Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Here we talk about all things cycling - training, wattage, group rides, bike rallies, triathlons, weather, coaching, coaches, nutrition, ponderings, musings, and equipment! If you have a topic or a question, send us a note and we'll try to answer for you!
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Coach Wharton

What Xert Sees That We Don't See - Just Yet...

The more I work with Xert, the more impressed I am. We're looking at a program that has the potential to shift the entire paradigm of training for cyclists, from basic recreational cyclists, to competitors, to top-level athletes. Here's just one example. 

Kurt Chacon is mentioned in this blog from previous years, when he helped riders understand that cycling is not just about legs and lungs, but is instead a Holistic sport that requires the entire body. Sure, certain muscles are emphasized, but that's at the expense of other muscles and parts of the skeletal system that can help reduce fatigue, reduce wasted effort, and transmit power to the pedals as well. 

When you look at Kurt, he doesn't look like a cyclist. He's larger, more muscular, and the impression is that he might be better served with a more short-distance sport, but here he is, a recreational cyclist, capable of a solid power output and endurance in the 3-5 hour range. That said, he loves his anaerobic intervals, and has studied the information that has come out of 

The intervals we built for the class, based on this Xert protocol this month, are HARD. REALLLY HARD. They're in the 200 to 300% of FTP range, and they're anywhere from 15 seconds to 2 minutes. People that have been coming to the studio for years are now commenting that they're actually SORE from the workouts, and they're having better rides outside. So we plugged in Kurt's information from a ride to see what's actually happening per the MPA model. 
Kurt Chacon MPA Map Xert Online
In the image above, BLUE is Kurt's MPA, while RED is his wattage output. The intervals began at 200% for 15 seconds, and went up by 20% in reps of 5. There was a 45-second recovery that I specifically placed at ZERO watts, so that the cyclists could pedal or coast/rest in order to recover; it was their choice. 

If you look carefully, you'll see that Kurt's MPA dropped substantially as the intervals increased in intensity, and for the entire duration of the effort, MPA never returned to full capacity. However, let me zoom in on something that I am fascinated by - the 4th and 5th intervals of each set. 
Zoom In on Interval 4
On interval 4 of the first set, and almost every set thereafter, MPA actually dipped BELOW the interval's Peak Power, but it did it JUST AFTER the interval ended. 

You can see it even more clearly on the 5th Interval. Here is a close-up.

Fifth Interval Close-Up Xert
Here, you can see that while Kurt was able to complete the interval, his MPA and wattage actually touched, though there was no breakthrough, but he continued to suffer as his power backed off, and the MPA dropped further. 

Now scroll back up and look at he first image. Intervals 4 and 5 for most of the sets revealed an MPA that dipped BELOW the intensity of the interval, but did not INTERCEPT the effort. In my opinion, this was probably one of the BEST workouts he, or any client, could have performed. He accomplished the task, finished each progressively harder interval, but saw a dip in his MPA, from which he basically never really recovered. So for this athlete, this was probably the most COMPLETE workout in recent history. The breakthrough will come, probably next week, when we attempt 1 minute intervals at 160% of Threshold. 

Performing intervals that are STRAINFUL, yet REPEATABLE, allows for greater adaptation and confidence. Up until Xert, however, we only had the W' model to predict what the 'penalty' was for an effort, and even the developers of that protocol admitted that shorter, harder, more repetitive intervals didn't work with the model. MPA does, and I continue to be amazed at how uncannily accurate the Xert model is, for EVERY athlete. 

We'll see how his testing goes next week and again in a traditional effort in September. Until then, grab a registration on Xert and see for yourself. It's pretty fascinating. 

Coach Wharton

Who Cares About Long, Steady Distance Training?! We Don't have TIME for it!

Let's face it, neither you, nor I, nor anyone that we may know, is going to quit their day job, hit the lottery, and ride their bikes for the rest of their lives. We are not professional cyclists. We are instead parents, siblings, students, accountants, small business owners, realtors, just anything but our Walter Mitty dreams of getting paid to ride our bikes over this small, yet still beautiful planet. Traditionally, volume in the sense of a season of easy, steady rides, has always been the precursor to a strong cycling season. But who has time to ride their bike at wattage levels that do not create that great a training response? Who has the 15 or more hours per week, plus the income, to go out and ride, feed that ride, recover from that ride, and then be ready for a strong set of intervals, or a fast group ride, between those already mentioned?
Cycling Center Dallas really focuses on training with intensity. I learned a long time ago that focusing on intervals in the threshold, maximal aerobic power, and anaerobic areas yielded the biggest bang for the buck, and tended to pull a rider's Functional Threshold Power (FTP) up, like a pair of suspenders on a skinny kid's pants. And now, science really DOES back it up. 

At Cycling Center Dallas, we'll be using Critical Power Testing to basically reduce our training zones from the now-fifteen-year-old 7 zones, to just about FOUR:

  • Aerobic/Recovery (<80% of Critical Power)
  • Threshold (80-100% of Critical Power)
  • Vo2Max (100-150% of Critical Power)
  • Anaerobia (150% of Critical Power and above). 

The goal will be to help improve your fitness through the development of more, better, mitochondria. Here's another GREAT article that explains it much better than I can.

The bottom line is this. If you want to get the most bang-per-buck-per-minute, improve your Stamina, Speed, and Strength for better bicycling, then Cycling Center Dallas offers the perfect location, coaching, and programming, for you. How do we do it? Through Intensity Intervals. We're so lucky to have such a long season of cycling in North Texas. Get ready for it by training at either studio, and see what we can do for you. 

Coach Richard Wharton

Functional Threshold Power (FTP), Anaerobic Work Capacity (Now Titled W'...), and How It Applies to Classes at Cycling Center Dallas.

It's Mid-February, and the Groundhog decided rather quickly to re-enter his den, after seeing his shadow. That means more opportunities for us at Cycling Center Dallas, to help you continue to improve your Stamina, Speed, and Strength through our Six-Week Series of Classes. Many of you begrudgingly participated in two days of testing, to determine your absolute highest-average-power outputs for three minutes, eight minutes, and later, twenty minutes. Read More


H.I.I.T. It, Don’t QUIT It: Break Through to the NEXT Level in Cycling and Fat Loss!

All About Iron and Cycling Center Dallas team up to bring you another seminar on making 2014 your LEANEST, STRONGEST and FASTEST ever on the bike! Read More


A Weekend With RaceDay Apollo Co-Developer David Tilbury-Davis

A couple of weekends ago, our White Rock Lake studio was honored to host one of the two partners for some very powerful cycling and triathlon training and analysis software, David Tilbury-Davis. Mr. Davis is a triathlon coach with the British Triathlon Union (BTU), and will be relocating from his base in Spain to a new location outside of Houston this year. He came to Dallas to explain to an elite crew of coaches, what RaceDay Apollo is, and what it can do for the coach and the athlete. Read More


Three Months in, and we're starting to see some real results!

I am posting this today from our Richardson Location, where we'll be hosting an Open House, from 2 to 5pm, complete with food, drinks, music, and live demonstrations of the studio and trainers, but the story behind the studio really has to be the results that we're starting to witness as a result of the programming and participation. Read More


“How can I improve, Rich?”

