Tag Archive for: Houshang Amiri

A forced winter training schedule allowed PCC Athlete Caleb Bender to do time on his indoor trainer. But now back in Victoria he is getting back into a routine and planning a mammoth challenge.

The past four months have been eventful to say the least. From quarantine to race cancellations it’s been quite a crazy few months on the bike. The first race cancellations happened midway through a month and a half training block down south in Tucson AZ while preparing for my first year of U23 racing. From there plans quickly changed from preparing for a busy year with my TaG Cycling teammates to getting home as quickly as possible while talk of border closures was still up in the air. After a quick rebooking of flights, I was back at my home in Saskatchewan a week later.

For me, having a sense of consistency and routine was an important step to adapting to an ever-changing situation. Spending some time at home was an important step to this, although there were some challenges. The biggest of these involved the two feet of snow that greeted me when I got home. Being mid-March I’d came home with a month of winter weather remaining, meaning a month of trainer miles. On the bright side, being winter in small town Saskatchewan the following two weeks of quarantine didn’t feel like much of a change from my usual winter training routine at home.

After the snow melted, things slowly started to pick up again, with longer rides and some intervals training. Unfortunately, in typical Saskatchewan fashion there was also wind, and lots of it. Over the next couple of months there were weeks where I would be stuck on the trainer over half the week just because it was unsafe to ride outside from the wind. Thankfully with coach Houshang’s guidance I was able to adapt my training in a way that made the best use of the weather (and single paved road) I had to work with on most days, while still maintaining fitness under the less than ideal conditions. Despite the weather, I was still able to get in some 200km days in the legs. I also kept motivated with weekly trips out to my “local climb,” a valley an hour and a half drive from my house for a few 4-5 hour “climbing days” (with a few KOM attempts thrown in).

Now midway through July I’ve been back in Victoria for about three weeks, and slowly things are back on schedule. With Tuesday TT’s, Wednesday training time on the track, and lots of long rides in the mix there’s a lot to keep me motivated. Now that I’m back on schedule I find the long endurance rides to be the most motivating part of my training and enjoy pushing to reach a set distance or elevation gain target each day.

What’s keeping me especially motivated these upcoming weeks is an Everesting that Alex Amiri and I have planned on August 1st, in support of the MS Society of Canada. This will be a huge challenge, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to push myself for an incredible cause. Watch this space to find out how you can support us!

Although racing is still on hold, I’m looking forward to finding new challenges to push myself in the meantime. Although far from ideal, I’m learning to enjoy some of the opportunities I have this year that I wouldn’t normally have in a full race season, while of course waiting for the time we can all race again safely. In the meantime, I’m looking forwards to more big days in the saddle to come!

PCC athlete Holly Simonson had some major goals for the 2020 season. Instead the 2019 U23 Provincial Road Champion took advantage of the down time to ride with friends and take on a few challenges.

Over the past four months, athletes (and everyone else around the globe) have had to adapt to new protocols and challenges. It is hard to reflect upon this experience concisely because of the significant ups and downs the past months of training have brought. Pre-pandemic, I was extremely motivated for the 2020 season. Being my last year in the U23 ranks, I had my eye on the maple leaf jersey at the Canadian Road Championships as well as goals for podiums at BC Super Week and Track Nationals. Needless to say, I was itching to get back out there with my teammates.

When the event cancellations began, I was just a couple weeks out from my team’s training camp in California. The camp would have been followed by the start of our season, including the Redlands Bicycle Classic where I was all set to race with a composite team. In the beginning, it was disbelief that swept over me, followed by the disappointment. We all felt this. Anyone with a goal centred around an event this year felt it. The Olympic athletes set to head to Tokyo certainly felt it more than I did.

Once I accepted that the season was really fading into nothing, I had to adjust my outlook. My coach, Houshang Amiri really helped me with this. He reminded me that this time can be used to improve upon things we would not usually get the chance to work on in-season. So, even though I haven’t been able to line up with my teammates and get those results I was hoping for, I have still grown stronger this year than I have ever been. Seeing that progression has been motivating for me.

