Episode 53 - Sergey Lagutin

August 14, 2019 14 min read

Episode 53 - Sergey Lagutin

 

In Episode 53 of the All Torque Podcast, Sergey Lagutin, a coach and trainer for elite performance athletes and a superior sprinter and race strategist, joins us to share his story expertise in cycling.

Sergey is a former Russian pro-cyclist who now lives in New Jersey, Pennsylvania USA. With over 37 years of experience as an Olympic and professional road cyclist, and winning multiple titles, Sergey now uses his experience for effective preparation, strategy and tactics to guide his athletes to create and significantly improve their own personal best times. 

In this episode we cover:

  • The story of how Sergey’s started his career in cycling and racing to where he is now.
  • His life in the US as a retired cyclist.
  • Sergey’s journey as a cyclist, competing in various races and tours around the world.
  • Joining RusVelo and his experience in racing in Europe.
  • The differences in management and support that he got from different teams he joined.
  • His experience in the three Olympics he joined.
  • The learnings he took from the worst year of his career.
  • How race strategies have helped him and his athletes.
  • Sergey shares a funny story from when he was a sprinter.
  • The changes he saw in the Tour Down Under race through the years.

Links:

Transcript:

This is episode 53. I have here today Sergey Lagutin, a former Russian pro-cyclist who now lives in New Jersey, Pennsylvania in the USA. Sergey’s road cycling career spans decades as an Olympic and professional road cyclist, winning multiple amateur titles in his youth, to seven national titles, numerous UCI World Tour and stage wins and team leadership of multiple premier road racing teams including Katusha, the WorldTour Russian Team and Gasprom-RusVelo.

Known as a superior sprinter and race strategist, Sergey now uses his experience for effective preparation, strategy and tactics to guide his athletes to create and significantly improve their own personal best times. He works for the aspiring professional and amateur races for training and development.

Welcome, Sergey.

SERGEY:

Hello. Thanks for having me.

FELICITY:

Hi. It’s great to have you. Tell us about your story, Sergey. We’d love to hear from where you started to where you are today.

SERGEY:

Well, I started when I was 13 years old and my [inaudible 1:12] the city where I was born, it's Fergana in Pakistan. And my father is a coach so I start being his team. Then, by racing in Uzbekistan, I get into the national team. We start racing abroad like lot of places in Asia. Then eventually, we start racing in Europe. So one of the turning thing, was take me [inaudible 1:42] for one season. I was a junior. I think that was like 17 years ago. And a year later, they took me [inaudible 1:50], the team and from there I started. For three years, I race in the amateur level in Italy. And then up World Championships, I signed my first personal contract with Team Colnago; Landbouwkredit-Colnago, it’s a Belgian team based in Italy at this time. And that’s how it started. And it’s long but to me it’s a short 15 years of my career, very rare, racing in Europe most of the time. And I retired last year. I’m 37 years old last year and now I’m 38 and I feel like it was the right age to retire.

FELICITY:

Right.

SERGEY:

And I just got feeling like my condition in life started going down. I settled but I feel like I cannot get in shape anymore so I figure that was probably the right time to stop.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

And I moved to US and that’s where my kids live and just trying to be close to my kids. And I’m here now.

FELICITY:

Do you like living in the US?

SERGEY:

It’s okay. I mean, it’s a new challenge for me now, ever since. There’s a language barrier; the people; the mentality, the culture.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

Everything. Honestly, it’s hard because I changed my lifestyle because of them. I’m not a professional cyclist anymore. It’s completely new lifestyle. I’m sure even I’ll be in Italy or in Russia, it’s still going to be hard for me.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

Because I’m not doing my same routine anymore; what I used to, for like 15/20 years.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

SERGEY:

You wake up, you eat breakfast, you go training, you rest. Now, it’s like, you wake up. The first thing you have to do, you eat breakfast and you rush to get into a job; to work. So I still can’t really be used to this kind of lifestyle.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

SERGEY:

I miss cycling. I miss to be in the cycling team; the atmosphere. I watch every single race. The first thing in the morning I see the cycling unit. I want to know what’s going on in the world of cycling.

FELICITY:

It’s a huge transition.

SERGEY:

Yes.

