Jeff Pierce Chris Carmichael

Why Chris Carmichael Stepped Down and What’s Next for Jeff Pierce, CTS, and Coaching Industry

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Topics Covered In This Episode:

  • Why Chris Carmichael stepped down as CEO of CTS
  • Introduction to Jeff Pierce, the new CEO of CTS
  • A brief history of the Endurance Coaching Industry in the US
  • The future of personal coaching as AI and machine learning increase availability of dynamic training plans

Host

Adam Pulford has been a CTS Coach for more than 13 years and holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology. He’s participated in and coached hundreds of athletes for endurance events all around the world.

Guest Bio

Chris Carmichael and Jeff Pierce were rivals leading up to the 1984 Olympic Team selection, then teammates on the 7-Eleven Pro Cycling Team. Later they both held High Performance Director positions at USA Cycling and played roles in the selection of Team USA cyclists for several Olympic Games, World Championships, and other major international competitions.

Chris founded CTS in 2000 and led the company until stepping down in August 2022. Jeff spent more than 13 years as an executive for T-Mobile in telecommunications before returning to USA Cycling as VP of Athletics. He was selected to take over the CEO role at CTS and started in August 2022.

Links:

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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Adam Pulford (00:00):

Cts has seen some big changes in its 20 plus years in existence. And this year we’re in the middle of one of the biggest changes yet Chris Carmichael’s departure from the c e o position of the company that he started in handing the reins over to a new head of the company as the largest endurance coaching company in the US and perhaps the world, this will impact our industry. I’ve had some athletes ask me, did he leave on good terms? What’s the future of c t s now? And some people asking when and why did this happen? I thought it would be actually fun to answer some of these questions by bringing <laugh>, both the successor and Chris onto the podcast. So that’s what I did today. And so both will be joining us and the topics that we deco, that we cover are anything from, you know, why was it time for this change, how it came to be.

(00:57):

And we’ll also get their take on the future of endurance coaching, bracing, and all things bike in America along the way. Get ready for some good old seven-eleven team stories, Olympic team selection, drama, and how the industry of coaching has become what it is today. All of that today on the train right? Podcast. Welcome back or welcome to the Train right podcast. I’m your host, coach, Adam Pulford. As I alluded to in my episode intro, I’ve got <laugh>, the former c e o of cts on the show today, as well as the current c e o Chris Carmichael and Jeff Pierce. Welcome to the show.

Chris Carmichael (01:39):

Thanks, Adam. Thanks Adam.

Adam Pulford (01:42):

Yeah. Well, Chris you’ve been on the podcast before and clearly you need no intro. So I’ll simply ask you, how’s life and what are you up to now that you don’t have a job anymore?

Chris Carmichael (01:54):

Well, I I, I, I still work for cts and I coach a few athletes and am on, have a board seat still in involved with the company and, and have been assisting Jeff in during this transition. And I would say we’re pretty much out of transition. Jeff’s got both hands on the wheels and foot to the floor full throttle going ahead. But you know, I’ve never really been busier <laugh>. I don’t know what, I’m so busy with it. It’s kind of almost hard to, I get to the end of the day and it’s like, yeah, what did I actually do? But a lot has really been centered on, I had my knee replaced 12 weeks ago, a little over 12 weeks ago now. And, and a lot has been in, in kind of rehabbing my, my knee from the knee replacement. And did my longest ride, which was about 50 miles a couple days ago with my girlfriend Sarah, and, and former cts athlete, Mari Holden. And I, I definitely suffered and, and Mari dropped me pretty quickly on the last till, and so did Sarah and, and I limped in. But yeah, so that’s, that, that’s my life right now, you know, reading a lot and enjoying time with my youngest daughter who’s in school at Santa Barbara High. So yeah, having fun.

Adam Pulford (03:38):

Awesome. No, that’s, that’s really good to hear. And as, as it should be right now. And and still coaching, you can’t take the coaching out of a coach, so it’s Sid it’s, it’s good to to hear that you’re still coaching too. So Jeff, for those who have been around the sport, you know, kind of at the elite end or as an athlete, a fan enthusiasts, they, they, they also know who you are, but for those who don’t, could you tell our audience a bit more about you, kind of your background a little bit in cycling, the business world and, and where you’re at now?

Jeff Pierce (04:13):

Sure, Adam. I got my start in cycling with the Wolverine Sports Club in Detroit. My family moved from Pennsylvania to Detroit, Michigan, and there aren’t many people that would say, Hey, that was a, a lucky move. My family moved me to Detroit, but I probably wouldn’t have been in, into cycling had that not happened. There’s this fantastic club and culture there in, in that area that did a amazing job with bringing up cyclists and producing even world-class cyclists. I was just a 15 year old kid when I started, so I had a long way to go. But race, that was all sponsored by Schwinn that I went on to race with Schwinn, the Schwinn national team, Schwinn, icy Hot for a number of years. And right around 1985 o Jim Akos was putting together the first team, us team to go ride in the Tour de France, and he needed 10 riders, but he didn’t feel like he had 10 riders on the team that were really cut out for the tourists who asked me if I wanted to, to ride the tour with them.