One thing that has helped motivate me along the way is doing semi-regular 20min TT tests up at Goldstream Heights, a climb near Shawnigan Lake with about 300m elevation gain. It is fun to try and beat your previous time and power numbers. Admittedly, there were times where the motivation to ride has been much lower than it usually is. I really love racing my bike. Normally, I love the training too, but half of that is because it lets me perform at races. There were days where heading out for a long endurance ride on my own just didn’t feel fun or worth it. There were days when the weight of other stresses took my energy, and I had to learn how to be gracious with myself about missing a ride. Something I am still working on is not overthinking about what others are up to. Yes, it can be motivating to see those around you doing all this training, but if you get too much in the mode of comparing, it won’t do you any good.

During the past couple of months, I took part in a mentorship program put together by the Athlete’s Council. In one of the Zoom meetings, we heard from and ask questions to Tara Whitten. Something that really struck me from our talk was how her training only worked when she was in tune with her body. To be able to listen to your body and do right by it is super hard, but I think it is something I have got better at this year. Part of this requires not comparing how much riding you are doing with how much others are doing. Not everyone reacts the same to the same training. I think knowing this will help me as I continue working towards my goals; having Houshang be such a trusting coach has also been a big part of this learning development. Of course, he knows when to push you, but he also listens and trusts when you need it.

Now, back to the fun stuff. It has been great to get to ride with some teammates and friends again recently as things started to open up in BC. I really love long rides with good company, especially if the day includes exploring new roads and a top-notch snack stop along the way. When things were really tightened up, and no group riding was allowed, I was super fortunate to have my partner Colin and my family in my COVID bubble (built-in riding buddies). Having a few more people to ride with now is something I won’t take for granted ever again. Getting to soak in all the beautiful riding that the lower island has to offer has been really special, and getting to do it in the spring and summer months is unusual for me.

Another thing that was really fun was taking part in Rob Britton/The Last Ride BC’s weekly coffee hunt. At the start of each of the six weeks, a Strava segment was posted and somewhere along the segment (of mostly trail) a bag of Eleven Speed Coffee was hidden. The final challenge was a one-day ride where you had to connect all of the segments together. This was a really fun adventure, and it was cool to see all the people in the Victoria bike community who took part, as well as the local businesses who provided support.

This time away from racing has made me feel lost, has made me question my identity outside of sport, and has brought on all sorts of other emotions. But it has also made me sure of how much I want to keep racing my bike and how cycling can be a part of regular life, used as a tool for fun, for adventure, for mental and physical health, and to push your limits. I am so excited to push my limits this summer, notably when I set out for “the big loop” ride (a 260km loop of the lower island) along with some other PCC athletes and Red Truck Racing teammates.

Another PCC athlete shares her experience on training during the pandemic. For Keisha Besler it was also having to adapt to a different training regime – switching from triathlon to cycling. 

This year has been a big year of change. For me change started in January when I made a big and difficult decision to switch from triathlon, a sport I loved, and had been competing in for nine years, to cycling. I love triathlon, but I wasn’t happy competing anymore. The first few weeks were the hardest mentally as I was questioning if I had made the right decision and figuring out how to define myself as an athlete.  I was afraid that I had in some way just “given up” on my dreams and goals as a triathlete.  Thankfully, I was surrounded by amazing people who helped me look at it differently.  I was reminded that my path as an athlete, or in life, isn’t going to be a straight line and this was just one of the many zig zags towards where I would end up.

January and February were spent learning all things cycling and getting used to the training. I had also dropped my job working at a grocery store and started a new job at a boarding kennel which I was loving. Early March I was getting ready to do my first race as a cyclist but unfortunately, that’s when COVID-19 become a major concern and races were being canceled. I ended up going back to the grocery store and getting used too all the new protocols and changes. Slowly the new rules such as staying six feet apart, extra cleaning, and training on your own became more normal.

Although disappointed at not being able to compete in my first race season as a cyclist I was able to put more focus on my training as I wasn’t working as much as I was before. I took this as an opportunity to get stronger and build up my tolerance of being on a bike for hours at a time. Three hours used to feel long for me and now it seems very normal. Not only that but many other things that coach Houshang Amiri has been working on have improved. I have slowly been getting better and that’s been one of my biggest motivators throughout this crazy experience.

I have been incredibly lucky to have my sister, Micaiah, as a training partner throughout the pandemic. Though we don’t ride together all the time, she’s helped make more then a few rides feel a bit better than if I had been alone, especially for those cold, wet, and gross ones in the early months.

The past few warmer months I have really been able to explore Victoria and more of the island by bike than ever before. I am having a blast riding my bike for hours on end exploring new, beautiful routes. With restrictions relaxing I have been able to go on a couple of rides with other people which is something I had missed. My biggest ride was with a friend just recently. We started from home, rode through Jordan River, Port Renfrew, Cowichan Lake, and finally ended in Duncan. It was a seven hour ride and we were both proud about completing it as it was the longest ride for both of us. I am happy to say that I no longer feel weird calling myself a cyclist and I am so looking forward to all the new experiences of just racing my bike.

PCC athletes are sharing their experiences on how they are dealing with the pandemic and what adaptations they have made to their training. Here is Zoe Saccio.

This was my first year Red Truck Racing, and I was looking forward to a busy summer of racing with my team. I had lofty goals, such as winning a national championship, that I felt I was likely to meet under PCC coach Houshang Amiri’s guidance. When all racing was canceled I was disappointed, but it didn’t stop me from feeling motivated to train.

Keeping up with my training program has actually kept me grounded through this experience. Being able to have something to add structure to my day has not only helped me as an athlete but helped me to mentally cope with what is going on. While racing hasn’t been a thing, I did manage to find some competition. I entered Perform Unite’s June #coronachallenge and won both the sprinter and endurance power competitions, with both the highest 1 minute and 10 minute power for women! Thanks to Houshang for helping me stay strong over the last few months.

Photo by Alex Amiri

PCC’s Caleb Bender was training in Tucson last month. Here is his report and an update since he returned to Canada.

Reporting post ride, shower, and recovery meal, at the time of writing (before current events created the necessity to stop group rides) I’m getting mentally prepared for a massive day in the saddle as part of my pre-season race preparation in Tucson, Arizona. Tomorrow, I’m taking part in the “Shootout” group ride, a drop ride that leaves downtown Tucson and turns any long, quiet, and stop-less road into a full gas effort as intense as some races, if not more so. My group leaves at 7:00 am and splits into two options; a 60km ride for short intensity, and my challenge, a roughly 160 km ride turning around at the top of Madera Canyon – a gradually increasing gradient climb, 20 km long and 750 m of climbing, with finishing grades well above 10% in the final kilometers. And yup, the last 7 km are flat out to the top. North American Conti and Pro-Conti riders regularly attend to fire some shots off the front and take advantage of the perfect desert weather this time of year. With my commute to downtown, I’m looking at 230 km and over 1500 m of climbing. I’m anticipating a mid-afternoon nap in my near future.

This will be my third time taking on the full shootout ride in the five weeks I’ve been down, and my fourth ride over 200 km in that span of time as well. I arrived down south on February 6th, and for those who know of the tendency for Saskatchewan winters to follow me, I didn’t even bring a blizzard to the desert! (this time… yes it snowed last time I was here). To get prepared for my first season of U23 and Cat 1-2 racing some huge miles are needed. Thankfully, Tucson is the perfect place to get in those miles, complete with rolling hills, false flats, and Mount Lemmon; a cyclists’ dream of a climb taking the best in the world over 1.25 hours to get up, and the opportunity to replenish all the carbs you’ve lost in the past week with a fresh baked cookie larger than your face at the top.

A couple days after Pacific Cycling Centre’s February training camp, which provided me with a solid five-day training block with a great group of people to get the legs back into race form, I flew off to Tucson. My first three weeks down south were part of a team training and race prep camp with TaG Cycling Race Team, which included Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Phoenix Arizona. Although my Cat 1 race debut was a bit rocky, the team did a superb job working together and throughout the camp we had the opportunity to develop a needed sense of comradery between us, and to motivate each other to push ourselves to the limits during our rides. Between Shootouts, leadout drills, TTT’s, and Lemmon rides (one of which may or may not have included a caffeine gel at 7:00 pm to get through a post ride shower and meal) we got the teamwork going that we needed in order to prepare us for our time racing together for the rest of the season!

The last couple of weeks after team camp have been a full block of training. After a few days to get well recovered, Houshang gave me a schedule filled with race specific hill intervals to push my limits and get ready for the efforts I need to prepare for in competition, as well as long 5-6 hour endurance rides to keep the baseline fitness high and get me prepared for the longer days in the saddle that U23 and elite racing brings. He also threw in a few shootout rides to work on pack skills, tactics, and the top end power. Mixed with adequate R&R amid my online courses, the past weeks of training have brought huge personal improvement, allowing me to routinely smash personal bests, and putting me in some of my best form to date. Houshang’s personalized training plan has allowed for me to develop my strengths and work on my weaknesses so that I am prepared as best as possible for the season ahead.

That being said, I’m looking forward to the remainder of my time in the sun! I’ve got a few more big days, and another run up to the top of Lemmon in my time down here, and I’m looking forward to replenishing a month’s worth of carbs with a cookie at the top! After that, it’s a couple weeks back to Saskatchewan for some recovery, and I guess we will see where the season ends up going! That being said, I’ve got to get my equipment ready and some rest before a big day tomorrow. 4:30 am wakeup call! (I’m going to need a lot of coffee!)

PS – To provide an update on the time between writing and editing this, after a stressful few days trying to get back into Canada, I’m back at my home in Saskatchewan in self isolation until 14 days have passed and I’m cleared to be back outside. Although the circumstances aren’t great I’m glad to be home with my family, and have been keeping motivated to train, using my spare time to work on the different areas that make a complete athlete such as mental training, core stability work, and stretching. I’m taking a couple weeks fairly easy to relax and keep the immune system going strong, and then transitioning to more intervals with some Zwift racing to keep the motivation high. I’m looking forward to taking this time to enjoy the ride and better myself. I’m also really looking forward to the new PCC Zwift group rides on Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:00 am to keep the riding going! There’s been lots to adapt to, but I’m glad to have a coach that is quick to adapt, and that I know I can trust to adjust my plan so I’m in the best place I can be whenever racing can resume in a safe manner!

Pacific Cycling Centre is offering athletes an opportunity to register for a Performance Training Camp in March which has an option to prepare and race the Aldergrove Long Road Race on March 29 in Langley, BC. The camp has two four-day options and a six-day option and runs from March 24 – 29 in Victoria, BC.

The camp led by PCC Head Coach Houshang Amiri, will have daily rides from two to five hours in duration with three afternoon track sessions. The rides will have hill climbs and sprinting and have a focus on technique and sharpening cycling skills. The camp will also include a training presentation.

Those wishing to do the Aldergrove RR can choose one of the camp options that includes race preparation, final tuning, an equipment check and nutrition strategy. The camp fee does not include the race registration.

All level of riders are welcomed from different cycling disciplines. Depending on the size of the camp riders will be divided into groups according to their level and ability.

Cost for the four-day camps are $495 + GST and for the six-day camp is $795 + GST

The deadline to apply is February 25.

Go to the Camps page for more information

PCC athlete Amiel Flett-Brown is competing at the World Cup Track Championships in Milton this weekend. He was selected after his solid performances at the Canadian Track Nationals. He has been training at Milton for the last four weeks in preparation for the Team Pursuit.

“As well as Team Pursuit, I’ve also been selected as Omnium spare, which came as a pretty cool surprise as I had not prepared or expected the role,” Amiel said.

“Having coached Amiel for the last two years he has shown his skill as a rider and can adapt to any situation,” said PCC Head Coach Houshang Amiri. “We wish a very best for Amiel and all his teammates”.

Luke Hubner on the podium. PCC photo

Five PCC athletes took part in the Western Challenge at the Harry Jerome Sports Centre over the weekend. Sanctioned by Cycling Canada, it was hosted by the Burnaby Velodrome Club.

Zoe Saccio and Micaiah Besler were in the elite races and on the first day they came 1st and second in the 500m TT. Aedan Cracker, Parker Swanstrom, Luke Hubner were in the U19 category with Luke winning the IP and Omnium racking up 183 points.

“It was a great weekend of racing and they all worked very hard,” said Head Coach Houshang Amiri.

PCC’s third off-season camp is set to go from January 30 – February 2. Based in Victoria, BC, the focus will be on building endurance and fitness in a vibrant, stimulating group training setting. The camp will identify athlete training targets for the 2020 season and the long rides will boost  aerobic capacity for cycling disciplines such as road, track, MTB and triathlon.

The four-day camp is led by PCC Head Coach Houshang Amiri, with daily rides from four-five hours in duration. The rides will include hill climbs and a time trial with a focus on technique and sharpening cycling skills. The camp will also include two training presentations.

All level of riders are welcomed from different cycling disciplines. Depending on the size of the camp riders will be divided into groups according to their level and ability.

Cost for the camp is $495 + GST. The deadline to apply is January 25.

Information and Registration Details