Kaghan Memorial Trust Tour of the Himalayas report

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As reported over the weekend 42 other international cyclists and I were evacuated from Shogran in the Pakistani Himalayas over fears regarding our safety. It was one of the most extreme turn in events I’ve experienced as we all assembled in the hotel lobby for what we thought was the KMT Tour of the Himalayas press conference, where we could be presented with our team jerseys and address the assembled media.


We’d just eaten a fantastic meal under the stars and around camp fires at 2,300m in the Himalayas: mingling with riders from other nations; volunteer teachers from the Kaghan Memorial School whose sports day we had attended that day; members of the Trust and members of Parliament. In the days leading up to this point we had a roller coaster experience and it was also clear that event organiser Khurram was concerned about the race going ahead while tension built across the country. Although the Government had offered support and permission for the race to go ahead, that decision was overturned last Thursday following violence across the country as well as the news religious extremists in Balakot threatened to engage foreigners during the Friday protest. Extremists then threatened the riders in the event, so instead of an early night preparing for the 17km hill climb stage from the Kaghan Memorial School to the summit of the mountain above, Aqil Shah the Kaghan Provence Minister for Tourism had announced that our race was cancelled and we were left in limbo awaiting further news.


Leading to this point I had some of the most intense experiences of my life. Having met a number of riders in Manchester Airport on Sunday 16th September and embarking on what was to be a 40 hour journey to Shogran nestled in the mountains above the Kaghan Valley. Some of the events we faced included television interviews at Islamabad Airport; crossing a fast flowing river in the monsoon conditions; restarting the minibus with the subsequent engine flooding of said river crossing; negotiating oncoming traffic on the dual carriage way when faced with an inconvenient traffic jam on our side; waiting for another minibus to catch up with us after it had broken down; stopping for a meal in Abbottabad, the town where Osama Bin Laden was killed just over a year ago; negotiated mountain roads covered in debris from that day’s land slides with a Police escort; and finally taking in a 20% gradient, cliff edge hugging, unmade road in our Toyota Hi-Ace at 3am.


The following days were spent resting and acclimatising to altitude before visiting the Kaghan Memorial School sport’s day. This was a fantastic experience and it was wonderful to see so many young boys and girls giving it their all for their school houses; Eagle, Bear, Ibex and Wolf. The setting of the school is beautiful and the smiles and song of the children were a pleasure to see and hear. It was a fine reminder of why the race exists – to spread the word of the Trust and the fine work they do – supporting sustainable long-term development by establishing a school that provides free education of a high standard to children from the valley.


The next morning we were able to sample some of the mountain biking in the local area. At this point we had no idea we may be in danger. Sure, we had police at our hotel, at the school and they also followed us up the mountain when we were riding that day. However by this time in the trip we were used to this sight and I honestly didn’t feel any danger. The riding we did was completely and utterly fantastic. We climbed around 1000 meters to max out at 3,400m in a high mountain meadow with a panorama of snow peaked mountains and blue skies. Chatter that day was how fantastic an article we could write of the trip, riding and the area. Katy, Euan and I were planning a video edit we could make in the days after the race. To steal a quote from Richard Bord and Nico Basain from their trip to Scotland, ‘you can take a picture anywhere, not even look through the viewfinder, and you have a picture postcard’. It was stunning. We returned to Shogran via 1000m drop of rocky jeep track and technical walking paths, goat tracks and dreamy singletrack, rolling into the hotel grinning from ear to ear in high spirits and loving life. In less than 10 hours time we had packed all of our bags and were descending the mountain by night to Islamabad in a 30 vehicle convoy, police escorted with windows covered. The only stop we had on the six hour trip was a bathroom stop where the police shut down the roads and secured the petrol station we were at. It emerged in the following days that a helicopter evacuation was seriously considered. All we knew of our destination was that it was secure government accommodation in Islamabad; the safest place for us. This in my mind was a wooden floor and blanket in a government building. I couldn’t have been any more wrong.


On arrival in Islamabad we checked into a grand looking hotel through a guarded boundary wall and through metal detectors. This part of the city, with American and French Embassies near by, had been blocked off by Police and Military. We were greeted by breakfast and secure hotel rooms. We truly were contained within a bubble, and as we watched on television and read in the news of the protests going on outside, less than a mile away, it was almost impossible to believe. The seriousness and sadness of the situation became apparent as we ventured outside to the hotel swimming pool, calm and quiet initially, yet the further you ventured from the cocoon the sound of gun shots and helicopters flying over head presented themselves for around 30 minutes that day. Some guests around the pool seemed to be blocking this out; parents played with their children, others bathed in the sun. Members of our group were more aware of the situation and as I spoke to Rob Friel the colour had drained from his face. That was one very real moment during a week devoid of reality. Later that day we heard that protesters had tried to breach the American Embassy, that over 20 people had lost their lives and over 200 people had been seriously injured. Had you not been outside for the 30 minutes of activity we heard that day you wouldn’t have known. In fact some of our group were none the wiser when discussing this later that day.


From Friday the 21st of September until the morning of Sunday the 23rd we lived in this sterile environment; secure and safe. This was the priority of the organisers of the fourth running of the Tour of the Himalayas mountain bike race. The contingency thinking, planning and organisational skills were a credit to Khurram and his team. I feel relieved to be home and as I previously mentioned we were disappointed not to race and try to win; that’s what we were there to do. I am disappointed that the opportunity for Pakistan to show what a fantastic country it is wasn’t able to be fulfilled this year. I find myself completely out of my depth in trying to talk about the situation we found ourselves in. However I would like to firstly extend my sincere thanks to the Kaghan Memorial Trust for the way they managed the situation and secured our safety. Secondly I would like to emphasis that instead of supporting development, raising funds and awareness for the charity to provide a free education of a high standard to children from the Kaghan valley, the Trust have experienced a loss. I would urge people to visit the Kaghan Memorial Trust website to learn more of their work and view options of how to support the development in the area.




Some reports in the media have suggested that the riders on the trip had been terrified and in danger. I’m struggling to say any more, but a picture tells a thousand words. Please watch and share what I consider to be my experience of Pakistan. My thoughts are with all of those affected over the last few days.


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West Highland Way in a day for MacMillan Cancer Support

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A few of you will know that I have a bit of a fascination with the West Highland Way: a 96 mile off road trail from Glasgow to Fort William through the west highlands. I rode it in one day last year which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and one of the longest periods of time in the saddle I’ve ever experienced. You can check out the video here.

As far as I know there is no official record but I know my time of 12 hours 10 minutes is quick and that I haven’t been told of a faster time. Super endurance riders like Joe Whitaker and and Rob Lee have attempted the double of riding both ways with Joe succeeding in 41 hours, but that’s beyond me especially while racing XC seriously.

So, on the 3rd of October 2012 (weather permitting I might go a day before or after) I aim to mountain bike the West Highland Way in under 12 hours for MacMillan Cancer Support. MacMillan Cancer Support represent a great cause for me and I aim to raise a significant sum to support them. I’m currently aiming for £2,000. I’ve set up a Just Giving page to raise funds so if you are able to please give what you can and if not I’d really appreciate your support on the day or by spreading the word online via twitter, facebook etc.


Before the WHW in a day I’ll be racing the Tour of the Himalayas in Pakistan. More on that soon!

Keep it rubber side down


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It’s been a busy few weeks! Transpyreneenne, Nationals and Val D’Isere pics and video

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I’ve neglected the site for a too long, so I figured I’d try and paraphrase what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks. I’ve had plenty of adventures, some solid training and a lot of race.

I’m going to have to go way back to the last round of the British Cycling Cross Country Series at Kirroughtree near Newton Stewart in Dumfries and Galloway. The course at Kirroughtree is pretty awesome, with sections of trail centre, steep loamy descents and plenty of ups and downs. The weather hadn’t been kind to the course though which meant some sections were super muddy and it was impossible to ride sections making a 2 minute run each lap which I’m not a fan of. After a year of scoring UCI points consistently I was up to the second row on the grid and able to get into the race from the off. I made the top 3 into the singletrack and by the end of lap 1 I came through with Oli Becknigsale and Hamish Bachelor in 3rd, 4th and 5th. I was losing ground on the running section and pulling it back on the muddy downhills. Going into the final lap there were 6 riders in with a chance of the podium. I was disappointed not to make the top 5 when I faded on the final lap to finish 6th.

