Team GB: Cycling coaching clinic

I feel I have reached a plateau in my training: I’m doing the work but I’m not getting any fitter.

In this situation you have to race more or train harder. However, there is only so much hard training you can do. You can’t train at your highest level day-in, day-out for 12 months without a break. That means that to build up again you have to back off first. So back off, build again, and be patient.

Answer by Matt Parker, men’s endurance coach dealing with conditioning; in charge of Bradley Wiggins and the record-breaking Team GB pursuit quartet

How can I tell if I’ve been over-training?

Be aware of your moods. The earliest symptom is being irritable. You also feel tired, get aches and pains and you are more susceptible to infections such as colds. But the first thing that happens is your mood goes south.
Matt Parker

Everyone I ride or race with seems to go faster than me: I can’t turn the pedals quick enough.

A lot of cyclists get fit, but can’t sit in a group at 40km/h. The answer is to ride over a shorter distance, but faster. People get fixated on hours of training; for speed, don’t do three or four hours slow – do one hour, but quick. For the team, we’d use motorpacing [riding at a fast pace behind a motorbike on the track] but you can’t do that on the road in this country. Another answer is to find a group, so you are going faster because of the slipstreaming effect – but with a bit less effort.
Matt Parker

I get nervous going downhill and other riders overtake me.

I found someone who knew how to go downhill fast – and, more importantly, with confidence – and he showed me how to lean the bike into the corners and what line to take. It was a matter of starting slowly and going faster as I felt more confident. Unless you are relaxed, you can’t get the technique right, because you don’t want to lean the bike if you are nervous, so you have to start slowly. A lot of people would just say “follow me”, but they would go so fast it wasn’t any help.

Emma Pooley, silver medallist in the Beijing women’s time trial

I can’t corner as fast as I’d like.

Check your tyre pressure before you start. I’d recommend no higher than 100-110psi – less than that in the wet. Look where you want to go as you approach the corner: a lot of people get fazed by the road conditions, so you need to see gravel and bumps before you get to them. Coming to the apex of the corner, lower your centre of gravity and at the same time push down on the opposite pedal – right for a left-hander and vice versa. Never, ever use your front brake on a corner. Try to have your back brake set up with some movement in the lever so you can gently squeeze the break and “feather” the rim to micro-adjust your speed.

Rod Ellingworth, men’s endurance coach responsible for tactics and skills

I’ve had a cold. How soon should I go back to riding?

Generally speaking, as long as you don’t feel unwell or have a temperature, just respiratory symptoms – runny nose, sneezing, perhaps a sore throat – you should be OK just to ride, but not to train or race. Riding may actually stimulate your immune system. So ride for three days, not training, just riding, then ramp it up if you are OK. If, on the other hand, you feel unwell, have a temperature (+37.5C), or have aching muscles, you should rest. Wait at least a couple of days until none of the symptoms are present, then if you feel all right, have one or two days of steady riding before gradually returning to full training over the next week or so. If you begin to feel worse during this recovery period, it’s best to ease back, perhaps just ride easy or rest, then try and gradually increase the workload again. It’s quite common for a cough to persist for a week or two after an upper respiratory tract infection – this is nothing to get too concerned about, as long as you’re otherwise well, with no other symptoms.

Roger Palfreeman, medical officer, Olympic cycling team

I’m worried about riding at close quarters in a group. How can I get used to it?

Do more of it. Activities which can help include club runs, group training sessions, track racing and even cyclo-cross. We teach our riders to lean on each other – if someone touches your bars, relax your hands rather than trying to correct the wobble, because usually the bike will revert to its natural line. The instinct is to tense up, but if you relax you shouldn’t lose control.
Rod Elllingworth

How many calories will I burn riding my bike?

A rough rule of thumb is that a cyclist weighing 70kg riding at a steady tempo – 15-20mph – will burn between 700 and 800 calories (kcal) per hour. A larger athlete, or a heavier bike, means a higher calorie burn. If you are racing, that goes up to over 1,000 kcal/hour, while if you are Bradley Wiggins riding a 4,000m pursuit – just over four minutes at virtually flat-out pace, the equivalent for an hour would be 7,000 kcal.

Nigel Mitchell, Team GB cycling team nutritionist

Are Olympic cyclists superstitious?

“I don’t have any mantras or lucky charms, because if I forgot what to say or do, I’d be stuffed. I change the music on my MP3 once a year and that’s it.”
Victoria Pendleton, Beijing gold medallist

“I used to grow a goatee for big races, but in 2005 I was talking to Vicky [Pendleton] and she said it hadn’t done me any good, so I got rid of it. The next day I won my first gold, and the day after, another. So I gave that up.”

Rob Hayles, triple medallist in Sydney and Athens, double world champion in 2005

I am 12 years old and want to be the next Chris Hoy. Where should I look for advice?

Contact your local Talent Team adviser, through Their job is to assess young riders and direct them to local clubs and coaches, particularly those in British Cycling’s Go-Ride scheme, which feeds into Talent Team (TT). TT in turn feeds into the Olympic development programme, the foot of the ladder leading to the Olympic team via various selection processes.

Cycling journalist William Fotheringham

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