Powerful Performances & Podium Placings In His Opening Criterium Races: 4-Questions With Fred Archambault
For cyclists new to racing, Category 5 (the entry-level classification where every rider starts their career) is almost entirely focused-on gaining racing experience and “learning the ropes”, so to speak.
But Fred Archambault is bucking that trend and finding success early in his racing career, having scored two podium places in his first three events!
What is the root of this success?
How is Fred doing it?
We’ll let him explain!
Following his two-podium performances (and a third just after this interview was penned), we caught up with Fred to talk about his racing successes and love for cycling in this weeks BWC Athlete Profile. Enjoy!
Despite a fast and technical course, Fred was confident and started his sprint early, earning him 2nd place at the Redlands Classic Category 5 Criterium. Photo Credit: Amy Archambault
Primary Sport/Discipline: Road Cycling/MTB Fun
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 10-12hrs
Upcoming Goals: Summer Criterium’s & Fall Gran Fondo’s
Question #1: Congratulations on earning 2nd place in only your second race ever, Fred! How did the finish play out and how did you get second?
Fred Archambault:Thank you, taking the second spot on the podium at the Redlands Classic Cat-5 criterium was an awesome outcome and I couldn’t be more stoked about it!
From my memory and looking at the GoPro footage from the race, I feel my podium finish was due to being disciplined, finding good wheels, taking corners in a smart manner, and saving my biggest efforts for the final three-laps of the race.
Out on course, I had to be disciplined to not get wrapped-up with the guys putting-in early attacks and hammering-away prematurely in order to preserve my energy. I had to be confident that these attacks would get quickly neutralized by others in the peloton.
Throughout the race I was always on the hunt for a good wheel to ride and working to stay in the top third of the group.
Coach Brian’s saying that the, “power is in the peloton” is tattooed in my brain and was key to achieving success in this race, and I’m sure future races.
Reading other rider’s body language is a huge factor in finding a great wheel.
I would ask myself, is this person in their drops and working? Are they keeping their head up and forward on the race ahead of us? Are they holding their line and leaving no gaps?
That was some of the quick checklist items going on in my mind as I was looking for the right wheels.
Taking the corners at race-pace has been my biggest challenge. Coach Brian and I have talked about making the most of every turn and how to approach them with the end result being the fastest speed with the least effort.
Coaches Perspective/Coach Brian: I am so proud of Fred, although I must admit, his success is not unexpected, as he has been working diligently on his fitness and technical skills for criterium racing.
What was most exciting for me was strategizing with Fred before the race and “debriefing” afterward to talk through what went well, what Fred was thinking/observing/feeing during the race, and then offering feedback to help him make improvements for his next outing.
As a bonus, Fred made the commitment and has invested the time to create GoPro video footage of his races.
So after each race we have gone over the video to dissect tactics, discuss strategy, and work through any items that can help Fred improve as rapidly as possible.
It’s wonderful that Fred takes the extra time to study race footage and prepare himself mentally, in addition to his weekly workout routine.
Its not hard to see that this habit is helping him improve rapidly!
A podium place in only his second race start is a great result! Photo Credit: Amy Archambault
Question #2: As a new racer, criterium racing can be intimidating, yet you are finding success straight-away. Can you offer some advice to Athletes that want to get into racing?
FA:I think the most important part is to experience it for yourself and not get discouraged by other people’s past experience or non-experience.
Being intimidated is allowing fear to dictate that you are not worthy of being in the moment.
But look at intimidation as a positive force forward, let that fear focus your effort 110%.
At the end of the day everyone lining up has the same fears, regardless of how cool they look or how expensive their bike may be.
The same skill-sets developed and used on your local group rides and Gran Fondos apply to crit racing.
Always be a “heads-up”rider. I feel like I cannot stress that enough!
I have seen so many pile-ups in Fondos where people are starring down at their bike computers and not concentrating on the road in front of them.
As Coach B says, the race is in front of you, not behind you or on the sides, keep that head-up and focused forward!
Protect your wheel and cover your bars. Develop the confidence to be calm riding very close to others and know its okay to have a little contact. It’s not a big deal, that notion alone will help you protect your space in the peloton.
Do your best to NEVER overlap wheels, chances are the rider in front of you has no clue you are in their blind spot.
Ride predictably and be the predictable rider in the peloton. No sudden lateral movements and no sudden grabbing of the brakes.
Try your best to flow with the lines of the race!
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, make it fun and have fun!
Be cool to the other riders and race volunteers. We are waking up at 4:00 in the morning to travel to these races and wear god-awful outfits to ride bikes fast…
If its not fun then perhaps there are other ways to fill our days.
To borrow from an old punk-rock ethos “P.M.A.” Positive Mental Attitude…always!
Coach Brian: I love it, what a thorough answer!
Fred covered so much here and his perspective is spot-on.
So much misinformation exists about the competitive side of the sport and that is best demystified by experiencing it for yourself.
