Wednesday 25 February 2009

The Compleat Tour de Basement (Part 3): A Training Ride in Madison, Wisconsin

Blooming Capitol
photo by WisDoc, Creative Commons

At the Bright Dawn of the Age of Video, many of us began our Tour de Basement watching videotapes–remember them?–as more “scientific training” became the norm. No more Erik Zabel-like ideas of just riding and riding and riding. Thanks to Mr. Armstrong and his soon-to-be-celebrated coach, the idea became to train less but train better, maximizing effectiveness.

This idea was taken up as the first training videos hit the market. The most prolific producer of these videos is formerly-of-Maryland-and-now-Tuscon-based Coach Troy Jacobson, who is responsible for turning our indoor training sessions into a measure of how much we can endure since 1992. For the most part, his vast output consists of him standing around looking comfortable (or concerned) while he encourages a group of sweaty athletes on trainers to work that much harder as he guides them through a dedicated program, which will cover one of the disciplines of road cycling, such as sprinting or time trialing. His Spinervals videos have terrifying titles, including “Bending Crankarms,” “Suffer Fest,” “Have Mercy” and my favourite, “Time Trialapalooza,” the latter apparently being 80 minutes in length but feeling like several days.

Not content with haunting our basement thoughts, Coach Troy has extended his range of action to now include a series of virtual reality outdoor DVDs called “On the Road.” I have already reviewed his excellent Lake Placid ride but he has added to the scenery-with-pain series most recently with a ride along segments of the Madison, Wisconsin long course triathlon route. I have only been in Wisconsin once and was impressed by the size of the friendly people I met, none of whom looked much like triathletes, but I have also read that Madison is one of the most bike-friendly places in the United States.

There are some new twists to this video. In addition to the Coach Troy Cam and the Car Cam, we now have the O’Connor Cam, all giving different perspectives of the ride. For the first time, Coach Troy rides outdoors with other people and this gives some variety to the proceedings. With his very fit group of athletes assembled, Coach Troy leads us out onto the course.

Like all the Spinervals DVDs, this one is meant for pretty serious training. The background music is pretty well invisible so what you have is the course and Coach Troy’s detailed coaching comments. There are fairly unobtrusive indicators on the screen showing elapsed time, suggested gearing and exertion levels. If you don’t want to follow Coach Troy’s comments you can always turn off the sound.

Wisconsin State Capital
photo by Ryner12, Creative Commons

Never having been to Madison, I was expecting flat cornfields in all directions. The ride begins in a low-key way, along some busy streets and bike paths and through what appears to the be the enormous parking lot of a state fairground or something (I suspect it is the starting area of the triathlon). But soon enough Coach Troy and his merry band are out on the open road and you learn that while there are indeed a lot of cornfields there are also quite a few hills on the course. The rolling scenery, while less dramatic than Lake Placid’s, is still very pleasant and you will find the hills to be challenging. The riders ahead of you change position, and Coach Troy, with his South-of-the-Mason-Dixon-Line accent urges you on and on and on. And on. This DVD gives you three full hours on the road so no need to change DVDs during the workout.

More Bikes
photo by robbyb, Creative Commons

In addition to the ride itself, there are segments in which Coach Troy discusses preparation for a triathlon with one of the riders, and another segment which is basically an infomercial (albeit an interesting one) for Zipp wheels, which has become a sponsor of Coach Troy. Coach Troy must be happy about this since he even loosens up and lets a couple of “Yee-haws” out during the ride.

With the addition of the Madison DVD, Coach Troy now offers virtual reality training for a flat course, one with steep hills, an all-climbing course and now one with rollers. His coaching advice is clear and useful and the whole thing has a professional, non-nonsense feel to it. With some five dozen different DVDs to his name, it is clear that Coach Troy is doing things right and I would highly recommend his “On the Road” series. The scenery may be a bit prosaic but training to this DVD will definitely get you in shape to tackle any course you like.

To get an idea of the DVD, you can see some of it here:

Coach Troy's DVDs can be purchased on his website here or through retailers or elsewhere on-line. At $34.95 the Madison DVD is not inexpensive but given its length and the coaching instruction I would still consider it a good value. As well, Coach Troy has a lot of good training advice at this website, including video coaching.


Judi said...

wow! that looks fun! i find that i get bored with one of the spinervals after doing it 3x's or more. i have about 6 of them now, but am not about to invest in more. like i told dominic, I HAVE to get out on my bike this week! OUTSIDE!

Sprocketboy said...

It is much easier to do the Tour de Basement with scenery. I have a huge number of DVDs now just to keep things constantly changing. Cycling outdoors is not an option for me yet: with the windchill today it is -26C (-15F) so that is frostbite territory! Keep up with the training, Judi.