This article was originally written for VeloUK.net. You can read the original article here.
Question time with Max Williamson who is having his third season with Eiser Hirumet in the Basque Country and is helped along by the Dave Rayner Fund and trainSharp
Q: Is this the first year with your team?
Max: No, this is my third season with Eiser Hirumet. As a third year Under 23, I have grown and improved with the team and they have supported me wholeheartedly for the past two seasons. I hope I can repay them with some great results this year.
Q: Had you raced there before joining the team?
Max: I did a stage race here in Basque Country as a junior which is where I got the offer to join Eiser Hirumet for my first year U23, and have spent my 2017 and 2018 seasons here so haven’t really done any racing anywhere else!
Q: How does the racing there compare to the racing here in the UK?
Max: I cannot really make a fair comparison having only done one big race in the UK outside of juniors, The Tour of the Reservoir, with Eiser Hirumet in 2017. I crashed out after half a lap so didn’t really get a feel for it. The racing here is often quite controlled, and teams play a large role. Teams like Caja Rural and Lizarte tend to have a lot of control and often the best riders. The format is often similar though, hard until the break goes, relax a bit, get organised in teams, chase, nail it up the climbs, small group to the finish. The racing is tough and fast, rarely does a lucky move get away, you have to be strong enough on the climbs to be in with a shout which is different to the flatter UK races.
Q: What events are you looking to in 2019?
Max: I am targeting the Copa De Espana series, those are some of the biggest races in Spain and very prestigious. Races like Memorial Valenciaga, and Subida a Gorla are some of the most well known races so a result in those would be nice. The Lehendakari and Euskaldun series run almost weekly, and despite being so frequent are viewed with a lot of recognition. The biggest teams and the fastest riders are at almost every one of these races, although I have races I am targeting, I still hope to perform well in those. As for stages races, Vuleta Bidasoa is a big one for me, with an international field, and stupidly fast last year, it was a whole level above the races I had done previously. I also plan to do the British nationals this year for the first time.
Q: What bike will you be racing on?
Max: The team will be on the Ridley Fenix SL for 2019, the superb do-it-all bike favoured by Lotto Soudal the past few seasons. Ultegra Di2 groupset, Rotor cranks, and Ridleys in house brand Forza for the finishing kit. I am picking the bike up the day of writing this and I really cannot wait!
Q: What do you expect your role will be in your team?
Max: There are a few riders in the team capable of winning this year so it will depend on the race. In some, I will be the protected rider and in a leader’s role, whereas in others I will be on lead-out or domestique duty. As a third year U23 and being one of the more experienced riders of the team this year, I need to be evolving into more of a leadership role and getting the results to match, especially if I want to progress in the sport. No pressure!
Q: When did you start your training for 2019?
Max: After a reasonably successful 2018, I had a three week off season. Two weeks completely off the bike and then three days in Noth Wales trying to catch my dad on the downhills on my mountain bike. My structured training plan started on the 15th of October.
Q: How many hours a week do you do?
Max: It really depends on where I am in the season but sixteen is pretty average for me.
Q: Do you do the training all on the road or a mix of road and turbo and do you use any gadgets to deliver the numbers to your coach?
Max: I try to do as much as I can on the road. I really do not like the turbo! I would rather get wrapped up and brave the rain or snow than go on the turbo! If the weather is dangerous, I will turbo out of necessity. I use power and heart rate. I think you really are putting yourself at a disadvantage if you are following a structured plan but not using power or at a minimum, heart rate.
Q: Are there any other types of training you do on top of riding the bike?
Max: Yes, I was in the gym for the first time over winter and have seen the benefits already but as the season draws closer, I am just doing bodyweight functional exercises, bike specific exercises, and mobility routines as well as regular stretching.
Q: What is the hardest drill you have to do in a week at the moment?
Max: Before I moved back out here at the beginning of February, it was the premier division track league at Manchester. A shock to the system after a lot of endurance stuff over winter! Now I am back out here, it’s the MAP (maximal aerobic power) sessions. 10 x 1 minute at 140% of FTP with 1 minute recovery really gets the heart rate up!
Q: What would you say is the best thing about being coached and given a schedule to follow?
Max: Knowing I have an expert controlling my training. My coach, Paul Delani at trainSharp, picked me up after 6 months of chronic fatigue and being 4th cat fit to where I am today with the pro dream very much alive. I have complete trust in the training he sets. It gives me one less thing to worry about. I can log into my training plan and see exactly what I am doing and a description of why I am doing it. Plus, I know he is usually available to chat if I have a problem, or if I am not feeling great and can adjust the planned ride, or if I should just rest. We have never met but we have a great rapport, Paul is also occasionally my life coach as well as cycling coach!
Q: Does your training change week by week up until the season starts?
Max: Not so much week by week but there are clear blocks and periods to the training. The training in mid-November is a lot different to what I am doing now with just two weeks to the first race, and is then different again to what I will be doing in August.
Q: When do the race efforts start in your training?
Max: A few efforts up the climbs in Tenerife in December, but the more structured intervals and training to prepare the legs for the season started in January with Vo2max sessions and track league.
Q: What is it like living abroad away from home- what things have you had to adjust to abroad?
Max: I love it. I feel like I have adapted to it very well over the last couple of years. It’s now my third season living abroad so I know what I am doing. It took a while to get used to it in 2017. New town, new roads, new people, everything is new and I can see how it could be overwhelming for some but I coped. Durango with it’s surrounding mountains and friendly people is fantastic and again, I love it here.
I have struggled with the language, I am definitely not a natural when it comes to learning Spanish or Basque, but I now know enough to get by, but still have a lot to learn. Spanish lessons through the winter have helped tremendously and I consider it part of my job to learn to help me be a better team member. Thankfully the staff speak fantastic English and the team has four English riders so I feel very much at home. Funding my time here was an initial worry but thankfully I have received funding from the Dave Rayner Fund the past two seasons and they continue to support me during this year, I really cannot thank the fund enough!
Q: Do you train on a race bike or a bike specifically used for training?
Max: I spend the winter in the UK on my own Ribble Audax but I leave it at home and just ride the race bike throughout the season. The roads are pretty good and despite the frequent rain up here on the north coast ,the bike stays in pretty good nick with regular cleaning.
Q: When is your first race?
Max: 23rd or 24th of February. The one on the 23rd is the classic season opener here in the Basque country, Zumaiako Saria, which I have done the past two years. Flat for a Spanish race with two small kickers per lap, ending in a bunch sprint almost every year. On the 24th is the first Copa De Espana in Don Benito. Similar to Zumaiako, its pretty much flat and a bunch finish. It is not decided which race I will be doing yet, but either way I can’t wait, and am excited to see how I have progressed since last season.
Thank you to Max for his Q & A and good luck for the 2019 season