Big Picture

Big Picture.

The key to athlete development comes down to how well you understand the totality of the athlete, advantage of the available tools to shape the individual. Take a look at a Teo Bos or Anna Meares and you will see significant movement of the torso and pelvis. Bos in line with the Sidebend hip hike and Meares aligned with the Trunk pelvic roll. In their own way, athletes with elite aspirations may already be in line with these movement patterns, and depending on the developmental age and overall quality may need to have things “gel” for them.

The biomechanics are focused on the limbs and don’t address the “skilled integration of the torso with the pelvis” in research, and certainly not at the level of the “governing bodies”. They appear to be quite similar in structure. Skills, as they are taught at present, work on the dynamics of group riding and multiple features of the sport which everybody is aware of. But again, they miss the essence of the cycling performance, which is the grace and excellence of movement (not the legs). The question is: “what exactly do I do now? At each kinetic link and how do I integrate the whole darn thing?” Sounds simple, but far from it. The impact of all of this is athlete development, talent ID and a better appreciation of the sport.

Cycling ReDefined

Cycling Redefined.

It may be worth asking the question: What is cycling and how is the sport defined?

Discussions center on physiology and training zones, supplements, positioning and movement patterns. This has led me to produce a working definition: “Skilled Interplay of the torso and pelvis with the lower extremities to propel the bike effectively”, this definition shifts the sport from a purely endurance endeavour to a Highly Skilled – Endurance Sport. Relevant features of this definition include the “Performance Movement Patterns”, Physiology and Endurance, Cycling Specific Strength and High level Neuromuscular coordination. I do think it’s important to frame the sport in terms of the quality in which the task is performed, which is the feature that distinguishes the top performers of any sport. You may find that this applies equally to any other sport; in fact the inclusion of a sport specific movement pattern is an essential feature, without exception.

Golfing Concepts apply to Cycling

From a discussion of golf coach Butch Harmon with Charlie Rose. The Charlie Rose Show, 2012.

You may be asking what does golf have to do with cycling? Well, a lot actually. In fact, I expect that in time cycling will reach the same type of understanding and excellence in terms of technical analysis.

The point is made regarding “raw talent”, that is individuals which show potential but need “polish” to continue improving. That polish is technical; it refers to the details in the quality of movement. There may be a detail in the performance that when polished or corrected can raise the level of performance considerably. We have all come across riders with promise, who for various reasons did not reach that potential. The reasons are varied, but lets provide these athletes and all athletes in fact with the tools to improve. This brings me to a major point, which is that Harmon works with amateur athletes as well. What a great way to better understand the sport and learn teaching techniques from both amateurs and elite golfers.

Raw talent will clearly rise among the ranks, and some will not require coaching in the technical area. But what of the talent who does need that extra bit of input? He makes the point that current athletes appear to be more uniform in their technique, this arises from the teaching methodologies. However, he personally teaches to the individual, retaining what works for the athlete (and some of the quirks of their movement); but that takes great confidence in his coaching abilities, technical knowledge and a mental picture of athletes may have also exhibited those traits. This is the reason for developing a library of cycling performances that coaches can refer to and build greater effectiveness in their coaching practice.

The point is made that elite golfers have no idea what exactly they are doing, and neither do the cyclists. They have a feel for how they do things, but when presented with the video display, there is a mismatch between the two. By the same token, amateurs also have no idea how they perform, much less that their movement patterns are in need of improvement. So, you end up with two drastically different groups in terms of movement patterns, but who are linked only by physiology and technology.

Projecting forward, to the time when an elite athlete decides to coach, under the current system, there is no way he/she can transfer that highly individualized performance to the student athlete. Nor is it clear that you would necessarily want to do that.

Back to the present or future, what is required is the adoption of effective coaching methodologies that address the movement patterns and coaches ready to roll up their sleeves ready to learn.