(05:30):

I said, sure. So I was a, a guest rider, so to speak, on the 7-Eleven team the very first year of the tour in, in 86. And went on after that in 87 and beyond to join the 7-Eleven team full-time. Came back to the US in about 1991 after having been in Europe for a number of years. And then raced with the Chevrolet LA Sheriff’s Team brought them up to sort of through the pro ranks, and they became one of the premier teams in the United States and did fairly well internationally too, even though we were just based in North America. So that was another fun project, moved on into the real world, so to speak. Went into publishings. First job was with Bicycling Magazine that was Rodeo Press. Then went on to winter Media, which is Rolling Stone, US and Men’s Journal then on to gt, and that was my first connection with cts.

(06:33):

My mountain bike manager was Dean Goli who was, that’s one of the originals with c t s, the original gangsters who basically started all of the coaching. And he was a interesting guy. But from there went on to U s A cycling and did the same job Chris did, which was, I don’t know what the title was exactly, vice President of Athletics, or basically the head of the performance department. And while there sold a, a sponsorship to T-Mobile for a women’s program, and that program took off, then I eventually left and went off back into the real world again at T-Mobile in telecom for another 13, 14 years. So got a, got a good education in the world outside of cycling through that. Got sucked back in, came back to U s a cycling again after leaving T-Mobile again in the sort of the performance job, the director of, you know, sports performance there.

(07:51):

And from there that was another five years or so. We figured out, Chris was my neighbor at one point after we had both lived on the same street for almost six months, <laugh> and sitting in this office here now, I’d see Chris riding by every day and <laugh>. And so we’d, we’d chat a few times a week, and I think when Chris was getting ready to, to make this transition he started thinking about me as one of the candidates. And I thought it was a, it was a great proposition and a great challenge that I decided, yep, that would be a good idea to, to take that on. So here I am. Yeah, my entire history there in three or four minutes, so yeah,

Adam Pulford (08:38):

Three or four minutes. So, so basically you just need to be Chris Carmichael’s neighbor to become the c e o of c t s, is that, is that what I’m hearing?

Jeff Pierce (08:46):

I’m not sure. Maybe it was just, he just kept seeing me and <laugh>, you know, so the frequency maybe helped a little bit, but no, we had a lot of, we had a lot of great conversations through, you know, some tough times with, with in the world and with cts, with Covid, and we’d sit out back in the fire pit sometimes and, and talk while we’re drinking a beer. And so we had been talking about c t cts for a, for a few years before this actual official transition ever happened. So it was a, it was pretty natural, it felt like and almost somewhat organic to happen that way. Us being teammates many, many years ago, us having the same job as the head of performance at U S USA cycling, and now both, both involved with cts.

Adam Pulford (09:40):

Yeah. And that’s, that’s, that’s kind of the, the, the point kind of tongue in cheek is, you know, your guys’ shared commonalities and kind of the, the Venn diagram of your careers and your life have, have really shared a lot of space. And, and I think, and I don’t know the exact years, but, but Chris you know, back when you started racing in, in Florida around that same time period, I think Jeff was you know, kind of started a little bit more than you, but like what w what was kind of so new or different at the time when you started r Racing? Was there coaching, was there kind of high performance athletics going on when you started racing a bike? Or kind? Tell us a little bit more about that.

Chris Carmichael (10:23):

Yeah, you know I was fortunate as well, you know, Jeff mentioned he was part of the Wolverines cycling team. And, and that club, you know, is, is is famous. It’s produced a lot of great, great champion cyclists and, and they had a really good infrastructure from everything that I could tell. I, I feel very fortunate growing up in South Florida, there was a big influence of, of Cuban cyclists and the cycling community there. And I got asked to join the, the Cuban Bicycle Club, and I, and there would be rides after school every Tuesday and Thursday, and we’d leave from Coconut Grove, we’d ride out over Biscayne Bay, over to Kibes Kane and Bad Back, and there was always a coach behind in a car. And he’d honk the horn, and then we’d have to, you know, sprint and, and and, you know, he’d come up and yell at us and yell at us in Spanish.

(11:32):

And, and you know, I, I’d do the best to try to understand. And but, but there was a good infrastructure, there were, the interesting thing about cycling back then, there was basically only two flavors of cycling. You were road cycling, or you were track cycling, and that that was it. And, and there was a really defined sort of etiquette for cycling. And you know, you’d start off two by two and it’d usually 10 minute poles, and you’d pull off to the side, the other two people come in and, and then you’d, you’d transition to the back to and we’d have 30 kids out there and, and and then there’d be, you know, you’d get on a pace line and, and everything was very programmed and, and and that etiquette was really important for learning how to ride, how to follow a wheel, how to draft, how to, how to be in an echelon, you know, and then there would be kind of race simulation sort of things.

(12:39):

And, and like I said, very programmed, but you really learned the fundamentals of, of road cycling. And, and I really feel like that was very helpful for me in my cycling career. Cause I, I, I learned early on how to draft and I, and and how important that was. And I learned the advantages of being able to sit tight on a wheel and not wasting energy. And I also learned the disadvantages. You, you know, that you, you could be the strongest out there, but if you’re not smart and you, you know, you’re not able to use your energy and you’re kind of giving it away, your chance of winning is greatly reduced. So you know, cycling’s changed a lot over the years, but, but, you know, some of that etiquette, it, it really stuck with me and I think it helped me a lot through my my cycling career on the national team racing internationally, racing at the, at the, the pro level as well.

Adam Pulford (13:43):

Yeah. Oh, for sure. In, in Jeff, for you, was the Wolverine Sports Club, was it similar in that vein of kind of organized cycling etiquette? Was it does it have more of a sports science edge of it, or tell us a little bit about that.

Jeff Pierce (14:02):

Yeah, back, this is the 1970s, so sports science was not necessarily much of a thing yet, right? <Laugh>, it was everything that you learned was basically passed down information from one generation to the next, or, or from someone that’s done a little bit more and traveled and raced a little bit more and passes it, you know, down to the, to the ones that are starting. But fortunately, we, we did have a, a coach in Mike Walden, and the, he is probably the most prolific cycling coach other than Chris. Now I can take credit for a lot more cyclist than Mike Walden did. But he was just an amazing coach. And basically, yes, taught you how to ride, taught you how to race, taught you how to train, all of those things. And it was both road and track. So I had joined them on a few road rides, the club, and he says, you need to, you need to get on the track.

(15:07):

And I’m like, I don’t have a track bike. He says, we’ll, we’ll get you one. So I, I, he says, come out Tuesday at six o’clock, Dore Velodrome. So you had to drive the entire length of eight Mile Road in Detroit to get to the Dore Velodrome. And it was a little bit of a, sort of a scary place to, to pass through at that time, <laugh>. But you got there and there were like 30, 40 people all at the track riding around, and he gives me this chrome paramount track bike. And I’m like, cool. So I start riding it and he just sat on the infield and screamed at everybody for about two hours nonstop, you know? And so the thing he used to yell at me was, he says, Pierce, get off the front. He says, I know you’re strong, you just need to learn how to ride, you know?

(15:55):

So I was like, hell no, I’m not getting off the front. That is scary back there, and there’s no breaks and you can’t coast, and I’m just figuring this out, you know? So then I asked him, I think the second or third time I was out at the track, I’m like, Hey, you know, where’d the spike come from? He goes, oh, that was Sue’s bike last year. That was Sue Navarro’s hand-me-down, who was a world champion on the track at that time. And it was like, wow, that’s a, a good place to start. But that was the nature of that club. You had world champions you had, you know, 11 year old kids and everybody in between out there, all training and working out together. And it was just an a an amazing atmosphere and an amazing culture to, to get started in.

Adam Pulford (16:45):

Yeah. So you guys, you know, essentially didn’t know each other at the time. Was it, was it national team or seven 11, Chris, when you two, you and Jeff first, first met or kind of knew of each other?

Chris Carmichael (17:00):

You know, I, I’m not really sure. Funny, I’m, I’m gonna put out an old story. I, I remember racing on that Bero, Jeff, in 1974. We, me and my brother were going to the Road National Road Championships in Milwaukee, and we went and did a criterion in Birmingham Detroit, you know, that area. And then we did some track racing. There was like a couple days of track racing before that, that crit. And and my only other experience riding the track was we had track racing down in south Florida. We’d go out to this old car racing track and, and we’d, you know, it was banked and I, I, I don’t know how long it was, but it seemed much longer. And, and but I remember the banking was much steeper than that track in, in Detroit. And and but we might have met then Jeff. I don’t know if, if if our paths crossed then, but it was probably on the national team, I think probably at a national team camp or something like that. Our trip where we probably first crossed paths.

Jeff Pierce (18:16):

I remember you guys coming out and Dave Ware and was it sto ow team for a while, I think. Yeah. Yeah. So we’ve been racing with each other off and on. I think for years before we got to the national team level and 7-Eleven, we probably weren’t always aware of it, but still was a fairly famous team at that time there. And I was just one of the guys in the red and white Schwinn jerseys, you know, cuz there was a Schwinn Club in Detroit. There’s a Schwinn Club in Chicago, there was another Schwinn Club in Milwaukee and these are all places that had tracks and had a ton of racing all summer long. So we didn’t have to travel very far to get to, to get to racing.

Chris Carmichael (19:06):

Did you do tur, Tallahassee, Jeff? Like I think that’s maybe where we crossed paths cuz there’s a national team camp right after that I think.

Jeff Pierce (19:15):

Yeah, that was our, our summer or our spring training round. So I went to Michigan State University in it’s cold there in, in March when we had spring break. But every spring break we’d head down to Tallahassee and train. You know, the day we got out, we were in the van that night and training the next day down in Florida and would come back the evening before we had to be back in class again. So we did that for years. And I do remember racing tour Tallahassee around that time as well. Yeah,

Adam Pulford (19:47):

Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s talking with both of you and also just hearing up the, these stories that randomly, you know, CROs paths, I mean, you share a lot of a lot of bonds, a lot of, I mean, the friendship starts to run deep when you’re suffering next to each other, kind of week in and week out. You’re in and you’re out. And you know, one one story that pops out in my head is that that Grand Prix and La Jolla, Chris, that I think that you were talking about where you two were off the front <laugh>, how’d you, it’s pretty clear you guys were gonna win, right? Like how did that shake out and how did you guys decide how the outcome would would happen?

