A Bright Future and Big Training Blocks with Christopher Blevins and Coach Jim Miller

A Bright Future and Big Training Blocks with Christopher Blevins and Coach Jim Miller

Listen to one of the most exciting young athletes, Christopher Blevins, along with his coach Jim Miller, discuss their training plans and Olympic aspirations.

This week Dirk sat down with renowned Coach Jim Miller and the very talented mountain biking athlete, Christopher Blevins. They explored topics such as the athlete-coach relationship, Christopher’s recovery process and the reality of racing during COVID-19.

Christopher also dove into the reasoning behind his decision to commit to mountain bike racing over road and why he’s happy with the current trajectory of his career. Jim reviews his own personal evolution as a coach, starting at USA Cycling, exploring racing strategy at many Olympic Games, his progression to TrainingPeaks and finally, returning to where it all started again at USAC.

Stand-Out Quotes

  •  “I’m like, what did I get into? So I think anybody who switches to Jim, they may go through a transition period where they assimilate the mental fortitude and the discipline in it.”
  •  “I can tell you within five minutes of talking to somebody, whether I can coach them or not. It is really whether or not those personalities jive.”
  • “A piece of advice I give everybody is, if your personal goals line up with the team’s goals, you’ll always be happy…if your personal goals don’t line up with the team’s goals, you’ll always be unhappy regardless of the money.”
  • “I’m equally as passionate about my poetry and music, rap really, as I am my cycling. So it’s something I do more for myself and it’s very introspective and personal, but I write a lot of songs when I’m on the bike, like long endurance rides.”
  • “Understand why you’re doing this, keep your love for it and protect that and don’t neglect that, or get caught up in external validation. You have to have internal goals that are built on top of your external goals.”

Resources

Christopher Blevins’ Instagram

Christopher Blevins’ Twitter

Jim Miller’s Instagram

Jim Miller’s Facebook

Transcript

Dirk Friel:

Today I am pleased to have two world-class figures in the sport of mountain biking on the show with me. We have Jim Miller and Christopher Blevins. Jim Miller is head of USA Cycling Elite Athletics and I like to say he’s quite possibly the most successful American cycling coach ever having played a big part in 14 Olympic medals, numerous world championships, and hopefully more to come in the decades to come. Jim has coached some of the biggest names in USA Cycling, Kristin Armstrong, Lawson Craddick, Kate Courtney, TJ Van Garderen and our guest Christopher Blevins. Christopher is a racer for Specialized Mountain Bike Team. 

He has won his Cross Country Mountain Bike National Championships every year from the age 13 to 19. And along the way, he also won National Road Championships at age 16. He was named the USA Olympic long team for mountain bike and in 2018 he won Cyclocross National Championships as a U-23 and also won the silver medal at the U-23 Cross Country World Championships. That’s a whole lot of victories, Christopher. Thank you guys so much for joining me on the show today.

Jim Miller:

Yeah, thanks for having us!

Dirk Friel:

You know Christopher, we have this amazing wave of new young talent coming in the US men’s ranks. And a lot of that is centered around Durango, Colorado. I mean, Sepp Kuss , we have Quinn Simmons, you know, both on the road side yourself. Tell us about upbringing in Durango and why it’s so special.

Christopher Blevins: 

Yeah. It really is a special place and I’ve continuously wondered what exactly is it? You know, that we’re so lucky. Is there something in the oxygen there? You can easily point to the miles of single track right outside our door and a great cycling community. In Durango Devo, the youth development program, I was on since age 10, till I left high school. 

And I mean, kids will go to Devo instead of play football in Durango. It’s like, the normal pathway in a lot of ways. So we just have a terrific youth development program, very supportive cycling scene in Durango. And I think like in the case of myself and Sepp and Howard and the people in the mountain bike…. in Fort Lewis College, it’s kind of like you become ingrained in just loving the sport for what it is and the adventuring and you can get fast accidentally. So like that’s how it was on the mountain bike side of things growing up.

Dirk Friel:

Yeah. It’s sort of like our little Belgium, if you will, in the United States. Like the talent it’s developing is pretty, pretty darn amazing. Jim, tell us some more about your coaching background and how, I mean you’ve had several roles within USA Cycling. How long have you been there and even coaching prior to USA Cycling? Tell us about your background.

Jim Miller:

Interestingly, I was born in Durango, so I’m part of the Durango contingent. 

Dirk Friel:

Oh my gosh!

Christopher Blevins:

I didn’t know that!

Dirk Friel: 

No way. That’s amazing. Talk about Belgium roots. I mean, that is our center of the universe. That’s great.

Jim Miller:

Yeah. Even gets a little bit crazier, Sepp Kuss’ dad was my dad’s ski coach on the US ski team. And Sepp’s dad was actually in the hospital when I was born. 

Dirk Friel:

What? It’s in the water.

Jim Miller:

Yeah, small world. My coaching background, I guess I started coaching in 1992 ish, really with no intentions of coaching. I was studying exercise physiology, was interested in training, was interested in why this worked, but primarily for myself and my own racing and trying to formulate my own ideas on how to approach training and racing at the time in Fort Collins, Dirk and I were all his buddies, we were going to school together. His dad was coaching and his dad’s running shop was honestly about one block from my house, my apartment. So I’d always go in and try to pretend like I was buying running shoes to ask him questions about training and racing and then just sort of fell into coaching.

I had an athlete that asked me if I would coach him. He was riding with me a lot and asked how we came up with training programs. I said, “Well, I’m really making it up, but I’m trying to put some logic and thought behind it.” That rider ended up having a lot of success, which then rolled into another two or three the next year. And then by the third year of doing it, I had a full fledged business in the nineties, that was actually pretty good. At one point in the nineties, I ended up with five coaches that worked for me and about a hundred athletes in the stable.

Dirk Friel:

That’s a pioneer. 

Jim Miller:

Yeah, it was cool. And I think, outside of Joe and Chris Carmichael, I think I was probably the only other guy with those sort of numbers. And I was in my early twenties at the time. So that’s how it started. 2000 after the Sydney Olympics USA Cycling went through a big overhaul and reorg. I think they lost all of their coaching department. At the time, I was coaching Kimberly Baldwin and Jessica Phillips who were both Women’s National Champions. They were probably the next biggest names behind Mari Holden, who was World Champion and big Silver Medalist. 

And [the] High Performance Director at USA Cycling called and asked if I was interested in coaching the women’s national team which was interesting, cause I had this really good business going. I was making a decent living. It was still racing my bike, still having fun. But as I thought about it, I’m like, there’s the only way at that time to differentiate yourself as a coach, it’s to have this national coach tag to your name.

So, I said yes. And I had to get rid of my business, that was part of the deal. The pay for it was about a third of what I was making. And I’m like, “Well this will differentiate me, I’ll commit three to five years to it. It will help me step out and stand out. And I’ll come back and I’ll rebuild it and I’ll be able to build it bigger and better because I’ll have a better name.”

Long story short, I ended up spending 17 years at USA Cycling, doing about every job in the athletic department that existed whether it was, you know, marketing… it didn’t matter what discipline, I’m coaching track, road, mountain bike, cross. When there was a need, I was just jumping to fill it until we replaced the role or I assumed responsibility for the role.

And eventually ended up being Athletic Director for about 10 years. After Rio games, I went to four Olympic Games… after Rio, I was just pretty tired—you can’t underestimate the difficulty and length of these quads and they just back up one-after-another and there’s no break. And I just started looking around and I was like, “I want to do something different. I want to learn something different or be part of something different.” [I] reached out to Dirk and Gear, asked them about working at TrainingPeaks, which was a wonderful experience. I loved it. Love of the job, loved to go into work at that place every day and learned a ton. I can’t underestimate how much I learned while I was there. 

And then, a couple of months ago, USA Cycling asked if I would be interested in coming back to train for Tokyo, which is a really hard thing to say no to, I always say they’re highly addictive.

Dirk Friel:

Best man for the job, I always say.

So I ended up saying yes  and coming back. And day one on the job, I think we shut everything down due to COVID. Day two on the job, Olympics were postponed for a year. 

Dirk Friel:

Yeah. That was a tough time. So how did you guys come to work together? Christopher? How long have you guys been working together and how did that come about? 

Christopher Blevins:

Yeah, it’s been I think two and a half years now, Jim?

Jim Miller:

Yeah, maybe around 17?

Christopher Blevins:

Yeah. And it was actually part of the way through the season and Jim, as USA Cycling Director, would kind of look at our training and our power numbers. And I realized that, I should utilize him as an asset and ask him about my coaching and see what he thought of it.

And this was June and July kind of this mid-season break. So it was a good time to kind of rethink the approach to things. And I talked to him and I mean, the essence of it was like, you can do more. So I started working with him and the rest of the season, we only had three months until my first U-23 and mountain bike worlds Australia. And I think it was a little bit of a shock and I thought I was ready for it, but, I was doing four-hour rides and at the time, you know, “I’m a mountain bike racer and I’m not riding trails. Like I’m going out training really hard. And I’m doing this workout that is 10 by six minutes with three minutes at tempo in between.”

And I’m like, “what did I get into?” So, I think anybody who switches to Jim, they may go through a transition period where they assimilate the mental fortitude and the discipline in it. And over the next, whatever, six months, I started the next season I was in that place and now we’re really in a groove and yeah, we’re working really well together. 

Dirk Friel:

That’s a good point about transitioning to almost a whole new system, right? Where did you come from? Was it all on your own? Haphazard? Did you have a coach? 

Christopher Blevins:

Oh yeah. So I had a great coach named Dario Frederick, The Whole Athlete Mountain Bike team. I was on Whole Athlete for let’s see, three or four years. The program has since gone away, but it was largely the best mountain bike development team in the US. I think like athletes, especially when they’re going into under 23, sometimes change is a good thing. I recognized that and went with Jim. 

So I have had a coach, you know, various coaches in different senses of the word since I was five years old racing BMX, like the coaches and BMX would… [it’s a] different world. I mean, they would load you in the gate…there’s a lot of mental toughness there. Kinda like your Coach Carter, basketball coach, maybe like making you do full laps, like suicides at basketball. So yeah, as I kinda transitioned to the endurance side of things, l got more specific with coaching, but Jim was a real step.

Dirk Friel:

So it sounds like you had a history there, even on the data side, you’ve been collecting data. Jim, you got to start with a collection of data, talk to us about bringing on new athletes. I mean, how has that from the coach side of things?

Jim Miller:

Yeah. I always look at data. Almost always, before I talk to an athlete, I’ll look and see what they’ve been doing, see how that relates to their racing. If their training’s matching the racing, I’ll make my own determination, whether I think they’ve aerobically developed or they’ve, anaerobically developed, how they’re getting the results, where I think I could make a difference for them. And then I’ll generally try to facilitate some sort of discussion in some way, shape or form if I think there’s more there.

And I think as a coach, one of the big roles is to push and challenge and encourage and try to get more out of an athlete than they think they’re capable of giving. The big challenge is that data initially, well, data throughout the whole thing plays a big role, but initially you find somebody that’s really efficient on the bike, they’re aerobically pretty sound, they’re anaerobically capable… you might not be able to make a huge difference for them. They may be doing what they’re capable of and in which case, then they’ve got a good coach and you just encourage them to stay with the coach and do their thing. But occasionally run across an athlete that you think you can actually get a lot more out of than what they’ve got out of themselves. And for me, that’s where it all starts with the data there.

Dirk Friel:

Well, there’s so much more than just the data as well. Talk to me about communication. How do you guys communicate, how often, how has that transformed over the years? Did you just click? Talk to us about that side of the soft skills, if you will, of coaching relationships?

