Data Driven Athlete coach Sam Bassetti spent the past year racing for the Herbalife 24 Marc Pro-Natures Bakery Elite Cycling Team.  His 2017 season was his best year of racing to date.  DDA coach Matt Chatlaong sat down with Sam to find out what changes led to his success.

Best Results of the Year

Q- So, one might say that you’ve experienced a lot of successes in racing this past season. UCI wins, podiums, and an impressive list of results in some of the hardest races in North America. Tell us a bit about that! The list is long, but what are 3 of your best results and why?

A-This season was easily my best ever, almost every race I started is represented in some way with a result, but there are a few that stick out.  Poyang lake was my final race of the season and sort of a culmination of all the work I put in throughout the season. I won three stages, was top 5 on two stages and wore the leaders jersey for a day.

These results are special simply because I was actually winning races, my teammates were also really committed to helping me, and it felt awesome to pay back their work with wins. I have been top 5-10 so many times in these types of races, but here I was finally able to break through on to the top step.

Tour de Poyang Lake, China: Stage Two

Sam takes the sprint finish on Stage 2 of the Tour de Poyang Lake in China
Sam averaged 750w for the final 1 minute of stage two, bringing his speed up to 43mph before crossing the line with the win. Click for full detail – Nate

Tour de Poyang Lake, China: Stage Eight

Sam takes the field sprint in Stage 8

Tour de Poyang Lake, China: Stage Eleven

Sam takes the last k solo to win the final stage of the Tour de Poyang Lake in China
After following the final moves, Sam attacks solo to take the last k to the line. Click for full detail – Nate

A- My top ten on the final stage of Redlands was easily my best ride of the year that did not end in a top result. In my opinion, the Sunset loop is the hardest day of domestic racing that almost any type or rider can still win, and a lot of people use the stage as litmus test for a riders ability.

If I could win one race next year, it would be this one. This year was especially challenging with sub 50 deg rain and hail whittling the group down to less than 15 riders. The riders in that group were some of the best in the country, and I was very happy to be among them.

I’ll cheat on this last one and say that my wins at Copperopolis, Pescadero and Cat’s hill are third on my list. Copperopolis and Cat’s Hill have been on my bucket list for a long time, they are probably my favorite NCNCA road race and crit.

I also won both of these races completely off the backs of my teammates, which is a really fun way to win. DDA coach Matt Chatt lead me out at Cat’s Hill, and everyone who was at Copperopolis was so aggressive that I ended up having a free ride most of the day.

Pescadero Road Race, CA

Sam on the top step at Pescadero
4 times up the legendary Haskins Hill climb. Click for full detail – Nate
Rolling into the final climb up Haskins with one other, Sam spins furiously to respond to a few attacks before out kicking his partner to the line. Click for full detail – Nate

Cats Hill Classic – Los Gatos, CA

Sam grabs another NorCal classic at Cats Hill
Sam punches 1500w to launch his race winning attack and take the win at the Cats Hill Classic. Click for full detail – Nate

Making Changes

Q – With such an impressive year, I think a lot of people want to know more about how you’ve accomplished so much. What types of changes have you made as an athlete in the last year that have led to such great success?

A- I made a lot of changes to my training last year. The most important thing that I did was that I started treating myself the same way I would treat a client. I write all of my training plans ahead of time, upload and analyze every workout, and try my best to look at my own training objectively.

I do not allow myself to just do whatever I want for training anymore, every ride has a purpose and objective. I put a lot of time into doing much more specific and targeted FTP work and stopped worrying about the number of hours I was training each week, and started worrying about quality and the intensity I was training at.

I also stopped worrying so much about my weight, and concentrated on body composition. Throughout the year I was the heaviest I have ever been while racing, but was obviously racing better than I ever had.

Finally, I committed to working on stability and core strength off the bike and was able to largely eliminate nagging pains and cramping in races.  I developed a short, simple routine and was able to complete my exercises 5-6 days a week.

Consistency

Q – One thing that your impressive race resume boasts is your ability to be consistent throughout an entire year. From results in January, all the way through late September – you’re certainly consistent. Can you talk about being consistent as an athlete, and maybe provide some noteworthy tips?

A- Being consistent in races starts with being consistent with your training and nutrition. I did a good job of controlling every variable that I could, nutrition, off the bike strength, sleep, etc etc, while staying stress free when things were out of my control. I also set realistic and achievable training objectives.

Most people would probably be surprised at how few hours I trained throughout the year (13-16 typically), but I laid out a very sustainable and specific training plan that prevented me from ever being burned out.

It’s also important to realize that there will always be setbacks to overcome. Even in my best year ever, I really struggled in June and July. After getting sick at the tail end of a long road trip in June, I had really sub par performances at BC Superweek and Cascade.

Moving past bad performances like this is an extremely important skill to develop. A lot of athletes fall apart after something like this, but I was able to get back to training and achieve my best results of the year later in the summer.

A new team in 2018

Q – There’s been some exciting news about you making the jump to a new team for the 2018 season. Tell us about what led to that, and how you plan to utilize new opportunities in 2018.

A- That’s right, I signed with the Continental team, Elevate KHS Pro Cycling Team. Having a really solid year put me on the team’s radar, and I think my results in China at the end of the year finally put me on the short list for the team. I got into touch with them within a few days of getting home from the race.

I’m really excited for next year, being on this team should give me some awesome opportunities to race at a higher level abroad and in the US. I will start my season in Taiwan in March before doing some of the normal stuff in the States.

Getting invites to Utah and Colorado will be big objectives for the team, and hopefully I will have the chance to race there. I am feeling really confident after having possibly my best winter of training ever and can’t wait to start racing. We have some really good riders on this team, and I think we will have some great results.

Keeping it fun

Q – Cycling should be fun right!? That’s why we do this. So tell us about the most fun you had in the 2017 season.

A- Cycling is an interesting sport. “Fun” is sort of an odd way to describe higher level racing. To me I would say that doing well at bigger races is more satisfying than fun. For me, fun comes from having awesome teammates. I had so much fun this year traveling with my teammates, and we did a ton of travel this year.

From the Dominican Republic to the mid west, to Canada, to flying half way around the world to China. Everyone on the H24 team is fun to be around and I think that is what I will miss most about moving to a new team. You will surely see me hanging around the H24 team van at races next year, stealing fig bars and talking trash on team manager Phil Mooney.

Advice

Q – It’s been a pleasure sitting down with you to chat, and I’m sure everyone has enjoyed your cycling knowledge! But before we wrap up, give us all one thing to live and train by. What is Sam “The Bass Man” Bassetti’s one piece of advice for cyclists everywhere who want to get better?

A- “No excuses, play like a champion”. Take responsibility for your training and racing. Perfection is impossible in this sport, but there is always something that you can do better.

From fondos to road races, learn why our cycling coaching is among the best in the industry.

Matt Chatlaong
Associate Coach
Data Driven Athlete

Written by Matt Chatlaong

Coach at Data Driven Athlete, Student of Exercise Science, Cat 1 Road Racer for Herbalife p/b Marc Pro - Nature's Bakery, Sprinter, and Carbohydrate Lover ... Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or feedback at matt@datadrivenathlete.com !