FELICITY:

Well, actually, last week, I interviewed Gearoid Towey. So he actually helps coach people in that transition actually, from being an athlete and having a career afterwards because it definitely is a big void for a lot of people. And you’ve made a massive change moving countries as well along with that. So yes, I can imagine that it would be quite unsettling and that you’d be out of your comfort zone.

SERGEY:

Yes. That’s right.

FELICITY:

Tell us more about your journey of racing, how you actually; when you first started as a kid like quite young and then racing, being picked up with the Team Colnago and then racing in Italy. With your background, were your family into cycling? Or how did you actually get into cycling?

SERGEY:

Yes. My father, he’s working as a coach and now he's in Moscow in Russia. And yes, that’s how I got that bunch of magazine. In house, I remember, just watching Miguel Indurain in pictures. And just kind of feeling it’s cool to be a professional cyclist and start into my; in my mind to eventually become one of them.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

So then, we start racing in Europe. And I was very happy that I was selected by one of the Italian team to ride for them.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

And when I got there, it also was hard, it’s a challenge. The lifestyle, I mean, the race-style, the being of being. It was different. It took me a while to get used to it. But I saw eventually, that’s where you started. If you’re doing good in the Italian races; now they changed name. Before it’s just like International Races, not like World Cup or National. So if you’re doing well, then one of the professional teams will be interested in you who might take you.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

SERGEY:

I see like every 2 or 3 of my teammates was signing professional contracts. So I knew I’m in a right team. I’m in a right place to go for it.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

And yes, I won World Championships in Canada. And that same night, I signed a contract with Ernesto Colnago. He was there at the finish and he said, “I want you to be in my team.” So that’s how it started my…

FELICITY:

Your career.

SERGEY:

My personal career. Yes.

FELICITY.

Yes. When you chose to race with RusVelo, you were invited by Renat to visit the team’s base at Lake Garda in Italy. And you felt they were very professional with their approach and you were not going to feel like a foreigner. I think that some Aussies feel like that going to Europe; that you felt like that also being in Europe. So can you explain why that is for you?

SERGEY:

Well, I used to ride for Vacansoleil-DCM; it’s a Dutch team. It was very good and very well organized team. And at the Tour De France, they told me that the team was closing. They did not find the sponsorship for next year and we’re all free to start searching for a new team. So I was kind of worried. So I saw this new Russian team, completely Russians pure continental. And I figure like, “Wow, it can be interesting for me.” They do European the race schedule all the younger athletes. So I called him one day and he invite me to see the service crew; the warehouse with the best. We didn’t talk anything; nothing about like contract or like position; whatever. He just like, “Listen. Just come here and we’ll talk.” He did this like small presentation of his team, showing me the warehouse with the bike. I feel like very interesting in the way how he did this. And whatever he offered me, I accept and said, “Yes, I want to be in your team.” And yes, I ride one year for his team. Then I got over from the Katusha team and I moved to the WorldTour Team, which is both a Russian team but the WorldTour. It was still kind of dream about the big race. And I cannot refused his offer.

But yes, for all of us, I’d say Australian, the Russians from different countries, cyclists; to live in Europe. Like Americans; it’s hard. Europeans, what do they do? They do the race. Italians; the same night, they’re home in Italy with their family in France, in Belgium. So yes, we’re moving there, you have to rent a place, you build your new world, so language barrier.

FELICITY:

There’s a lot going on.

SERGEY:

Yes. There’s a lot going on. Just like a small rider like you, your salary is not high. You can’t really afford to bring your wife or your girlfriend or the family.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

SERGEY:

So you’re on your own. So it’s a big sacrifice.

FELICITY:

What’s the difference having been in quite a few teams, Sergey? Is there a difference in how they manage you? Can you share some of that with us?

SERGEY:

Yes. The teams have their own goals; targets. And usually, the first and second training comes, they tell you where they want you to be, what they want you to work with someone else. Like, they’re telling you what they expect from you. You just start it from there. You prepare yourself like mentally, physically, just so they’re not going to be disappointed in you. If you can do better than what they are expecting from you, that’s even better.

FELICITY:

Yes. Do you get much support though? Like do they have masseuses and psychologists and different trainers that help you? Or do you do it all on your own?

