I thought we’d take a look in some detail at our first race winner of the season, and understand what it takes to succeed as an ultra cyclist – Ryan Collins. Ryan won the Sebring 12hr non-drafting TT race that starts / finishes at the famous motor racing circuit in Florida on the 10th February.
Ryan competes for Bike Doctor Racing on the east coast of the United States.
Ryan put in a stunning performance to complete 269.36m, He won the race by over 11miles, added an awesome 26miles to his PB, set an age group record in 20-24 & was just 2miles off the overall course record. A truly amazing performance.
Although, let me temper that, As Ryan’s coach and mentor I was very confident knowing what he had done that such a result was well within his capability.
Ryan joined me at the end of the last racing season, following competing in the WOrkd 6-12-24 in Boreggo Springs California. He had had a good domestic USA racing season but knew he had more to give ad wanted to explore that with me. His goals were clear and this was hugely helpful to me as a coach. After suffering a bad accident in 2017 from which his riding future was, for a while, uncertain He had clear aspirations to succeed in long distance TT events, as well as compete in the USA TT champs in May, which is only over 30miles or so. So we had work today at both ends!
Let’s here some of Ryan’s thoughts:
“Andy has a wealth of experience and knowledge that enables his athletes to train smarter, and perform. The workouts prescribed are targeted, stressing the body in different ways, making training variable, interesting and rewarding. We identified key races whose training would build and progressively compliment the past. Setting realistic goals has kept me motivated and his frequent communication encourages me to train and make it through the harder days. Being in a different country hasn’t deterred communication, we even did a bike fit analysis via photos sent through facebook! We have accomplished a tremendous amount in only a few short months. It is exciting to think of what we can accomplish with more time- we are only getting started!”
For me , as coach, Ryan is a dream athlete. responsive, communicative & open to trying new things and new ways of working. From analysing Ryan’s past training I came to a number of key conclusions:
- Ryan rode A LOT. For example, I analysed all of his training weeks leading into his 2018 ‘big races’. In one week on the run up to a ’12hr’ Ryan had trained over 20hrs in the preceding 7 days. On the lead into a short distance (30mile TT race) Ryan did a near 4hr session the day before. I felt this was actually a limiter to his performance My view was, that particularly for a younger athlete with a full time education
- He was doing way too many hours
- Too many ‘junk’ low value miles
- Not enough intensity to focus on raising FTP so increase the size of his endurance zonesTo achieve our goals below are two example sessions Ryan completed on the run into the Sebring 12hr race, These are quite a change form the ‘Long slow’ Z2 type rides he had been doing
This first session has 3 goals:
– Push FTP by consistent work at Sweet Spot, around 90% of FTP
– Endurance development that it achieves in 2 ways
- The length of the SS ‘tabata’
- The solid Z2/3 border endurance steady state time at the end of the session~
Thsi next session is TOUGH. This works on 3 things:
– Mental toughness – try completing this on the turbo!
– Power generation when fatigued as at 3hrs + in you are riding at sweet spot
– Endurance due to distance and the power requirements
- We needed to focus on Aero efficiency which was, in part hampered by his historical injuries, but also by his general positional set up. What I find interesting is how far behind us the USA (and other parts of the world are) in their understanding and adaptation to the importance of aerodynamics, plus how to achieve it
- Time is always a challenge with ultra racers due to busy jobs, or in Ryan’s case a busy school schedule.
- Ryan lives in the northern USA and winters are not conducive to long out door sessions… which means hours on the turbo trainer!
- Motivation – Holding him back! As in point 1 he loves to train , ride and improve, but knowing when to stop, back off and recover is as important and and is something we are no focusing on.
So we are far form the ‘end of the road’ but it is some great work in progress. Initial results are very encouraging, not only the race win, but the FTP improvement we have seen. Also as is key for long distance racing we have developed both Ryan’s ability to generate and sustain higher power for longer, But also his ability to do it whilst in position.
As you can see there are so many elements to think of to succeed in an Ultra Cycling event, and so much more than just raw physical ability.
A key success factor in long distance racing is actually riding (It sounds simple!) . If you ever analyse race files form long racers you will ALWAYS see that the best have the least time stopped, and spend the most time in the most efficient position (aero dynamically & bio mechanically) . Ryan spent a massive amount more riding at Sebring than further races – that always helps!
We are now in the stage of building to Ryan’s next key race goal for 2019 and we are quietly confident of emulating his already great success. Watch this space…