Being a “student of the game”, continually learning and improving, not to mention seeking advice from the experienced riders you want emulate is a great way to overcome any fear associated with racing.
What’s more, there is nothing quite like the speed, dynamics, and thrill of a peloton of cyclists.
It’s something that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated!
Racing is a new endeavor for Fred and he is thankful to have the support of his wife Amy who rides with him at least once a week! Photo Credit: Fred Archambault
Question #3: What is one of your biggest cycling objectives this season and what events are you most excited about?
FA:My biggest cycling objective is to continue exploring the sport and culture of cycling.
Establishing this high-level of fitness so late in my life, I have found cycling to be an undiscovered world and am really enjoying everything that is unfolding with each mile!
To be more specific, my goal is to work through my Cat 5 races safely and enter the next phase of bike racing.
As I get into Cat 4 I am really excited to be able to race with teammates and hope it will bring another dynamic to my cycling experience.
I should say, there are so many events that I am excited for this season!
We have the Chuck Pontius Criterium in June, it’s my hometown race, plus there is our local Gran Fondo in the Fall, among other events that I am excited about.
Also, I plan on making a trip to visit family in North Carolina and want to race while I am there.
But most importantly, I am very excited about my cyclo-vacation with my wife, Amy.
We plan on riding bikes for a week in Austria, starting in Vienna and riding along the river to Salzburg.
I can only hope we get lost along the way and enjoy the awesome countryside!
It will be great to not have a heart rate monitor, no power-meters, no wahoo...
Although, I might need a map, so I’ll bring that!
Coach Brian: I like to tell my Athletes that there is a big beautiful world of cycling out there and it is one of my biggest joys to help them make the most of it and navigate it successfully.
For Fred, I am so excited that he is enjoying the full spectrum of cycling events.
Together we have worked to prepare for endurance MTB events, criterium races, and Gran Fondos.
Among all of this we still make sure to prioritize “Sunday-Funday” rides with his lovely wife, Amy. We also work to squeeze in bouts of strength-training as it is not ‘all about the bike’ for Fred.
I am very excited to see where this season takes Fred and continue to “debrief” with him along the way so he can improve, not just physically, but tactically.
I say this because it is equally important to emphasize “how” we ride our bicycles as how powerfully we ride them!
After his Redlands Classic success, Fred visited the podium the very next week at the Victorville criterium. Photo Credit: Amy Archambault
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.
FA: My favorite days are Mondays...it’s a great day to hit ‘reset’ and focus on the week ahead.
Usually on those days I have a gym workout followed by a recovery spin. For some reason it just feels like the best way to reflect on the past weeks training and set new goals for the upcoming week.
For most of us, coming out of the weekend we are toast from either racing or putting in long efforts, so its great to keep the momentum going but not burn yourself out with a specific workout.
In many ways the biggest gains and insight to training since working with BWC has been understanding the “less is more” strategy.
We know that recovery days, yoga, and stretching are super-beneficial to our growth as cyclists. And I file those under “less is more” actions.
But it also applies to how we approach race strategy.
The more energy we can conserve in a race scenario by putting out less of our own and taking advantage of wind, course conditions and the draft of our competitors, the more we will have in the tank for the efforts that count the most!
And of course my favorite one-liner knowledge bomb: ”The power is in the peloton”!
Coach Brian: Cycling culture has long embraced recovery as a means to gain maximum training adaptation, but something that I find of ‘extra’ value for our Athletes is blending Active Recovery in the physical sense, with an emotional component through meditation and/or yoga.
As Athletes we are high-output, driven folks, so just as our bodies need recovery and reset, so do our minds.
By incorporating this into weekly training, it keeps us fresh and focused on the goals that inspire and challenge us!
As the saying goes, “fatigue makes cowards of us all”.
To me, that wisdom can be applied to the grind of day-after-day training.
Without a recharge and rejuvenation period, it is impossible to ‘press-on’ and strive for improvement.
By embracing our humanity and not pretending to be robots capable of endless work, we actually speed our development and improve our chances of obtaining success.
As for Fred’s “knowledge-bomb”… always remember, the power is in the peloton, collaboration is key, and collectively we achieve more.
We must respect the power of the group, always!
"Have fun always" is one of Fred's favorite sayings, and it shows on the bike and off!Photo Credit: Fred Archambault
We hope you have enjoyed reading about Fred Archambault’s criterium success and are as excited about his achievements as we are!
With good preparation, attention to detail, and an openness to learn, Fred is garnering success at a rapid pace, which is incredibly exciting and rewarding to see.
That same success is available to each us, regardless of our starting point.
At Big Wheel Coaching we believe achieving your very best cycling prowess is akin to following a great recipe.
By collecting quality ingredients (good training, equipment, & experience), learning the process of how to mix them (i.e. the do’s and don’ts of training), and adding your own individual spice (developing your own special skills and abilities) you are a sure to create a memorable meal or achieve athletic success!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
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