Christopher Blevins:

Yeah, I’ll start, I think you know, depending on the athlete and kind of how they’re wired, there’s a different relationship or kind of need, I guess, to talk to the coach after every workout. And it sort of varies depending on the time of the year and where we’re at. Like if I’m in a solid training block and I understand the intent of every day, I can just go at it and kinda knock them out and check in with Jim after. 

I think generally I’m probably more low key and less involved in than some athletes. It’s just kind of how I’m wired, but when it comes to a real important day, a real big interval day or a target block, I texted him right away. And I got to a point where I’m excited when I get a good workout or when I get through a block, it feels like winning a race. So we can kind of revel in that a little bit. 

Dirk Friel: 

That’s awesome. 

Christopher Blevins:

Yeah. And then race weekends, we’re in communication about the course. And even though Jim’s not there, I think he can always check up on the blind spots and talk strategy and that’s a real benefit. And just putting me in a mental headspace to go after it. 

Dirk Friel:

So, yeah, Jim how about from your side?

Jim Miller

That was good. You know, I can tell you within five minutes of talking to somebody, whether I can coach them or not. It is really whether or not those personalities jive. And you can force communication. You can make communication happen, but [if] it flows really easily, in the first five minutes, I’m like, “yeah, I could go to that person.” Cause ultimately I think when you get into coaching and the art of coaching, the relationship is really critical and it’s really hard to challenge somebody and push them and get them to do something they don’t want to do or get them to believe in themselves or motivate them if you don’t have that relationship. But for me, when people ask me why I get different results, I think it’s always because I have these relationships that I understand and then know how to motivate somebody.

And so, if you can’t have that, then for me, it doesn’t work. It can work for other people. But for me, that has to be a key, essential part.

Dirk Friel:

Yeah, not just one-directional. 

Jim Miller:

Yeah, for sure. And you know, like Chris said with training, I mean, I literally anticipate the afternoon when training starts rolling in and power files started getting uploaded, to see what they did. And I know on big, hard days, I literally can’t hardly wait to see what they did. 

Christopher Blevins:

It’s a little evil, I will say

Jim Miller:

When they crush it, it’s a quick text, it’s just like, “awesome job” or something like that. And then you can move on about the day, if it didn’t go so well, then you can make an assumption whether that requires a phone call or that requires just a positive text, something like that nature.

Dirk Friel:

I know the feeling, kind of scheduling your day almost around your athlete’s day. We know when that is going to come in, when those TrainingPeaks notifications are gonna hit your text inbox. And even when they’re in Europe, that time difference is actually kind of a benefit. You get to wake up at seven and maybe watch a race on live stream or see the files coming in. You know, that’s kind of fun stuff.

Jim Miller:

Do both! Watch the race and check out the files.

Dirk Friel:

Yeah. And I’ve seen you, Jim, in Colorado Springs, texting somebody on the sidelines, maybe a parent, and giving them like, “tell him slow down” or “go now” or whatever.

Jim Miller:

That’s the great thing about technology these days. You can see more of the race than the directors can, and you’re doing it on your computer, at home and in your sweat pants. 

Dirk Friel:

Yeah. You guys have had, I’m sure, all kinds of deep conversations, there was a time period in 2018 when you were racing for what was it, Hagens Berman Axeon on the road? But also racing mountain bikes. And you’re facing this choice that was imminent of which do I choose? You know, at some point you have to really choose road or mountain bike. In 2018, I know you raced the US Pro Challenge. And I don’t know if you know it, Christopher, but I was in the following vehicle with your father and Jim in the Vail time trial that year.

Christopher Blevins:

Yeah. Not, not my best time trial, I will say.

Dirk Friel:

But that was maybe one of your last big international road races possibly?

Christopher Blevins:

Yeah, it was the last stage race I’ve done the last big one.

Dirk Friel:

So what was… talk to us about that.

Christopher Blevins:

I see where you’re getting with that. So, to preface, I was really fortunate to be able to do both mountain and road [for the] first two years. That’s really all thanks to Axel Merckx and the program and the flexibility he gave me to race mountain bike and cross. I recognize I was in a unique position and I definitely thought about it a lot the first two years, which one I was going to go to. 

