For almost as long as I can remember, since I’ve been coaching that is, Tuesday nights have been about group coaching sessions. I do stuff on Monday nights too in the winter and often help out on Thursdays, but Tuesdays are down to me, often ably assisted by committed colleagues. In the spring and summer it’s road or time trial stuff. I enjoy that immensely, but, come mid August it turns to Cyclo-Cross and the real fun begins.

I have to say I feel blessed with an amazing group of very committed riders, of all ages, who come along to have me, like a beasting sergeant, barking out instructions on the tasks I want them to perform. All in the interests of enhancing fitness of course. We also focus on the essential Cyclo-Cross skills too but I find these can often be combined with strenuous efforts specifically designed to improve the components of fitness required for this most demanding area of cycle sport.

While I have a a great group of riders, we also have an excellent venue in Henwick Sports Ground, situated between Newbury and Thatcham with floodlights, a fairly steep bank and an area at the rear that will turn into authentic mud when it really starts to rain again. 

This year, I started the sessions early in mid August, the demand was there and over 40 riders started to attend. All the key skills were practiced and I reintroduced favourite activities including the CX Madison and Devil. As we have progressed into September and the racing season has started I decided, in consultation with some riders, the intensity needed to increase. I trialled the slightly new format last Tuesday.

We still had the obstacles, off camber stretches and corners etc. but after a twenty minute warm up progressed into a handicap race. Knowing how competitive even the youngest riders are I knew this would take us up a level. It did. There was also the opportunity to continue to drive the riders on with the commands “try to catch the rider ahead” or “don’t get caught”. For another twenty minute “block”everyone gave it their all.

Following a recovery period of rest and easier riding I announced the night’s surprise main event; 20 short 30 second efforts. I gave these a name – Dumbell efforts. The idea being that the riders would sprint in either direction on a course I had created along the side of the hockey pitches and recover while riding the technical areas at each end.

There were moans at first but the riders soon got stuck in and delivered an impressive display of how committed they are to physical improvement. I counted down “19, 18….halfway….3, 2,1 to go”. The aftermath was interesting to see – tired riders, but happy riders, who had been driven on, not just by me, but by shared experience and no doubt peer pressure. As I said at the time, its better than doing this while sweating away on their own on the turbo in a garage. 

We finished with the regular CX Devil. In view of the evening’s exertions I expected a subdued affair but no it was as fiercely contested as ever, only coming to and end when with five riders left two took a tumble on the bank.

In coaching you learn to reflect on sessions. What went well? What went badly? What could be changed? Was it safe? Did the riders learn the featured skill or get a workout? Tuesday evening session ticked all the positive “boxes”. I know this because the feedback was immediate, they loved it. The comments on social media and direct comments to me separately have been very positive too. A big thanks to fellow coach Matt Pritchard for helping deliver the session. It was full-on.

So, that’s it, Tuesdays have changed for the foreseeable future anyway. It’s going to be a hard autumn. As the old adage goes “Train hard, race easy”. That’s the plan…..looking forward to seeing the results in the races to come folks.