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Importance of coaching?

Old 05-27-12, 09:04 AM
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JeffOYB
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Importance of coaching?

I'm an old fart but it seemed like back in the 80-90's that coaching was the best secret weapon.

Is it still? Is it more common now than then?

Who knows, maybe the Web and Powermeter, etc., has somehow reduced the need. But my hunch is that it hasn't. Although I see the Web as being an amazing tool, it seems like it's certainly not enough to optimize results. And by results I mean the podium but also all the other relevant levels -- team relations, public relations, development, personal potential, manners.

Of course, coach quality is critical, but without a good coach, I'd think a team would likely be far below its potential. Yes, no?

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Old 05-27-12, 09:49 AM
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Even having the best coach does not guarantee results ... sure it helps but cycling can be cruel ... injuries, crashes, flat tires etc
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Old 05-27-12, 09:55 AM
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I'm sure I would have benefitted from a coach back when it mattered, but didn't know of any, or realize I should seek one out ... oh well.
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Old 05-27-12, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by JeffOYB View Post
=
Who knows, maybe the Web and Powermeter, etc., has somehow reduced the need.
They might help you train for more power for more time, but they won't teach you how to race well if you're doing mass start racing. A good coach with a deep understanding of mass start racing can help you improve your results enormously.
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Old 05-27-12, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by bitingduck View Post
They might help you train for more power for more time, but they won't teach you how to race well if you're doing mass start racing. A good coach with a deep understanding of mass start racing can help you improve your results enormously.
That would be my take on it, but as I said I'm outdated and new ways may have somehow let racers get around the need for a coach. I do dip my toe in the scene and I notice today's "arms race" in money being shelled out for bikes and bike stuff. I see whitecollar folk involved. I would think that the first thing I'd do if I had an interest and some cash would be to make sure that my team had a good coach.

Teaching skill is different from race experience, of course, so what makes a good coach is a whole other subject.

I recall recently reading some industry dude old pro who said something like it's still only one in ten teams have a coach.

I used to race on 2 teams with coaches. (All hail Mike Walden.) They didn't cost much, but were priceless (I don't even recall dues being anything more than negligible). And we certainly mopped up thanks to them. The teams without a coach definitely floundered significantly in various ways despite otherwise being similar or superior to us. We also rode in very bland terrain but that never held us back (we did enjoy low traffic...altho the main group in Detroit had a whole lotta bad to contend with).

But today might be another day...
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Old 05-27-12, 05:03 PM
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OP - you're lucky in that you learned a lot through Walden etc.

I just had a discussion with a long time co-promoter. He raced for a long time and quit recently after a slew of family and friend illnesses/deaths (among others a 41 yr old business partner, a 32? year old friend, both parents, both wife's parents, etc). He moved to a different area and started riding again after a year or two off. We caught up on the phone the other night and he was telling me how it seems that there are a lot of strong but ignorant cyclists out there. He laughed at himself.

"It's hard to give someone advice when they can drop you any time they like. Problem is that they don't know how to race, they just know how to ride." He described this insanely strong but chaotic rider who just monstered huge gears up hills but was totally unpredictable on the bike. Dangerous but strong.

I prefer racing against strong and ignorant racers, it makes life much easier on me in a race. I think that the racing skillset/knowledge is not documented well and what knowledge there is is being phased out as the riders who learned all this stuff gets older.

A long time ago I decided that I wouldn't offer advice openly, I'd only offer it if someone asks. This was because a racer giving advice unsolicited can be construed as obnoxious. I'm not talking safety stuff, I'm talking race tactics.

Since then I've had a few guys ask me for advice openly, i.e. really seriously ask. One won the next three training races he did plus got 3rd in a regular race. Another won his next race. Another got 3rd two weeks after my advice talk. I gave them no training advice, only racing advice, and it was not on the bike so it was all theoretical talk, no drills or anything. They were strong enough, they just didn't know how to apply it.

Given a bit more time (and maybe some helmet/bike cam feedback) I bet I could have made them race even better. My goal is to try and document this information a bit more formally.

I gave advice to one guy without his asking, just last year I think. He is a BF guy and I noticed a huge habitual flaw in a race we did together. I mentioned it to him and I think he understood that the advice came with good intentions. I don't remember offering up advice to anyone else like that for 10-15 years.
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Old 05-27-12, 08:41 PM
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A good coach is really hard to find (at least where I live).

