Are You a SIX Tools rider?



The SIX Tools Rider/From PALMARES Coaching

So what is a six-tools rider?

A rider who has the 6 necessary abilities to excel at the sport of bike racing.

The SIX Tools

Variable Speed Climb-the ability to accelerate, to attack and change speeds when climbing.
Tempo climb-the ability to ride hard, steady, leg breaking tempo when climbing.
Time Trial-The ability to ‘race against the watch”
Jump Sprint-The ability to “launch” or instantly accelerate up to speed.
Wind-Up sprint- The ability to gradually wind up a big gear and bring it up to a high speed over a distance of 300 meters or so.
Will to Win-Desire, Race Smarts, Aggressiveness

To illustrate this let’s plug in some big name riders into this equation.

Lance Armstrong-SIX Tools
Lance can do it all. He has won short sprints, can wind it up if he has to (not really his strength, but he can do it), he can attack in the middle of a hard climb, he can ride searing climbing tempo if need be. He wins time trials. He is an incredible competitor, and rides a very smart race. Lance is the quintessential 6-tools rider.

Jan Ullrich-FOUR Tools
The big German is an outstanding rider, no doubt. But he has weaknesses. He is a fiery competitor, and lo, he can TT. He can tempo climb, but he can’t variable speed climb. Lance jumps, Ullrich sits. He simply can’t (or won’t) change speeds. His sprint overall is weak, but his riding style and strength makes him a decent wind up sprinter.

Miguel Indurain-FOUR Tools
Big Mig won five tours on the strength of his incredible tempo climbing and time trailing. He had a good long wind up when needed, but no jump to speak of, in climbing or sprinting. His will to win was unquestioned.

Eddy Merckx-SIX Tools
Pretty sure in order to win over 400 races, you have to have all six tools. The Cannibal won not only five tours, but also every other type of race under the sun. He would ride through a brick wall to win a parking lot crit. He destroyed people on climbs, he time trialed like a banshee. Probably the greatest rider in history.

Mario Cipollini-THREE Tools
Super Mario can wind it up and he can jump like a madman. His has will to win. He can’t TT (physically, he should be able to, he can’t TT because he does not want to). He can’t climb, not his fault, he is just a big guy.

Marco Pantani-THREE Tools
The pirate can jump up to speed like nobodies business, he can tempo climb, when he gets by himself. He does have the will to win, but only when he is in contention. He can’t TT. He can’t sprint. He also has a questionable definition of legal and illegal drugs, but that is another story.

It is easy to see why these riders have won a lot of races, given their tools. But can a Cat 4 be a 6-tools rider? Sure. Any rider could have all the tools. How you develop them and how far they take you is up to you.

You also can see, it is possible to win without all the tools. If 1 or 2 of your tools is truly outstanding you will succeed in your specialty events. But to give you a chance to be competitative in all types of races, you need as many tools as possible. True, genetics will hold you back a bit. A 200lb rider is not going be a good climber no matter how hard he works. A 110 pounder is not going to be the bunch sprinter.

But you CAN work and train specifically to give you as many tools as possible to face the incredible array of random demands that can and probably will be thrown at you during the course of a bike race.

This is the essence of the PALMARES training philosophy.

Most riders’ train hard at what they do best. Think about it, if your club or team has a TT series, who usually shows up? Generally, the riders who TT well, or just like to TT for some twisted reason.

Riders who climb well always want to climb. Sprinters like to sprint. Of course you want to try and excel at what you conceive as your specialty. But how many times have you heard a rider say, “ I can’t TT, or I can’t sprint”. Uh-huh…. Why not? I’ll tell you why not, because you don’t work at what you are not good at. Does this mean the little guy who can’t sprint can become “Super Mario”? Obviously not. But he can work at sprint drills, so he can at least pack a little punch and have some confidence when it comes down to the end of a race. Anyone can improve his or her TT abilities. Anyone can learn to at least make themselves the best climber possible no matter what your genetics.

I believe the best training programs emphasize variety and train all your tools, no matter how many you have, or how many you perceive you have.

Basic email help, as always, is FREE

Rick Sorenson
Director of Services

An interesting idea, but what about the seventh tool....Luck!


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