Little and the Sea Otter

Bryan Little is an uber talented and dedicated cyclist who has been working his tail off, both on and off the bike,for the past two plus years. He is mentally and physically strong and when he sets a goal he sticks to the plan and executes with precision.  I first met Bryan Little, two years ago at the base of Mount Lemmon prior to conducting a Threshold test.  Bryan had contacted me a week or so before inquiring about coaching services and after several phone and email exchanges Bryan decided that he wanted to sign up for an annual training program.  I was excited to coach Bryan as our phone conversations revealed to me his maturity and overall mental strength which, for me as a coach is 50% percent of the ingredients necessary to achieve a challenging goal.

Bryan is a mountain biker at heart but a roadie lives within him and I knew it, I just had to bring it out.  This was a difficult process at first as is with almost everyone I coach but, its merely a matter of practicing with a lot of guidance.  So, Bryan practiced and with practice he realized the joys of road riding (in particular climbing) and he was hooked.  Progressively his times going up Mount Lemmon dropped and his ability to stay (and lead) the main group at the Saturday Morning World Famous “Shootout” race ride become more consistent so did his motivation to log more and more miles on the road bike.  The lesson here is that you cant progress into an elite cyclist (road, mountain, cyclocross, downhill, enduro, ultra…) without understanding and practicing (by practicing I mean accurate repetition) the fundamentals and for an aspiring PRO mountain biker this means saddle time on the road.

As Bryan, progressed on road so did he progress on the mountain bike and the end result was meeting set goals.  As goals where met so where new ones set.  One of those goals was a top performance at the Sea Otter Classic.  I say top performance as, racing in California whether it be on the road, mountain bike, cyclocross, track…, is always tough.  The sheer number of riders in the State is staggering and within the mass of riders there is a incredible depth of talent.  So, when you attend an event like the Sea Otter Classic you know (or will know) that not only will California represent but so will the rest of the Country and world for that matter so, you better bring your A game.  Further, even if you bring your A game it doesnt mean you will podium as the fields are so big that luck can play a big role so, at the end of the day if your numbers (wattage and heart rate) reflect the hardest effort possible then, its a good day.

The annual Subaru Sea Otter Classic is regarded as the world’s largest cycling festival.  The event is geared towards both recreational and competitive cycling along with including  festival atmosphere with exhibits showcasing new technology.  This 4-day event features the hard core of the hard core whether it be the amateur who logs 15 hours a week on the bike while working full time (and sometimes also going to school) or the full time pro cyclist which, can range from the neo-pro who is coach surfing from race to race or the upper echelon of elite cyclists who travels by plane with an entourage.  Either way, the Otter has it all, attracting an estimated 65,000 fans from around the world.

Bryan showed up to Sea Otter a few days before the Cat 1 Cross Country Mountain Bike race and with good form.  Bryan’s form was a combination of science (analysis of power meter files), consistent feedback (communication that entails more information than, “legs feel good.”) and careful long range planning (prioritizing races).  Bryan, pre-rode the course and made several PR’s (based upon the previous years race effort) with only moderate effort which, clearly was fit and a good indicator that he properly rested and was ready for race day.

Race day arrives and Bryan completed his warm up and headed to the start of the race at Laguna Seca raceway.  The field was stacked with very fit, fast and experienced Cat 1 mountain bikers.  The race start was fast, as the lead riders hit the gas hard – speeds hit 27 MPH in the first 15 seconds after the start.  As the race progress, Bryan’s power file meters revealed massive efforts in the first 10 or so minutes ranging from 415 to 490 watts for multiple sustained 45+ second efforts and one 46 second effort that started at 627 watts and end at 590 watts.  This sets the stage for a very difficult day in the saddle as the course has yet to really test the riders.

The race progressed and Bryan settled into a very strong and steady pace that allowed him to gain spots on the climbs and most importantly in the technical portions of the race.  Bryan continued to leverage his technical skills and pacing strategy throughout the next hour and 40 minutes or so the race which propelled him into a podium position.  Bryan, pushed as hard as he could and burned his matches in a manner that allowed him one massive effort in the final 20 minutes of the race which help solidify his podium standing and ultimately secure his 2nd place.  The following is an excerpt of his performance on the last of the big climbs before the finish – this is the perfect example of how to meter your efforts and then light every match you have before the finish and an example what an elite (soon to be PRO) cyclist produces in the final stage of a very difficult race.

  • Duration 13:28
  • Distance 2.880 miles
  • Average Power 331 watts (with multiple 5 second spikes into the 410 to 420+ range)
  • Average Heart Rate 165 bpm (incredibly steady)
  • Average Cadence 72 rpm
  • Average Speed 12.8 mph
  • Pace 02:54 min/km