Interview with the Professionally renowned Australian Cycle Coach - Kevin Poulton

Interview with the Professionally renowned Australian Cycle Coach - Kevin Poulton

After preparing his athletes for the upcoming UCI Pro Tour calendar in Europe, to now working through a lock down situation, with no idea when racing will recommence. Kevin explains what training looks like for pro cyclists under isolation conditions.

The athletes you coach are facing different circumstances and restrictions, training indoors, solo versus outside in groups. What is the starting point when designing an extended training program for these athletes? 

For the professional cyclists I coach, we are fortunate enough to have some very good indoor training available. The indoor training platform Zwift is providing all athletes from around the world with a platform where they can meet up with friends in a virtual world of training. In terms of the starting point in designing a training program, for now it is all about athlete mental health.

We had been ramping up to some key early season racing, but these races kept being cancelled and dates changing. Each time a race was cancelled, we had to re-design the training program to suit. Then the next race would be cancelled. There are only so many times you can move the goal posts and keep the athlete motivated. For now, we have this virtual training environment where the athletes can still socialise and get a good ride in as well where they can maintain some of the fitness, they worked so hard to build.

Can you set athletes a long-term goal of an event to train towards or is it more about improving/maintaining aspects of physical performance designed around training?

At this point, with no definite date to return to racing, it’s about maintaining the fitness they have built. The racing calendar will be much different to what we were planning for once racing resumes, making it difficult to plan training.

Our goal is to keep some fitness, and then once we have a definite race date, we can ramp up training towards that race.

How are you staying in touch, measuring training results/data?

I largely coach remotely anyway, so the situation is not unfamiliar for the athletes. Although in saying that, when the pandemic hit Spain, I was there conducting a training camp with the riders in the lead to racing. Now being back in Australia, communication is daily which is normal. But we are all able to ride together on Zwift and motivate each other. Also, because the teams are looking to promote their sponsors through different avenues, they are hosting training rides on Zwift, which are hugely successful.

Athletes now have an extended time away from racing and competing, can this time best used to best advantage athletes future performances?

With the time away from racing, it has provided some athletes with the opportunity to re-start their season. Some of the riders suffered from early season injury or illness and were a little behind where they should have been. For these riders, it has taken the pressure off to ramp up training too quickly.

What are some of the traps and pitfalls athletes need to watch out for with training indoors outdoors and also solo?

Definitely energy intake needs to be monitored. Most athletes are still training 1-2 hours a day, but this is much different to the usual 5-7 hours a day at this time of the year.

Athletes mental strength and resilience is important, do you have any guidance or advice you recommend to your athletes?

I’m very aware and conscious of the mental burden on athletes during this period. For this reason I have removed much of the structure of training and provided the athletes with weekly goals of volume to achieve. With this method they can join their friends in online virtual rides and reach a decent level of volume.

It’s quite strange for my athletes in Europe. Many of them live in the same building, but they are training together in this virtual world. But it is motivating for them.

With the physical stress of training, how important is staying healthy, eating and hydrating well, having good gut health and immunity - how does PREPD fit in here?

With the increase of indoor training volume, the riders are more susceptible to dehydration. It is very easy to lose 2-3 kg in a 1 hour indoor workout. With this in mind, I have the riders weigh themselves before and after a workout about once a week. This way they can get a gauge of how much they sweat they are losing from a particular ride.

If the riders have a planned longer indoor session, I recommend they use PREPD before and after that key session. Some of these longer indoor workouts are up to 3 hours in duration. This is where PREPD is going to provide them with a definite advantage to their performance by enhancing their normal hydration strategy.

With the increase of indoor training volume, the riders are more susceptible to dehydration. It is very easy to lose 2-3 kg in a 1 hour indoor workout.