masters cyclist dean pierson

Fast, Fit, and Winning at 59: Meet Masters Cyclist Dean Pierson


By Jim Rutberg,
CTS Pro Coach, co-author of “The Time-Crunched Cyclist”, “Training Essentials for Ultrarunning”, and “Ride Inside

Dean Pierson knows the value of a strong foundation. His company, Culver and Pierson, builds top-quality homes throughout the Delmarva Peninsula (includes Delaware and some of Maryland and Virginia), and Dean applies the same attention to detail to his training.

A long-time bike racer who competed in South Florida in the 1980’s, Dean followed the sport but stopped riding for about 20 years as he focused on raising a family and building a successful business. Like many athletes we work with, he rediscovered his passion for cycling as his family and business matured. Professional success meant Dean could create flexibility within his work schedule. In the early 2010s he started training again, dabbled in triathlon for a while, and then realized bike racing was his true calling.

After nearly ten years of riding and racing in the Masters categories around the Mid-Atlantic region (Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey), it was Dean’s wife, Donna, who encouraged him to start working with a professional coach. “Donna had been after me for a long time to get a coach and I just kind of procrastinated. She enjoys watching me race and she’s very supportive. But she knows I ride with guys around my community that don’t really race and she knew I would benefit if I had a coach and a more structured training plan. So, I guess I’d like to say she’s maybe brighter than I am.” Dean reached out to CTS as he was traveling to Colorado Springs for Masters National Championships in 2019, and started working with Coach Colin Izzard.

“Work Early, Ride Late” Training Schedule

The optimal time of day for training is the one that allows for greater consistency over the long term. If that’s early mornings, great. For Dean Pierson the workday starts early, so afternoons and early evenings are optimal weekday training times for him.

“I’m fortunate that with my business I have good people in place, and that allows me to arrange my schedule so I can do a fast local group ride on Tuesday nights and a specific interval workout Colin schedules for me on Thursday afternoons. Sometimes it is hard to get up at 5:00AM, work all day, much of it outside, and then get motivated for a 2- to 3-hour ride at 5:00PM in the summer. About a month out from Masters Nationals, it was hot, I didn’t get on the bike until 6:00pm, and Colin had this big interval workout for me. Days like that take a lot of willpower. Maybe at another time of year I would have made an excuse, but I knew it was important and we lead up to certain races, I am diligent about prioritizing my workouts.”

Dean and Colin worked out a 4-day-per-week training schedule that balances work, group rides for speed and social time, focused interval work for performance development, and time for weekend endurance rides or races. Strength training is also a component of Dean’s plan. He incorporates 30-minute resistance training sessions using bodyweight exercises, TRX, and dumbbells and kettlebells.

Coach Colin Izzard commented, “Dean is a great Masters athlete to work with. His years of racing experience make him a great competitor. Our biggest challenge is navigating his work fatigue, more than anything. He is always ready to ride and race, but we must keep a constant and sharp watch on how fresh or fatigued he is.”

Game Changers: Rest and Racing Opportunities

Now racing in the USA Cycling Men’s 55-59 age group, Dean has noticed – like almost everyone in his age bracket – that he needs more recovery between training sessions and races than he did when he was younger. The game-changing value of working with Colin isn’t some secret or miraculous interval workout, but rather the thoughtful check-ins and discussions about how Dean feels after hard training sessions or race weekends.

“Colin and I talk on Mondays. He’s very casual and laid back. He’s never been critical of me at all. Because he knows that I work hard, but at the same time, and he knows that I need rest. So typically, the first thing we talk about is his analysis of my work from the previous weekend.”

With racing on the weekends and a fast group ride on the schedule for Tuesdays, Colin and Dean discuss the objectives for Tuesday’s ride. If the previous weekend was particularly difficult, like a recent weekend that included a 200-mile ride with Dean’s son (also coached by Colin Izzard), then the plan would be to take Monday off – including strength training – and go easy on the Tuesday group ride. The goal, then, would be to be ready for a high-quality workout on Thursday, in preparation for perhaps another weekend of racing.

Coach Colin added, “We learned very quickly how much “life stress” he can tolerate, which is actually a fair bit! That said, when we really pay attention and are mindful of the whole athlete picture, the results really come alive.”

Increasing Race Repetitions

Racing multiple times per day was another game-changing opportunity for Dean. USA Cycling rules allow Masters cyclists to race in their age category and in younger age categories, as well as according to their skill/experience category (i.e. Cat 2, Cat 3, Cat 4, etc.). To get more intensity into his training schedule, as well as more racing repetitions (and more fun!), Dean often races the Masters Men 50+ and the Masters Men 40+ criteriums in the same day.

