This is my second season working with Gabby and there are few cyclists who train or race harder. She is an absolute joy to coach and likes to be deeply involved in the coaching process, which I like and welcome. This is what Gabby has to say about our work:
"Mark has been a critical part in my cycling career. Mark has guided me through some of the most prestigious races in the world, he has helped me gain confidence in my own ability and since working with Mark, I have made significant improvements in my cycling career. Not only has Mark helped me in coaching he has also guided me through illness, nutrition, injuries and helped me comeback. He continues to help me reach my best level."
I was very fortunately early on in my coaching career to work with established professionals in road and cyclocross. However, I felt that my coaching experience wouldn’t be complete without taking a rider from amateur into the pro ranks. So, when Simon Carr made that transition under my guidance it was a huge achievement for both of us. I not only coached Simon but I was also his university tutor so we have a very special relationship. This is what he says:
“I chose to work with Mark as he had the knowledge and experience I needed to get me to the highest level in cycling. I first worked with Mark as a cat2 U23, and within months I was winning my first Elite races. Now I am racing in the World Tour but still regularly reach out to him for advice and guidance.
When I think about what sets Mark apart from other coaches the phrase that comes to mind is: “The more you know, the more you know you don't know.” Most coaches believe they have THE coaching recipe, but Mark is a cut above. He is open about the fact there is no perfect training session or plan, even while getting you as close as humanly possible.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt from Mark is that are no shortcuts! The key factors that make you a faster bike rider are training more and/or harder and recovering well. There’s no magic bullet and many of the things that are sold as such are purely marketing, unproven by credible science.
Whatever your athletic ability or aspirations, I would highly recommend Mark Walker.”
Sean Dunlea was coached by Mark as an under-23 cyclocross rider. Sean says,
“Since working with Mark Walker before my breakthrough season in 2013/2014, I’ve seen not only my performance increase hugely, but also my professionalism and motivation. Through goal setting and regular contact, we kept on a plan that took me to winning the National Cyclocross Series – something that was a dream of mine for so long! I’ve taken a step up in my career into the U23 category, and Mark’s training plans and attitude towards the sport made the transition so smooth and trouble-free. I recommend Mark to anybody looking to improve every aspect of their cycling performance.”
Sean was interviewed a couple of years ago by Youth Cycle Sport and said,
“My coach Mark Walker specialises in cyclocross and so he really helps me with every aspect of living the life of a ‘cross rider, physically and psychologically.”
It has been a real pleasure coaching Sean and watching him flourish in his cyclocross career. The biggest breakthrough was when he won his first National Trophy race in 2013.
“Mark Walker has been my coach since late 2012 and I am about to start my fourth cyclocross season under his expert guidance. What Mark has given me over the years however is much than just training plans. He’s given me nutritional advice, athlete lifestyle guidance, psychological coaching, advice on cycling teams…The list goes on. Mark's made me more professional as a rider and how I present myself as well accomplishing great physiological gains with consistent year on year increases in power.
He’s been there for me through illness and injury and the dark times where all I’ve wanted to do is hang up the wheels for good. But he’s stood by me and supported me through them, allowing us to share the joys of getting my first top 10 in a road UCI stage race this summer at Stage 8 of the Ras, in my first year of road racing. There are a long list of people that have got me to where I am today and Mark is very high up on that list. Without him I probably wouldn’t be riding at the level I am.
All of my physiological testing is done at Mark’s top of the range facilities at his Essex lab, giving us all the data we need to train smart and effectively.
Mark’s experience in multiple disciplines has helped me to achieve results year round in both cyclocross and road at an international level. There’s not a lot of coaches out there who can say they coach world medallists in cyclocross and Grand Tour stage winners.
So thank you Mark for all that you have done and will do in the future to make me the best athlete and person that I can be!”
The joy of coaching Hugo is that he is one of the hardest working riders I coach. I know that he will always follow the training I set to the letter and I am proud to have helped him in his cycling career.
I remember very clearly when Stef and Helen Wyman first visited me at Writtle College to discuss the possibility of providing sports science support for Helen’s training. I was so excited at the prospect of working with Helen and never expected that I would have the privilege of assisting her during one of the most exciting phases of her career. It was just 8 months later that, just a few miles from my home, I watched Helen win her first European title as she crossed the finish line in Chantry Park, Ipswich.I remember very clearly when Stef and Helen Wyman first visited me at Writtle College to discuss the possibility of providing sports science support for Helen’s training. I was so excited at the prospect of working with Helen and never expected that I would have the privilege of assisting her during one of the most exciting phases of her career. It was just 8 months later that, just a few miles from my home, I watched Helen win her first European title as she crossed the finish line in Chantry Park, Ipswich.
