Take it to the Limit
The early years:
The thrill of cycling began at the age of 4 years of age when my stabilizers came off! I can vividly remember my dad launching me down a slope on the farm shouting ‘Go, go!’ and so I did and I am still riding my bike many, many years later.
Off road cycling on the farm was part of my growing-up and provided me with many skills in bike handling prior to mountain biking and BMX racing becoming mainstream. Competitiveness has always been part of my life from these early days, beating my cousins as I enjoyed winning!
My childhood was taken up with many sports and activities and cycling at that time was just a mode of transport with hand-me-down bikes as the years passed. At the age of 13 years I asked for a new bike, a racing bike! My wish was granted. The bike was ordered and, on its arrival at the local shop I rode ‘my racer’ home. It was red and blue with white handle bar tape and I wanted to join the local bike club. I was the youngest club rider and the only girl. Sunday club rides were challenging back then as no one waited for you if you could not handle the pace but for one guy, Bill Aubert. Bill was an accomplished racer in his time and he would drop back and ride with me advising how to pedal, how to climb and how to just handle my bike. Many years later while competing at the British National Track Championships I would be complimented on my pedalling style for being so smooth. This is thanks to Bill!
When Bill was not on the club ride I would find myself in ‘no man’s land.’ When I was not back home mum would come looking for me in the car. I could not get in because as she said, ‘You wanted to race!’ so she would motor pace me back home. In hindsight, thanks mum. This instilled the grit and determination that would be needed many years later. I soon gave up cycling as a youngster and concentrated on athletics and netball. I would go on to represent GB in a European competition competing in the 100m hurdles and javelin.
Introduction to racing:
After my fourth knee surgery it was recommended I give up tennis, hockey and athletics with the option of swimming or cycling! Cycling it was and this coincided with me going to college in Florida! A year of rehabilitation and working on my fitness gave me the opportunity to enter sportive rides. The competiveness had been reignited and I wanted to race, so joined a local club in Miami, Niagara Cycles.
My first season I was finishing last in most races but I had set my sights on getting better and I won the last race of my first season! I wanted to get better so joined another bike shop club with a coach, David Rodrigues an ex rider from Trinidad. He helped me become a criterium rider. Still to this day criterium racing is my preferred race environment. From here I then joined Raleigh East Coast Racing Team where I would achieve my best result in an American stage race in Tallahassee placing 3rd on general classification behind two American international riders, Betsy King and Susan Elias. I raced in the Carolinas, Mississippi and Georgia and at these events realised I could aim for the 1990 Commonwealth Games.
Unfortunately the local governing body in Jersey did not feel the results I had achieved in the USA would meet their selection criteria! I then set my sights on the 1994 Commonwealth Games to be held in Victoria, Canada.
After completing my studies in 1990 I returned home and began racing with a French club, UV St Malo in Brittany. At a race in a little town I met someone who was to change my life, David James.
David approached me after the race and just said, ‘ I think you can go faster.’ I was intrigued and was open to learning more about scientific methods of training. I had previously been introduced to heart rate monitor training methods by Chris Carmichael back at a training camp in Taos, New Mexico with Team 7/11. I wanted to train efficiently and understand the reasoning of the how and why we train different energy systems.
Road racing and training took up my time besides the 38 hours a week of earning some money to fund my dream. I was aiming to meet the selection criteria for the 1994 Commonwealth Games as a road rider. I earned selection to events in Europe with the British Women’s Cycle Racing Association Team racing the Women’s Tour of Belgium, Tour of Zealand in the Netherlands and other international events.
These races together with placing 6th in the March Hare Race in London saw me on target.
At an international event in Suffolk I was asked if I had ever ridden the velodrome? ‘No’ was the answer to another person who became very influential in my cycling career, Mr Ed Taylor from Team Haverhill!
During my tennis days I was at a training session at Calshot, Southampton and on hearing a strange noise ventured over to see an indoor velodrome. The coach saw me peeping over the rails and asked me if I wanted to try? ‘Oh no, you won’t get me doing that!’ If only I had! When asked again if I wanted to try I decided to say yes this time!
Ed and Pat Taylor invited me to what Ed said was a training session up at Saffron Lane, Leicester with his team, Team Haverhill with the likes of Rob Hayles, Bryan Steele, Adrian Allen and Chris Ball. I had a few weeks to get a track bike together, which I did with a frame from one guy, wheels from another and was ready to go.
An application for the 1992 British National Track Championships had been forwarded to me but, the dates coincided with what I thought was to be training! Ed had intended I race and not train! The afternoon before my first event on my very first time on a velodrome he asked Steve Paulding to take me around a few times to get a feel for the track! Next day I placed 6th in Points Race, 7th in Kilo, 7th in Sprint. I now had found my new passion in cycling and I wanted to do better. I wanted to train for this and I wanted to ride track at the 1994 Commonwealth Games. In 1993 results were better at the British National Track Championships and at the Cardiff Grand Prix in Wales.
