Friday, June 8, 2012

Seven Elements of Wiggins' 2012 Training: Part 1

In 2012, Wiggins has won everything he's done:  Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie (including a sprint win), and now, after a crazily dominant TT at the Dauphine, it looks like he'll repeat last year's win.  Since his breakout 4th place at the Tour of 2009, Wiggins has not quite lived up to expectations, his best effort being a podium at last year's Vuelta.

This year, however, something has changed.  There are several theories about Wiggins' improvement in general--from a track world champion to a grand tour contender.  The most constant refrain about his improvement performance in 2009 cited his weight loss--by the time he started the Tour, he'd dropped over 22 pounds from his Olympic track weight in 2008.  Velo Magazine also noticed the changing shape of Wiggins' bike, and his position on the bike.

The challenge of losing weight, for a cyclist of any reasonable fitness, is losing power.  I regularly drop 10 pounds over the course of 6 months, from February to August, and my power usually drops a few watts.

I'm sure Wiggins also lost a bit of power, or, at least, he lost enough power that his time trialling, while remaining a strength, has not been enough to challenge the best TT specialists:  Fabian Cancellara in 2009 and 2010, and Tony Martin at last year's World TT championship, where Wiggins finished 1:15 down.

This year, Wiggins has somehow tapped a new power reserve.  Consider his results in the race of truth:

  • Paris-Nice 9.4k Prologue: 2nd place (by 1 second)
  • Paris-Nice 9.6k Uphill TT: 1st place
  • Romandie 3.1k Prologue: 9th place (by 9 seconds)
  • Romandie 16k Uphill TT: 1st place (despite throwing his chain)
  • Dauphine 53k TT: 1st place (1:15 on Tony Martin)
As good as Wiggins has been since 2009, he's not been this good.  His continued improvement is not merely a matter of weight loss or a smaller frame/longer headtube on his road bike.  It requires a new explanation, one Wiggins may have provided yesterday:

"My coach has not been in cycling for long, he’s come from swimming, so I’ve pretty much been training like the swimmers train,” Wiggins told reporters in Bourg-en-Bresse. “I’ve been constantly training through the year, so it’s not like the traditional way for cycling, which is starting in January fat or in really bad condition, and then building, building and showing form in these races.”Wiggins began his racing campaign with 3rd overall at the Volta ao Algarve in February, then won Paris-Nice in March. After abandoning, the Volta a Catalunya, Wiggins won the Tour de Romandie in early May and now holds a commanding lead at the Dauphin√©. In between, his regimen has included some lengthy stints of training at altitude in the seclusion of Mount Teide, Tenerife.“It’s just trying to be 95, 97% all year and constantly working,” Wiggins said. “The only downside is that it’s mentally difficult, but up to now I’ve found it pretty good. I’ve only raced four races this year and I’ve had long periods between races to freshen up and do good blocks of training, so I’m not going from race to race.”
Wiggins' improvement, so he says, comes down to a new training approach.  I note three things, drawn from his post-Dauphine TT win, Wiggins says about this approach: 
  1. It's somehow like swim training
  2. It requires a constantly high level of race fitness (contrast this with Andy Schleck's miserable 6 months of sub-par fitness); and 
  3. Training, rather than racing, is the primary builder of fitness.

Wiggins' time trialling results, and his comments about them, offer one rather straightforward window into his training.  Another window--and perhaps one more revealing--opened up after Wiggins won a sprint last month at Romandie.  Wiggins smokes the sprinters!  How do you explain that?  Well, this is what he had to say in his post-race observations:  

“Explosive power is one of the biggest things we've been working on over the winter, because it's been about my only weakness, going with the moves at the moment when the climbers put the hammer down,” he stated. “I've always been fast on the track – I've won madisons and so on – but I haven't worked on it since my track days. So I knew I had the length for it – it was about a 20sec effort, and in training we do up to a minute in those efforts.”

Wiggins goes on to say how much training he's been doing up in the mountains, how he's living in a hotel on top of a volcano, and the predictable grand tour training spiel.  No surprise there.  But the real surprise is a fourth element of Wiggins' 2012 training regimen, an element Wiggins alludes to in his post-Romandie sprint win:

      4.   It incorporates training for explosive power.

There are other elements Wiggins mentions much more frequently:

      5.   Altitude training;
      6.   Huge volume.
      7.   Lots of climbing.

Element 3, and 5, 6, and 7 come as no surprise--they're staples of every Grand Tour contender's training since Lance Armstrong's wins.  It's the other elements that I'll focus on in my next post:  what it means to train like a swimmer; why holding a high level of race fitness all year might be a good idea for Wiggins; and why an ultra-endurance athlete like Wiggins might benefit from training for explosive, intense, short bursts of power.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I am still shocked at the lack of knowledge most of 'you/experts' have!! Even when something such as reversed periodisation :eg: start fast and short & finish Faster for longer hits 'you' full in the face like a sucker punch. 99% of the general training population will still continue using the conventional wisdom methods, even when they are blown out of the sky, wether it be supported by numerous published scientific papers or by, more importantly, empirically backed evidence from the athletes and coaches!

I think Albert Einstein’s definition of stupidity is very relevent to many peoples blind approach to convention!

Stupidity is:

"Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"

Just because something has been around for a along time does not mean it is right. Reversed periodisation has been around for years, it's just that the arrogant chose to ignore it.