Coaching matters: interview with Stuart Blunt

How long have you been coaching for?
10 years

How many riders do you currently coach?
14 for British Cycling, mainly under-16 riders but also a few junior ODP mountain bike riders.  On top of this I coach 3 riders privately.  

How did you get to where you are now?
I started as an elite rider, helping on camps then when I quit racing the opportunity to apply for the job came along.

British cycling paid for me to do my coaching qualifications and it went from there. 

When I became a Talent Team coach it was a different programme, it was about in-school testing and I was one of two regional coaches based in the South East. 

Through various restructures the Talent Team has become a national programme and I’m now one of two national talent coaches

How would you describe your coaching style?
Evolving, it changes all the time.  When I was a less experienced coach it was more dictatorial.  I wasn’t confident and was worried about stuff going wrong. 

Whereas now I’m a lot more relaxed and allow the bike rider to lead their development.  I try to support the bike riders to get what they want to out of the sport.

Do you use the same coaching methods for all your riders?

No – I use the same basic philosophy, but the way I approach and interact with each rider is very different. I find girls are very different to boys, they often need a lot more reassurance.

Within BC we have a stock of training sessions that are used for the youngsters so we pick from the same menu of sessions but they do them in different ways.  

What’s the one thing you find yourself repeating to your riders?

Take a day off.  Riders panic when they’re ill or when they’re not going well and the vast majority of the time it’s because they need a rest.

What’s the most important thing you try to impress on a rider?

With developing riders it’s about the process.  Doing the right things to become better bike riders rather than immediate results. 

Often it’s about trying new things, experimenting and not being scared of failing. It’s about the long term.

What the greatest innovation you’ve seen in your career?
The biggest impact on me, and my coaching, was speaking to Steve Peters and listening to his chimp theory.  That was groundbreaking.  

What’s the stupidest thing you’ve known a rider to do?
I work with teenagers, so there are lots of dumb things! A rider bought two left pedals once, another did a moony off the balcony of our hotel.

Quick fire questions

Q – Ramp test or race results?

Neither – not a big ramp test fan and I’d say it’s about race performance and the process more than actual results.

Q – Power meter or heart rate monitor?

Power meter for pros, heart rate for amateurs and nothing for under 16.

Q – Get the miles in, or specific sessions?

Specific session or combination.

Q – Sports nutrition or real food?

Real food.

Q – Training: Early morning or evening sessions?
Early morning for pros and those who can, evenings for the rest of us.

This article was first published in the November 29 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio and download from the Apple store.