Diving into the 2023 season of a Cat 2 road and Elite gravel racer.

By Dave Harward  (Level 1 Elite Certified Coach)


My last article discussed the general approach to training for peaks in performance. It focused on planning out the structure for a season and executing the plan while maintaining a dynamic approach. Having a plan with targets helps to keep the coach and athlete on track and provides predictability of peaks in fitness, but life is more complicated than just train, rinse, repeat, so coach and athlete should be ready for interruptions.

This follow-up article will dive into a particular athlete’s efforts for the 2023 season, detailing some of the planning, execution, and analysis – plus some dynamic adjustments in response to an unexpected interruption – in his preparations for the season. He was on target for a successful goal race in July. In mid-June everything was on track, and he was racing very competitively in a gravel race when he crashed hard and was not able to finish due to his injuries.


Our athlete on profile is Jess Clapier, a strong up and coming road and gravel cyclist based in Salt Lake City. Jess is 29 years old, started cycling in 2020, and has been a lifelong athlete. He found motivation to race and was able to upgrade to Category 2 in August of 2022, even with the COVID pandemic hampering racing from 2020-21. At the end of the 2022 season, he set a goal to race as much as possible in 2023 and prepare to do what was required to upgrade to Category 1. 

Jess would classify himself as a climber, and I can verify he goes uphill quickly! He is a savvy competitor who has learned to drop heavy efforts when they will make the most for a top performance. He’s also a great teammate willing to contribute to the success of his team.

We will look at his training progression both from a workload view as well as from a perspective of dealing with fatigue and some changes in overall focus. Let’s start out with planning the season and move forward from there to execution, training for the demands of events and finally taking perspective and being dynamic by adapting to changing circumstances.


The first step to planning a season is putting together your event schedule. Many events occur on the same date every year, and in the past few years, many events have begun starting registration windows quite early. This makes it a bit easier to lay out your event plan.

The next step is placing priority on the events. For this purpose, the Annual Training Plan structure in Training Peaks provides a nice visual for a season:

This tool provides long-range architecture to help with planning week to week as well as providing a quick overview for analysis. It also allows for recalculation in the event of injury, event date change/cancellation, unexpected time off, etc. That flexibility is important, as this Annual Training Plan has gone through a few changes since it was initially put in place. 

Providing context helps us analyze with insight. The November through March section of the graph shows many weeks not hitting the hour targets, because – since he is based in Salt Lake City – JEss spends a fair amount of time on the trainer during those months. His structured workouts on the trainer are very efficient, so he can spend fewer hours on the trainer than he would on the road. This helps us shoot to avoid burnout since his weekly hours are significant.

We can also see a drop off in mid-June due to his crash in the Dirty Dino Gravel Grinder (he was on-track for a 3rd place in the Open Category). As you can imagine, this is where being dynamic is important, and it will be discussed in more detail later.


Jess came into his 2023 preparation with very strong fitness and high motivation to train for his lofty goals. As we built out the architecture for the season, I felt confident he could tolerate a high load of training. His schedule allows for it as does his physiology. Here is a view of his workload in 2022 and 2023:

A big topic I consider on an individual basis for each athlete is the Ramp Rate of training load, represented here by the blue line. As I mentioned, Jess can work with a high training load. We experimented with it conservatively in 2022, but you’ll notice a big increase in the slope of the blue line for the 2023 season. The plan for this year entailed going for a Category 1 upgrade and diving into some serious gravel racing at the elite level. To get there, we needed to fill the endurance account, so the training load reflected that direction.

Training load can build in many forms. An athlete can hammer out the miles for hours and hours and build up a big training load. They could also hit it super hard in shorter duration workouts with high intensity and build a similar workload graph. The key is to make sure we’re building the training load to reflect the demands of priority events.

Another aspect to be considered is the Power Duration Curve. This is a great graph for analysis as it defines peak power on down for a given timeframe. Take a look at Jess’s:


Note that I’m not giving away his numbers – that’s proprietary Clapier information.

Like I said above, he goes uphill very fast! This is interesting because it provides insight over a given timeframe where his peak power lies for a broad distribution of time. We always want that peak power number to be as high as possible, although in long endurance efforts, everything above 30 minutes is very meaningful. Let’s take the Power Duration Curve to another level!

This graph breaks down the Power Duration Curve in relationship to fatigue. It looks at the changes from peak power over time to peak power at increasing kiloJoules/kg. As the duration of an effort goes out, this graph takes into account the intensity of the effort creating a curve on increasing 10kJ/kg efforts.

