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Junior XC Mountain Bike Team, WE Development's, Take On Delayed Season

By: Cody Waite  April 17, 2020

The following is an inside look at one Denver-based cycling team: a second-year junior XC mountain bike team, WE Development.

With the 2020 racing season put on hold, everyone is wondering, "What do we do now?". Bike racers and cycling teams around the globe are stuck as they try to figure out just that. Hurdles to overcome include remaining focused, timing training efforts around an unknown event schedule, and maintaining the connection with the sport and your friends during this time of #gosolo.

WE Development, cofounder & coach, Cody Waite is remaining positive by stating, "We're in uncharted territory in terms of season planning, but I couldn't be more excited!"

Schedule Reset

"The first step we took as this whole virus 'shut-down' escalated at the beginning of March was to restructure the training program for our riders". As they were just preparing to kick-off the racing season, the brakes were pumped hard. They were left with riders nearing an early season peak of fitness. However, with no races on the docket to flex their efforts, it was time for a schedule reset. "Disappointed as we all were, we immediately dialed the training back. This allowed for a bit of recovery before restructuring the training plan," states team co-founder and coach, Kathy Waite.

Tune into Episode 31 of their podcast to learn more about their strategies of Training around a Delayed Season.

From there, a 6 week Aerobic Threshold block of training was designed for the team of 16-19 year old riders. The plan began with a low-volume, low-intensity first week followed by four weeks of gradually building the training load. The 6th week is reserved as a recovery week. What is at first very easy for them in terms of load, it is designed to become more challenging each week. To make this increasing load strategy successful, the training came with one large caveat... Riders have to ride with heart rates under 75% of max for the non-structure endurance rides; and only 75-80% of max for the structured Aerobic Threshold interval sets performed throughout each week.

Read more about the Aerobic Threshold training concept in a recently written article.

After the 6 week training block, they plan to re-evaluate the state of the world. Updated cycling event schedules will dictate the next step. According to coach Cody, "Our ideal programming would have us switching over to a higher intensity training block in May with the hopes of being able to resume racing in June or July. If the containment shut-downs are to continue, we'll instead enjoy a few weeks of peak fitness surrounding Strava KOM hunting and epic rides in the mountains". Only time will tell what's in store.

Slow Down to Get Faster

With the aerobic heart rate restrictions in place for the riders, this meant slowing things down for them. In some cases way down. "Juniors are always eager to go faster and do more! We've had to remind them daily to Slow The F#@% Down (teens also love swear words). This is how Cody came up with #STFD," laughs coach Kathy.

"In fact, getting these kids to slow down at first was a bit comical. We had been training consistently all winter and getting faster and faster. Now all of sudden were telling them to slow down. We can appreciate the confusion on their part. For the first couple weeks, we had to call individual riders right after their workouts uploaded to TrainingPeaks and say, Uhh...what happened to keeping your HR under 160 bpm? You were at 180 for over 20 minutes!’ We'd all laugh. They'd reply, But I was feeling so good and I wanted to ride hard!’... and they knew they had been busted," recalls the coaches.

By getting their riders to slow down and train aerobically, they are training them to utilizing less sugars and more fat for fueling their effort. This, in turn, allows them to safely increase training load to higher and higher levels over the 6 week block. With this strategy, the young riders are set up to super-charge their base fitness for the race season if and when it arrives.

State of Flux While Staying On Track

According to the coaches, "We're in this state of flux right now, but rather than keep pounding away, we're taking this opportunity to improve a weakness and get even better".

As professional coaches for the last 15 years, and founders of Sessions:6 Sport Performance Training Studio in Lakewood, Colorado, they explain, "We spend time every winter building a limited base of fitness with these kids in our Wahoo KICKR studio doing trainer sessions and strength training. We're always a bit constrained working around school, lack of daylight hours, winter weather and the like. As a first, we now have more time on our hands, and amazing weather to build a really solid base of aerobic fitness. This is an opportunity to build a base like they would have never had until they were senior racers."

The whole team is now on track now with the aerobic plan. Training by heart rate and monitoring power output on the road and trainers is already producing gains. These gains are being seen in increased power, using their Quarq power-meters, at the same aerobic heart rates. With individual testing performed at the beginning of the block and the end of the block, they'll get to qualify the gains in hard numbers: watts gained at Aerobic Threshold heart rates.

The WE Development Team is now finding a solid rhythm in their coaching and training lives during this COVID pandemic. Their weekly ZOOM conference calls get them connected as a team and cover the training objectives for the week. Daily review of the workout files and follow-up phone calls keep them on track. All said and done, these strategies are making the WE Development racing program perhaps even more effective than ever.

You can follow the WE Devo Team's progress through the pandemic & their 2020 season on Instagram @WaiteEndurance; and by listening to the Waite Endurance Podcast.