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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

How to increase an athlete's power output by 30% in just three months

Developing winning form and a winning attitude for the April 2017 World Masters Games Mountain Bike Championships and the June 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships

Gary celebrating his win at the 2017 World Masters Games

Image: Gary celebrating his World Masters Games Gold Medal

Winning gold at the 2017 World Masters Games was great fun and the win against very tough competition was not unexpected. I'll tell you why...

Because I had the numbers to support the prediction of a win:

Nobody in New Zealand or Australia, over the age of 60, has beaten me in the last four years and I hold the 60+ best times for every race contested in both those countries. Of course, in these international age group races, you never know who is going to turn 60 on the day and who is going to turn up. I had something extra to support my confidence. Read on....

Have a look at the three screen shots below from my Strava pages. These are my estimated power sessions that were used to monitor the final months of preparing for winning the World Masters Games Mountain Bike Championships. The actual race was on 24th April. Start at the bottom (number 62) and read your way to the top.



What these figures mean to me

  1. By repeating the exact power workout, as weeks turned into months, I was able to accurately monitor and guide the final stages of preparation with regards to deciding on the type of workout and also to determine my recovery requirements. It also served to show any direct gains from dietary manipulation, such as measures to assist buffering and quickly clearing lactate.

  2. What you can see here is I have dramatically reduced the time it takes to complete each burst of action over the given distance with proportional gains in estimated power as measured in Watts.

  3. From March 2017 to early April, the time to cover the distance reduced from one minute to around 42 seconds.

  4. Watts increased from about 199 to more than 300. i'm not sure how accurate that actual wattage estimate is, but the percent change is accurate.

  5. Of equal, if not greater importance is the fact that, by April, I could do 10 blistering repeats and not tire by even a second. At the beginning of the year, the drop-off in performance began after just two bursts. This is the confidence-booster.

Gary about to take the win at the Masters Games

Image: Gary well in the lead with just 200 meters to go to take the win

(Photo by Graham Singer)

Why these figures gave me confidence for winning the World Masters Games

  1. They showed that I am still improving despite my age (63) - and considerably so. I have already been winning my age group races for the last four years. Few, if any highly conditioned athletes can improve from 60 onwards, the vast majority are either static, or in gradual decline. So, I assumed that, if anything, the margin between me and other 60 year olds should have improved in my favour, no matter who they may be and no matter how much they might have trained.

  2. I felt I had as much stamina as anybody in my age group and for good reasons. Have look at this and you will understand why:

  3. My race weakness, despite being able to win, has always been lack of power which meant quite slow starts and also poor acceleration during a race. This was no longer the case, according to the figures above.

  4. I knew I could now handle at least 10 withering, gut-wrenching sprints without any loss of performance, whereas I expected most of my competitors would be going cross-eyed by 4-5 of these!

How the race actually panned out

The course was a mix of long climbs up and down forestry roads and sections of non-technical winding downhill and uphill single track - about 50/50 road vs single track. As such, the race was going to favour the road cyclist with a good set of bike handling skills, more so than the specialist mountain biker. I was the specialist mountainbiker.

Further adding to the challenge was the fact that my race was in waves of 5 minutes with the 50 year olds starting first, the 55's 5 minutes later, then all the 60 and 25 year olds. This meant about 100 riders in front that I would somehow have to pass without mishap, if I was to gather the lead over the other 60 year olds and hold this to the finish.

As expected, it was all on at the start with a furious, gut wrenching sprint and tussle up the first section of road. The favourite six or so riders were quickly sorted out and the tactic of the day was soon obvious which was to be in front of me before we entered any single track. This continued for half the race - furious drag races up the roads, then an all out effort for someone to duck in front at the entrance to the single track.

I was quite comfortable with this happening, although the single track was proving rather frustratingly slow with being stuck behind other riders. I really wanted to bomb my way down those flowing downhill sections but couldn't. However, I was confident that my opponents would eventually tire and consequently fall back, or make mistakes. It was just a matter of time. You can tell how hard a person is working when they are next to you. They were fit, skilled and very determined, but I sensed they were working as hard as me, hopefully much harder.

By half way all but one rider had been shaken off and he so graciously let me through by way of an unintended close inspection of the dirt on one corner! That gave me five seconds and the lead on the single track which was all I needed and I rode off to a very pleasing win just over two minutes ahead of 2nd. Two minutes is a very long way on a bike, so I could not have been more pleased.

Everyone was incredibly gracious in defeat afterwards, which I appreciated enormously because it was a tough, aggressive, take no prisoners kind of race and I doubt if any of those lead riders were used to losing and they had prepared long and hard for this one event. There was never going to be more than one winner and I wasn't the only one who had every intention of being the first to cross that finish line!

Gary about to cross the line to take the win

Image: Gary crossing the line to take the win

What is my winning formula? What are your training secrets, Gary?

There is no winning formula and there are no great secrets. While there are some rules of thumb that can be applied to everyone, the key to success comes from careful tailoring of training and nutrition to the unique needs of you as a very special person, as well as having the right mental attitude.

Here are some great things you can do right away:

Train the Lydiard Way

Go and learn all about the training methods of coaching legend, the late Arthur Lydiard. Do a Lydiard Foundation coaching certification course and participate in regular refreshing and updating by the Foundation.

During his time, Lydiard, directly and indirectly, produced more Olympic Gold medal winners than any other coach in the history of the Olympic Games. While he was a running coach, few sports did not benefit from applying his systematic coaching methods. One of his favourites was horse racing!

When you come to think about it, riding a bike is basically running while sitting down.