Friday 19 May 2023

1997 Coaching notes

 Long time no updates. 

The tragic death of my young friend Olivia Podmore has been covered elsewhere. 

I did find my old coaching notes from 1997. The site is a bit dodgy so reporting here...

Coaching Notes

By Hamish Ferguson

These are a copy of my coaching notes. This is the 1997 version.

I am in the process of creating the revised 1998 version.


* Introduction

* Physical training
-Training principles
-Training effects
-Exercise thresholds
-Physiological testing
-Training programmes
-On the bike training
-Supplemental training
-Training guidelines
-Physical recovery
-Sports medicine

* Sports psychology
-Self regulation and goal setting
-Knowledge acquisition

* Technical skills
-Skill Learning
-Riding skills

* Tactics
-Tactical planning
-Basic tactics
-Specific tactics

* Organisation
-Time management
-Pre race organisation
-Pre start organisation
-Post race organisation
-Life style balance
-Team events

* Combining all the factors

* Acknowledgements

* Bibliography


These coaching notes are designed to help you understand my training programmes. They contain many useful hints you can implement yourself. It also contains a lot of background information about how I developed my coaching philosophy.

You may find some of this information heavy going but please make an effort to learn and understand it. An excellent way to do this is to relate it to your personal situation. See how it matches up with your beliefs and experience. Always feel free to question me at any time about any parts of this paper.



-Principle of specificity
Training adaptations are specific to the energy systems or muscles used when training. In cycling it means sprinters should primarily sprint and road riders should do long road rides with efforts ranging from medium to hard intensity. An important addition to this principle is the need to develop a strong base before carrying out any specific work. This takes into account that you are not only a roadie, sprinter or pursuiter. You are also human, an athlete and a cyclist who should specifically train these areas as well.

-Principle of overload
To benefit from training you must overload your body to the point of fatigue. Your training programmes are based on your current ability and include just enough intensive work to cause a level of overload you can easily recover from. This level of training is just a small step away from overtraining. Overload can become too much if you suffer from stress outside of training. Reduce your training efforts if life pressures become too much. With hard training and adequate recovery you will soon be able to handle the current level of training stress and can then increase the overload through raising duration, intensity or frequency of exercise.

-Principle of recovery
Training causes a level of fatigue in the body that accumulates unless time is allowed for adequate recovery. This is because the theory of overcompensation states any period of recovery will lead to an extra level of adaptation. This prepares the body in case it is subjected to that stress again. If recovery is prolonged then training adaptations are lost. This is why your training programmes have intensive efforts mixed with recovery rides. This loss of adaptation is the reason you are expected to train hard all year round.

-Principle of individuality
When writing your training programmes I take into account all the things that contribute to your cycling career. These include your internal attributes such as goals, physical capacity and technical ability. The environmental factors taken into account include your social relationships, cultural situation and the environment. There are factors that are strong and need only be maintained and there are areas of weakness that need to be developed to gain large improvements in performance. The more of these factors you make me aware of enhances my ability to write training programmes specific to you. It is also good reason to stick to your training programme.


-Energy systems
One of the aims of training is to improve your body’s ability to use energy to produce movement. Energy is supplied at any time by one or more of the following energy systems...

  • Aerobic For events over 2 mins
  • Anaerobic For events between 10sec and 2 mins
  • Alactic For events under 10 sec

Specific training of these energy systems leads to them becoming more efficient at storing and using fuels and therefore a greater workload or duration can be achieved without requiring extra energy.

-Muscular systems
Training will lead to an increase in the stores of energy in the form of glycogen, fats and phosphates in the muscle. There will also be an increase in the amount of aerobic or anaerobic enzymes that help to turn this energy into actual muscle contraction. Aerobic training increases the size and amount of mitochondria in the muscle. Mitochondria are where the supply of aerobic energy comes from. Strength training leads to an increase in the size of muscle fibres which improves strength.

-Cardiorespiratory systems
Training improves the pathways for oxygen and nutrients to travel to the muscles. It also enhances the pathways that remove waste products from working muscles.

-Neuromuscular systems
Specific training improves the brains ability to send messages to the muscles to produce movement. In time the body becomes more efficient at sending signals so movement becomes smoother so less energy is spent on co-ordination and more can be used on producing movement.


Training will cause an increase of different thresholds that relate to a combination of the above systems.

-Aerobic threshold
This is the point where you start to produce lactate in large amounts and signifies an increase in energy consumption to sustain activity. Lactate in itself is not a harmful product unless it forms in very high quantities.

-Lactate Threshold
This is the point where the body is unable to process the lactate being produced and some of the energy supplying the muscles will have to be provided by the anaerobic system.

-Maximum Oxygen Uptake (VO2max)
This is the point where the intensity is so high that the body can no longer supply oxygen to the working muscles. The energy supplied is totally from the anaerobic system.

Crossing each of the thresholds requires more energy and places more stress on the different systems. The aim of training is improve your capacity to stay below each of the thresholds and compete at the highest level with as low an energy consumption as possible. These thresholds can all be determined with testing in the lab that is covered next.


I am in favour of using daily measures as a way to measure long-term progress and to monitor short-term training effects. From day to day you should expect to see an increase in heart rate after intensive training efforts. After recovery you should see this level return to normal.

