with loads of yogurt and/or fresh fruit at breakfast!
Half cup of buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2-3 Tbs of ground flax seed – (I used a ground flax/sunflower seed mix)
1 egg lightly beaten
2 ripe and mushy bananas
Half a cup of your milk of choice (cow’s, almond, rice etc…)
Water as needed to get desired thick but runny texture
Optional extras:Vanilla extract or 1 scoop of protein powder to replace flax for added Protein but less taste!
Real simple to make, mix all the dry ingredients well. Combine, in a separate bowl, all of the wet ingredients then add the two together until a good mixture is obtained. It will be quite thick so add a little water until you are happy with the consistency! Trial and error at first for those not used to making pancakes. I used full-fat cow’s milk as it’s awesome stuff if you are not intolerant, it makes the tastiest pancakes but vanilla or plain rice or almond milk works perfectly also.
Cook on a hot pan, no need for oil or butter, just patience! They take a few minutes to brown each side and it’s better if you pour them thin as they rise and in general are quite moist. The finished product should have a nutty banana flavour, be real light and fluffy and literally melt in your mouth. – Savage!
I’ve not broken down the Macro nutritional content yet, but it’s all health and all amazing although they do pack some calories in a small space so if you are trying to loose body fat for performance then don’t go too wild!
Top tip for cooking these is let the first side brown totally before you try and flip, there’s no silly wheat or other grass in here so they take patience to cook! You can also easily mix and match ingredients to suit. Apple sauce instead of bananas, tapioca flour or some almond meal instead of half or all of the buckwheat flour, more eggs for a heavier cake. Just play with it. Although be warned there ain’t nothing as awesome as Buckwheat in my opinion.
I think next-up in the cooking series is the Point1 Badass grain-free Brownies!
Feel free to ask any questions! Keep ‘er lit and #eatreal