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Involvement in the this sport(28 posts)

Involvement in the this sportSherpa23
Aug 5, 2002 3:00 PM
Hi all, I have a few quick questions for you. I am going to start coaching next year and I need some input. I have decided to cap the load at 10 cyclists, varying from recreational cyclist to cat. 3's - no higher categories unles I help them to get there. I am going to give them a very structured training plan but I am going to place an emphasis on the mental and tactical side of cycling as I really want to DEVELOP riders instead of just get them fit. So here are my questions, aimed directly at newer cyclists and cat. 4 and 3 racers: Do you feel that there is a need for tactical and mental development? How much a part of your cycling challenges are mental, how much of your cycling challenges are tactical, and how much of your cycling challenges are physical? If you want, you can give these points out of 100, such as 45 parts are a mental problem, 20 parts are a tactical problem, and 35 parts are a physical problem. That way, I can see just how much of this needs to be addressed by coaching. If there is anything that you think that most coaching lacks, please post that as well. Also, would you prefer getting your training program via a website, email, or fax? Incidentally, I am going to charge a good bit less than other coaches but I will require a minimum of a year committment. Thanks in advance for the comments.
hmmm....good questionPack Meat
Aug 5, 2002 3:35 PM
I've been "racing" on and off for about 10 years. I'd break it down like this:

70% physical
10% scheduling
15% tactical
5% mental

About 3 years ago I figured out I have EIA so for me the physical part is the real limiting factor. When conditions (temp, humidity, crap in the air)are right I can really fly and place well. What I do have a lot of trouble with is organizing my season and laying out training throughout the year. I'm good in the winter and spring, it's kind of easy, base miles and lift weights, but once the summer hits I lose focus and do the group rides and training races. Keep me posted I think I might try a coach for next season. I'm going to be racing 3s and 35+ next year, ouch.
I would be looking for a versatile package ...Humma Hah
Aug 5, 2002 3:38 PM
... If I were looking for a coach, I would want the coach to be prepared to tell me what I need, and, if he couldn't provide it, send me where I can get it.

I'm not a racer, but I do take my riding fairly seriously and am good at self-motivation. But I would hope my coach would be a good motivator.

I'm getting up in years, would like a coach to be able to recommend exercises to overcome aches and pains, or be able to recommend another trainer or therapist who could.

I would want a coach who can help me set up a bike for the best fit.

I'm no Lance Armstrong. I believe my VO2 max is mediocre, and is a big part of the reason I've never enjoyed racing (more specifically, I've never enjoyed finishing so far back in the field). There's a chance I'm wrong, and that what I really need is better training. I'd want a coach who could arrange to have my capacity tested, let me know realistically what I ought to be able to achieve with what God gave me, and then set me on a program to DO it. I would also want the coach to be able to identify my strengths, what form of riding I'd be most competitive in.
Aug 5, 2002 4:40 PM
I am in my 2nd full year of road racing and my first season as a Cat 3. With a coach I have gained a huge amount of fitness in 18 months, although honestly I'm not sure how much I credit with the training plan since I don't follow it that well. I have no problems with motivation or time, but find the areas where I need the most improvement are mental. Tactically I know what we as a team need to do and what I should do individually but mentally I'm never in a position to execute. So:

Mental 50
Physical 30
Tactical 20

I currently get my training plan through email and communicate my planned races and goals mostly through email. I found my coach to be most valuable early this season when we drove down to the Tour of the Gila and he gave me tips and tactics for the race. As a Cat 4 cyclist though he doesn't have much to offer in the way of mental experience.
I think it would depend on the personweiwentg
Aug 5, 2002 5:16 PM
I've been an nduranc athlete for 3 years, and I actually think I'm pretty good on the mental side. However, others may not be.
imho, as a guideline, 4s would need less of the mental side of things, and 3s will definitely need it. everyone, imo, should learn tactics. the reason I cheaped out and asked on the board is because my coach is now 12000 miles away and hasn't responded to my email.
51 mental and 49 physicalskip work to ride
Aug 5, 2002 6:20 PM
i am racing the road for the first season, and my fourth off road. I would say that mental has been biggest thing. The key here is not only being psyched, but what to expect.

I race on a team and sometimes the teammates let me know what the course is like, where to expect attacks, when to attack and even whom to watch. I think the key to any new racer is understanding what to expect. From a training plan, to workouts, to equipment and races.

I think my success and failures this season were due to knowing what the hell was going on.

I wish I had a coach to just keep me motivated at times. I would believe my coach if he said I was stronger than others, suffering the same as others, or just as same.

It may not be having your racers do mental workouts, but instead keeping them pumped up. Let's face it, if you think you're the sh&* then you'll race that way...

My question is how do coaches develop a pricing plan?
our takelonefrontranger
Aug 5, 2002 6:50 PM
The answer of percentages is going to be personal to the client in front of you. If you are prepared to offer the right mix to your client then everyone benefits. However IME, oftentimes what happens is the folks that desperately need to work on tactical and skills advice are also the last ones to ask for it.

Be certain to draw up a contract up front which spells out what your job is and what the client's responsibility is to the coach (or you'll get sued for their money back because THEY didn't complete the program). The contract also gives you the out of being able to "fire" your client if they turn out to be a complete jackass (been there, done that). Before a contract is ever signed, you should sit down with the client and have a frank discussion of their goals and interests, both short and long term; sounds like you've got that covered.

John and I have thought for a number of years that there is too much focus on the science and fitness of racing and not enough on the mental and tactical aspects, so I'm stoked to hear you're making a go at it. The coaching that I have done myself almost entirely focuses on tactics, skills and psychology, so I personally feel it's VERY important :)

As for myself, well I've always had confidence problems. I'd have to say that my personal needs for development are probably 55% mental, 25% physical and 20% tactical. I think training program via private (means you pay for the login) website is probably the best. An e-mail relationship would probably also be an integral part of communication.
My takeallervite
Aug 6, 2002 9:58 PM
LFR, I think we have a lot in common as far as our racing skills go, though you could probably kick my butt.

What I am getiing at is that we both think we are somewhat weak mentally. We have felt that ghost of doubt as the pack surges on that long uphill. We have had to fight that little voice that says, "pack it, sit up, make it a training ride, there are a lot more races." In other words, when we have been dropped, we never feel it is because we have not worked enough on our climbing or some other physical limiter, but rather that we were not tough enough. If we would have just stuck it out we would have won.

Maybe so, but I wonder if we are just expecting too much from ourselves. I have been told more than once that I know how to suffer, but I have let some gaps go. I once entered a crit with no training and was very down on getting dropped half way through. Maybe I, or you, or both of us just see the glass half empty when we do not succeed.

Maybe I just think too much.
re: Involvement in the this sportkaiser
Aug 6, 2002 7:13 AM
A lot of riders believe, mistakenly, that when properly trained, they will magically reach this training nirvana, and their winning day will be handed to them because they are now so fit...It takes guts to win, and chances must be taken...And winning is painful, but no one will win if they do not attempt it.

I think coaches spend too much time talking about fitness, and do too little to motivate their riders to ride at the front, to try breaks, and also to hone their actual sprinting skills (as well as trying to overcome sprinting fears).

Most sub-par performances I've had in a race were due to my fears of mixing it up at the front during a sprint. Or my fears of blowing up if I spend too much time inthe front.
Excellent pointsBipedZed
Aug 6, 2002 7:51 AM
I believe coaches place most emphasis on fitness because it is the foundation for mental challenges, tactics, and strategy. You can't execute any of the above without the fitness to stay with the pack for the duration of a race, and that fitness gap is ENORMOUS between recreational cyclists and serious racers.

With strong fitness I was able to place very well in Cat 4s because winning among the 10 or so remaining riders in a 4 race is fairly easy compared to the tactics and risks I now face against 50 equally strong riders at the end of a 3 race. Of course fitness is still very important to me because the top 3s are such fast climbers that my fitness needs to greatly improve before I'm in the money for a hilly race.

Coaches will need to evaluate their clients on an individual basis. Fitness is still the foundation for successful racing on any level, but lower category clients will require more emphasis on mental challenges and strategies.
it's 95% legs to meDougSloan
Aug 6, 2002 8:09 AM
95% physical
4% tactical
1% mental

Here's my reasoning. All the tactics and willpower on the planet will do nothing for you if you don't have the legs to execute it. Tactics can be learned fairly quickly compared to developing the power necessary to win a sprint, go off the front, or pull away up a big hill (at least for me). Plus, tactics aren't all that helpful unless you have team mates, similarly trained and skilled, to assist.

Of course, as you know, I think tactics become much more important once you move up in ranks and the power of riders is more uniform compared to the 4's and 5's. The 1's and 2's have selected in the stronger riders, to the groups are more homogenous. That makes tactics more important.

Yes, tactics can make the difference between winning and losing, but only if the fitness is there.

