CCNS athlete Erkko Etula has had a ripper of a season in 2023! He lined up at 16 races and finished incredibly on the podium in 12 of those races. The Brooklyn resident won the CRCA Masters Cup, the Castelli Cup Masters Field, and finished 2nd overall in the Men’s A field (Pro/1/2/3).
Erkko’s season is impressive because of the results and the fact that he was returning to the sport after a couple of decades away. 2023 was just his second full season of racing back. You may think that results like this take 15+ hours on the bike each week, but that is not so with Erkko, whose biggest training week in 2023 was just over 14 and a half hours.
He balances his training and racing with a demanding career and busy family life. Due to his work, Erkko travels a fair amount. Also, as anyone with relatives overseas will testify, visiting family regularly can make it challenging to maintain a consistent training schedule.
We asked Erkko a few questions to get insight into his success.
CCNS: How has your fitness improved in the last year or so?
EE: It’s been quite a journey. We started exactly 12 months ago. I was Cat 3 then, having restarted racing in 2022 after a 22-year break. I didn’t have a coach, so my training had been pretty unstructured – and while I had surprised myself a few times with solid results, I didn’t know how hard I could push myself in races, so that affected my confidence. What systematic training with CCNS gave me was not only the fitness to go hard but also the knowledge of how hard I could go. And that paid dividends in the spring of 2023 as I quickly rose to Cat 2 and then Cat 1.
CCNS: Can you describe a specific workout or ride that you found particularly challenging (or effective)?
EE: My riding style is pretty punchy, so I really like workouts with short and hard intervals, anything up to 2 minutes or so. Conversely, producing consistently high power for long periods has always been challenging for me. So, perhaps the most demanding workout of the season was a 4-hour ride on the Sunday after Saturday’s Trooper Brinkerhoff race. If I recall correctly, it started with 2.5h of low tempo, followed by 1.5h at high tempo / low threshold. Also, my wife was traveling for work that week, so our social calendar was empty, and I had asked Coach Hunter to add some extra spice to the workouts. At the end of that ride, I was totally done. I think the only thing that helped me get through it was the gorgeous roads near Livingston Manor, NY.
CCNS: Have there been any surprises along the way? Was there anything unexpected about working with a coach for an entire season?
EE: It has been a total surprise what I have been able to do as a 40-year-old CEO, with very little spare time in my hands, racing against 20-year-olds. But I think that’s exactly the point – knowing precisely what to do every morning makes it easier to fit workouts in an already busy schedule. I can leave all of the planning to Coach Hunter because I know he’ll put the right thing for me on the calendar. Sometimes I even do work calls during indoor endurance rides. It’s a bit harder during interval workouts!
EE: It’s absolutely critical. When you’re running a company, your calendar is packed, and you have to be on practically 24/7, there’s very little time to think about how you should be training. So I typically tell Coach Hunter that I have 1-1.5 hours per day to train during weekdays and ask him to make the most out of it. It’s also fun to check Training Peaks’ schedule to see what type of suffering he has in store for me. I’ve really started to like structured workouts because they are an opportunity to totally zone out.
EE: I love sprinting because I enjoy the process that leads up to it – the team strategy, the steady acceleration in speed, and the feeling when you get off the saddle and your body starts to become one with the bike. I was fortunate to spend some time with Mark Cavendish last fall, and I actually asked him that same question. He told me that if the team puts him in the right place, he knows what he can do because of all the work that he’s put in. I think that summarizes it pretty well.
CCNS: Congratulations on a fantastic season. What are you looking forward to next season?
EE: Honestly, I just want to have fun on the bike and continue using cycling as a source of energy for the rest of my life. I do my best thinking after a good workout, so if cycling can give me that, it has done its job. I am just so grateful to have a healthy and balanced life, and cycling is an integral part of that equilibrium.
We wholeheartedly agree, Erkko. Thanks for fielding our questions. We can’t wait for next season!