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Is Andy Winohradsky a better mountain bike coach than Gene Hamilton?!

Wow, considering Andy does a few less camps than me each year it is amazing how many glowing emails I get about his coaching! My goal in hiring Andy was to create the best coach in the sport who could duplicate/replace me.  I thought  by fusing his enthusiasm, incredible riding skills and skills knowledge with the coaching techniques I have learned over the last 20 years he would become a really good coach but I am blown away by emails like this:

“Hi Gene,

I was just now sitting at my computer thinking of emailing you when this email popped up at the inbox.  (I had just emailed him the first of many follow up emails to his camp)

Thanks so much for making available such a great bike skills camp.  Like I was telling Andy as we were finishing up last Sunday, I did my research and knew you guys had a good course but it really exceeded my expectations. Your course has given me the foundational skills and empowered me to be the best rider I can according to the effort I put into practicing and working on the skills taught.  Andy is a great person, instructor and bike handler. Also thanks for sending the good info with this email, I really like the figure 8 drill and plan on making it a staple of my practice time.

Thanks—Charles Wallace”

Notice the “great person” comment. Charles is at least the third person this year to mention what a great person Andy is. Hearing this really makes me happy as it has been scary to hand my baby over to other coaches.  It feels good to know I have such a great coach working for me.  It also forces me to step up and continue to improve my coaching as I can’t let Andy beat a coaching, he has already beat me on the race course enough!

Thanks Andy, for you continue to impress me and our students.

Learning/improving takes place best away from riding on trail!

The winter is the best time to improve your skills and take a mountain bike skills camp.  Learning takes place best away from the sport you are learning! That’s right, if you are spending a lot of time doing a sport it is hard to improve. This is true because perfect practice is what builds skill, not simply doing something for hours.  There is a general rule among coaches, teachers and physiologists that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a sport (or a game, an instrument, etc.).  While your goal might not be to master mountain biking the more time you spend doing deliberate practice the better you will get.

When I rider says, “I ride 20 hours a week! I am getting tons of deliberate practice!”  I have to smile as chances are not one minute of that 20 hours was deliberate practice.  Deliberate practice means working on one specific skill (or movement) with a focus on quality, not quantity.  Many skills, such as cornering involve a lot of different movements/components which means practicing “cornering” is not deliberate practice. Deliberate practice would be practicing vision through a corner three times, stopping and analyzing what you did right and wrong then refocusing and doing it three more times. This is hard to do when a beautiful singletrack is beckoning you to ride it!  In season it is hard not to just go out and ride mile after mile with a big grin on our face! The only problem with riding as much as we can is that we get really good at what we already are doing, which is often a series of bad habits.  So to improve we have to step away from the trail, learn the proper techniques and then practice these techniques one at a time with a focus on quality.  This is why you see all the basketball, football, ski teams and pretty much every sport requiring skill teams doing drills more than 70% of their practice time!

Use the off-season to learn the correct core skills and then practice them with a focus on quality and your skills, confidence and enjoyment will soar.  Snowing outside?! Hit that parking garage and spend 20 minutes doing the core skills drills we teach in our camps and then spend 10 minutes imaging perfect technique.  A few weeks of this quality practice (mixed with resistance training and cardio work) will do more than years of just winging it on the trail (according to Ross Schnell who said, “I learned more today than in the last 10-11 years of just riding” (in a rushed 3.5 hour lesson, BetterRide camps are 19-22 hours over 3 days!).

Challenge, the most fun part of life?

Isn’t it funny how we often seek the easiest path even when we know the tougher path will be more fun and more rewarding? If we look back at our life the easy victories are not the moments we remember and cherish it is then moments when we were challenged that stand out. After failing at climbing the “widow maker” in Grand Junction at least five times and walking it each time over two years it is the time I finally climbed it that I can remember like it was yesterday. Lets face it, anyone in reasonable shape can walk their bike off a tough climb but riding it is much more rewarding! So go out and challenge yourself on your next ride. Go 10 feet further on the widow maker climb, shave 2% off your fastest lap time on your favorite loop, clean that step up maneuver that keeps intimidating you, ride 4 mile or 30 minutes longer than you ever have, push yourself a little harder. You will thank yourself and feel better after meeting a challenge head on and conquering it.

