It is rare to get a glimpse into just what goes on behind the scene’s throughout a pro cyclist’s racing season, but by doing so we can get a clearer picture into just how much detailed work must be done in order to prepare and recover from each race fully. However, we were given the opportunity to do just that with Cannondale-Drapac Pro Team rider Ryan Mullen.
This overview will cover the starting point in his winter preparation right up to the end of his race at the 2017 Paris-Roubaix. We’ll be taking a look at the training, intensity and demands on riders as they build toward a peak fitness for the huge demands of the Northern Belgium Classics.
Ryan is in his second full year in the WorldTour ranks after competing on the continental circuit with teams such as the An Post – Chain Reaction and Team IG – Sigma Sport. With medals in the World Under 23 Time Trial Championships and a superb fifth place in the Elite Time Trial championships in 2016, it is easy to see where Ryan’s main strengths lie currently.
With age on his side, the 22 year old has the fantastic opportunity to develop into more than just a TT specialist, with his power and physique we can see the potential for him to be molded into a classic campaign rider, much like that of Luke Durbridge whose TT background has seen him breakthrough in 2017 as one of the best one day riders this year.
Race Season Preparation
Ryan started his preparation for the 2017 in earnest around the November 14, 2016, after a well-deserved end-of-season break. Ryan started to build his training load from the middle of November. He started from a CTL of 74 and his early ramp was to build toward the first training camp of the year which took place over eight days between the December 11 and December 18.
This early phase in November was aimed at building aerobic fitness and getting the body back into the routine of training. The emphasis was on making sure he was at a good condition and fitness so he would be ready to take on a high number of hours and kilometers during the first camp of the year.
Early Season Training Camp
The first training camp of the year saw Ryan start from a CTL of 84 and build to 103 over an eight-day period. This was a big eight days in the saddle with a total of 900 km covered and over 31 hours of total ride time. In this camp they completed three two-day training blocks with two recovery days. The longest day consisted of 154 km and 5.25 hours riding, and the average training days lasted around 135 km and 4.5 hours of cycling.
The 19 CTL ramp over the eight days would be a lot for many amateur riders who have little experience in having this sort of high training load. Less experienced riders can find such a high load in a short period of time to cause too much fatigue and little adaptation. Ryan, like many elite pros, has had his body adapted over many years to training for such durations and intensities, allowing him to absorb the training and come out of the camps with an increased fitness rather than a very fatigued body. He left the first camp of the year with a 160 ATL (and sore legs to boot).
With the first camp completed, Ryan had only a short two-day recovery period before starting his training during the holidays. The week after the first camp of the year and the week leading up to Christmas Ryan still kicked out 415 km and 14.5 hours in the saddle, which allowed him to maintain his CTL around 100 and have this increase after the new year just prior to the second training camp of the year.
Final Pre-Season Training Camp
The second training camp of the year started on January 12th, here he was at a CTL of 110, 26 points higher than what he started at during his first camp in December. With this higher level of fitness and gradual increase in intensity over the interim three-plus weeks, he had the ability to complete the more intensive second training camp of the pre-season.
The second camp of the year lasted a total of seven days and during this time Ryan completed a total of 950 km with 30.5 hours in the saddle. The camp had a different format to the first, consisting of two three-day blocks with only one recovery day on the fourth day of camp.
The longest ride of the camp consisted of close to 200 km and six hours in the chair as they powered their way around the Spanish countryside. The end of the camp saw Ryan accumulate a CTL of 122, which is a 22-point ramp over the seven days. He ended up with a low TSB of -50 as he left this intensive seven-day camp.
The Season Begins
With 13 days between the end of the last training camp and his first race of the year at the Tour of Valencia, Ryan needed to freshen up after a hard seven days in order to bring that TSB back to a reasonable level. Doing so allowed him to get in some quality rides as the intensity of the training started to increase toward the first race of the year.
Tour of Valencia
Ryan had three recovery days after the second camp, allowing his TSB to come up to +7. From here he began a seven-day solo training block which moved his CTL to its highest so far (125 points) on January 28. A short three-day recovery period leading into Valencia meant Ryan had “fresh” legs to kick off his season in Spain. This meant he was then able to use the racing kilometers to hone his form as he built toward April. The five days in Valencia were particularly hard with a 12-point ramp in his CTL going from 123 on day one to 135 after the final stage. He also came out of the race with his lowest TSB reading for this period, going down to -60 and a ATL of 200, indicating a high level of fatigue.
The period after Valencia and before the next race of the year, Volta Algarve from February 15th to February 19th, was about recovery and adaption from the big month previous (from early January to start of Feb). In that previous month he had accumulated a team training camp, the first stage race of the year and big solo training blocks out of his home base in Girona in between.
The nine days between Valencia and Volta Algarve saw Ryan bring his TSB back up to -10 before he had some specific work in the lead up to Algarve. He was also able to lower his CTL to 125 over this from a high of 135 after the end of the first stage race of the year. By recovering adequately he was able to bring his TSB to +20 on the start line of Volta Algarve.
Volta Algarve into the Belgium Classics
The five days of Volta Algarve were again on hilly terrain with lots of climbing and aggressive racing, Ryan himself was in a number of breaks during the race, showing his fitness at the pointy end of the peloton and a 14th place in the Individual TT.
With only five days between the end of Algarve and the start of the Belgium opening Classic weekend of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, the ability to recover from a hard five days in Portugal was critical if he was to hit the ground running in Belgium.
Ryan finished Algarve with a CTL of 137 and a TSB of -50, indicating a high level of fatigue. The five days between these races was used to travel and do some short recon rides of the Belgium roads he would be racing on in the coming weeks. This allowed him to get his TSB back up to +2 in time for the Belgium Classics and get in two big days on the cobbles.
The two back-to-back semi-Classics saw Ryan put out more than 300 TSS each day with a Normalized Power of more than 330W on both days. These two big days of racing also saw Ryan edge up his CTL to a peak of 140 and a ATL of 185—his ATL jumping from 135 to 185 over two days shows the impact and intensity of these one day races.
The next phase had Ryan heading to Tirreno-Adriatico between the March 8th and 14th. This race is used by many in their final preparation for the bigger one-day races, which come in quick succession through the end of March and into the start of April.
Between the opening weekend of the Belgium Semi-Classics and Tirreno Ryan had nine days to recover and prepare. During this time we see a common trait in his recovery where his TSB is brought up to -10 before starting some maintenance sessions to keep the adaptations from previous races and still have his body ready and primed for Tirreno.
The main priority at this time is keeping healthy, absorbing the previous racing block and using training sessions to work on the specific areas that needed attention as he built toward the big one days. He started Tirreno with a +10 TSB and a CTL of 136 (similar CTL to what he finished Algarve).
The seven days in Italy were particularly hard with three stages over 200 km in length. Over this duration and intensity Ryan came out of Tirreno with his peak CTL of 153, which is a ramp of 17 over the seven days of racing. Going from a CTL of 136 to a CTL of 153 is not something you can handle unless you have the massive workload done previously, which Ryan had put in during the past months.
Finishing the race with a 9th place in the final stage TT showed that Ryan had adapted well and his form and current fitness level were good enough to put out a big effort after six days of hard racing. He already was at -55 TSB going into the TT, which means it was a big ask for anyone to squeeze out such a big individual effort.
The Belgium Classics Begin
With all the “prep” out of the way, it was now down to eight days of recovery and fine tuning between Tirreno and the first Belgium Classic, Dwars Door Vlaanderen on March 22. Ryan was to play a key role with the Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team by aiding team leader Dylan van Baarle and close to the head of affairs during critical times within these Classic races.
Ryan hit Dwars Door Vlaanderen with a CTL of 145, and he was to keep this at a consistent level as he rode through Dwars Door Vlaanderen and onto GP E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem—all in the space of five days. Ryan spent much of Gent-Wevelgem in the lead break and having a Normalized Power of 335W for the 250 km and six hours of racing.
This mammoth effort brought his CTL back up to 150 with an ATL of 177. Between these races was recovery and full rest, as the harsh roads of Belgium have a massive effect on your ability to recover. 250 km in Belgium is different from 250 km in Southern Spain, when looking at the impact it has on your body.
The six days between Gent-Wevelgem and Ronde van Vlaanderen meant it was enough time to fit in two training rides, which consisted of two recovery rides of 40 km and 50 km on Monday and Tuesday followed by a big five hour, 150 km ride on Wednesday and a 3.5 hour, 105 km team recon ride of the Flanders route on Thursday. Friday was again a short ride along with Saturday being a 46 km ride while paced by team car. Ryan started Flanders with a CTL of 140 and a TSB of -2.
Ronde van Vlaanderen was a successful day for the team as Ryan’s teammate, Dylan van Baarle, finished in an impressive fourth place, with Ryan playing a key role in this success with his work early in the race. You can view Ryan’s full power file from this ride HERE or by clicking the image below:
Stats from the race
Time: 6hr 30min
Ave P: 272
Ave HR: 153
Peak 2 sec: 1368 W (W/kg 16.5)
Peak 30 sec: 810 W (W/kg 9.76)
Peak 05:00 min: 466 W (W/kg 5.61)
Peak 10:00 min: 410 W (W/kg 4.94)
Peak 30:00 min: 361 W (W/kg 4.35)
The lead into Paris Roubaix was a similar format to that of Flanders, building freshness and avoiding any unwanted last-minute health issues, as well as keeping the fitness gains from the previous big races. With two very easy rides of around one hour on the Monday and Tuesday after Flanders and a Roubaix recon ride of three hours and 95 km on Wednesday. Thursday was a complete rest day, followed by two short rides of 1.5 and two hours on both Friday and Saturday. This allowed Ryan to bring his TSB right up to +30 for Roubaix with a CTL of 135.
Paris- Roubaix is one of Ryan’s favorite races of the year, and one which he hopes to perform well at in the future. Again, he was there in the service of Dylan van Baarle (you can see my overview of how van Baarle’s Paris-Roubaix went here) and also to make opportunities for himself in the front selections during the harsh 256 km across Northern France. You can view Ryan’s full Power File HERE or by clicking on the image below:
Stats from the race
Time: 5hr 50min
Ave P: 290
Ave HR: 180
Peak 2 sec 1252 W (W/kg 15.1)
Peak 30 sec 670 W (W/kg 8.09)
Peak 05:00 min 429 W (W/kg 5.17)
Peak 10:00 min 376 W (W/kg 4.53)
Peak 30:00 min 332 W (W/kg 4.00)
Spring Classics Concluded
The conclusion of Paris – Roubaix was to be the final part of his spring campaign and the culmination of all the hard work and dedication put in from the middle of November all the way through 24 days of racing between February 1st and April 9th. It is a great insight into the demands of a WorldTour professional and the requirements necessary for consistent training and focus toward major objectives throughout the year. Many thanks to Ryan for his input and to the team for sharing his insightful data.