Guest Article: Velominatus Testamaximus

Guest Article: Velominatus Testamaximus

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Our lives as cyclists are made sweeter by theoccasionalintersection of our world with that of professional cycling. Spotting a pro out on the road, stumbling across a team training ride, sneaking onto the back of said team training ride, even stealing a conversation with a pro or ex-pro can leave a lasting impression and provide a cache of tales that will in alllikelihoodbecome more glorious with each telling.

Chanceencounterswith Pros are one thing, but to the Velominatus, the other people associated with the professional cycling world who keep it all moving forward are perhaps even more meaningful. The team mechanics, soigneurs, physios;these are the people who devote their life to the sport and work tirelessly and without headlines that their pedaling counterpartsreceive. Perhaps they like it that way, but these are people whose love for the sport runs deep and whose roles are critical to keeping the sport alive.

Cyclops recently had the opportunity to have his Lactate Threshold tested by the head team doctor for Team BMC, Dr. Max Testa. Personally, having my threshold tested is kind of like checking my bank account; I was happier before I knew the truth, and now I have to deal with reality again. Cyclops doesn’t seem to be influenced by these same concerns and, apparently, finds some motivation in the prospect. To each their own.

Please enjoy Cyclops’s’s’s latest installment; his tale of Velominatus Testamaximus.

Yours in cycling,

Frank

Even though my life has revolved around bicycles and racing (in one form or another) for most of my life I would not say that I became a true Velominatus until just recently. I was always floating around just outside the “inner circle” because I treated cycling just like all the other things in my life – with a sort of casual interest that belongs to one that has a level of natural talent that makes most things easy but doesn’t allow for an excelling at anything in particular. I never really applied myself if things got serious – I would just move on to the next interest. But road bikes always seemed to be just back there in the white noise of my life.

This all changed a few seasons ago when I was out on a ride with one of the local hammers and he casually remarks “You’ll never beat me. You don’t train.” I didn’t really think much of it at the time but I guess it planted a seed deep down in my psyche because all of a sudden I found myself doing intervals and actually looking forward to slogging it up the local big climb.

Last year was my first year of serious (for me) training and I saw marked increases in the amount of the V I was able to dish out but I wanted to take it to the next level. Enter Dr. Massimo (Max) Testa. If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Testa – “You Americans are so formal over here. Please, it is Max.” – he is an Italian sports physiologist that has trained the likes of Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Team Mapei, and the 7-Eleven team, to name a few and is currently the head team doctor for BMC.

Max lives near Salt Lake City and has professional ties to Dr. Anthony Joseph, an ISU (Idaho State) sports doctor that helped me with some knee issues. Dr. Joseph brought Max up here to do Lactate Threshold testing for the locals. So here’s a little ol’ fat Cyclops getting a chance for some world class direction in my training, and have some concrete numbers on which to base my training so I was very excited about my “date” with Max. Ironically, the day before the testing was Valentine’s Day but I resisted the temptation to surround the tub with some of Frank’s candles as I ran a bath in preparation for the “shaving of the guns”.

I’ll get to the results in a bit but let me say that Max is an extremely nice person. He talked with everyone as if they were the best of friends. The seminar he gave after all the testing was done was very informative and he stayed afterward and answered individual questions for about an hour. Each question was answered with a passion and thoroughness that let you know that he cared for your individual concerns. Each answer was usually accompanied by an anecdote too. One of which I would like to share with the Velominati. Somebody asked a question relating to TTing and Max told the story of when he asked Eddy Merckx to give Raul Alcala some TT pointers. Eddy tells Alcala to “Make sure that you go out as fast as possible because you’ll lose valuable seconds if you don’t go out as hard as the others. Then you must make sure that for the last 2-3k you are going as fast as possible so that you can gain time on those that are fatigued and let up at the end.” Alcala then asked Eddy “What about in between?” Eddy’s response? “Go as fast as possible.”

Another little side note – the girl in the picture above is Kari, Max’s assistant. I was talking with her about Team BMC and mentioned that they are one of my favorite teams because I like Cadel Evans and Big George. She gushed about how nice of a person George is and that it is nice when the people you admire are decent people. She didn’t say a word about Cuddles. Hmmm.

So now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for with baited breath. How does the Cyclops stack up? Well, I’m old (50 in 6 months) and fat (down 16kg from the fattest but I need to lose at least 7 more kilograms to be where I want to be) and it is February in Idaho so please be merciful to me. I put out 2.7 W/Kg – the average person puts out around 1.5 W/Kg. and the pros are putting out 6-7W/Kg. At my current LTHR of 146bpm I’m putting out 215 watts. When they stopped the test I was putting out 250 watts at a HR of 152bpm. I was a little disappointed with the numbers but at least my “Lactate response is consistent with a well-trained cyclist” – I think they threw me a bone. Basically I fall right in line with your average Cat 5. But now I have some numbers, some motivation, and some direction (train more in “Zone 3″). I’ll have to do a field test in a couple of months to see how much I’ve improved.

By the way, in the three times I’ve been up against the “local hammer” since the casual remark I’ve placed higher than him twice (one was a 1st place). The one time he finished higher than me I was closing the gap on him on a mountain top finish but ran out of road so he finished about a minute ahead of me. But overall I got about a two minute lead on him in our little Tour de Testosterone GC battle.

// Guest Article

  1. Cyclops, very nice write-up! Thanks for being our lab rat, I’d be far too scared to know what my numbers would be.

  2. @Buck Rogers
    Yup, Messner is pretty much a badass. Not without controversy, but a badass.

    Nice article Cyclops. I’m satisfied in knowing you pipped the local hammer. But more to the point, did Testa ask where you got your awesome kit and t-shirt?

  3. Super cool post. Enjoyed it.

    I’m sure we all wonder what kind of (relative) power we pedal out. Now you know he truth and it ain’t bad. Compared to the average 50 year old, you’re Superman dude. And that counts as real world goodness, not how that compares against pro level racers.

    I’m also headed towards 50, just a few months away. Keep on riding….

  4. Great post. I did an LT test a year or so ago – it involved spending 4 minutes at a given wattage, four minutes spinning, four minutes at a higher wattage, four minutes spinning, etc, until I blew up. Blood taken at the end of each four minute wattage level. It was quite painful – my HR when I blew up was 188, which was higher than I’d seen it for over a decade, even when red-lining it up hills. I thought the results were ok for an old fella. Then I showed them to my mate who is even older, who commented that it showed I had plenty of scope to lift my AT. Lesson: don’t show your results to people who are over 50 and still manage to do the Kona Ironman in under 10 hours. The key message to me was the same as yours – train more at lower intensities. I still haven’t quite got the hang of that. Particularly as I’ve given up riding with an HRM.

  5. Question: If you get a Lactate Threshold test after 50, do they throw in for free all those other tests your supposed to have at that age? I mean, if you’re already there…

  6. @Buck Rogers
    my recommendation: first find races and do them, then test later if you feel like it. Testing is not fun. Racing is.

    And no max wattage/threshold number ever won a bike race – half the time the guys that win Masters races (yes, you are one) are far less “fitter/stronger” than other competitors but a little bit smarter (received a pointed reminder of this last night in fact). And that is what makes bike racing so fucking fantastic.

    Get to a San Antonio bike shop, ask about local racing, and get involved!

  7. Great story Cyclops!

  8. Nice post Cyclop’s.
    Love that the doctor is “Dr. Max Testa”. I’m with you on the Team BMC being a fave as well. Partly because, being an Aussie, I still have a soft spot for Goodcadel and partly because current Bike No.1 is a BMC.
    Merckx anecdote, just as one would expect from the Man.

    @Jeff in PetroMetro
    “You possess The V in spades. This can overcome the numbers when you are on the rivet.”
    mate, you should be a writer

  9. @G’phant

    The key message to me was the same as yours – train more at lower intensities. I still haven’t quite got the hang of that. Particularly as I’ve given up riding with an HRM.

    Thats so true; someone else commented that they recently saw Uncle Phil out riding, and noted how slowly he was going. I am to understand that most pros do their distance riding at 30km/h or so. Doesn’t surprise me one bit. But when they light it up, they bury themselves.

    There’s a piece in Cyclesport on the Leopard training camp in Whereverthefuck and they were doing tests up some hill. Faboo was laying on the ground in the photo of him at the finish. That’s training hard.

    Rule of thumb is that most amateurs don’t go easy enough when they go easy and don’t go hard enough when they go hard. Worst of both worlds.

    You should also generally train alone because group rides generally become mini races, which keeps you from going easy enough.

  10. @il ciclista medio

    Ha, he is!

  11. Great post! You give me hope (at 52 years) that I can still get better.

  12. @mcsqueak
    Yeah I know, being a bit cheeky. I always like his take on things

  13. mcsqueak :
    Question: If you get a Lactate Threshold test after 50, do they throw in for free all those other tests your supposed to have at that age? I mean, if you’re already there…

    Hey, there’s a business venture idea for aging sportspeople….would have to think about sequence of tests being performed though. I don’t think the DRE prostate test and then the lactate threshold would be a wise follow on…..

  14. Hey Cyclops! A good story, well told.
    I was curious about a couple of things. Was your measured LTHR similar to what you may have found on a 20-60 minute road test? Was the RPE similar? I ask because Coggan says:
    [W]hile LT is … the initial non-linear increase in lactate with increasing exercise intensity, this intensity tends to be significantly below that which coaches and athletes tend to associate, on the basis of practical experience, with the concept of a “threshold” exercise intensity.
    Your power at threshold in “real life” may be higher, though it already looks pretty good to me.

  15. Awesome post, great photo, and a cool story to share! Thanks, Cyclops.

    As Frank mentioned, I think these numbers are something I don’t want to know, like my bank account, which has been taking a beating lately.

    Keep on hammering away at the local hammer – hope you get him a few more times this year.

    Oh, and nice kit in the photo!

  16. great post Cyclops, that anecdote about Eddy has really cheered me up after a pretty shit coupla days

    i wanna race this season, and i feel i could use something like this, but as i don’t anybody got tips for training?

  17. @Marcus
    Yeah, you’re right. Definitely getting in touch with a bike shop ASAP after arrival and see what the local racing scene is. I have not raced in years and really look forward to getting blasted out the back for a bit until I can find my racing legs! And what’s this Masters Shit! No way I can be masters!!! Why just yesterday I was a raging 21 year old Cat 3 (or was that 18 years ago?).

  18. Man, I play hookie one day and my article gets posted and know I gotta try to answer all this stuff. Thanks for all the kind words and encouragement.

    @xyxax

    The way the test went was to start at 100w and increase 25w every three minutes with a blood sample at the end of each three minute segment. I was surprised that the test ended because my RPE didn’t seem very high. I’m hoping this was an indication that I know how to suffer because I definitely have a LOT higher RPE when TTing and hill climbing. Which brings up a point that others have commented on here and which a Cat 1 that was at the testing was discussing with me – “This is a number to base training off of but it doesn’t tell us what your ability to suffer is.”

    So this brings up something that I’ve always wondered about. What is “suffering”? Can somebody give a objective definition? Am I really suffering or is there this whole nuther level that I’m not privy to?

    @Marko

    Nobody said anything about my kit. I was bummed.

  19. @xyxax

    Oh, I forgot to mention that Max says the your indoor results are usually 5-8bpm lower than an on the road test.

  20. “Suffering” is the point at which your sensory perception of the outside world starts to shut down as your focus is almost exclusively, and involuntarily, directed to the pain, numbness, burning sensations, pounding heart and other things going on within your own body. You know you are suffering when:

    1. Your arms also get numb and start to burn like your legs;
    2. You don’t hear anything but your pounding heart (which you are aren’t really hearing but feeling all over your body including your head and ears);
    3. You get a form of tunnel vision in that you don’t really perceive anything you are seeing (your eyes “see” things but your mind does not register them because it is directed inward);
    4. Your sense of time is altered in that 1 minute feels like 10, or maybe even more; and
    5. You lose the sense of how fast or slow you are then going, or how much or little power you are putting out, because your body is now only telling you “hurt, hurt, hurt” all over and you’ve lost the ability to judge performance (this is when a speedometer and/or power meter can help you figure out just how strong or pathetic actual performance has become at that point in the effort).

    There are other examples of indicators. These are just a few.

    When you really know how to suffer, your actual performance doesn’t matter. You can really suck from a comparative perspective, but if you truly suffer you are a badass and a hardman. It is kind of like Rule #9 from my perspective, if you know how to suffer you are a badass–period. The difference is, unlike being out riding in bad weather, only YOU know if you are truly suffering.

    That is my take on suffering.

  21. nice one! keep at it!

  22. @Il buccaneero

    Nice.

    Well then I guess I was almost suffering on the trainer last night because I couldn’t see very good.

  23. @Il buccaneero
    A-Merckx.

  24. @Cyclops

    Awesome article, i was wondering as it has been a few months whether you have done your field test yet and if so what the results are.

    @Frank

    The team mechanics, soigneurs, physios; these are the people who devote their life to the sport and work tirelessly and without headlines that their pedaling counterparts receive.

    I couldn’t agree more either with this, and usually they are so willing to give of their time and knowledge when asked. I remember very clearly when I was younger and at some regional race my dad had taken me to he was sat down on a little chair next to the mechanic who he asked nicely if he could watch him strip down the bike and rebuild it. Dad took notes and the mechanic was extremely happy to oblidge and even gave him his contact details incase he wanted to call and ask.

  25. I’ll be doing a field test shortly but it might be down from the season high.

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