Welcome to the Mark Walker Cycling Coaching June 2023 newsletter with the latest on my work as a cycling coach and sports science consultant.
This month I update you on what was supposed to be Gabby Traxler’s return to racing following her early season illness. Sadly it didn’t go to plan as she was involved in a traffic collision.
Harrison Dessoy continues to impress in the 250 cc British Talent Cup although there have been ups and downs for him too. I explain how we have worked to keep the focus on learning and mastery to help him maintain a steady path in what is a highly challenging sport.
I was recently asked to provide an expert contribution to an article in Cycling Weekly. It was a pleasure to be asked as I used to be a regular contributor to cycling articles and enjoy sharing my knowledge.
Finally, I have some exciting new coaching products which you can read about below.
Road cyclist Gabby Traxler Update
Some of my readers may know that shortly after writing last month’s article on Gabby’s return to fitness she was hit by a car during a training ride. Fortunately Gabby didn’t suffer any life-threatening injuries despite the car turning across her when she was riding at around 53 km/h (~33 mph)! You can see from the picture of her bike just how much energy was absorbed in the collision, with Gabby bearing most of the impact through her face and right leg.
The accident was such cruel luck when Gabby had made great progress following her previous health setbacks. In fact, Gabby reported that prior to being struck by the car it had been one of her strongest training rides of the year. She had been looking forward to riding well in a mountainous race that weekend and then hopefully being selected to compete in the Tour of Switzerland. As you can imagine, Gabby was devastated to have had her season curtailed in such a sudden and violent manner.
The good news is that Gabby is now making excellent progress in her recovery and, all being well, should be able to get a couple of good months of racing in before the season’s close. For now, her training has been limited to rides on the turbo trainer with body weight strength and mobility exercises at home. We are hopeful that Gabby will return to riding outside by the end of next week.
I’ll keep you posted on her progress. I know Gabby is keen to share her story in the hope that it inspires other athletes to keep going in times of adversity.
Mastery Climate for motorcyclist Harrison Dessoy
Another of my athletes who has had mixed fortunes since my last newsletter is Harrison Dessoy. Harrison made significant progress in his fitness and technical skills since last season and this has been evident, not only in training, but in his race performances too. He was in dominant form to hold off Amanuel Brinton to win the first round of the British Talent Cup at Silverstone in April. But when the series visited Donnington Park, Harrison was unfortunate to be knocked off at the start of the second lap of Saturday’s race. Despite this setback his commanding form and mental resilience enabled him to win the second race held on Sunday. On the final corner of the final lap Evan Belford went in too deep leaving room for Sullivan Mounsey and Harrison to dive under him. Mounsey misjudged the corner with a spectacular high side that saw has bike end up perpendicular to the racing line. Harrison, taking a much tighter line, was able to capitalise on the pair’s mistakes to take a thrilling win.
Full of confidence at winning two rounds, Harrison went to Knockhill last weekend with his eyes set on further victories, but sadly it wasn’t to be. Qualification was a struggle following difficulties finding the right set-up, forcing him to start further back on the grid than he would have liked. Harrison pushed very hard in both races, but tiny mistakes resulted in two falls and no points.
In a recent blog post I wrote about the importance of measuring performance and not results and this is something I, and others who work with Harrison, have focussed on. The outcome of a race doesn’t always reflect the athlete’s true performance and this is acutely evident in motorsport where the tiniest of errors can result in a DNF. In tennis, for example, a poorly judged return is just one of many shots and often the mistake is recoverable. But in sports where the winning margins are very small the consequences of errors can be hugely amplified, so a certain degree of mental robustness is needed to cope with those inevitable gut-wrenching moments.
It is, therefore, important to focus on the process and long-term goals rather than to dwell upon the ups and downs that all athletes experience. In my view, an important aspect of this strategy is to focus upon learning and task mastery. I’m going to avoid the cliché that ‘failing is part of learning’. That’s been stated many times before. For me, the aim should be to identify where learning has occurred and to embed it in the athlete’s future practice.
Journaling can be a good way to achieve this. Taking time after training sessions to reflect upon how the workout went builds a valuable learning resource that can be used to refine future training and identify where additional work needs to be done. Likewise, I also encourage athletes to evaluate their race performances and make note of technical details like tactics and equipment choice.
As I stated earlier, for learning to be useful it must be fully embedded in training and competition. This is why Harrison and I spend time reviewing all our feedback and developing systems so we carry forward what has been learnt and avoid dwelling upon what might have been.
Cycling Weekly discusses the best way to measure cycling training volume
It had been some years since I was last invited to be an expert contributor to an article in the cycling press; however, I was recently asked my opinion on measuring training volume for a piece written for Cycling Weekly. Writer Charlie Allenby was interested in the relative merits of measuring distance versus duration when training cyclists.
This is an age-old argument, and I took the stance that really neither is adequate because, by themselves, they don’t provide a decent measure of overall training load. This is because duration or distance don’t take into account how hard the cyclist has worked to complete the workout. For example, I like to do high intensity Tabata intervals on my indoor trainer and, although the total work is only 160 seconds, I can feel as tired following one of these sessions as I would after a three-hour ride at moderate intensity.
In my interview with Charlie, I argued that some other measure is needed. This is why coaches prescribe time in a training intensity zone defined at a particular heart rate, power output or blood lactate concentration. If you don’t have access to these measures a highly effective alternative is to use the Session Rating for Perceived Exertion (sRPE) which you can read about on my blog.
New Fixed Price Cycling Coaching Plans for road, sportive and cyclocross
I have always believed in the importance of tailored, responsive coaching to ensure cyclists and other athletes gain the most from their training. However, I understand that for various reasons a fixed-price one-off training plan works better for some people.
The downside of many of the plans currently available on the internet is that there is zero tailoring involved and the cyclist consequently has to adapt the plan to make it fit their needs and schedule. This is why I have launched a range of tailored six and twelve week plans for road, cyclocross and sportive riders.
If you sign-up for one of these, you’ll receive a detailed questionnaire to help me tailor the plan to your needs. To make it affordable but still provide high quality support you’ll get six video presentations on how to gain the most from your plan plus scheduled written feedback on your progress.
The plans can be delivered through both Today’s Plan and Training Peaks and, as far as I am aware, no other coaches are offering fixed plans with this level of tailoring, feedback and support.