SERGEY:

It depends which team you are. Like I started with a small team. The team really didn’t have a coach. We don’t have a doctor, no coach, no nutritionist. I saw how in 15 years the cycling changed a lot. Now, if you’re in a good team; they have 5 coaches per team. A nutritionist is going to tell you what to eat if you want to lose weight. When I started it was like, just race. You race, you’re going back home, you train, you might talk with some rider who is older than you, and like, “Listen, what do you think I should do tomorrow? The day after tomorrow?” So it was a different race style. Now, it’s way more professional. I remember, when I started, I have my only one bike; with like training bike and I race bike were the same. Now, cyclists, they have 3, 4 different bikes.

FELICITY:

Yes. That’s right. What can you share with us having competed in the 2012 Olympics? What was your experience there?

SERGEY:

It was easy, actually. I was totally calm, not worry about the Olympic Games and I thought it’s probably my last one. So honestly, I didn’t have any pressure or anything. And I was like, “Okay, I just thought I do my best whatever I can.” With all the mistakes I did in the past, I’m just trying not to do it again. I’m in new condition. I’m in a good condition and just have to be in the right place in the right time.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

And trying to avoid crashes and not to panic.

FELICITY:

Yes. And that was your third Olympics, was it, Sergey?

SERGEY:

Yes.

FELICITY:

Oh, wow. You’ve been in three; what an experience.

SERGEY:

Yes. My first one was; I was young but was good enough to be in top 10. It just like was so hard and I didn’t figure out. I was only one to represent my country so you have to kind of figure out yourself, who’s going to feed you, who’s going to give you bottles or who’s going to give you support if you had mechanical problem. So, unfortunately, the guy who supposed to give me the bottle; he left. And it was like over 50 degrees hot. And I got dropped from the tourist group and just finished in the second group behind the wheel.

So on my third Olympic Games, I said, “Listen. What I want you to do is just stay in there and give me every single bottle. I want the bottle with the gel to be there or whatever.”

FELICITY:

Wow. Well, that’s great that you have that experience of three. It’s massive; for hanging in there. And you are only as good as your sport team, aren’t you? So it’s just a lesson in that. The 2013 season was, by your own admission, the worst of your career. What did you learn from that? Because you were in good shape at the time.

SERGEY:

Well, it was worse. At least, when I did this interview eventually was even worse than this one. What did I learn? I was; I did lot of stage races. I was focusing to be the GC rider. I did well with España, 14 I believe on the general classification. So I want to focus on my GC, and my general…

FELICITY:

Classification.

SERGEY:

General classification, yes. So I work a lot. And the new GC riders, like after the stage race, like the grand tour, they take a break. Like take completely off the race they start slowly building themselves for the next day. So it kind of start copying several different training programs and it didn’t really work. So it was never bad, never good. So I figure out, next year, if you’re in a good shape, just better be in condition and not take any break. Maybe, like mentally you can like have a break. Spend more time with the family. Bring them to the training ground. Physically continue working hard. Continue; I figure, to be in a good condition, it’s more easy than if you lose your fitness, then start build it up in the middle of season, it takes more longer and more harder and you might not going to be the same shape as you were before.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

So that was just my personal experience.

FELICITY:

Can you talk with us about strategy because you have that as; that you’re a race strategist and how you go about that with your athletes?

SERGEY:

Well, even when I was a cyclist, I would somehow just watch every single race. I see the result. I see top 10 riders; everything. So it’s helped me by going to next race, just see the athletes; that the riders were there. I know the preparation. I approximately know who is going to take control of the race, who is going there to win, who’s going to try to win. So it’s just mentally, you know what to expect from the race. Let’s say, you’re in Holland and you see the groups there. You know they’re going to win. Or if you’re in Spain; you see the Spanish team and who is the best climber. So it’s kind of helped mentally to know what to expect from the race.

FELICITY:

Yes. And you strategized according to that.

SERGEY:

Yes. See the amateur athletes; trying to figure out who’s stronger. I ask top 10 riders so in the future I had more idea what’s going to happen.

FELICITY:

Yes. Are there any funny or interesting stories you can share with us when you were a sprinter?

