Coach them up!

WorldSBK riders are embracing the role of track spotters and rider coaches but what do they actually do?

If Tiger Woods needs a swing coach it stands to reason that eve a world class motorcycle racer needs a coach too. Gone are the days where riders eschewed coaching now they’re embracing it. In paddocks, like in any walk of life, keeping up with the Joneses is a factor of life. When one rider makes a change it forces others to do the same.

When world class racers got to the point of diminishing returns when it comes to fitness training their focus turned to having more bike time with Flat Track training or Supermoto training taking on extra significance. Now it’s coaching that is taking centre stage.

“It’s about marginal gains at this point,” said Chaz Davies when quizzed about having Michael Laverty working with him in 2019. “He passes on clear information to us about what he sees and with such a new package that’s useful for all of the team. I think that having someone like him out on track is necessary in this day and age. Having an extra pair of eyes is worthwhile. If you can find the right person, and that’s not easy, it can make a massive difference.

“The level of every sport goes up and any edge is important and this is an edge worth having. I’ve had Michael work with me before and it’s good when he’s there. If I’m riding well it’s less work for Michael and he’ll bolster what way I feel but on certain days I’ll need him to give more input to help find some improvement.”

Laverty, a former MotoGP racer, knows what to look for on track and he’s excited by his new role and the chance to unlock more of Davies’ potential.

“It’s going to be a busy year for me,” said Laverty. “I’m really excited by it all. I’ll be helping Chaz at most of the rounds and I’ve always liked doing that job with him. It’s fun to try and help him improve and anything I can see that makes a difference is great. There’s times where a race weekend can be very easy for a spotter because the rider is going well, feeling confident and there’s no need to get in their head. Having that confidence is crucial for a rider but there’s other times where they need some help through different sections or just to compare themselves to other riders. If I see something I can come back and talk to Chaz and his crew and give them an idea of how he looks out there compared to other riders.”

The confidence that a spotter can give a rider is crucial and for Fabien Foret, who’s worked with Jonathan Rea in recent years, the mental side of his job is important. It’s not just about telling a rider how to improve Foret explained in the past about how important it is to filter what a rider knows about his opponents. Knowledge is power…but too much of it isn’t a good thing.

“I’ve know Jonathan for a long time and the psychological aspect of this job is really important,” explained the Frenchman. “As riders, we are always thinking about what is important to know compared to your opponents. My role at the psychological level is as important from trackside because I need to make sure that he is avoiding too many unnecessary questions about his rivals.”

While having someone trackside is important Alex Lowes, who will work with Nicola Canepa at races this year, also uses Jason Pridmore as a riding coach. Pridmore’s job has been to help Lowes change his riding style and body position. For this winter the Yamaha rider has focused on spending more time with the bike upright in an attempt to change how he rides the R1. No longer looking to carry so much corner speed for his laptime Lowes said that the work done over the winter has been crucial.

“I worked with Jason last year at some races and saw a benefit from having someone,” explained the Englishman. “It was great and I wanted to keep doing that for this year with him this year. Jason really helped me last year and over the winter we worked on body position a lot. That’s really helped me in these opening tests of the year.”

Putting resources into getting the most from yourself has shifted from fitness to mental training to more riding and now to getting coached up. Riders, like all elite athletes, want to be pushed. They want to know what they’re capable and rider coaching is the next step in that process.

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