Training Session: World Cup Skills Training – Mt St Anne, Canada – Race Preparation

Firecrest Mountain Biking
Rider: Thomas Davies

I’ve been lucky enough to work with Thomas as his Mountain Bike Skills Skills Coach for the last few seasons. Working with him as he has progressed from the Youth to Junior Age Categories competing at Regional and National Mountain Bike Downhill (DH) Races with the aim of competing at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in his second year racing in the Junior Category (16 to 18 years of age) in 2016.

With 2016 going to plan Thomas has competed at the opening European Rounds of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Series starting out in Lourdes, France with the near vortices learning curve of his first International Race. Then putting in a stunning top 20 performance at Fort William coming home in 19th place in front of the massive British crowd. So with a strong start to the season already under his belt the focus switched to the second half of the season and the World Cup in Mt St Anne, Canada.

The Junior Category is fiercely competitive with the top riders in the UK scoring regular podiums at the UCI World Cups and recording times not far off the fastest of the Elites. It’s the proving ground for future talent and as such there’s nowhere for young riders to hide. Competing in the World Cups is not a light undertaking in terms of committing to the expense, travel and the extra pressure that comes with the time and finance invested in racing across Europe and around the World.

Of course the first thing I always focus on is removing that pressure. Despite knowing it’s there, it’s important to focus on routine and sticking to ‘the system’, all involved know it isn’t a normal race but it’s key to approach it like any other race. With that covered it was time to focus on the specifics of the Mt St Anne Track and making sure the right elements were in place and embedded in Thomas’s riding and ready to be implemented on race day.

Having worked with Thomas for so long the fundamentals of the ‘Firecrest Skills System’ already underpin his riding.This enables us to pin-point specifics for scheduled races or focus on specific sections of track that Thomas feels he needs to make time in. With the MSA helmet cams studied and the split times analysed it’s obvious that Mt St Anne is all about speed. It’s one of the fastest and roughest tracks in the World and that’s a combination we like!

Having worked on pedal speed and sprinting for the final ‘Motorway Section’ at Fort William the focus of this session was on finding, and more importantly holding speed, which of course means staying off the brakes. Understanding the importance of the ‘Control Element’ is key here. Everything is screaming at you “slow down” while the racers mindset is shouting “go faster!” Working a combination of the elements in ‘The System’ Thomas was soon up to speed. The video feedback from Coaches Eye (the video analysis app we use on the I-pad) and the Freelap Timing System we use to time sections and sectors confirms that Thomas was riding faster and with more confidence. The process is repeated embedding the changes then reviewed and we move on to the next section of track.

Fatigue will be a huge factor in Mt St Anne. Not only is the track fast and rough but it’s very long too. Hanging on for that long and functioning at your optimum when you’re used to the short tracks in the UK is a bit of a shock to the system. Of course Aston Hill doesn’t have the run length to generate anywhere near the level of fatigue experienced on a full run of the MSA Track. Again Thomas and I can simulate the right elements using a couple of the roughest fastest sections on Aston Hill. Again, picking up on the elements of Thomas’s ‘System’ that need to be polished and making sure the changes are backed up through analysis and embedded in Thomas’s riding ready to be applied in Mt St Anne.

With the three hour Coaching Session flying by we both review all the elements that we’ve been working on. Highlighting the specific ‘System Elements’ to focus on the changes to make ‘habit’ and Thomas is ready to go. A few training sessions on his own at home before he leaves for Canada will be enough to further embed the changes we made and then it’s all systems go.

Thomas Davies - Mt St Anne

“Ian’s understanding of the essentials of Downhill Mountain Biking Racing and the simple way in which they are applied through ‘The System’ has enabled me to achieve the goals I’ve set myself at the beginning of each race season. Now riding on the World Stage at the UCI Downhill World Cups, Ian’s insight, knowledge, experience and expertise have again enabled me to mix it with the best in the World. Thanks Ian”. Enthused Thomas.

“I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the UK’s fastest Mountain Bike Racers across, the disciplines of Mountain Biking and working with Thomas has been a pleasure. His continued total commitment to his riding, setting goals and achieving them makes him easy to work with. I’ve always believed Thomas had the potential to make it on the World Stage and the results he’s achieved in his first year on competing Internationally prove that he’s got talent, he’s a young rider going places, with a very bright future. Said Ian as he reflected on the time he’s spent Mountain Bike Skills Coaching with Thomas.

Footnote: Thomas went on to set the fastest Speed Trap in Qualifying (22nd Fastest on the day) and third fastest in his race run. Pretty good for a rider from the South of England and underlining how well a racer can prepare for the big races with the right Mountain Bike Skills Coaching and an understanding of how to utilise the right sections of trail on Aston Hill. Thomas just squeezed into the finals (he finished 30th with 30 rider’s qualifying for the finals) after losing air in his tyre on his qualification run. However in the finals he put together a great run to come home in 21st place.

Thomas’s 2016 Results are available here>>> on Roots and Rain 

Whether you’re a racer looking to go faster or just starting out on a Mountain Bike to make sure you’re on the right track Firecrest Mountain Biking has developed a range of Mountain Bike Skills Courses. Firecrest Mountain Biking has nearly 20 years of proven experience working with riders of all ages and abilities helping them to set and achieve their goals, ride faster, with more confidence and above all having more fun out on the Trails riding their Mountain Bikes.