Chris Carmichael Blog: Lessons from the CTS ATOC Race Experience

I don’t get intimidated easily, but sitting in hotel room overlooking Lake Tahoe, with the entire course of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California laid out before me, I was more than a little bit intimidated. I’ve raced and participated in a lot of very hard endurance events, but the 2011 ATOC Race Experience was going to be a challenge on a lot of fronts. Not only was there the mileage and the climbing to consider, but the logistics as well. We had 22 athletes, support vehicles, soigneurs and staff, hotel arrangements, etc.; so many things had to fall into place for this thing to work out.

And they did. It was amazing, and I have my staff – particularly CTS Pro Coach Renee Eastman – to thank for that. Everyone was incredible, and the conditions didn’t make it easy. Like the pros, we couldn’t ride Stage 1, and then we shortened Stage 2 because of the weather as well. From there, though, we were full-on. Stage 3 featured heavy crosswinds and spitting rain, but we worked together as a team and powered our way through it fast enough to make it to the finish before being yanked off the course by the fast-approaching pros. In fact we made it to the finish each day, enabling the group to truly experience what it’s like to race a stage race.

Click here to for rider feedback, blogs, photos, and videos from the 2011 CTS ATOC Race Experience.

One of the most important lessons that the riders learned during the Race Experience was the importance of recovery. It’s one thing to put in one epic day on the bike, but something else to ride 108 miles in 4:40 and then get up and ride another big stage the very next morning. And it’s not like you’re returning home to your own bed each night; during a stage race you’re packing and unpacking every day, depending on others to supply food or get you to your meals, etc. You’re at the mercy of a very regimented schedule, and the bus to the start will leave without you. One of the things that the riders didn’t appreciate until they experienced it was the additional pressure that the schedule puts on riders already tired from spending long days on the bike.

The other interesting observation I made on the road was that riders started adapting to their hydration needs. I think a lot of riders are accustomed to riding in a slightly dehydrated state, despite loud and frequent pronouncements from every coach and dietitian about the importance of hydration. The truth is, it’s more convenient to make do with the two bottles on your bike for the duration of your ride, rather than stop and refill them. But during a stage race or a heavy week of training, that habit leads to a descent into debilitating dehydration. During the ATOC Race Experience, there were some riders who drank too little the first day, suffered a bit because of it the following day, and – most importantly – learned from the experience and consumed a significantly greater amount of fluid for the remaining stages. The lesson for everyone else is: until you try drinking more during and between your rides, you’ll never know how much better off you could be.

One last lesson: You’re never too old to act like a kid. The riders who comprised the CTS ATOC Race Experience Team were all mature, responsible, successful adults. In their private and professional lives they have accomplished some tremendous feats. But they still sprint for city limit signs, pull pranks on fellow riders, and grin from ear to ear on twisty descents. They rode with pure joy, not because the riding was going to lead to something else, but because on the bike they let go of everything else and just focused on the road ahead of them. The lesson for everyone is: All the stresses in your life are going to be waiting for you when you get off the bike; don’t bring them along for the ride too.

I’ve gotten a lot of emails and messages from people who want to do the Amgen Tour of California Race Experience with CTS in 2012. We obviously have some details to work out regarding the 2012 edition, but we’re putting names on a list! If you’re interested, call 866-355-0645 and get on the list. There are other opportunities left in 2011, too. Mountain bikers can come and get the full-on pro experience for the 2011 La Ruta de los Conquistadores (recon camp in September, race in November). We also have camp slots (guaranteed ride entries included) for the Triple Bypass Recon Camps in June and the King Ridge Gran Fondo Recon/Training Camp in August.

Some great reading for Memorial Day Weekend:

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems