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The Importance of Self-Talk

Written by ALP Coach Jennifer Sharp
For the most part, we are aware of what we say to other people. They provide immediate feedback if what we said to them is positive or negative. But what about when you talk to yourself? That little voice inside of your head that can support and pump you up or criticize and beat you down. The following are some tips you can use to improve your self-talk.
What do you say to yourself in the moment before competition or training? 

Language controls our behavior. Becoming aware of what you say to yourself prior to working out or competing is the first step in enhancing your self-talk. There is a direct relationship between language and sport behavior. Start noticing how you approach competition in your mind and make note of it.


Join our ALP Cycles Coaching Family. 3 Coaches and 2 Coaching levels to choose from. We ride with our athletes, spend quality time with each athlete (in person, on the phone, over email), and really take the care needed to develop each person into the best cyclist they can be.


Create mental scripts.
Create a language routine that you can use during various points of a performance. It can focus on thoughts, behavior, emotions, physical feelings and/or images. For example, for a standing start in an electronic gate at the track you can practice hearing the count down timer, feel yourself rock back and explode forward, pushing the pedals and pulling your hips forward, picturing yourself strong, focused and fast. “Push, pull! Push, pull!” (I can still hear coaches yell this as a verbal reminder of what to do.)
Develop personal cue words for key techniques.
“Push, pull! Push, pull!” is a great example of doing that. Using cue words can help your mind and body focus on key things at key moments. Focus on key words that keep you in the present. Repeat them often so they create a sense of comfort and familiarity. That way when you are in the last few hours or minutes before performing, you can use those cue words to put you in the zone.
Hopefully you can create your own scripts and cue words for your next event. I’m curious – what are some of the things you do you do to help prepare yourself for competition? Please leave your comments below.
Editors note- I use “I am better. I am faster. I am stronger.”
photo credit- Josh Cook at Pactimo

Anti-Doping Rules

By Swiss Miss and ALP Coach Patricia Schwager.

play clean

If you are a bike racer, then you should pay special attention to this blog. As a member or license holder of USA Cycling, you have to be aware that you can get drug tested; no matter on what level you are racing. This is because USAC is a recognized sport of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). For this reason it is important that you know the anti-doping rules.

If you are in a registered testing pool, then you are required to fill-out anti-doping whereabouts 365 days a year.You can get tested in AND out of competition.

In my case, this means I have to send 3 months of planning at a time to Swiss Antidoping. This is because I’m Swiss and I’m racing with a Swiss license. I have to make sure my whereabouts are updated all the time. These whereabouts include travel, team camps, daily training, races, race accommodations, time I’m at home etc. It is quite some work but I’m responsible that my whereabouts are correct all the time- 3 missed tests within 12 months would lead to a positive test.

I spend a lot of time in the US, and because of this, Swiss Antidoping authorizes USADA (United States Anti Doping Agency) to test me out-of-competition. Last year I had 5 or 6 out-of-competition and 3 or 4 in-competition tests. With that amount of tests, I was the most tested rider of my team. Filling out whereabouts and getting frequently tested is part of being a pro rider- still I think there aren’t enough tests. The problem is that the tests are expensive and they need to get improved all the time because the prohibited substances develop further all the time.

Things are different if you are not registered in a testing pool. You do not have to fill out whereabouts, but you still can get tested in-competition.


Join our ALP Cycles Coaching Family. 3 Coaches and 2 Coaching levels to choose from. We ride with our athletes, spend quality time with each athlete (in person, on the phone, over email), and really take the care needed to develop each person into the best cyclist they can be.


At races, there is usually a chaperone waiting for you after the finish who will tell you that you have been choosen for the anti-doping test. You then have to sign a notification paper and the chaperone will accompany you as a ”shadow” to the control station. Sometimes, however, there are no chaperones and you have to check yourself if there is an anti-doping control and, if so, which bib numbers got drawn for the control. A DNF doesn’t save you from testing and you still can get choosen. This is really important as a missed test will count as a positive test.

If you have to go to an Anti-doping test, you have your rights but you must also follow the rules. You may be required to provide a urine sample, a blood sample or both.

The following link to Anti-doping 101 for Athletes explains all about testing:

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) prohibited list is the international standard for identifying substances and methods prohibited in sport. Broken down by categories, the list identifies which substances and methods are prohibited in-competition, out-of-competition, or in some cases by specific sport. The list gets updated annually.

This means as an athlete you have to be very careful when taking any medications or supplements. You and you alone are responsible for what you put in your body. Never ever just take something assuming it will be ok- if you are unsure don’t take it. Ask before you buy or get the product. Always double check and look up the exact same name that is written on your product.

You can check it online:

Or you can call the drug reference phone line: 719-785-2000 press option 2

It is also important that you talk to your coach about any substances you are taking or wish to take.

If you are on any strong medication then you shouldn’t race anyway- in my opinion. Your head has to be in the game while racing, being on some sort of painkiller drugs, for example, will make you feel different.

In some situations you might have an illness or condition that requires the use of a prohibited medication. In this case you have to file a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemptions). But you need to do that in Advance of a competition/ race and USADA has to approve it.

My indisputable request is: Race clean- Play true!

Editors note—Many athletes use an inhaler for asthma and/or exercise-induced asthma. Most of these medications require a TUE and, if you are an athlete wishing to race at a National level (Master’s Nationals, Elite Nationals, etc.), then you need a TUE, as you have a higher chance of getting tested at National events.

The Importance of Race Weight

by ALP Coach Alison Powers

Power to weight ratio. Watts per Kilogram. Race weight. Three different ways to say it, one simple meaning; however much you weigh, you must have the strength and fitness (power) to move that weight. The theory simply states the less you weigh, and the more power you have, the faster of a bike rider you will be.

Does this mean we all need to go on a diet and get as lean and as small as possible in order to be a fast bike rider? No. Well, it depends. It depends on what your goals are. It depends on what type of bike riding and/or racing you do. It depends on what type of bike rider you are and what body type you have.

Power to weight really comes into play when you are fighting gravity- i.e. climbing. The more body weight you have, the more you have to fight gravity and the stronger you need to be. For example, if I am riding uphill along side fellow ALP Coach Paddy, who weights 25-30 pounds less than I do, I would be riding along at ~250watts while she is “only” riding at ~215watts. Now imagine if I lost those 30 pounds but kept my power. I would fly up the hill. However, there is a good chance, that in losing those 30 pounds, more than half of those pounds would be muscle mass and thus, I would lose power and not be nearly as strong, as powerful, and as fast on the flats.

mini pony

In determining your ideal race weight, first evaluate your goals. What kind of riding and racing will you be doing and what is the terrain of those rides/races? If your answer is long sustained climbing, rides/races with big and or steep climbing, then perhaps, in addition to gaining fitness and power, it’s time to look over your diet and training to see where you can shed some pounds. On the flip side, if the answer is flatter and/or rolling terrain, sprinting and/or sprint finishes, or a moderate amount of climbing, then focus on a good clean diet, but mostly, focus on getting as fit and as powerful as possible. Plus, there’s a good chance that while getting as fit and as powerful as possible, you lose a few unwanted pounds anyway.

In all honesty, I think too much emphasis is put on the power to weight ratio. At the end of the day, the person with the most determination, never-give-up, suffer like a mo-fo attitude will beat the person with better power to weight ratio who can’t suffer and gives up easily. We all want to be lean mean fighting machines. Some will be leaner than others and some will be meaner than others. Focus on your goals, your training, your diet, your mental toughness and fortitude, and success will come—weighing 150 pounds or 125 pounds.Alison_Powers45

PC- Josh Cook


Join our ALP Cycles Coaching Family. 3 Coaches and 2 Coaching levels to choose from. We ride with our athletes, spend quality time with each athlete (in person, on the phone, over email), and really take the care needed to develop each person into the best cyclist they can be.


Training Weaknesses

by ALP Coach Jennifer Sharp
Great players train their weaknesses, good players train their strengths, and poor players don’t train at all.
It’s sunny and warm out and I’m fixing to get out on the bike. I sense some procrastination though, as I’m training a weakness today. On tap are two by 20 minute lactate threshold intervals. Easy for someone with a large aerobic engine but challenging for my sprinter anaerobic tendencies. It would be much easier to practice my sprint, to use the tailwind out of the north and fly along 63rd, punching it up and over the rollers. I smile just thinking about it. But instead, I’m tasked with a headwind and keeping my power up and steady.
We all have weaknesses, whether they are on or off the bike. And as coaches, our job is identify what those weaknesses are and make them an area of focus. For some this might be LT sessions or sprints. For others, they might have a hard time taking a true recovery day. And yet others, riding in a group and sitting close on a wheel or cornering three abreast seems intimidating.
It’s important to practice those weaknesses. And it’s time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
As we gear up to head out on the bike for weekend training, set an intention around practicing a weakness. Visualize yourself the night before practicing one weakness and executing it with proficiency. Fill your mind with a sense of what it will feel like to ride with success. Use affirmations to support your visualizations such as, “I can climb!” or “I can sprint!” or “I am a lactate threshold monster!”
Having the right mindset while practicing a weakness is key to building confidence and improving. Now it’s time to practice what I preach and throttle those LT efforts.

Get Your Bike Dirty– Then Take Care of It

By ALP Coach Jen Sharp
Winter training can be dirty. Especially if you live some where wet and cold. Colorado swings between too cold to ride outside and mild weather. Even though appreciated and loved, the mild weather brings snow melt and dirty roads. Dirt and grime can quickly ruin your drive train and could result in costly repairs. Here are a few tips on how to clean your bike and keep you out of the repair shop.
1. Get your bike dirty. Go ahead, get outside. Ditch your trainer for another day. Riding through any wet section of road will result in your bike becoming camouflaged in dirt quickly. Enjoy the wind in your face and soak up that feeling of freedom because when you get home, you have work to do.
2. Finish your ride and find a big bucket, filling it with warm water and soap. I’ve found Dawn dish washing soap works the best for taking off grease and grime and prevents streaks. Use an old sponge – perhaps that old one in the kitchen that should be thrown out? And while you’re at it, find that old toothbrush you’ve been meaning to throw out.
3. Take your bike outside and hose it down. Use enough water and pressure to get the big chunks off.
4. Use degreaser on your chain. This will cut through the grit and grime quickly. Make sure you’re in a well ventilated area if not outside. Hose off the degreaser once it’s done its magic.
5. Start soaping up your steed. She earned it. I usually start with the bike first and then move onto the wheels. Once you’ve cleaned the wheels, go ahead and remove them from the frame so you can go those hard to reach spots. Clean back behind your brakes, on the underside of the down tube, crank arms, pedals, any where you see dirt and places where you don’t. Clean between the spokes and the spokes themselves on your wheels and make sure to get the rims nice and clean. Use a toothbrush to clean between the sprockets of the cassette from all angles.
6. Hose your bike down again. Take a look and see if you missed anything.
7. If you got everything, use a clean rag to wipe down the frame first and then the wheels, saving the chain for last. Then run the chain forwards and backwards through the cloth, wiping off any extra grease/grim and water.
8. Put your wheels back on and then grease your chain. Make sure to grease your chain before you put your bike away! Not doing so could result in a rusty chain.
Keeping your bike clean is part of being a cyclist. Time spent taking care of your equipment will help prevent wear and tear and keep it functioning longer. You’ll spend less time in the shop and more time in the saddle!
Editors note- routine maintenance should be something you do to your bike year round.  Every 2000 miles change your bike’s cables/housing and chain. Keep tabs on your tires, as winter riding can ruin tires more quickly. Rotate and/or replace tires as needed to avoid needing a mid ride car pick-up to get home.


The Benefits of Training Camp

This past week, we had a training camp in Tucson for our ALP Athletes. It was hugely successful. 6 days of bike riding, 3 coaches presentations, group meals, on bike cornering practice, group ride/race skills, products and schwag from Osmo and Pactimo,and challenging ride routes. For our athletes, it was money and time well spent and invested in each person’s bike riding goals and success in those goals.

This got me thinking. As a coach, I find it my duty to teach athletes how to be a better and more complete cyclist. I like to think I am a teacher of the sport. This is far more than a training plan and data analysis. Being a teacher of the sport involves riding with the athletes, teaching them bike-handling skills, group riding skills, race tactics, sprint skills, the list goes on and on.

Our training camp in Tucson was a perfect opportunity for me, and the other ALP Coaches Shawn and Paddy, to really teach our athletes how to be a more well rounded cyclist. Sure, many people go to a training camp and ride themselves into the ground. Then, after a few rest days are stronger and produce bigger watts at LT. However, this training camp may not have done anything to make them a more complete cyclist.

Some of the drills and rides we did a camp were uncomfortable for some of the riders. It got them out of their comfort zone and created stress both mentally and physically. Doing this day in and day out can be tough, and honestly, not that enjoyable. But as soon as that rider goes home, recovers, and rides in a group on rough roads at a fast pace, they will be better. Thanks to camp, their comfort zone will be bigger, their fitness better, and most important, their confidence higher. Having self-confidence is more than half the battle of bike racing success.

I love teaching. I really enjoy helping people find the best in themselves- both on the bike and off the bike. We are having another training camp in March; this time in Solvang, CA. This camp will be different from Tucson in that it is more race focused. We will spend time working on all three aspects of road racing—Time Trialing, Road Racing, and Criterium Racing. We all also have hard rides that will challenge your fitness. You will learn from someone who has won a national championship in all three disciplines (yes, I am tooting my own horn). As a cyclist, you will leave this camp a better, more knowledgeable, and more confident bike rider and ready to take on the 2015 race season.

Solvang is open to all athletes—not just ALP Cycles athletes. If you are interested in joining us or would like more information, shoot me an email at Alison at ALPcyclescoaching dot com. I look forward to teaching you the intricacies of our wonderful sport.

Here is a video of our last ride in Tucson. It was a race simulation “spirited group ride”- and it was fun!

Tucson Training Camp- Spirited Riding and Going Home


Saturday was the last real camp day. The group headed out together for 32 miles on flat and quiet roads. After the turn around point, things got more serious – the way home was a spirited race type ride. Alison instructed the group with tactics- so that 3 different teams were racing each other for the win. We “raced” for two times 5miles and a final shorter 2miles.


After we were back at the condo’s, some riders went for an extra hour of training. In the evening the coaches cooked a nice dinner for the campers. Shawn talked about power data and showed how to use/ analyze on TrainingPeaks.

Sunday was the day to wrap up camp. Shawn and Alison made sure that everyone got to the airport for the flight home and that bikes got shipped out. Paddy guided an easy 2 hour ride for the campers who had a later departure time.last ride

It was a great camp in Tucson! Shawn prepared great routes for our training rides. We are happy that all campers can go home with some new riding, racing, and/or skills knowledge!

See you all at the next ALP Cycles camp!

Alison, Shawn, Paddy


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