Body weight is especially important in this respect. Before long training rides you should weigh yourself and compare this with your weight afterwards. If the post ride weight is significantly lower it is an indication that dehydration has occurred and you should start trying to redress this situation by increasing your fluid intake.

Record all this data in your training diary, use weekly summaries and graphs to record your progress. Include summaries of your duration and intensity to compare with your daily heart rate and weight measures.


-Career programmes
These are based on your personal goals. They work on a 4-year "Olympic cycle" where the first and third years are spent building aerobic capacity and the second and fourth developing aerobic or anaerobic power. These goals take into account some of the following factors...

  • Number of years exercising
  • Type of exercise
  • Requirements of sport and goal event
  • Level of current ability
  • Medical history
  • Other responsibilities

-Yearly programmes
These focus on the 2-3 major goals you have set for the year. A major portion of the season is spent developing a training base that begins with general body conditioning before moving on to general cycling work. Training is then done to prepare for early season racing before specifically working towards the goal event.

These are four (sometimes 3 or 5) week cycles that become more challenging as the year progresses. The final week is an easy one where you hold back in training. This allows for recovery to maximum levels in preparation for the next cycle or peak performance. Recovery is achieved by reducing the amount of training, but keeping maintaining the intensity to keep the specific training benefits from the cycle.

These are seven-day periods based on the hard-easy philosophy. This means no hard efforts unless fully recovered from previous training. It is important to remember training breaks down the body, and recovery from strenuous efforts leads to an improvement in ability.

In the final four weeks before the goal event a peaking procedure is undertaken. This comprises two weeks of intensive training that will fatigue you. This period is extremely stressful and is never undertaken unless the appropriate base training has been done. The third and fourth weeks consist of a tapering phase where intensity is maintained but the volume of training is reduced allowing total recovery. Time normally spent training can be used to develop organisational and psychological plans for the goal event.


-Racing as training
This is a very popular concept in cycling. It must be tempered with some warnings. Racing should never be done to get into form or to make up for base work not done. This leads to the situation where power and speed are very high but in a short time recovery from fatigue becomes difficult and ability decreases.

To achieve the best results in your goal event you should ride in similar competitions before the big day. In the early season this is less important because you are aiming to develop all round cycling condition. To specifically prepare for your event you should have done race type efforts in training. Specific racing and training also has motivational benefits that are discussed under simulation in the Psychology section.

-Recovery training
This is done at a very slow pace on easy days for warm ups and cooling down. The perceived exertion for this type of effort is very light.

-Aerobic capacity rides
These rides develop the ability to race at a steady tempo for long periods. Most of your base training will be done at this level. If time and energy are available then extra miles can be done at this level or lower. This should only be done if it leaves you well recovered for more intensive training and racing. The perceived exertion for these rides is light.

-Aerobic capacity efforts
These rides develop the ability to race on road or in track endurance events. The perceived exertion for these efforts is moderate.

-Aerobic power intervals
These repetitions are used to increase your lactate threshold. The perceived exertion for these intervals is hard.

-Lactic capacity intervals
These are used to improve the ability to road race at maximum effort, handle track endurance events and as a base for track sprint events. The perceived exertion for these efforts is very hard.

-Lactic power intervals
These develop all out speed for track sprint events. These efforts are done at a perceived exertion of extremely hard.

-Alactic efforts
These are done at 100%. They are done for six seconds and develop maximum speed, power or strength. Allow for full recovery between efforts. In track training this recovery is passive with just stretching between sprints. The are done at max all out pace.

-On the bike intervals
All repetitions are done when feeling fresh and highly motivated. The next rep should be attempted when fully recovered from the previous effort. Intervals should be based on your goal event. If it is a hilly road race reps are done uphill or if a pursuit, efforts are done on the track. When on the road the track rider should aim to replicate the cadence of the their event.

-On the bike strength training
Find an uphill grade and select a large gear (53*15-19) and do repetitions while remaining seated. The reps should be about 1000 metres long with three reps per session for roadies and six for track riders.

This is work done behind the motorbike with the aim of enhancing leg speed. It is a very exciting type of workout. It is used sparingly in the programme because the cost of too much speed is a loss in power and strength.


-Resistance training
In the off season see me for a training programme that will help you develop strength, power or muscular endurance for racing. In the competition season resistance training is only done to maintain strength so no increasing the training load in the gym.

-Cross Training
In the off season this can be used to develop both general strength and endurance. In season it is done to assist active recovery and maintain muscle balance. It can also add variety to the programme if the competition season is a long one. Choose between short duration sessions of hard exercises like running, skiing and circuit training, or long duration easy exercises like skating, mountain biking, aerobics, jogging and swimming.


-Daily training efforts
When training always focus on the intended benefits you are trying to achieve. Note anything unusual about your training sessions (i.e. elevated heart rate or muscular pains). Try to establish a routine for training and racing so you are in the right frame when you begin.

-Warming up and cooling down
Always include a full warm up before any intensive efforts. A warm up is broken into three parts. Begin with a general warm up of steady riding to prepare the muscles and joints. Then once the body is warm do some stretching that involves all the muscles used in cycling. Then start a specific warm up which should include efforts at the pace you will be racing or training at. On the completion of training or racing do a comprehensive warm down. This is best done by riding at a slow pace, then doing a stretching routine. An active cool down can halve the amount of recovery required after intensive efforts.

