09 July 2008

Good Robbie Ventura Article - Things to Remember

Sunday, July 6, 2008
Pro bicycle racer share hints on training to be your best
Filed under: Scott Richardson — Scott Richardson @ 12:00 am

Former professional bicycle racer Robbie Ventura, who rode on the same team as cycling great Lance Armstrong, owns a personal coaching company called Vision Quest based in the Chicago-area.

He’s also a commentator for VERSUS television during the Tour de France, the grueling bike race that Armstrong won seven times. The 2008 Tour de France started on Saturday.
Ventura spoke in Bloomington recently to a group of athletes varied by age and physical abilities about how to mold themselves into better athletes.

They compete in bike races, triathlons, marathons or rigorous Ironman events. But Ventura’s suggestions can be used by anyone who wants to peak their physical performance no matter what their favorite physical activity:

• Stay teachable. “By no means do I know everything,” he said. “Every single day, I learn something.”

• Set new goals. Though Ventura trains men and women who do Ironman triathlons, he’s never done one himself. That will change at Ironman Canada in August when he swims 2.4 miles, rides a bike 112 miles and runs a marathon of 26.2 miles.“The process has shown me so much about what it takes to become an Iron man,” he said.

• Ventura asked, “Are you a competer or a “completer?” Some people want to be at the top of the heap. Others just want to still be standing at the finish.
“Competers” face more risk of injury because they need to push themselves constantly to go faster. Added work must be done to reach peak performance. For example, cyclists who want to be the fastest must focus on issues of aerodynamics and riding skills like drafting.
“Completers” need to work out in ways that enhance their durability. “Competers” are rarely happy, he said. Completers are happy just to reach their goals.

• Figure out how much time you can devote to training. Then, do the math again more realistically.
“If it’s 15 hours, lop off a third for preparation,” he said.

• Design what you think is your “perfect week.” Map out each day. Spend more time on your weak points to turn them into strengths. Make training as specific as you can to the exact challenge you face.

• Never say never. Attitude is everything, as Armstrong’s LiveSTRONG army stresses.
“I take the athletes for what they are and I truly believe they can make incredible gains,” he said. “No one in this room is even close to their maximum. …I like to believe people can train to do almost anything.”

A personal coach is a plus to make the most of training time. Stan Watkins of Bloomington learned that when he decided to take up bike racing at age 49. A former high school baseball player who battled weight, Watkins took up cycling in the 1990s. He enjoyed club bike rides at first. “But I felt the need for speed, as they say,” Watkins said. He researched training camps and discovered the Illinois-based Vision Quest was hosting a training camp in Arizona. He signed up.“It gave me the bug right then and there,” he said. Returning home, he became Vision Quest’s first “remote” client. He couldn’t travel from home to the company’s facilities several times each week. So, he kept track of data like his cycling power output and shared the information with VQ coach Brian Hass, who has family in Bloomington-Normal. Haas had taken up bike racing after competing in track and field at the University of Illinois.

Today at 55, Watkins races up to 30 times a year at mid-level “Cat 3” in his age group and in an open class against riders half his age. Three years ago, the basement of his home became the headquarters of Ventura’s first satellite VQ training facility. It’s complete with computer-driven cycling programs that turn in-door trainers into the closest experience resembling riding a bike outdoors possible.

A computer program increases or decreases resistance to wheels to simulate the challenge of bicycle routes. The gear measures critical data like power output, heart rate and cadence. Workouts can be tailored to skill level and goals. “It’s pretty neat stuff,” Watkins said.

Twice a week, a group of about 25 of his clients get together for a group ride outdoors. Power meters measure exactly how much work each one does. He works with road cyclists and triathletes ranging in age from 17 to 57, including top Bloomington-Normal triathlete Chris Sweet. “My biggest thrill more than bike racing is helping someone do the best they can,” Watkins said. For more information, contact Watkins at (309) 838-5465 or visit

Scott Richardson is Pantagraph outdoor editor. Contact him at (309) 820-3227 or email Share stories and read past outdoor and fishing columns at


See You at the Finish Line said...

Hi AJ,
I'm glad you were able to find the article online. I knew you would find it interesting and informative. Good job getting that bike done the other night. I'll be watching for that tempo ride to happen today. :)