Coaching matters: Rob Mortlock

CW’s resident coach Rob Mortlock, who is one of Lee Valley VeloPark's new lead coaches goes under the spotlight
Q — Miles or power?
A. Power makes the pedals go round in order to cover the miles. How much power is produced and when depends on the aim.
Q — Sports nutrition or 
real food?
A. Real food IS sports nutrition. Supplements are just that, to supplement your training diet.
Q — Talent or training?
A. Training is beneficial, regardless of natural talent. The best riders are those who train well on top of their gifts
Q — Strava or pin a number on?
A. What’s Strava? Some kind of glue that holds race numbers on? Sounds great, safety pins can make a lot of holes in race kit

You may recognise Rob Mortlock’s name from our very own coach’s corner. Rob has been working for Cycling Weekly answering your questions for the past few months, so we thought you might want to know a little more about him.

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Rob explains how he got into cycling, the most challenging environment he’s worked in and what training developments we can expect in 2014.

What is your background in cycling?
RM: I got into BMX as a kid and then enjoyed road cycling as I got older. As an adult I rode MTB 
for a while and dabbled with BMX racing again, but during the past nine years my focus has been 100 per cent with 
track cycling.

How did you start coaching?
RM: I started coaching with clubs and groups based at Herne Hill Velodrome.

How would you describe your coaching style?
RM: Flexible. I think different groups and different individuals require specific approaches.

What different coaching methods do you use?
RM: Again I think different scenarios call for distinctive methods. Breaking down a technique in detail to its component parts might be ideal for an elite athlete, but a group of schoolchildren may improve their skills at a greater rate by being shown the basics and allowed to practise.

What is the most challenging coaching environment you’ve worked in?
I’ve worked everywhere from primary schools to international competitions — 
an environment should not be particularly challenging if you are prepared. However, very unexpected events can present unique challenges. For example, I once had to cancel a session because of a helicopter crash!

What’s the most satisfying part of being a coach?
Fundamentally, the most satisfying thing in my job is simply helping people to achieve their goals or expectations, whether they are based on performance or enjoyment.

Coaching science develops rapidly. What have you learnt as a coach through your own career? Do you apply it to your own riding?
I’ve learnt to be objective about new equipment or methods until they have some proven scientific basis to recommend them. Some cyclists are always looking for a ‘magic’ formula but there isn’t one.

The combination of appropriate training and a healthy lifestyle will always be the main priorities, even for busy coaches who don’t get much time to ride! The important thing is to keep abreast of scientific developments in sport as a whole and examine how they might benefit your practice in the cycling context.

What are the most exciting developments in training we can expect to see in 2014?
Recent studies are showing more evidence of value in a functional approach to things such as core stability and strength training, so off-bike training is becoming more accessible for riders that may have never considered it before.

There is also a huge increase in the number of high-quality coaching sessions appearing for specific disciplines and skills, aimed at particular groups. With more purpose-built cycling facilities opening all the time, 2014 should provide riders of all abilities with more opportunities than ever.

What’s your number one tip for riders trying to improve?
Get a coach! A coach will help you do the right sessions to make the biggest improvements.