-Training intensity
There is currently much debate in the sport science community over the subject of training intensities with no general conclusions available at present (the principle of individuality is a stumbling block to making general recommendations). The use of perceived exertion is the most efficient way to monitor your training.

-Training routes
Take into account the goal race when choosing a training route. Roadies should mix hard efforts between hills and flat while track riders should concentrate on fast training courses.

-Individual and group training
Mix your training between group and individual rides. Group rides are good in the off-season where motivation to train is at a minimum. Group training is also a way to develop technique and build social relations. Individual training is better in-season because training with partners of different abilities can either slow you down or burn you out.

When doing efforts keep your cadence at the race level

  • Road 90-100
  • Time Trial 80-90
  • Pursuit 110-120
  • Teams 130-140
  • Kilo 150-160
  • Sprint 170+

Record in your training diary how you felt. Use a rating scale from A to E and take your resting heart rate. If the measure is up five beats have a medium ride, up ten beats have an easy session and up 15 beats have a rest day. Follow this procedure religiously as it is a key to keeping the overload/recovery balance in check. What follows is a warning of the signals of overtraining and a variety of recovery methods that should be added to your daily routine.

-Physical overtraining
Overtraining can occur from inadequate recovery, high intensity, poor diet and lack of sleep. Learn the following signals of physical overtraining...

  • Reduced physical performance
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Increase in illness and infections
  • Sleeping problems
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Dark or cloudy urine
  • Persistent pain and weakness in the joints
  • Increased heart rate at fixed training levels

Recovery from overtraining involves a reduction in intensity of training and prevention involves following your program, monitoring your training diary, staying in contact with me and maintaining sound nutrition.

Stretching allows you to become more flexibility. This allows you body to move freely through its intended range of motion. It is one of the simplest and easy ways to prevent injuries. See me for stretching programmes that should be done before and after training and as part of your daily routine.

Yoga is an excellent way to not only improve your flexibility but also offers the opportunity to strengthen a wide variety of muscles, learn relaxation and breathing techniques. Mark Bouckoms (ph 326-5255) runs a Yoga school in Sumner that specialises in working with athletes. He conducts one on one sessions with individual clients. These cost from between $40 to $80 per month depending on how often you wish to visit.

Massage can be done by yourself using long deep strokes along your limbs rubbing in the direction of your heart. You can see a qualified massage therapist like Sean Burke (ph 365-5665).

Nutrition is an important key to recovery. The two hours after an intensive effort is the time when your body will take up more glycogen than any other time. Simple sugars like cola, sweets and chocolate are the most readily absorbed type of glucose in this period. Drinking water will greatly improve your recovery and will prolong performance while racing.

Try to keep regular sleeping hours. This means going to bed at a set time and getting up at the same time every morning. Avoid sleeping in as this adds to fatigue. Learn to adjust the amount of sleep you get around when you wake up so you are ready to take your pulse and then get straight out of bed. Remember when training intensively you will need extra sleep so plan to get to bed earlier.

Make sure your bed is comfortable and bedroom is disruption free. When on tour try to replicate your sleeping arrangements by using extra or fewer blankets and finding a pillow that is similar to yours. If sleep is a problem get up and do something out of bed until you are ready to sleep.


-Training diet
A high carbohydrate diet is essential, as is drinking large amounts of water. For your wallet's sake I will mention there are no supplements available that make up for a well-balanced diet. If you want to be sure then take a broad spectrum multi vitamin/mineral supplement, vitamin C and iron. Nutritional advice can be sought from Ien Hellemans (ph 366-0620).

-Racing Diet
Your racing nutrition plan should start three days before the event with a gradual increase in the amount of carbohydrate and fluid intake. The night before the event you should have a substantial meal that is eaten four hours before sleep to allow full digestion.

In the morning eat a light breakfast. If nerves are getting the best of you then go for a ride before eating to work up an appetite. Depending on your experiences you should eat 1 to 5 hours before racing. Make sure what you eat is very familiar to you and is low in fibre and fat. In that period you should be taking an energy drink or using an easily digested sports meal supplement like the Exceed cans. Avoid taking large amounts of glucose in the final hour before an event to avoid any insulin reaction.

In a road race you should drink 500mls of water 5 minutes before the start. During the event you should aim to drink a normal size bottle of dilute sports drink every hour. Solid foods should be keep to a minimum due to digestion problems. Easily digestible foods should be nibbled on early in the event and water should be taken at the same time. Some people like to have a heavily sugared drink to give them a boost near the finish. Experiment with this in minor events to see if it has a positive effect on your racing. You should have experimented with any new food or supplement at least four times before using it in a major competition.

At track racing you should keep drinking during the session and try to eat some solid food at appropriate times if it is a full day program.

I recommend that you see a sports doctor every three months for a general check up, full blood test and once a year, a full examination. My first recommendation for a sports doctor is David Burke (ph 385-1935), although other good doctors are John Hellemans (ph 366-0620), Richard Edmond (ph 338-8179) and Deb Robinson (ph 366-0620). At the first sign of any major illness stop all training and see one of these doctors. Ask how the illness will affect your training (take your programme in).

