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Tours Help Bridge The Gap to Pro Riders

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Ever since foreign nationals began to win our Classics with some regularity there has been an ongoing debate about whether they should be allowed to participate in our races.  That has been pretty much settled this year, with the consensus being that yes, they should be a part of our races, but as foes rather than teammates of the locals.  The other side of the debate, but which receives less attention is: what makes these foreign “pros” better than our local athletes anyway?   Many casual fans have the impression that Belizeans should be superior at home since we know the road, are used to the heat, and our cyclists are young and strong.  Of course that is just patriotic sentiment, and reality usually sets in well before noon on Holy Saturday.

The prevailing point of view by most local coaches and analysts is that the visiting pros are better because they have more time to train and to sleep, and have an arsenal of better supplements and nutrition.  That may be somewhat true, but not entirely.   Training time can expand with more dedication, rising earlier from bed, better utilization of the weekends and days off from work, and implementing 2-a-day workouts by adding sprints or intervals sessions on specific evenings (this is where an unfinished Marion Jones Stadium hurts).   Sleep time may be increased by going to bed as early as 8 pm if necessary, and as far as proper nutrition goes, our cyclist need to rethink what they should ask for from team sponsors:  the most modern wheels, and latest bike frames used by Tour De France stars, or less expensive machinery to go along with more consumable items like vitamins and supplements?

Aside from those reasons already mentioned, I believe there are three other specific and valid reasons why regional pros (not to be confused with UCI Professionals and Tour De France caliber racers) are able to outshine their Belizean counterparts.  First, many of the riders who have had success here hail from Central American nations that have mountainous training terrain, and unfortunately our Western and Hummingbird Highways cannot replace those long, winding mountain roads that gain power for the athlete.  Weightlifting in the off-season help, but still falls short of real mountains to train on.

The second advantage of the professional cyclists are his opportunities to travel to and participate in several races each month,  compared to our one organized classic per month as our calendar leads up to the Cross Country.  We have a KREM New Year’s Classic in January, a Valentine’s Classic in February, and a Belmopan Classic in March.  Only one long road race per month, complete with a large peloton of stiff competitors, may not be enough to ascend to peak race-readiness in a season.  The more races ridden by a cyclist also results in more wealth of experience.  To offset this shortcoming, local cyclists may join together in a peloton on Sundays and then simulate race-like conditions of speed and intensity over a six-hour training ride.  Unfortunately, most of the elite teams nowadays prefer to train in isolation.

The third advantage pros enjoy over amateur cyclists is that among those races they attend are the multi-stage events that may range from a 3-Stage weekend event, to a week-long stage race that are not uncommon in this hemisphere – an amateur cyclist will seldom race in tours.  Once we grasp the basic premise that races are significantly more intense than training, it is easy to understand that when undergoing consecutive days of back-to-back racing the body adapts to recover from the new increased stress in a way that normal training can’t replicate.  The result of this raised level of adaption to intense and repeated stress, with a short recovery time, is significant for any endurance athlete.  Under these circumstances the body of an elite athlete adapts by improving in every area – speed, strength, endurance, power, and recovery.

The calendar of racing events for this year include two such multi-day events, the Valentine’s Tour from 11 – 14 February, and the Tour of Belize from 20 – 24 April.  They are not only a welcome addition for the fans and cyclist to enjoy, but also a vital aid to preparing and improving our cyclists in order to compete at the highest level, and if these races are sustained from year to year it should help to narrow one of the gaps that separate our local cyclists from the regional pros.

Ed Note: Alan Auil is a recent contributor to viewpoint on cyclebiz.com.

About Alan Auil

Alan Auil is a contributor to viewpoint on cyclebiz.com. He is Belizean cycling aficionado with a wealth of experience on and off the bike; from riding and coaching to administrating and broadcasting.

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1 Comment

  1. Anigi Ramirez

    February 6, 2016 at 6:42 am

    Everything in this article is true. Hope that the elite cyclist digest it to help them to be better riders and more competitive in the region.