CDR, you have plenty of footage with comments and explanations that can be quite useful for less experienced riders like myself.
There is plenty of stuff available regarding interval routines, etc all of which addresses the physical conditioning part, but not that much regarding tactics.
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Old 05-28-12, 06:31 AM
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I'd think that new changes might be that there is now pretty good video instruction. Like, CDR might make a good series that covers all the bases, including tactics. I'd still think that a coach would be priceless. They work with each rider and their personality. They sometimes do counterintuitive things, or challenge or irritate a rider to force them to react and do something that they hadn't done before. All sorts of subtle and tricky stuff. ...Which can make all the difference. I guess you could call it the psychology, to give it a label, but I think it can often go even farther than that. They can see the whole person. It's the difference between a video class and a real class -- and then some. A race or sport in some ways is indeed like a mini-war. It's not just instruction but it's being there, on the fly, at the crux moments -- sometimes it's counsel at a remove -- like Brando in the Godfather. Like the Master in Karate Kid. This stuff is not fooling or make believe.

Also, it seems like a coach can help all the fierce warriors get along and not waste energy thinking about each other and the pecking order. Or even waste energy thinking wrongly about rivals. Nervousness and insecurity coming from posing and the arms-race can go away, I would think, with a coach.

It's interesting to me that Walden would focus almost entirely on juniors. That's when riders can be shaped, I suppose. Maybe he wasn't even that interested in senior racing -- so I'm not sure if he was thinking that he was grooming for the future, but that the impact of racing was maybe for the young. I don't know. He was not expressive about WHY he did hardly anything. He stayed stoic. He was one of the old guard, ex-WW2 dudes. What was really important to him wasn't easy to put your finger on. Maybe it was the character thing.

I wonder how determinant coaches might be. It might be big. Like a coached team to me would likely dominate. Then if two teams were coached, it would be a contest between them.

Like generals in a war.

Or maybe not? Maybe videos can replace a lot of that oldschool stuff? Heck, I hear colleges nowadays are moving to video-education and saying that in research it is shown to produce quality. So you get your onboard (power) data and download, analyze and go from there. Maybe a coach can be across the planet from you and just work with your data. Who knows! Times change!
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Old 05-28-12, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by JeffOYB View Post
I recall recently reading some industry dude old pro who said something like it's still only one in ten teams have a coach.
that's because riders employ their own coaches.

Last edited by gsteinb; 05-28-12 at 06:50 AM.
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Old 05-28-12, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
that's because riders employ their own coaches.
I can see that happening nowadays. In which case, I think a team coach would defeat them in events. You need one coach to rule them all... I see individual coaches fitting in best with an individual sport. But team spirit is important even in individual sports in many cases -- it *can* raise the level. I suppose there could be both -- personal coaches and then an overarching team coach.

So maybe a modern change is the proliferation of personal coaches. (Also all the datameters and analysis.) But what about team coaches? Is it a less desirable position? I see it being an extra stipend, maybe, at least.

I also see public/sponsor relations being more easily controlled with a team coach. Violations might mean you're off the squad next weekend, or off the team. A personal coach might not want to lose even a PITA client.
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Old 05-28-12, 07:14 AM
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shrug. sounds like you're bored and over thinking things. a guy's form is his own responsibility. DS makes decisions based on the pieces he has and the form they have.
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Old 05-28-12, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
shrug. sounds like you're bored and over thinking things. a guy's form is his own responsibility. DS makes decisions based on the pieces he has and the form they have.
I'm overthinking the subject of a thread? I think coaching is considered to be an indepth subject. A fair amount has been written on it, even in terms of cycling. The ways in which it has changed in recent decades seems of interest. If not, overlook.

First, new racers don't know about form or how to get it. A team of uncoached/semi-uneducated racers could use a coach perhaps. In the old days anyway. (But the old days were also a time of huge ignorance and little communication, with only a few simple books, and even then when info was king and hard to get only a few local-type/regional/newbie/developmental teams bothered with coaches). (I guess we were really rare/lucky in Detroit to have a coach who worked with every level -- from kids, newbies, regional-stars to world champs.)

Second, how impt to success is the DS? Seems likely from what you describe about the DS -- even though, you're right, his role is limited -- that it could still easily mean all the difference to success.

Of course quality is also determine. But efforts along these lines might pay off lots bigger than going it alone -- certainly for most, though obviously there would be exceptions.

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Old 05-28-12, 07:50 AM
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elite teams generally run and perform better than lower level teams because the DS makes decisions re:who is working for who and tactics.

new racers are in a diy position. is a cat 4/5 'team' going to pay a coach to train guys? kind of expensive. and 95 % of those guys will never even make it to cat 2.
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Old 05-28-12, 09:13 AM
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Someone that I know well, is a friend, and is one of the best racers I know (i.e. in terms of honor, skills, and tactics) said something like this to me. "Look, you paid your own entry. You bought your bike, your wheels, your tires, you paid for your gas. You shouldn't work for me unless you want to. And I don't think anyone on our team should be obligated to work for me just because. It's okay if the rider wants to work for me but it shouldn't be a requirement".

This really goes against the whole 'intramural team' concept, i.e. where a team of Cat 3s (in my case) work together. Or 4s or even 5s. I think it's fun to work together but that's me. I'll spend my entry fee knowing that I won't see the finish in optimal shape but it'll be worth it if I can set up a teammate for a good chance at a podium/win.

Ironically when that guy started winning prize money (sometimes due to our help) he came to me and asked how he should split the money. I told him that, look, we all helped you because we wanted to. There was no talk of splitting the money. I told him to talk to our Cat 3 captain since I couldn't talk for him, but in my opinion the prize money was his. (The Cat 3 captain, who was one of the guys working for him, concurred.)

Team coaches only help if the team is good with the coach. This means a lot of different levels. First the coach has to have the riders' respect. Second the riders have to believe that the coach knows more than they do. Third the coach actually has to know something and give good advice.

I met a rider in MI who was putting together an end of season gift for the guy that ran the team. Everyone pitched in $20 (nowadays maybe $40) and the club bought him a really nice big TV. I suppose now it'd be like buying a 50-60" TV, but back then it was "just" a 32" or 36". He worked with the riders as well as doing stuff like running the club etc. Riders joined up partially because of the guy running the team. I could see that working but I've rarely seen the commitment from more than a few racers required to build and hold together such a team.

If my current team had a coach that everyone had to use, I probably wouldn't have joined it. I've heard a lot of bad advice coming from coaches that don't know much but think they do (of course I may be in that same boat, i.e. dispensing non-pertinent advice).

I joined my current team because of one main reason - my friend (who raced for another team at the time) joined up. It was politically safe for me to join this team since it wouldn't offend anyone back where I used to live. I also wanted to go on team rides, group rides. Ends up that I've managed to make just ONE group ride in three years (and I hit the deck on that one, my fault). So although I'm on this team, although I see teammates at races, we're separate when we're not at races. We give one another ideas and encouragement (that one teammate has been racing 25 or so years, the attitude/honor one), we learn from one another.

We're also done with the "winning is most important" selfish bs attitude. We work for whoever is the best for the course, fitness, and the conditions. I found myself getting greedy at one race this year and totally regretted it (my teammate said that it was within my right, but after seeing him win, I realized that no, it wasn't in my right, not that day). After that race I've selflessly put down for my teammates when it made sense.
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Old 05-28-12, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
elite teams generally run and perform better than lower level teams because the DS makes decisions re:who is working for who and tactics.

new racers are in a diy position. is a cat 4/5 'team' going to pay a coach to train guys? kind of expensive. and 95 % of those guys will never even make it to cat 2.
My take is that a coach would let a low team fake being a much better team than it is. They'd do far better and no one would be the wiser! : )

The money thing is also partly what I'm wondering about. Racing is moving up demographically. Many involved have tons of discretionary income. Bikes are pricey, everything is pricey, yet they pile it on. Sure, they'll still poor-mouth but it's nothing like the old days! : ) If they knew how important it was I bet they wouldn't mind spending $100 on the annual dues rather than $50 (or whatever it is). In short, in the scheme of things and considering the advantages (in my mind, huge), a coach is DIRT CHEAP. And, compared to wheels, is literally cheap to afford across a team. Heck, people have personal trainers/coaches and that cost is not divided up among many. Sure, they might feel that they're getting close to breaking the bank, but when a coached team shows up and mops up, and shows class all around, the money will be found like magic.

Unless I'm just stuck in the dark ages and truly a team can be held together and thrive in peace and joy and riders can readily find their form -- and the savvy can readily triumph over their rivals -- all based on the miracle-Web and datafeeds alone.

PS: ...Thanks for the background thoughts, CDM.
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Old 05-28-12, 10:09 AM
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This is an interesting discussion. The way it works on my team is that each individual is responsible for his/her own training, and his/her own approach to the season and any given race. The team has training sessions (Sat group ride, and one practice race 'camp' this past year), but if they conflict with your training plan, there is no pressure to sacrifice your plan in order to participate. If you want base instead of a high intensity group ride, you go do your base. The team does try to hold group rides that make sense for the time of year: keeping it easier during the period most people are doing base; cranking it up and awarding sprint points as we get to the season. We have a fairly large team by AZ standards, and for any given race, subsets will be racing together. Those folks will decide to what extent they will work together, or for a particular member, based on individual goals, strengths and points standing. If someone says "I really want this race", then those in his category are going to help him win. Members who are leading in season points are going to get support unless they say they don't want it. They are essentially considered 'captains' for that category. Winners are encouraged to share their prizes with those that aided them, and they can also give out 'team points' to those that helped. I have enjoyed helping a teammate win, and would never adopt a strategy that threatened my teammates chances without having discussed it in advance. If I'm planning a specific attack, my teammates know it. I invariably ask the strongest teammate in a race what I can do to help him win. But, at least in the categories I race (I have teammates if I race 50+ or Cat4 but not when in 55+) there is nobody having a pre-race meeting saying "Okay guys, this is what we are doing." It's more casual and fluid than that.

On the coaching front, it's similar to the way team bikes are handled. There was an offer to buy team bikes at a good discount. Some took advantage; others didn't. We have a coach that was introduced to the team and has given a few lectures to us. We were encouraged to work with him and his local associate individually. They are very metabolic-testing oriented, and have their testing setup at the LBS, so they are a constant presence. Even those of us who have not signed up for their coaching have adopted some of their methods by osmosis. But the coaching is of individuals, not the team. I believe it needs to be that way, as we are individually responsible for our fitness.

Given the economic realities of how teams work, with most of them affiliated to an LBS, there is a certain amount of 'buy-in' or more accurately 'buying' that members need to do in order to adequately support the team. Shop supports the members - members support the shop, and the services affiliated with that shop. But those products and services need to be a good match, at the right price, or the members aren't going to buy in and the relationship and team will flounder. The coach working with my team is really good in a lot of different areas. He is a respected Phd physiologist, and literally everyone he has worked with has set TT PRs. Not a bad track record. But my needs fall more into what has been mentioned previously. I need to learn how to race, and more specifically how to win masters races. I needed help from someone who does exactly that, and I'm fortunate to now be getting assistance from Racer Ex. Fitness is of course vital, but it doesn't do you a damn bit of good if you don't know what to do when, how to get around a corner, or how to get the most from your power in a sprint. We all need to be individually trained, to build the strengths we need to win with the strategy that will work best for each of us. There is a lot to this sport, and you need to cover all the factors to get on the podium. Fitness - skills - strategy. It all needs to be there.

By the way, with our relatively un-regimented approach, we have developed a reputation for supporting each other well, and for using solid team strategy.
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Old 05-28-12, 10:10 AM
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Guys pay coaches a few hundred a month. The math doesn't work, and at lower end it's just generic plans which have as much chance of harm as help.

The assumption seems to be that the system is broke, but it works just fine as far as I'm concerned. Once guys show aptitude, talent and dedication is the time to invest in coaches.
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Old 05-28-12, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
Guys pay coaches a few hundred a month. The math doesn't work, and at lower end it's just generic plans which have as much chance of harm as help.

The assumption seems to be that the system is broke, but it works just fine as far as I'm concerned. Once guys show aptitude, talent and dedication is the time to invest in coaches.
i like my coach. hes a nice guy who a) helps me become a better racer by talking strategy and tactics with me on our rides together. Remember im just a dumb junior who is really new to this. B) He's helped me ot stay focused and become a stronger rider (see the difference between the two points, he has helped me become a stronger rider and a better race).


edit: About the money, if a team wanted a real coach, they would need to throw down some serious money, not 50 bucks a person. go look up what the best plan most cycling coaches offer. It's a lot!

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Old 05-28-12, 10:55 AM
  #19  
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Ok. I'm glad you like him. Not sure what that adds to a discussion about personal vs team coaching though. Freaking juniors and their short attention spans.
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Old 05-28-12, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
Ok. I'm glad you like him. Not sure what that adds to a discussion about personal vs team coaching though. Freaking juniors and their short attention spans.
OMG A DUCK! OMG NATIONALS IS A MONTH AWAY

OMG IM TOO FAT FOR THIS SPORT


what were we tlaking about again?
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Old 05-28-12, 11:08 AM
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I sucked before the coach, I sucked a bit less with the coach and I still suck

The thing I liked about the coach was the fact I didn't have to think. He had the plan and each day on the bike was mapped out.

Now without the coach I do the planning, which is scary because I have very little clue of what I'm doing, but I still like it because if feel like doing a fast group ride ride instead of intervals then I do it. I know that at my age if I haven't shown signs of brilliance yet, it ain't going to happen...

Now I save the coaching fees and pay someone to clean the house so I can ride more

And a PS...I do not like the idea of teams being run by a coach, it can create a conflict of interest and limit the development of local talent...I personally feel we have that issue around here and my wife dealt with it for a few years. Now she's on a team that is run the way an amateur team should be run IMO.
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Old 05-28-12, 11:17 AM
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Thanks for the indepth description for how your team works. It seems like you guys cover the bases.

What about the role for a godfather type? ...Someone who is just around the periphery observing the overall tone -- and the particulars -- at races. Checking in on the various teammates, as you say, who are into that. Seems handy. Like the one coach has a metabolic monitoring focus. Seems like he might still be part of a bigger picture that a godfather type could keep the pulse of.

Then, at the risk of bursting it all at the seams (what it would feel like anyway) what about development? Recruiting, retainiing, building juniors -- whew! Organizational strength needs a guiding hand, too. Like, I remember getting awfully self-centered in my prime. Now, I tried to be a good teammate, but even a winning group focus can be myopic in terms of overall team health (and longevity). Basically, and maybe this is another topic, making sure teammates rotate through in organizational support roles seems good -- volunteering at events -- not trying to race everything the club puts on. Non-race task delegation. I suppose the club/team president might do this more than the coach.

Basically, it seems like a team of all/only racers is at risk in these ways. Although I suppose people can deal with infrastructure AND race.

***

Cool idea that our local team is doing: It seems like everyone bought two sets of the current outfits, with opposite color schemes. Either could be raced in, I suppose. But they did it for tactical training rides -- so half the riders would show up in whites and the other in "skins," making it easier to train for team action.

Another nifty tip that an old coach mentioned was the "gap calculator" for bridging or holding gaps. I've never heard of it before or since. I found one online reference to the idea, and it's a pretty good one, it's here in the archives at: http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/in.../t-562478.html. There has to be a simple method you can use while racing in that thread somewhere. It kinda looks like a rough estimating could be done using 1 foot per second per mph difference. However, that's conservative, in reality it's more like 1.5 feet per second. Using this you can figure that it takes 3.5 minutes to close a 100 yard gap going 26mph when those ahead are going 25mph. (The 1 second method gives you 5 minutes, so if you used it you'd only be pleasantly surprised! But maybe it's good to be conservative?) This method can be used to strategically sort out whether you can do what you'd like to with any particular gap if you have a sense of their speed / your speed and the approx gap distance. Fun! Now did everyone here already know this?
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Old 05-28-12, 11:22 AM
  #23  
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What's your angle?

Outfits?
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Old 05-28-12, 11:29 AM
  #24  
JeffOYB
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Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
What's your angle?

Outfits?
Ha, like I said I'm old school. "Kit" is too newschool for me. (We usually only had to buy a jersey.)
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Old 05-28-12, 11:34 AM
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Maybe that's a change from the olden days. It didn't used to cost much, if anything, more to get quality help for a team from someone who could offer more objective input. It seems pretty good to have a nonracer doing the guiding.

But, yeah, it all depends on what folks want. There are downsides and risks, as the earlier post says.

It sounds like nowadays coaches costs have gone up just like bikes have! (Except you can get a lotta bike now for not that much. My 22-lb steel tank Team Miyata was $1500 list in 1982.)

I probably only paid $20 annual dues to be a Detroit Wolverine and have Mike Walden coach me in the 80's. He coached many world/natl champs, Frankie, etc. Now, I was just a peon but I still came away hugely benefited by his godfather style. (Luckee!)

Then the Ann Arbor Velo Club in the later 80's also had a very decent coach and again the dues seemed totally minimal, usual -- $40?

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