THE NICK BRUNO CHRONICLES
By Kenneth Lundgren
At the beginning of 2007, 18-year-old Nick Bruno was an unknown Cat-4. He had some success on the mountain-bike circuit, winning a few races in his age group, but he knew his love was the road. He didn?t really garner steady results in 2006, and when we started working together in the winter of 2006, his endurance was lagging, as was his leg strength. He bought a Polar 725x, joined Westwood Velo, and we started with the basics, and he steadily improved as the winter training progressed.
In the spring, Nick competed in a few March races, garnering average results but yearning for more. I was afraid he was going to start pulling the trigger prematurely, wanting to start training too hard and accelerate his training too fast.
Then Nick got injured. This injury, a major point of stress for him at the time, turned out to be a blessing. When he came back, as other riders were really beginning to ratchet up their training, we resumed with the more upper-end aerobic and sub-threshold work that is the cornerstone of the program, and for the early-May races he was starting to show serious promise, winning the High Point Uphill Time Trial in the Cat 4s (9th overall), 6th at the North Stonington Road Race, and then dominating the Hollenbeck Road Race (flatting at end, still managing to take 2nd). At his point in Build training, I knew when Nick was firing on all cylinders he was going to be scary?
By early-summer, after preparing solidly for months and making sure his body was absolutely ready, we began to peak. Nick?s legs reacted perfectly to the week of Crash Training we included in the early part of June, and I feel he peaked so well because we never rushed his training or deviated from our original plan, which was to be 100% for late-June. He was happy to have gotten results along the way, but now he felt like a different rider.
Nick powered the breakaway in the High Bridge Circuit Race, a very difficult course, then felt strong enough in the sprint to unleash a long, fast lead-out and finish 2nd.
We talked a lot about race tactics during his taper, and seven days later he crushed the competition on the final climb ? no more leadouts!? to WIN the Hills of Housatonic Road Race, one of New England?s monument road races.
But Fitchburg is what we wanted. His training had prepared him for the distances, the terrain. I had fit him on his road bike. We also slipped him into the Elite Endurance Wind Tunnel and put the clip-ons on to get him into an effective time-trial position. Nick likes to ride forward on the saddle, and his upper body is very flexible, so he is able to get into a very fast position on his road bike. When I fit him, I THOUGHT he was going to go fast?
Well, after the Time Trial at Fitchburg I get the call from Nick — he finished 2nd! On his road bike! With Ksyriums! We were super stoked. The TT was not our top strength ? I knew Nick had the legs to win the entire race. We just had to be smart and 100% aware?
The next day was the Circuit Race and Nick WON the uphill sprint to take 1st! Heh, that specific sprint work Nick was hating in February was paying off? I was smiling on the inside, knowing we could win the whole she-bang if we raced smart?
The third day was the Road Race and immediately a few riders took off from the line, huge gap. Nick had zero teammates in the peloton and did the smart thing, just waiting, watching. If he went with the initial suicide move, he could?ve cooked himself, then lost his GC if caught. Who would?ve thought the break would?ve stuck? Well, amazingly it did, and on the finishing climb, Nick launched himself, in search of victory. Nick was closing on them but ran out of pavement, taking 3rd on the day but falling to 3rd on GC. Still, he did all he could tactic and effort-wise.
The final day in the Criterium, Nick made it hell for the field, showing a true gladiator?s spirit. Can you imagine the strongest rider in the race trying to blow it apart, lap after lap? Nick attacked relentlessly, and he said it was his best day on the bike all year, just dropping hammers all over the place. Pop, pop, pop ? GLADIATOR SCHOOL is in session! He single-handedly tried to blow apart a very fast criterium, and although he was unable to overpower the large peloton, he still had enough gas in the tank to finish 5th, maintaining his GC position.
So Step #1 in the ATP was a major, major success. Housatonic and Fitchburg went as well as imagined. Our next step was to ensure success as he upgraded to Cat-3. Not only are the speeds faster, but the races are longer, much longer. However, we planned well for this before the upgrade, and after some rest Nick was back out there.
In mid-July, with full team support from Westwood Velo, Nick got into a large breakaway, powered by teammate Steve Goldman. And again, on the finishing climb, Nick was able to shoot away, driving to the finish with a rider from Blue Ribbon and easily beating him in the sprint. This race was the New York State Road Race Championships, and this week-old Cat-3 had just won it!
Nick?s immense success continued: 4th at Tokeneke Road Race, 4th at NY Capital Region Road Race, 5th at Park Ridge?s North Jersey Cycling Classic.
Then he pulled out the stops by the end of summer during his second peak, WINNING the Middletown Grand Prix and taking 2nd at both the Lehigh Valley Winery Criterium and the Denville Criterium.
Nick is an A+ climber, very light with long legs, just naturally fast, and we work very hard to ensure road race success, but his program also ensured he?d be ready for the crits, the time trials, as his palmares shows. On the bike, the kid is now lethal. I wanted to erase any weaknesses in his arsenal as we built and progressed his training, then aimed to absolutely strengthen his strength as we began to peak.
Nick?s power curve has a medium arc, which is very rare. My curve is very flat ? my 10m, 20m, and 30m power maxes are very similar. Another athlete I work with, Gavi Epstein of Sakonnet Technology, has a steep power curve. He can unload 500w for 2 minutes up the climbs (scary at 138 pounds!), terrifying anerobic threshold and V02 max power, but he can?t TT as well or unload a huge sprint. However, Nick can drop the climbers, can sprint with the sprinters, can time trial very well, can complete long road races, can rip the crits ? he seems to be the complete package.
Now a Cat-2, we shall see what 2008 brings. Nick is excited to be racing for Westwood Velo. He wants to show the team what he can do and what he can do for the team. He got 100% throttled at the Pro/1/2/3 Tour of Hilltowns last August, but he came back to take 9th at the fiercely-contested Pro/1/2/3 Basking Ridge Criterium, showing excellent resolve and bike-handling skills in nipping several elite sprinters at the line.
This winter, Nick is working hard to take a huge step forward to garner serious results at a top level in pursuit of becoming a professional athlete. Nick follows a strict periodized training program and is admirably focused no matter what he?s doing, whether it?s gym work, force sessions, long aerobic intervals, endurance rides. He makes sure to get himself 100% prepared to do battle for his peak weeks, to get his body and mind ready so he can race the big events at his maximum potential. There. Are. No. Shortcuts. To. Success.
We already have some spring races circled with a fat red marker, and he?s hoping to make the trip to Cali for Nationals? Some might think it?s crazy to target such a big race, but someone has to win the race, and there?s no reason why Nick can?t. When you reach, if you have the vision to reach far enough, you reach for the stars. If you are willing to do the necessary work, there is zero reason not to.
Stay tuned for what should be an interesting year of the Nick Bruno Chronicles?