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Training Matthew Keenan for the Jim Fawcett Memorial

The classic Australia handicap is the staple diet of most club and state riders around the country, it offers the chance to race the elite and if you get the tactics right pull off a great win and of course huge bragging rights. Most of the analysis pieces I write are often focused on professional cyclist’s data and the big races around the world. This of course give us an insight into just what it takes to race at the highest level, but, for most of us the huge watts/kg numbers and VAM rates are beyond our comprehension.

In this 2 part series of articles we are going to look at the training and race data from a name that is synonymous with cycling in Australia and around the world and who many of us will be up late watching very soon commentating at the Tour de France – Matthew Keenan. Matt is a cycling frother, period. He spends a huge amount of time immersed in the world of cycling and if he is not behind the mic or camera he is researching for his job. Along his busy job, being a family man with a wife and kids there is very little time for him to actually get out and ride himself. Having not raced for 16 years Matt decided that this year he wanted to get some focus and race the Jim Fawcett Memorial, a race that holds special meaning to Matt and one that he didn’t want to just turn up at and roll around, he wanted to win or at least be in the mix.

After a heavy workload through the Spring Classics and Giro finding the time to train was difficult, we can all relate to that. Work and family have to come first, so, we fit in what we can when we can. For Matt this meant we had around 8 weeks and 6 – 8 hours a week to get ready for the race. With the race distance being around 80km or just over 2 hours, this was possible and we set about developing a very structured plan that would address the specific requirements of the race and get Matt on the start line is the best condition possible within such a small period of time.

We will use the incredible analytics of Today’s Plan to take us on the journey of training and then look in detail at the race itself and see how Matt got on.

In this first screenshot we see the basic structure of Matt’s calendar view, the workouts and rest days can be clearly seen and the basic information and workout title is outlined. You can see that each week has at least one complete rest day and sometimes 2. The longer rides were often at the weekend with a maximum time of just over 2 hours. As Matt likes to get out there and smash it up with his mates we would always try and include a group ride each week, but, create a focus to target within the ride, like attack, attack, attack.

The general theme of the workouts was a focus on increasing threshold and also the ability to repeatedly access the VO2 and Anaerobic energy systems and recover to hit it again. Often in handicap races and road races in general, there is not a huge amount of time spent at a steady state power or heart rate as you are rolling through on your turn or hanging on when scratch catch you. The ability to pull a good turn or hang onto the acceleration and stay with scratch is critical and defines the race. If you can hold the repeated efforts you get a chance to be there at the end of the race and vie for the win.

The next couple of screenshots look at some completed workouts. One is a 1 minute on and one minute off interval session that looks to replicate the over threshold efforts needed to roll solid turns, but, with less recovery than you would get in a bigger bunch. This builds the ability to handle more than the race may throw at you and therefore builds a little extra into your armoury.

You can see in this first screenshot and the second screenshot that Matt nails the workout and hits the targets bang on. The ability to try to focus and really complete the workouts even if you feel they are too hard or you cannot achieve them is critical. Believe and achieve, this often leads to individuals breaking through into new levels of performance.

The Mix up Race workout you can see above targets multiple energy systems in one go. It starts off with 5 x 1 minute anaerobic efforts, then into 3 x 3 minute VO2 efforts and finally a longer 6 – 8 minute threshold effort. By gradually reducing the intensity of the intervals not only is the workout more achievable, but, as we have elicited VO2 early in the workout we actually get to spend longer training our VO2 energy system in the subsequent intervals getting more bang and adaptation for our limited training time. You can also see in this screenshot I have left the heart rate trace over the power trace. It is clear to see how HR lags behind the actual demands of the effort in each of the intervals. What does this mean for those that train with HR? Don’t start the efforts too hard or you will overshoot the intensity required.

As the training program progresses we are able to use Today’s Plan to continually track a huge range of variables in the dashboard view. Here in the next screenshot we look at the Metrics table and also time spent in each of the power and heart rate zones throughout the training plan.

Again the differences in time in zone between power and heart rate can be clearly seen. When tracking power you can see that a far greater amount of time is spent in the recovery zone where little or no real adaptation takes place. If we were to work solely off HR however, we would think we had spent very little time in recovery. Conversely when using power it is clear to see a good percentage of time spent in or above VO2 in this training plan. This is the most powerful zone for adaptation, but, also one where we need to be mindful of the load it creates. If we were tracking this with HR it would suggest very little time up at this intensity. This would mean for most they would be pushing too hard in training trying to elicit a HR at VO2 or above and this can lead to burnout and sickness.

The next screenshots look at Matt’s Scheduled vs Completed charts, it’s clear to see that Matt is very applied and managed to complete the specific requirements of the plan very well.

One of the key components to building condition and form is consistency. It is better to do consistently less than try and cram in more training and get sick and have to take time off.

Finally in this piece we look at the Load and Performance Chart and the specific build Matt undertook from the perspective of Chronic Training Load (CTL) Acute Training Load (ATL) and Training Stress Balance (TSB). This graph tells the story of Matt’s increasing condition as well as his fatigue and freshness. Matt had a CTL build rate of between 3-5 points a week during the 8 weeks, this was a load increase Matt could handle for this time period and when interspersed with periods of positively trending TSB there was enough recovery built in to make the gains in condition. We brought Matt into the race with TSB of +12 and this was based upon the previous data I had on Matt and when I had identified he had produced his best numbers in training. Again the consistency can be seen in the great build rate and application to the plan.

Well there you go – after 8 weeks of training Matthew Keenan was ready to race for the first time in 16 years. Everything had been done that could be done within the time constraints and Matt was feeling good and ready.

In part two we will look at the race and uncover how Matt got on and how the race panned out.

Cheers

Coach Fenz

Mark Fenner (Fenz)

Head Coach

I’ve been involved with cycling since I was 10 years old. My passion for cycling has led me to race both road and mountain bikes in England and Europe, which led me into learning more around the science behind the sport. I love helping others achieve their absolute best – I’ve lectured Sports and Exercise Science, Anatomy and Physiology in England, been an outdoor educator and motivator at The Scots College and have received several qualifications from degrees to certificates.