Coaching is one of those jobs which often doesn’t receive the attention or credit it deserves. Cycling is a challenging sport, requiring a pile of riding, good motivation and smart training. More often it is the athlete who is training smarter, rather then harder, who comes out on top. This is one of the hardest things we learn as cyclists.
I have struggled with this over the course of my career and I have put myself into the overtraining coma many of times. It has helped me in 24 hour racing, as after you’ve driven yourself into the ground enough times, it starts feeling normal. When it comes to Marathon or XC racing, you need to be sharp, and being in a coma isn’t going to get you anywhere. This is one area a coach can save an athlete’s season and career.
Last year I lucked out and had the opportunity to work with Dan Prouxl, Canada’s National Mountain Bike team coach, who happens to live in my current home of Victoria BC. Dan gets paid to coach our National XC team as it is an Olympic sport. He is a great team builder, knows his stuff and has lead our National XCO team to many great results across the World.
Being a Marathon racer, I fall out of his job responsibilities as it has yet to become an Olympic sport. Dan has always believed in my talents though and took his own time a number of times last year to meet for coffees and share some of his wealth of MTB specific training knowledge. 5 weeks before big races he would outline a program and some specific workouts to get me fired up. This had a huge impact on my performance, and helped lead to a Top 20 at the World Champs and to me winning our Marathon National Championship again, beating the current XC National champ in the process. Last year was a breakout year for me and without Dan’s day to day MTB specific workouts, and Luke Way finding my weaknesses from a scientific viewpoint, there is no way I would’ve had the this season to remember.
I’ve been working with my friend Luke Way for a number of years. We grew up a couple blocks away from each other in Jasper and have stayed close since we ventured away from our Rocky mountain upbringing. Luke now runs a successful coaching enterprise in Kelowna called Balance Point Racing and is also a master bike fitter. Every year Luke fits my new bikes and makes sure my body is running like a machine with them. This alone has turned around race seasons and is one of the single most important things I do each year. He also runs tests 2-3 times a year to find out were my body is at, and which weakness I should work on. My meetings with him have been great and I always come away with a couple of new tricks to tie into my training regime.
I’ve had many other coaches over the years and they have each taught different but equally valuable lessons which have brought me to where I am today.. Back at square 1, Dave MacDowell (Current owner of Wild Mountain) was running Jasper’s local bike shop Freewheel Cycle. He kicked things off by being ultra motivating and encouraging me through the early years. He also naturally hooked me up with my first couple of Konas! From here he helped organize some rides with the local racers at the time, Dana Ruddy and Matt Decore, which further pushed me towards the racing scene. Dana’s Dad Gordon, would make room in his heated garage so Dana and I could hit the rollers in the middle of the winter and keep some muscle memory through a long winter full of hockey and skiing.
My first bike specific coach was Tracy Shearer from the Juventus bike club in Edmonton. He was our coach for the Alberta Summer Games in 2000 and can still be found teaching young cyclists to be top class racers and citizens at the same time. He is a great motivator and the dedication he shows to his athletes and the sport of cycling is unreal. Not only were we taught to be fast racers, but too love the sport as it requires a lot of loving to get through the tough times.
Andy Holmwood was my next coach as he was working with the Alberta Bicycle association and took us on many provincial team projects, including the 2001 Canada Games in Ontario, road races in Quebec and the Maritimes, as well as various mountain bike races. Andy would oversee my training for a number of years and was a huge believer in my talents and helped keep things on track. Without him there’s a good chance I would’ve ended up as a fat kid at the candy store as there were some tough years in there once I hit the U23 ranks.
During this time I also had a brief stint with Dutch coach Tim Heemskerk ,who had a wealth of knowledge and is now the Dutch National Team coach. His approach was very European, and very structured. At that time I would spend large amounts of my time tree planting during the racing season, In his eyes this wasn’t a proper cycling training method. I learned a lot from Tim but the timing was off so our relationship only lasted a couple months.
I have also had help from many different athletes, and always tried to gather as much information as possible from as many different sources as possible. Being a free spirit I have a tough time staying on structured programs and have often been the cause of frustration for coaches, which I certainly understand.
Mathew Decore, was a Pro racer based in Jasper, when I was getting into cycling. He took me under his wing early on. Throughout the years I would call him up and he would lay out coaching plans for different periods. His ideas were great and very useful as he grew up on the same trails as I did in Jasper, so he could give very specific workouts. Still to this day I can call Matt up for advice. Because his approach is almost polar opposite to mine, it helps me fix my weaknesses and look at training from a different angle instead of just riding myself into the ground enough times until the legs eventually get fast.
Over the years it’s easy to forget how you got to where you are today. It’s people like those listed above (and many more!) that keep dreams alive for many youth and help lead them down the right paths in this crazy game called life.