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The tail- end of 2016 saw the beginnings of two notable movements in the sport of cycling. The idea of riding road bikes with knobby tires on all terrains had gained a foothold in popularity. This “gravel” discipline was primarily about adventure, freedom and fun. We know how gravel turned out.
Another notable ascension in my orbit that began in the fall of 2016 was the renaissance of Cory Williams. I had heard about Cory prior to 2016 but in all honesty I didn’t know much about him. I knew he was one of the fastest and most explosive field sprinters in North America. But his Achilles Heel was that he couldn’t consistently reach the finish line with the peloton. As the Performance Director on the Elevate- KHS Pro Cycling Team there was a distinct need to see improvement from one of the team's designated closers.
The Joe Martin Stage Race Time Trial would prove an excellent opportunity to compare Cory of the past to Cory of the present. While anecdotally we can all say there has been notable improvement, the measurable improvement and implications of his relative form now versus then is significant.
Cory and I had only been working together for a few months when he started Joe Martin in 2017. It was long enough to make a difference but not quite long enough to realize the robust changes to his physiology that would develop. However, Cory is a fierce competitor and he really gave it a go at the time trial. The results were typical for a professional but nowhere close to what Cory would become.
Cory would ride an impressive ~5.5 w/kg at 367 wNorm. The effort would get Cory to the finish line in 11:11 at 25.914kph. In that 11- ish minutes Cory would be able perform 216kJ at intensities above his FTP.
Over the next few years we would see Cory’s performance increase incrementally. The outcome would be dramatic. We changed Cory’s training to focus on improving his FTP and durability. From a coaching perspective Cory was always engaged in the process. He takes note of the volume changes, new workouts and evolving power targets. Cory took an important step proactively, working with Coach Kristen Arnold MS, RDN, CSSD to optimize his diet not only for high performance but for consistently performing at a high level. This type of athlete engagement also inspires me as a coach to always do the extra bit to make sure he’s ready for an exceptional performance when he needs it.
Through the training Cory realized a dramatic increase in FTP of ~12% between 2017 and 2023. The implications of that improvement would be significant. Cory had always been known as a field sprinter but that would soon change.
By 2019 Cory’s FTP had raised ~6% and with it he had found a new avenue for success in the breakaway. Since that point, at least until recently, the majority of Cory’s victories have been out of breakaway scenarios. This stark contrast in racing style was only possible through hours of hard work to improve what was once his weakness. But the best was yet to come.
In 2020 Cory was on a rampage. From January until March he clocked 8 wins in 13 starts and then the world shut down, robbing him of what I believe was going to be a major break-through year. The good news was that we put Cory on a 2 year macro-cycle as soon as we realized what sort of disruption the pandemic would likely bring.
That extra year of not racing but keeping focus on the training, progression and the process enabled Cory to really begin putting everything together for 2021. By 2021 Cory’s FTP had improved 12% over his 2016 numbers. Cory closed out the year with 13 consecutive victories, including being the only athlete ever to sweep all four races at the Gateway Cup.
2022 and 2023 saw the rise of Legion of Los Angeles and with that an increased role for Cory. While his numbers didn’t improve at the previous rate, they did become more consistent and more durable as he moved towards more frequently racing at a more intense level.
Cory’s 2023 time trial gave us some excellent insight into exactly how robust this improvement had been since 2017. First, a side by side comparison between 2017 and 2023:
Cory would ride the 2023 edition at ~6.0w/kg, 395 wNorm. This time he would reach the finish line in 10:33. The effort would see him finish at 27.3 kph, thirty eight seconds faster than in 2017 (6%)! However, he would only perform 216kJ above his FTP meaning that the primary driver for this performance was from the aerobic energy system. As an added bonus, this improvement came without sacrificing any of the world-class explosiveness that Cory had built his reputation on. Below is his power duration curve from the first 6 months we worked together (yellow) with the first half of 2023 (red).
In a wonderful twist of fate, Cory was able to leverage all this improvement to become the 2023 Belize Road Race National Champion. I couldn’t think of a better affirmation to all of his hard work to become a better bike racer.
Thanks for reading.
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.
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