Jeff Pierce (20:31):

Yeah, okay. Yeah, no, we were, we were long gone. No one was catching us. And this was race that went on for two or three years. And Richard Brian, who went on to then be speed play pedals, and I think he’s still in the industry, industry was the, was the race promoter at the time. But there were, I think there were claims of something like 20,000 fans, you know, spectators at this race, it was like 10, 12 deep all the way down the home stretch. And the entire course was lined,

(21:04):

Probably would’ve been around 84, 5, 83, somewhere in that, in that era. Yeah, no, probably 80, right around 85 maybe. Yeah, 84, 85. But massive crowds really high energy sort of atmosphere, you know, all the, the best guys in the country would come out for that also had a, a pretty, well, it’s not huge by today’s standards, but it was a, it was a good prize list. And Chris and I are gone and our teams are, are both working to keep us gone. Betting on, we were pretty evenly matched at that time. So it wasn’t like obvious one of one over the other was gonna win. And then I remember they, they put up the crowd Preme, so they had crowd preme, so they’d go around the crowd and collect money in buckets or what whatnot, but with one to go was the crowd Preme, the next lap was the race.

(22:03):

And I’m like, yep, I can win both of these. Yep, I can do it. So I went for the crowd, Preme. Got it. And probably Chris was a little cagey and he, he ended up beating me in the sprint. And I remember seeing that picture. I was like making a left turn just trying to get as far away from him as possible. Once I realized I wasn’t gonna win <laugh>, I didn’t want even be in the shot <laugh>. So, but later on that evening, my team was actually pretty happy with me cuz I got a shoebox full of money and we dumped it out on the bed and there was like a thousand dollars in the shoebox. It was amazing. And it was coins and dollar bills and tens and fives and twenties, and it was a, you could put quite a bit of money in a shoebox as it turns out. So, but that was, yeah, that was some, some pretty good racing and pretty good memories. And I did go back the next year and, and manage to win the next year. So that’s good. I redeemed myself. Yes.

Adam Pulford (23:05):

<Laugh> and no, no hard feelings between you two

Jeff Pierce (23:08):

Still. No. No.

Adam Pulford (23:09):

Okay. Just checking. Just checking. Yeah, I mean, you know, I think that’s again, kind of the both of you just racing and kind of sharing these experiences over time. I mean it’s, it’s pretty cool to see two teammates, competitors, friends now, business partners and neighbors you know, coming together like this, which is super amazing. And, you know, the other thing that kind of stands out to me as I was kind of creating this, this storyline is just, you know, both of you, I mean, Chris, you shaped an industry that didn’t exist before, mind blowing, you impacted the sport of cycling in a, in a way that, you know, no one else has. You know, he created something completely different. And you know, Jeff, both of you kind of pioneering the sport on the 7-Eleven team and then into your work at usac, both of you really shaping the US and globally what cycling has looked like for the past 40 years. And, you know, Olympic selection is a is something that can, you know, ruffle feathers for a lot of people, and we’ll, we’ll talk more about kind of how that’s done these days. But Chris, I’ll ask you, how did you guys do an Olympic selection back in the day? Like, what did that look like? Because you’re both fighting for the Olympic team back in 84 ish, right?

Chris Carmichael (24:39):

They had the Olympic trials and if you won, it was a series of three road races. It was in Spokane, Washington, and they were tough courses. I think the two were on the same course, like a, I don’t know, a 10 mile or something like that sort of loop. And, and then the other I think was just two laps of a bigger loop. And but, you know, t Hilly Train supposed to mimic what the, the train that the Olympics and Mission Viejo were gonna be on. And, and a few months later and I think based upon performances and in the Olympic trials and national team trips that year the coaches and the, the head coach was Eddie Borchez, or Eddie B was sort of legendary coach and, and US cycling. Unfortunately, he’s passed away I believe it was last year from Covid, which was you know, a loss.

(25:58):

But there were some athletes that were kind of automatic selection through that Olympic trials process. And then there was a couple guys, a couple spots I believe that were doubling up riding the Team Time trial. It was a four person team time trial and actually four Men team time trial. They only had men. They didn’t, the UCI didn’t think women could ride team time, trial events, I guess. And so there’s only a men’s event. And and then there were four in the road race and we were vying for, there were three of us myself, Jeff, and another teammate of ours from 7-Eleven, Jeff Bradley from Iowa were Vine for the last spot on that Olympic team. And the coach Eddie b said, well, we’re gonna go out to the course and to the Olympic course, and I’m gonna motor pace you guys.

(26:57):

I’ll stand up on top of hills and wave my flag and, you know, and, and that then the strongest athlete will make that final selection, you know? And, and it seemed like a really kind of weird way to do it because there were three of us was, you know, nobody else and, and really kind of a random, random way to do it. And I had a good day and felt, you know, really awesome and, and I was hitting you know, go being, I think most of those, I was the first to Eddie B’s, you know, hat who’s waving. And and then I think Jeff said, you know, Eddie, I think Chris is the strongest guy. And so so, you know, it, it was kind of weird because we’re all, well, I guess we, Bradley, we weren’t teammates with Bradley, but we were, we’re all pretty close, and it just seemed like really kind of a strange way to do it. And I don’t think, I know I wouldn’t do it that way anymore. <Laugh>. And, and but you know, that’s, that’s that’s what happened. At least that’s my memory of it. Jeff. Let’s, that’s where you guys, yeah. What do you,

Jeff Pierce (28:15):

Yeah, it’s, it’s funny. Chris would ride by the house here, and once in a while he’d stop by pulling the driveway. I’d see him, we’d go out and talk. He goes, what are you doing? I’m like, I’ve got 40 sets of selection criteria to write in the next two weeks, right? So when I was at USA Cycling the first time, we created sort of this structure which is still used today on, on team selections. And as much as it gets abused in, in the media, when somebody doesn’t get selected, there’s always somebody who doesn’t get selected, right? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And and then people like to throw their opinions around. It’s actually a, a very good process. And the US Olympic Committee said that is actually one of the, the best ones we have. And they use it as a model for a lot of other sports, but it is a ton of work.

