Coaches' Blog

Coach Ainslie

We are starting to wind down the road season and some of you may be considering racing cyclocross this fall. Cross is a great way to stay fit and sharpen some of your skills. The training is somewhat more specific however, here are some tips to optimize your training for cross.

1. Skills

CX involves more specific skills than road riding. Dismounts, mounts

and technical abilities are all requirements to excel at cross. At least 2 days a week you should be focussing on some of your skill work. Practice getting on and off the bike efficiently, I ask my riders to consider that fitness is not enough, you have to have polished skills. Practice cornering on different dirt surfaces and going up and down hills on different types of inclines.

2. Interval training

CX requires a rider to be able to generate short sharp efforts in addition to sustained efforts. Remounting the bike and exiting corners or moving to a paved surface ask the athlete to repeatedly accelerate throughout the event. Practice short, intense threshold and VO2 type intervals between 1 and 3 minutes.

In addition to short efforts, CX can resemble time trialing. To compliment the short hard efforts, add in some tempo and sustained threshold intervals between 10 and 40 minutes. If you're building up your fitness still, do 2x15min or similar with 5 or 10min easy between to help you get some level of recovery.

3. Running

Cross asks you to be able to run in addition to riding. Many cyclists do not come from a running back ground so it pays to spend some time training to run. Things like sprints and hill runs will go a long way towards improving your experience with cross. The longest run you might do in a CX race would probably not exceed 30 seconds so, try doing repetitions

of 30 seconds or less of sprints or hill runs. Since you're sometimes

moving fast, do the sprints at 100% so you can train your body to, literally, hit the ground running.

Many clubs have skills clinics as we enter the fall. If you have the

inclination, these are valuable learning resources. Barring that, mid week training events are useful or consulting with a coach.

Cyclocross is a fun, different way to maintain your fitness in the fall or even build a little fitness. It requires a cyclist to have additional abilities including running and mounting and dismounting the bike. A well thought out, deliberate plan in training will help you have more fun and more success at the races.

Coach Ainslie

Many cyclists have experienced knee issues in one form or another. When I was racing I can remember having bouts of tendonitis where riding was out of the question for extended periods. The high volume of miles, hours and pedal revs will wildly magnify any imperfections or alignment issues in the pedal stroke causing inflammation and irritation in the hip, knees or ankles. Two years ago I had a local pro with a notable US Pro team approach me with pain in one of his knees. Due to the knee issues, the athlete had missed going to Asia with the team to race. He was frustrated because traditional methods hadn’t yielded results. We agreed to work together to resolve the issue.

The athlete, we’ll call “A”,  had worked with a noted fitting agent on his bike and they had made some changes to the balance of the bike and how he sat on it. A’s team requires him to use a sponsor saddle and the saddle was not the right width for him causing him to hold himself ever-so-slightly just off the saddle. We were able to communicate with the team to get a sponsor correct saddle that was the right width for him. That allowed him to comfortably sit ON the saddle without constant tension on the legs. This got us going in the right direction. We also made changes to his shoe/cleat interface based on recommendations from his team resources and observations gleaned from watching his pedalling style. 

A chronic problem with cyclists is weakness in the gluteal complex (butt muscles) that cascades all the way down to the knee and ankle. In A’s case, this weakness caused his ankle to collapse at the power phase of his pedal stroke AND created misalignment of the knee. Because A had made the above mentioned changes to his shoe/cleat interface, this partially eliminated the collapsing of the ankle and knee alignment issue.We also added "varus" wedge under the ball of his toe in both shoes to cant the foot out slightly which cleaned up the tracking of the knee.

Next, we began a strengthening program that addressed three elements.

First, we worked to strengthen his gluteal complex. Because of the linear motion of pedalling, the musculature that helps to stabilize the pelvis and femur can become inactive and disproportionately weak compared to the rest of the gluteal muscles.

Second, we worked to create synchronization in the firing or activation of his quadriceps muscles. (medialis and lateralis). A, like most cyclists, has tremendously well-developed quads but his inner quadricep muscle (medialis) fired before his outer quadriceps muscle (lateralis). This created a slight turn of the patella (knee cap). The patella slides in a “groove” at the bottom of the femur and any misalignment is incredibly irritating which leads to inflammation and pain.