A lot of riders make it to the last turn.kaiser
Aug 6, 2002 9:41 AM
I'm going to use the basic typical American criterium example:

The pace is fast, most pelotons tend to drop some riders, and in almost any race, most of the riders will characterize themselves as "hurting". If asked any at particular moment during the race if they have the chance to win, I think most riders would think about how much they hurt at that moment, and say "prolly not".

My point is, that of all the riders that ARRIVE at the last lap of a fast crit (most of the field), the playing field is actually fairly even. I regularly see guys come around the last turn, at the back of the pack, and then rocket past a good chunk of the field on their way to 15th place, out of the money. They didn't believe they could win, or they were chicken to be in front. They had the fitness. They just didn't have the bawls to win.

I think many of us sell ourselves short on our fitness level. Everyone I know always seems to think they are, on any given day, sub-par on their fitness level...yet there they are, race after race, always in there, and never getting dropped. and they always finish mid-field.

Look at that Cuban guy who won the NY race this past Sunday....he freely admitted that he is a big chicken-sh!t when it comes to sprints, and he doesn't like to be anywhere near Davidenko or Fraser in the last 200M. He was very LUCKY to have come around like 10 guys to take the win...It just happened to work out for him. He took a WAY outside path, and probably took a route that was a good 10 meters longer than Davidenko's final line.

I hate to use examples of my own life to make my point, but I can't help it...I was once a fairly high caliber junior rider. A very good climber, with a really lackluster palmares in criteriums, yet I always hung in, and always finished mid-field...Then my coach started having me go out and do 'match sprinting' contests on a short course, with 1-4 other riders...My ability to dig deep down and find that 'killer urge' to win the sprint was greatly improved...I started getting top-5 crit placings with my 135 lb body (true sprinters always beat me)...But I truly believe this improvement was accomplished via my tactical development and mental search. I learned how to get mad and to visualize ways to dig-out more power. Reading an email from a coach, telling me to "go out and do 5-10 sprints" just is not the same as having someone there with me, yelling at me to dig deeper, and to kick ash.
it's 95% legs to meJSchneb
Aug 6, 2002 1:08 PM
While I agree that without the fitness component, tactics are completely irrelevant, I think that the mental component is only slightly less important.

I know that from my own personal experience, I used to let my lack of confidence defeat me before the race even began. I had to learn to reverse my self-doubt and use it instead to motivate myself. Now, when I start to suffer, instead of telling myself that "I can't hang on anymore, these guys are too strong", I tell myself "Yeah, I'm suffering, but these guys are suffering more and I can suffer longer". I started imagining that the pain that I was feeling was being transfered to my competitors.

This "reworking" of my thinking alone has taken me from being off the back to being on the podium!
As I see it...brider
Aug 6, 2002 9:02 AM
I agree with Doug on his first sentence, you gotta have the legs to back up your tactics. So the actual percentages will depend on the individual.

As Lance stated in his NBC interview, knowing a whole new level of suffering goes a long way towards racing success. Just ask a woman who's had a baby via natural. Racing pain is miniscule by comparisson. So a lot of what holds a person back is mental -- knowing that you really CAN take more. Tactics will come. Having the huevos to execute needs to be developed. Learning that you can is huge.

For me, at this point, it's 99% physical, because I haven't been training. When I was racing Cat 3, it was 10% physical, 40% mental, 50% tactical. Mostly because I tended to race my (rather narrow) strengths. I did a lot of training races where I'd just do attack after attack, and once in a while it would stick. I'd work on bridging hard. But my sprint still sucked. I was great for lead-outs, and sometimes it would even be for a team mate! But the thing for me was that the 100% listed above was all for a 5% improvement.
good point... the mental is the physical is the tacticsshawndoggy
Aug 6, 2002 9:37 AM
Sherpa, I think that you wrote on here a while back that when you went to Europe you learned what suffering really was (and that you could get through it). Is that physical or mental... I don't know. As doug said, you've got to have the legs, but you've also got to have the confidence (or perhaps just knowledge) that you can push yourself WELL beyond your comfort zone (DISCLAIMER: after base miles and all that rot), recover, and live to tell. Like the other relatively new racers who posted above, I've got pretty good fitness, but sometimes that gap forms and I don't mentally know whether my fitness is good enough to close it up and hang on (and I guess that's sort of a tactics issue too).

