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5 Questions with Coach Frank Overton–FasCat Coaching

fascat_logoThe one day I feel good and decide to take a flyer on the infamous ‘Crack’ ride this summer and I hit the deck. “Snap!” was what I heard. My first thought was ‘shit, that was a pretty expensive pair of Oakley Radar’s I just snapped’. But getting up I knew fairly quickly that the snapping sound was not the plastic of the sunglasses, but my clavicle. My second thought was ‘well…I guess I can take a ‘cross season off this year.

No way.

That was mid June. By July I was still healing but already of the mindset I wanted to be back racing with my friends come the changing of the leaves. It’s what I live for! And to help me try and assemble some fitness and learn how to dig myself out of my predicament, I enlisted the help of a great friend, fellow ‘crosser and one of Boulder’s top coaches, Frank Overton. What I found in working with Frank was a person who simply ‘gets it’. Can see through the person on the other side of the table and their true needs…only a part of which is a core training plan. It’s about balance…and that as you all know…is what is sacred to me. Frank is a daddy, husband competitor and business owner and his clientele range from professional athletes, to folks like you and me who live this sport of ours and want to push to new levels. We all need our personalized level of balance…from rest to blazing intensity…from back to back racing weekends to skipping a race or two and taking the family out for a hike. I wanted to expose you all to Frank, his company FasCat Coaching and the amazing stuff he is doing with his business to bring fitness to people. And so, 5 Questions with, Frank Overton!

M&C: Tell me a bit about FasCat coaching. The services offered, clients catered to and why a coach can be a great thing (we've all heard the nightmare stories before of the militant remote coach....).

Coach Frank: Our new Performance Center gives our coaching business the infrastructure to work closer with our athletes.  We have a retail powermeter shop and an indoor cycling space with room for up to 20 bikes per class.   We have put together a world class physiological lab with the best metabolic cart and lactate analyzer – the very same equipment used in big time exercise physiology lab (Olympic Training Center, Harvard, NASA).   Not only can we tell you your VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold but we will consult with you on what those results means to your power based training.   By linking the two we give our athletes the ability to take the sport science from the lab out onto their handlebar with their powermeter to use while they are training & racing.


Frank Overton – FasCat Coaching. This is the smile I see in the rearview mirror of his scooter as he’s slaying me. Evil.

(This amazing portrait by Smashread on Flickr.)

We also have a full service biomechanics lab for bicycle fitting with former Olympian and Physical Therapist, Ann Trombley.   Ann combines 10 years of physical therapy and bicycle fitting experience for an old skool fit that uses the new skool Dartfish video motion capture system.   Our two camera video setup is displayed on a video monitor for the athlete to see how they look on the bike before, during and after the fit.  The Dartfish software allows Ann to slow down and catch subtle movements that would otherwise go undetected.  We also use the software to measure ankle, knee, and hip angles as well as tracking lateral knee movement.   

Using Dartfish software to dial in fit scientifically. It’s not just for the pros!

All the technology plus extensive  bike fitting experience puts our bike fitting up with the very best.    If you have bike riding pain on the bike you are in no better hands than a physical therapist with vast bicycle fitting experience.   If you are about to start riding your bike a lot and would like to take preventative measures against bike fit related injuries and pain, look no further.

Starting November 2nd, we are going to launch our indoor cycling program.  It’s more than a workout – all of our classes are coach led and power based.  There’s a power based interval workout curriculum and its going to be hella fun in a group setting with music & videos.  Did I mention that all of our classes are going to be power based?   We are using state of the art CycleOps Power trainers and Indoor Cycles with wireless ANT+ sport technology that’s displayed on a Joule 3.0.    For more information please have a read through our Indoor Training information.

We also offer camps & clinics.  Next year will be our fifth year running the Boulder Summer Road Training Camp – which started out of my garage.   This past August we ran a very successful Cyclocross Camp that will be back in full force next Summer.   The feedback we got from campers was very positive and all are having great cyclocross seasons.

It’s hard to walk in these compression socks. But swing by FasCat and try ‘em after your workout!

Last but not least we have some amazing coaches that are passionate about cycling and more so helping athletes be better cyclists. Jason Hilimire has been with me since 2003.   I coached him from Sport to a Semi-Pro Mountain biker and he completed a yearlong internship with me before graduating on to be an associate coach.   Matt Rossman is an apprentice coach with FasCat that is expanding his knowledge even further in an exercise physiology graduate program at the University of Utah.