(29:10):

And, and writing all of that criteria and then proofreading it and making sure the strategies make sense, and you do, in the end, you have to write all this so far in advance. You have to make sure it actually does get you your, your best athlete. So I was sitting here stuck in that, this is 20 years later at my most recent tenure at USA Cycling, and Chris Springs up, you remember in 84 when the selection was, Hey, when there’s a guy standing on top of a hill waving his hat, you had to sprint <laugh>. And I’m like, holy, I, I had blanked that out of my mind. And I’m like, I like, cause it wasn’t one of my better days. And I’m like, <laugh>. Yeah, I do remember that. And I’m just like, I forgot about the guy. I think it was the time was Eddie and Eddie B and Ed Burke were on the different places in the course standing there waving their hat, you know at the top of a hill, oh, that means we have to sprint, let’s go. You know? And so it is done a little differently these days and incredible. But yeah, it’s a, the selection is always gonna be a very tough topic. And, you know, there’s lots of different ways to approach it, but good points and, and challenges exist in, in all of ’em, so yeah.

Adam Pulford (30:34):

Yeah, it’s, it’s evolved since then. But I was telling you Pierce yesterday, I was like, you know that 80, that story from 84, I’m like, I wrestled for 20 plus years, and the way we made teams was he had wrestle offs, man versus man compete, whoever won, made the team <laugh>. So I’m like, oh, that makes a lot of sense. But now <laugh>, it’s evolved. That

Jeff Pierce (30:57):

Would be great.

Adam Pulford (30:57):

It’s evolved for the better.

Jeff Pierce (30:58):

Yeah. In cycling, if there weren’t teams, if you had 10 guys wrestle and 10 other guys, it would be a whole different equation, right? <Laugh>. So when it’s one on one,

Adam Pulford (31:07):

If you wanna see cyclists wrestle.

Jeff Pierce (31:09):

<Laugh>. Yeah, <laugh>, yeah.

Adam Pulford (31:13):

No, that’s no, it’s, it’s kind of joking aside there too, you know, it’s, as I said before, the way that you guys have kind of, you know, shaped and pioneered the industry and the sport it’s, it’s legendary, you know, and Chris to you you know, kind of creating the job that a lot of us do, Pierce is, and I were talking about yesterday is like, we were just at the USA cycling summit and, you know, just a big room full of tons of people, some that I’d, you know, known for years and some new people. And, and Jeff said he’s like, yeah, whether they know it or not, they’re here because of Carmichael.

Chris Carmichael (31:55):

I, I, I appreciate that, the kind words and, and you know, I, I, there, there were for sure others, I don’t, you know Joe Friel and, and comes to mind and, and, and other kind of early coaches in but you know, it’s just the sport of cycling. It, it, it, you know, nobody, almost everybody was afraid to call themselves a coach, you know? It was like nobody really was like, cycling, you don’t have coaches. And, and, and it was, that was kind of how it was brought, you know, as how I went through cycling early, and it always seemed kind of strange, you know? And, and so, you know, it, I just had it in my mind that there were a lot of people out there that when I was leaving us cycling, that there were a lot of people out there that wanted, that were already cyclists and, and not elite athletes that wanted to know how to train and, you know, how to ride their bikes and how to do it more efficiently, how to do it more effectively, and, and and how to do it more enjoyably.

(33:16):

And, and I remember a lot of people, well, aren’t you a trainer? Are you a coach? And I, and I was like, no, we’re, we’re we coach, that’s what we do. And we’re not trainers. Yeah. Training’s part of coaching, but coaching so much more than just training, you know? And there’s so much, if you’re, if I think if you’re doing a right, so to speak, it’s really a holistic approach. You’re looking at all the factors that affect performance for the athlete. And and you know, that’s most of the time the, what I’ve seen at really all levels of the sport, the limitations aren’t physiological. They’re really, you know, it’s what’s going on up there in the athlete’s head. That’s usually where the limitation exists. And so, and that’s, a trainer’s not gonna do that. You know, it’s a coach, somebody that helps them, inspires them, get them to believe maybe something they could achieve, something that they, you know, never thought they could achieve.

(34:18):

So that inspiration is really important aspect to coaching, being able to inspire your athletes. Now, coaching in, in the cycling world has continued to evolve. We’ve seen, you know, as Jeff said in the seventies, really, there, you know, sports science was not very evolved, but so much of, of cycling now is data driven by all the devices and, and, and things out there to, to measure our, our key biometrics and things like that. And that, and that’s great because now, you know, we’re not guessing. We’re have strong data to back up decisions that are made by the coach and the athlete together, or group of people. And so that’s good. But I, I still believe strongly that you know, coach will never be replaced by some sort of ai, you know, artificial or machine learning type of device.

