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Watching MTB races is exciting both LIVE and on TV. Still, there are some details you’d probably miss unless you’d join the team as the coach. Richard Gasperotti has got an offer to become the coach of the Czech MTB junior team at the Salamina Epic Race in Greece. These are 6 hands-on hacks that he’s learned.

Letting the riders warm up at the right time

“Shortly before the start, the riders must warm up their muscles. The right timing is crucial because while a premature warm-up may cause that the riders cool down critically before the race has started, late warm-up might not serve its purpose.”

Reading from the riders’ faces

During the race, you do your best to guess how much energy the competitors have left.

“Coaches are not just the bad guys who scold riders for being too slow. They also give their riders hope and soothe them. During the race, you do your best to guess how much energy the competitors have left. You must carefully read from the faces of the riders and try to predict if they’re on their way to victory or about to bonk. Accordingly, you can advise your riders either to speed up and fight or to stay at their position and focus on finishing the event.”

Using stones to count the rounds

“Especially if you have more riders on the track, you can easily forget how many rounds they have completed. The Dutch national team coach showed me a simple hack. If the race has 7 rounds, put seven stones in your pocket. When the first of your riders appears on track for the first time, throw the first stone away. Knowing what round you are on is crucial, as the riders have special demands for certain moments: they want their water bottles refilled in the third round or have a snack in round five. And you’re the one to take care of it.”

Handing the water bottles correctly

You should hold the bidon at the top with fingers on the cap.

“While racing, the riders need to hydrate constantly and smartly. At certain checkpoints around the track, they expect to get a full bottle in exchange for the empty one that they’ve just thrown away. Taking a fresh bottle may seem to be a piece of cake unless you ride at a speed of 30 km/h. It’s like grabbing a bottle from an open window while driving a car through town. There are thousands of ways to fail, with the bottle ending up on the ground and the rider leaving thirsty. In order to increase the chance of successful handover, the coach (or their deputy) should avoid holding the bidon on the side and instead should hold it at the top with their fingers on the cap. This way, the rider can grab the bottle comfortably and keep riding.”

Not opening the power gel completely

“Besides fruits, power gels are also popular among riders, who need to stay strong throughout the entire race. Fighting for every second, riders would have a hard time opening the solid package made of aluminium or plastic. Thus, it’s necessary to open it for them in advance, however, if you try to hand them a package that’s been opened too much, you will probably end up spilling the entire content given the speed the racers ride at. The coach of the Belgian team taught me to open the gel only partially, so that the riders can tear off the rest with their teeth. Another method is to open the gel and wrap it up as an envelope shortly before you hand it over.”

Racing with vans to provide your riders with food just in time

If you want to be the perfect coach, you should first learn the skills of a rally driver.

“In stage races, there’s usually a short break to eat real food (not only snacks), but the riders are only allowed to get their food at a certain point. After each stage, all the team crews hop in their cars and rush down the roads to meet their charges. It may resemble an insane road race. Once I saw a van taking corner on two wheels. If you want to be the perfect coach, you should first learn the skills of a rally driver.”