We’ve touted the benefits of cross-training and, in particular, addressing core musculature. A strong and stable core enables a cyclist to focus power through his legs directly into his pedals. Extraneous movement is indicative of weakness (or laziness) – which, in either case can be addressed in cross-training. (See Core Exercises for Cyclists.)
Still not on board? Don’t take our word for it. Take professional cyclist Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) advice. For example, here’s what he has to say about descending. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not about taking risks. Instead it’s about knowing where your center of gravity is at all times.
“It’s all about just your center of gravity and placing it in the right spot depending on what the direction of the road is. For example, every time you turn a corner, you lean your bike. Well, the correct way to corner through a turn is not to lean yourself and your bike; it’s to lean your bike and keep your center of gravity stable.”
In fact Tom Danielson attributes his speedy recovery from 2012’s Tour to his cycling-specific cross-training with his personal trainer. He found it to be so helpful, in fact, he’s written a book to share what he learned, Core Advantage: Core Strength for Cycling’s Winning Edge (VeloPress). Below is a write-up about Danielson, his recovery and his book from USA Pro Cycling’s blogspot by Joe Silva.
The pictures of a battered Tom Danielson siting in the back of a medical vehicle following stage 6 of the 2012 Tour de France seemed to spell ruin for the remainder of the Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda rider’s racing season. But 46 days later there was Danielson off the front of the peloton at the USA Pro Challenge threatening to take the stage win Durango. Two days later he would turn that threat into reality, winning the 210km stage 3 run into Aspen. Danielson gives a lot of the credit for his resurrection to personal trainer Allison Westfahl.
“I couldn’t even walk four weeks out from stage three,” Danielson says from his home in Boulder. Couldn’t pick up a bag. I was so beat up even thinking of performing well at the Pro Challenge right after the Tour didn’t seem possible. But we worked hard, Allison and I, at getting back as strong as possible. Both of my shoulders were very weak, and I’m the type of rider that rides a lot out of the saddle. So, immediately there was an issue that had to be address, but in the process of doing that, we created some new exercises that enabled me to really activate and strengthen some stomach and back muscles and gluts, so I was able to pedal as strong or stronger than I had been before.”
The kind of work that the two did together is now documented in “Tom Danielson’s Core Advantage: Core Strength for Cycling’s Winning Edge” (VeloPress), a 200 plus page look at the positive impacts that spotlights the impact that good core strength can have on road cycling – such as descending.
“The secret to descending is distributing your center of gravity. So, a lot of people put way too much thought into descending and thinking it’s about taking risks and setting up corners and all that, and really it’s all about just your center of gravity and placing it in the right spot depending on what the direction of the road is. For example, every time you turn a corner, you lean your bike. Well, the correct way to corner through a turn is not to lean yourself and your bike; it’s to lean your bike and keep your center of gravity stable. So, if you do that and the wheels slip or you hit a rock or you have to change your line, because your center of gravity is straight up and down on the road, you’re not gonna lose traction.”
Throughout the book, Danielson and Westfahl outline a number of exercises that will serve a wide range of amateur and even professional cyclists. Danielson is living proof of the latter.
“It was pretty cool good to see in the stage three, where I really put in quite a big effort, those new muscles (put) to the test, and I’d say that paid off big time.” The results that Danielson saw at the USA Pro Challenge after having such a particularly tough time at the Tour have gone a long way to refreshing the mindset he’ll be taking forward with him into the 2013 season.
“(After) all the ups and downs this last year I had, and with the Tour, putting the whole season on that race and then watching it all just disappear…I had to look at what I was doing, and I realized who I was doing it for, you know? And I think as soon as I saw that bike laying on the side of the road, that it could all just disappear in one day I realized that it was time for me to stop being somebody I wasn’t, and just go out there and have fun. Just race the bike like I want to race it. And take the race into my own hands. So, I mean, it’s easy to talk about it and think about it, but to get to the point where you actually do it in a race, that’s another thing. And really, the Durango Stage was what broke that ice for me.”
Danielson returns to racing in March for the 93rd Volta a Catalunya in Spain. But before he gets there, he and actor Patrick Dempsey will be bringing their T20 cycling concept to Tucson on the 20th of January. The event, which is free and open to the public, recognizes and hopes to build on the love for cycling that exists in the community. Danielson, who has known and ridden with Dempsey for some time now, felt that they could really do some good for the sport if they made a concerted effort to take their passion for cycling to communities around the country.
“He’s a really awesome guy and big into cycling, but we both kind of have that passion of not just loving cycling but loving all the community that comes along with it. We really get a kick out of going to events like Tour of California or Dempsey Challenge or whatever, and just talking to all the fans and everybody that’s there, and sharing all of our experiences with them. And that really drives us to become better in our different fields.”
And while Danielson is excited about all the new talent coming to Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda this season, he seems equally enthused about re-committing himself to his career.
“I realized, hold on a second, if I act like myself, I am myself. And every day in training I know how strong I am, so why don’t I just do that in the race? And it ended up working out really well in stage one and stage three (in Colorado). I really paid for that a few stages after that, but I definitely need to embrace how I felt in that race and try to do that in all the races next year, and try to become the master of myself I guess.”
The original article by Joe Silva appeared in USA Pro Cycling’s blogspot. Tom Danielson’s book, Core Advantage: Core Strength for Cycling’s Winning Edge (VeloPress), can be found at Amazon.com.
Note the difference in the two riders’ forms at the point of Danielson’s breakaway, at the 26 second mark of this video from Stage 3 of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Danielson is able to keep his upper body very still, minimizing any rocking side to side. The ability to focus his energy into his pedals via his legs begins with core strength.
Interested in adding core work to improve your cycling? A good place to start is with our Core Exercises for Cyclists.
For further cross-training ideas, check out our Strength Training for Cyclists.
To keep your back healthy, see our Yoga Poses for Cyclists’ Back Pain.
Stay healthy on the bike by adding Foam Rolling for Cyclists to your routine.
As with all physical exercise, a degree of common sense is required. It’s always recommended to talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. A professional fitness expert can help you with proper form and can create plan to help you with your cycling.