At the first sign of injury stop training and see the doctor. It is likely they will refer you to a physiotherapist who will treat the problem. I recommend you see Barry Donaldson (ph 352-9900) or Graham Nuttridge (ph 366-0953) for your physio needs. Twice a year (preferably quarterly) you should see them to have your flexibility and muscle balance tested.

At the onset of injury you can make a major difference by following the following steps that you can remember by using the mnemonic R,I,C,E.

  • Rest: Rest the injured area
  • Ice: Ice the area for 20 mins every two hours
  • Compression: Apply a bandage
  • Elevation: Elevate the injured area

This is done to reduce the immediate symptoms of the injury for up to 48 hours. After this you will need to work with the doctor and physio when coming back from injury or illness. It is essential to recognise the need for a steady return to your current training level. Multiply time spent away from training by three to determine the length of your return.

The two major areas of injury to the cyclist are the knees and back so make an attempt to stretch, strengthen and look after these areas. When riding in the cold keep these areas covered or use warm up cremes.

Hygiene is important to the cyclist. Essentials are to change out of shorts after a ride and wash them thoroughly. Always remove wet clothes when you complete training. Shower after all rides and take care of your body, especially the points of contact with the bike. It is vital to keep teeth in excellent condition and see the dentist twice a year.



The following skills are to help you with taking more control over your racing. They are skills that will help you to become more aware of yourself and the events that shape your life. From this you should be better able to set your own goals that are specific to you. These goals can be used as the basis for setting out a written agenda of things to do. Carrying out your agenda is vital because what you do today determines what you receive tomorrow. This section will also include some skills to enhance your memory of the agenda. This is a very important skill to learn especially when racing in events where there are many important objectives to remember. We will also discuss some of the people who will be able to help you with setting your plan.

-Self Monitoring
The first step in the self regulation process is to become more aware of yourself and the external forces that have some influence on you. A handy way to do this is to start a journal where you record all the important things that happened during the day. Forget about the trivial stuff and stick to those things that really made a difference. You can split your entries into two groups: positive and negative.

-Self Evaluation
Go through and on a scale rate each entry from one to five. Five being either extremely positive or negative and one being mildly positive or negative. To get an overall rating for the day add up all the scores on the positive side and then do the same for the negative side. Subtract the negative from the positive and you have your total for the day. Record these scores over a training period and see what your average is, or compare training weeks with heavy racing weeks. Your scores are an individual rating and can not be compared with others.

-Self Awareness
The process of keeping a self monitoring and self evaluation journal is that you will become more aware of what you do and don’t like. You will become more aware of who you are as a person and of the outside things that determine the way you act. These determinants can be broken into five different sections...

  • Environmental: Weather, population,
  • Culture: Education, technology
  • Social: Friends, family, enemies, acquaintances
  • Cognitive: Your mind and how it works
  • Physiological : Your body and the way it works

These sections can also be used to help with your self monitoring by thinking about how each section may have influenced your day. The first three sections are external influences and the final two are internal. All of these have some affect on your behaviour to some degree during the day.

Becoming more self aware will help you to determine what the good things are in your life and to identify the negative aspects. This is the base for planning your self regulation activities.

-Self Regulation
The process of self regulation can be summed up with the old cliché “eliminate the negative, accentuate the positive”. From the information gained from your increased self awareness your goals can be set to gain more from the things you enjoy and to finds ways to permanently avoid the things you dislike.

Some things may be as mundane as planning to get up on time or to avoid someone who irritates you. Some are the aims of a life time like to win the Olympic title or avoid a major life failure like imprisonment, divorce, getting fired or crashing heavily.

Some directions you may head towards are the logical extension of activities you already enjoy and may even do extremely well. The logical progression for a New Zealand cyclist is to win at club level first and then progress through, open level, National, Oceanic, Commonwealth, and then to make it at Professional and Olympic level. A rider who is a successful. An open level rider should consider performing at National level the appropriate goal whereas a Tour de France runner up could logically aspire to win the next year.

Some directions are new and more tentative steps should be taken. The successful business person should not leave a high paying job to start immediate training to win the Olympic Games road race just because watching it on television looked so exciting. The logical steps here would be to join a cycling club and have a try before totally rearranging their lives.

-Goal setting
The product of all this thinking should be some goal. To start with you should have some long term aspiration. The statement long term varies for the individual. In cycling long term for a novice is a year while the Olympic contender needs to look at least four years of hard work (more realistic is eight). At the end of this period is some dream performance state that you aspire to. The novice who is a solid performer at regional and National level and is fully aware of the standard required could reasonably set a goal to perform well enough to gain selection for the Junior World Champs in the next two years. The senior who has a proven record of victories at professional level including minor tours, classics and minor places in major tours could set a goal to win the Tour de France and focus their season around doing so (the Indurain, Rominger, Riis approach). Others may look at not attaining peak condition at any point but look to maintain good all round condition (the Jalabert, Meuseew, Fondreiest approach).

The point is that these goals although they are dream goals and long term in focus they are still based on some realistic expectation of success.

-Creative thinking and understanding your goals

“My goal is to win the Tour de France!” “Fair enough, how will you do that?”

Do you really know how to win the Tour de France? For a novice to set such a goal is ridiculous if that is their one and only goal. For a novice to set a plan that will take them through a junior, under 23 and European, professional and finally a campaign of minor stage race victories is more logical. Is it that easy, certainly not. To perform at that standard takes many years of experience. A tour winner will have learnt nearly all the aspects of cycling. For the newcomer learning all this information is a daunting task.

One way to start is to use the creative thinking processes of asking questions and brainstorming. The aim is to get a non-stop flow of ideas about how you will reach your goals. At this stage it matters little whether they are good or bad, we are looking for quantity. Think about all the different components of cycling...

  • Physical components
  • Psychological components
  • Technical components
  • Tactical components
  • Organisational components

Use any sources available for ideas: textbooks, riders, coaches, managers, family, business people. Don’t stop till you have exhausted every available option in your quest for information. With this large collection of data you are ready to use critical reasoning to set your plan.

-Critical Reasoning and the setting of objectives
This is where you go through all your information and sort out how (and if) you are going use it. There are a wealth of techniques available to use.

-Evaluating the merit of your ideas
Are they good or bad? Have they worked in the past. If not, will they work in the future under certain conditions. New ideas come along daily to replace the ideas of the past. The training information we used in the 80s has been improved on dramatically in the 90s.

-Work out the relative importance of your ideas.
There are fundamental skills and specific skills. The specific ones are very exciting and we often lose touch with the fact that it is the fundamental skills that are the biggest contributor to our success. The rider who can ride a pursuit at even splits may be destined for success but not if they ignore basic skills such as training, bike set up and the rules of pursuiting.

-Put your ideas in order
Carrying on from the above this is where you try and place your ideas in the order that will be of most benefit. The use of creatine and soda-loading have obvious benefits to the performance of a track cyclist but only if the rider has been on a well balanced diet. The use of tri bars can cut minutes off a 40km time trial, but only if the rider has a good position and a body that can handle 50 minutes in an aero tuck position.

This is the point where you start to write out your plan in proper. With your dream goal at the top work out how you are going to fit everything in. This is broken into several parts...

a). Career Goals
Working back from your goal you can include all the important targets that must be met along the way to reaching your dream goal.

b). Yearly agenda
The yearly agenda should include all the important goals for the year. These should include a large component of base work, some specific training and times of the year when you want to perform with distinction.

c). Monthly agenda
This is for inclusion of the goals for each month. They will differ depending on what part of they year you are in. In the base the goals will be one of quantity of training and learning information. In the competitive season the goals for the month are to perform well.

d). Weekly agenda
Here the days of the week are varied to achieve more specific goals. Some days may be used to reach some physical goals. Others are spent doing psychological and organisational work. The amount of each varies again according to the time of year.

e). Daily agenda
This is the most important area where you need to determine what must be done every day to keep yourself on track for reaching your goals.

From doing this planning you will have a clear understanding of where you are going and how you are going to get there. This is an on-going process and aspects like self monitoring should be a regular part of your day. In time many of the fundamental aspects will become second nature and this is when you can afford to spend more time learning and using some of the more exciting and high tech innovations of the sport.

When racing or doing anything challenging it is of utmost importance that you remember your plan. Here are some strategies to use to ensure you recall your plan when necessary.

The effort spent trying to organise your plans into priorities and a logical time frame will assist you with memorising it. The best way to remember your plan out of competition is to write it down and have keys points displayed prominently so you can rehearse them daily.

When in a relaxed state take the time to visualise your plan for major events happening perfectly. Make it as realistic in your mind as possible, taking into account as many factors relevant to performance as you can.

Go over the plan by yourself or with others and discuss the implications, rewards and sub-objectives of every part of it. Include testing yourself on your memory of the plan.

-Key words
Make short sentences or one word phrases that represent an important part of your plan. Rehearsal can be used to practise recall for what they stand for. They also serve as a means to improve communication. You can set key words that you and helpers can use at an event.

Use training or minor events to physically rehearse the goal event. A road rider could practise tactics in a group training ride. Track riders could use a 450 metre event to perfect the warm up and mental preparation for the championship Kilo.

Practise trying to associate your written plan with mental pictures that will help you to remember it. Make the images very extravagant to assist the process.

-Method of Loci
This is particularly useful in road races. Try to associate parts of your plan with physical venues. In a road race you could link hills with attacking, descents with caution and the finish with sprinting tactics.

Combine all these methods to make the most of your plan by being able to remember it in the heat of competition.


There are three stages of skill learning you should be aware of.

-Cognitive stage
This is where you try to understand just what the skill is and how to execute it perfectly. Before attempting any new skill make sure you are fully aware of what is required. Use memory techniques to assist you with this task. You can watch a skilled performer do the task or use video to enhance this process. Imagery is particularly useful when the skill requires co-ordination.

-Associative stage
This is when you attempt to complete the skill. It will take time to learn complex skills so perseverance is necessary. If you have problems with a skill break it down into smaller sub sections and when these stages are perfected you can attempt the skill as a whole.

-Autonomous stage
This is the point where you need only initiate the skill to be able to carry it out. This means you have learned the skill to perfection. If you do not practice the skill your ability will decrease although it takes less time to regain a skill as it originally took to learn it.

Basic riding skills are very important. These include skills like cornering, descending, climbing, riding pacelines and sprinting. Basic skills can be improved by doing skill drills using cones and obstacles or getting out in a bunch and lapping fast.

Specific skills are used in your goal event to ensure a complete performance. They will be included as part of your training programme. These are skills like TTT changes or pursuit standing starts. These need to be practised often in training and all competition opportunities should be taken.


The bike should be serviced regularly to insure it is running smoothly. Clean it often to check for any problems that should be seen to immediately. Important areas to maintain on the bike are gears, wheels and brakes.

The frame, cranks and pedals should be checked for alignment to prevent injuries. An easy way to check for misalignment is to have someone ride your bike. They should be able to pick up on any defects for you.

Any suspect parts on your bike should be replaced immediately. Important areas to look for wear and tear are tires, chains and sprockets. Cables should be replaced yearly, especially in STI or Ergopower levers where the cable is wrapped sharply around the changer mechanism.

-Riding Position
A good position will offer you increased power and improved aerodynamics. There are many methods for setting up your bike. Most of them are an indication to help you find your correct position. When you are finished it is important to see how it affects your riding position as a whole.

You should aim to have a flat back, stable upper body and hips that don't rock on the saddle. Power is generated at the hip so the upper body should not move at all. Knees should move smoothly up and down aiming to ride with the knee cap over your second toe. While pedalling you should be exerting power through the whole pedal stroke using the ankle as a point to concentrate on for pedalling in a circular motion. To gain the most from your pedal stroke you should aim to ride with a low heel.

It is very common that your feet are not the right shape for effective pedalling. This can lead to your knees pointing in or out. This can be corrected by seeing a podiatrist who can fit orthotics to correct the imbalance. My recommendation is Greg Woolman (ph 366-0953) who has worked with many prominent cyclists who suffered problems with their feet.

Using a video camera is an excellent way to see how you look on the bike. Do this while riding at speed in your specialist event to see how it affects your position. You can have this done for you professionally by Jane Simpson (ph 364-2452) who has special videoing facilities and computer equipment.

Ensure your clothing is in excellent condition, especially shorts and shoes. Clothing should fit tightly for aerodynamics and be very comfortable when riding.

-Other equipment
Aids such as rollers, windtrainers, heart rate monitors, cyclocomputers, car racks, tools, aerobars and composite wheels should be well maintained. Take care when using new equipment. They should be tested extensively in training before you use them in competition.

Cycling New Zealand publishes a handbook with all the rules of cycling. You should become familiar with all the rules pertaining to your event. If you race on the road you should also be aware of the road code and stick to it in all situations. At cycling the Commissaire is the person who is in charge of running the race. Always follow their instructions and if you feel a mistake has been made you can protest the decision at the end of the race.


Choose the tactics you will use during the event. These will include several different plans of attack depending on your abilities and the racing environment...

-Your abilities
As you gain experience you will begin to understand your strengths in a race. Use them to decide where you will give 100% in an event. A sprinter will wait till the final 200 metres, a climber will use the hills and a time trial rider must measure their effort over the whole distance.

-The course
Look for the places where you can use your abilities to either break away or force the pace. If the course includes areas that do not suit then be sure to add some specific training to your physical or technical programme. In long road races remember circuits that feel easy at the start always get harder towards the end.

-The weather
The weather is a variable that changes frequently. Try taking into account the general conditions for the venue but remain aware of extremes known to occur and prepare accordingly. On the day use the weather to your advantage by making appropriate gear selections, wearing enough clothing and using it to make the race hard (i.e. crosswinds).

Extreme cold should be prepared for by wearing many layers, having arm and knee warmers (that can be taken off), booties, gloves and a cap under the helmet. Rub Vaseline on the exposed parts of the body and on areas that could chafe while riding.

Extreme heat is more of a danger. Time should be spent acclimatising to hot environments. When racing wear little and use light coloured garments. Hydration is vital so drink at least two normal bottles per hour.

Start the race with a belief that there are no certainties. Riders you expect to do well can have bad days and lesser riders could surpass themselves (especially relevant with the concept of peaking). It is helpful to know if a rider is a good sprinter or climber so you can adjust your race plan if they are there at the end of the race.

At all times everyone in the bunch is a threat so do not let your guard down. It could be some idiot who crashes in to you or the weaker rider who goes early and is allowed a huge gap handing them victory. At the end a rider who looks dead should not be ignored as the last lap or sight of the finish flag can suddenly boost the motivation of fatigued riders. If people are tired and not working then apply the pressure to see if they are suffering (and should drop) or just bluffing. You are better to drop them if they are not contributing to the pace.

Use the tactics of others to your advantage if there are obvious rivalries, negative riding or team tactics present. If they are directed towards you then react with assertion (not aggression). Often it is better to gain a psychological victory if a physical win is prevented due to others.

Always ride at the front looking for opportunities to break away or cover any moves. Unless very confident of winning the sprint you should be trying to get away yourself. It makes sense to try and split the bunch even if you can sprint, as it easier to win from a small group than a large one.