(35:22):

I think it, I think we all long for that human connection, you know, and that’s whether it’s, you’re a musician, you’re, you know, you’re a an artist, you’re a, you’re a a doctor, you’re a, a bike racer. That human connection is really important to be able to help athletes through the hard times help inspire them to, to do things that they don’t think that they can do, that the coach can see that where the athlete needs to, to get to. And a lot of times the athlete puts a lot of barriers onto, you know, what they think they can possibly do. So, you know, part of I think a coach’s job is to be able to strip that away and inspire them that they can, and, and here’s the path, how to do it. And the data is important to guide the athlete, but that, that inspiration, that human connection, you just can’t, you know, no machine’s gonna do that, you know, and, and that’s why coaching will always remain as a strong industry in my view.

Adam Pulford (36:34):

Yeah, no, I, I agree with that fully, and I’ve seen, you know, there’s a lot of AI out there right now. There’s a lot of a new technology that helps us coaches do a better job. And, and I lean into that because it’s, there’s some amazing tools out there, but I have not yet seen anything that’s gonna replace the coach. I, I think that, you know, there will be coaches that will be kicked out the back if, if they don’t utilize some of that technology. But that’s just, I, I would say that that’s many industries that have a, a, a heavy data and a heavy tech sort of component to what they’re doing. But also, you know, doing the hard work of coaching is not just like the, the data the science, the, the psychology. It’s, it’s taking all of that together.

(37:26):

And I think that, you know, my history of c t s, like it was, it was a bit gruesome at first kind of kind of getting up, growing through the ranks of you know, creating training programs and just getting like riddled apart of how terrible that training program was and how to do it better. And, and, you know, when I look back on that, I’m like, I’m like, in the moment I was like, what the hell am I doing here? Like, I, like, I don’t think I could, should be here at all. But fast forward to the here and now, I think that that high standard that you set, you know, the high standard that a lot of the dean and, and a lot of these other coaches set for us, younger coaches were, was just what c t s needed to become the best in the world, in my opinion. And so, you know, I’ll turn to you, Jeff, in, in the way of you know, we’re probably the, well, we’re the, the biggest and probably the best endurance coaching company in the world, or say in the United States right now, likely in the world. I don’t know. What, what’s your plan to keep cts kind of at that pointy end of the spear as we keep on evolving with the, the ai, the data and the, the kind of the new demands of the sport?

Jeff Pierce (38:47):

Yeah, so it’s, we just finished up three days of strategy meetings with the leadership team at, at cts, and it was it was good to hear some of the old stories about how they trained the coaches in the early days. And I was like, holy cow. They were brutal. They were brutal with with the education process with the coaches. And I think the intention there was, we wanna make sure, you know, we’re producing the best coaches in the world and, and that they, they live up to the standards. There’s always been a, an incredibly high standard for the, the coaches through cts. You mentioned the coaching seminar. We are just at, at USA cycling, and if you looked around the room, there was an awful lot of cts alumni in that room including the ones teaching the level one courses, both of them, cts, alumni, a lot of the other coaches who have maybe started their own companies or were involved in other ways, cts alumni.

(39:57):

So it’s not just the coaches now that are our cts, but we created this pretty large infrastructure of knowledge and coaches and process and procedure that is there, you know, through today. So that is definitely the core of the business. And there are probably some ways of coaching or methods of coaching that are not necessarily as involved as the, the one-on-one. And you’re hearing a lot about that now, but I think that is always gonna remain the the core of cts is that one-on-one coaching. We do other things as well, but and then maintaining that high standard we don’t just bring coaches on, it’s, there’s a pretty good process for finding them. And then once they’re found there’s a lot of education that takes place before they actually even start coaching their, their first athletes.

(41:03):

So we have a, we have a process that they go through and it’s, it’s a number of months that it takes to, to go through it all before they even start coaching their first athletes. So we will always keep that standard high. And there may be different methods of executing it now. I heard stories of tying people together and sending them up the incline as a team building exercise or some such thing, and I was like, holy cow. We actually did the incline, which is for people that don’t know, is this big giant stairway that just goes straight up the mountain just outside of Colorado Springs. We did that on our last day for, for fun and apparently for old time sake, but that was they tie exercises, <laugh>, no, they didn’t tie us up. We all just went up on our own accord.

(41:53):

But it was a, it was a fun exercise. But I think maintaining those standards and the integrity and, and the core values of what cts is all about is that will always be there. I mean, we’ve been through the world has been through you know, some pretty tough times in the last few years, and there been a lot of events canceled and, and cts weathered all that. So I think at this point we are going to return to instilling some growth back into the industry and in the sport and at the same time doing it the way it’s always been done at cts to the, to the very highest standards.

