Brody McDonald’s 2023 began fast and furious and by the time he hit his mid-season break in racing he was both completely race fit but also exhausted from racing 30 days of roughly 95. That’s a big ask for any professional sport.
We sat down after the US Pro Championships to evaluate his early season and to set a path for him to be on good form at the U23 Worlds in Glasgow racing for the USA Cycling National Team.
Event Specific Training:
The U23 road race looks to be the best of both road and criterium racing. This could benefit American and Australian racers who are well versed in navigating city streets at ludicrous speed. However, the 7 laps of 50 turns each totaling 54 miles of crit racing following 46 miles of demanding road parcours makes this a truly world championship course and we should see a winner with World Tour ability.
Following US Pro Nationals, we began addressing the aspects of racing that would make the most difference in race outcomes. We only had around 6 weeks so the runway is relatively short and the impact of his pre-season and early season race schedule would be instrumental in his preparation.
After US Pro Nationals, Brody was tired mentally and physically. He had raced a lot and all over including Greece, USA, Belgium, Greece (again) Poland, Czech Republic, France, Belgium (again) and back to the USA. He should have some business class upgrades coming his way soon! The first thing we did was let him relax and not worry about training.
Volume and Zone 2
Once he was ready, we set about training what he’d been missing. That is volume and zone 2 training. Yes, it’s a thing. Brody’s pre-season and early season form had been predicated on 18-24 hour weeks with lots of zone 2 work. Starting in mid/ late March the volume dropped to 10-18 hour weeks largely dependent on his race schedule. We should see Brody’s capacity for increasing FTP improve simply by reintroducing long zone 2 rides. His first block was 60+ hours in 3 weeks.
Brody’s off the bike nutrition was relatively solid in that he does a pretty good job of eating enough and the right things to keep him able to perform at a high level for weeks. Improving his on the bike nutrition was definitely some low hanging fruit. We’ve seen that simply eating/ drinking enough can improve an athlete’s durability by 30% meaning a 5 minute max effort after 2000kJ could be replicated at 2600kJ.
We know that there is a high likelihood that the race will be managed by teams to marginalize the impact of the opening 46 miles prior to the crit circuits. During this time patience and hiding will be crucial skills for a good outcome. In order to capitalize on this Brody spent some time in local group rides testing his ability to minimize high power efforts. He also did some longer rides that culminated with a weeknight criterium (below). This early conservation of matches is primarily a mental and discipline exercise as well as a great way to practice racecraft.
Not only does Brody need to be fit and durable from an endurance perspective but he also must be able to repeat high power and high force efforts roughly 350 times in the criterium sector alone. Using WKO5 we’re able to estimate that he’ll spend somewhere around 25 minutes above FTP, in the FTP/ FRC or VO2 max, but he should also spend around 10 minutes in FRC or higher powers. This workout below is one of my favorites for replicating those types of efforts. It’s no easy task but Brody did a couple of these sessions. Besides the below workout, Over Unders are a good way to reintroduce race type efforts.
Flow and Racecraft
The final half of the race should race like a criterium or a kermesse or both. Departing for Europe early allowed Brody to finish out his preparation with some kermesse racing. This proved instrumental in reminding him how the races flow and the best way to manage the balance between good positioning, risk v reward, and energy expenditure. The races were typically only 2.5 hours so we didn’t see a lot of fatigue accumulation which allowed Brody to sharpen the form and really dial in the max/ near max efforts.
The Taper and Worlds
These few days can spell doom for many athletes. They spend too much nervous energy tracking the Performance Manager Chart in Training Peaks. They might notice their CTL falling during a taper, become insecure in their form and go off the plan, "hedging" on the most important week leading into a primary goal event. This isn't that time. Brody will start the World Championships with his Chronic Training Load (CTL), Acute Training Load (ATL), and Training Stress Balance (TSB) all at the same levels as his best historical performances. Trust yourself and the process and trust your coach. Brody is doing all that and he’s sitting on some really good fitness right now. With some luck and some really hard racing we could have an exceptional outcome in Glasgow.
Thanks for reading.
About the Author:
Adam Mills has raced at the elite level since 2002 and graduated with a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Kansas in 2005. His true talent comes with his ability to combine his vast experience with his knowledge of sport. He is indeed a student of science, sport, athletic performance, strategy, and tactics. He continuously educates himself by keeping up to date with current research trends and methods in sport and his clients have reaped the benefits from this work with over 25 national championships in 11 disciplines on two continents. Adam is able to incorporate these attributes on a daily basis to help his clients reach and exceed their goals whether they are a beginner or a seasoned professional. Learn more about Adam and Source Endurance here.