Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Johan Museeuw Trained Hard

A man who knew how to train properly to overcome adversity was Johan Museeuw. He was known for his gradual approach to training, his belief in his training ideas and his ability to focus on training so he could return to racing when his cycling career seemed to be over - a couple of times.

A wicked crash on the slick cobblestones of the Arenberg Forest in the 1998 Paris-Roubaix, the queen of one-day racing classics, almost ended his career. Gangrene set in because of improper cleaning of a knee wound by medical personnel, and they almost had to amputate the leg. As it turned out, they didn't amputate the leg, and Museeuw responded by recovering, training and coming up with a win in the 2000 Paris-Roubaix. Tragedy struck again when he crashed on his motorcycle in the summer of 2000. He fought back yet again for another Paris-Roubaix win in 2002, among other victories.

Museeuw's glory started in a small way, but he kept stretching his personal limits. In his first race outside of Belgium, the Tour of Austria, Museeuw finished the first stage 30 minutes behind the winner. He was alone, numb from the cold, and reportedly crying on his bike. He did not abandon the race though. In the same manner, he would continue to break down barriers during the remainder of his career - with dogged determination.

Museeuw was infamous for training alone for periods as long as 4 months. He knew his specific training goals would not be achievable in large groups. He would ride ruthlessly into the wind for hours on end. When he adopted heart rate training later in his career, he took himself into the red repeatedly on hard days, for unbearably long periods. He would impose kilometer per hour "basements" on some training rides  - on the order of 43 kmph (27mph) - and he'd refuse his body when it told him to slow down.

Museeuw's good friend and teammate (and world class racer in his own right) Wilfried Peeters says of Museeuw, "Out of 100 pros, 95 won't be able to deal with Johan's training rhythm. A young rider who tries to constantly keep up with him will, so to speak, destroy his body. Johan has both the body and the willpower to work those heavy training schedules. He sometimes has some riders that live in his region ride with him, but very few can keep up for a few days in a row."

Peeters explains that after brutal group training rides, Museeuw would ride another half hour extra, because it was mentally very important to him.

These words were from the book Cycling Fast by Robert Panzera, a USA Cycling certified coach and NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist.

In order to stay a bit more objective on the subject of Johan's superhuman performances, I will also include the fact that he was imprisoned (suspended) for 10 months for allegedly using human growth hormones and other substances to boost his strength, red blood cell count and recovery time. He had stood trial for his part in a ring alleged to have funneled EPO and other doping substances from a Belgian veterinarian to pro riders.

Turns out, critical reading is essential when reading any glorified literature about any athlete these days. Its an utter shame.

*  *  *

No comments: