The Malibu Gran Fondo is a premier early-season cycling experience that draws riders from all over the country, most of which are looking to escape winter weather in favor of the California sunshine!
One such rider, Keith Wipprecht, hails from Ohio, which at race time was still battling the clutches of a frigid winter.
Since 2016 Keith has made the Malibu Gran Fondo his season-opening event and this year he arrived with his best fitness to date!
Armed with the confidence of an offseason of specific workouts, not to mention some virtual training tools to enhance his preparation, Keith tenaciously took-on the brutally tough course of this years MGF.
And what was the result?
After finishing the Malibu Gran Fondo with a spectacular win in his age-category and an impressive 13th overall out of all competitors, Keith is understandably more than excited about his accomplishment!
Following his MGF success we caught up with Keith for this weeks Athlete Profile to learn more about his preparation for the event in a four-question interview. Enjoy!
The peloton of the Malibu Gran Fondo heads covered many of the fabled climbs in the Santa Monica Mountain Range of Californias coast. Photo Credit: Malibu Gran Fondo
Primary Sport/Discipline: Road Cycling
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 10-14hrs
Upcoming Goals: Explore Corsica by Le Tour de France
Question #1: Congratulations on an excellent performance at the Malibu Gran Fondo, Keith! You finished 1st in your age group and 13th overall, what was the highlight of the event for you?
Keith Wipprecht: Hey, thanks very much!
With the Malibu Gran Fondo being held so early in the season I was really happy with my performance over the two-day event.
The format of the event is fantastic because it combines a 95-mile Gran Fondo on Saturday with 5,500’ of climbing followed by a 20Km individual time-trial along the Pacific Coast Highway on Sunday.
It’s a memorable event, as I first met Coach Joy there 2-years ago and started my structured training program with BWC right after that.
The highlight of the event for me, aside from taking 1st place in my age group, was really being able to see the dramatic improvement the last two-years of structured coaching has had on my fitness and performance.
I felt much more comfortable on the short punchy climbs, which helped me maintain my position in the peloton. Additionally, my improved fitness allowed me to conserve more energy in the first 3-hours of the race before having to ascend Latigo Canyon (a very steep climb) at the end of the race.
During Sunday’s time-trial the goal was to keep my Average Power and Normalized Power as close as possible throughout the ride and I was able to achieve that, which was great!
Coaches Perspective/Coach Joy: I was very excited for Keith to go back to the Malibu Gran Fondo to test his fitness and freshly honed race savvy, as I know it’s an event he really enjoys.
Since that first MGF, Keith has been diligent about developing all aspects of his cycling, so having an early-season event like Malibu on the calendar gave him the chance to put his fitness, pacing, and tactics “to the test”!
We were confident he would have a solid performance, but finishing in the top 15 overall, along with winning his age group was really exciting!
No doubt, this result was a testament to his commitment to training and his continued focus on preparation.
Top the winner go the spoils! Keith was very excited to win his age-category amongst so many talented racers. Photo Credit: Keith Wipprecht
Question #2: Most of your preparation for the Malibu Gran Fondo took place on an indoor trainer, yet the MGF is known for having a large amount of sustained climbing. How did you use indoor workouts to prepare for this monumental challenge?
KW:This has been a particularly challenging winter with colder than expected temperatures and nasty road conditions for cycling, which has required me to train indoors more than in years’ past.
I should also say, I never really took a break from training after last season ended, so I took my training straight indoors on my Smart Trainer in December.
The duration of each of my training sessions is now shorter, but I balanced the missing workload with a combination of high-intensity intervals Coach Joy designed for me with the Rouvy Virtual Training software to ride real cycling routes with substantial climbing in them.
The combination of a Smart Trainer with the Rouvy VT software has been a total game changer for me.
This set-up allows me to ride big climbs that I would otherwise not have access to because the area I live in is devoid of mountains.
Often I would choose HC categorized climbs in the French Alps because they include 60-90 minutes of continuous climbing.
This prepared me really well for the last big climb at the Malibu Gran Fondo, up Latigo Canyon, which comes at the very end of the race.
Coach Joy: The variety that the virtual training world provides nowadays is pretty awesome.
Since Keith is an Ohio native, his two major challenges when preparing for an early season event like the Malibu Gran Fondo are the severe winter weather and the lack of substantial climbing around his area.
By utilizing indoor training and blending structured interval work with the Rouvy Virtual Training, Keith has started his season better than ever!
I have been very impressed with how much fitness, and form, Keith has built throughout the winter by maintaining his commitment to ride indoors.
Keith has ridden many marquee events around the world, but always does the Malibu Gran Fondo as his 'season opener'. Photo Credit: Keith Wipprecht
Question #3: What is one of your biggest cycling objectives for this season and what events are you most excited about?
KW:This year I am focusing on doing more Stage Races with the objective of placing high in my age category, plus I want to get into the top 10% of overall finishers at every event I do!
One event that I am really excited about is Explore Corsica by Le Tour de France!
This is a spectacular 3-stage race that takes place on the beautiful Mediterranean island of Corsica in June.
Each stage has a combination of timed KOMs and sprint segments that are used to determine the Yellow, Polka-Dot, and Green jerseys, as well as age category classifications for each day.
The Tour de France organization runs the event and simulates the same atmosphere as they do with A.S.O. professional races.
Having done the event last year, I must say that it is amazing to race in a foreign country with an international field of competitors!
Last year Cadel Evans and Frank Schleck were the ambassadors for the event and I got to ride with both of them, which was super cool!
Coach Joy: Keith competed at the Corsica event last year and did a stellar ride considering the rugged terrain and multi-day format.
Although he has completed a number of multi-day tours, Corsica 2017 was his first official multi-day race.
The best news was that he got stronger with each stage! Now with his improved fitness, he is going back with bigger ambitions, which is great.
With the potent indoor training he has been doing, along with winter beginning to subside, I am confident he will be ready for a stellar performance at Corsica this year.
Keith has several big events during the ‘run-up’ to Corsica, which will offer an opportunity to fine-tune his tactics, strategies, fueling, and pacing to make sure he has the best performance possible in June!
Corsica 2018 is already on Keith's mind, not just for the amazing views, but because he has big aspirations for his cycling performance! Photo Credit: Keith Wipprecht
Question #4: What is/are your favorite workout(s) in your training program? Also, please share a ‘knowledge-bomb’ you have learned while training with BWC.
KW:My favorite workouts are the Attack and Bridge or Under/Over style workouts because I find them super challenging and sometimes I question whether I can maintain the wattages prescribed by Coach Joy!
When I complete these workouts, I feel I’ve accomplished something really significant!
I have learned many things over the last 2-years while training with BWC, but one of the most important lessons I learned, albeit sometimes the hard way, is to identify who my “peers” are in the peloton during a race and stay with them.
I have a tendency to want to ‘bridge-up’ to the front group and hang-out with the fastest riders, but more often than not I eventually get dropped and left in “no man’s land”, by myself to suffer in the wind.
It’s mentally tough to concede your fitness does not meld with a faster group you really want to ride with, but from a race tactics point of view it is smarter to stay with a groupetto of your peers so you can finish strong!
Coach Joy: Keith really enjoys making each moment on the bike count!
Since he had minimal erosion to his base-fitness over the winter, we were able to add more focused workouts earlier this season. This ensured he was ready for the attacks and surges that were sure to plague the peloton along PCH during the Malibu Gran Fondo.
I am glad that Keith has been open to learning new ways of riding with large and diverse pelotons. Although it can be a hard lesson to learn, sometimes the best group for us (on the road), is actually behind us.
By ‘sitting-up’ and joining a more sustainably-paced group of riders, Keith has found he is using less energy and burning fewer ‘matches’ during Gran Fondos and race events.
This has allowed him to be more fresh for the finale, where he has repeatedly had ‘Personal Best’ performances.
As he has become more confident riding within these pelotons and better at conserving energy for the bigger climbs, Keith has continued to progress, find success, and finish strong!
Keith's body-language says it all, he is living his dream, testing his fitness at the most challenging events he can all over the world!Photo Credit: Keith Wipprecht
We hope you have enjoyed reading about Keith Wipprecht’s Malibu Gran Fondo success as much as we have enjoyed sharing it!
Through Keith’s accomplishments we can see that “how” an Athlete rides an event, not to mention how specifically they prepare for it, can make a major impact on their performance.
What’s more, we see how the sport of cycling is quite complex, as it has taken two-years of diligent work for Keith to put all the necessary pieces together to start his season so successfully.
And that’s why Big Wheel Coaching exists!
We love coaching, teaching, and supporting our Athletes to see them earn break-through performances, not just at their goal event, but all season long!
Great job Keith, we are proud of you, buddy!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching