Coaching matters: Tim Ramsden

With 20 years' coaching experience, Tim Ramsden works with all levels of rider. Here, he explains to CW how each cyclist needs specific, tailored advice

How long have you been coaching?
TR: I started 20 years ago, informally, but I have been doing it as a job for five years.

How many riders do you coach?
TR: It varies depending on the time of year — at present, I have over 30 riders.

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How did you get to where you are now?
TR: I did a degree in PE, taught for 15 years, then successfully completed my ABCC Level 3 coaching qualification.

Along the way, I have coached seven-year-olds to 80-year-olds!

What’s your coaching style?
TR: Personal and hands-on. A lot of my clients are based far away, so I try to work out what makes them tick and motivates them, through Skype and email.
A call, text or email just before a race or when training isn’t going so well is what coaching is all about. It is much more than hitting numbers, although that’s a necessary part of it.

Do you coach all riders in the same way?
TR: No, definitely not! Everyone comes from a different starting point and has different individual needs. Some riders will take what you say and just do it; others like to know exactly why they are doing it.

I coach complete beginners to national champions, and no-one is the same… as they say in teaching, it’s all about differentiation.

What’s the one thing you find yourself repeating to your riders?
TR: For road racing: always be in the first 15 and concentrate to stay there. For time triallists and sportive riders: don’t start too hard and pace your effort. For everyone: fuel right and you will finish strong, fuel wrong and you won’t finish.

What’s the most important thing you try to impress on a rider?
TR: Quality and frequency of training makes the most overall difference to your performance. If you are short of time and can only do 20 minutes on the turbo, do it rather than do nothing.

What the greatest innovation you’ve seen in your career?
TR: Heart-rate monitors and training levels. Thanks to Cycling Weekly in the early-Nineties and a feature by Peter Keen, I changed my training and went a lot faster for less time — and it is still as relevant today.

What is the dumbest thing you’ve known a rider to do?
TR: Really basic stuff — I’d been coaching someone online for three months and he came to do a ramp test and bike-fit with me. He was awesomely strong, then got his bike out of the car and it was a complete wreck!

He didn’t know how to change an inner tube and had been doing three, four-hour rides on a bike with gears that jumped and no tools or pump. Now I always try to find out if the rider knows the basics before we get into the training.

Quick fire 
Q – Ramp test or race results?
A – Both. Ramp tests should be used to predict results.

Q – Power meter or heart- rate monitor?
A – Both. If you can’t afford SRM, an HRM and rear-mounted computer also works well.

Q – Get the miles in, or specific sessions?
A – Specific sessions.

Q – Sports nutrition or real food?
A – Nutrition during and after training, but real food the rest of the time. Unless you bonk, then grab what’s going!

Q – Early morning or evening sessions?
A – Depends on the individual. Most people go better in the evening.