Sunday the 20th of February saw the challenging 36 Switchbacks race run here in Chiayi, central west Taiwan, and the race was won by none other than my coaching client, Englishman Andrew Holt.

The event features a near-1000 meter elevation climb over 13km straight from the gun, a real shock to the system. Unsurprisingly the beautiful climb features 36 switchbacks and pitches of up to 21%, averaging out at 6.2%. Race length is 68km.

Race profile.

This is a race I know well as I won it myself some years ago. I luckily had clear blue skies and 20 degrees when I did it, this year saw torrential rain and single digit temps.

I sat waiting at home for the time when I expected the race to be over, then got a message, the kind of message that makes any coach let out a WHOOOP! and an embarassing fist pump:

“I won it.”

Get in!

This was Andrew’s second consecutive win at the race.

Andrew, in his 40s, came to me for coaching after finding that his numbers, though decent, were plateauing, and this was a pattern that was repeating itself. After chatting it became clear that more rest was needed, allied to proper ‘just ride’ steady Zone 2 efforts, which would give him the opportunity to attack the hard days of training with more energy, maximising the benefits.

Rest weeks became ‘proper’ rest weeks, with an added day off the bike.

I also added new elements, such as breaking hill workouts into chunks at which different degrees of effort would be demanded. Particularly useful were efforts at which I asked Andrew to ride the first 1/3rd at 70% of effort, then up it to 80-90%, then to max out the final 1/3rd to full gas.

Pretty soon the PRs came, followed by several KOMs. Even on easy rides he was finding his times improving towards the upper end of what would in the past have been very hard efforts.

In-race, I got him to focus on exploiting his strengths more and protecting his weak points. Allied to this, I advised him that the calmer he could be in the saddle the better decisions he’d make, allowing him to ride to and even above his (perceived) potential. I also weaned him a little off the watts. That wasn’t always easy but now riding off a combo of ‘feel’ and numbers is working a treat!

Andrew Hilt, center.

Further adding to my joy was another great result by another of my clients Alec Gates from Texas. In his first ever road race and after working with me for just a few months, Alec took 5th place overall and he got a new and very much improved FTP into the bargain! Alec’s progress has been rapid and we are both excited to see just how much faster and stronger he can become.

Alec by the way owns Taipei Bike Works bike shop in Taipei, and you can see more of his place. If you’re ever in town and need anything, head there, great shop.

Alec left with Dave Tilley, 3rd place, right.
The 36 Switchbacks.
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And to top it off, another friend, Stijn Deferme of the awesome Stijn Cycles (see his PEG mini velo vid below, came third!

It was a good day…

Taipei Bike Works Video:

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Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

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