Third, we worked on core strength and stabilization. The muscles of the hips, legs, spine and of course, abdominals are attached to the pelvis. When a cyclist pedals the musculature of the legs, spine and abdominals pull on the pelvis. His legs and glutes were already quite strong but we needed to shore up the low spine and abdominals. If you’ll recall one of the t-mobile or HTC/Highroad physios a number of years ago said that …”if you’re core is weak, it’s like shooting cannon while in a canoe.” (I’m paraphrasing here) We also added in some stabilization exercises to “wake up” his little stabilizer muscles starting in the foot all the way up to the hip. Many of his exercises were done bare- footed and/or on an unstable platform. Many moves also involved holding weights over the head to elevate his center of gravity there-by destabilizing “the platform.”

This combination of elements allowed us to get A back on his bike in a limited capacity in 30 days and back at full capacity in approximately 75 days. I also gave him “homework” to do while he was on the road to help maintain the work we did.

At the time of writing he had been able to put in a considerable amount of mileage at team camp as well as on his own.

A holistic approach to issues with the hip, knee or ankle often yields favorable results. In my experience there is usually no ONE factor but a constellation of factors that lead to irritation/inflammation issues which in turn become tendon or joint issues.

Coach Ainslie
Just a brief look at the race today folks. I'm in beautiful Aspen, CO to announce an XTerra Triathlon tomorrow and unfortunately I didn't get to see the TV coverage of the Tour today. So, bare with me today.
Sviekiname! This is what Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas is saying after his win today. The Garmin/ Sharp rider managed to hang on for the win at the end of a wet stage that saw a number of crashes in the closing kilometers. Sprinter extraordinaire Peter Sagan with the Cannondale squad and Garmin/ Sharp rider Jack Bauer were among those to hit the pavement in the mayhem that developed at the end. Because the crashes materialized inside the final 3km, all riders were given the same time. The GC remains the same heading into tomorrows time trial.

The course for the TT tomorrow is not flat. According to, "The course favors riders who are on form versus those who are specialists at the discipline." I would agree with this BUT, I do still think that the World TT Champion Tony Martin will still walk away with the stage. 

Tomorrow will see the 3 french riders Pinot, Peraud and Bardet battling it out for the final podium spots behind Vincenzo Nibali. He is far enough ahead of the others that, barring something unforeseen, he will win the Tour overall. Young Tejay Vangarderen is too far down on time to get back into a podium place as well. The real battle in my mind will be between the 3 French riders and Alejandro Valverde.

I'll probably be posting again late tomorrow. Its going to be an exciting day and when the dust settles we'll be looking at our final podium in Paris.

You can follow me on Twitter; Zoom_Coach_Ace or on YouTube; amaceachran2014.
The 2014 Tour de France is 3.664km long. In the month of July you can purchase my books as a set on sale for $36.64 in honor of the #TDF2014 at 
Coach Ainslie

So close yet so far! Poor Jack Bauer and Martin Elmiger got caught ON the finish line today at the Tour de France. After 222km in the breakaway they main field timed it just right and rolled over them at the last possible minute. Bauer was visibly distraught after the stage finish with teammates trying to console him.  It was a heroic effort but not meant to be.

Todays stage was fraught with cross winds and rain and it made for hectic conditions in the main field. The teams lined their men up in the closing kilometers and brought the sprinters up to ideal position. Alexander Kristoff once again got the better of Peter Sagan on the line. This is Kristoff's 2nd stage win at this years Tour. Sagan was quoted in the press as saying he's doing his best to win. My pet theory is that what we're witnessing with Peter Sagan is a man transitioning from sprinter to stage race rider. 

Tomorrow is a rest day and it will be an opportunity, once again, for the teams to gather and assess their position and how they're going to handle the final week of racing. Vincenzo Nibali has a better than average chance of carrying the yellow jersey all the way to Paris. There is still several mountainous stages and a 54km time trial standing between Nibali and then final parade into Paris. Tejay Vangarderen is a better than average time trialist and Valverde on his day is also pretty good. I can't comment in an educated way about the two french-men Pinot and Bardet. Thus far they have comported themselves well in the mountains but, I don't know what kind of time trialists they are. 

The last week is going to be exciting and full of great racing! Nibali still has to be alert and his team will be on patrol to keep an eye on any would be party spoilers. I think its fair to say that it is STILL not a foregone conclusion that Nibali will win. The esteemed editor of Velo magazine has predicted that Tejay will find his way to the podium in this final week. I think that its entirely possible to see a shake-up within the top 5 positions. 