David James and I reviewed the training methods and hours of lab testing, lactate testing and hours in the gym began the transfer from a roadie to a trackie! 1993 saw better results and then 1994 was a memorable year starting with training with the French National track squad in Hyeres under coach Daniel Morelon. Racing the international track event in Paris, St Denis. Winning the Sprint at the British Cycling Centres of Excellence Championship and winning the Sprint Championship beating the reigning national champion at the Women’s Cycle Racing Association and then, going on to medal at the elite British National Track Championships to take bronze. The first Channel Islander to medal at national elite level. This secured my selection to the 1994 Commonwealth Games and the first Jersey woman to compete in track cycling. I went on to place 6th in the match sprint at the Games.
Without sponsorship and being told by the British national director of coaching I was too old I decided to retire, as I could not afford to stay in the sport. On hearing a radio interview the Channel Island Co operative Society came forward to offer travel sponsorship to events. This helped immensely and this gave me the opportunity to continue.
In 1995 the British National sprint coach, Marshall Thomas, invited me to train at the new indoor velodrome in Manchester with the national squad. These regular trips to Manchester placed a strain on my holiday entitlement from work and unfortunately for riders at that time the National Lottery funding was not available. At these training sessions I was able to see a future emerging rider who would go on to do great things, Sir Chris Hoy.
Chris was always eager to learn and would ask me questions especially about French riders! Years later in 2015 we would meet unexpectedly at a Track World Cup event in London. On asking if my daughter could have a photo with him he immediately recognised me and said, ‘Of course Lynn!’
UCI World Masters Track Championships:
In 1995 results from various track meetings were very satisfying but the ultimate result was becoming a World Champion in the Points Race and taking silver in the Match Sprint and, silver in the 500m Time Trial!
1996 was my best year in France, racing track, winning many events and becoming the Challenge Regional Champion. This was another first for a Jersey and Channel Islander rider! Due to work commitments in 1997 I was unable to compete as regularly yet finished 3rd in the Challenge Regional and achieved silver in the UCI World Masters Championships in the 500m Time Trial.
1998 would be my last competitive year as balancing a working career and cycling at this level was becoming increasing difficult. Racing in France was still fruitful with wins, but the emphasis was on peaking for the UCI World Masters Championships in September. It was becoming increasingly difficult or me to stay motivated and focused but, I knew exactly how much training I required, relying on extensive experience I now had with scientific training and coaching methods.
In May of 1998 I met again with my sporting hero, Greg Lemond, who gave me a ‘pep talk.’ It was his words I clung to and by September I had achieved what he said I had to do before I could retire! I won three more UCI gold medals: Gold in the Match Sprint, Gold in the 500m Time Trial, Gold in the Points Race and, to round it off, set new world best times! I retired in October 1998 from competitive cycling!
In 2009 I began my journey to achieving recognised qualifications to coach road, track and time trialling.
My cycle coaching philosophy is as a result of being in the presence of inspirational coaches. The following coaches have had a profound positive impact on me:
David James: my first cycling coach whose opening conversation to me was, ‘I can make you go faster!’ This introduction captivated me and from the conversation that followed I knew instantly we could work together. David introduced me to the emerging science and technology of training; my life for the next seven years involved lab testing on ergo machines, blood lactate testing and waking each day knowing what the next training session was as per the training plan! I believed in his training methods and progressed rapidly as structure suited me. Never did I receive praise on any results but I knew this was how he worked and only when I achieved three Gold medals in 1998, setting world best times, did he tell me he was pleased! Words did not have to be said, he was always there for me even in the emergency room at the hospital at Saint Denis, Paris when I sustained injury having been ‘taken-out’ by a Ukrainian rider! He was like the dad I should have had and his passing left a huge gap!
Daniel Morelon: between 1966 and 1975, Daniel Morelon won a record nine world amateur sprint titles and three Olympic gold medals. He won the Olympic match sprint in 1968 and 1972, becoming the first of only two men to claim a repeat victory in the event. In 1968 he also won the Olympic tandem match sprint partnered by Pierre Trentin, and together they also won the world title in 1966. Morelon won a total of 14 French titles and set a world indoor record for 500-metres in 1976. He was almost exclusively a track sprinter and went on to become the French national sprint cycling coach (Sportsreference.com).
Having the opportunity of being coached by the iconic Daniel Morelon and training with the French national squad at Hyeres in the south of France was enlightening. Being in his presence was like being in his ‘cycling family’ and he made me most welcome. I became very aware of how Daniel’s coaching style impacted on his riders. This opportunity of seeing how he coached shaped my future coaching style years later in what I term the ‘holistic approach.’ I was to see this again many years later in another inspirational coach from Australia, Gary West!
Interestingly Daniel’s star female sprinter was Félicia Ballenger; Félicia Ballanger was the strongest track sprinter of the 1990s; she won 10 world titles in all, achieving double victories in all years between 1995 and 1999. She won 19 French titles and set world records in the 500-metre sprint six times. She retired after the 2000 Sydney Olympics and became the vice-president of the Fédération Française de Cyclisme (Sportsreference.com).