Adam Pulford (42:39):

Yeah, no, that’s, that’s just it. And you know, I think with covid helping to change the landscape a bit with the number of racing days change the events with, with you know, gravel kind of exploding, you know, we’re in a changing landscape with the events and the, the interests that our athletes you know, have for their goals. So I guess, you know, before we wrap this thing up first to you Chris, wh I guess, where do you see endurance sport or endurance competitions going and how does, how does endurance coaching kind of fit or evolve with that? If you could <laugh> answer that based on everything that you’ve seen from Florida to the Olympics, to the Tour de France to now,

Chris Carmichael (43:30):

It’s incredible. The, the evolution of, of, of the technology and, you know, how we’ve been able to quantify really what is going on with the athlete, you know, when they’re under, you know, race conditions and, and or, or, you know, actually racing. We, we, we so much before we were just guessing. And because we didn’t, there was no way to, to measure a lot of these things. I remember when the first power meter came out, the S rm, and, and we, while even before the S R M look made up a hub, and we did some testing with that, that measured power, and we did some aerodynamic testing with Lance Armstrong on the Velodrome. And, and this was back in, I think it was 90, 93, right after he won the World championships. And, and you, it, you had to manually recall that.

(44:33):

And, and the, you know, the, the data, the, the, and it’s evolved so, you know, rapidly and, and to be honest at this stage it’s, it’s, it’s great because now we have, as we get answers to these questions, so many new questions come up that we didn’t even think about as, as we now have these answers, and that, that’s wonderful. The, the, the influence of social media on performance is massive. You know, there’s nowhere to hide anymore athletes really, you know, you, you have to have, you know, a brand so to speak, and you, you are the brand and you, you’ve gotta, that that’s an important part of, of, you know, you performing out there is you, before we had teams, we had all these, these things now, and there’s still teams, you know, at the, at the world tour road cycling level, but now individuals have really become their own brands and, and, and social media dictates a a lot of that.

(45:43):

And, and that’s great. More people are able to make a, a, a living from, from being from bike racing in whatever form of bike racing that is. But there’s a lot more pressures on athletes, you know, that, that weren’t necessarily as apparent before you could kind of turn it off. Now it’s on 24 7, 365. And you know, I, I kind of, I worry a little bit about the, the mental health side of, of athletes and athletes are always, first, they’re the center of everything. And then, you know, kind of goes out from there and coaches are sphere out from the athlete in the middle. And I, I worry about the, the, the influence social media is having on, on athletes. You know, I worry, I’ve, I’ve said this before, what about the athlete who, you know, isn’t very snarky, doesn’t, isn’t very funny.

(46:53):

He’s kind of quiet, you know, maybe he is got a, a you know, not, you know, got a ward on his nose or something, but, you know, you put him on a bike and he’s a fucking assassin, you know, but he, he has no skill, you know, and, and skills that, that social media presence is so important. And so I worry where is a place for that sort of athlete, you know? And, and, and I can tell you, you know pep, you know Andy Hamson for example, you know, he was a guy who kind of always was, did his own sort of thing. And I, I, I couldn’t imagine that, you know, another, and, you know, went on one two turd of Swisses, one tour of Italy Al Du, you know, what about an Andy Hamptons coming up through the ranks?

(47:47):

Now, where does, is there room in the sport mainly driven by social media for the next Andy Hamson, you know? And so I worry about the influence of, of social media on, on on our sport. But you know, it, it, you know, I I, I do believe in sport. I, I, I believe that it’s, it’s good for our society. It’s good, you know, the, the more international competitions, the less chances of having, you know, wars. And so I believe in sport, I believe it in, it’s inherently good for all of us. And so I think we’ll kind of work our way through the, the dynamics of social media. But, but I think there’s gonna be some rocky times and, and because of some of that, you know, and, and but I do believe that we’ll, we’ll find our way through it.

Adam Pulford (48:47):

Yeah, no, agreed. And especially at the elite end of things, right? Like that’s where you know, racing on Saturday, Sunday and, and you know, come Monday you take rest in, you’re back to training. It’s, it’s, it’s all about social selling, <laugh>, you sell yourself, sell the product, that kind of thing. Completely agree with that. I’d say to you, Jeff, you know, with kind of the, the gravel boom and maybe with Covid do inspiring people to think outside of even the event space for our athletes, kind of the self challenges, the everseen, the FK ts, where do you see the sport of just endurance athletics pertaining to what you are now kind of doing at cts, and how, how did they kind of coalesce together?

Jeff Pierce (49:40):

No, that’s a, that’s a great question and a great observation. I think traditional racing, as we knew it, Chris and I, coming through the, the system has changed a lot. And the grassroots is maybe not quite as strong as it was at one time. And there’s so many different ways to do it. So many different disciplines to engage people with now that I think you have to be constantly sort of scanning that, that landscape and making sure you’re serving the athletes in whatever form they may take. And the gravel’s a is a great, a great example of that. And then even just say some older athletes that are getting a chance to return to the sport and wanna be fast, want to be competitive, want to be keeping up with the group or up with their, with their buddies they’re all athletes and they’re all recognizing there is so much out there, so much information, so many tools to use.

(50:48):

And I think the idea of, of coaches is actually becoming very easily accepted for the athletes on whatever scale it is that they’re, they’re competing on or challenging themselves with. So I think there’s a, there’s always gonna be a place for great coaching and great coaches, and that is our aim to make sure we’re there for them when they’re ready to, to take that on. So yeah, it sounds like, you know, old guys talking about, well, back in the day, there was this road racing and track racing. It is pretty much true. And now you’ve got you know, you’ve got single speed cycle cross racing and mountain biking and gravel racing and road racing and track racing and bmx, well, BMX been there forever, but or almost forever. But there’s just so much more going on and so many different ways to challenge yourself. And I think that’s, that’s the key is you’re there to meet those folks where they are and whatever it is that they want to achieve and, and help them achieve that.

