AS SEEN IN OPTIMYZ MAGAZINE JULY/AUGUST EDITION
Canadian cycling legend Steve Bauer is making an ambitious attempt to put Canada on the world map in a tremendously difficult sport—cycling. He intends to lead the SpiderTech Powered by C10 team to the Tour de France, a feat never accomplished in Canadian history.
Cycling is a brutal sport. It requires lungs of steel, legs of iron and the willpower to keep going even when your body is screaming to stop. Cycling, Steve Bauer says, is “part of the innate capability to be able to suffer.”
No-one knows this better than Bauer, who won a silver medal in the 118-mile road race at the 1984 Olympics. No Canadian had won an Olympic medal in the road race before or since. TSN touts him as “the most prolific Canadian racer in the history of the Tour de France.” He has worn the coveted yellow jersey at the Tour an impressive 14 times.
Bauer’s goal is to lead the first Canadian team to the Tour. He is now working hard to make that goal a reality, with SpiderTech powered by C10: Canada’s first and only professional continental cycling team.
SpiderTech has come a long way since its inauguration as a grassroots cycling team, then called Team RACE Pro, in 2008. Founding a Canadian-based squad “felt right,” Bauer says, “because I recognized there was talent in Canada that had emerged in the years since I’d retired from racing. It was a really intriguing project.”
Now, four years later, SpiderTech has achieved Division 2 status as a continental professional team—the first level the International Cycling Union (UCI)) recognizes as professional. This is an incredible achievement for a country where hockey is king.
Still, there is no shortage of Canadian cycling talent for Bauer to draw from. In his fourth season as team director, Bauer has assembled a team of 17 world class riders, including 11 Canadians. The team is young, with an average age of 26, but has depth and experience.
Power of a strong mind
When it comes to cycling, there is one thing you must understand: These athletes know pain on a first name basis. “In order to win, especially in a time trial or in a mountain climb or in the final kilometre of a sprint, you need to be able to dig deep,” Bauer says. “It’s mind over physical. Obviously guys who are in good shape can go faster, but with two guys being equal in physical performance, usually the guy with the strong mind will overcome.”
Watching cycling on TV doesn’t do justice to the distance, speed and mountains cyclists blast their way up. These athletes are among the fittest in the world.
“We have one overview trainer, Paulo Saldanha in Montreal who runs the PowerWatts clinics,” Bauer says. “He’s adept at evaluating athletes and reviewing their programs. But it’s not a perfect science. It takes time to understand the athletes’ abilities and weaknesses.”
Back in 1991, Steve Bauer’s cardiorespiratory and muscular systems were measured at a fitness test at Concordia University where he spun from a low- to a high-level of intensity. The scientists were able to measure his power output. Most elite cyclists can put out around 300 watts of power in an hour; regular people put out only 150 watts. Bauer maxed out the test bike—working at about 425 watts. The scientists expected Bauer’s workload could have gone as high as 500 watts. To put all this in perspective, if Bauer were riding a power-generating bike, he could light up seven 60-Watt light bulbs for an hour. An “average Joe” could only power two.
Couple this inhuman strength with endurance: a stage race is like running a marathon or two a day, back-to-back to back to-back. In comparison, the Tour de France is the same as riding from Calgary to Toronto in three weeks, but doing it in four to five-hour sprints over the French Alps. These athletes are tough.
In April SpiderTech completed a team time trial in Italy, finishing 10th out of 17 teams. A few days before, Ryan Roth won SpiderTech’s first UCI Europe Tour race in Tro Bro Leon, France. Teammate Guillaume Boivin—a World Championship bronze medalist in 2010—placed third in the one-day, 206km road race.
Every member of the team sports an impressive curriculum vitae: Zach Bell captured a bronze at the London 2012 track trial event earlier this year, and Bauer says he has “a great chance at a medal and a good chance to even win” at the Games this summer. David Boilyand Hugo Houle, both 22, are up-and-comers to watch. “We’re trying to build a foundation of Canadian strength,” says Bauer.
Bauer is enthusiastic about the team’s ability to race competitively on the World Tour (the highest level of competition) in two years. The Tour could come as early as 2014.
To get there, Bauer says, “Our philosophy is to bring the best Canadians together for a common goal, a common vision. It’s probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done but if we can make it, it’ll be something of a legacy for Canadian sport.”
What’s Bauer’s advice for those who want to get into serious cycling? “Simple,” he says. “Spend time on the saddle. It’s not rocket science, man. You have to enjoy riding your bike.”
BY: KELLY TRUSLOW
Racing tough: Tips from SpiderTech’s trainer Paulo Saldanha
As president and founder of PowerWatts, Saldanha is the mastermind behind the development of the system. He holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology from McGill University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. A former professional Ironman triathlete, Canadian national master’s road champion and finisher of the grueling Race across America, his motivation in creating the PowerWatts system was to meet the needs of both elite and recreational cyclists in their quest for ultimate performance.
PowerWatts measures everything from an athlete’s blood lactate to strength to biomechanical and video analysis (pedal stroke or gait analysis). It’s serious training gone high-tech.
His tips for cyclists of all levels:
1. Set realistic personal goals and power through the muscle pain, but not the joint pain.
2. Keep pedaling and your endurance will build.
3. Have your bike properly fitted. Match this fit to your flexibility and type of riding.
4. Get involved with a cycling club or group rides. Learn from others.
5. When going uphill, don’t over muscle it. Use your gears to maintain adjust your cadence. Conserve energy by staying in the saddle.
6. While descending, “feather your brakes,” applying subtle and occasional intermittent pressure.
7. Change your hand and body position frequently to maintain comfort.
8. Stay relaxed. Keep your arms relaxed and don’t lock your elbows.
9. For longer rides, hydrate and ensure you’re replacing calories and electrolytes as you ride.