When six young and aspiring cyclists were selected onto the inaugural Vitfor Future Champions project for the 2019 season, little could they know what their year might entail. From the highs to the lows, we caught up with each of these aspiring athletes to find out how their season went under the guidance of Vitfor’s expert coaching team.
On Goal Setting
Having coached hundreds of athletes from novice to pro, the team at Vitfor understands the importance of goal setting. Once selected, each athlete undergoes a robust testing process, not just to understand their physical capabilities and potential, but also their mental resilience and drive. Agreeing together the goals for the season is an important outcome from that process.
For Tom Cornwell, the 2019 season was his first as an U23. “The detail we went into in setting my goals filled me with confidence, and despite a few set-backs over the winter, I felt in good shape at my first team training camp with Zappi-Holdsworth.”
Ben Moody said that his goal was “to get through a season on the bike in a positive light, to race as much as I possibly could and secure some good results.”
As the only female rider on the inaugural Future Champions project, Dannielle (Danni) Khan, had set herself a 2-3 year target to transition from track sprint to road cycling and to develop what would be required to be competitive at a world class level.
George Wood came into the season as a First Year Junior and his main goal was to move from Cat 3 to Cat 1. Specific goals included securing good results in the Junior National series and to participate in international races to gain the experience against the best in Europe.
The big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG for short) is something we advocate at Vitfor and whether training 1-2-1 or using our online training program, it’s an important part of developing a personalised plan. Josh Sandman wanted to achieve lots in 2019 and to improve his results in general but his BHAG was to finish top 10 in his first U23 British National Timetrial Championships.
For Toby Tanfield, younger brother to Harry and Charlie Tanfield, his goals were embedded in developing himself for two more years as an under 23. He hoped to secure a podium finish in the Regional A’s, and to achieve a top 20 position in the National B’s. He also intended to improve his flexibility and power through strength and conditioning at the gym.
On Achieving Results
A full 12 months ahead of schedule, Danni achieved her major goal in signing with Lotto Soudal ladies’ UCI women’s world tour team in the summer of this year. “To have the opportunity so early into my plan was absolutely fantastic. Getting to ride races such as the prestigious Ride London and the first ever Women’s Tour of Scotland were great experiences that I will carry into next year’s racing.”
George was delighted with his season too. Whilst winning a number of circuit races and placing in some road races were important, he feels his best result was 10th on GC at Junior Tour of the Isle of Man, racing against some of the best Juniors in the UK. Being selected for the Spokes racing team and enjoying five days in Belgium at Kontich was a fantastic bonus.
Toby felt similarly pleased with his year saying, “this has been my best year in cycling yet. I’ve earned multiple podiums at different Regional A’s around the country and was pleased to finish 19th at a National B in Holmfirth.” The icing on the cake was the Tour of Tobago in which Toby finished 11th, 14th and 17th in three of five stages.
Josh achieved his priority goal placing 8th in the U23 British National Timetrial Championships as well as securing smaller competition top 10 finishes and winning races throughout the year. He cites his two race wins as highlights, but also more generally on achieving targets and numbers within his training.
Ben started his season in lower level racing with the aim of becoming dominant before moving up. He bagged some early season results, maintaining podium finishes throughout March and April in both 80-100km road races and 35km criterium races.
In August, he secured a stagaire position with division one French team, GSC Blagnac. “Moving to France and racing amongst the French elite teams has been a very steep learning curve and a completely different style of racing compared to the UK,” Ben reported.
On Dealing With Set-Backs
Things don’t always go as planned and the test of an athlete can be as much in how they deal with adversity as it is in how they achieve their goals.
Tom had a particularly rough time when, early in the season, he succumbed to a virus causing chronic fatigue syndrome. “It was more frustrating than any injury I’ve had. I tried to push through training and racing before I knew what was wrong with me. It was a relief to get a diagnosis and took three months of complete rest until my symptoms started to subside.”
We had hoped that Tom would be able to end the season well and he had his eye on the Chrono des Nations to make his return to racing. We were seeing some good efforts in the weeks leading up to the race but Tom was hit by a car in training with just a few days to go. Fortunately, nothing was broken but he suffered a bad concussion. “Just about sums up my year, really” Tom said. But he believes the mental resilience he has had to foster will help him start the 2020 season in a positive way.
Ben started the season well and produced some very good performances. Mid-year he suffered an accident with a car when out training which did set him back. “I bounced back for a good August and September and overall I feel I achieved exactly what I set out to.”