The light blue line reflects peak power along the duration curve after Jess has expended 50kJ/kg. It is lower than when he is fresh and dips further as the duration increases. This can be a predictive tool for event efforts to understand expected power at a given point. However, we can’t just have a spreadsheet posted on his stem, and in his current choice of events there isn’t a team car following behind giving him the play-by-play of kJ created and what he should expect from a peak power output.

During training we shoot for workouts that push his limits further. You can see this in his 2022 graph below in comparison with the 2023 graph above. His training deepened the capacity for higher power after 30kJ/kg along the entire Power Duration Curve, ranging from 6% to 25% increases from 2022 to 2023. The biggest increases are in his one-minute power and lower duration after high kJs, showing that he can punch out more surge/attack-type power when highly fatigued.

The workouts that push things deeper overall focus on pushing his capability at high tempo, 83-90% of Functional Threshold Power (FTP), to low threshold, 90-95% of FTP. Jess can repeat this level of intensity more frequently in order to push the physiological adaptations.


Jess’s interest changed this year, partly due to availability of races. He loves climbing and had dropped a lot of eggs into preparing for the Tour of the Gila Category 1-2 race, targeting a top finish for Category 1 upgrade points. When that race tanked, he refocused and decided to target gravel races with big climbs. Building the plan around an ability to push harder for longer relates well to the gravel racing world, and we didn’t need to make a big adjustment to his overall focus since both race styles are big climbs over many hours. 


Regardless of our current athletic status, rest and recovery come into play. For many of us, work and family need accounting for. From time-to-time, injury rears its ugly head. Jess encountered a combination of all of these throughout this season. Most dramatically was a violent crash that ended his near-ideal race at the Dirty Dino Gravel Grinder in June. Take another look at his 2023 season build through April:

Gila would have been on his schedule. Mix in some family demands with a big race off the calendar and his volume went down a bit, although we stayed focused on the intensity to keep him as race-ready as possible. We really felt good going into Dirty Dino in mid-June as a final tune up for Crusher in the Tushar, which was three weeks later. Look above and you’ll see a big drop off in the pink line on the graph. His crash was significant enough that he was off the bike with several injuries including a very severe concussion. Crusher quickly dropped off the calendar. 

To Jess’s credit and athletic maturity – along with awesome family support – he took all of this in stride and recovered hard. Being dynamic and taking perspective on the situation kept him in the game for what he had left in 2023.

After four weeks, he was cleared by his concussion medical network to go ahead and return to structured training and racing if he desired. Six weeks after his crash at Dirty Dino, he competed in a 150-mile race where he made the final selection of five and was able to contribute to a teammate winning the day. While his Power Duration Curve was lower during this race, it did look very similar in slope showing that his fitness can make a strong return.

Jess has another local road race on tap for the season, and we expect it to go well. After that, he plans a week of KOM chasing and then a long family vacation to round out the 2023 season a bit early. He still has the opportunity for some other events, although he’ll be taking those on for fun. He is also excited to get to planning out a structure for the 2024 season.

The 2024 season will be a strong one for Jess. It’s a big bonus to take the data from his progression in 2023 to set the tone for 2024 preparation. There will always be interruptions, however Having a plan with intention will assist with navigating interruptions as they arise. Even while we’re executing that plan, we can continually analyze and modify as needed to remain on a successful path, regardless of what life or racing throws at us.

Dave Harward is the owner and head coach at PLAN7 Endurance Coaching, founded in 2006. He has been a USA Cycling Certified Coach since 2006 and became a Level 1 Elite Certified Coach in 2010 as well as a USA Cycling Certified MTB Coach. He is also certified in Power-Based Training through the Hunter Allen Peaks Coaching Group. His extensive racing background of over 30 years crosses through MTB, CX, road, and gravel with numerous Category 1 state championships and a Category 1 Bronze Medal at the 2012 USA Cycling MTB National Championship. Dave was cofounder of the Utah High School Cycling League after extensive work in 2011 developing the league structure. He is always looking for ways to improve inclusivity in the cycling community and loves coaching athletes with a focus on integrating athlete goals and time constraints to build a successful training plan.

Contact at dave@plan7coaching.com

August 29, 2023 — First Endurance
Tags: coaching


john said:

This was a great article to read as I am on the rebound myself dealing with arthritis in my lower back. I've undergone medical procedures to mitigate the pain which became acute back in January of this year. It's encouraging to hear how Jess rallied to stay in the game after his concussion and crash. He and his coach and FE offered a little more inspiration for me to resume training for health and target events in 2024. Thank you for posting this article!

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