Episode 36 – Niv Libner- Building Better Racers

Niv Libner

Transcript

Menachem Brodie:

Today’s episode of the Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, we sat down with the Israeli National Road Race women’s coach and directeur sportif, Niv Libner, who he himself was a professional in Europe. We talked about his taking that leap from becoming or being a professional racer, as well as turning around and now making the tough calls and helping build the women’s program here in Israel. I have my NPR voice on, are you ready for a chill, laid back episode, as we talk and get into some really great details with the Israeli National Road Race coach, Niv Libner.

Speaker 2:

Human Vortex Training and Menachem Brodie present the Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, where we talk strength training, physiology, psychology, tech and much more, to help you get fitter, faster and stronger in and out of your sport, giving you expert insights, chucking with other leading experts.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible 00:01:05] control producers of the highest quality products.

Speaker 2:

And now your host world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie.

Menachem Brodie:

Today’s episode of the Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, we’ve pulled from the archives. And now this episode is almost a year old from when we originally recorded it. And the reason I held onto it so long is that there is a lot of really great information, and I wanted to put it in the right place at the right time. And I think that, following last week’s Episode 35 with Alex Povey, talking about obstacles and how the obstacle is the way. This episode fits extremely well with what we talked about with Alex last week, and really allows us to hear a more personal story. So as I go through this podcast, what’s nice about having my own podcast is we can kind of tell you a story and teach you even as we go episode to episode. And that’s what we’re going to do.

So you can hear I’m a little bit more laid back. We have the alternate intro for those of you who have already liked and subscribed, and given us a five-star rating on whatever you download. This podcast episode a little bit different, or actually a lot different, much more laid back. And I just wanted music that would match the energy that even and I had. And it’s also my own energy right now. I’m very chilled, laid back as I am finishing or putting the finishing touches with the editor, and the format on my first book called The Vortex Method, the new rules for strength and conditioning for cycling performance, which should be out here at the end of February, 2020. It’ll be posted on Amazon for their Kindle as well as paperback. So, very excited to have that, but really I want to keep the focus on Niv here because it is a fantastic interview and he’s very straightforward and honest.

You can hear the fatigue in our voices, granted, he walked about 50,000 times more than I did that weekend. But he and I were both down there at the tour of Arvada. He was running the team, the women’s team, and I was down there in support of [inaudible 00:03:08], one of the female racers that I’ve been working with since she was pretty much a green horse. She started with a local club called X-Team for about six months. And then she joined the White City Racers or the White City Racing club, rather that I coach here in Tel Aviv or coached, I should say. It’s really great to have this conversation with Niv. He has a really great mind. He’s going to talk about research. We’re going to hear a lot about his own personal struggles, and that’s why this is coming after that episode with Alex Povey.

And I was really holding onto this episode. I wanted to have a great place to put this. So now’s a great time. So I’m going to wrap up the intro just by mentioning again, that book is going to be up on Amazon for a Kindle and paperback back the end of February, 2020, possibly very early March. But we’re working hard to get it out. And the second thing I’d like to mention to you is that there is a 12-week strength training, home-based strength training, kettlebell bands and Door Anchor is all you need. It is now up on the human Vortex Training website, or rather it’s up on the Human Vortex Training Facebook page. If you like it to have access to it, you can message me here or it will be up on the Human Vortex Training website here in the next couple of weeks once I get the book done.

There’s also, if you’re looking for continuing education units, the foundations of strength training for cycling performance course has been approved by USA cycling for three CEU’s. So if you’re looking for CEUs, you’re looking for information to help go with what we cover in this podcast. As a whole, both of these resources were really help you. And that 12-week program was pretty much written to be released right about now. Not really a week or so ago, but who’s counting. So without much further ado, go ahead and hop on over to the Human Vortex Training website, kickback and let’s get into a second, very short intro and into from there the episode with Niv Libner.

Welcome to this episode of Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete. Today, we have an ex-pro here and current directeur sportif for the national team here in Israel for the women. Someone who’s making a big difference. Since 2014, he has been working as a directeur sportif for the national team for both men and women. And the last year and a half as women specifically, he raised for three years as a professional in Europe and returned to Israel in 2013, where he started his own business training for success, and is now coaching a local immature team called X-Team here in Tel Aviv. And I’m very excited to have with us today, Niv Libner. Niv, thank you for joining us.

Niv Libner:

Thank you for the intro and thank you for having me.

Menachem Brodie:

We kind of went back and forth in the pre-call or the pre-interview here, and we’re just talking about the small things you’re doing here, how are having such a big impact. But before we jump into that, I’d really like to have you share your story about your experiences as a pro and how you see the cycling world change over the last five or six years.

Niv Libner:

It was a great journey for me in at athletes in the cycling world. But I think we go for when I was a junior and I knew that I want to be a cyclist, but it wasn’t so clear for how it’s going to happen. It was like a very, very far away dream and I’ve been working quite hard, I think to achieve it, to get to the professional team. I don’t think that as a junior I was more talented or more physiological fit than my partners racing in Israel. And I think it was quite noticeable because it took me, maybe eight years before I got my first victory on the bike. So I don’t think no one could claim I was in any advantage. But I think my advantage was I had plan that others didn’t. And I took my research of how other got to professional teams and what the way was. And I started to email and to try to speak with as many teams as I could. I had the list of around 150 team managers, managing teams racing the races I wanted to participate.