And the normal kind of flow is to go to the world tour or try to go to the world tour. So I think a lot of people expected me to do that and eventually just drop off on the mountain bike side. Jim was a sounding board for it when I was going through this thought process, but it came down to me feeling like mountain bike was both something that I can be the best at. I mean, we have bike handling skills growing up in Durango and a unique opportunity to go after the Olympics, and I kind of sensed that there was this growing from the ground-up tide of mountain biking in the US and in the world. So I think that’s going to continue and mountain biking will be a more frontal facing discipline. 

And yeah, it was a good time for me to switch. Sometimes I miss the team aspect of the road. I may hop back in for some stuff in the future, but I made the decision actually in Colorado, and that’s when I had told Axel and then it was like, all focus to switch over to worlds. 

Dirk Friel:

Right. And you went on to get a silver medal a few months later in, was that the Switzerland World Championships? 

Christopher Blevins:

Yep. 

Dirk Friel:

So was that the first kind of big international breakthrough results on the mountain bike side? 

Christopher Blevins:

As a junior, I won Alpstat Junior World Series, basically world cup, and then I was fourth at World Champs that year as an 18 year-old. And then I was second at the Mount Saint Anne World Cup. Which was right before Colorado Classic, I want to say?

Dirk Friel:

Right, right. Yeah. 

Christopher Blevins:

But yeah, Linger Hyde was certainly the best one. 

Dirk Friel:

So, Jim tell us the magnitude of that result. You know, getting silver at the World Championships,U-23, but still World Championships. How many American men have reached that level?

Jim Miller:

Geez, I think the last U-23 Cross Country World Championship medal was maybe Walker Ferguson and Valdey in 2001, something like that. So it’d been a while, but like Chris had mentioned, we’d had a lot of really good mountain bike athletes come through juniors and U-23s and migrate to the road. 

I precisely remember the conversation about mountain biking and road with Christopher. And I think I asked him, “what do you love more?” And he was like, “I love mountain bike riding.” And I’m like, “then do mountain bike riding, race mountain bikes.” He’s like, “yeah, but you can make money on the road. And everybody says, go to the road.” And then, and I’m like, “but a piece of advice I give everybody is, if your personal goals line up with the team’s goals, you’ll always be happy. And the team, regardless of the money, if your personal goals don’t line up with the team’s goals, you’ll always be unhappy regardless of the money.” And I’m like, with Chris, I was like, “you’re at this unique position where you could literally qualify for the Olympic Games in three years.” If you love mountain biking, just do it for three years and see what happens. You can always go back to the road. 

And I will say every conversation I have with world tour teams about riders, inevitably Chris’s name is brought up like, what’s Chris Blevins doing? So it’s not that you have to choose. You may have to focus on something, but you don’t have to choose. Chris can go back to the road. Chris can have a lucrative road if he wishes, or I think you can have a lucrative mountain bike career if he wishes as well.

I don’t think that Nino or Julian or [inaudible], any of these guys are hurting for a lifestyle, if you will. They’re making great livings. They have great jobs. They get to hang out at great race venues. They get to ride great trails. That’s a great lifestyle. And so I remember exactly the conversation. I remember when he came back and said, I’m going to do mountain biking for a couple of years and try it. And I’m also really good friends with Axel. And Axel was like, “did you talk him into this?” I was like, “he’ll be back. Don’t worry.” 

I think the result in Lucerne, it shows you what’s possible. It shows you what you are capable of. Then as soon as you see what you’re capable of, you can believe in what you’re doing. And that went from, “am I doing the right thing?” To “Holy crap, I made the right decision. And I’m absolutely on the right track.” Yeah,

Dirk Friel:

Yeah, Definitely put you on the map obviously for the Olympic long team selection, which you’re currently at that stage, but tell the listeners, what does that mean? You know, maybe Jim, might be the best, possibly here. How many are on the long team? What are the next steps? Obviously COVID plays a big part of this. You know, the Olympics are now extended another year out into 2021. Does that change how we select the Olympic team?

Jim Miller:

It doesn’t change how we select the Olympic team.The long team is basically a long list of names that can potentially make the final team. It’s like your football roster. On August 1st, it’s narrowed down to 50 players, but you’ll have eleven starters. So it’s just a long list of who could potentially be in that team. With COVID then it is added another year to this process. And it added two more world cups in 2021, they’re part of the process and then they make the selection. So honestly it’s a big honor to be named to that team and to do so at Christopher’s age is also huge. I mean, that’s a super young guy in a really big position. 

Dirk Friel:

Back to the selection process. Are there world cups, planned world championships? How are we going to go about seeing that raw roster develop through racing?

Jim Miller:

Yeah. At the end of this year, you have two world cups and [inaudible] the world championship. They’re at least still on the calendar. 

Dirk Friel:

Is that October?

Jim Miller:

That is the end of September, first of October coming up. And then in 2021, you have two world cups that were added to the nations rank for Olympic qualifying, and then you have a world championship. So after the world championship next April, May, I don’t know the exact date. Then that team is named.

Dirk Friel:

Okay, so no world championship this year.

Jim Miller:

Oh, there’s a world championship this year, but they’re not automatic criteria.

Dirk Friel:

Okay. So I mean, racing is coming, even though we are in COVID, you are obviously in this state of race prep and peaking. I mean, the end of September is definitely around the corner. So in a way, did it really derail you a whole lot? I mean, or has it been “okay, ee haven’t been racing, but we’re, we’re training as if we’re racing.”

Christopher Blevins:

Yeah. It’s been a great opportunity for me, I think this year and working with Jim, there’s a certain amount of adaptability and goal setting in training that makes this time period a real advantage. So we’ve had a couple training blocks and Strava hunts that kind of have become goals themselves. So we just finished a couple of weeks ago, it was two real weeks, all out, sort of a grand tour style training block, but three really big weeks. And I really had to dig deep to get through this training block and it felt like a race and it kind of was something to train for and motivate myself for. So I think that I’ve kind of formed a new relationship with training and the process this year. I’ve been more, nose to the grindstone and more curious about everything and enjoying it.

So that’s something that will pay dividends in the future, how I approach the process now is hopefully how I can continue. And now I think we’re at this point, like we’re pointing straight ahead towards the world cup season, to races and world champs. So I’m going back to Durango today and we’ll kind of go into rocky-mode and just do some specific training and then fly to Europe. 

Dirk Friel:

So Jim, walk us through the decision making. I think I heard a three week block just a big training block. What does ‘big’ mean? Quantify that a bit for us and the purpose and the timing of it?

Jim Miller:

Yeah, so with guys Chris’s age, if they’re in the world tour and they don’t get to race a grand tour which a lot of them don’t. And if their peers do, they literally start falling behind their peers and ability and what they can accomplish until they start getting grand tours as well. So these grand tours have this amazing ability to transform an athlete to the next level immediately. Once you recover from them, that’s the challenge, right? So typically and especially this year, Chris would have no opportunity to do that.

Ideally would have been [doing] a bunch of training, racing world championships and Olympic Games. And then probably, well, after the Games, in the original schedule, there was a whole world cup season and world championship. So there was a lot going on? There would’ve been an opportunity, but now you throw in COVID, you hit reset. 

You know, initially we took a break just right away, like pulled the pin, a couple of weeks off the bike, do whatever you want to do. Then we’ll come back and start over. And then we got to this point where we could fit a grand tour in here. And if you come off it at a higher level, then you’ll come into what’s left of this season at a higher level than you probably would have if we hadn’t done this. And I do this a lot with riders. We’ll simulate a grand tour, basically take the Giro and build out the entire weeks, according to that Giro. So what the TSS would be, what the distance would be, what the hours would be, what the intensity would be and you do it and you replicate all of it. It feels like the grand tour at the end of it, you’ve essentially ridden a hundred hours with intensity with the load. And then you spend the next seven, 10, 14 days recovering, and almost always they step up to another level right away.

