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Hell Hath No Fury: A Review

As do many professional riders, I face some frigid training conditions during the winter in Europe. As much as I would like you to believe that I’m a machine programmed to crush outdoor training sessions regardless of weather conditions, the fact is, I am a human being, one who has whined plenty and publicly about the challenges of winter training. However, even worse than training with an ice cream headache in freezing fog, is sweating indoors on a stationary trainer.

Like (probably) many of you, I hate the trainer. I really do. I will ride in ridiculous sub-freezing temperatures just to avoid indoor workouts. When I must use the trainer, I have to trick myself into staying motivated. I play music, which limits visual stimuli to the wall or my powermeter (one of which I’m convinced holds the key to slowing the expansion of the universe). I’ve also tried watching movies, which help pass the time, but the plots don’t usually motivate good leg-crushing intervals.

Last week I received Hell Hath No Fury from The Sufferfest and was asked to review it. [Full disclosure: I got a free copy for the purpose of writing a review, but am not being paid to endorse it.] I had never tried a Sufferfest workout and had no idea what to expect. Seventy-five minutes later, stunned, spent and staring at a pool of my own sweat, I realized I’d just had fun on the trainer.

What?!

I would not have believed it if I did not experience it myself; let me explain.

Composed of well-curated race footage from the women’s 2011 World Cup races, Hell Hath No Fury guides — no — relentlessly pushes the poor soul on the trainer athlete through a tough-as-nails workout. The video has it all: engaging visuals (bike racing!), killer adrenaline-pumping music for focused efforts, and a story line (peppered with liberal doses of heckling) that motivates from start to finish. In all, a brilliant approach to the evil necessity of trainer workouts.

The video begins by setting up the workout: 2 x 20 minute efforts plus a 3:30 minute effort (with built-in recovery intervals), structured as a stage race to keep you focused and motivated. After a brief warm-up, the race kicks off at full gas. Women’s World Cup footage plays out on the screen with text commanding you to attack, cover moves, surge over hills or sprint for the finish. When you find yourself head-down and cross-eyed in pain, don’t think you can escape those directives just because you can’t see straight: audible cues let you know when to attack again (not unlike the voice of a DS shouting through a radio earpiece during the real thing).

Throughout the workout, the video displays the prescribed level of intensity and counts down the time for each effort (with intermediate instructions to attack and surge – frequently), so you can keep your eyes on the screen, without diverting attention to your bike computer every twenty seconds to see if you’re done yet. Not only does the screen keep you on your toes, following wheels of the world’s greatest women cyclists, but the display also taunts you into digging deeper with most excellent heckling. I admit the thought has crossed my mind that personal hecklers could be the solution to more effective trainer workouts. Herein lies the genius of The Sufferfest – they get in the mind of a cyclist and know what a cyclist needs – a smart, structured workout; good music; attacks to follow; gaps to close; hills to climb and heckling to spur them on to new depths of suffering.

Personally, I love that this video features the women’s peloton. Having done these races myself, reliving the terrain, efforts and speeds got my adrenaline going big time. (And yeah, it was really cool to see my own bike in there and many teammates and friends). Prior to this video’s release, I read a Twitter comment from The Sufferfest about having to edit out attacks, as the women were attacking so often. Let me tell you, women’s racing is fierce. Doubt it? You won’t after Hell Hath No Fury. Totally worth the $11.99 price tag.

Check out the preview:

[vsw id=”46136962″ source=”vimeo” width=”725″ height=”444″ autoplay=”no”]

Amber Pierce – An American expat living in Austria, Amber has made the leap across the Atlantic in pursuit of her dreams on the road. After making a name for herself as one of the top road cyclists in the US, she now faces new challenges in her life on the road in Europe.

Amber’s path to full-time racing in Europe has been anything but linear. From high school valedictorian holding national swimming records, to scholarship athlete at Stanford University and researcher on the open ocean, she has found herself in countless adventures all over the globe. With 53 career victories under her belt, however, Amber appears to have found her calling on the bicycle.

Photos: Amber Pierce

8 Comments

  1. I’ve always hated the trainer but your review almost makes me want to buy the video! Oh wait…I have one 😉 Also, you’re a very talented writer Amber. I enjoy your column.

    1. Heather – Thanks for taking the time to comment, and thank you for the kind thoughts. It is very nice to know there are people out there who read this and actually like it! Hope the winter training is going well for you!

  2. I agree, great workout. And inspiring. With my current power profile, I could – maybe – just stay in the peloton. At the back. UCI wouldn’t like that… I go watch the ladies on the cobble stones and short hills in Flanders. Believe me, war rages there. Greetings, Checker.

    1. Checker – Agreed – Flanders is awesome! The terrain embodies so much of the sport – the history and grit and connection to landscapes; plus the race passes within meters of the fans, AND beers and frites and sausage abound! Makes for great crowds, which we riders love. Thanks for making the trek to watch us out there!

  3. Hi Amber!

    I’m Bob Kinnison, the voice, and creator of the Athlete’s Audio ‘cool down’ content at the end of the Hell Hath No Fury. Any thoughts on that? I’d love to give you a chance to review our Cycling Mental Skills training as you did the Sufferfest!

    1. Bob, thanks for mentioning this; I was remiss not to address this part of HHNF in the review. I actually thought it was a great way to end the workout, bringing the mind back to focus on how the efforts relate to the bigger picture. Perhaps I should include an addendum here, but a separate post devoted to reviewing the Cycling Mental Skills training might be even better! I will send you an email shortly! Thanks again for your comments.

  4. I watched the women’s pro cycling in Colorado this summer. It was awesome but all the coverage focused on the men’s races.

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