As a former professional cyclist, I’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish a lot. I’ve won the Critérium International a record-tying five times and nabbed two Tour de France stage victories. I’ve conquered Everest, embraced off-road training, and even trained my brain on how to take the pain.
Throughout it all, my career was largely driven by the love and support I got from fans. Even in my “retirement” people continue to reach out with questions, comments, and words of encouragement. So I wanted to take some time today and return the favor. Below, answers to four common questions I get from Fitbit users.
Q: You retired in 2014. Everyone who follows cycling misses watching you compete. Who do you think is the next Jens Voigt?
Cycling is constantly changing and evolving. I was a dinosaur in my sport—one of the last of my kind. For me, cycling was about instinct, guts, and feeling. Today, it’s all about numbers and calculating. There’s simply no place for someone like me anymore; but hey, that’s no reason to cry.
There are other great characters emerging, like Peter Sagan. There are always outliers, too. In the recent Dubai Tour, a young American named Brandon McNulty rode like a younger version of myself. He was in the breakaway for 110+ miles, dropped all his companions halfway through, and rode off all alone like there was no tomorrow. He was only caught with 100 meters (110 yards) to go. What a hero. He clearly has the potential to become a long breakaway specialist. I will keep an eye on him, and you should as well. He’s a star in the making.
Q: How many calories do you burn during super-intense workouts?
My most epic workout was during a really tough mountain ride in the French Pyrenees. I burned about 8,400 calories during the ride (plus the normal 2,500 calories my body uses for maintenance). All in all, about 11,000 calories total. That was at the height of my career, and I’ll never reach that again. The toughest post-career workouts I’ve done are marathons. During one, I burned 5,700 calories.
Q: In “4 Expert Tips To Perfect Your Pedal Stroke” you talk about pedal cranks. What are those and do I need them?
I was referring to decoupled pedal cranks. Unlike normal pedal cranks, these crank arms move independently of each other, which means each leg has to propel itself through the entire pedal stroke—one cannot depend on the other.
Since it’s up to you to keep the two crank arms in alignment, you’re forced to move your legs as efficiently as possible. A normally modest pace will feel like a lot more work, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a smoother pedal stroke.
I wouldn’t recommend trying decoupled cranks the day before a race. Using them requires proper training—it’s a modification that you should ease into. If you have two bikes, try 30 minutes with them before switching back to normal cranks. Little by little, increase the time you spend with the special cranks until you feel good about your pedal stroke.
But keep in mind: Decoupled cranks aren’t for everyone. If you ride your bike for just pleasure and fitness, then don’t waste your money. But if you’re ambitious—and dream of pedaling as smoothly as David Millar or Fabian Cancellara—then why not give them a try? Your local bike shop might be able to help you decide.
Q: What’s the most intense road workout you’ve ever done at a pro training camp?
It must have been in my first year with Team CSC in 2004. We did a race with the whole team on a climb called Monte Serra in Tuscany. Apparently generations of cyclists did their field test on that climb. If memory serves correctly, the climb is a little more than four miles at an average incline of nine percent.
I’d been beaten in a similar test before, and nothing motivates me more than getting defeated. All week long I was thinking about that day. I gave it my all and won. It took me 16 minutes and 24 seconds. I averaged 86 pedal strokes per minute for the whole climb and a 192 beats per minute heart rate.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.