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Quebec Calling

Next week will be the 21st visit for a UCI World Cup or Champs to the hallowed hills of Mont Sainte Anne just outside Beaupré, Quebec. A yearly pilgrimage that somehow doesn’t seem to to bore even the most seasoned of veteran. Possibly due to the high speeds, the easily shreddable rideable terrain regardless of a weather and the maybe more than anything else the family holiday vibe that grows as the days pass, due in no small part to the MTB community renting every chalet, house and condo along the short MSA strip!

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The mountains of Quebec like those south of the border in North Eastern USA are big, but not the imposing “boom” straight up walls of rock that often great riders and racers in the European Alps. Instead MSA gives us big, shallow and long. Three potentially key ingredients that keep the race puzzle here fresh for so many, less braking more ploughing? This lack of steepness doesn’t lead to a lack of intensity though, from the first heavy pedal stroke out of the start house, down the now iconic rolling start-ramp things get fast, quickly and just keep building in momentum from there.

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2017 gave us yet another round with a mixed bag of weather.  The 4.00 p.m. rain party rolling in on queue again. Un-phased Aaron Gwin displayed all the calm, calculated characteristics that have led to him to wrapping up 5 overall titles to date. Riding under the rain, straighter and faster than anyone else. Bagging in the process the full quota of points on offer in the overall title battle that day.

Coming into qualifying Gwin trailed Minnaar by 253 points – 3 more than you can earn in one week’s racing. Leaving MSA the deficit between the two titans was so reduced that it left the final round in Val di Sole as an all or nothing battle. What we all learned in the process though, was that anything can and will happen and as long as you come prepared and willing, victory on race day is possible.

The 2017 ladies race in MSA was contested under fair and consistent conditions. Although on a more damp, blown out track that was considerably harder to push your limits on than then was ridden in qualifying. Qualis saw Myriam Nicole eek out a 1.491 sec margin on Tracey Hannah. When Race day rolled in though things changed. In now expected fashion Tahnée Seagrave flipped a 4+ second quali deficit into a race winning display of calculated on edge riding. 5.7 seconds faster than second place Nicole.

Clean Slate

Rumbling in to MSA this coming week for the 2018 race the only constant is change. Maybe that’s a large part of the reason everyone is so stoked to go racing? In no particular order, on the men’s side, we have the return of Moir and Minnaar from injury, the latter has been rehabbing in style, in the most specific way possible slapping bumps on Morzine’s infamous Le Pléney. The former has already practiced at Andorra World Cup and hopefully is ready for racing. With the return of some, the biggest notable absence for MSA is 2017 winner Gwin, at least that’s the info available to hand at the moment. Race day will tell more!

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Pierron (Amaury) has a healthy lead in the overall, but as 2017 thought us with 2 races left anything can happen. On fire at French Champs in Morzine, Pierron is the man to beat, even though his compatriot Vergier had one of the most stunning race runs in recent times on route to his maiden WC victory in Andorra. Luca Shaw will be as hungry as ever although a hungry not quite as grumbling as Loic Bruni’s, 2018 podium first timers Reece Wilson & Thomas Estaque will go good on the long, fast bumps of the Mont. 2017’s FTD title at MSA went to Finn Iles on a dry track, after his first elite podium in Vallnord he’ll be keen to climb a few steps higher at home. Other’s to watch closely are Harrison, MacDonald, Greenland, Pierron (Baptiste), Walker, Mulally and the Eagle Masters.

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The ladies race gives us one the most interesting title battles in years – even after a DSQ in Leogang, Tahnée is just 80 points behind a resurgent Rachel Atherton. After missing two races Myriam is back, a much needed world class rider in the field. Three ladies with the pace and killer instinct needed to win but with three totally different approaches to doing so, watching how the week unfolds as we build to race day will be most interesting. The eagle eyed analyst may have seen how the split times and sector demands of the shorter and longer tracks have played out for the women this year. With a pattern emerging. MSA’s length and high speed impacts may favour the brave, but the brave and conditioned even more.

The Track

At least one new section, dubbed “Tarzan” otherwise pretty unchanged from the past 2-3 years – no matter what, racing will be fast, straight, high speed whether in or out of the woods. We would say bikes take a hammering but those days are beyond us now.

 

Winning Ways

What “approach” does it take to win at MSA? Well I don’t think I’ve personally attended enough races at MSA to know the finer details just yet, but from the experience I have at the venue it’s directness and confidence on the less confidence inspiring sections that counts. Race strategy is built by race tactics…tactics for practice, for each run, for sections, for sectors and finally for the race run it self. Braking just at the right time, some call it late braking, is crucial; as carrying the huge speed generated as free momentum into the subsequent sections here is paramount. No point in not using those speeds built on the flat out piste to keep your wagon wheels ploughing over rocks and boulders as you transition from open to wooded sections.

Subtle but convincing changes of direction on the loose, fast piste sections, total conviction and commitment to line choice in the slab infested woods, wet or dry, braking just “late” enough, soft transitions from edge to edge of you tyres and no let up in the “fitness”  abilities needed to take the hits, deal with the impacts and hold and coax the bike from line to line, rock to boulder!

So maybe that’s the formula, total subtle committed conviction!?

All Images – PC: @Red Bull Content Pool

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Season Review – How to

It’s early/mid October. Your race/riding season if you live in the Northern Hemisphere is pretty much over and doesn’t kick off again for a good few months…

So how did things go? Goals achieved? New benchmarks set, personal bests on Strava, race wins, got through a week in the alps without arm-pump or alcohol poisoning?

Taking some time to reflect on the riding season just gone, review your approaches and execution of training, riding, planning and nutrition and asking yourself or your coach some tough questions is a must if you want to plan better, improve and grow for 2015!

Do the worthwhile things better, avoid repeating the same mistakes as last year and generally just improve the whole process. So how do you go about doing it? Well I’m gonna give you a few “top-tips” below and hopefully some ideas to start the mental juices flowing so you too can review your season just gone!

1) Question Time

Sit down or stand up…pen and paper, voice recorder or chalk board! It doesn’t really matter. Just answer, honestly, some key questions about your race season and preparation period (off-season) just gone. Some examples to get the ball rolling!

– Did I achieve my goals?

– What was my best result?

– What gave me the most satisfaction this year?

– Biggest disappointment and why?

– What training did I enjoy the most/least?

– How was my mental approach to riding and racing? Nervous, relaxed, focused etc…?

– Did my coach listen to my needs, questions, demands etc…?

– What physical qualities did I lack during riding racing the most?

– Did I complete all training as prescribed most of the time?

– Did I diligently fill in training diaries?

– Did you enjoy training/riding/racing/the process?**

– Was I too sore from training to race well?

– How was my technique, freshness and FGF during the critical race periods?

The list of meaningful questions is endless,  you could ask yourself or work together with your coach to ask all the key questions to cover all areas of performance planning. If you have a coach and a “post-season” review is not something they do then maybe there’s something up! Because it really is an invaluable process.

**that’s a very important question right there

2) Data Review and reflection

Keeping track of performance parameters is something both athlete and coach should do! It’s a team/joint effort. Interpreting the data and implementing change is up to the well educated athlete that coaches themselves or a coach if they employ a coach. But if there is no data to interpret then there are no changes to be made!

Same goes with a post-season review. Reviewing all the data you canto see how things really panned out is a very constructive way to make changes for the next year. So where would we get this data from? Well hopefully from a variety of sources, but valid reliable and measurable ones…because remember if you can’t measure it it’s awfully hard to change it.

First up is a training log or Training Tracker as we like to call it here at Point1 – It’s simple way to keep track of progress, see patterns in adaptation to training and recovery loads but also a great way to keep athlete and coach honest with a mix of objective and subjective scores and data! What does it provide post season, well it provides a deeper insight into each training week, block or period. You can then use it lined up against other data, results or memories to join some dots and see what did and didn’t work right from week 1 of the Off-Season to the final day of the “In-Season”.

