Ellingworth looking to learn

Race Coach hails team progress

By Nick Howes   Last updated: 23rd November 2010

Rod Ellingworth admits Team Sky's first year has been a massive learning curve for everyone involved and expects to see marked improvements as they embark upon their second season on the road.

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"Getting this whole project up and running has been such a massive undertaking and I think in general we've done a pretty good job."

Rod Ellingworth

The 38-year-old took many guises during his role as Race Coach in 2010 and was able to witness many of the team's successes and failures firsthand as he got to grips with the day-to-day running of a ProTour team.

Although he is the first to admit things didn't always run to plan during those first 12 months, he feels the team has still progressed leaps and bounds and is sure that development will continue in 2011.

He told us: "Getting this whole project up and running has been such a massive undertaking and I think in general we've done a pretty good job.

"The team itself was obviously built from scratch, and although a lot of us on the coaching team knew each other already through our work at British Cycling, we still had new guys like Marcus Ljungkvist and Steven de Jongh coming in as DS's, and Sean Yates had never worked under our system before either.

"Getting to know how the foreign riders went about things was also a real eye-opener for me personally because I'd only ever worked with British riders before. I found it quite tough initially but fortunately they're all intelligent guys and learnt pretty quickly what it was we were trying to do.

"In terms of the coaching, I think we had a lot of exciting ideas but maybe tried to implement some of them a little too early.

"Instead of targeting races week in-week out, I think we focused too much of our attention on big races like the Tour and in the future we'll definitely be looking to broaden our performances a bit more.

"Losing Scott Sunderland early on also meant the rest of the coaching team had to take extra work on and that meant we perhaps took our eye of the ball in other areas at times, but that could turn out to be a blessing in disguise because it forced us to tackle a wider variety of things."

Lessons learned

Ellingworth believes the weight of expectation resting on the team's shoulders was also hard to bear at times but is expecting things to be more relaxed next time around.

"Yes," he added. "Everything is going to be a bit less intense from now on.

"Having a few more riders on the roster will help spread the competitive burden team-wise, and our DS pool has also grown with Nicolas Portal stepping up and Servais Knaven joining from Milram.

"The fact that Marcus and Steven both have a year under their belts as well now will allow me to start backing off from the DS aspect of my role and focus more on performance planning and coaching.

"We've collected a lot of information this year and my task of properly analysing and implementing that begins now. Obviously, that data will continue to be collected with every successive season and the benefit we get from that will grow exponentially as a result.

"I'm not expecting this team to fully flourish until the fifth or sixth year but we're moving along nicely at the moment and by season three we should be really hitting full stride.

"In terms of our approach, I think the main changes going into next year will not be in logistics, but attitude. There's a better understanding of what we have to do now, and how we have to work together as a team. Basically, we're taking everything we've learnt from the first year and moving it forward."

Training tweaks

One tweak Team Sky have already made to their 2011 preparations is the decision to run six week-long training camps in Mallorca as opposed to the more intensive singular block they laid on in Valencia last January.

Ellingworth has helped run numerous camps on the island before in his role at British Cycling and believes the benefits of such a move will be numerous:

"We just felt doing things this way would work better than one, full-on camp where everyone was together like last time.

"The Valencia camp worked brilliantly in terms of everyone getting to know each other, but out on the road it sometimes felt a bit crowded and was perhaps not as productive as it could have been.

"By reducing the group sizes and timeframes this time around we should be able to focus better and hopefully get a lot more out of the team.

"The riders can drop in and out pretty much as they please but we're expecting each of them to be there for at least two weeks.

"Some of them will no-doubt choose to stay longer if the conditions are not so great back home, and every member of the team knows there is a bed for them there whenever they want one."

- Click here for the inside track from Rod on Bobby Julich joining Team Sky as a Race Coach for 2011.

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