So I guess that I'd like to have a coach who could even help me make the assessments you are talking about... watch me in a crit or take me on a hard training ride and tell me what you see as my weaknesses, etc.
Aug 6, 2002 10:51 AM
Thanks for all the good comments. This gives me a good idea about what I can expect from the athletes and the range that I will need to address. What I had in mind was always going to be an individual assessment of the athlete, both in terms of goals and weaknesses, followed by my watching them race for 2 weeks. I don't want to say a thing for two weeks, just so that I can observe them. Then I will focus on where they are losing races mentally, tactically and physically. The physical aspect is very important but some of the best, most consistent finishers I know are not the strongest in the race. If I can develop riders to get more out of the sport than just physical training then they would get great enjoyment and satisfaction out of racing. Now comes my next question: what would be the most effective way to get athletes? Remember, I will not take any more than 10 athletes. Thanks a lot.
Aug 6, 2002 11:39 AM
From your message it seems you plan to have local clients so you can watch them race. In my opinion, it is extremely important to have a local coach that is familiar with the local terrain and races. My coach was the Cat 3 official for the Tour of the Gila. He was able to watch me in the official's car for every road stage of the race. His input (and encouragement) was invaluable. That was the deciding factor for me going with my current coach vs. something like CTS or Wenzel.

As far as getting clients, the best way would be word of mouth. The Front Range road scene is pretty small and just getting out there and racing a bunch you will get to know lots of racers, particularly if you race for an established team. My teammates are always commenting how I seem to know so many people, and a lot of that is due to cyclocross where things are much more mellow and friendly after the race. Meridian is also a good way to get exposure.

On a personal note, I may have gone as far as I can go with my current coach. Sign me on for a year, and if I start appearing near the top of the results next season, people will notice.
RacingMr Good
Aug 7, 2002 10:05 PM
Athlete psychology and an understanding of race evolution/tactics is equally as important as fitness development. That sport where fitness is most important is called triathalon.

Congratulations on considering coaching. Good coaches are needed! I would encourage you to work with local racers who you know and can see racing, at least occasionally (as you have already indicated you intend to do). Question: what's the difference between a coach and a personal trainer? Answer: the trainer can show you how to exercise and get fit. The coach (ideally) is a teacher and mentor, who will teach the athlete how to train, race, live, and win. That's a tall order, I know, but that's the ideal.

I know lots of racers who get a training plan from a coach over the internet, someone who's never met them or seen them race. I wouldn't call that coaching. I want a coach who I have a human relationship with. Perhaps it's just a business relationship, but nonetheless someone who knows ME and can assess whether I need kind words or a kick in the butt...and someone who cares about racing as much as I do.

As to how you should get clients? I'm not speaking from experience (I'm not a coach), but perhaps you should coach people who you really like. Sound simplistic? I don't know, you might do a better job and be more involved (and enjoy your work) when you care about the athlete's development. Then again, it might be tempting to take on the talented, ornery knucklehead who shows great potential. I guess I can't make that decision for you...
I'm not sure, but I may be the greenest guy to respond. I thinkbill
Aug 6, 2002 11:17 AM
that LFR hit it on the head when she said, like so much in life, it depends, and I think that what I'm about to say may respond in part to your second question, as well, which is, how to get people to sign up.
I'm not talking about marketing tactics. That's going to depend on what's available to you in your neighborhood. But, what would sell me on a coach is whether the coach understood that his job depends on my needs. if you're willing to be that kind of coach, of course.
What too much experience can cause you to overlook, I think, is that the participant's view of what this or any sport or endeavor is about really changes over time. At first, one probably think that cycling is all a very mechanical legs thing -- I'll get there when I get these legs. Then you start to realize that you aren't going to get the legs until you learn a little about suffering, about the time that you learn that the way to go faster is to . . . go faster. Then you start to realize that you're being limited by certain aspects of your fitness, and you start to learn how to break down the skills and abilities and to train them. Tactics come in way way down the road, although I think that they become critical at a certain point (not there, yet).
The coach who understands that I'm not going to understand certain things until I understand certain other things first and is willing to lead me there gets my vote.
That was, without a doubt...brider
Aug 6, 2002 12:25 PM
the most cryptic, yet descriptive, post I've seen in a long time.

bingo, good perspective.lonefrontranger
Aug 6, 2002 4:10 PM
Dude, don't apologize. This is why Jack Welch asks mailroom clerks what they think of G.E. marketing strategy. Not to imply that you're a mailroom clerk... Sometimes a fresh perspective is all it takes.

I agree that perspective is important. In the past, mentoring from your peers was the way to get going in the sport, and they provided the perspective you needed because they were right there suffering with you. However, and ESPECIALLY in this region, there's a whole new generation of Cat 4s out there who hit the ground running with tons of fitness from other aerobic sports as well as structured, cycling specific training programs, and IME effective coaching is the only way to shorten the learning curve and avoid spending several frustrating seasons off the back. I think BipedZed might testify to that one.