A sample Point1 Training Tracker
A sample Point1 Training Tracker

 

Like mentioned above reviewing data from the year gone past can come from many sources, the more the merrier aslong as you know what to look for and where to make conclusions from! Other great sources of data would be;

HR data from training sessions – session totals, Trimp scores, HRrecovery (HRr), resting HR’s pre/post session etc…

Power Metre Data – average powers, peaks, normalised powers over rides or weeks of training, power profiles of your event, best events, worst events, fatigue, freshness, cardiac drift (need HR data for that) and 1,000 other things!

Race results and split times – www.rootsandrain.com is every MTB races best friend; % time behind winner, faster at split 1/2 or 3, lap times, stage times – faster early on, late on, need to work on fatigue, energy management, efficiency or mental arousal etc…

Strava or other such nightmares – comparing times, climbs and duration from many years, rides, weeks or months. Overall “on the bike volume”.

Gym based results – weights lifted, exercises selected, injury prevention or pre-hab volumes, specific testing, transfer of training.

Video analysis – races, training, go-pro etc…

It’s a pretty comprehensive list really, so many ways to look back and reflect on your work done and results acheived. Did they match your goals, what was good, what needs to be changed?

Comparing HR data from two similar sessions!
Comparing HR data from two similar sessions!

3) In-Season Planning

I always find it funny when people say, “ohh you don’t need a coach during the season”; “it’s off-season that counts”, “just ride your bike”  etc… Well put very simply, 6 weeks of just riding your bike with no real plan can very easily un-do much of your hard work during the off-season.

So with that in mind an excellent area to “review” post-season is how your training loads and planning where during the racing or riding heaviest part of the year!

Did you train, maintain or just ride your brains out? What worked and what didn’t (training tracker is very handy here). How was your balance of fitness, freshness and fatigue?

Honestly to think that you’ll get away with just 6 months+ of racing with no plan and come out “on-top” is crazy! Some athletes come in to their race or riding season hot and fat and burn out, others come in cold and build some sort of specific fitness on the bike slowly, others get it all just right and last the whole season of racing or riding in pretty much tip-top shape!

What you should be looking to review from your “in-season” planning is individual and sport/discipline specific but here are some good places to start.

1) Training load, type, timing and volumes: The idea of Residual Effects comes mainly from “Block Periodisation” made popular by coaches like Issurin, Verkhoshansky and Bondarchuk. Using the “half-life” of the key physical qualities of your discipline to decide when and what to train and in what volumes is a great place to start for your in-season planning and like-wise a perfect place to start reviewing your in-season plan.

Did you leave weeks and weeks without training your Max Strength or Speed? How important are these qualities to the outcome of your event? How often does your tech training or riding target certain qualities, if it does is the load sufficient to maintain or improve that physical quality? I’ll let the Table below explain the rest.

Training Residuals - Use it or Lose it?
Training Residuals – Use it or Lose it?

2) Race week! The one time when many things go “tits-up” for racers. What can you improve on for next year? The good, bad and VERY UGLY? The questions you need to ask?

– What training did I do mid-week?

– Did I recover fully from last weekends riding/racing?

– What active recovery modalities did I use? Did they work?

– Di I reduce or maintain training volumes in week of race? Why?

– Did I come into race day fresh both mentally and physically?

– Was there enough or too much physical, technical or tactical training during the week?

– What was my mental state like during the week, race, weekend etc…?

Two very different "In-Season" Race weeks
Two very different “In-Season” Race weeks

Train hard in the off-season and then get the fine-tuning in-season right and you’re on to a winner!

3)Recovery – What strategies did you use for recovery? Why? When? What worked, what didn’t? Too much of a good thing is always a bad thing. So planning your recovery in-season is key and as such reflecting on what worked pos-season will help you make far better decisions for next year.

The key is to promote recovery both mentally and physically but not to reduce or blunt our windows of opportunity to train and adapt.

Fitness – Fatigue + Freshness = Form

Remember that the mental state is just as important as the physical one, so plan recovery accordingly!

How do you scale your recovery?
How do you scale your recovery? – McGuigan

 

So there you have it three key areas to review after your riding or racing season. There are certainly other areas and avenues to pursue, but the above is a good start.

Feel free to add your own thoughts and ideas in the comments below!