Dave Legrys: a track champion, and cycling coach has competed at national and international level. He won a silver medal in the tandem sprint at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, and represented GB at the Olympic Games, world championships and was a multiple national champion from 1973 to 1987. He became the British Cycling Federation’s national track sprint coach in 1989, but retired in 1994 due to differences of opinion within the Federation. (Reference Wikipedia.org).
As national coach Dave wanted me at squad training sessions after my early season success in 1994 but this was not sanctioned from the ‘powers that be!’ The track environment within GB was very much endurance focused with a specific objective on the horizon. When Dave left GB and began coaching privately I was able to access his tactical knowledge with tuition from him. Years later we would meet again at a sprint clinic in Derby, U.K. that my daughter attended.
Marshal Thomas: this coach, relatively new in his role as national sprint coach to GB, gave me the chance to train with the national squad in Manchester, UK. He was coach with GB from 1994-2006. Marshal was very approachable and knowledgeable and was at the forefront of where British Cycling was heading in terms of scientific training methods. Unfortunately he could not get funding for me, but knowing he was ‘in my corner’ and, providing I funded the expenses, I was included in some national squad training sessions. I seized upon this opportunity but, ‘ageism’ crept into GB and my days were numbered! To this day my little island still does not have a velodrome and for those coaches who could see the effort it took for me to train, travel, race and to still achieve results I am thankful for the opportunities that they gave me. Marshal and I would meet again on my pathway to gaining my coaching qualifications as he has delivered courses and assessed my work! His role now is within coaching development with British Cycling.
Mark Adams: my coaching mentor. Always there, at the end of the phone, when I would call in exasperation! Mark has worked with many riders during his time being on the World Class Performance Plan with GB and has extensive knowledge of working with developing young riders. Mark has overseen my coaching pathway and, I value his friendship and advice.
Gary West: was an Australian Olympic cyclist and track cycling coach. He won gold in the men’s team pursuit at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia. He competed in the Points race event at the 1984 Summer Olympics and was also on the gold medal-winning team pursuit squad. (Reference Wikipedia.org). During his career he has worked with the Japan Cycling Federation and US Cycling Federation. In 2008 he was appointed as national head track sprint coach with the Australian Institute of Sport. Gary has achieved great things with many riders over the years and for me he exemplifies, in my opinion, the ‘holistic approach.’ I have been an admirer of his work for many years. At track events, on television or physically being in the stands viewing an event, I would be focusing not on the riders but what he was doing in the ‘pit’ area. One could say I was ‘spying,’ as I would train my binoculars on him and his coaching team trying to gleam information! It is surprising how much detail you can gather doing this.
Gary’s star female sprinter was Anna Meares! Anna Meares has been the 500-metre track time trial world champion on four occasions, and a gold medallist at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. At the 2015 UCI Track Cycling World Championships Meares took the gold in the keirin – her 11th world title in total, which made her the most decorated female track cyclist of all time. She was the flag-bearer and captain for the Australian team at the 2016 Summer Rio Olympics, where she won a bronze medal in the keirin. This made her the first Australian to win individual medals in four consecutive Olympics. On 16 October 2016 Meares announced her official retirement from her current competitive cycling career (Reference Wikipedia.org).
I was lucky to meet Gary, initially in London, at a World Cup track event. From then we began to correspond via email for which I am eternally grateful for him mentoring me on my development as a track coach.
We finally were able to have an exchange of ideas face-to-face at the 2016 UCI World Track Championships in London. He gave his time and energy so openly and being in his presence was also energising and inspirational. He was an approachable humble man with vast amounts of knowledge who engaged with people and instantly puts them at ease. Being in his presence made you want to change nationality! I have taken on board his advice, ‘Just don’t over think it!’ Sadly, Gary died from Motor Neurone Disease in August 2017.
My coaching style: In terms of how I work I thought long and hard about how I wanted to coach and began by drawing on my influences. From this I would say my coaching is an ‘holistic approach’ – to understand what motivates a rider, their stress points such as what do they like the least and most, their emotional & physical wellbeing, what is going on in the rest of their life that can impact on their training and goals.
I believe in:
Focusing on the process of development and how a rider performs in competition, or a sportive event, rather than the results or outcomes – there can be only one winner in a race.
Creating a structured environment where the rider is given the opportunity to develop their skill level that constantly challenges them whilst providing encouragement and supportive feedback.
Developing a rider to become an independent thinker in terms of how they will be able to understand the requirements of their training to be able to make minor adjustments if unable to contact the coach.
A rider needs to develop, and maintain, their core skills constantly to provide them with a solid base as they progress in the sport at whatever level. “The foundations are the most important structure of anything that’s worth building” is my mantra!
Greg Lemond once said, “It never gets easier, you just go faster.” This inspired me to train harder as I wanted to go faster! If any of the riders that I coach aim to be the best they can be at each session, or in competition, then we are going in the right direction.