Why I Became a Cycling Coach after 10 Years as a Professional Athlete

I’ve spent more than a decade in the European and domestic pro pelotons, but my journey toward becoming a cycling coach actually started with an all-time career low: an injury in my right knee. Not knowing enough about my body to recognize the problem and treat it correctly, I kept pushing through it. I pushed until I failed.

I needed two knee surgeries after it all, and in my time off the bike, I started researching. How could I have avoided this? What could I do better now that the damage was done? I wanted answers. When I started physical therapy, I was lucky to find myself in the company of generous professionals who let me ask more questions than were reasonable, and I started mapping out my comeback. My old coaching method wasn’t working for me. So I created a new one.  

Since overseeing my own training, I’ve connected with other athletes who are equally committed to being the best athletes they can be, but who needed guidance in coming back from an injury or knowing when to push, how hard, and—the part a lot of people forget about—when to rest. I realized that the process I’d spent three years building could help other athletes be more successful on their own path through the sport. Coming back from a major injury myself gave me the insight I needed to help other athletes troubleshoot problems and maximize their abilities. It’s also made me a more effective and empathetic cycling coach.

The last years of my road career were frustrating: the promise evident in my training was not translating into success at races. After a couple of years of essentially just surviving through injury and recovery, it was time to step back up and start getting results. I knew I had done the work and the results would come, but they didn’t when I expected them to.

I knew the 2018 Tour of Utah was a time to push, and I pushed as hard as I could, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. Thanks to the “I don’t need to stretch” mentality I was so fond of as a 20-year-old, an old injury flared up during the flight to the start. I was in pain the whole race. I had to pull out towards the end of tour, convinced my career was over and watching the world go by from the back of the broom wagon, still in my damp kit.

I was upset. Where was this big result people had been telling me for years was “just around the corner”? I’d done everything I could, and it didn’t seem fair, but finally I realized I needed to trust the process. 

I went into the next race, the Tour of Colorado, with zero expectations, but ready to give it everything I had. I got dropped up the hill nearly every lap on the first stage, but I knew from my training that I was fit enough to pull off a result if I kept at it. I took it lap by lap and worked my way into fifth wheel with 500 meters to go, sprinting to the line in a move that secured third place. I went on to podium in two out of the four stages, and won the overall sprint leader’s jersey in a major UCI race against athletes widely considered to be superior riders.  

In hindsight, I guess that was it: the big result, the fairytale ending. I felt content leaving the professional peloton with this success under my belt and with my eyes on helping others chase that feeling.

I’ve gained a lot of insight into what it takes to be successful in this sport, and as a cycling coach, through winning, but I’ve also learnt just as much from setbacks. There are times where I’ve been off the front of a peloton featuring the best cyclists in the world, and other times where I’ve been dropped at 120 watts coming back from an injury—all within the last decade. There are hours of my life I’ll never get back that were spent pushing right at the limit, trying to hang on to a dwindling peloton for just ten more seconds to keep myself in contention for a result. Why would I do that? Because I love the sport, and I was focused on being the best athlete I could be. I still am.

I’ll be racing in 2019 for team CLIF Bar, but after my experience in recent years, I’ve decided to dedicate myself to being a cycling coach. During my recovery and comeback, I never did find the coach that I needed. I ended up becoming it.

I’ve realized my contentment following the Tour of Colorado wasn’t just from the result; it was also from knowing that my process had paid off. I put a lot of blood, sweat, and study into creating that process, and I’m proud of it. I keep refining it every single day with the knowledge I’ve gained from my experience and continued research and I’ll help others create their own process so they can achieve the results they know they’re capable of.