Menachem Brodie:

Wow.

Niv Libner:

And I just chased them all. I got my resume in eight languages and it was really hard chase until I got the opportunity to race for [inaudible 00:08:08] Italian team, which was… For me, it was great opportunity and a great experience.

Menachem Brodie:

That’s incredible. I didn’t know that you had eight years until your first victory and you just had a plan and that’s how you got there.

Niv Libner:

I am not sure that as a kid 11 years old, it was really a plan that as I got older I just enjoyed the bikes. But as I got older until at my… In Israel we spent three years as a military service, which is a obligatory care. And I got closer and closer to that. It was clear for me they have to make a plan. And that’s what I tried to implement. Also in [inaudible 00:09:02] wherever I walk, if it’s with the national team or even with my amuture club, it’s always… You always have better chance to achieve your goals. If you have a plan and not just chasing something in the mist.

Menachem Brodie:

And this is in the time where the internet was still relatively young. So the amount of work that you had to do, it wasn’t as simple as Googling directeur sportif of X-Team. Did you have to network a lot? How did you find these names and then go about putting your resume, eight different languages?

Niv Libner:

I spent [inaudible 00:09:45] on the slacking years and all the different websites I could find back in the days. The prospecting stats was not still in existence. It was so hard to find, but I just sat for hours and hours into the nights, try to make my way into this world affair Pro Cycling, because… Today I know that’s not the best way. And today I would have… I would advise people to act otherwise. But I do believe that with the knowledge I had and the experience we had here in Israel, that’s quite of the best I could do, because I think that the last guide to rest professionally before me, it was in 1984 so that’s a big gap.

Menachem Brodie:

Just a little.

Niv Libner:

Yeah.

Menachem Brodie:

Let’s get into that a little bit. Because that’s… I think a really fascinating part of your story is that you were here. A lot of people think they’re hear in Israel and they’re like, “Oh yeah, of course they have a big cycling scene.” Leidy Natalia was just there in 2018 and it wasn’t like that. How did you do that? How are you able to get to the point? Like you said, you weren’t naturally as talented quote unquote, as people would say, and you really had to do the hard work. How did you go about doing that? Was it a specific coach? Was it talking to different people? How did you develop yourself in a country that has eight, maybe 14 total road races in a year to race professionally in Europe?

Niv Libner:

I was lucky enough to find the club in Tel-Aviv, Tel Aviv Cycling Club, which was really into racing. And they had a yearly plan, affair racing abroad in Belgium. And since they joined the team 11 years old, that was my dream to join them for a trick for racing. And that gave me the appetite to keep exploring despite the fact that the first time I get to Belgium for five weeks, I couldn’t even finish Walnut countless races of the lots I did AB. 15 of those, but I didn’t even finish one of them.

And so that gave me the hunger to come back again the year after and do better and better and better. And I think that much of the work ethic I got was from my education, that I see how hard my parents work to achieve everything they did. And they always… They never thought that this cycling could be a career for me because it was never an option in Israel. But as soon as they figure out how [inaudible 00:13:05] serious and I’m into it, it was just encouraging me to chase my grades and to do whatever it takes together.

Menachem Brodie:

And one of the things that really struck me when I first met you and I had come to Israel, I’m trying to figure stuff out, it was a pretty much a year after you had come back, how are you able to help your parents understand? Because you really are a Testament to sheer, will determination and being smart about it, like going for… Like you said, training for success. You’re setting out a plan and your ability, and it showed a very, very strongly this this past month at the tour of Alvar, where a lot of people on the outside who don’t really understand how things work at a race, would have just looked at it like, “Oh yeah, the team’s going really well.” But you were smooth. It was very specific and precise with how you were doing things with the ladies on the national team. And that takes a lot of skill and careful planning. So how did your parents prepare you for that? Did your dad work in a specific or mom worked in a specific field where you saw them planning a lot or is that something you’ve always kind of had?

Niv Libner:

I didn’t have the chance to really see my parents, what they do in the work, but they did see the hours they putting into it. So the planning was advised by them, but not like I couldn’t see that when they were working. That was always the guidance I got from them.

Menachem Brodie:

And is this something that… Like you said, this is before Pro Cycling stats, and I think a lot of the younger racers today may not understand, before the internet came out, there was a lot of having to call people, having to look at these really weird websites that were all in like TXT format or no pictures and you had to know which page to go to, what was it that really helped light that fire? Was it… Nimrod Dubinski was the coach, I believe he still is the coach at Tel Aviv Cycling Club. Did he guide you or this was you just asking a bunch of different people, “How do I do this?” Or “What do you suggest I should do if I want to go professional?”

Niv Libner:

I think that I understood that there’s something has to be done differently, because many guys had to [inaudible 00:15:33] all me, most of them were more [inaudible 00:15:37] diverse and they still didn’t get it. So it was clear that something needed to be done differently. It’s not enough to go to Belgium and keep pressing these stresses and hope that something will change. And then again, I realized that I should try to chase the path of others that did get to the place I want. And again, looked at the results of [inaudible 00:16:05] us, which are not Abrahm Orlando or these top ranks, but people who really had to work their way into Pro Cycling.

Menachem Brodie:

And what did you learn by watching them? It sounds like the lesson that a lot of racers don’t understand, and that is the amount of times you’re going to stand on the podium, let alone the top step, tend to be few and far between, but the riders who tend to get chosen are those that are consistently in the top 10, top 15% of the field. So here in Israel, that can be the top three or they can be the top 15, depending on how big the field is. Did you kind of absorb from looking at the finishing placements for their races, a theme that you are like, “Okay, I don’t have to necessarily win, but I need to be the top 15 for the race, for this specific car care mess, because this worked for that rider. Was there some kind of theme that you learned along the path of looking at this?

Niv Libner:

I think that what the tension on my way of thinking is that I always thought you should walk your weaknesses to make you a complete rider, what they like to call. But it took me a while to understand that you have to shine somewhere, being a complete rider for most, unless you’re really, really good at it, that that’s not enough. You have to really show your skills to someone here, otherwise it just wouldn’t make the [inaudible 00:17:42].

Menachem Brodie:

And was that something that you had. Like you had said, you didn’t feel that you were the most talented. Did you feel that you had that natural strength or did you have to really work at something that you enjoyed to develop that?

Niv Libner:

For me, when I look back, I don’t really know to say what enjoyment was for me, because I would think, I enjoyed every part of cycling from one side, but on the other side, everything was in purpose. Every pedal I stock was intended to bring me to a better place for me. So enjoyment was never in my mind, that was never really a consideration.

Menachem Brodie:

So how did you get through the really tough and trying days that every single rider has it hard, especially racers? What was it the motivation to do something nobody else had done in over 20 years? Or was it just, “Hey, I have the army coming up by this date. I have to have that certificate that I’m a sport and an exemption.”?

Niv Libner:

I think I was really lucky in the way that I never suffered on the bike. It was always… There was never a place that I wanted to be more than on my bikes. And when my friends on the team were always missing home and their girlfriends, I was checking with my girlfriends from the distance and I just enjoyed every day. I woke up every other morning as if I’m living my dream, because it was my dream. And I was seeing how fulfilling the dream is [inaudible 00:19:40] true for me. I really can’t remember anything of the difficulty that often hear from other cyclists. The only struggle I had, was that uncertainty of face cycling, which for me was a real struggle, never knowing your race plan. And if you made the cut [inaudible 00:20:05] cut for the next race, that was for me how I thought.

Menachem Brodie:

How did you manage that? Because that’s a ton of stress and we all like to think about stress score and what your max rate heart rate reserve is, but nobody seems to talk about the stress of living. Now, you think professional rider, a lot of people think team sky, we have this tour bus and you’re staying in these lavish hotels and really liquid gas in the late nineties are the ones who kind of made headway in. And Charlie Regalia talks about this in his book Domestique, is they were the first team to say, “Hey, instead of our guys staying in a hotel where you’re afraid it’s going to fall over if you slam the door, let’s take them to somewhere that they can actually relax.” How did you deal with the stress of making the cut and traveling place to place to be able to perform a week after week?

Niv Libner:

Not always all successfully, I must admit. I think that the period of time always that between August and until I got my contract was so hard for me. I would wake up in the middle of the night to check the emails, to see if I got an offer and also if I got the reply. That was really, really time for me each and every season, because even when I knew that they could get another contract from my team, my goal was always progressing. So that was really hard times for me and well, just practice and patience and realizing understanding that’s part of the sport. And tried to focus on the thing I can change and not on the things I can’t.

Menachem Brodie:

And that’s such a hard lesson for people to learn. For [inaudible 00:22:02] cyclists I think just people as a whole, focus too much on the things that they can’t change, they’re focusing on, “Well so-and-so is doing X Watts per kilos, so I need to do that.” Yeah, you can change your own, but that’s such a bad way to measure up. And it sounds like you were racing in the early days of power meters and heart rate monitors. Was that something that you use to help you feel in control during those time periods, where you’re waiting for the contract to come back going out and training and, “Okay. I know that if I do this and this, this week, and I do this and this the week after I’m going to be able to be able to produce this type of power and help.” Was that something that you did? What did you focus on to help keep you steady in those times of uncertainty?

Niv Libner:

Yeah, I was always trying to use the power meter to motivate me and actually probably 85% of the training I did was on my own because that’s how I felt was the control on my environment. Like running and keep motivating me was always thinking about backup plans and what can I do that goes wrong? Just making a plan, over a plan, over a plan for every scenario I can think of.

Menachem Brodie:

Let’s take that and parlay that into how you made that transition from a racer into a coach and also into the directeur sportif for the nationals team. What was that process like? After your third year racing professionally, if I’m not mistaken, you were based out of Italy. How did you decide… Was it a decision that you were like, “You know what? I know so much, I want to share this. What was that process like to make that transition?

Niv Libner:

I didn’t think I know so much and I don’t think it right now as well. I think I’m in the process of learning, but my process of learning was from the early days of racing abroad, because as I said, I knew that probably I’m not going to win to the front, although I did dream of fare winning a stage and that sort of France. But I knew that there is a huge chance I’m not going to make a career out of phrasing myself, but I knew that the tools I’m collecting them and the knowledge I’m getting on the way could help. And that was always a major consideration why I should keep pressing one after the other, despite the distance from home and not getting the education that they could have or whatever.

Menachem Brodie:

It sounds like in the back of your mind, not only were you pushing for yourself, but you are also thinking ahead, and that seems to be a theme here, is you at the age of 11, decided that this is what you wanted. You didn’t really know how you’re going to do it, but you figured out if I have a plan and I start working the plan and plan the work anything’s possible. So did that kind of happen from early on in your racing when you were in Belgium? Was there a specific moment or a specific race where someone was talking to you or you help someone and then the conversation ends, and you’re like, “Hey, I’m actually really enjoying and good at this coaching thing. I especially think about doing more of this.”

Niv Libner:

It wasn’t a specific moment. It was really a process from the moment I got [inaudible 00:25:41] experience things that others didn’t in Israel, and getting a pro team and getting the pro races. I realized that what I’m doing now could help not only me, but cycling in Israel as a general, that gave me a lot of followups to keep pushing, keep trying to get it get better and better on it, because I knew that racing three years in STEM would give me an advantage. But if I could get for not biggest team and racing bigger races than racing grantors, I could make even a bigger impact in Israel. And that’s why I did get the motivation to keep working so hostily.

Menachem Brodie:

How did you make that transition then from protocol? I we kind of… I asked the question and then asked another one, but how did you make that transition from a pro-rider to coaching? What was that process like? Was there a lot of inner struggle and things back and forth, or that was pretty much a natural for you to make?

Niv Libner:

That was a release more transition for me, because I was really… I’m not sure how to describe it, but I was very… I felt fulfilled on the bikes as much as I can. And I knew that’s enough for me for now, and now it’s the time to make the change in the way, that I can no longer benefit from riding another the same level I did. From now on it’s time for me to start my education and start to help exactly from the other side. I think that also the year before 2013, when I was inner racing. I did a lot to support the Israeli National Team. When they raised on the votes in Florence, I got all the equipment from my team that supported us quite amazingly with team calls and team crock [inaudible 00:27:50] and trainers and whatever we needed. We got from my team that was really generous from them, and there before there was another youth, 23 [inaudible 00:28:05] for the end cap. And I canvas for them as well. I started to support the national team while I was still racing.

Menachem Brodie:

I never knew that. And that’s really interesting because I’m thinking about the type of schedule that they have you on. And it’s very day to day to get your training in to be available, to be able to go race as well, at the drop of a hat pretty much and yet to be taking that time and putting that energy also that could easily be put into progressing or maintaining at least your fitness that really shows a lot of maturity on your part, as well as putting on point… Like, you really were pretty much gearing up for coaching for quite some time then.

Niv Libner:

Yeah, that’s true.

Menachem Brodie:

So what about now? The last time you and I sat down at the Olympic center here in Tel Aviv was about a year ago. And you had mentioned going back to school or doing courses, what have you done over the last two and a half, three years since you’ve been back in Israel and working on the coaching side of things?

Niv Libner:

I’ve had some education from DEI, UCI, got the UCI Level Three diploma and I’m now in the third year of physical education and that is. I do a lot of self-learning on the internet, which is great if you know Dubai the good stuff on that stuff, which is plenty.

Menachem Brodie:

Yeah. That’s a hard-

Niv Libner:

Yeah, that the Internet is the [inaudible 00:29:50]I mean, that’s amazing, but you really have to be selective on the information you take from it.

Menachem Brodie:

How do you figure out what’s good and what’s bad? Is it just kind of like a sensor or do you ask around? How do you figure that out?

Niv Libner:

I have scientist that I trust more on them than others, and I try to really get into depth methods of the article I read about, because that you can influence the results of your research by the way you’re doing it. So if I cross the method, then it’s easier to trust the research.

Menachem Brodie:

And that’s such an important point. Just like you said, the Internet can be such a great place, but a lot of people, “Oh, the research articles said this. It said this. And so I’m going to do that.” It sounds like you read it, you’re like, “Eh, actually they didn’t do it right.”

Niv Libner:

Yeah. I [crosstalk 00:30:55] researchers.

Menachem Brodie:

Is there a research connection in your family or somebody that you knew growing up? How did you come to the realization that, “I don’t just want to read the result of the research, but I actually need to look at how it was done.” Was there a mistake made on your part and trying to follow something and realizing it was wrong? How did you come to do that?

Niv Libner:

That’s a good question. I have no idea, but it was always clear for me that the way of taking has a huge impact on the results. So that’s what was always making me quite picky` with the research I read. You see that by the amount of researchers that account or I have to say what’s the collectible but different results of same questions, then you realize that you must make sure you taking it to on the right way.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, I don’t want to get into the secret sauce. You don’t have to answer this or anything. If you feel any things like your secret weapon, do you have any specific journals that you found that you really liked that are very reliable or you like how they approve people for publishing?

Niv Libner:

I more rely on the researchers, the files themselves then the journalists and Arista too. But I like a lot on the recent years, is the Professor [inaudible 00:32:38] university of Kent. He’s checking nowadays what he calls the a biophysiology layer model, which try to examine the [inaudible 00:32:56] Pause, and do it again, please.

Menachem Brodie:

Yes. When you’re ready. Are there any journals that you’ve found that you really like, or you really trust because of how they break down the research or how they put things together?

Niv Libner:

I try to rely more on the researchers themselves and professor [inaudible 00:33:24] from the University of Kent is one of my favorites. He has a different take on the physiological factors that making us perform better. He calls it the biophysiological model and he shows how the physiological and mental sides mix together.

Menachem Brodie:

And that’s something to me as a coach is really clear in how you work with the women. And I think that’s kind of a natural pivot point for us to turn to your work with the women’s team. I mean, it really is magical. I found, I love working with female cyclists and triathletes. I just find that it works really well. They have a different set of way of looking at things and dealing with things. And, as a fellow coach who is almost magical, if you will, to watch you work and to work through problems and to keep them calm and how you’re presenting yourself, your body language was very clear and direct and precise. And I think that’s something that as guys in general, we tend to have trouble with. Tell us a little bit how you see yourself in the women’s cycling scene here and how you moved into the role for the directeur Spotif for the women’s team, as opposed to both men’s and women’s.

Niv Libner:

That’s a great question. We started with it on the last Olympic qualification section, when we had to… I was just on the last days of my coaching diploma in Israel, and we had to present projects. Everyone did this on projects on whatever subject he chose, and my subject was Olympic qualification. And the reason I did it, I had two reasons why I did it. One, is because I thought it’s really achievable and it can make a change in Israel. And the second reason is, I had it on my mind already backed up from 2012, when I thought of trying to qualify for the Olympics. And when I gave my walk to the head of the… That is mostly done also to the performance director of… The technical director of the second flourishion. And he calls me up for a meeting.

I think it’s a great idea, but they think that it’s more visible with the ladies than it is with the men. And it’s easier for us to get the resources for that. And I think that on to [inaudible 00:36:29] cycling we’ve been talking is really on the tip of a health issue change, which is [inaudible 00:36:45] we can’t miss as a small nation with a small budget. We really have to be there when it’s happening and it’s happening now. So to put all of those resources on that, for me, that’s the wisest decision we can make now.

Menachem Brodie:

And I want to come back. I don’t want to miss, I think the readers and the listeners will be really interested to hear about that qualifying process and how much work you put into that. Because when you told me about that, it’s just astounding. Like how much it takes to just qualify to go and race. But let’s use this to talk about something that was really, really important. Because I think a lot of people don’t necessarily understand this, but Israel is a very small cycling scene. I think in whole registered riders is somewhere around 2000 or 3000. And the people actually race is a smaller, maybe 400 out of that 500. You may know the numbers better than me, but it’s not [crosstalk 00:37:40]

Niv Libner:

On the spot for the road races. I agree we have another [inaudible 00:37:48] racing on the modern bike as well.

Menachem Brodie:

Exactly. I was just going to say, and it’s very different from mountain biking. But for such a small country with an incredibly small women’s Peloton, we’re talking about the pro women are the top women. There’s what… Five in the country and three of them have become professional riders. How is that possible? How did that happen?

Niv Libner:

I think one of these first started the project. We had four [inaudible 00:38:16] on the national team and I had to back for the fifth [inaudible 00:38:22] come from mountain biking [inaudible 00:38:24] so we can raise a broad. But I think that as we gain momentum and ladies start to see the changes that are made in the cycling scene for ladies and the opportunities they have and the way we walk too, I really tried to not put my focus on any specific rider, but to share it as even as I can on all of them. And I hope I believe they feel it. I think that really made a change on the spirit. And now we are raising the Alvar. We had 19 ladies on the staff. I mean, that’s incredible in four years. It’s smaller than that four times the number we had when I walked in. We still have a long way to go. We still need to get to 60 then to a hundred and then more and more, but he’s done the right way.

Menachem Brodie:

What do you think it is with that? I mean, I was also astounded you were kind enough to let me come into the follow car for two of the days or one of the followup cars. And one of the things that struck me, I gave one of the ladies a ride back. I apologize. I can’t remember her first name. Her last name is Marguerite.

Niv Libner:

[inaudible 00:39:48] Marguerite?

Menachem Brodie:

Right. And in her mid to late 30s, so she’s been riding and racing for quite some time. She also started with X-Team. What really struck me is the Peloton. The women’s Peloton is very diverse. You have mountain bikers, Eleanor Wesner is one of them who comes to mind. Who’s also really racing on the road. And then you also have riders like Farad who have been pretty much long-term or long time recreational riders who are now getting into the racing side of things at a higher level. How do you kind of build this community of such a diverse background of riders and get them to come together and love it so much? What is it that, that creates that comradery and that loves to be willing to suffer up scorpions fast and beyond?

Niv Libner:

I think that we all share the same passion and we all understand the benefits of the national team, how it’s going to help each and every one of the riders to achieve their goals. It’s really is a teamwork and not only in whatever we do. And they start after the last thing that we had one rider going to the Olympics, but that gave us the budget for racing for all of them. And that’s what helped us build the national team as big as it is today. It’s really important for me to make it clear that the political implications for me, it’s really important, not because of the importance of the race.

We are not yet on the level to win the race, but it’s like a model for us to keep the national team moving for another four years financial. For me, it’s more important to make the national team winning smaller races and progressing as a national team, then the real qualification. But the way sports is in Israel and not only in Israel, rely on the Olympic success that make us not change the goals, but we have to pursue also these kinds of goals, which otherwise wouldn’t be a real consideration for me.

Menachem Brodie:

So again, it’s very clear to me as a fellow coach and maybe just because I’ve gotten to know you a little bit, but it’s very clear that you have a plan that you’re sticking to. And you also are fantastic at just going off the cuff. And it just, it seems like it’s planned, but afterwards you’re like, “Yeah, just kind of tried it and it worked.” How do you see yourself contributing to building women’s cycling in Israel and in the world?

Niv Libner:

I focuse more in Israel than in the world these days, but for me, the most important part is to help educating that younger riders, that everything they want to… They dream about. It’s under responsibility, chase and bring it. And I think that every year when we [inaudible 00:43:19] for the national team, I present the program for the year and I always say, “That’s the best I can give you. That’s not enough for you. And it’s your job to make sure that you’re getting whatever you need. What you’re getting from me is an extra.” And the day that it will really, really [inaudible 00:43:43] they will take responsibility on the year. I don’t know. That could be a better place. That’s where I want to get.

Menachem Brodie:

It sounds like you’re really… You mentioned Samuel Mako before the… Did I say that correctly, Samual Mako?

Niv Libner:

Yeah. Makola.

Menachem Brodie:

Makola. It sounds like you really not just are reading his stuff, but you’re putting it into action. You’re giving them ownership. You’re giving them the we, not me mentality and also making it very clear that, “I’m going to give you each of you the best that I can, but that’s not going to be good enough for you, and you need to be involved in this.” And that’s something that, in my opinion, at this point, we don’t see a lot of in the cycling world. A lot of it is the coach is going to get you there. Like, yes, the rider takes accolades, but they rely so heavily on the coach. Have you found that it’s given them a strong sense of ownership and that’s part of what’s driven so many professionals to come out international professionals to come out of Israel or is it more of the Israel mentality of, we’re just going to do this until it succeeds?

Niv Libner:

Yeah, I think that’s the first. Yeah, you said, I think the ownership really is making a difference, but I think that on the other side of the coin, if you see what’s happening on the men’s skills, the opportunities that they have from the second Academy, which is great,  I mean, I cannot describe how good it is for them, but it takes from them the need to get this mentality of ownership. And today, many of the young girls in Israel, their dream is not be as good as the cyclists [inaudible 00:45:37] in the second Academy. And I think that’s for riders that aim that they can have… They need to be good riders. It doesn’t matter what the key they’ll win the lottery. They need to win races. That’s what cyclists do. They don’t need to aspire to be on a specific team because it’s easier to get [inaudible 00:46:04] here Israeli.

Menachem Brodie:

I want to touch on the Israel Cycling Academy in a minute. But let’s stay on the female rider side. How do you see the average female rider in Israel? And also I think that the lessons can probably apply outside of Israel, but how do you see them getting to the higher levels? What’s the process look like? What does the plan look like for you to get them to the ability to race at higher levels?

Niv Libner:

We lack a lot of pricings skills, but also a lot of the racing mentality. If you go back to the race in Alvar, many of the cyclists, they race with the aim not to lose, and that’s not a great spirit, therefore winning. And when we started the race, our plan was to put the pressure on [inaudible 00:47:04] which was funnier than our riders. And I could take us step farther away from the Olympic qualification I wanted, but for us, that was the best shot for the [inaudible 00:47:21]with either or the lady that we wanted to have to get points or with another one. But and I think that many criticize me afterwards because they don’t really understand that I rather lose the race ball, trying to win it in seconds knowing I would have… I could have tried better to win it. For me that’s a part of cycling to race every race, maximum and knows that you didn’t left any stone unturned.

Menachem Brodie:

Let’s do that one again. For two reasons, one it dropped out about 10 seconds in and the other is, I just want to make sure you want to say criticize that people criticized you, or do you want to say that there were a lot of people criticizing the fact that like… If you want to make sure that you want to do it that way, or do you want to do it you take the flack.

Niv Libner:

I would take the flack.

Menachem Brodie:

[inaudible 00:48:22] Okay. Let’s do that again. It did drop out about 10 seconds. I put it together in my head, but it didn’t come out that well.

Niv Libner:

All right. I hope I could repeat it I can… My memory is not so good.

Menachem Brodie:

That’s okay. If it doesn’t come out as well, I’ll try and piece together the two answers that we have here to make it full. And if I’m unsure, I’ll send you a copy first before I [inaudible 00:48:52]

Niv Libner:

No problem.

Menachem Brodie:

Niv tell us… You can get to the Israel Cycling Academy here in a second, but tell me, what are your thoughts on how the average Israeli rider, let alone out in the open world, how can they get to higher levels? What is it that they need to do? And how do you see that moving forward here?

Niv Libner:

I think that, that mentality needs to shift even farther. We think that many of the riders in Israel and in general, are racing not to lose. And for me, that’s not a great way of pricing because when you’re racing not to lose, you want give your outpost trying to win. If I get to… We can go, for example, from the race we had this last weekend here in Israel, which many people criticized before, we had to win with one of the ladies because she had a chance to get the most points for the Olympics. And the problem was, that there was a girl that was longer than our rider. That meant we have to try and do it from another tactics, otherwise it would be just pressing for second place, which for me, that’s the worst thing we can do.

And in the end, our rider [inaudible 00:50:23] the false, but you won the race with another rider. So I was very happy with this race. Not only because that was our first win on a road race, but because I know that we did everything we could to make the other rider win race. And for me, that’s the most important thing to finish every race, the know that with a feeling that we didn’t leave any stone unturned and really everything you know about to win it the way we wanted.