Here in North Texas, rally season is in full swing, after what ended up becoming a weird, wet, and mostly colder spring that kept more riders inside than outside enjoying the rides. Now, I'm all for indoor training, but let's face it – we do what we do indoors two or three times a week, so that we can enjoy ourselves more fully outdoors when the weather is good. After what seems like a pretty mediocre first half of the cycling season for me, things in the past two weeks have been looking up, and my form is actually coming along pretty well. I'm proud of my strong rides in the last two rallies, and this is where the theme of today's title comes from. Here I am, almost 40, riding at the front of the pack, taking solid pulls, shedding weaker riders, and finishing strong, on what may be about SIX HOURS A WEEK of training. Maybe. Yet after the rides, when the top 10 or 20 of us are reliving the ride, recovering with drinks and food, and watching other cyclists come through the finish line, I am always approached by other cyclists with the perpetual question... “How can I get better at this?” It's a loaded question, and it can NOT be answered easily. But the simplest answer is the one that I'll borrow from Eddy Merckx, and will also augment. “Ride Lots” and “Train Smart”. The development of a cyclist mimics the growth curve of a human being... It resembles a lazy “S”. It's concave-curvilinear from birth through early adolescence, when it sort of flattens out, and then it becomes convex-curvilinear, where it starts to trend toward a flat horizon. The limitations of the curve are based on three things: age, the time limitations you place on yourself for training, and experience. Talent is also in there as well, though it's hard to measure when you need to focus on the previous three issues. Most of the people that come to me are older (above 35), have less experience, and really don't have that much time to train, given the mix of career and family obligations. “Ride Lots” becomes “Ride When You Can”, and that leaves us with the effort where I can help... “Train Smart”. Training Smart means that cyclists who want to improve need to go through systematic, dedicated, perpetual adaptation to higher intensities of cycling. In my studio, we use Wattage to measure that intensity. We use CompuTrainers and ErgVideos to give cyclists a 12 week protocol of Progression, hitting specific energy systems that improve specific aspects of cycling's demands. Cyclists go through 4-to-6-week “Meso-Cycles” where they will be challenged on one specific energy system in which they'll be optimizing their performance. Then, we test to see if it has led to a specific result, and change to a different energy system, on a different Meso-Cycle. Progression in intensity continues until the end of the Period, which is where we back off slightly, re-test, and then once again shift modes. Cyclists who use this protocol, show up for every class, warm up properly, come with the right attitude, pre-workout and mid-workout fueling strategy, and GIVE IT ALL in the time allotted, will see results in the following four areas of cycling demands. Stamina – Stamina is perhaps the most critical of all the values by which a cyclist can gauge improvement. Stamina means that you have the ability to ride further, longer, and stronger. Hills don't leave you exhausted. You don't bonk on longer rides. Think of Stamina as being the model by which your speed and efficiency both increase. Gaining Stamina is all about holding a steady pace at a moderately hard effort. Your rides get longer, if not necessarily faster. Speed – Speed is all about improving Stamina while also learning how to react to terrain and other riders' actions more quickly. Speed is about finding the right gear, at the right time, and pedaling early enough to get over terrain, or to bridge to the natural separations that occur in a group ride, with enough subtlety that it is barely noticeable. Speed is about being fluid. Speed is a reactionary response to a perceived demand. Strength – It's hard to define the concept behind “He's a Strong Rider”. Strong Riders mix Speed and Stamina to 'crack the whip' and tax their legs, lungs, and heart so that THEY dictate the terms to the terrain, the wind, and the pack, if they're riding in one. “Strong” riders are efficient, but they're also able to recover more quickly from hard efforts, or repeated hard efforts. They also derive strength from mental development, which is equally crucial. At the Cycling Center of Dallas, riders develop both physical and mental strength from workouts via the shorter, sharper intevals that we go through in certain meso-cycles, and the different (and decreasing) recoveries that they get in between those intervals. Skill – Skill is something that is mostly developed through experience, both indoors and out, but indoors, experience is gained from knowing just how hard an effort is, what cadence is best for that effort, and what it will do for the rest of the ride. I always tell my clients - “It's not the fact that you can do one, single effort at a certain wattage output. It's the fact that you can string together multiple efforts at a lower wattage that will help you define your improvement as a cyclist.” We'll talk more about meso-cycles and the “Four S's” in later posts, but for now, think about this – If you're a professional in a career outside of cycling, and you enjoy the sport for recreational purposes, but you feel you have room to improve, “Train Smart” is your best option. At the Cycling Center of Dallas, you'll be challenged every session, on a proven plan, and will continue to see improvements in your capabilities as a cyclist, through fitness, and fun!


MS150/164 Images from my own "Feisty Devils!"



[caption id="attachment_110" align="alignnone" width="489" caption="Sepulveda wins the sprint at Fair Park!"][/caption] Stephen Sepulveda, a student at the Cycling Center of Dallas, not only entered his first race... HE WON IT! Congratulations, Stephen, you've got a great career in a new sport to look forward to! BRAVO!


The Art of the Interval

Serious cyclists tend to throw the term "Interval" around pretty loosely, but it's defined as a period of time or length where intensity is increased (in CCD cases, power is the measurement of intensity) towards achieving a goal. Most intervals are blockish in nature, but some are sloped, angling up or down. Some can even be jagged, and those tend to REALLY resemble some of the best that nature's terrain or conditions can throw at you. Week 2, Intervals 2 was one such set of intervals. They were 6 minute hill simulations, but each one spent about the first minute at roughly 120% of threshold, followed by a dip to anywhere from 101 to 91%, then variations up to 106%, with the final two minutes of each interval rising anywhere from 105 to 126% of Threshold Intensity! So it started out at a high intensity (throwing the legs in a low shock), then backed off to let you learn how to tolerate and process the stress and lactic acid, then it pushed you harder, and harder, and harder, 'till you were just seconds away from actually grinding to a halt! BUT.... That was usually the time where the 'Hill' reached it's Apogee, and the intensity backed off. I classify the workout as a Vo2 workout because it averaged wattage in the Vo2 range, but I love it because it felt just like a Vo2 effort ought to... Hard, easier (but still tough), then harder, and harder, and anaerobically harder, until your eyeballs were about to pop out, but then it backed off. We did this 4 times, with one single 3:30 effort at the end that resembled a steak knife. Bravo to everyone that did these efforts. They'll benefit you on climbs, in breakaways, solo efforts, and for the triathletes, it'll help you sustain a power effort, to, say, get away from someone and leave them in your dust. Out of sight, out of mind, right?