I thoroughly enjoy working with Helen and her positive attitude and hard work ethic are second to none. Helen says,
“We have been working with Mark for quite a few years now. He is a great guy to work with and an absolute fountain of knowledge. He is always up to date with the latest research and coaching techniques and brings a great scientific background to validate my training program.”
"This is my 10th year with Mark, and each year has brought something fresh and exciting, with new milestones and achievements.
Why am I still with Mark? That’s easy. It’s because I’m learning something new each season. Mark updates his professional knowledge across all cycling disciplines and can apply learning from one area to another. He also brings learning from different sports, whose outcomes can be readily transferred to cycling, and applies this to my training plans, making them extremely exciting and innovative.
Aged 58, I continue to improve my strength, fitness, race experience and confidence. I took up karate in 2021, to get my body working differently to the repetitiveness of cycling. I’m halfway to Black Belt already, and Mark has really helped my progress by designing karate specific drills and exercises to strengthen the muscles and movements needed, whilst not interfering with my cycling performance. I find his breadth of anatomical knowledge astonishing!
Mark modifies my winter training, ahead of each season, which keeps training fresh and interesting, with something new added to the mainstay of regular sessions. This is great for my motivation, particularly on those dark winter days….
Mark is not faddish at all, and he will readily debunk many training myths. He thoughtfully questions existing knowledge and practice and is exceptionally practical when it comes to matching the right training for my specific needs. He acknowledges that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another, so I know I am getting bespoke training plans that work specifically for me.
Mark analyses my data, and skilfully predicts my desired training load, as well as getting the tapering exactly right, ahead of target races. I have won numerous national titles in road racing, criterium and time trialling, since being coached by Mark.
Mark tailors my training to accommodate my family life. He monitors my mental and physical health daily, to judge its impact on my cycling performance, and makes real time adjustments. He has guided me through a bout of covid, and two surgeries this winter. I lost a lot of training time and feared the impact this would have on my 2023 race season. But, by mid-February, I was back on course – the numbers were coming back. If I’d have been on my own, I’d have pushed myself too hard, too soon, but Mark helped me hold my nerve and trust the process. Consequently, I was race ready by March.
As a result of working with him, I have total confidence in my training. He really believes in me, which helps me believe in myself. This is especially important being a woman who regularly competes against some very race hardened men, many of whom are ex professionals, national and Commonwealth/Olympic Champions.
I was pretty much a novice when I started working with Mark, so there were some quick early gains as I got used to training and racing more seriously. But the gains have continued as we have a plan for each race and then debrief each one. This brings learning opportunities, whatever the outcome. And, most of all, training and racing is fun!!
Mark really is a fantastic coach and confidante.
Clare Simon, ‘Racer Nan’, April 2023."
Gemma is known in the Eastern League as a highly competitive rider and regular race winner. I have worked with Gemma for a number of years and she has seen marked improvements in her performances. One of my proudest moments was watching Gemma put in a fantastic performance on a very demanding nationals course at Gravesend.
This is what she has to say about our work together:
"Mark Waker is a fantastic cycling coach and all round great guy. When looking for a coach I wanted someone who would be able to help me have both a cyclocross season and a road racing season. Mark has experience in both and seems to like the challenge that this brings.
Mark’s scientific background as a University Lecturer appealed to me. After discussing his training sessions I soon learnt that everything is done for a reason and carefully planned. Everything is truly bespoke to the rider and the rider’s lifestyle. I am not very scientific or mathematical but Mark takes cares of the numbers and makes this interesting for me.
We have been working together now for over three years. My fitness has increased massively with great rider and coach feedback. Mark actually listens when something isn’t working, if it is becoming boring or perhaps even too hard or too easy. He is great at coming up with interesting training sessions to get me through the winter and understands how important the life balance is for me in order to improve. Mark is also very knowledgeable on female athletes' training and can offer some good advice and flexibility around this.
Highlights so far with Mark as my cycling coach include my first ever National Cyclocross Championship in Gravesend. The course was technical and I felt prepared with my skills sessions under my belt to tackle this. We had also worked on some psychological exercises to help with nerves. As a result I had a top 20 finish. The next year I had a top 10 finish in Wales at a National series event. We also continued a road season where I won the Suffolk Cycle Racing Series with some impressive criterium racing.
My confidence has grown with Mark as my cycling coach which is now seeing me take on mountain biking! Having a personable, trusting relationship is so important and helps towards achieving your goals.
During a very unpredictable 2020 my training has helped to keep me focused and allowed me to try out new things I might not normally have time for during racing."