This is a review based on having the book and following the program in the book since November 2003.
Caveat: Everyone is individual, and one person's experience will differ from another. I've tried many different programs from Friel to every other magic bullet article in Bicycling Magzine and I'm pretty observant of my body and its reaction to training, so I think my experience with the program has some merit to it. Also, I fall underneath the category of -married, full time job, father of 2 small children, with little to no genetic predisposition to being a good athlete. So I'm looking for something with the best bang for the little amount of time I can devote to it. And this book and the training philosophies in it have worked very well for me.
The book is relatively small, and you have to wonder how much useful information is in there. But it is full of excellent nuggets of information. One thing I've found is that some concepts didn't sink in until seeing them for the 2nd or 3rd time. I don't think you get the full benefit from the book with just one quick reading.
In a nutshell, Morris provides a FRAMEWORK for a training program. His particular philosophies such as the Block training methods and focusing on intervals at set power outputs are what really set this book apart from anything else out there. This is not a book that is going to lay out your exact training plan for you.
The problem with this presentation is that there needs to be more help for a self coached athlete to develop a program. Friel takes this notion to the other extreme allowing readers to set up a program down to the hour. I tried Friel and found that it was just too much information and got bogged down in all the different rides, etc. Problem with the Morris book is that he is at the opposite extreme and doesn't present enough guidance.
Now in all fairness to Morris, what I'm asking for is really hard. This is the 'art of coaching'. Everyone is different. Each individual is going to have different goals, amount of time available, events they want to do, different reactions to stress and rest, etc... He could provide some specific examples, but what everyone will do is just copy the example which could prove more harm than good. But it would have been nice to see an entire year program shown in a calendar format. To use as a model for the self coached athlete to tailor their own program. He does provide some examples based on different cycling disciplines, but it leaves you wanting more.
The reality is that 99% of the people who buy books like this are NOT going to get a coach for one reason or another. I think the one reviewer who feels that the book is just an advertisement for coaching services didn't try very hard to understand the book, but without more guidance for the self coached athlete many won't take the time to get the most out of this book and this program. Mr. Morris is a PhD graduate student and I highly doubt he wants to create a coaching empire to compete with the Charmichael's of the world. With the huge increase in available coaching, especially online, his chapter on coaching provides some good guidelines for prospective clients to filter the multitude of coaching services out there.
There are some parts of the book where more explanation is needed.
For example, Morris talks about using power as a quantitative measure of your training. The problem is that and SRM, Power Tap, or Computrainer may be out of reach of many. He should discuss what products are currently available and provide some comparisons. There should be more detail presented on alternative ways to quantify training. Such as riding at a set speed on a constant grade, using the power curves that most standard trainers have combined with a cycle computer with a rear wheel sensor, or using perceived exertion. You DO NOT need an ergo trainer or a power meter to use this framework.
When discussing the different intervals, he provides ranges for duration, and intensity. These are pretty wide and more detail needs to be presented. For example, A SMSP interval is defined as 1-6 minutes at 105%+ of your sustainable power or heart rate. I wish there he'd break it down a little more such as 1min at x%, 2min at y%, 3min at z%, etc. Same goes for the other types of interval. Also there needs to be some guidance for TOTAL WORK during an interval session. Such as if your doing 3 hr mtn bike races, shoot for total work of 25mins of ON at the beginning of a block and progressing to 35mins ON.
The strength training section is pretty confusing. It took several times reading through it and putting the program into a spreadsheet to make sense. But once I did that it turned out to be really straightforward to follow. After following the strength training program for this season, and comparing it to others I've tried, I really like it. It is pretty intense, but is completed in a relatively short time period. In and out and then back on the bike. Like other cycling specific strength programs, this one focuses on taking weight room strength and turning it into cycling specific strength.
One area where the program seems unique is in the prescription for sprinting and leadout intervals during the endurance phase of riding. This is so the rider does not lose all the strength gains made in the weight room during a month or more of LSD riding.
One thing missing is the progression in the training over time, Meaning, how to increase the overall work throughout the season. As you work, then rest, work, rest... you should be able to increase the difficulty of training. In the weight training section is it easy to see how the difficulty increases between week 1 and week 2 of the strength period for example. But I wish he'd discuss more how to develop your own training program and increase the difficulty (varying the time and intensity) as time goes on. I guess you can do part of that yourself by retesting your sustainable power (which your training intensity is based on) every month. It should get higher as you train, so then the training would get harder too?
He does provide several example programs based on different disciplines. I just think there needs to be more details for helping a self coached athlete take the frame work and create his own program. For example, how to change the framework for a sport class mountain bike racer vs vet expert.
In conclusion, I think the book is very unique compared to what else is out there, and the concepts have worked very well for me. I constantly refer to it, have bookmarks everywhere and get more from it every time I glance at it. Just keep in mind that this is not a cookie cutter book, and you'll need to put your own work into it to come up with a training plan.