For Josh, his lowlight was a big crash in the middle of the season. “I didn’t fully recover for two months and struggled in training and racing afterwards. That was hard on me mentally and physically, but I got back to doing well. The fact that I was able to come back after the crash though was a real positive.”
On the final stage of the Tour of Tobago, Toby hit the metaphorical wall just 20km in and had to call it a day. “Knowing when to stop is part of the process and you learn as much from your failures as you do from your successes. One of the most important things I’ve learned this year was is to fuel my body for long races,” says Toby.
Danni too crashed out in a key race. Riding with Team Lotto Soudal in a UCI race in France, a course which she felt really suited her as a rider, she crashed early and damaged her elbow. It meant that she missed all of September’s races but did mean that she was able to join us at the Cycle Expo and demonstrate VO2 Max Testing for an enthusiastic audience. So every cloud…..!
On The Benefits Of Personalised Training
George highlights one of the benefits that a personalised training program provides: “the testing and the personalised plan that Craig and the team built for me have been a massive help – without it I would probably just be doing lots of the same, mostly ineffective training.”
It’s a common theme that we see time and again. Many athletes believe they are ‘training’ when in effect what they are doing is riding in a way which they can succeed at or simply enjoy. To achieve the adaptations that our bodies need to improve, we need training which pushes our limits and finds our failure points.
Ben echoes this sentiment, “Craig’s been a massive asset to my training this year, searching into my areas for improvement. I noticed huge differences in my ability quite quickly which was a big move forward as previously I’d found myself stuck in a bit of a rut and quite one paced.”
“My late season racing in France tested me even further. It was taking 411w for 5 minutes just to make it through the initial phases of the race. My training got me prepared for that and I really enjoyed my time there.”
Having a training program beyond the bike and ensuring that it fits with your lifestyle is also important. A focus on his gym technique and having a full training timetable planned well ahead ensured that Toby was able to make the most of his precious time whilst undertaking his university studies.
When switching disciplines, having a coach who understands what’s required to succeed both physiologically and psychologically is key. For Danni, personalised training “helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses and to structure my training to achieve my goals.”
On Advice To Other Young Athletes
Ben advocates finding the balance between training hard but having fun. “Racing is a lot more enjoyable if you put the hard work in away from the track.” He also suggests not overloading yourself with too much pressure when going into races as he believes you never perform to your maximum potential if you do.
“Make the most of every opportunity, give 100% and don’t give up!” says Josh. And, echoing these points, George recommends that young riders “have fun, work hard, race lots for the experience; build confidence and make lots of new friends.”
Danni advocates the value of a positive mindset too and suggests young athletes “keep a variety of things in their training to keep things fresh. Don’t be afraid to mix things up, for example doing other sports for cross training.”
As a university student, Toby is aware of the importance of his education and encourages other young athletes to give it the time it deserves. “Make sure you prioritise your exams over cycling.” He also points out that being an athlete in cycling means a large volume of training, “so pursue something you genuinely enjoy and make sure the effort you put in is worth it.”
On The Vitfor Future Champions Project
Vitfor Future Champions, spearheaded by Performance Director, Craig Stevenson, was developed specifically to provide aspiring riders with an alternative route to the top of their sport. Backed by sponsors who are passionate about cycling, the scheme provides up to 10 riders with a training program entirely personalised to the individual, a core ethos on which Vitfor is founded.
“I couldn’t speak more highly of Craig, and the team at Vitfor, and would like to thank them and all the sponsors that make it possible. I truly believe this project is something special, and really positive for the sport and for young athletes.” Tom Cornwell
“It’s been really good having the support network and being part of a system that will hopefully help me fulfil my dream of becoming a professional cyclist. The project has offered me a stable and supported program to help me develop my physical capabilities and has given me an insight into my full potential.” Ben Moody
“Craig and the Future Champions project has helped me out massively. I have felt a lot better in training and racing compared to previous years and feel more confident in racing. I feel proud to be part of the project and it’s helped me to progress massively this year.” Josh Sandman
“Craig has helped me tremendously with his highly specific and bespoke training plan and my performance improvement this year really says it all. Knowing that Craig had coached both my older brothers meant I had complete trust in the Future Champions Project.” Toby Tanfield
“Working with Craig and the whole of the Future Champions team has been fantastic and I never envisaged how much I would progress in just 12 months, achieving all the goals I wanted to.” Danni Khan
On Following Our Future Champions Athletes
Lotto Soudal Ladies
Cleveland Wheelers/Catley Lakemen RT
Click here for more on the Vitfor Future Champions project
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