Menachem Brodie:

Dude, I love it. I think that in my opinion, that’s the right… And honestly the only way to coach is, never race for second. Like you always, that’s where the lessons are learned, right? When you come up short, and you said you won the race with another rider. I mean, that’s massive. That one shows a true leadership in my opinion, as well as the ability to push and ask for more than what people are thinking they’re capable of. And I think that’s one of the secrets to accomplishing in anything, whether it’s entrepreneur, a triathlon, cycling business, you have to shoot for that top step. Like, what was that process like for the team to kind of shift after seeing this other writer was quite stronger? How did you manage that mentality shift to, we’re not going to raise for a second. We are going for the top step still, and this is how we’re going to do it. How did you manage that?

Niv Libner:

Presenting the plan was a big part of it because that’s the oldest plan on the book, cycling book and it’s there for a reason. It’s working putting stress on the stronger rider. And I think that the relationship I built with the ladies is the relationship of trust and they… I feel so that they really trust the things they say when it’s kind of through the professional cycling. And it’s really pleasant for me to feel that way. And I think that’s what helps us today getting the confidence to go for the second race like this.

Menachem Brodie:

What do you see as the obstacles on the way to the women here in Israel, and also abroad? Because we just saw two weeks ago, [inaudible 00:52:52] was the women were stopped. I forget the name of the rider and I feel really bad. I should have written it down before. But as a proponent for women’s cycling, I was really upset. I was like, “Look, it’s going to happen at some point, women are… ” And Dr. Stacy SIM talks about this all the time, “Women are not small Ben. And if you look at it and you take the weighting consideration, women are just as strong as men to stop a rider on a break.” Now, granted, she was what, 25 kilometers into a 100 plus, 95 plus race, the chances of her staying out there and winning were not great, but to stop a rider and then restart them.

Anybody who’s had a warm-up and then had to go to the start line and stand around for five minutes, knows how awful that is. What are some obstacles that you see out there? And I’m not trying to say anything bad, it’s just give women the opportunity to actually race and just be second fiddle. What are some obstacles that you see that we need to work through as as a whole in the cycling community to help women’s racing, get to the highest level possible?

Niv Libner:

I think it’s clear, I think it’s a financial obstacle. The day the women’s second would be financial lives the same way men cycling is, then everything would be different. And there is no reason why [inaudible 00:54:13] because the races are just as interesting as the men’s racing. If you’re taking the worlds aside the you have the Netherlands just wants that of everyone, but that’s also because they put more money and more efforts into women’s cycling than everyone else.

Menachem Brodie:

And I’m just curious, is it just me, or is the women’s cycling race the road race, much more of a chest mass match then than the men’s race? Is that just me or is that… Do you see that as well?

Niv Libner:

I think that it could be even better chest mates with a bigger teams, because most women races are four teams of six riders instead of eight in the men. And it makes the falloff each much smaller in the field. I think that there are races also making it a bit more unexpected and more on the control for the teams, which for me is a good thing when races are not controlled and not expected, that’s what makes everything so interesting.

Menachem Brodie:

Let’s kind of use that to kind of take a hard shift to Israel Cycling Academy because that has changed and really made things unexpected here in Israel for riders to come up. And I was fortunate enough to help on a consulting side from the business standpoint for Israel Cycling Academy in their first two years. But what are your experiences and what do you see Israel Cycling Academy and what Ron Barone and Sylvan Adams and [inaudible 00:56:01] is essentially is to help build cycling as a sport here in Israel to its full capabilities?

Niv Libner:

I think that this project is amazing the way it touches so many. It started as just a professional team with a huge dream, but nowadays it really is everyone in Israel and everyone in Israel [inaudible 00:56:31] and Cycling Academy, wherever you go, you see that. And for me, that’s just the impact we could ask for. And I think then the recent two years, we see also a transition in the way they put more effort in developing the riders, which is a cute thing. It’s not only dressing them on the nice kits and throw them on their second races, as it might have started, but they really put the effort to develop and give them all of the conditions they need to get good drivers.

Menachem Brodie:

Let’s actually use that to come back to something you said very early in the interview here today. You had mentioned about how you got to the professional levels, and you mentioned that you recommend it for rider today would be very different than the way you did it. So what would be the way for someone here in Israel that you would recommend now, both male and female, because those will be… It sounds like two different routes. And what about the average cyclist out there in the world who’s trying to make it pro? What would the two suggestions be, as far as how they can do that and how they should do that after going through your experiences and being in your position today?

Niv Libner:

I think that the personal touch is very important, and therefore I would try to think where  other races that I could stand out and not on the word comfortable for me, I will not go [inaudible 00:58:17]. I would go to Spain because I’m a good client and I try and make as much as personal contact as I can. Because today I know that sending a mail nobody but… Chances are nobody’s going to read it. But if you see the spoiled erectile it’s came from scouting for dispersal, the other, you have such a better chance of achieving your goals and having friends on the teams that could consultant you, could help you. That’s what makes the difference today. The personal touch.

Menachem Brodie:

An yet it’s so easy for… Especially in the internet age, I’ve seen a number of people texting or sending a direct message on Facebook or Instagram and thinking that’s going to give them their breakthrough. What would you say to somebody who is… They’re 16 years old, they can work anywhere. If you were to recommend a heart rate monitor, a power meter or saving up to travel somewhere to have an experience and an opportunity? Of course, with your parents saying yes to go and race, what would you say is the big investment for them? Is it any of those or something outside of that?

Niv Libner:

Racing abroad for sure is the most important thing, especially in younger ages later on when they get older, having apartments [inaudible 00:59:48] very important. But even if you have an expert [inaudible 00:59:53], but you have no place to show it, it was nothing.

Menachem Brodie:

I’m just adding this here because I read the article this morning and I very strongly agree with it. Doc Sutton is a triathlon coach out of Australia. And he’s become very well known. He’s been doing it since before triathlon was big back in the 80s. And his article today… I’ll share it with you after, is talking about how we’re too obsessed and too focused on our track it’s on our data on heart rate monitors and power meters.

And to me as a coach, I think that that is very true, especially for athletes at a younger age is, power has its place in heart rate, but teaching an athlete to be in touch with how they feel in the morning and riding down two or three sentences, and maybe we’ll do heart rate variability in the morning, but teaching them a rated perceived exertion so that they’re in touch with what their body is, as opposed to what a number on a screen says, what are your thoughts on this? Do you think that power meters and heart rate monitors and HRV should be used for riders at a young age? Or what would be your approach to helping them develop what they need to do well, where at least finish a race and how Belgium KMS, which in and of itself is quite an accomplishment?

Niv Libner:

For me, I wouldn’t start working with department we followed the age of 17, and at least three years experience. And I think that for many, many, many assets training with a partner can do a huge harm because sometimes when you’re not mature enough, if you’re looking on the perimeter and what you see is not what you’re expecting, chances are that you’re not going to complete the effort. And that goes a lot with [inaudible 01:01:45] biophysiological model that he claims that [inaudible 01:01:52] receive the exertion has much more impact than the physiological power methods about how you were going to behave and how the chances are that you’re going to complete the effort.

So for me, if the rider is not mature enough to handle it and to see that the numbers are not what is expected and keep pushing, despite that, then it can make bigger harm than that than a good effect.

Menachem Brodie:

It sounds like you’re really focusing on developing the junior athlete and their connection to their body and understanding of how they’re feeling. Is there anything else that you’d want to share? One, is that correct? And two, what else would you share with coaches out there who are coaching juniors that want to help get them to the top level? What would be two or three things that you would really like them to know? Because in your experience it can make a big difference in that athletes ability to get there.

Niv Libner:

I think that’s why listening to your body on training is really crucial. They think listening to it on races can be also an disadvantages, because many of the races they did and I did well. I felt on the beginning there is no chance I’m going to finish in the bunch that alone with this race. When you learn to mute this voice and just pushing through pedaling, then that’s a really big step forward. That’s on my point of view. For me, that’s the biggest… You want to start that up?

Menachem Brodie:

No, keep going.

Niv Libner:

So for me, knowing to ignore the signals when you’re racing is because everyone is suffering. But in the end, the one that will win, it’s the one that suffered the most.

Menachem Brodie:

Are there any resources or books or courses that help teach that, or is that something that the coaches should really start coaching the athlete as a mental side of an athlete as a skill itself?

Niv Libner:

I think that even then, the understanding of it itself, it’s a big leap forward. If you think of riding on the threshold, when you know that you have 25 kilometers to go on, the climb is one thing, but riding on your threshold, when you know that the climb [inaudible 01:04:50] it’s a complete different thing. And having that in mind, just to understand how your bodies working that you measuring the effort, not only from your feelings, but from your expectations that the big, big jump forward. But also the articles from Samuel Mako and you can find some nice lectures on YouTube from him to give you some tools and some methods of training this kind of… He calls it brain endurance training. And for me, that’s a great thing. I use it a lot with my athletes.

Menachem Brodie:

There’s so much to unpack in the time we spent here today. And I can literally sit here and listen to you for hours here. But unfortunately for today, we’ll have to… Definitely, one, we have to have you back. But where can everybody find you if they want to get in contact with you or read a little bit more of what you’ve produced? Where can the listeners find you?

Niv Libner:

I’m not so on the social networks, but you can find me [inaudible 01:06:07]on Facebook. And you’re all most welcome to contact me from there or from my email, which is nlibner@gmail.com.

Menachem Brodie:

Awesome. Niv, thank you so much for your time today. The women here, the cycling scene here in Israel is incredibly fortunate to have you. And you’re just a very special person. And I haven’t said that to you in person, because I feel kind of awkward. So in front of the microphone, it’s a little different, but you really are. I mean, you have such a special gift and we’re very fortunate to have you and thank you so much for sharing this with our audience today. I really, really appreciate it.

Niv Libner:

Thank you very much for the time and it was a great talk for me.

Speaker 2:

Let’s go. That’s it for this episode of the Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast with world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie. Don’t miss an episode, hit that subscribe button and give us a review. For more exclusive content, visit humanvortextraining.com or get the latest expert videos from coach Brodie on the HBT YouTube channel, at HB training. Until next time, remember to train smarter, not harder because it is all about you.

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Menachem Brodie

Menachem Brodie

Coaching since 2000, Menachem Brodie has been working with athletes in a number of settings, and a broad variety of sports.

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