Next up I was working in the Pyrenees with GPM10, helping guide a group of great guys from Northern Ireland in the Transpyreneenne trip. The ‘Dirty Half Dozen’ were raising money for Marie Curie and McMillan Cancer Care. The guys did a great job covering the 650kms across the cols of the Pyrenees and many a laugh was had! The guys also managed to raise over £12,000 for charity! Rock stars!

When I was back it was time to try and recover a little, race the SXC at Forfar where I managed to win (hooray!) and then rest up for the final round of the British Cycling XC series, National Champs and the World Cup in Val D’Isere. This didn’t go quite to plan with the final round of the British XC being postponed due to flooding….

I made the trip to the south east for the National Championship at Wasing park with an eye on the podium. My legs felt good and I was motivated to stomp out a good race. The course was a bit of a let down, pretty flat and not much going on technically either. It was really physical though and difficult to carry speed.

From 14th on the grid I moved up to around 7th on lap 1 just behind a group of 4 leaders and 2 others. I was riding with cross supremo and ‘cross World Cup regular Ian Field who gapped me slightly going into the start of lap 2. Following this was a long section of fire road with a bit of head wind and on the climb leading into the first descent I was passed by a group of riders led by a stomping Dan Fleeman, with Jody Crawforth, Paul Oldham local boy Adrian Landsley and superstar Nicky Craig. I slipped to around 15th at this point. As the race progressed I managed to pass some more riders back and moved into a group with Fleeman and Lee Williams and tried to press on to catch riders in front. By the end of the race I was on my own, Fleeman suffered a mechanical and Lee’s back was giving him trouble after a long race. I rolled in 9th which wasn’t what I was after really, but I finished spent after a long day out.

It’s funny but most of the British XC races have lasted between 15 – 25 minutes longer than the World Cups and Olympics XC did. It doesn’t help when trying to prepare for these races. Shorter and more technical tracks is what we need to make the step to international races.

From Wasing it was on to Val D’Isere World Cup with Scottish Cycling national coach Paul Newnham, and Gareth Montgomerie and Dave Henderson of GT Racing UK. We arrived in Val D’Isere late on a monday night with the race on Saturday. The week was made up of climbing the Col D’Iserean, riding local trails, resting up and practising the course. The track itself wasn’t all that technically challenging but had a couple of narrow sections of singletrack and plenty of climbing. What I did find challenging was the 1800m – 1950m altitude we were racing at. I was struggling to catch a breath and my chest felt tight which wasn’t helped by my hay fever.

On race day we also had heavy rain to contend with . I was gridded in 112th based on my world ranking which has been a work in progress this year. The start was pretty technical with a 180 degree turn after about 80m before the tape narrowed and the climb began. I started well and moved up about 15 places before passing a few more riders on the first climb. At the top of the climb and into the first downhill standard World Cup frustrations began. The bottle neck was so bad that we were stationary or walking from about 40th to 115th and riders filtering into the singletrack. At this point I think I lost around 3 minutes to the font riders. This is why an XC race starts so quickly!

By the end of lap 1 I was in the top 90 when I tried to settle into my effort. The course was so slippery with the rain and mud and I was struggling to recover from my lap 1 effort; I was really fighting the bike and struggling to press on and recover. At the end of lap 2 coming off the steep bridge and towards the river crossing I came in too fast, struggling to scrub speed on the grassy descent and I hit a rock too hard, pitching me over the bars and puncturing my front wheel which I couldn’t re-inflate. It was about 3kms to the next technical zone to change a wheel so my race was over. Not what I wanted from the race but I took a lot away from the race and I know what I have to do to improve and step into World Cup racing next year.

What was really apparent to me was the infrastructure and support needed to compete at this level. Paul was our only support for the week and he was working his ass off cleaning and repairing bikes, attending race meeting, practicing the course with us and making sure we had essentials like good quality food. Without the support of Scottish Cycling I couldn’t have made this trip and even then we were really operating on a shoestring budget. This is the level we need to be racing at if we wish to be competitive at Glasgow 2014 though, so we have to make it work somehow. Work in progress for 2013…

Since coming home from Val D’Isere I’ve been on a midseason lull in racing. I’m competing in the Scottish Criterium championships this weekend in Paisley town centre. Next week I ‘hit the trail’ with Dirt School with a UK wide road trip coaching at some new venues with the world famous Andy Barlow. Unfortunately this means I’ll miss the rescheduled British Cycling XC series race in Essex which I’m pretty disappointed about. For now though I’m pressing on with some road miles and building for a busy end of season including the final SXC at Drumlanrig where I hope to wrap up a race win and a series win. From there I fly out that night with Rob Friel, Allan Clarke, Katy Winton and Lisa Kamphausen to Pakistan for the Tour of the Himalayas mountain bike stage race which should be amazing! When home I hope to round out the MTB season with an attempt to break 12 hours up the west highland way for charity (more info on that soon) and then the No Fuss Relentless 24 hours the following week with some friends.

Phew! That’s a biggy. Thanks for reading… To get some more quick fire updates follow me on Twitter @rabwardell, like Rab Wardell on Facebook, Check @rabwardell pics on Instagram, follow me on Strava and read Rabs World on www.singletrackworld.com! Bam!


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Self film self edit

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The last few days I decided to have a little fun with my phone camera and to see what results I could get from a self film self edit all on my phone. I rode a couple of local trails using an iPhone 4, some rocks and sticks as a tripod and then edited the footage on an iMovie app, once again on the phone. I was pretty impressed with the results, a couple of nice simple edits. Enjoy.


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Tweedlove Glentress 7 and the Scottish Cross Country Mountain Bike Championships

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The Glentress 7 took place last Saturday 2nd of June as part of the awesome 1o day festival which is Tweedlove. I’d been asked if I’d like to ride as a pair a few months ago by none other than mountain bike hero Oli Beckingsale. I’d a little time to mull it over and decided to go for it, despite the GT7 being the day before the SXC championships at Aberfoyle. It was too good a chance to race with Oli for the day, as well as a great way for us to represent Endura and Alpine Bikes, as well as Clif Bar for me, at the festival in which they sponsor.

I rolled up on Saturday morning to meet Oli and Marty Steel of Endura at the event. The plan was tight but loose, with a relaxed feeling but all important aspects covered. Although we had a solid pairing, it was clear to us that we had to win and this wouldn’t necessarily be all that straight forward. 7 hours is a long race and the course wasn’t going to be easy. Oli had also suggested that he would do the bulk of the work as I had another race the next day. Oli kicked the race off for us with 2 laps while I go myself sorted. After one lap he came through with Rob 4real Friel leading mixed pairs and Greig Brown (Dooleys Cycles) leading solo, closely behind.

After the two laps it was my turn to head out for a stint. We had a decent gap and I felt we should create a buffer incase of any mishaps so I knocked in a pretty quick lap, followed up with a steadier one and then I decided to stay out for one more as the course was riding well. I was having a lot of fun, especially riding some of the natural parts I’ve never ridden before. There was a long off camber section towards the end of the lap which was tricky but really nice if you stayed off the brakes and skimmed the roots. Once back into the finish Oli popped out for another 3 laps while I grabbed some food and a coffee with Friel.

5 hours in and we were leading the race by a decent margin. Oli had come in from his 3 laps and I rode out to do another 2, but on arrival at the finish (after an embarrassing crash in full view of the race village after at the stream had bust it banks all over a slidey, grass turn…) Oli said he would do the next 2 laps so I could save my legs. I stayed kitted up until it was clear Oli would finish for us before starting the recovery process for Sundays Champs. We were pleased to win mens pairs and it was a great race to be a part of! Good job the Tweedlove team!

