Here’s a riddle. There are two riders; let’s call one Jim and the other Matt. They weigh the same. They can produce the same wattage for given power zones. They’re both motivated cyclists who love riding and racing. Matt is one of the best masters racers around, and he’s got a national championship title in his age group to prove it. He regularly dices it up with the local pros on the group rides. When he shows up for a state championship road race or crit, you better believe he’s one of the top favorites that everyone is watching. On the other hand, despite his best efforts, Jim often gets dropped on the weekly group rides. In races, he is no better. At his best, he can hang in with the peloton, basically along for the ride.
So, what is the difference between these two riders?
Believe it or not, I have been faced with this exact dilemma in my experience as a cycling coach. In my first few years running CINCH, I was very focused on power. I was trying to help my athletes raise their zones. The common coaching wisdom was simple: Raise your zones and your threshold and everything will be good.
But then I came upon Jim and Matt. These riders seemed like they should be almost exact clones of each other, but they weren’t—not by a long shot.
This was the start of my two-year investigation into what really made someone fast...not what made them produce awesome power numbers. I spent hours staring at power files. I combed through the data produced by riders like Jim and Matt. I compared it with their race results, their feedback on how they felt, and how a race unfolded. I compared this training data with their ride metrics like speed and the elevation profile. I rode next to them and studied their pedaling techniques, cadence, and body position.
I also looked at my experiences in pro racing. I watched race video of top performers like Alberto Contador or Alejandro Valverde, too. Looking at them, I realized these guys don’t have more power than everyone else. It’s what they do with that power - how they use their technique on the bike and execution. That’s what helps them produce more speed. That’s what makes them great.
What I learned from my investigation would change how I coach athletes forever. Simply put: power does not equal performance. It is the delivery of the power that truly makes the performance.
I found that there were five key areas that cyclists, experienced and novices alike, need to work on inorder to deliver faster power: Power Control, Cadence Control, Body Position, Separation, and Transitional Control. But the discovery of these areas was just the beginning! Unfortunately, there isn’t a university in Madrid or Milan or San Francisco that teaches cyclists these five points of execution to make the most of their wattage. Information and a training system on these areas did not exist.
So how did top World Tour riders like Valverde and top Master’s racers like Matt develop these skills? Through years and years racing and competing against over top level athletes in top level events. So how was I going to help older riders like Jim, who have jobs, families, and limited time create the skills to make the needed “faster power”?
Through this thought process I had an epiphany! I realized that my cyclists, and thousands of others like them (even some pro riders), needed a guiding light to direct their training and improve their use of the power they had. They needed a compass to point them on the path of least resistance. Up until then, they were just trying to develop the biggest wattage club possible then smash everyone with it. This compass would become the FORM Performance Method’s North Star of Execution.
This star has five points: Power Control, Cadence Control, Body Position, Separation, and Transitional Control. Each with a key purpose to helping you improve your technique and execution, to become more like my athlete Matt.
While all four pillars of the FORM Method are critical to your success as a cyclist, it is the Execution pillar that often what gets people most excited! Usually this one is quick game-changer as it provides fast and noticeble improvement,in areas were cycling progression usually stalls out.
The five key components that make up EXECUTION are: