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Fast Talk podcast, ep. 47: The art and science of peaking

By VeloNews.com • Updated

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

Peaking. It’s that elusive target we all strive for — to be on our best form right when our goal race comes around. We build plans for it, we follow six-week guides we find online, and yet too often we find our best legs for the training race the week before the big event or wake up the morning of our target race with flat legs.

Perhaps it’s so elusive because peaking is both a science and an art. What we discovered over the course of this podcast is that the two don’t seem to get along with one another. Some of that has to do with the fact that science lays out a very specific four-week plan for peaking, while the art says that it is very individual. Even among those who understand the science, it appears that what they do is different.

In today’s episode, we’ll first discuss the science of peaking — including how long it takes, why we do a fatigue block to start the peak and the science of what happens physiologically to produce the peak.

Next, we’ll discuss how the top athletes peak and why it doesn’t seem to agree with the science.

Then, we move on to why the art of peaking says something different from the science and what you should be considering when you are getting ready for your target event.

From there we’ll take a deep dive into how to peak — how long to taper, how to taper, what to do right before the event, and what are the biggest mistakes you can make.

Finally, we’ll give you “Colby’s six tips” on preparing for an event.

Our guest today knows all about peaking — both as a coach and as an athlete. He’s an hour record holder, an Olympian, a thinker, a tinkerer, and someone with massive amounts of experience as an athlete. Colby Pearce’s many many qualifications are too long to list here so we’ll let Colby detail them himself in a minute

Also sharing his thoughts we have Robert Pickels — the illustrious Mister Pickles — and the head physiologist at Pearl Izumi. He’ll talk about the physiology of a peak and why he thinks it’s about balance.

We’ll also hear from Joe Dombrowski, a World Tour rider with EF Education First-Drapac, who will share what it’s like to peak for an event at the highest levels.

So, sit back, put your feet up, maybe find the nearest sensory deprivation chamber … Let’s make you fast!

References

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  • Breil, F. A., Weber, S. N., Koller, S., Hoppeler, H., & Vogt, M. (2010). Block training periodization in alpine skiing: effects of 11-day HIT on VO2max and performance. Eur J Appl Physiol, 109(6), 1077-1086.
  • Clark, B., Costa, V. P., O’Brien, B. J., Guglielmo, L. G., & Paton, C. D. (2014). Effects of a seven day overload-period of high-intensity training on performance and physiology of competitive cyclists. PLoS One, 9(12), e115308.
  • Kubukeli, Z. N., Noakes, T. D., & Dennis, S. C. (2002). Training techniques to improve endurance exercise performances. Sports Med, 32(8), 489-509.
  • Luden, N., Hayes, E., Galpin, A., Minchev, K., Jemiolo, B., Raue, U., et al. (2010). Myocellular basis for tapering in competitive distance runners. J Appl Physiol (1985), 108(6), 1501-1509.
  • Neary, J. P., Martin, T. P., & Quinney, H. A. (2003). Effects of taper on endurance cycling capacity and single muscle fiber properties. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 35(11), 1875-1881.
  • Ronnestad, B. R., Ellefsen, S., Nygaard, H., Zacharoff, E. E., Vikmoen, O., Hansen, J., et al. (2014). Effects of 12 weeks of block periodization on performance and performance indices in well-trained cyclists. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 24(2), 327-335.
  • Solli, G. S., Tonnessen, E., & Sandbakk, O. (2017). The Training Characteristics of the World’s Most Successful Female Cross-Country Skier. [Article]. Frontiers in Physiology, 8, 14.
  • Tonnessen, E., Sylta, O., Haugen, T. A., Hem, E., Svendsen, I. S., & Seiler, S. (2014). The road to gold: training and peaking characteristics in the year prior to a gold medal endurance performance. PLoS One, 9(7), e101796.

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