Wednesday, July 18, 2007

DNA or Dedication?

Something I've thought a lot about, and observed quasi evidence over many years, is the following question...

How much success in bike racing is due to genetics, and how much is due to hard work?

Phrasing it as above is pretty abstract, so let me ask it this way, using a more concrete example...

There are 25 John Smiths registered with USA Cycling. More than half of them are geezers over age 40... let's throw them out and pick a younger one. How about John Smith from Elko, Nevada, racing age 28 and a relatively novice bike racer. (If by far-out chance, John Smith reads this, I hope he knows "relative novice" is not a slam...) So let me pose the question this way:

If John Smith had unrestricted time to train, as much rest as he required, had access to whatever bike equipment he needed, received expert coaching, and was able to race as often as he wanted... how many years until John reaches a plateau, and what category (or Pro level) do you think he could be?

Surely you're smart enough to realize John Smith is just an embodiment of the more abstract "average under-30 male cyclist" that I'm asking about, but feel free to rework the question any way you like to address the issue! Same question applies for a typical female cyclist, but there were no Jane Smiths.

Also, it should be obvious but I guess needs to be stated anyway given the current climate and people's thoughts about doping in the amateur peloton... John Smith is completely clean and doesn't even employ borderline practices like using an altitude tent.

I really, really want your opinions. Please click on the comment option at the bottom of this post and share. Anonymously or not ...either is fine.

I'll go first.

I think John can become at least a USCF Category 1, more likely a Pro on a lower-level Tier III US domestic team. I think it would take him four-to-six years to get there. He'd train 20-30 hours a week and race every single weekend from Feb through September.

By his second or third year John would have figured out clearly which genetic hand he was dealt. If he leans in the Michael Rasmussen direction, then he would have started focusing heavily on his climbing and endurance. Alternatively, if John is a bigger fellow like Karl Menzies then he would fully develop his time-trialing/rolleur abilities, and he'd do a lot of stage races. Finally, if John finds he has an abundance of fast-twitch fibers, then he works hard on his anaerobics and sprinting skills, and of course he becomes an adept bike handler because he races 60-70 crits a year. (hey look, he's at Super Week right now!!! just kiddin') You get the point I'm making ...everybody has some genetic predisposition in some direction or another--John figures his out and takes maximum advantage.

For any Cat 1 or D-III pros that read this, please don't think I'm trivializing your own accomplishment by suggesting that the typical John Smith could reach that level. It's quite the opposite really. Although you perhaps have good genetics, more than likely you've succeeded through extreme dedication and hard work. When many racers opt for the easy "training" rides, you go punish yourself a few extra hours. You (and your team) race every weekend, maximizing your opportunities for good results and upgrade points. You stuck with it and saw year-over-year improvements. You lived the bike-racer life!

Those of us that haven't or didn't reach that level, should be honest with ourselves as to the reason(s). I'll cite two biggies in my case... I never could put together an entire year of racing frequently, much less four or five years in a row. And second, I still can't seem to train beyond about the 15-hour-per-week level, despite having the time and desire to do so! Although my laziness is the dominant factor in both the above, I also wouldn't choose to sacrifice so much time with my family. Most of us don't. We balance our bike-racing hobby with a lot of other stuff in life. But that's back to my point ...it's a choice, and not a predetermined genetic limit.

So again, I solicit your opinions. There's no right or wrong (obviously) and I seriously doubt anyone can reference a study to prove this one way or another. It's just fun to think about in the abstract, as well as applied to any individual's own situation.

27 comments:

Chris said...

I think you put too little emphasis on genetics. I think the 'average' John Smith novice could get to Cat 2 given the lack of restrictions. Good genes are necessary to get to Cat 1.

Thanks for the entertaining blog.

Chris
(average Cat 3 with a family)

Phipps said...