Sunday morning and when I woke up I was aware that I’d done a bike race the day before: my legs were a little sore and I was tired. Friel (also a winner the previous day in a mixed pair with his girlfriend Caroline) was tired too. However, we soldiered on, as we are tough soldiers…

At Aberfoyle the weather was good and talk was of a pretty wild course. I’d ridden at Aberfoyle a lot and the hill is steep and wooded. I opted to not pre-ride the course as I’d raced on it before and I was tired. I warmed up on the road instead of taking in a lap and this was a decision I regretted.

The start line at an SXC is a funny place to be. The field is generally pretty small in the elite race but the quality is always there. We had a former British Series Winner, the Scottish Champion for the last two years, the European Junior silver medalist and a former midlands series champion on the line, all capable of top 15 places in a British XC. Not to be taken lightly.

Gareth Montogomerie led us out of the start finish with GT team mate in second followed by me. After a minute or so I decided to lead into the first steep singletrack climb called heart attack hill. My legs felt good so I thought I’d press on and see what happened behind. Onto the flat at the top Grant and I had a small margin over the GT duo and Grant led onto the next section of fire road climb before I took over again. Into the descent at the top Grant and I had a small margin and I followed him bellow the tree line on the steep and infamous double log drop; a new section of really steep trail into a dead left hand turn. Into the trees and it was pitch black and I couldn’t see a thing as I still had my sunglasses on. A little fumbled crash and a chain off was all that Grant needed to get a gap and I was soon passed by Dave, and Gareth too. I regrouped and started to descend without glasses on in the dark.

At the end of  lap one I was now around 50 seconds behind Grant who was leading alone, with Dave and Gareth in between. I managed to close Gareth down on the next lap and went in pursuit of Dave too. Over the race I started to feel the effects of the previous days racing and my legs tied up a little. I was a little disappointed to roll in 3rd but there wasn’t much I could do otherwise. Grant managed to ride away to win and Dave Henderson was second.

I’ve been taking it fairly easy since the weekend with a couple of easy rides and I’ll do this until the weekend, were I won’t be racing but I will be watching (and cheering Ruaridh on!) the best downhill riders at Fort William. I’ll also be doing my bit with a little work for Singletrack Magazine and Dirt School.

’til then, you stay classy


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Tweedlove – Peebles Sprint: Mountain Bikers take it to the roadies!

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Pictures courtesy of John Hewat and video from Dave Hamill

I was pleased to get an invite for the Tweedlove Festival Peebles Sprint road circuit race in Peebles high street. I was really keen to pull together a group of the top mountain bike xc racers on the Scottish circuit to compete and take the racing to the best road racers in Scotland. I managed to pull together myself, Rob ’4real’ Friel (XCracer.com), Gareth Montgomerie (GT Racing UK) and junior racer Tom Evans (Ben Wyvis Bike Club) as an off road dream team dubbed the ‘MTB Select’ for the evening. It later transpired that GB U23 Academy Mountain Bike racer and local lad Grant Ferguson (Boardman) would be racing as he’s got a week at home after a long stint on the World Cup circuit, so another top XC rider was in the mix, unfortunately not on our team. The roadies had just as strong a representation in the shape of Evan Oliphant of Team Raleigh GAC, Ben Greenwood of www.vanillabikes.com, the Pedal Power/Endura team headed up by Scottish criterium champion David Lines and Gary Hand.

As a group we spoke before the race and the plan was to take the first part of the race steady and to cover any dangerous moves. Moving into the second half of the race we would look to take the race on, and to fill breaks with our riders, and to ride defensively behind.

Huge crowds lined the course and after a steady start Gareth, me and then Rob hit out lap after lap. Rob made the first significant move of the race, riding solo off the front of the race. It took a solid effort from the other rides to bring him back. After around 7 or 8 laps alone Rob was brought back and I countered with Ben Greenwood to have a lap of freedom off the front. This move was short lived and was followed by a solid attack from Gareth, with Grant in pursuit. I looked to other riders to do the chasing and after a lap the two riders had 10 seconds. Lap after lap they held a small margin, until finally the elastic broke and they had 30 seconds. With 5 laps remaining the attacking started and their gap grew to 45 seconds. Grant threw a huge attack up the right hand gutter on the home straight at the bell (one lap to go) and edged ahead of Gareth. The home boy flew home to first place, Gareth taking second and Evan won the sprint for 3rd. My stick legs did their best in the sprint finish to come around 11th.


