With the opening round of the 2016 Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals presented by Motovan just days away, the riders and teams have completed all of their preparation and now it’s time to sit and wait for the racing to begin. To get a unique perspective on what exactly the riders are going through this week, we reached out to renowned Canadian trainer Todd Schumlick. Over the past 15 years, Todd has trained riders such as JSR, Blair Morgan and Colton Facciotti (just to name a few). These days, Todd is heavily involved in training athletes in the downhill mountain bike world, but he still finds time to follow what is going on in Canadian Motocross and he’s very excited about the race this weekend in Kamloops.
MXP: Hey Todd, you’ve become quite the world traveler over the past few months. Can you tell us about your travels?
Todd: Yeah, it’s been a busy couple years! As you may know, besides training (with physical fitness, nutrition, and mental) thirteen professional downhill and enduro mountain bike athletes, I am also owner/manager of the Norco Factory Racing mountain bike team. This year’s schedule has been a bit fuller, as we started off with our team camp in New Zealand through February/March, then we had two Enduro World Series events in Chile and Argentina, followed by World Cup Downhill events in France and Australia. I’ve been home for a couple weeks, but I leave today for a World Cup Downhill in Scotland, followed by Austria, France, and Switzerland. At that point, we’ll have just passed the halfway mark in the season. So yes, we log some air miles!
In recent years you’ve moved away from moto and have gotten into training mountain bike riders. How has that been going?
It’s been good. Hopefully this doesn’t come out wrong, but with my motocross training, my athletes were typically CMRC competitors. Like many of the athletes, it’s often the goal to be at the pinnacle of the sport. For moto, that’s AMA. Years ago, I knew if I was going to work at that level (AMA athletes), I would need to relocate to the US full time. That just didn’t appeal to me. I have spent nearly 26 years in the mountains of Western Canada, half that time in Canmore/Banff and half now in Pemberton/Whistler. Both have allowed me to have the lifestyle that I won’t compromise, whereas with the mountain bike training, I am fortunate to be assisting World Cup and Enduro World Series athletes, which is the pinnacle level of the sports. I am also located in a prime area (Pemberton/Whistler) for the sport. I’ve also wanted to see a bit more of the world and take on some new challenges. It also doesn’t hurt when you have some success. Over the past five years, I have assisted athletes through three World Cup Downhill Series championships and one Enduro World Series championship. Currently, two of my athletes are also the points leaders in both series. So yes, things have been good!
How do the athletes in mountain biking and motocross stack up against each other?
As with any sport, each athlete’s fitness is specialized or adapted to their sport, both physically and mentally. So it’s really hard to compare one athlete’s fitness to another. It would be like comparing a marathon runner to a 100 metre sprinter. Both run, yet neither could be defined as “fitter.” They would both have different demands. I would say that motocross and downhill/enduro mountain bike athletes have some very closely related physical and mental demands, though. My years of motocross training definitely helped me adapt to the downhill/enduro training. There was much that carried over. So to answer your question, I would say the top riders in both motocross and downhill/enduro are phenomenal athletes; each is very specialized at their craft.
Over the last 20 years, who are some of the motocross riders that you’ve worked with?
Wow, there have been quite a few! I won’t name them all but a short list would include; Blair Morgan (10+ years), Jean-Sebastian Roy (8+ years), Doug DeHaan (6+ years), Heidi Cooke, Sean Hamblin, Marco Dube, Dean Wilson, Kyle Beaton, Brock Hoyer, Kris Foster, Brett Turcotte, Kyle Murphy, Jeff Gibson, Cole Siebler, Mitch Cooke, Jolene Van Vugt, Jessica Foster, Kyle McGlynn, Colton Facciotti (7 years), Shawn Maffenbeier (7 years), Trae Franklin, Denaye Giroux, Brian Wojnarowski (7 years, and I still assist), Danny Mathe, Tyler Medaglia, Dusty Klatt, Keylan Meston, and many more. Sorry for those I missed!
Even though all of these riders are different, do you find that they share many of the same qualities?
Yes, there are definitely similarities/qualities. I could easily do multiple paragraphs on this topic. My 27-plus-years of experience (at this job) has taught me fairly well. You see most is installed at a young age, which I believe develops behaviour. As they say, we are a product of our environment. From that, there are other influences and choices athletes/people make that send them on their path. Some of those qualities include the 4 Ds: determination, dedication, discipline, and maybe most importantly, desire. There’s also commitment, intelligence, and organization/planning. As I look at the list of athletes I have worked with above, I see where many of those qualities are similar in each of them. But that can be said about everyone, including non-athletes.
Years ago you were on the cutting edge if you owned a heart rate monitor. What are a few of the key training tools these days?
For motocross, I hear Aldon Baker uses GPS oriented equipment to monitor/test his riders’ physical efforts and on-bike performance. I used similar equipment with Shawn (Maffenbeier) in the past. For downhill/enduro mountain bike, I use equipment that tests pedal wattage (basically a human dyno), on-bike output tests, rower tests, and a few other ‘secrets’ to test the athlete’s physical and mental output. We also use GPS oriented timing and telemetry equipment to test riding and equipment performance.
What do you see as the next big breakthrough in training?
For me, it would be working with parents of athletes at a young age. Not necessarily advising them on how to raise their children, but providing insight and guidance on developing the best/healthiest environment for an athlete to achieve their highest potential. Again, helping develop a better understanding of behaviour. Otherwise, I would love to develop sports-specific equipment that could be used to test athletes physically in both motocross and downhill/enduro. As they say, numbers don’t lie!
Okay, so as you know the Nationals begin this weekend in Kamloops. Obviously all of the work has been done as far as training and testing goes. What would you be advising your riders to do between now and the opening round?
Hold steady. Generally, nothing you do between now and then (Kamloops National) is going to make a big difference in improving your performance. But, there could be a lot of things you could do between now and then that could hurt your performance. If you have done the work, then let that take over. Think of how you land an airplane, nothing erratic in those last few minutes/seconds before you touch down. Trust your plan.
During a race day, a rider is obviously burning a lot of calories and energy. What types of things can they do to prevent dehydration and exhaustion?
You might be surprised by how little of calories you require for motocross. It’s more about the nutrition throughout the year. There are some “tricks” to upping your energy levels for events, but in my years of doing this and experimentation, there’s no big secret. My tips would include: 1. Learn and follow a healthy diet throughout the season. 2. Eat slightly more the day prior to your race and consume slightly less (snack) on the day of the race. 3. For hydration, consume 2+ litres of water daily throughout the week of a race, and try using a quality sports hydration product (Hammer Heed, Endurox, etc.) the day of the event as a ‘topper’ (follow product instructions). Obviously, if the weather is warmer, then one will need to increase water consumption accordingly.
For a top rider like Colton who has to travel during the week to races, what would his schedule be after Kamloops during the week?
Hours of X-Box. Ha! Colt will love that. If the athletes have done their work in the off-season, then an athlete can continue their training during the race season. It would be modified accordingly, and be geared towards maintenance and recovery. Typically I interact with my athletes during the race season, and together we typically develop their training around their current needs. This could include therapy, additional conditioning, strength, cardio, and/or maintenance/recovery. It’s a moving target sort of speak.
In talking about Colton, obviously he is very fit and motivated to win, but what else amazes you about him?
Amazes me? Nothing. Ha! I love taking a p*ss out of Colt. Honestly, it’s his motivation. He is one of the most competitive individuals I’ve ever assisted, much like Blair and JSR were. I always say Colt has this very passive/aggressive personality. He is typically very calm and relaxed before the helmet goes on, but then has the ability to go within himself and find incredible focus and determination when the time requires. He also has a healthy ego, in my opinion. You will rarely see Colt concern himself about what others are doing. He typically focuses on comparing himself to himself.
I’m not sure if you’re following the sport closely these days, but our young riders are faster and better trained than ever before. How old do you think is a good age to begin training and what type of training would you suggest?
I would say that is determined more by maturity and attitude. It’s hard to put an age on it. I am currently assisting a downhill athlete (17-year-old Finn Iles) who could win the World Cup Downhill Series championship (he’s currently 2nd in standings) in his first year as a Junior (18 and under). He and I started when he was 14-years-old. So I would say that some training guidance could start by the age of 12 – 15.
What are some of the mistakes athletes tend to make with their training?
Oh boy, that’s hard to say. Probably not developing a proper strength and cardiovascular foundation to work from. Maybe the wrong use of training tools (gym, bicycles, running, rowing, yoga, pilates, etc.). I also see a lot of time being spent performing tasks or drills (balancing on balls, juggling, etc.) that do not make sense to me on a sports science and development level. They might be fun to perform, but I believe there’s places one could put their time and energy that would produce better on-bike performance. Lastly, it would probably be a better understanding of quality vs. quantity. It’s taken me almost thirty years to learn this, and I’m still learning!
Steve Smith passed away a few weeks in a tragic accident. Can you talk about the legacy that Steve has left behind?
Yeah, it took many of us off guard. Not to sound insensitive, but it comes with the territory. To achieve the levels of performance he achieved, he had to push the limits. I worked with Stevie for five years, and in our last year together (2013), he won the World Cup Downhill Series championship. That was amazing to be involved in. He taught me as much as I taught him. Maybe more. He will be missed, but he will also be an inspiration to me and many others through our entire lives. So that’s pretty damn awesome.
Final question for you, who wins the 2016 MX2 and MX1 titles this summer?
Man, Dylan Kaelin and I were just talking about this a few weeks ago on our mountain bike ride. He’s been filling me in with the goods. Same with James Lissimore. I have to go with my bros: Colt for MX1, and Shawn (Maffenbeier) for MX2. But, all the best to all the athletes. May the best man win! Thanks Chris! It’s been fun!