Rob Kelley is the team’s road captain. He’s much more than that to us, though. He is the czar of computrainer. He is a leader of group rides. He’s the brains behind ROK Coaching and the taskmaster for Nicolai “The Missile” Brøchner.
Rob and his friends traveled the country racing BMX in the ’80 because his parents wouldn’t let him race motocross. Like many of us, when he was a youngster terrorizing the world on two wheels, he didn’t think racing bikes would be a lifetime’s passion. Like many of us, though, he was wrong. He’s had so much fun racing road bikes and cyclocross for Bicycle Heaven, that every time he toes the line he feels like a kid racing BMX again.
He’s also one of the extremely dedicated people who have made the Team’s “We Win, You Win” program work. If you’re not familiar with the program, the concept is simple. We want to take our financial resources and get everybody on the team thinking about racing together- no matter what category of rider.
We have sponsors that have stepped up for each of the races that will count- Cobb Park (sponsored by ROK Coaching), Monsters of the Midway (sponsored by Bicycle Heaven), Elgin (sponsored by Donald Fee Family Dentistry), Glencoe Grand Prix (sponsored by Matt Paradis of Guaranteed Rate), and the St. Charles Crit (sponsored by Photofax).
With Cobb Park right around the corner, we talked to Rob about coaching, training and what it takes to race bikes:
Everybody who is new and getting into this sport is hung up on what kind of bike people are riding. What’s your take on that?
Any decently working bike is fine. Guys on our team race everything from mega-dollar carbon bikes, to entry-level aluminum. Right now the most popular bike on the team is the Cannondale CAAD 10. It’s a great crit bike. It’s one of those rare bikes that feel right the first time out. Cannondale is the first brand I know of that improved after being bought by a conglomerate. Bicycle Heaven is kicking butt with the brand.
Rob, this can be an intimidating sport to get into. You coach a lot of guys- from pros to people just looking to hang on the local group ride. What’s the best way to approach getting into the sport?
Get a plan together. Figure out which races you want to do and plan it out. If you hire a coach make sure that they have actual race experience. It’s pretty easy to get a coaching license and read a book but if you can’t relate to what your athlete is about to go through, I don’t see how it’s possible to be effective. Not only should a coach be able to help you prepare your body, but he or she needs to be able to give you tactical advice and understand what you’re going through.
What about for that guy who’s not going to commit to a coach and is just looking to “dip his toe in the water” so to speak?
Pick up a copy of The Cyclists Training Bible by Joe Friel. Joe is the foremost authority on training endurance athletes in the English speaking world and has a great road-map in there with which to prepare yourself. Pick up tactical advice from people that you know are successful. For your first few races sit in toward the front and get used to everything. If you wind up close to the front at the end of a race then go for it, otherwise use your first races as an investment in knowledge. And be safe! Don’t cross wheels unless you have to, stay on the outsides of the pack so you have an out if something crazy happens, be patient, etc.
You mentioned a coach. What does a coach do?
We begin by identifying the races an athlete wants to do, and assign a level of importance (from A, B and C races) to each. You work backwards from your “A” races and establish a sort of skeleton of a plan to keep coach and athlete on track. Our job is to get you to your “A” events (whether they are actual group rides or any other kind of event) with the best fitness and power possible.
Got it. How do you figure out how get get people more fit or powerful?
Power meters are so prevalent that to not have one now is a disadvantage, as is not utilizing it correctly. Numbers have become a critical piece of the puzzle. We break things down to the minutia to make sure that every ounce of energy is spent properly. Sometimes that is not creating a bunch of power, sometimes it is. Most important though is that you go out every day with a goal.
Racing isn’t just about numbers, though. I also spend time focusing on tactics. Little things will add up to make a big difference. You have to play the odds in this sport, kind of like gambling, and you need to have a clear understanding of your abilities individually and your role within a team.
You coach this Nicolai kid that we already mentioned. He’s been showing up to all the races, talking with some sort of a European accent, and winning. What is his deal?
Joe Friel (Training Bible founder/author) and Adam Zucco (Director of Coaching at TB) put me in touch with Nicolai. He was on a professional continental team in Denmark last year and hired me prior to that season. European bike racing is still very tied to tradition and Nicolai wanted to deal in the latest and greatest philosophies and with the best tools available. He is a very rewarding person to coach because he is meticulous in his training, talented and absolutely fearless.He thinks everything through and is not afraid to speak his mind, which is also a valuable thing in the coach/athlete relationship.
He’s raced Paris Roubaix, Flanders, etc (just to name a few) as a junior and with some very specialized training was able to translate those types of experiences to the senior ranks without a hitch. He stayed with us for 3 weeks last summer and loved the racing here and the US in general. They mostly do road races over there and he is very good at that, but seems to love the crits. He likes the action and is not afraid to mix it up. If you go into the last corner next to Nicolai do yourself a favor and stay to yourself!
Wait. He gave up a European pro career to come race crits here? Why toss away the average U.S. cyclist’s dream?
His future is huge. I think that if everything goes well he’ll make a living racing his bike and win some big races. He does nothing but prepare for success and I feel that he has no limit to what he can accomplish. Nicolai’s diet is impeccable, he is very focused in his training and professional overall. We hooked him up with Bissell-ABG-Giant and he has great support from them. They are a feeder team for the Bissell pro team and so our hope is that he’ll be with them later this year.
Wow. Sounds like we should keep an eye on him!
For anybody looking for more of Rob’s wisdom or general tips and tactical advice, Rob will be giving a free talk on learning to race your bike. It’s open to the public, completely free, and should commence at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 20 at Bicycle Heaven. Don’t miss it!
Address: 124 West State Street Geneva Il. 60143
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