SERGEY:

Sprinter? Yes, when I was young, I was more chubby; more fat. And I was racing for Las Vegas and it was a lot flat races so you kind of do everything. You sprint, you climb. So I always feel like I’m a sprinter but I was really not. One race, I really like best position and I think I’m the [inaudible]. I think he race in Germany. He was riding for, not Team Mobo, the year before he signed Team Mobo,

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

He was riding. It takes a lot of energy and stress to fight for position to be in there. And then he start sprinting. And he won the stage. And I was like 9 or even 10 or something like this. So I figure out like, “Wow. He start sprinting and drop.” So I’m not a sprinter. It’s not worth it to kill yourself, to take a risk, to crash, just to be 9 or 10. I knew I’m fast in a small group when it’s a small group climbing up and down when the sprinter get dropped. Then yes, I can sprint. But a real sprinter, no I wasn’t fast enough. So I cannot let it go. I still work on my sprinter’s capacity but just more focused and kind of get improvement in climbing to be more and more resistant.

FELICITY:

Yes. You say not like Cavendish; that kind of sprinter.

SERGEY:

No.

FELICITY:

No. Fair enough. And you’ve also raced in the Tour Down Under, haven’t you? So that was, I presume, the start of your season?

SERGEY:

Yes. That was like, for four seasons, that was like my first race.

FELICITY:

Wow.

SERGEY:

That’s where I started. And it was good, actually. You fly from cold winter, European winter; you get to the summer of Australia…

FELICITY:

That’s right.

SERGEY:

And you start racing. And yes, it was good. I saw how the race changed a lot. Like 10 years ago, a lot of riders used to go there for like training. They come back in a bike, they did one training, they didn’t really care about the race. Just the preparation.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

But when the race becomes a World Tour Race, it’s on another level. You don’t see anybody in the lobby after dinner time. Like before, the people; the riders used to hang out outside, drinking beer and have a good time. When the race become World Tour, everybody go there to get points. And the race become a lot harder.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

SERGEY:

You need to focus. Provide very good; the best team. They work a lot for their leader.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

They make the race harder when you’re not expecting. They know how to make a race hard.

FELICITY:

Yes.

SERGEY:

So, yes, it’s become one of the important race.

FELICITY:

Yes. That’s right.

SERGEY:

You get points for your team; for yourself. So that was funny.

FELICITY:

Yes. So it’s more valuable now because it’s got that. And more competitive.

SERGEY:

Wolonga Hill - people going there.

FELICITY:

Wolonga. It’s great, isn’t it? Yes. It’s a great atmosphere, I go every year and I love it. And I think it’s great for us because we can ride out to the stages and it’s just very engaging and interactive and easy to access. So it’s great for us, Aussies.

SERGEY:

Yes. And then, now with the kind of race, it’s even more and more interesting…

FELICITY:

That’s right.

SERGEY:

Like you’re not just flying for one race. Things like; I don’t know how to put it. For classic riders; not hard enough for a climber, but it’s hard for a sprinter so you just never know what to expect. It’s going to be small group, sprinters. Maybe one day I do it so one sky rider can bike himself. He can ride himself.

FELICITY:

Yes. That’s actually near where I live so I ride around that area.

SERGEY:

Another thing is I was asking my team like if you can stay for a sun tour race. They’re like, “No, no. That’s way too much. We stay one month in Australia and we want to go back.” But I was really into it, like you go there, you try to get the best things possible. You race in a good weather, so you come back in Europe, you’re faster. You’re stronger than other riders. Anybody who is suffering from the cold winter, we get the suntan.

FELICITY:

Yes, that right. You got it all happening, so you got a good foundation.

SERGEY:

After the Tour Down Under, believe me, it’s a lot more easier than if you don’t. In Europe, It takes a lot harder. But after Tour Down Under, you got your...

FELICITY:

Your legs in a..

SERGEY:

In a good shape.

FELICITY:

That’s right. That’s been interesting to know that. I’d like to thank you for joining us today, Sergey, it’s been insightful and I’m sure our listeners can implement or learn from what you’ve shared with us today. They can find you on LinkedIn as Sergey Lagutin, which will be on our website, bodytorque.cc. So if anyone would like to contact Sergey and get some advice or perhaps, get some coaching, he’s available and can be contactable on LinkedIn. So thank you once again for joining us.

SERGEY:

Thanks very much for having me.

FELICITY:

You’re welcome.


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