Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Why change a winning coach?

Science - the solution to all problems?

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Yesterday we learned that Edvald Boasson Hagen (EBH) ends his professional relationship with his personal coach over many years, Fredrik Mohn.

Earlier today, a gentleman named Peter, asked me on twitter if I could comment on the importance of coaching, something I can try to do now.

Fredrik Mohn and EBH have been working together for a long time, the last seven years, Mohn has been working closely with Edvald.
Back in the day EBH was recognised as a talent quite early. Like many other talented riders, he was good while being young, something that can easily tip both ways as the years go by.
At the age of 17 he was a part of the junior national team, trained by Gino Oudenhove, now team manager of Joker-Merida. He was still improving, but suddenly the results didn't came as easily as before and EBH felt sick. Several riders rode him straight off their back wheel; something was not right. Gino Oudenhove had a good impression of Mohn already back then. Mohn wasn't carrying a degree in physiology, he didn't even had a career as a top athlete he relied on, but still brought out the best in many young riders from different clubs. Mohn is actually educated as a goldsmith, something people have joked respectfully with over the years, as Mohn indeed has turned some riders into gold.

Oudenhove felt EBH needed new impulses and gave Mohn the job of bringing young EBH back into shape. Mohn, who is known to be thorough and very methodological in his work, changed some of Boasson Hagen's program and EBH began to respond to training once again. "It got a lot to do with communication. I tell the riders to write detailed training diaries I, in return I read everything and give them feedback", Mohn says in this article in the newspaper Nettavisen. In addition to this, Mohn surrounds himself with the right people with background from physiology, nutrition, and medicine.

Later EBH joined Oudenhove at Joker-Bianchi (now Joker-Merida), the season before T-mobile bought him was special, as he really made himself a name by winning many races internationally.

This stage he timed the sprint perfectly...

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Change is (almost) always good
In addition to be a slogan for paid-by-the-hour consultants, this has also been the foundation for all physical training the recent years. Always shock/surprise your body, always vary your intensity etc, you know the drill.

On top of this it is no surprise a team like Sky, or any other team for that matter, want more control over the training. After all, the team have paid millions of € and want to have ROI. Will it work? That is the million dollar question and one that only time will tell. EBH is surrounded by some of the best coaches in the business, Sky is known for combining science and training. Their focus on detail, which perhaps was too much their first year, seems to be more relaxed these days yet still very high on a positive note.

According to procycling.no, EBH will be working with Tim Kerrison, who is known for his outstanding job with Wiggo the last couple of years. Also in the coaching team is Kurt Asle Arvesen, fellow Norwegian, who bring experience and perhaps some mental coaching to the table.

Will it be another success story? It all depends on if the rider himself believes in the concept and if the communication is present. It worked for Wiggo, Julich works fine with Froome and Nordhaug, but chemistry is mighty important in sports. Either have a very good chemistry with your coach, or an extremely good sense of professionalism, coping with bad chemistry but still believing in the concept. Oudenhove says it right, if a rider need new stimuli, it is the right time for a change.

Team Sky want more control over their assets and their ROI, but changing a coach can go both ways. It all depends on whether the rider believes in the concept. To have the upper hand a rider need to continue develop him or herself, making sure the opponents are left behind. Maybe a change of coach from time to time is good? Either within the existing team, or on a brand new one.


  1. EBH has, without doubt, an immense talent. The question is whether he is fulfilling that talent to the expectations of his boss ( ie SKY ). If they believe that he is NOT advancing at the rate expected then things need to change, as they did earlier in his career, to ensure that his talent is fulfilled. I suspect that SKY believe more ( much more? ) can be achieved and hence they want him closer under their wing. I agree that communication is the key and one has to assume that TK and KAA are exceptional at their jobs. But for me, the crucial point is SKY having a strategic plan for EBH ( and similarly for Geraint T )and knowing what type of race they are targetting, Classics, GT or super domestique, the latter being a waste in my eyes.

  2. Ash: Valid points, a team need to focus along several lines but maintaining a priority to their main goal, which of course is putting a rider in yellow in Paris. With Cavendish coming into the team this year, I think it's fair to say that the main focus is on Wiggo and Cav, they demand much but at the same time carry most pressure. EBH has had his focus on the classics so far this year, I think it is fair to say he's not exceeded the expectations so far. That said I haven't seen how he's tested in terms of physical power etc this year, but building up the 250 +km classics takes time. We will see during the tour. If Sky use him only as a lead-out for Cav I would be disappointed, but we will see.

    Perhaps the time to change coach for a period of time is now? Still, EBH's old coach is merely a call away.