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masters cyclist dean pierson

Managing Nutrition and Hydration with a Physical Job

Masters cyclists who work full-time jobs frequently face challenges when it comes to fueling workouts and post-workout recovery. As the President of a home building company, Dean is in his truck and on his way to jobsites early in the morning. He says he tends to be in and out of the truck all day, sometimes spending several hours outdoors. Summers in Delaware can be outrageously hot and humid, so staying hydrated becomes a challenge.

“My wife kind of makes fun of me in the morning. She’s like, “You and your ice.” But it’s something I’m diligent about. I have a cooler and I always pack it with lots of ice. So, I have plenty of fluids in my cooler and I keep it in the backseat of my truck so I can access cold drinks at any time during the day.”

Along with the cooler, Dean prepares most of the food he’ll eat during workday rather than stopping for lunch at convenience stores, diners, or fast food joints. “I typically eat the same breakfast every morning, basically an oatmeal type meal I take with me to work. And it’s a fairly large portion, so it has a lot of carbohydrates in it and it’s filling. In the early afternoon I’ll have a salad or a wrap for lunch. And then I’ll look at the timing. If I have a big ride at five o’clock, I will make sure that I have a nutrition bar or get the proper foods that I need for that workout in advance.”

Racing the 2023 Masters National Championships

According to USA Cycling’s website, Dean competed in 33 USA Cycling sanctioned races in 2023, leading up to Masters Road National Championships in Augusta, Georgia, from August 23-27. His season started early with a trip to the Tucson Bicycle Classic in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to doubling up on Masters criteriums on several weekends throughout the spring and summer, Dean also traveled to Vermont for the Green Mountain Stage race.

Although he is already a strong criterium rider, Dean and Colin chose to bolster his endurance and aerobic development by increasing the number of road races and stages races in the 2023 schedule. In previous trips to Masters Nationals, Dean only rode the criterium because the road races and criteriums for his age group were on back-to-back days. In 2023, there was a full day separating the two, so Dean decided to compete in both the road race and criterium.

One month out from National Championships, Dean’s form looked great. Between July 22 and July 30, he raced 4 criteriums and 2 circuit races, winning one, placing third in another, and only finishing outside the top 10 once.

Nationals Results

Although it would be great to wrap this up with a fairy-tale ending that included stars-and-stripes jerseys, Dean didn’t win a Masters National Championship in the Road Race or Criterium. In the road race, he got split off the back when the front of the pack surged through the feed zone. “I thought it would come back together but guys on the front were full gas. I was in the 3rd group back, 12 of us. The last 2 laps became a Zone 2 ride and 6 of the 12 dropped. I won the sprint out of the 6, for 22nd place.”

Dean had more success fighting for position in the Men’s 55-59 Criterium. “I felt great the entire race and stayed in the top 15, most of the time top 7-10. The race was super sketchy with guys taking way too many risks. I was top 3 going into the last lap but got boxed in with 1/2 lap to go and ended up 12th. I’m kicking myself for getting boxed in because I felt like I had the legs to be on the podium.”

With a racing age of 59 in 2023, Dean will be moving up to the Men’s 60-64 age group in 2024. That also means going from the older end of the age group to the younger end, which many Masters racers view as a competitive opportunity. Colin reflected, “While Dean’s Masters Nationals was not fully what we wanted, we both learned a lot about what to do next – and when – as he ages up in to the 60+ category and is the young buck for a few seasons!” Dean concurred, adding, “I’m hungry for next year especially since I’m moving up an age category. I want more!”

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Comments 7

  1. Pingback: 5 Tips to Finding The Best Time of Day To Exercise - CTS

  2. Dean is definitely a “local legend” around this area! Great to see his story and success working with CTS! Encouraging for another “senior citizen!”

  3. USA Cycling moves the timing of the RR and Crit around from year to year at Masters’ Nats. Don’t be surprised if the RR is the day immediately before the Crit for 60-64 next year, i.e. be training for two hard races, in heat and humidity, in a row.

    For the crit in Augusta your best chance is to be first into the last turn, which means you need to be 1st into the 2nd last turn. Train so you have the power and durability to be positioned correctly for that in the last lap and then go right to max for the last 25 to 30s from before that 2nd last turn to the finish. If your plan is to wait for an 8 to 10s sprint at the very end you’ll be too far behind, and too boxed, to make up the ground.

  4. Great article. Dean is a personal friend and dedicated family man. He has unsurpassed determination and athletic ability. Wonderful to see him featured in your email.

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