Luke Moir is perhaps the brightest prospect in South African mountain biking
With a string of consistent results through 2019 and a remarkable 5th at World Champs, the young Capetonian started this year as world number one.
Then, with the global pandemic of COVID-19 wreaking havoc the world over and pretty much putting all racing on hold, Luke needed to recalibrate his training regime. Under instruction and guidance from the guru, Dr Mike Posthumus, Luke has done just that. In this article, Dr Posthumus shares some insights into the young champs revised program with scientific insight into just how much potential young Luke really has.
“With no races on the cards, there is no better time to take a step back, assess things and put a base plan in place. We often use the term building a strong foundation, or a strong base, very loosely. In reality, there is a lot of science that goes into this part of a training plan. As with any training program, it is important to include some fun into an indoor training routine. Over the last few weeks, Luke’s training has consisted of all of the above and for the purpose of this article I will break things down into three primary fundamentals we are currently focused on.
Building & Maintaining The Foundation
Training volume remains one of the primary drivers of endurance performance and there is simply no substitute or short cut for time in the saddle. To work on Luke’s base, we have included longer rides in Zone Two. We have also been including a few training sessions we call metabolic sessions. The term metabolic was coined by the coaches from Science to Sport due to the primary outcome related to becoming more metabolically flexible, i.e. emphasizing lactate shuttling and its use as a fuel source. These sessions are not too taxing since an athlete’s lactate starts to accumulate at relatively low intensities. Therefore, the athlete is able to perform longer intervals – like up to 40 minutes – at this intensity. Ideally, we would like to determine this through a lactate accumulation assessment (a test we offer in our Cycling Laboratory at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa), but without this assessment, an athlete can simply perform the intervals at 80% of their functional threshold power. Your functional threshold power – or FTP – is simply explained as the maximum power you can maintain for a prolonged period, around 60 minutes.
An athlete’s ability to utilize and clear lactate is one of the most important factors that determine their functional threshold. During this time of the season, it is going to be more beneficial in the long run to try to improve Luke’s FTP by improving lactate clearance and conversion to fuel. Since training at or above an athlete’s FTP for prolonged periods is very demanding, this can rather be prioritized later in the season. Basically, once we know when Luke’s next races are going to be, we will start increasing the intensity, to make ‘our energy creating machinery’ more fast-acting, or as we say, strap on the proverbial turbo.
On & Off The Bike Strength Training
We have put Luke into a strength program which includes a lot of work both on and off the bike. On the bike, Luke has been doing some low-cadence / torque intervals which are excellent for mountain bikers as it is very important to be able to produce high torque (force) on the mountain bike, to be able to respond to steep inclines or obstacles. These sessions are also included as we are able to load the muscle without severe cardiovascular strain. During these sessions, there is an increase in leg muscle activation and therefore they improve neuromuscular function which is the connection between your brain and leg muscles.
An example of such a session is to perform 6 x 4-minute intervals with 3 minutes rest. The intervals are performed in high zone 3 and low zone 4 at a low cadence of say 40-50rpm. Luke has been lucky enough to be training on a smart trainer so we have been able to see some of the numbers he has been producing. We are able to calculate the exact force pushed through the pedals from knowing the power and cadence produced. I know from working with national elite XCO riders that a value of 1.2 Nm/kg of bodyweight as session average across the intervals puts him among the cream of the crop within the elite mens field. During Luke’s most recent session he managed to produce a 1.15 Nm/kg session average. I know that he will hit the 1.2 mark before lockdown finishes!
Luke has also been working with Warwick Cross from the High Performance Centre at the Sports Science Institute. Warwick has been working on his strength and power off the bike with some attention to his mobility and stability which are both very important factors to ensure long term progression as an athlete.
Keeping It Fun
Lastly, it is important to have fun with indoor training and to that end, we have had Luke doing a few Zwift races. These races are fun to do and carry absolutely no pressure. We know that many of the results are slightly fictional but it is a nice way to keep Luke sharp. Luke is clearly very motivated and dedicated to his training – last weekend he managed to finish 5th in a flat one hour race around Watopia. Generating 4.5 watts/kg, is not bad for an hour, considering that he was spinning out because of his MTB gearing on the flats. I am certainly looking forward to seeing what Luke can do in the 2nd half of the season when we are all cleared to race again!” – Dr Mike Posthumus
About Dr Mike Posthumus
Mike is a Sports Scientist with a Ph.D. in Exercise Science from the University of Cape Town. He heads up the high-performance center at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. He is an honorary senior research scientist within the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine at the University of Cape Town and has published more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts and presented at several international and national conferences. Mike has coached several athletes to national championship wins as well as Cape Epic leader’s jerseys.