Tom Zirbel is a FasCat coach.   How cool is it that a guy who got 4th in the 2009 World’s Time Trial can be your coach?  Like Jason, Tom learned coaching from the athlete side first.  I started working with Tom in 2004 and you know the rest.  Pro Contract > many time trial victories > overall NRC title > 2 consecutive second places at the USPRO Time Trial > and then tragedy.    While it is terrific having Tom a part of FasCat and seeing what an amazing coach he is becoming, it completely SUCKS that he is a coach for FasCat  and not out there doing what he does best.

Alison Powers is another FasCat Coach.  Like Tom and Jason she is also a former FasCat athlete (notice a theme here?).  I worked with Alison in 2007 when I was the assistant director for the US National Women’s Team.   She won the Pan American Time Trial and went on to be a US National Time Trial Champ and overall NRC title winner.   Stay tuned for a FasCat Time Trial clinic taught by two of the best!

Finally Jon Tarkington is now a FasCat Coach.  I’ve been wooing him for close to a year now.  In fact way way back in 2006 we talked about opening a performance center.    ‘Teton’ as many know him is a great guy, enthusiastic coach, exceptional leader and lover of cycling.   He comes to FasCat after a tenure as the Director of the American Cycling Association and will be spearheading several coaching projects that I am very excited about.

All in all our coaches are some of the best in the business, and athletes can come to our new performance center to meet with them, talk training & racing and benefit from their coaching expertise.

M&C: Walk us through the genesis of FasCat, Frank.

Coach Frank: I started FasCat Coaching in 2002. The goal was to coach athletes and help make them faster for the races that matter the most to them.   Since I (Frank) was big into training with power, I began using our athletes power data & performances to learn how to be a better coach.   To promote the business, I hung my hat on the internet and  wrote monthly training tips for PEZCycling News from 2003 – 2005.   I did my homework for each training tip, backed up by my own research, power data and other athletes success using those training techniques.  I developed my coaching philosophy while writing those training tips and I continue to write tips as a way to explore innovative training methodologies. 

Fast forward to May of 2004 – I was coaching enough athletes to quit my job as a molecular biologist at a little start up bio company called Bolder Biotechnology.  As a side note Bolder Biotech was developing 2nd generation protein pharmaceuticals like EPO & Growth Hormone.  I was the guy that took the DNA, manipulated to code in a way we thought would be favorable for manufacturing and put the DNA into E. Coli for fermentation productions.   But I digress….

So from Memorial Day of 2004, I have not looked back and it has been full steam working with athletes since then.  I continued to race and analyze power data and focused 100% on the athletes I coached.  In 2006 my 2nd daughter was born and I wanted to step up my coaching by taking on more projects that would develop my skills as a coach.  Enter the Priority Health Professional Cycling team – I coached 50% of the team on a one on one basis in 2006 including Tom Zirbel (who is now a FasCat Coach).   It went well enough that I worked for the US National Women’s Team in 2007 as the assistant director in Europe.  We did all the women’s world cups all over Europe and I worked with some very talented ladies (one of whom, Alison Powers, is also a FasCat Coach).  Both were amazing learning experiences but neither was sustainable as a career – especially one as a family man.


Frank and his training programs have taken his athletes to amazing levels.

In 2008, I turned my attention away from working with teams and focused on developing the business.   We did a 3rd generation website with Goozmo, LLC and opened powermeter shop selling SRM, PowerTap and Quarq CinQo powermeters.   I carried little inventory and mainly placed custom orders for new FasCat Athletes that wanted to train with power and knew they needed the coaching to go along with the powermeter.   To this day we give a free month of power based coaching (with no start up fee) to every athlete that buys a powermeter from us.   Our prices do not compete with other discount retailers but the added value of coaching is a deal that can’t be beat.

Also in 2008, I took on my very first associate coach, Jason Hilimire. For years I had wanted to hire other coaches but I had never found the right one.   The coach that knew his stuff, that knew the FasCat methodology was in fact one of my very first athletes.   Way way back in 2003 I took out an ad on and Jason hired me.  We worked together for 4 years or so where he went from a sport class mountain bike to a semi-pro racer.   For Jason to come on board as a FasCat coach made all the sense in the world.  Jason completed a yearlong apprenticeship with me and now is one of the best mountain bike coaches I the business if you ask me.