Opportunities to get away include attacking or going hard in the following situations; corners, hills, crosswinds, lulls in pace, when others are tired or riding negatively and other places where you can cause damage.

As far as sprinting is concerned you need to take account your ability and the external factors. Fast sprinters can go for long sprints while powerful sprinters can leave it late and accelerate to the line. The finish conditions affect your tactics. An uphill sprint or headwind sprint should be short while a downhill or tailwind can be long. Crosswinds determine which side of the road you sprint on. Riders coming over you should always have to do so into the wind. If sprinting from a small group then leading out may be more appropriate while larger groups also require you to be close to the front.

Advanced sprint tactics include winding up or slowing down to negate the strength or speed of opponents. Faking a jump can make opponents lead out too early. Team tactics can be used to set a fast pace that means other sprinters can’t get a good position. Because sprinting plays an important role in most racing it should be practised under all conditions to gain from the experience.

Pace judgement is important in a race. Most races are won in the last 25% so make a conscious decision to save a little energy for this period and raise the tempo. In a pursuit this is going hard with 2 laps to go or in a road race clicking into a higher gear at 40 km to go and building the pace. Even when circumstances dictate an early move your energy levels and motivation for the final parts of an event should be a major consideration.

These are related to your goal event. When writing your plan for a race include all the possible tactics that relate to it. These will be a powerful arsenal to have. Use memory techniques to learn your tactical plan and practise it in training.

Use small events or training rides to try new tactics and techniques. Always look for a new edge you can use while racing.


Once you have your goals and objectives set, try to integrate them into your daily routine. Start with a weekly agenda and use your diary to write a “to do” list.

For all events make sure you have entered, made travel arrangements, set leaving times, obtained special equipment, clothing or made sponsorship deals. Add these things to your “to do” list for the appropriate day.

Make sure you have organised yourself and anyone who is supporting you on the day is well briefed. Make sure you have eaten well, your equipment is working and you are warmed up for the event.

Clean up and do some recovery exercises. Save your post race evaluation for the day after the event.

Cycling is a very expensive sport. Outside of the conventional road or track bike which can still see you through most events without serious disadvantage there are products that can give you a tiny edge that can make the difference between winning and losing at elite level. These include funny bikes, composite wheels and aerodynamic clothing. Always ensure your basic equipment is in excellent condition before purchasing such items.

Travel and accommodation is a major expense in cycling. When setting long term goals include a financial budget and start a savings plan that will cover all the expenses.

Start establishing contacts you can call on to assist you with coaching, management, medicine, travel, support and finance etc. Regularly stay in contact with your network and always thank them for any support they may give you.

Communication with me is essential. The more information you can give me the better your training programme. This data lets me know what is important in your cycling career and I can direct my coaching studies towards this. Increased communication allows me to asses the effect of the training programme and be aware of early signs of overtraining.

The coach-rider relationship takes time as both people begin to understand each others needs. Be aware that I am dealing with other people, have a life outside of cycling and may have difficulty remembering all the fine details. If you want anything special write it down or call me (specially when you need a new programme).

-Hamish Ferguson's coaching philosophy
My ambition is to be one of the best coaches New Zealand has ever seen. The targets I aim for have been set by my coaching idols including the likes of Arthur Lydiard and Charlie Walsh. This is based on my belief that achieving excellence should be a primary human goal. Therefore I am committed to surpassing myself in every way and naturally expect anyone who want's me to coach them will do the same.

This concept of surpassing oneself can be shown by using the example set by my two cycling idols Sean Kelly and Bernard Hinault. Both came from a poor farmer's background but in the world of cycling achieved greatness beyond the ability others and perhaps themselves believed they had.

-Hamish Ferguson's coaching style
As far as specific coaching my ambition is the total development of the people I train. This is done by determining your motivation, current ability and designing a complete training program that will build a sufficient physical and psychological base and the specific abilities to achieve your end goals.

This determination of your personal needs is a long term process. It takes a lot of communication to ensure I have an explicit understanding of your situation. This effort is matched by my continual study into the general principles of coaching and cycling which is used as an information base to my recommendations for your preparation. My current qualifications resulting from this study are...

  • Bachelor of Arts Degree (Psychology major)
  • FIAC Diploma of Cycle Coaching
  • Coaching New Zealand level two Certificate
  • Cycling New Zealand Level One Certificate
  • Cycling New Zealand National Commissaire Certificate

This is an on-going endeavour as I am currently studying for the Diploma of Sport Studies and continue my efforts to gain the Australian Cycling Federation level two Coaching Certificate. In the future I intend to gain the Cycling New Zealand level three certificate.

My final commitment to cycling has been through gaining experience at the highest levels of the sport. As a personal coach I have worked with the very best in the sport. As a team manager I have worked with International teams and supported the Fowler Electrical/ Construction team. At Canterbury level I have coached the Junior Track team and Senior Road team since 1993. At a National level I have been a coach to the 1995 Oceania Team and am the Coordinator of Coaching for Canterbury Centre. This experience combines well with my personal understanding of you the rider and my base knowledge to produce excellent racing results for those whose motivation, ability and determination are of the highest calibre.