After the crit it was great to kick back with Gareth and Grant and grab a swift beer. Gareth and I then kicked back at our wigwam with a few more beers in front of the camp fire. A top evening! I’m now spending a few days in Peebles, and looking forward to the Tweedlove film festival this evening. I head home to Glasgow for a day tomorrow and return for the Glentress 7 on Saturday where I am partnering Oli Beckingsale  (Endura MTB Racing) and I’ll follow this up with the Scottish Mountain Bike Championships on Sunday in Aberfoyle. All in all an action packed week!


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British Marathon Champs and British Cycling Cross Country Series round 3 – Hopton Castle

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Photograph taken from British Cycling Cross Country Series Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/BCXCSeries

I seem to be going from race to race at the moment. It’s great, the bulk of training has been done and it’s now time to race and recover, with the odd training session in there too.

Last weekend was the British Cycling Cross Country Series round 3 at Hopton Castle in Shropshire. The previous Sunday had been the British Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Selkirk. I had an eventful race, sitting in 4th for the majority of the race having been dropped by Nick Craig, Dan Fleeman and Lee Williams on the second tough climb of the day. Unfortunately I hadn’t planned the logistics for the day perfectly didn’t manage to pick up any water bottles all day. 80kms in warm weather on 500ml of fluid wasn’t enough and I pretty much gave up the race at Innerleithen and rode home slowly. I dropped a few places and a lot of time to roll in 9th. I didn’t want to destroy myself too much with the British XC the following week.

The third round of the BCXC series was a biggie for me as was my last chance to accumulate 20 UCI points in time for the World Cup’s in Canada and the USA. I’d checked things out and I needed 6th to make up the 20 points: a tall order but possible with a good ride.

The course at Hopton was amazing, a long uphill with two steep sections separated with a traverse and some undulations, before a long and flowing singletrack downhill back to finish. The descent was great fun with some nice lines and berms, but it was difficult to take any time out of other riders. It was so fast that everyone was riding at a similar speed. You could take seconds out of other riders here, but it could be minutes on the climb. You could lose the race by crashing on the downhill though, so the objective was to be fast and smooth but not take massive risks.

Race day was beautiful, sunny and warm. We (Gareth Montgomerie and Dave Henderson)  were lucky to have support from Scottish MTB XC Coach Paul Newnham as well as Dave’s other half Bex, who fed us from the top feed station with iced bottles which was a huge help. We planned this as the main feed so we didn’t have to carry full bottles up the long climb – 300g-500g weight saving a lap. To put that into perspective I know some people who would pay £1000 to save 500g on their bike!

I had a reasonable start and dug deep on the first climb to come over the top just outside the top 10. I had to push deep into the red zone on the steep sections of the climb and try to settle between on the flatter sections after accelerating up to a speed I could hold. On the downhills I stayed off the brakes as much as possible to carry speed through the berms and tried not to pedal too much to aid recovery. By lap 4 I moved into 8th position with 7th in sight. Heading onto the final lap I saw David Fletcher (Orange Monkey Canondale) walking back down the hill with a bike problem. I knew I was now 7th and the 6th place for the UCI points I needed where attainable. Over the top of the climb I was dying; down the other side I was trying not push on without risking a crash. I rolled into the finish in 7th. It was a bittersweet feeling as I’d had a great race but I’d come up short and I won’t be racing in Mt St Anne and Windham.

I’ve gone back to the drawing board and have planned some international races in place of the World Cup’s in America and hopefully I’ll have the points in place for the final round in Val D’Isere in August.

Over and out




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Rab’s World – Coaching Smiles

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Rab at the Macavalanche. Pic by Richard Bord

Coaching and mountain biking is an area which comes with much stigma attached: the traditional image of cones, clipboards, whistles, tracksuits and even your old high school PE teacher who was an arse and made you play rugby despite being built like a 9 year old girl… ahem. Even more daunting still is the prospect of spreadsheets, heart rate monitors, power meters and, gulp, turbo trainers. For a mountain biker it can all seem a little unrelated to what we do. I’m a firm believer that coaching can benefit all riders, from newbies to seasoned pros, despite these horrid preconceptions.


Coaching isn’t always about tight clothing and hill reps. Pic by Sarah Mulholland

The first issue I see with coaching in relation to mountain biking, is that ‘coaching’ is generally thought to focus on fitness and competition. Most recreational riders using their mountain bike to enjoy the outdoors, to fuel an adrenalin rush or as a social event and can’t relate to this. The thought of hill repeats, nutrition plans and feedback of each ‘training session’ to a coach seems ridiculous.

Mountain bike coaching doesn’t have to be any of these things though. Don’t get me wrong, racers have to put themselves through the pain of riding hard, recording training and watching what they eat. However, any rider can benefit from a coaching day or regular coaching; purely by being able to enjoy riding their favourite trail faster, smoother, and more importantly, with a bigger smile on their face. Of the riders I work with, the majority ride for fun and would just like to be more ‘confident’. If you’re riding without confidence, that must mean that you’re riding with fear: and fear doesn’t lead to riding with smiles…

Now a coach, no matter how great a coach, can’t make you be more confident. What a good coach can do is help you realise why you don’t feel confident riding a certain trail section. Maybe your body position isn’t good or your braking point is too late. Or maybe you’re actually sitting down through a trail. Some of you will be reading this and thinking ‘who would sit down through a trail?’ or ‘everyone knows not to brake in the corner!’, however, fear can make you do things that you know you shouldn’t do…

We’ve all heard good tips from pro riders like ‘ride smooth and speed will come’ but how many of us really put that into practice? And how do you know what is meant by riding smooth? How do you ride smooth and stay relaxed through a steep rutted downhill?


More smiles per mile?

Something I hear a lot of is ‘I always ‘f’ this section up’ or ‘I hate this corner/drop/climb’. ‘Why is that?’ I ask and ‘I don’t know…’ is more often than not the response. The truth is that most of the time you ride something, and ‘f’ it up, you don’t know what’s gone wrong because you’ve not been able to see what it is you’ve done wrong, so often you don’t know what to correct.

It’s also surprising the number of riders who won’t check a section out before riding it, and even more surprising how few riders reflect on what they did on a section of trail, even if they do make a mistake or crash. I think this is because it’s difficult to address mistakes while on a ride with your buddies. Most of the time you’re out riding with friends, a crash or a problem can be welcomed with a bit of a ribbing, some unhelpful and/or poor advice such as ‘just go faster/lean back/pull up’, or worst of all, they’re just pissed off cos you’re holding the ride up and you’re not going to make it to ride that trail that’s dead good before it gets dark.

On a good quality coaching day this is removed. With a good coach present, riding style, lines and techniques can be observed and feed back can be given. It’s funny how you can be riding unconsciously while you think your nailing a trail, and a good coach can help you analyse your own riding and self assess what you’re doing. You should be able to ask questions about riding, often questions you’d be scared to ask in front of your usual riding group for fear of getting a hole ripped into you… Most of all it should be a relaxed environment where you can reflect on your own riding and then explore the limits of what you can do. I think that a good quality coaching day can increase self confidence in a big way and improve your riding experience volumes.

So, it seems that some summer like weather is here and your favourite trail is drying out and getting dusty. It would be sweet to ride it faster than ever before, and with a bigger smile, right? Is this the year you invest some time and money into improving your riding and not your ride? What’s the worst that could happen?

See you on the trails…


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No Fuss MacAvalanche video edit from Morrocco Media

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Summer loving

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Has summer arrived? Well it’s been sunny for a few days and it should stay like this for a few more. Better make the most of the hero dirt…


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