I returned to Bromont, Quebec for the first time since 2002 for a race last weekend and nearly chickened out! The course was steep, rocky, with a fair amount of rocks, fun to ride and little scary to go race pace on. Then it rained! The steep sections were now an inch deep in mud and I was scared, “will I be able to make the steep turns in this muck? Will I be able to slow down? I am getting older, I don’t have anything to prove, maybe I should just take this weekend off…” was running in my head. I had to stop for a fallen rider in my first practice run in the mud and was scared to restart with muddy tires on the steep off camber rocks so I went a round. Well, that didn’t help my confidence, so despite being soaked and cold I took a second practice run and made it down slower than when it was dry but I made it down clean! Well by the time my race run rolled around 3.5 hours later the course had been torn up by over 150 riders and when I hit the steep section it looked really ugly and fear hit me again but the enthusiastic fans (I love racing in Quebec, quite a few fans braved the rain and mud and had hiked up to the toughest sections of the course) urged me on and I dropped in and railed the steep, muddy and off-camber section! Wow, that felt good! I haven’t been that scared of a downhill course in years and it felt great to look fear in the eye and go for it again! I am not recommending you do something over your head (which even if you make it you will just feel lucky) but go out and challenge yourself.

BetterRider’s Tear it Up at the National Championships

The Future of American Mountain Bike Racing is getting Brighter! BetterRide coached racers were all over the Cross Country, Downhill, Super D and Mountain Cross podiums at the National Championships in Sol Vista this weekend. Congratulations to all racers who showed up and gave it their best this weekend.

Here are some highlights from BetterRiders for the weekend:

- Kelli Emmett (Giant Bicycles) added to her winning ways with National Championship Victory in the Pro women’s Super D as well a 7th in the Cross Country and a 9th place finish in the Short Track. Kelli Emmett winning the Super D wasn’t a huge surprise as she is one of the fastest women I have ever coached, but super mom Julie Olsen earning a 5th place only 2 seconds back from former National Downhill champ Elka Brutsaert?! Way to go Julie!

- Jackie Harmony (Vixen Racing/TLD/All Mountain Cyclery/Hayes) has been getting faster with each race this year and earned second place in both Pro Mountain Cross and Pro Downhill!

- Brian Buell (Team Geronimo) also earned a second place in Pro Mtn. Cross and 8th in the Downhill.

- Joey Schusler (Yeti) was just off the pro downhill podium in 6th.

- Jennifer Wolf (All Mountain Cyclery), Christin Boyer (One Ghost) and Addie Stewart  (Go-Ride) finished 6th, 7th and 8th in the pro women’s downhill.

- Rookie pro Lear Miller took 6th in the Mtn. Cross and 32nd in the pro downhill field.

- Ross Schnell (Trek) didn’t get the best start and with little room to pass on the mostly singletrack course still managed 10th place in the Pro Men’s Super D.

- Madison “Mad Dog” Bailey is now the 2010 Cat 1 15-16 National Champ winning by 3 seconds over 2nd place and Austin Benge put down a fast run to finish 5th in the same class.

Unfortunately, last years Pro MX champion, Jr. Cat 1 Downhill Champion and BetterRider Mitch Ropelato had to sit the race out with a broken collarbone but he will be back for the last few World Cups and the World Championships. Heal up fast Mitch.

Congratulations to all the following BetterRide coached racers for working hard and achieving and/or exceeding their goals at the National Championships.

BetterRide.net racer results at the 2010 US National Championships

Downhill
Junior 13-14
2nd Matthew Branney (RPM/Yeti)
3rd Galen Carter
4th Roy Benge

Cat 1 17-18
Trevor Trinkino lead the BetterRide contingent with a 5th place, Christen Wright who is coming back from knee surgery earned 7th place and Andy Proctor was 11th.

Cat 1 19-29
2nd Kyra Alexander

Cat 1 25-29 Class
2nd Jon Card
6th Dan Goddard

Cat 1 30-39
3rd Annemarie Hennes
4th Amber Price
6th Megan Zemny

Cat 1 35-39
3rd place Jeff Kegu

4X
Cat 1 Women
3rd Amber Price
4th Annemarie Hennes

Cat 2 15-18
2nd Cody Kelly

Cat 1 30-39
1st  Jeff Kegu