Hometown: Big White, British Columbia
How did you start cycling?
I was a bit of a bookworm kid and totally uninvolved in sports until I was about 10 actually, and my stepfather Wendall said I could play hockey with all the other kids. That was kind of a revelation for some reason. From then on, I was in love with all things sports and spent many mornings watching ESPN Sports Center on a loop. I was never any good on the ice, and I discovered cycling when a coach recommended it to stay fit in the summer. Alone on the bike, I felt something different right away and, with the support of my family, somehow made it into competitive road cycling as a second-year junior at 17.
What is something you often do now as a pro that you wish you knew when you started riding?
I started on a Canadian Tire mountain bike until I literally rode the wheels off of it. Back then I thought the best way to go fast was to always put it in the biggest gear and push, which was a recipe for pain. I kind of still do that actually, but 70–80 rpm is a lot easier on the legs than 30–40!
You’re also a coach at Peak Form Coaching. What is a basic workout our readers could complete to improve their climbing skills?
I’ve been running my coaching business in university about eight years to help pay for my racing habit, and it has grown into something I’m really proud of (www.peakformcoaching.com).
A basic workout that has become a lot more popular in the pro ranks on down is doing climbs as “30/30s” or “40/20s”. Essentially, push very hard (120%+ FTP) for 30–40 seconds and recover easy for 20–30 seconds for 8–15 minutes and 2–4 reps. I think almost every coach prescribes some version of these intervals because they work, and they teach you how to really push your limits. Just be careful with doing too many too often. The poison is in the dose with intense workouts.
Do you train indoors? What are a few major differences between virtual racing and road racing that a first-time Zwifter should prepare for?
I was a very early adopter of Zwift in 2015 and rode on the beta Jarvis Island back then. Living in British Columbia and going to school, riding indoors was non-negotiable, and Zwift made that so much more palatable versus all my well-worn race DVDs. Zwift is still my go-to, and I enjoy racing, group rides and the whole experience.
Just recently I upgraded from a well-beaten Tacx Satori dumb trainer to a Wahoo Kickr so I could sink my teeth into racing properly in quarantine. I wish I’d done that a lot sooner.
For a new Zwift racer the typical advice of starting really hard and being prepared for a high average power is absolutely true. I would add that doing some non-competitive Zwift group rides is a great way to “learn the game” so you aren’t trying to figure out drafting and power-ups at 180 bpm in your first race.
How do you plan nutrition for a training ride?
I always try to consume carbohydrates (usually grocery-store kids’ fruit snacks) at certain minimum time intervals to begin with (usually after 1 hour and again at 1:30–1:40, 2:10–2:20, etc.), and then pour more fuel on the fire as intensity increases. I’ve learned that I can never really take in too much sugar during really hard sessions, races, etc. And, I might eat 50–100 calories between every interval in a set if it’s that kind of day. I’m a light guy, low body-fat reserves, and I know I burn a lot of sugar at intensity based on lab tests over the years, so I try to keep it coming in.
What do you like to do when you’re off the bike?
I really enjoy the coaching work, but I am also still a complete sports guy and watch everything Toronto Maple Leafs or Seattle Seahawks. I’m also pretty big into cars and spend maybe too much time racing on Gran Turismo and Forza. Most of all, though, I really like relaxing with my wife Emily and my dog Knox and watching good TV; “The Sopranos” is my all-time favorite. Maybe that sounds lazy or indulgent, but I don’t really care!
How do you see drop-bar professional cycling on the continental level progressing in the future?
I often think that I didn’t pick the best time to be a professional road cyclist with all the difficulties the sport has encountered in the last five years. There are fewer teams, fewer races and less money than when I was watching Floyd Landis win the tour in awe as a 15-year-old that is for sure. I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom, though.
People still love this sport in America and around the world and the big domestic races like Redlands Classic, Beauce and Tour of the Gila still feel just as special. I still feel like I am part of a powerhouse professional team like I always dreamed of even if we aren’t paid like we would have been a decade ago. People are still buying road bikes and tuning in religiously for 21 days in July. We can certainly market and organize ourselves better to capture more of that interest and passion, and there are people smarter than me working on compelling ways to do that.
I’m terrible at the whole gravel thing, but if people are excited about it, that’s great. I really don’t think it’s a zero-sum game between road and gravel. More people on different types of bikes, more unique races and more money are a tide that will raise all ships in the cycling economy.
As for virtual racing, there is a world of potential there. It is already such an engaging experience for the riders with so little barrier to entry. It feels like full-on, red-mist, take-no-prisoners racing, and that is a pretty powerful thing. I think there is still a lot of work to be done in validating the results remotely and also on the game physics to make it interesting to watch. There just isn’t the same poetry on display watching a blob of watt/kilogram figures as there is in seeing a peloton rip through the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. It’s really still just the early days for virtual racing, though.