You can also follow me on Twitter; Zoom_Coach_Ace or on YouTube; amaceachran2014

The 2014 Tour de France is 3,664km long and in honor of this years Tour you can purchase all my books as a complete set for $36.64 at

Coach Ainslie
Gratulacje! This is what todays stage winner Rafal Majka was hearing from his Polish country men as he took out the win at the top of the final climb. Todays stage at Le Tour was another challenging day of climbing and it saw the favorites take more time out of their rivals and further cement their podium positions. Majka gave Vincenzo Nibali the slip in the final kilometers and soloed home for the win. 

The yellow jersey of Vincenzo Nibali remains safe while 2nd place rider Alejandro Valverde struggled on the last climb and the two french-men Thibault Pinot and Romain Bardet moved closer to displacing the spaniard from the 2nd step of the podium. Valverde now has to be extra vigilant and not lose any more time on the GC if he intends to stay in the silver position. 

American Tejay Vangarderen had another good day a finished with the leaders. Provided he can maintain this bit of form, Tejay could potentially repeat his 5th place finish or even improve on it this time around. I for one would love to see him make his way all the way to the podium. 

Tomorrow brings a primarily down-hill stage with a flat finish. One could imagine the sprinters will once again show up to the party after several days in the mountains. However, this stage proceeds through a region known for its wind so we could see a small breakaway contest the finish as opposed to the flat out drag race amongst the sprint trains. A moment of inattention could find you out of the lead echelon and that is a fabulous way to lose time. The leaders will task their teams with making sure they are well protected if the winds should materialize.

We're entering the final week of the Tour. With 2 weeks already covered and Froome and Contador gone from the race, Nibali can now start to dream about a Tour de France victory. It is not a foregone conclusion that he will win but it is starting to look very likely.

You can also follow me on Twitter; Zoom_Coach_Ace or on YouTube; amaceachran2014
The 2014 Tour de France is 3,664km long and in honor of this years race you can buy my books as a complete set for $36.64 at
Coach Ainslie

Bravo Nibali! Vincenzo Nibali won another stage today on a day that finished with an ugly climb to the finish. After finding his way into a breakaway Nibali terminated his breakaway companions and soloed to the finish. He gained more time on his rivals and further padded his lead in the overall.

Poor Richie Porte lost big time today and fell out of the top 10. Sky team management reported that he had trouble with the heat and felt sick throughout the stage. It probably reasonable to say that the pressure of taking over for Froome had something to do with his demise today. Porte and the Sky team will have to change their focus to stage victories for the remainder of this years race.

Tejay Vangarderen found some good legs today and moved his way up the overall to 5th. Tejay is benefiting from a combination of events and his hopes of repeating his 5th place performance from a few years ago are looking like they could be fulfilled. Glad to see that his previous best young rider jersey win was not a flash in the pan and he genuinely has a bright future as grand tour rider. 

Tomorrow brings another day in the mountains. 3 major climbs will confront the riders. Its another mountain top finish tomorrow with two additional climbs before they arrive. The 2nd climb, the Col d'Izoard, will be a difficult test for the riders that has potential to shake things up before they ever reach the final. Given how this Tour has proceeded, Nibali will have to stay alert and keep out of trouble. With Valverde lurking in 2nd and Vangarderen in 5th, the final yellow jersey in Paris is certainly not a given. Look for the opportunistic breakaways to try and grab a little slice of victory for themselves. The final drag to the finish tomorrow should make for an interesting race.

I think its still possible for Nibali to lose the jersey to another of the riders in the top 7 places. Jurgen Van den Broek is still hanging around in the top 10 as well as Romain Bardet in the top 5. In my estimation, the current direct threats to Nibali are Valverde and Vangarderen. The other riders are too far down on time or not consistent enough riders to pull off a win overall.

The boys are now counting the days until they arrive on the Champs-Élysées. For some this last week is going to be interminable with long days on the bike. The domestiques have been doing a tremendous amount of work for the previous two weeks and that fatigue is starting to add up. They still have a week of ferrying bottles and chasing breakaways in front of them and that'll make for some tired legs. 

You can also follow me on Twitter; Zoom_Coach_Ace or on YouTube; amaceachran2014

The 2014 Tour de France is 3,664km long and in honor of this years race you can buy my books as a complete set for $36.64 at