I have the privilege of coaching the Great Britain Transplant Cycling Team: The most exclusive cycling team in the world that nobody actually wants to be a member of. You see membership is free, but to qualify you need to have had a life supporting organ transplant. The riders you see above comprise a mix of heart, kidney, liver and bone marrow transplant recipients, none of whom would be alive without organ donation and transplantation. There's over 100 years of extra life in this picture alone.
After a Covid-19 induced break of over two years, we managed to put the band back together for some skills training at the Stourport cycling circuit last Saturday.
'We are the only group of cyclists who face a lifetime ban from competition if we test negative for drugs...'
Since our last major competition at the World Transplant games in Newcastle 2019, the team, like the rest of the world, has had to cope with the Covid-19 induced hiatus. Additionally, as all the riders (and their coach) are immunosuppressed, we’ve had to have a stab at some form of shielding too, meaning the group events that are so vital to keeping team recruitment and momentum up have been impossible. Also, In the immediate aftermath of a very successful games in 2019 the team sadly lost Simon Batch and Tim Jenkins, two of our younger riders who had both achieved medal winning performances at world level, to aggressive forms of cancer. We had not come together since the loss of these lovey guys. Tim and Simon were great friends and great rivals on the bike, and are much missed by the team.
There is much talk of ‘skills fade’ in the coaching community - a lack of competition and events over lockdowns leading to some rather hairy moments on the recommencement of group training and racing. Honestly, I was more concerned about my coaching skills fading as I’d not delivered this type of coaching session for over two years. Fundamentally, coaching in this context is about trying to impart some useful information whilst keeping everybody safe. Happy and warm helps too but those are optional extras!
Skill levels vary in any group but these guys dropped back into ‘thru and off’ very quickly and confidence levels came up rapidly. We did some shoulder to shoulder riding and did a ‘stop box’ competition as our 2 hours came to a close. It was great to see the two less experienced riders in the group came up to speed very quickly, mainly because the other seven made it so easy for them to see what good form looks like. Riders learn more from watching each other than they do from a coach but don't tell anybody: it's a coaching secret. Their ability to do this so quickly is testament to the quality of riders in the team as much as the talent of the newcomers. Classy bunch.
In common with the real world, Planet Transplant has seen our significant competitions cancelled or delayed due to the zombie apocalypse. Notably, the 2020 European games (Ireland) and British Games (Coventry) and the 2021 World Games in the USA were canned. We are now targeting the 2022 British and European games (Leeds and Oxford respectively) and the World Games in Perth (Australia) in 2023. Much as biblical rain was followed by beautiful sunshine on our Saturday at Stourport, we look forward to next season's competitions with hope and optimism.
So, I have some favours to ask...
Rich Smith's sorry ass was saved by an emergency liver transplant in Feb 1993 and he's been banging on about it ever since. He coaches UK and internationally based riders and has coached the Great Britain Transplant Cycling team for over 12 years. He is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach and a final year psychology student. He spent 30 years responding badly to people in authority in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property before launching RideFast Coaching in 2015.
I was fortunate to get the first two weeks in October over in Mallorca. It’s work (of course) but as it involves cycling, it’s a pleasure too.
During the pandemic, trips to cycling paradise have been limited although when I was there in September 2020 and June 2021 it was so quiet it was like walking into an empty football stadium. The roads that are usually so busy with riders at peak times were pretty much deserted, the cafes closed or empty. Lovely in some ways but eerie in others and it was certainly not lost on me how much the local businesses were suffering.
What a change this October! It felt like there was 18 months of missed cycling and holidaying being crammed into a few short weeks of decent weather. Puerto Pollenca saw the resident retired pro cycling expat community return and it was nice to bump into Sean Kelly in the mountains. A fully fledged and unfailingly lovely legend.
For me the trip combined meeting clients and riders (new, old and prospective) and catching up with some old friends. Getting some easy base miles in in the sun before the UK based turbo trainer comes out was very welcome indeed. Thanks must go to Ottilie at OQ Service Course for hosting RideFast Coaching at her shop in Puerto Pollenca once again!
I tended to stay away from the ‘monument’ rides – Formentor and Sa Calobra and the like – they are beautiful but I’m fortunate to have done them before (and I’ll do them again for sure) but there are a wealth of little known lanes to explore that show a slightly different side to the island. Also, I seem to have inadvertently mislaid my FTP at the end of August so something a bit gentler reflected my current aerobic status…
During the pandemic, organisers in Mallorca, in common with pretty much everywhere else in the world, pushed events back into October so, during my 2 week stay there was the Mallorca Masters race (3 stages), the European Masters (I day), two Ironman events (a full length one and a 70.3) based in Alcudia and two ‘Challenge’ events of the same length on the same day from starting from Palma. The weekend of 23/24th October sees the delayed 312 take place. Like I said, it was properly busy.
So, other than me crowing about getting a Mallorca trip on expenses, what's the point in this blather? Good question. Well, subject to a successful end to the Zombie apocalypse.
Whether you get to train aboard or not, November is probably as late as you can leave it and still have a successful season in 2022. Get in touch here if you want to get your winter training structured and effective. Remember, you win your medals in the winter, you just go to collect them in the summer.
Rich Smith was once, harshly in his opinion, accused of doing nothing more than 'swanning around' in Mallorca by his ex partner. He coaches UK and internationally based riders and has coached the Great Britain Transplant Cycling team for over 12 years. He is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach and a final year psychology student. He spent 30 years responding badly to people in authority in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property before launching RideFast Coaching in 2015.
The ramblings of a cycling coach...