Dion Beukeboom (Netherlands) is one of the fastest, not to mention tallest, track cyclists in the world who specialises in the individual and team pursuits. At the recent European Championships he was 3rd with a time of 4 minutes and 19 seconds for the 4000m individual pursuit, averaging 55.6 km/h. We were lucky enough to catch up and have a chat with him about training and racing.
How to Balance the Year with Track and Road
“Track really begins in September/October and runs until late February/March, making things quite difficult because the road season has already begun before the track season is finished. What I do is I end my road season in August to build up and focus on the track. Then after the track season I take a month off racing, usually March, to recover and build endurance or go on a training camp for road.” The plan works perfectly for Dion as he can then have a full track build up and peak as well as being able to peak in the road season. “This year I was able to build up and peak for track as well as the time trial at Olympia’s Tour (in May) and National Road Champs (in June). After Sibiu Tour (early July) I took some time off before getting ready to start focusing on track again. It’s a lot different to how the road riders do it where they tend to have a long off season and lose most of their form. Instead my condition always stays around 70%.”
“In the track program we follow the philosophy that you must gain your base and conditioning from on the road.” In fact, Dion’s base period for track is conducted the same way that most riders conduct a base for the road. He does lots of longer rides to build endurance and stamina. It’s only when he comes closer to events that he says the training starts to take a different direction to the road. He does more intensity than road riders, “lots of 40 second efforts and quite often we will have two intense trainings in a day rather than one longer training which is something that most road riders would find crazy.”
“We are not on the track every day either because that is not always ideal.” Dion suggests that doing 4 hours of training on the track isn’t exactly stimulating and it’s not very efficient either as you need to keep changing gears to do different efforts and ride at different intensities. “If we do a track session we only do it at race intensity and race speed otherwise we would be better off just training on the road.”
Additionally there is a considerable amount of gym work that goes into training. “It’s not just core training, but also power training for the rest of your body. Over the years I have really started to see the benefit of it as my strength has built up and it also translates to power for on the road.”
“It’s definitely difficult knowing what to do sometimes [for training]. There’s not one book saying this is how you become a world champion so we are always trying different methods, experimenting.”
Getting in the Zone
Dion has a very specific program for on race day which helps to keep things under control, build focus and prepare for what will be a very action-packed 4 minutes.
- 3-4 hours before the start, eat a pre-race meal. Rice or pasta, perhaps with some vegetables, but no meat as he finds it too heavy.
- 2 hours before the race, arrive at the track to collect numbers, put them on and get comfortable in the environment.
- Then time the start of your warm up to finish appropriately before the race.
- “For me, warming up in the atmosphere of the track with races going on and seeing everybody is when I really start to feel the nerves and get pumped”
“Getting into the zone is different for every rider. You have some with confident personalities like Usain Bolt that need to be triggered by putting a show on or something and others who need to control their nerves.” Dion suggests that he is a bit quieter. For him the warm up is the “trigger” and he likes using music to focus his nerves on the race.
What to Focus on in the Race
Well before race day all of the riders and staff of the team pursuit know the strategy and have confidence in themselves and each other to complete their tasks. This way, “when the race comes, you concentrate on doing your job perfectly, sticking to the strategy.” Dion also points out that you have to really focus on lots of small things like pushing a little before lapping off so that the team’s speed is maintained as well as keeping the speed constant when you come to the front, staying aero and controlling your breathing. Most importantly, though, “you have 4 minutes to give it everything so you have to make the most of it.”
“Next year’s big goal is the team pursuit at the Olympics and we have an important qualifying race coming up, a World Cup in New Zealand.” Dion and his team will head to New Zealand next week to acclimatise and get into top form for the race.
We’d like to wish him and his team the best of luck.