Dirk Friel:

So is this, was this exclusively on the road bike? 

Christopher Blevins

No we did some mountain bike days. I kind of took advantage and did some point-to-point days that I’ve been dreaming of on the bucket list. So like one was the Los Padres Traverse, which is 85 miles and 11,000 feet climbing on the mountain bike, on this super rugged dirt road by Santa Barbara. And then I do a loop in San Luis Obispo, it’s kind of like a mock XC. so we had a couple of mountain bike days.

Dirk Friel:

Got it. And are you doing this with other guys? I mean, not too many people can take that kind of volume.

Christopher Blevins:

Yeah. I recruited some people. There’s some fast people in San Luis Obispo. Lance Haidet, the current Under 23 Road National Champion, one of my best friends and probably my closest training partner—he was there for some days, and then some people from the bike shop who were cat 1, really good climbers the last day we had a couple of days like this, but basically I tried to race. 

We raced for the whole four hours. And I basically did like the dumbest tactics possible, essentially just full and then I’d let them attack me. And then as soon as I got back on their wheel, I’d have to go to the front again and then they’d attack me again, 30 seconds later. So that was, that was good. And having some motivation and people to mobilize was awesome.

Dirk Friel:

Yeah. When there’s no money on the line, you can actually dig and go harder.

Jim Miller:

It’s all about the recruitment of the training partners in that three week block, you can interject fresh guys every day, every other day, it makes that go much quicker, but it also makes for a much better quality block.

Dirk Friel:

How about any motor pacing in there? 

Christopher Blevins:

No, but I’m getting my dad an e-bike when I go home. So he’s going to put me through the ringer.

Dirk Friel:

Yeah. Okay. So, we have some up-and-coming young athletes out there, 15, 16 year olds, hopefully watching this. Let’s put a little bit of a warning out there. Don’t do this same thing. Okay. There’s a handful of guys in America that can do this. So can we translate this to the majority of our listeners, a lesson takeaway that they might be able to incorporate into their you know training routine?

Christopher Blevins:

I think Jim can add to this, but Jim’s style of training in a large sense is just kind of like build your engine, go out for some big days and make it pretty epic. So if you’re 15 and 16, and I think what’s super healthy for kids that age, it’s like, you’re not staring at your Wahoo or Garmin the whole time and pressing lap and doing intervals the entire time. So pick a route that you like, pick a Strava segment you want to get in and go after it and maybe set a week where you do bigger rides and push yourself a bit. 

But there’s a fine continuous balance between working really hard and in recovering and being sure that you’re taking care of yourself both mentally and physically. So but yeah, really, especially this year, I love the idea of carving out your own route, bringing friends along for it and just going. I think that’s undervalued in training sometimes.

Jim Miller:

I would highlight in big bold letters, and yellow highlighter, have fun. Bike racing and riding bikes is fun. If it’s not fun, then you’re doing it wrong.

Dirk Friel:

Yeah. So what do you not like about training Christopher? Are you doing strength work during different times of the year? What are hard parts of training that you don’t really look forward to? If there are any? Yeah.

Christopher Blevins:

You can easily have a mindset like, you’re just taking punches with training and you’re just getting beat down and eventually you’ll get to like cash out for race day. And it’s all about really why you’re doing it and why you’re working hard that day and why you’re going to push through that interval after four hours. And personally, I have really kind of solidified that in myself and, and last year I think I was less motivated and passionate about it really. And it was a real reorientation to just doing this for myself and enjoying the process and loving it even when it’s extremely hard. 

So yeah, there are always going to be days inevitably that are just awful and you did a strength workout the day before, and it’s 90 degrees and you have to push through that interval. But like personally, I have to remember my ‘why,’ and get through that day and then really sort of celebrate it after. If you did what you were supposed to, you went deeper than you thought you could, I think we forget to kind of commend ourselves for that. And that’s really important to continue the process. But yeah, just the day-in-day-out is also sort of, you have to make it a habit. When you fall off that a little bit, then it feels like an obligation, that kind of slug through. So yeah, like I said, there are moments where it sucks, but you get through it and keep putting just one foot in front of the other. Hmm.

Dirk Friel:

Jim, do you prescribe strength training? I mean, is it by individual or what are your thoughts around, around that?

Jim Miller:

I do, yeah. I don’t actually prescribe it myself. I outsource it to somebody better than I am at that. But work with that person pretty closely on what I’m trying to accomplish on the bike. And so that it jives is what they’re doing in the weight room. 

And yeah, I think I’d go back to Chris’s point a little bit with this and strengths are often your weaknesses as well. And discipline is a strength and if you have it, and you’re very disciplined it’s an absolute strength, but it also gets exhausting, right? And being disciplined every day is difficult. And I think you have to be able to detach from that from time-to-time and be undisciplined and just go with the flow. And that tends to make your discipline even more of a strength when you can do that.

Christopher Blevins:

Right. Real quickly, to add something to that. Like I think that I try to really have the ability to like turn off from the training. And once I get through that workout, I’m done for the day and I don’t think about it. I don’t obsess over it. And I go hang out with friends who know nothing about what I just did or go watch the Laker game or, you know, sit in class if I have to. So that’s really important to having other outlets and balance and not just constantly focusing on the training.

Dirk Friel:

Okay. So how about that recovery time? What’s your favorite recovery routine?

Christopher Blevins:

Oh yeah. So, before COVID I was getting massageslike twice a week and dropping a lot of coin on that, but that was huge. I will roll out every day. I’ve got the R-8 roller, it’s like a spring tension thing, you pull apart and rollout. And then I sit in the NormaTec boots for 30 minutes to an hour every day when I’m doing homework or whatever. So that’s also something you have to make a habit. Like if it feels like it’s just a normal part of the day, it’s like brushing your teeth, then it’s really easy. But if it’s something that’s kind of foreign to you, then again, it feels like an obligation.

Dirk Friel:

All right. Any thoughts around recovery Jim?

Jim Miller:

Yeah. It’s training. Don’t forget that it’s training. All your gains are made in recovery, not in the suffering, so don’t neglect it. Don’t forget about it. Put an emphasis on it. It is a critical piece to the puzzle.

Dirk Friel:

Christopher, I think part of your recovery probably is these other outlets, can you tell us a bit about the music side of things in your world?

Christopher Blevins:

Yeah, sure. So I love that, honestly, I’m equally as passionate about my poetry and music, rap really, as I am my cycling. So it’s something I do more for myself and it’s very introspective and personal, but I write a lot of songs when I’m on the bike actually like long endurance rides. So I’ll just play a beat and think of some lyrics. But it’s so different from an athletic endeavor that it really balances things and allows for a different form of expression. So I think that you see a lot of cyclists in the world tour specifically because they have to make so many sacrifices to just ride their bike. You see a lot of athletes with these kinds of quirky hobbies that they carry with them. So yeah, it’s super important to me.

Dirk Friel:

Awesome. Very cool. Any last words, advice for young youngsters out there either of you?

Christopher Blevins:

I think a man, yeah, I’m getting old. I can start actually… Yeah, it feels like it sometimes when these juniors are coming up, I’m actually coaching a couple of kids.

Dirk Friel:

Oh, very cool. 

Christopher Blevins:

Yeah. I really touched on earlier, understand why you’re doing this and keep your love for it and l protect that and don’t neglect that, or get caught up in external validation. You have to have internal goals that are built on top of your external goals, if that makes sense. So like, if you’re internally doing this, as cheesy as it sounds, to be a better, more alive person, then you’re going to, in turn, get more titles from that. So just love what you do, I guess.

Dirk Friel:

Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. That’s great. Well thank you guys so much. I really appreciate it. You’ve got, another year ahead of you Christopher, going for this Olympic dream. But you got more chances after that as well and world championships and all kinds of stuff’s coming up. So we’ll be following you closely. Thank you guys so much for joining us today.

Jim Miller:

Thanks for having us.

Christopher Belvins:

Thanks a lot, Dirk.

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