Adam Pulford (52:02):

Yeah, a hundred percent in, and in my own coaching practice, I mean, working with world tour professionals all the way down to the weekend warrior, one of the common things that I tell my athletes, and no one’s disagreed me with it yet, is just like, when you’re fit, everything’s more fun and, you know, suffering next to your, you know, your buddy on the weekend or kind of attacking that huge hill that you never thought you could or, or simply just, you know, having a beer with your friend at, at the end of it, like every, when you’re fit, all of those experiences are just so much better. And that’s where I think somebody like a coach that has all the experiences with the sport psychology, the sport physiology, kind of the tech and data and the things, I mean obviously I’m biased here, but when you have somebody that can come in and kind of help answer some of those questions for you so you can simply have more fun in the stuff that you love to do, I mean, that’s, that’s a lot of what people are in are interested in whether they’re chasing gold medals or not.

(53:09):

Cuz it’s the same for everybody that I think the speeds are just drastically different, right?

Jeff Pierce (53:14):

<Laugh>? Yeah, no, it’s one of the observations I made having been recently at the very, very top of the sport, you know, working with world champions and Olympic champions and so on, and now kind of spreading out a little broader than that, it is every bit as exhilarating and exciting to see someone meet their goal, even if that goal was to finish 140 mile gravel race and under, you know, nine or 10 hours. And they are every bit as pleased with that and, and thrilled with that as someone winning a you know, an elite athlete winning a medal at a world championship or an Olympic game. So it’s a great feeling to, to be there and to be able to help all levels of athletes, you know, achieve those goals.

Adam Pulford (54:08):

Couldn’t agree more. Well, we are coming up on our the end of our time together, and I really want to thank you both for making time in, in your day to do this podcast. I think, you know, like I said, my intro, it was it’s kind of a cool time period to do this with the end of the year, some reflection and kind of this big change in, in cts with the chapter essentially churning. And for our audience who, you know, maybe wondered what Chris is up to and who this new Jeff Guy is, you know, I I think we’ve been able to you know, answer some of those questions and, and tell some good stories about kind of how this came to be new CEO of cts. I think that’s pretty awesome. We also talked about you know, the future of cts, the future of endurance sport in general. And I don’t know, I had a great time today on the podcast, guys, so is there anything that you want to add into that, that we may have left out or anything else?

Chris Carmichael (55:10):

I’ll just add that I feel incredibly lucky and grateful. I’ve been able to surround myself with fantastic coaches from the beginning of, of starting the company and then being able to have Jeff we, we all have nicknames on seven-eleven, his nickname’s peppy and having pep take over as, as ceo, it’s, it’s really sort of like I, if I was writing out a script, I couldn’t have written out anything that would make me happier and, and to feel like that’s really what I wanted to achieve was to build something that would last beyond me. And, and, and when I started I could have, you know, decided to just keep going and being, you know, me and but I wanted to impact more people and, and was able to do that through coaching and, and, and helping, playing a role in, in helping develop coaches.

(56:18):

And now my chapter’s closed and, and Jeff is opening a new chapter of, of cts, and it’s it’s incredibly gratifying and I I just, you know, want to, in 20 years I’ll be, you know, 80 coming up on 85. And so I, I hopefully am still around and I can look and go, what’s cts doing now? You know, and pretty sure you won’t be there, Jeff, but <laugh>. Cause you’re even a year or two older than me, you know, so somebody else will have you know, maybe there’ve been a couple that have taken over and where it goes, you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s great and it, it’s good, you know, I remember when you walked in the door, Adam, you, it was like, that guy looks more like a football player or, you know, a, a a wrestler and, and you know, you developed into one of the top coaches in, in the country and, and we have so many, and so I’m very fortunate to have you two and, and, and many others have, have, are are part of this. That’s, that I’m very grateful.

Adam Pulford (57:34):

Yeah. And you know, sincere thank you for like I said, pioneering this industry because again, like I wouldn’t be in this position, Jeff wouldn’t be in that position if we didn’t have the kind of the, the, the model that you created to kind of expedite you know cauliflower meathead to come into the endurance space and start coaching people on how to race bikes faster. So for me personally, I thank you and I, you know, I, I think a lot of our audience who tunes into the Train Ride podcast probably says the same thing because, you know, our, our job here as coaches and with what we’re doing on the podcast is relay some of this cutting edge technology to them and also remind everybody of where this stuff came from, because this in, you know, 20 years ago it was a thousand percent different, right? It just didn’t, well, it didn’t exist, right? You created it. So I, I think we’re all on this you know, fast track of, of things are adapting and, and evolving very quickly. And it’s, it’s cool to again, get you both on the podcast, talk about some of the history of this and, and see where it’s all going. So thank you both.

Chris Carmichael (58:50):

Yeah, thanks Adam. Thanks Adam. Thanks

Adam Pulford (58:52):

Jeff. Thanks Chris. Thanks Chris.

Chris Carmichael (58:53):

Thanks Care.

 

 


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