Communication with anyone who is managing your affairs is a two way process. Let them know in very clear terms what your goals are, how you expect to achieve them and most importantly what you would like them to do. Often you may find it necessary to get things started before a manager has time to do them. Let them know in advance what you would like to do and try to be diplomatic if suggesting anything that opposes their plans.

To reach the top in any endeavour requires a high level of commitment towards your goals. This means sacrifices have to be made in other areas. Part of goal setting includes not over-committing yourself and choosing your priorities.

You must realise every choice you make has an opportunity cost attached to it. It is the cost of not doing one of the alternatives. This is why the goals you set should be a natural progression of what you already enjoy.

It is important when not cycling to try and develop other important areas of your life like social relations and career development. Focusing on diverse goals as opposed to singular goals will help your overall development and will improve other's acceptance of you.

Goal setting should include more than just cycling goals and achievements. Reliance on cycling alone leads to problems as you base your self worth based your racing results. This can be particularly damaging if you lose the chance to race due to injury or other commitments.

It is important to practise good communication skills. An important start is to listen to those around you, really listen, and do not stop until you fully understand what they are saying. Then for you to communicate your position, and not stop until they understand.

While racing and training important people to communicate with are; Coach, Manager, Commissaries, Race Officials, Media, Friends, Riders, Sponsors, Motorists, Pedestrians, Supporters, Rival Supporters, Family and many others.

Try to anticipate future communications with any of these people and plan something to say if necessary. Remember at the end of a race is probably not the best time to discuss some things and is better to calm down and wait till you have finished your cool down.

Team events require a greater sense of understanding and communication. Make sure you fully comprehend your role in the team and the role others must fulfil. Get to know the others in the team outside of sport and realise strong personality differences do not have to lead to poor team performance.

Appoint a captain to lead the team in competition. That person should act as a chairman who makes the final decision about what goals and objectives the team accepts. This should come after a team discussion where all opportunities are evaluated and everyone has their say.

When on tour the team should function as a unit. They should eat, travel, relax and race together. Consider it an important part of your development to practise this. This only happens when all team members fully understand each other and communicate their own needs.


The coaching process is a long and winding road. My observations of success and failure along this path have led me to make the following general recommendations.

-Be prepared to be different
To make it as a cyclist takes a hell a lot of time. This means you have less time to be social and may have to delay your career for a few years. This is why setting your long term goals is such a crucial procedure.

-Stick to the plan
This is a biggie. As your goal event comes closer and closer a state of panic occurs where you begin to question your ability or preparation. If you have done the long term training in all five areas above you should have no problems on the day.

-Question everything that influences you
This is your life, it is very short and very precious. A little time spent assessing your beliefs and present achievements can prevent a life of regret over any lost opportunities. Therefore you should attempt to get the best from any situation. Do so by questioning your own efforts and the recommendations of others to ensure you are maximising your time.

-Keep your cycling in balance
There is a tendency to focus on one particular aspect of the training process (especially physical training). A balanced programme including hard training, motivation, sound technique and organisation will allow you to progress far. Any strengths in one area can negated by weakness in others.

-Keep your life in balance
While it is necessary to devote a large amount of time to cycling if you want to achieve excellent racing results it is still essential to maintain some involvement in other areas. Your social development and career goals should still play a major part in your activities.

-Talk to me
One of the major factors that I have noticed in all the riders I have coached is that the more communication there is the better the results. This comes back to the idea that the more I know about you the more I understand and can then prepare a programme that is specific to your needs. It is vital you make sure I have clearly understood any thing you have said to me and you are clear about anything I say to you.

-Get out there and do it.
There are no short cuts in cycling. Believe me when I say that I have looked everywhere for the secrets of success and the only ones are motivation and hard work. The key to results is knowing what you want, getting out there and having a go.


Many thanks to those who have helped shape my knowledge as a coach (those who have made a huge contribution are italicised).

Jon Andrews, Rebecca Bailey, Garry Bell, Eddie Bright, David Burke, Brian Burfield-Mills, Nathan Dahlberg, Bruce Dawe, John Delore, Maurice Denny, Glenn Doney, Tom Ehrhard, Sandy Ferguson, Susan Ferguson, Kirsty Fleming, Brian Fowler, Peter Gooding, Dave Gorrie, Terry Gyde, Faye Hall, Matt Heath, John Hellemans, Will Hopkins, Rodney Hogarth, Julia Hollows, Peter James, Kay Jones, Amy Karton, Janet Karton, John Kerr, Joanne Kiesanowski, Rainer Klebert, Ewan MacMaster, The MacMaster Family, Tom McBrearty, Carolyn McKenzie, Paul Mathews, Max and Ally Mathias, Nic Mellis, Scott Millar, Scott Molina, John Mullin, Jana Newman, Chris Nicolson, Larry Nolan, Julien Nordstrand, Graham Nuttridge, Tim Pawson, Gerard Pegon, Roger Pelletier, Jaaron Poad, John Rastrick, Willy Rastrick, Nancy Rehrer, Ric Reid, Vanessa Rolton, David Rowlands, Stephen Rusbatch, Colin Ryan, Jane Simpson, Jean Scott, Denis Skilling, Todd Skilling, Peter Slawson, Shona Smith, Warren Thin, Wayne Thorpe, Anneke Vollebreght, Gary West, Marcus White and Tracy Wilson.


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