Fast Talk, ep. 50: Unpacking the gospel of Joe Friel’s new ‘Training Bible’

Joe Friel published a new edition of the "Cyclists Training Bible," so we picked the brain of one of the most experienced coaches in the world.

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Hello and welcome to Fast Talk! I’m Chris Case, managing editor of VeloNews, joined by the apostle of speed, Coach Trevor Connor.

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Cycling can be a fickle sport. Coaches come and go; new, exciting, revolutionary ways of training take the sport by storm then grown stale; riders at the local training race who were once unbeatable age and fade from the front. Few things have permanence in this sport.

But there’s been one thing that has stood the test of time, that seems to have been there since most of us attempted our first interval workout: Joe Friel’s “Cyclist’s Training Bible.” For many of us, reading that book was our first step towards more dedicated training.

This spring Joe released his fifth, and hopefully not the last, edition of the book. Trevor and I had a chance to talk with Joe about the newest edition. We came to the interview with a list of questions that we felt only touched on the key parts of the book and by the hour mark we were barely a quarter of the way through our list. But what we did talk about was really compelling stuff. We touched on everything from periodization to energy systems, to Joe’s method of research…believe it or not, it has a lot to do with hundreds of 3”x5” note cards.

What is the central theme of this podcast? Perhaps we’ll just call it picking the brain of one of the most experienced cycling coaches in the world. Our varied topics included:

• How Joe’s philosophy to coaching has changed over the five editions of the book, and why with this most recent edition he decided to completely rewrite the book.
• How new technology has changed coaching and why Joe recommends a shift from volume-focused training to a training-stress focus
• What we mean by intensity and how both polarized and sweet spot training play in
• The three physiological assets that determine our level as cyclists — specifically aerobic capacity or VO2max, anaerobic threshold, and economy
• And finally, we touch on periodization. Joe was the one who brought periodization to cycling and unfortunately, we were barely able to scratch the surface on this fascinating subject. Hopefully, we can convince Joe to come back for an entire episode on the topic…

(In fact, there is plenty in the book we don’t even mention, but there’s a reason it’s called the Training Bible.)

In addition to Joe Friel, our guests include:

Frank Overton, the owner of FastCat coaching here in Boulder, CO. Frank has been a part of the history of cycling himself, helping in the early days when they were just figuring out the power-based metrics we now take for granted. But even Frank remembers The Cyclist’s Training Bible influencing him as a cat. 4 cyclist.

And we talked with LottoNL-Jumbo rider Sepp Kuss who gives a very modern pro perspective on periodization. It’s not the old school traditional periodization of a dedicated base period and race phase. We, unfortunately, ran out of time to talk with Joe about it, but one of the big changes in the latest edition of the book is an entire chapter on the various periodization alternatives.

Please forgive the quality of Coach Connor’s audio for this podcast. We recorded this podcast the day before Canadian Nationals when Trevor was up in Northern Quebec. The internet connection was not great. Nor was Trevor’s stress level.

So, with the power vested in me, Let’s make you fast!


(Joyner & Coyle, 2008; Lucia, Hoyos, & Chicharro, 2001; Santalla, Naranjo, & Terrados, 2009)

Joyner, M. J., & Coyle, E. F. (2008). Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions. J Physiol, 586(1), 35-44. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2007.143834
Lucia, A., Hoyos, J., & Chicharro, J. L. (2001). Physiology of professional road cycling. Sports Med, 31(5), 325-337.
Santalla, A., Naranjo, J., & Terrados, N. (2009). Muscle efficiency improves over time in world-class cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 41(5), 1096-1101. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318191c802

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