Coaching cyclists generally appears to be a job people tend to fall in to. Do kids grow up these days wanting to be a cycling coach?
I didn’t have my own cycling coach until after I trained myself into chronic fatigue syndrome, and even then I was reluctant. Pay money for someone to tell me what exercises to do? That was what I’d ask myself, and it was probably the wrong way to approach the question.
Maybe I should have looked at it like this: pay someone with knowledge to give me the best chance for succeeding at something I work so hard at?
In that case, the answer is invariably YES.
I think I really started to see the value in coaching once I became a coach. For me becoming a coach was really just a way to put my science knowledge to work, but it proved pretty useful given my own racing experiences.
The first guy I coached was Seamus Powell (KHS Factory Team). He was good; he was born to be a bike racer, and well positioned to do so. We had been teammates for a few years, but his coach hadn’t been working out. He knew about my tried-and-true ‘slacker’ training regime, and was willing to give it a go.
[maybe more on this regime later…]
We changed Seamus’ training plan 100%, and he won two US National MTB titles that same year—one in Elite Super D and one in Single Speed XC! This was right around the time of the ‘Enduro Boom’, and that lanky XC racer was transitioning well. He won another Elite title the next year.
He had this old-as power meter lying around, and we did testing on it regularly. We knew he was fit, but we were pretty sure it wasn’t coincidence that his peak power kept reading out at 1999W (told you it was old…). Under my persuasion, he got a MTB power meter, and I was stoked on the day we could finally analyze race performances!!
Anyone who has analyzed MTB power files has probably walked away from the computer confused on more than one occasion, and rightfully so. I mean, even if we can come to terms with what’s going on uphill, what the heck is going on the rest of the time??
This is even worse when trying to analyze downhill performance specifically, and isn’t any easier whether it’s XC, DH or Enduro, cyclocross or road cycling!! Let’s face it—if it’s possible to win a world cup DH race with no chain, how important is the power meter?
By the time Seamus had gone Full Enduro, I had no idea what his race files meant. Sure, I was able to use sound evidence to guide his training, but we had no idea where he was winning or losing races.
As a coach, I was embarrassed. We were looking for seconds, and had no way to find them.
We needed a solution.
DH and Enduro races are won and lost in the corners. And this doesn’t let you XC guys off the hook—you better believe that more than one XC race has been lost in the corners, too!
We’ve been using power meters to prescribe fitness training for many years now, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a serious racer that doesn’t use one. And now that we can analyze braking data, we can come up with the best strategies, lines and skill training techniques for corners.
It’s the coach’s job to use every tool available to help the athlete perform at peak ability—and approaching this without thinking of things other than just pedal pushing would is a disservice.
So how many nickels would I have?
I’ll let you be the judge.