Fast forward to 2009 where years of brainstorming a training center finally clicked.   A business plan and a detailed pro forma later & FasCat got its piece of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (aka the Stimulus Package).    By June of 2010 FasCat had its brick in mortar after a custom build out in one of the best locations in town.   I specifically choose our location to be near Boulder Cycle Sport & Amante Coffee.   So far that is our brief history and here’s to another 10 – 20 years.

Enjoy this little ditty of a typical motopacing session with Frank.

M&C: Cyclocross is a unique beast. Intensity for an hour, handling your bike under stress lap after lap, in extreme conditions. What are the key differences in a training plan that should be considered by an athlete who wants to improve their game in what may be their 2nd or 3rd season?

Coach Frank: Cyclocross is an anaerobic sport in which successful athletes have a well developed anaerobic system capable of handling over one hundred 5 – 20 second explosive power outputs in a 1 hour race.   Thus anaerobic capacity workouts are the name of the game.  “1 minuters” are great to get the party started.  I like to progress to shorter intervals at higher power outputs as the season approached.  45 seconds > 30 seconds and then Tabatas!  (20 seconds on 10 second OFF).

Timing is everything and periodization is paramount.   Anaerobic capacity work will be even better if athletes can have a hemi-powered aerobic engine.  Thus the timing – aerobic in the summer, anaerobic pre-season and specificity during the season. You can scope out some previous articles I have done here on our site, as well as on VeloNews.

M&C: Masters racers are particularly difficult students. We demand a lot as we think we're 24 years old. have a lot of dependencies infinitely more important than cycling (families, jobs, etc) and invariably are Type A(+++) personalities that simply have to see results. How do you manage to this customer type?

Coach Frank: With great care.  Actually it’s not that difficult for me because I am a Masters Athlete, I am somewhat Type A and I know what I would want from a coach and I try to deliver that to my athletes.  It’s my coaching golden rule “do unto my athletes as I would expect to be done for me”

Being a good listener and communicating helps a lot.  Advanced planning and goal setting go long way too.   Plus monitoring the master athletes’ (as with all athletes) performance and being on the same page brings out their best.

M&C: Mmmm. MotoPacing. We've all seen it before…visions of Merckx following his derny around the streets of his hometown at ungodly speeds. But specifically what are the benefits? If you can do it, why? And when?!

Coach Frank: Yes, I love motorpacing as an athlete and a coach.   There is nothing more intimate than taking an athlete out for a motorpacing session and being right there as they suffer, the grit, they struggle and as they haul ass.   As they essentially pour their heart and soul out to stay with you, their coach, sitting on the moto.   I can see if they are motivated and going to uncork a can in their races or if they are tentative and fearful of the intensity.  That’s important for understanding athletes and figuring out how to motivate them and get them to perform their best.


Frank practicing what he preaches and gets his 'cross on - here at Aspen Lodge CX October 2010

I often find that the quality of the workout goes up infinitely when I take my athletes out motorpacing. And since I like quality workouts, I am prone to take athletes out behind the moto a lot.

Physiologically athletes improve their neuromuscular power from motopacing. Think of the short bursty efforts that are required to stay 6 inches behind the moto.   Many times this is described as leg speed. By pedaling at a high cadence behind to motor, athletes are teaching their brain to fire their muscles in rapid succession at great power outputs.   Many athletes can make a lot of power, but motopacing helps them make big power FAST.  Thus motopacing is appropriately called a speed workout.

Mentally, motopacing is beneficial because it teaches athletes to “stay on the wheel” To suffer.  It’s a great carrot and with the way the draft works behind the motor – its Darwinism at its finest out there.   Just like bike racing.  It’s one of the most specific workouts that I know of and has been the secret weapon for many.    If there was a way, a place to motopace on a cross course while dismounting and remounting then I’d do it.

UPDATE! Through the keen eyes and memory of my bud in Belgium, Michel Bajorek, I received an email from the 2009 Worlds article on VeloNews with pictures shot by Jeremy Powers. Yup, Stybar behind a derny on course!

M&C OK, the most important question: Nijs or Wellens?

Coach Frank: Neither, Gully!  He was the guy that was kicking ass when I first got into cross.   When I first started racing Cat 1-2 CX races, one of my goals was to not get doubled by Gully and then if I did to stay with him.

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