Back when I coached, the clients I took on were all pretty much beginner racers. When I did run into difficulty with certain clients, it almost always stemmed from an underlying lack of respect, because I was "only" another Cat 4, despite my prior years' experience in racing.

There is a tendency for bike racers (gender / age notwithstanding) to carry the firm conviction that unless one's coach can kill one in a sprint, and / or has won XYZ national calendar events, they're not qualified to call themselves a cycling coach. It's called pecking order, and to some degree, we all buy in.

To fit this perceived need, there are quite a few upper-cat and former pro racers out there making a go of it coaching. YES they know a lot about getting you fit. Boy oh, boy will they ever get you fit. Injured and overtrained, too in the case of 2 of my teammates. I also know of not a few who lack the compassion, tactical savvy, natural teaching ability and pure common sense that it takes to go beyond being a P.E. instructor and become a true cycling coach. Some simply perceive coaching as an extension of their considerable egos, and I've seen a couple that behave worse than Little League parents. Who needs that?

Interesting example of perspective in coaching. The best horseback riding instructor I ever had, never sat on a horse in his life. He taught from a wheelchair due to the effects of polio. Nothing to do with cycling, I agree, but makes one think a bit.

Not that he needs or wants my endorsement, but IME Sherpa is a rare bird: a top level racer who's compassionate, listens well, is willing to give back to the grassroots, and who retains the perspective to understand what getting dropped as a 4 is like. He has natural teaching ability and a great motivating spirit. He is also an alpha male pro who can and will kick your butt bigtime if that is what you need on that day ;-)

Which would have been a nice option to have on the days I was dealing with particularly mouthy juniors.
Aug 7, 2002 8:00 AM
LFR, thanks for the good words. They are especially appreciated seeing that you actually know me and we have shared some fun rides together.
The best coach I ever hadshirt
Aug 7, 2002 1:10 PM
Was my high school cross country coach. He was a true guru/philosopher type who earned the worship of many nationally-ranked runners over the decades. He died 15 years ago and is still discussed by those of us who worked with him.

He was also born with one leg 12" shorter than the other and never ran a step in his life.

Aug 6, 2002 8:31 PM
My .02

Cat 4, 5 what age group? I would assume 20s.
50 physical
30 tactics
20 mental

As they progress in fitness, boost the tactics and mental part. Emphasize the team aspect to racing.

Lowly 5 I am in the Masters field, it's all physical for me. I know what to do, but it just doesn't work dictating team tactics off the back when you are not at the same fitness level, and as others have attested there is a very large gap from "fast recreational rider" to race ready.

Here's another thought for your coaching. You have stated you have a 10 rider limit, would it be feasible to associate yourself with a local team of cat 4, 5 riders. This may help on the tactics angle.

Thanks for helping out the other riders and us on rbr,
Coaching Reqs.allervite
Aug 6, 2002 9:45 PM
60 mental
30 tactical
10 physical

Wish I would have known this 10 years ago.
Coaching Reqs.peter1
Aug 8, 2002 7:59 AM
I would love to be able to afford a trainer and the time and flexibiilty to follow through with a plan.

60 pct. mental sounds about right, assuming that the reason the USCF has categories is to equalize the fields.

I know that my fitness doesn't vary that much over a season, and that my results corroborate with a few, limited factors (how well I sleep before a race, how long I have to drive to a race, stress level in other parts of my life. I ALWAYS do better when the race is close to home. I wonder what a sports psychologist would have to say about that!).

So I think developing a good mental routine that works would help me overcome those variables.

(You'll note I didn't mention equipment or weather or race type issues. I got over those when I finally realized that EVERYONE has those.)

Physical condition, I would put at 30 percent. I'd love to have a coach who could help me mix up my training more and give solid advice on recovery and nutrition.

Tactics? 5 percent, maybe 10 percent. (unless you're at the very highest point of fitness/competition). Once you have the confidence to win (as a number of posters quite eloquently described above) and the fitness, tactics come easy.

IMO the mental side is MORE important than physicalColnagoFE
Aug 7, 2002 5:24 AM
I mean of course you have the minimum fitness requirements and you need to train, but to be a real winner takes something extra. Top athletes and coaches have used mind/body training for years with great results. I'd be surprised if Lance doesn't have some component of that in his program.
How about luck? (nm)JSchneb
Aug 12, 2002 6:19 AM