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.
Robert John Jolliffe
11/2/2021 12:22:12 pm
Well said Coach. I can endorse fully what you have written. My father died after suffering polycystic kidneys at the age of 56. Thanks to the generosity of donor families who had suffered the loss of members both myself, my sister and my brother are still going strong in our sixties, and aim to keep going for a good few more years. Thank you to all who sign up for organ donation.
11/4/2021 08:56:04 am
Thanks Roberto. It's been such a long time since we've had the team together it was great to see everybody. The team means something - it has value and is a source of support and friendship. Till next time!
11/3/2021 08:27:13 pm
My gosh Tim would have loved to have been there. He loved these training sessions so much. The training but more importantly the people or his transplant family as he called you all. It’s amazing what support this team offered him, it gave him a reason to train which kept him fit and healthy. I can’t believe he’s not here anymore but I know he would have been very proud of you all for getting through a tough year and getting back on the bikes.
11/4/2021 08:59:38 am
Maddy, Tim is very much missed, as a team mate and as a friend to so many. He is also remembered when we get together. I have to say, as a competitor and rider, Tim was an absolute dream to coach - skilful, determined, resilient and bloody fast. Love. Rich.x
11/3/2021 08:27:56 pm
What a great write up. I am the sister in law of The Great Tim Jenkins and I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life watching him in Newcastle at the world transplant games. Tim was a legend…the nicest guy I have ever met and a real gentleman. Maddy and the kids are battling through without him and he is extremely missed. He would have absolutely loved to have been at the training session. Thanks for keeping us informed.
11/4/2021 09:02:44 am
Hi Melissa, yes, a lovely man - a fierce competitor but always with a smile on his face. He did so well in Newcastle, much deserved success due to hard work. Above all else, as you say, a gentleman. Much missed.
11/6/2021 11:40:17 am
Inspired me to take part in torrential rain at Strathclyde park in 2017, so grateful to be living the dream.
12/27/2021 07:15:38 pm
1/5/2022 01:55:43 pm
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