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The inside track: coaching tips from the top

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There’s a lot more that goes into riding than just time in the saddle…

We spoke to two of the best in the coaching business to get their advice on how to get the most from your training sessions, as well as what they have learned about preparation for big events.

Pro road cyclist Dean Downing enjoyed an illustrious racing career before setting up Downing Cycling with his brother Russ, while Commonwealth Games, European and World Cup medallist Jon Mould now runs Forte Coaching where the team create a unique and tailored coaching plan for each rider.

We asked Dean and Jon for their guidance for riders of all abilities to make the most of life on two wheels.

How to get the most from your training session 

Support is key. “Getting the most out of your training is a big one for everyone, whether you have 15 hours each week or five hours each week to train for your big sportive goal,” says Dean.

“Planning is key, but also getting people on board with your goal and then committing to the five hours or 10 hours each week around your work and life commitments. Family and friends then know what a big thing your sportive goal is, and their support will spur you on to get the most out of every training session to do.

“The more you enjoy the training sessions, the better you will do on the day of the sportive.”

For Jon Mould, it also helps to know what’s ahead of you. “To get the quality out of any session you need to understand what your training is. If your coach has set you a technical session with a lot of efforts, don’t be scared to write the session down and stick it to your stem; the pros use stem notes for races, so nothing is stopping you doing the same for training,” he explains. “This always helps when you’re going flat out, and you suddenly forget how long the effort is!” 

And don’t forget to do your homework: “Plan the route before you leave! Either on your computer, phone or in your head. Having the route in place before you leave the door will allow to find the best locations to complete your efforts, avoiding the traffic lights which halt all that progress, a quiet road where you can complete your sprints or a climb to help you get all your effort out,” adds Jon. 

Essential sportive tips

It’s all about fuel for Jon who says: “Making sure you’re fuelled for the sportive is fundamental: eating well the night before, morning of and making sure you’re hydrated so you’re ready for the ride!” Prepping in advance will also help you make the most of your day. “It’s always important to enjoy those long days and challenges on the bike, so making sure you’re the best prepared as possible will improve the whole experience. And when you’re out there riding, spot those faster groups or a rider and use them as they come past to gain that extra time and push yourself, challenge yourself and you will surprise yourself!” 

Dean reminds us all that pacing is key. “Know how long the sportive is in miles, kilometres or potential hours and pace each part of the route accordingly. The biggest mistake I see riders make is going off the start line too hard and blowing up at half distance or close to the end then crawling to the finish and having a very bad experience. Pace the ride nicely and you will enjoy every mile.”

And again, it’s about making sure you don’t run out of juice: “Always eat and drink each hour and keep energy levels topped up for the long day ahead…

“If you can ride with others on the sportive, then do it, you can save a lot of energy by riding behind someone, but most of all you can share the ride with another cyclist and have fun along the way.”

One thing that always works for me…

“One thing that always worked for me when I raced was preparing the night before a big race,” says Dean. “If you train well for a big goal of a sportive and then in the morning you are rushing around, making bottles, looking for cycling kit, trying to sort your breakfast out, deciding what to take for food on the bike, the list can go on… things can quickly escalate and you become un-prepared for the big goal. So prepare some of these things the night before and you can take the stress out of the morning of the sportive.”

Take time to look on the bright side, adds Jon. “The one thing that always worked for me was making sure I took time to enjoy the easy days. A coffee stop with friends is a whole lot better once you’ve finished all your efforts and training. You can relax happy in the knowledge the work for that day or week is done.

“Cycling can be such a sociable sport so even if you’re training for a sportive or a race, take time to enjoy those moments. And when you do, you’ll come back the following day with more motivation to smash out the hard work!” 

Dean and Jon will be joining us at our Champions of CycleSport Dinner on Thursday, 24th November, 2022 at Evolution London, helping to raise much-needed funds to save and change children’s lives. Details at

Find Dean in Instagram at @deandowningcycling.

Read Sean Yates’ advice on preparing for a sportive at

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