Back to basics: work on your skills and weaknesses

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

Jump To Comments

Every week, Alison Powers and her fellow ALP Cycles coaches — Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager —share their experience, stories and advice with Ella readers in a ‘Weekly Wisdom’ training tips column. Additionally, once a month, Alison responds to your training, riding or racing questions. 

Got a question for Alison and her team? Simply post your question in the comments below or send it to us on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #weeklywisdom or #askalp.

– Anne-Marije Rook

‘Tis the time of year for us to make New Year’s resolutions an bucket lists. We vow to eat healthier, move more and go see more of the world. This new year, I challenge you to pick one thing that  you need to do to make yourself a better bike rider and/or faster bike racer.

This one thing usually isn’t something sexy like bigger watts, longer rides or faster on the time trial bike. This one thing is usually something hard and not as enjoyable to work on. Something like becoming a better and more confident cornerer, working on riding in a pack and staying out of the wind, being able to clear technical sections on your mountain bike, improving leg speed, improving your power to weight ratio, improving your core strength, etc.

Setting up cones in a parking lot and working on your bike handling skills isn’t nearly as motivating as a four-hour tempo ride with lots of climbing. But if you are braking in every corner in a crit, descent or CX race and losing 2-3 seconds every time, it doesn’t matter how much tempo and climbing you can do because you will be so fatigued from sprinting out of every corner that you won’t be able to contend for the win.

Every off-season is a chance to work on your weaknesses. When I was first starting out bike racing, I didn’t know what to work on so I asked Jim Miller (head honcho at USA Cycling). He said I needed to build more horsepower.  “Ride with the boys” is what he told me. So I called up any pro men that I knew and rode with them. It was humbling and it killed me but it made me stronger.

Next was leg speed, so I got a fixie with a tiny gear and pedaled that during the winter.

Now that I had this new power, I needed to be able to get to the finish of a bike race fresh, so I needed pack riding skills. Group rides it was, and learning to bump, overlap wheels and ride within 2-4 inches of the wheel in front of me. These things were very uncomfortable for me to work on and not as much fun as riding my myself, but I did it because I knew they would help me win bike races. Every ride and every race was a chance to learn and get better.

No matter how good you get or how often you ride your bike, there is still something you can do make yourself a better and more complete bike racer. These, what may seem like small but are very important things, can range from improving bike handling skills, losing unused weight (fat), learning to rest and recover, taking care of your body, learning to read a race, working on your mental game and confidence, etc. The list is endless.

Related: Six drills to improve your bike handling

No excuses. If you know you need to improve an aspect of your cycling, then do it. If you don’t know what you need to improve or how to work on your weaknesses, then ask a coach, a teammate or your team director.  Don’t waste your time. Don’t go year after year with the same weaknesses in your bike riding. Work on your weaknesses, dial in the things that are tough and hard, and make yourself a better and more confident bike rider. Start now. No need to wait until New Year’s.

Happy training, and happy working on the hard things.


Your questions for Alison or any of the other ALP Cyles coaches don’t need to be limited to the topic at hand. Ask them anything! Post your question in the comments below or send it to us on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #weeklywisdom or #askalp.


ALP Cycles Coaching alpcycleslogo - edited is a Boulder-based coaching company with three female coaches at the helm: Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager.

Each coach brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. Roading racing, track, endurance mountain biking, time trialling, making the leap to living and racing in Europe – they’ve got you covered. Find out more about Alison Powers and her Alp Cycles coaching company at here.

Editors' Picks