If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Anthony Walsh has been there – and come back with a new perspective, and a tale to tell. And the road to podcast host might seem less treacherous on the face of it, it’s been anything but freewheeling.
“Back when I was racing full time, I was 68 kilograms. I gained nearly 30 kilograms. I was the heaviest I'd ever been. To begin with, the podcast was me saying, okay, I'm off course. I don't really have the tools. And one of the things I learned from my time in law was that when you don't have all the answers – and you're never going to have all the answers – you can bring in expert witnesses. So I thought okay, let me find out who has all this information, who can shortcut this journey for me, and let me talk to them.”
Anthony closed down the business he’d spent years building in favour of taking the time to find out what made him happy.
“I realised I was trying to recapture my health, happiness and longevity. And that's the tagline for the podcast now – how do we use cycling as a tool for health, happiness and longevity?
I started reaching out to people who had figured it out, people that were 10 steps ahead of me. I said, hey, can I pay you a consultation fee and pick your brain for an hour? I would come back from those sessions and record a WhatsApp message and send it to one of my buddies and say, hey, I spoke to this person for an hour and here's three really cool things I learned. And he said, that's great, who are you talking to next week?
A little later he asked, is it okay if I add two more people into this WhatsApp group? And that's how the podcast started – I got to the limit of a WhatsApp group, hundreds of people, and I thought, this is a really bad way to disseminate information. Plus, I'm burning through my cash pretty fast, paying people every week to come and chat to them."
As a kid, it was a passion for football that drove his interest in sports, with his sights set on turning pro – an early sign of Anthony’s level of ambition. But when it came to it, an ultimatum from his dad saw him change course for higher education, and a degree in law. It wasn’t until a football injury sidelined at university that he tried cycling as a form of rehab, and quickly discovered a passion and a natural ability for it.
After qualifying and with an alluring life as a lawyer in front of him, Anthony opted to pursue his passion for cycling and moved to France for a paltry sum and the dream of turning pro. His hard work paid off when after a move to Toronto he landed a contract with a UCI Continental team in the USA – one step closer to the ultimate dream of riding at the WorldTour. But things weren’t all they’d cracked up to be. So, instead of settling for someone else’s dream, Anthony chose to shake things up.
“How do we use cycling as a tool for health, happiness and longevity?”
And that was when the Wattbike came in.
“I’ve had mine since 2013. It's still working perfectly. It was like a mortgage for me back then.I was just off being a pro cyclist, I was absolutely broke. I remember saving 50 euro a week from my cycling salary, because I knew I was coming back to Ireland where the weather isn’t brilliant, and I was going to be a little more time-crunched.”
Fast forward a decade, and his Wattbike – Anthony recently upgraded to an Atom – is still in use.
“I live pretty close to where I grew up in Dublin. It's an amazing place to ride. It's beautiful, one of the best places in the world to ride because you've access to the Wicklow mountains, which is an amazing place. You're almost transported to prehistoric times when you get in there. But it's a 30 minute ride across the city. If you're time-crunched and you have a very specific session you want to do – tonight I have a ninety-minute session that's very specific with a lot of cadence changes, a lot of specific power intervals to do – it's just not possible without having a tool like Wattbike.
When I was full time, I would have packed my bike into the car and driven to a suitable road. Your whole day is gone just to get a 90 minute specific session done. When I got the Wattbike at the start it was a total game changer for me – I could get specific work done instantly.
There’s also the reliability. I have a lot of other demands on my time. I want to get a quality session done in a condensed amount of time. Can I do a session and know that the data I'm getting from this is reliable every single time? Does it just work? Yes – every time it works.”
So with all those years under his belt, what’s Anthony’s key session on the trainer?
“This one is both my favourite and my least favourite at the same time. It’s often my go to if I'm tapering for an event, or if I'm really time-crunched.
Start with a short warmup, five minutes zone one, five minutes zone two. The main set is a four minute effort: 20 seconds upper zone five followed by 10 seconds zone one, repeated for the duration. Then four minutes recovery.
People say, I don't have time to get a session in, I'm too time crunched. You can get this into as little as twenty minutes, or you can expand it to be an hour or more.
It's such a big physiological hit of intensity. People are obsessed with threshold – no one's ever won a race at threshold. You can't ride away from anyone at threshold. If you have that top end zone five power, you can create gaps, you can punch over the top of climbs. It's such an effective use of your time.”
Combining that power with potential, what are Anthony’s goals for the year ahead?
“I've had a bunch of gravel privateers on the podcasts – Nicolas Roche, Peter Stetina and Laurens Ten Dam – and they're all talking about how excited they are to be a gravel pro. We started to unpack what that means – you’ve just got to self-proclaim that you're a gravel pro, there's no licensing requirements. So last year I started saying tongue-in-cheek: I'm a gravel pro. But then gravel events started reaching out to say, hey, do you want to come and do this gravel race? So that's been a catalyst for me to actually start training a little.
I'm off to some amazing races: The Rift over in Iceland, the Migration Race in Kenya is going to be a big one, Leadville in Colorado, Badlands in Spain. It's an amazing opportunity to tell stories around these events. That's why I love the podcast, it’s a throwback to something we used to do long ago, sitting around telling stories. I'll go to Kenya to race where there’s the Amani Project, doing amazing work, bringing the best WorldTour pros – plus me – across to Kenya to race against their talent. So I'm going to race through the Maasai Mara, have these amazing experiences, and then come back and share them with the listeners.”
In order to make the most of those experiences, it’s going to take some fitness. And Wattbike will be playing its part.
“The Wattbike is so central, I probably do 80 to 90% of my sessions on it. I only really get out on the road at the weekend with the podcast being six days a week. I actually have the Wattbike in the studio – literally, if I turn my camera around, it's sitting right there. When I have a gap in my schedule, I jump on the Wattbike.”