Very good question. I started cycling about 2 years ago at the same time as 4 of my age 35+ running friends. We were all above average runners, with very similar abilities (~32 min 10K). I had no expectations that I would be any good (or any better than any of them) and just wanted to try some racing in the 35+ 4/5 races for fun with my friends. After a few weeks of riding, I entered my first race at Mt Tam and rode the field off my wheel. I was shocked and was immediately hooked on cycling. I didn't find it too difficult to move up to Cat 2, but my friends are still at Cat 4 (one is a Cat 3).
I am having a very difficult time earning any points toward a Cat 1 upgrade though since I only have time to train about 10-12 hours a week and have a tough time in the longer P/1/2 races.

Getting back to the question, I think that I had very similar genetic potential to be a runner as many of my friends since we all ran nearly identical times with nearly identical training. But, with similar cycling training (and I know that they train just as hard if not harder than I do), I can climb about 15-20% faster than them and flat TT about 10% faster. If we were all able to train 20 hours a week with plenty of time to recover, I'm sure I could be a Cat 1, and they could all make it to Cat 3 and probably Cat 2, but that would probably be about it. And these are guys who have above average genetics, at least in terms of running potential. My experience is not based on a very large sample size, but I would have to say that it definitely takes above average genetics to make it to the Cat 1/Pro level.

Chris
(Cat 2 with 4 cats)

Anonymous said...

Good genetics for anaerobic efforts helps. However, having the mental capacity to really suffer is a talent(?) many do not have or fail to develop (maybe coaching helps with this, maybe not).

There are plenty of Ferrari's out there with no drivers.

Anonymous said...

How could you not upgrade to a one if you did a crap load of races. Seems inevitable to me. Of course this is coming from a guy that is 2 points away from going to a 1, but hasn't raced since April because of health issues. And I got those points in only 8 races..

I still think the order goes
-Genetics
-Training
-Smarts
-Luck

Steve said...

It's a question I'm always really curious about; particularly when watching the TdF when many of the riders are just a couple years younger than me.

Like all nature-nurture questions, the answer is probably somewhere in between. People who are naturally gifted athletes will focus more on this area of their life to the exclusion of others. Those of us who were less gifted ended up with day jobs and Ph.Ds. I've had the experience of training with a guy day in and day out for a long period of time (we rarely rode separately) - he quickly moved up to Cat 3 and then Cat 2, while I still struggled in the 4s. We were the same age, but he merely had a better engine than me.

There are also issues of developmental trajectory. Ever notice that the pros look a bit older than their chronological ages? It's not just sun exposure that makes a 15 year old kid look 25. When I was 25, I looked 15 - and my athletic talents were probably pretty consistent with that! How could I compete at that time?

And, as a psychologist, I think that psychology is a HUGE factor. In fact, it might be more important than anything else. As noted above, suffering is a capacity just like Vo2 that might be pretty predetermined within certain parameters(who knows?). Without that competitive drive on a fundamental level, it might be tricky to hit the top.

So, in the entire collective history of my family, I'm the only one, besides my grandfather, who has been active in athletics. No parents, no uncles, no siblings, no aunts, no one. Not even a one-off fun run or anything. On the contrary, both parents are obese and get winded from walking up stairs. My uncle just had gastric bypass surgery and he's the second in the family to do so. If anyone in the family was genetically wired to be athletic, I would assume that someone (anyone) would have gotten on board before me.

So, I think it's a million dollar question. I always wonder about those folks sitting in bars smoking cigarettes who might be ruining an engine that could've been the next Lance (even without EPO).

Gary said...

Awesome post!

And very thought provoking. I actually had a Cat 4 or 5 tell me recently that he didn't think he could ever get to the level of a top Cat 3 or Cat 2. I debated that and said that certainly with proper training he could easily and quickly (few years) get to a Cat 2 level. And I believe that to be true. I also said that crazy genetics were probably required to get to the legit Pro level.

Gary said...

I should re-phrase that, it wouldn't necessary be easy, but certainly doable in a few years! Point is, it would be a lot of hard work, but training and focus could get ya there.

James M said...

