Astana Inside cycling with Astana

Winning formula made simple

A talk with the Astana Pro Team head coach Maurizio Mazzoleni, brief and to the point

How many Astana riders will follow your programs next season?

I will work with ten riders as their personal coach, but also my capacity is to coordinate the programs of other athletes.

You’ve worked with a lot of different riders, and, basically, how different are they? To what degree is you work supposed to be, so to speak, customized?

Next year I’ll go on working with the guys like Miguel Anjel Lopez, Tannel Kangert, Dario Cataldo, we know each other pretty well already, and it makes things easier. At the same time we’re taking the first steps together with Evgeni Gidich, Davide Vilella and some others, and we’re now coming through a very important faze of making sense of the new curriculum. Yes, every athlete is different in many ways, both physically and in terms of his racing characteristics, so I’m supposed to take all those peculiarities into account to make the best of helping each of them to achieve their different goals this season.

Talking about training methods, would you agree that they have changed dramatically over the span of recent years? What is it that sets the modern coaching strategies apart?

I’d say that training built around permanent data analysis is a huge step forward. The introduction of power meters transformed everything. Now we can, say, calibrate the workout activity and have a clear picture of a rider’s conditions ahead of and during a race.

In your opinion, what types of training work best for non-professional riders who still aim high and want to get to the top of their abilities?

What I’d say won’t sound like a revelation for you: without a solid aerobic base laid down during the off-season together with some extensive work on strength you can’t take a leap in quality, an insufficient base will slow down your progress during the season.

Training on the bike and off the bike – what is your recommended correlation between the two for a pro and an amateur rider who’s still does a lot of racing? And, putting a bike aside for a while, what should we do then?

In winter off the bike training can amount to no less than 20% for a pro rider and up to 50% for an amateur. To me the best thing is to put your body to a combination of work тренажер in the gym, stretching and core exercises.

Focus on strength is the order of the day. Give us a pair of hints on what, from your experience, works best for a cyclist. With and without a bike.

On a bike, you do 15 minutes-long uphill blocs of the following intervals: 3 minutes on a big gear with a cadence of around 50 rpm, then two minutes of high-cadence recovery. You should take care to stay below your anaerobic threshold and keep focused on quality muscle work. In the gym it’s a good old leg press, 4X10, 50% of max weight.

Back to the professional riders of Astana, how much are your plans individualized; is there any room for some individual approach when they go out on a training camp?

As I’ve said, I do my best to give a rider a training plan which would work the best for him. When the guys come together for a training camp, it’s a different story of course, they ride in a bunch, and yet, I keep an eye on their conditions and the way they cope with the workload and put in individual corrections if need be, you should stay flexible.

What is the most frequent mistake that even a seasoned pro can make in his training?

I think, it’s going on pushing yourself when you have already hit your top form. You think it will help you to be still better, but it cuts your time on top instead.

I met quite a few sports directors and managers who kept asking in desperation: why oh why some riders, gifted with unique athletic qualities, win all the tests by a mile and then never win a single race?

Because a test tells you about the physical conditions and doesn’t know anything about the rest. While a real-life situation in a race is only 60 per cent about your physical qualities.  

Picking up the other 40 per cent: do you deal with psychology of a rider, or his head is only a sports director’s concern? And, generally, what’s the balance between his legs and his head in the winning formula?

High morale is everyone’s business in the team, and I’m no exception. Low morale kills the effect of hard work. And the winning formula for me is not about numbers. It sounds like, work as hard as you can, not to feel sorry about the time you lost, and build your confidence on that.

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