Another excellent question from Fanelli!! I personally think the mind plays a much bigger role than we think. I've always told myself that my body will do anything my mind tells it to. If a person has unlimited time to train, recover and race, they can go as far as their mind will take them. You can do all the intervals and sprint workouts you want, but if you don't believe in your mind that you're the best and/or smartest rider in a race, you'll never raise your arms in victory. Train the mind to do big things, and the body will follow.
Great blog Marco!!!

TnA said...

OK...Here's a question: Who's more likely to get to a pro level - myself in my early 20s, or someone like Mr. Anthony Aker or Thomas Githens who locally went from Cat 5 to Cat 2 in ~half a season?

I'll tell you what, at 44 I'm in better physical condition than I've ever been...but I'm still a middling Cat 4. Could I make it to Cat 2? Maybe if I'd started MUCH earlier in life, but it wouldn't have been a very easy road.

Here's my take. People can get to the higher levels of cycling by many routes. Some are blessed with the genetic "goods" that allow them to just ride away from people from the first time they throw a leg over a bike. IMHO, these folks have an easier time (i.e. more margin for error) in progressing up through the ranks. Other people who aren't as physically blessed have to claw their way up through other means like being more tactically astute, technically astute in their equipment choices and training methods, or just by being plain "driven". On top of that, someone can be very successful just by making the most of what they have...I believe it was Abraham Olano (I might be mistaken) who was measured to have a V02max comparable to a middling masters racer...but he was a top pro because his "efficiency" (i.e. how much effort actually made it into the pedals) was astronomical compared to a typical pro. He didn't have the "engine", but his drivetrain was REALLY efficient.

Now, if you get ALL these things in a single individual...then watch out. That's when you see the "perfect storm" of a Merckxx, a LeMond, or an Armstrong.

But...to get to the VERY HIGHEST levels of pro cycling, well you need to have the physiological "goods" just to get into the game...well, that and a good doctor it appears, unfortunately :-(

Anonymous said...

Bicycle races are won or lost when the sperm meets the egg. Both power output/aerobic capacity AND ability to mentally and physically endure training are genetic. The fact is that those with the genetic advantage are the ones who get the coaching, equipment, time, etc. We spotlight our elite athletes very early in their careers, and hand them plenty of help so that soon they are competing only with their peers and have left the average joe far behind. No amount of training will turn a turtle into a racehorse. Sucks, but that's the way it is.

Mort Dubois

Chester said...

I think if someone wants it bad enough it is possible. Lets look back through history. It seems like time and time again its being proven what the mind can make the body do. Mothers lifting cars off of their infants. I believe if a person has the desire and really wants it and believes that they can make it they will go farther then the best athlete who takes it for grated. Its all about the what the mind is made of. A decision followed by willingness and action will equal a miraculous results.

Anonymous said...

Mort has hit the nail on the head. Genetics accounts for a huge proportion of race results. Desire (training/enduring suffering/being broke) make up the smaller, but only slightly less important component. Armstrong would have merely been a gifted rider if he hadn't had the chip on his shoulder that made him want to kick everyone ass. OTOH, You can improve a genetically average person's performance (make a pig faster), but you cannot make that average pig fly.

Not every $12k dreamer can make it to the big leagues...

Druber

cnhorowitz said...

1. Genetics...I think about those who don't train a lot, but still have the ability to suffer through a race with those that do train a lot- such as Keith, BAM BAM, Dubberly..even Hecker.
2. Endurance and desire to SUFFER
3. Training
4. Desire to race ALOT and sacrifice a lot of money and other personal things
5. Recovery

Marco Fanelli said...

Thanks all for the excellent and thoughtful comments. Judging by the remarks here (and on bikeforums.net and RBR where I also posted the question), it seems my opinion is in the minority. But it might be because I failed to clearly articulate what I was after. Once again...

What level in bike-racing do you think a late-20's cyclist with AVERAGE genetics can reach if he/she had unrestricted training time, plenty of rest, unlimited funds for equipment and travel, etc., etc.?

I think we're all in agreement that Pro Tour riders are genetic freaks. But what level can the average Joe reach theoretically with enough hard work?

There is a logic conundrum perhaps... I defy anyone to produce an example of a rider who has put in the 20-30 hr quality training weeks, raced every weekend for 4-6 years, and NOT made it to Cat 1 or D-3 pro level. But we certainly can provide many examples of guys/gals who have done that. Now the expected response to this point is that the people who don't have good genetics find that out pretty early, they don't get the "payoff" from their initial training efforts, and therefore don't stick with it or increase their training and racing to the levels I'm talking about. However, that's not proof that they couldn't have made it. Rather, it just means it wouldn't have been easy!

I do find the mental-physical relationship intriguing. How fundamental is a person's motivation to suffer? I'm talking about both long-term training fatigue and immediate anaerobic pain. Is that really part of the genetic component as Mort suggests? Anyway, I agree 100% with comments about the importance of the mental aspect.

Maybe the issue is that it requires good genetics to be mentally capable of putting in 5 years of 20-30 hour training weeks! I'm not sure I believe that.

james m said...

I think Joe could become a Cat1 (or D-3), but would only be pack filler. If Joe had unlimited resources and training time, but was unable to reach the Cat1 level, I think he should seriously look into another line of work.

kraig said...

Hey, great topic, and awesome blog, Marco. This "potential" thing is one that was on my mind a lot last year, and ultimately prompted me to go and have my first vo2max test conducted last year...

In my youth, I had the opportunity to basically do what you propose - eat, breath, sleep bike racing for the better part of 5 or 6 years while going to school in my early twenties.

some lame reading here of my exploits during that time:

willamette

ride of my life

During those years, I ultimately did make it to being a cat 1 (probably the worst cat 1 in uscf history, though!!), and up until recently, I've always attributed that cat 1 accomplishment to hard work and dedication (e.g, long hours in the saddle for many years in a row).

I don't think those accomplishments were due to lots of hours of training anymore. For the past couple years I've averaged around 4-5 hours a week on the bike and am as fast or faster than I was "back in the day".

Here's some links that have shaped my recent approach to training:

base



and my personal application of these thoughts:

stripped pt. 1

stripped pt 2

Granted, I'm not that good of a bike racer - never was, never will be as these results show:

2007 M35+ results

nowadays I do think its possible that I'm above average in the genetics department relative to the general population - for example, check out the table on this page (maximal aerobic power is vo2 max) which is adapted from the ACSM:

table

That vo2 max test that I did last year in July, put me in the 90+ percentile for 20-29 yr olds if one goes by the ACSM tables.

So, what does this all mean to me? Well, I'm not real sure, but nowadays, I don't think it takes an excessive amount of hours to reach your potential, I reckon. And in the end, don't we all just have to eventually "run what we brung" and have fun enjoying the process?

thanks for your thoughts on the topic, Marco!

Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

this is a very intriguing question. I think people have brought up some interesting points. I will say, that in my own family growing up, athletics were not valued to a significant degree. Book smarts were much more praised. So where do I stand now? Well, I'm currently at age 34 with a Ph.D., nearly a full professor at a good school, and the flexibility in schedule to ride my bike quite a bit! With a 10-15 hour training week, I picked up cycling at age 33, and in a year have made it from never having ridden in a group to cat 3. I was in decent shape when I picked up cycling, but that had been after 8 years of a serious thyroid problem.

So do I think one COULD achieve what you say? Probably with the right training and resources. But in some sense genetics HAS to play a role. I have a friend who was a cyclist in college. He tried super hard, trained hard, gave it everything...and never did very well. He wanted so badly to succeed at cycling, and yet just didn't have some component of the puzzle....(he's a fab snowboarder today and a Ph.D.scientist)

In my other life, as a professor, I see people every day with all sorts of abilities. And in some cases, there are people who try VERY hard, who use EVERY resource available to them, and still cannot make it through a BS degree in Engineering. And then there are others that just sail through. I think the mental capacity cannot be overlooked...in cycling its the mental fortitude to withstand the training and the pain/stress of racing.

Very fun topic!!

Marco Fanelli said...

K-Dub,

Your info is pure gold. Every bike racer should spend a solid week exploring your site (biketechreview.com). And on the genetic-potential topic, it's very great to have the perspective of somebody (you) who has given it a shot.

I 99% agree with your (and your bro's) points about training efficiency. The one place where it seems like the long hours still may be helpful is for multiple long races in row, e.g., in the 5- or 6-day stage races. Who knows?!

Great stuff!

dr-nitro said...

I will try to put you more in the minority, Marco. In part, just because you are not understanding with the conditional probabilities of your problem.

So, your point above about finding anyone who has trained 20-30 hours a week and have not made it to the ranks of 1 or DIII pro. As you pointed out, training that much takes talent, and it is the requirement to make it to that level. You are assuming that is all that it takes. I don't think that the person with the average genetic ability can train that much. For the average person, it would probably be too tiring.

Also, are we starting with the average person, or the average cyclist. If it is the average cyclist, and maybe to be a bit more specific, the average competitive cyclist, then you are probably already above the genetic physiological curve. The average competitive cyclist is probably about a cat 3 (males that is), and that cyclist could probably make it to the ranks of 1 or possibly DII pro with the dedicated training regimen. However, the average cat 3 cyclists is probably more genetically gifted physiologically than the average person.

Now to anecdotal evidence, me. I got through the ranks without a serious training regimen. I worked in a restaurant, standing on my feet and cooking 30-40 hours a week when I went to a 3 to a 1 in one season. I probably could have done it sooner, but I did not have my head into it, and I seemed to get a lot of flats. I quite for over a decade, and now I am back trading blows with some talented riders with less than half the training I used to do, I would ever even call it training (more like hard riding once in a while). My point, it came to me. Additionally, I've seen many with more discipline than me struggle to get to a 2, and then struggle to hang in 1/2 fields.

I rode with Greg McNeil today, and there was someone with genetics and determination. He barely rides, but he can still get his heart rate up to 185, and hold it, and if he ever decides to somewhat train, he will be causing hurt again.

Anyway, here's what I think. An average person could get to cat 3s with a solid training program. However, the average person would not be able to handing the training regimen you mentioned. The average competitive cyclists, however could easily rise to cat 2 if all they did was focused on racing, and most likely rise to 1 or above. However, do succeed at either of those levels, you need above average genetic ability, and a fair amount of determination.

No doubt, there are people with above average genetic ability and are couch potatoes. But finding that one of them can become a cat 1 does not mean that the average couch potato can reach that level, but instead you just found a lazy person would good genes.

Marco Fanelli said...

Thanks for the comments Nick; you may very well be right. But I keep thinking about FLandis' quote that goes something like this: "You're not over-trained, you're actually under-trained because you didn't train enough earlier to handle the training load now!"

The human body still has an amazing genetic ability to adapt to physical stress, despite how lazy and plump we've become in today's modern world. I'm not saying that the average person could jump in immediately with the kind of training load that it takes to be a top-level amateur racer. Instead, I'm suggesting it would require years of steady, measured progression toward it.

Who knows!?! Fun to think about, but largely irrelevant for most of us!!

Aram Dellalian said...

Hi-o,

I can finally get around to posting a response to this topic. I've thought about it for quite some time. Particularly when putting around at the rosebowl training races with guys huffing and puffing all over the place. "If these guys trained as much as I did...would they....?"

There isn't a concrete answer. With regards to Mr. Smith making it to Cat 1: Easily. Perhaps it will be a bit more difficult in California (compared to other states...), but if you're racing that much, it's merely a formality. Being a competitive Cat I is a bit different, and you need to have some tactical prowess in addition to willingness to lay it on the line [aka: balls], and of course, a bit of luck (but racing 50+ times a year means you're bound to get lucky at some point).

So yep...that's what I got on that. One note: The DIII distinction. It's hard to classify this group. Getting there has as much to do with networking and negotiating prowess as it does with genetic predisposition for cycling. So to anyone with DIII aspirations...stop training and start meeting people!

dr-nitro said...

Yeah, it's easy for Landis to say that, because he has the genetic ability to succeed at the highest level.

But even with years of building, you need a bit more than that to succeed at that level. Considering that less than 1 percent of licensed cyclists are cat 1s, and, on average, you'd expect a competitive cyclist to be more naturally gifted (not necessarily exceptionally gifted) than the average person, cat 1s are certainly on the upper tail of physiological ability.

These, though, are certainly interesting questions. It's difficult to really answer it, since there is no single criterion to measure innate physiological ability. VO2 max is one indicator, but not the only one.

That said, I do think that most people live well below their optimal, or even reasonable, physical ability. There might even be a potential Tour winner, playing video games, watching football, and watching his belly go. Let's find him, and put him on a bike.

Aram Dellalian said...

oh...and that little link up there with "doping in the amateur peleton". A couple clicks after that one and I totally got my world rocked...for a little while...but that's a topic for another time.

Marco Fanelli said...

Right on Aram! Yeah, I'm definitely aware that there are D-III "pros" who are in that situation because of some connection or another. Or, in a few cases, because they formed the team! Not saying they aren't great bike racers, and at least one individual I'm thinking of has definitely stepped up to that level and does belong.

Re the amateur-doping thread... I've wanted to write about that issue for some time now but it's so explosive and depressing that I haven't had the stomach for it. Plus, it really needs to be written carefully so there is no ambiguity, misinterpretation, or unfounded accusations.

But it is important. A coupla stories... I was out on a recovery ride earlier this year and ran into a guy who isn't racing anymore and I mentioned who just won that weekend's SoCal race and how brutal it was. His immediate and casual response was, "Oh, he's on the juice." So I ask how he knows this, and he mentions a couple of things that make you wonder. Just enough doubt was planted in my mind that I was depressed for days about it.

I also heard multiple people swearing that they know of doping practices of certain SoCal masters racers who I will not name. When pressed for details, all they can offer is so-and-so knows the details, and then bits of circumstantial evidence. I tend to be skeptical because, naturally, the targets of such rumors are always the best guys and maybe people get tired of being beat so they make excuses. But honestly, it does put a bit of doubt in your mind as to whether people are cheating. Bike racing is so dang hard that the last thing you need messing with your mind is some lingering thought that the competition might be cheating and taking unfair advantages. For an old guy like me, it really shouldn't matter. I'm in bike racing purely for internal reasons, and I don't derive my identity and self-worth based on weekend bike-race results. But my heart bleeds for younger guys who are burying themselves and making all kinds of big sacrifices in life to give this sport a go.

Anonymous said...

Hey Marco, (long post warning!)

I think most folks have hit the nail on the head that your average rider can reach the upper levels in the States through the combination of physical and mental aspects towards training. My own experiences have taught me that I need to train a lot in order to be competitive with other DIII riders. But as you may remember, I never train scientifically. It's quite possible that I could reach the same level with fewer hours and more specificity. In the end, I prefer to ride through the trees for hours on end and refuse to ride up a hill more than once on a ride.

But given that I have pretty much always trained this way, I can offer the following as reference. When I used to ride around 20,000km/year in '98 and '99, I found myself to be more than competitive in Alberta, but rather useless overall in California. It was a bit of a surprise and I decided that I wasn't going to go all the way down there to waste my time. So in 2000, I upped my mileage to 28,000. Essentially I added about an hour onto all of my rides. It was a big jump and didn't really conform to the tried and tested 10% annual increase. However I feel that I was really underperforming at the time and that my body could do much more. Of course I was very tired at times, but this is where the mental aspect kicks in. The human body can handle a lot more than it lets on. Days where I ride 180+km are tough. When I wake up the next day, I feel like a train hit me. When I get back on the bike, I feel like crap. I must be blown right? As the ride goes on however, I usually come around and sometimes, even feel great. Every stage of the Tour is upwards of 200km. But these guys do it every day. Riders can even ride themselves into the Tour and finish stronger than they started. The mental aspect makes an enormous difference. Sometimes just remembering that everyone is tired after a long day is enough to drive me forward to the next day. Maybe some guys will take it easy today. If I go out for another 5 hrs today, I'll start to pull ahead.

So much of it too is simply becoming accustomed to riding a lot. Group rides are such a great tool because you can join up with them for 3 hrs or so and then tack on an extra couple of hours solo. So the mental strain is reduced a bit.

I always liked the old saying, "If you do something long enough, you'll get good at it". If you ride 20-30hrs/wk. you'll get pretty good. Performance in cycling is cumulative. You can't do a couple of 20hr weeks and then be shocked if you're not winning races. It takes time. Most people agree that if a rider trains consistently, he/she will reach their top level in 10 years. Of course, many will be competitive along the way. And I believe this to be true at any age really. Taking up cycling at 30? The minor drop in VO2 at 40 will be outweighed by the vast mileage and experience gained since then.

Since 2000, my training log has been fairly consistent.
2000- 28,000km.
2001- 32,000km.
2002- 34,000km.
2003-2006 30,000ish km.
I've pretty much stayed in the same range the last few years given the increased amount of racing and traveling and '06 was my best season thus far.

I must assume that I have some physical capabilities that are suited towards this sport. Perhaps my ability to recover is quite good. However, perhaps I've trained my body to recover due to the continual strain. It must be a combination of the two, yet I do know that if I don't train over 25hrs/wk, my performance lags.
At the end of the day, I truly feel that anyone would benefit from simply riding more. If you have the time, ride longer. If you don't, you probably need to maximize your training with specific work. But to answer Marco's original query; if you take an average guy who has a few years training under his belt, and build him up to 20-30hr weeks, I have no doubt that he could be a cat. 1. If the desire is there to train that much, and you combine that with a little bit of race smarts, he will get there. There is no magic bullet. Ride, ride, ride.

Your last comment on doping is worth taking a look at too. I've raced against many riders over the years who have been convicted of a doping offense. At times, it is frustrating, but I've never been interested in taking that road. I decided that if I was taking up cycling to make money, then I was an idiot. I guess I enjoy the lifestyle and that outweighs the desire to succeed at all costs. To be honest, I think that guys who take drugs are pathetic and I have little sympathy for those requesting amnesty in Europe under the Puerto affair. But when I race in North America, and some guy on the start line has shaky hands, or is covered in goosebumps in 90 degree weather, I don't get angry. I kind of chuckle that they would take such measures to beat me and the other clean guys for a few bucks. So I hope that other younger riders coming up will take the same perspective. I love this sport. I've been doing it for 17 years and I take satisfaction that I earn my results and even overcome cheaters in the process. That feels good.

Jake

Anonymous said...

well there you go. while I was typing earlier, news about Vino going positive goes up. I'm not shocked at all. Surprised he got caught? Yes. Shocked he's doping? Not at all. The sport will undoubtedly take a bit of a dive with this campaign against doping. But it will be worth it in the end if today's up and comers have a chance of doing the Tour clean one day.

Philo' Girl said...

For any point of your life, your action was based on a combination of genetics and life experience.
You don't have choice over your genetics, so you would need choice over your life experiences to have free will.
But the life experience portion of the equation was based on your past actions and exterior forces (other people, nature), which you don't have control over.
But those past actions were based on action before those action, etc, etc, until the time you were born.
From the time you were born, you haven't had control over anything.
So you don't have any control over whether you will make it to Cat 2, Cat 1, Pro or whatever.
What really matters in life is whether you enjoy the journey.
You need to sit back and try to enjoy this show that the world is throwing at you. And part of that is doing what you love.
We ride bikes because we like to.
If your goal is to just win at something, and you aren't moving up, then its time to move on. Find something where you can win.
But for the rest of us, let's enjoy the wind whipping our hair as we soar down OSM, and find meaning in meeting our own goals we set, whether is be a PR on the monday time trial, or finishing a double century.