Meet Ali Slater: Youth & Junior Cycling Development Coach
January 2021 has seen the Clancy Briggs team launch our very first online Youth & Junior Cycling Development Programme.
You can head over to this blog article to find out more about this ground-breaking programme for 10-18 year olds.
Ali Slater with Ed Clancy OBE & Graham Briggs
Our Youth & Junior Development Programme has the backing of cycling legend, John Herety:
“I think this virtual programme is exactly what’s needed in the UK right now for those youngsters interested in racing. Given the way kids are these days, online is the perfect format for them. The content is excellent and will really capture their attention and imagination. I think this is a brilliant way to teach the next generation of cyclists.”
And when it comes to Ali Slater, John didn't hold back the praise:
"Ali’s the most reliable rider I’ve ever worked with. He was always there, always solid, quite analytical but he’s also very tactically astute. As a team member, when Ali spoke up in meetings, he was always listened to by the other riders. When he spoke, everyone else listened."
Regular readers of the CB blog will be very familiar with Ed & Graham - you can read about their careers here:
So it seems only right that we also tell you a little bit more about Ali Slater’s career.
But before we hear from the man himself, let's find out what CB Co-Founder Graham Briggs had to say:
"Ali took the role a lot of the time as Captain on the road for John Herety’s teams, he had the ability to keep so calm under pressure at key moments of the races. As a rider who was being paid to win bike races, I would always want to know Ali was going to be in that race. Having him on the team made the job a whole lot easier. The exceptional thing about Ali is that as well as being a Super Domestique he had the ability to win bike races as well. We're delighted he's part of the Clancy Briggs Coaching Team."
Interview with Ali Slater
What’s your earliest cycling memory?
I don’t think I specifically remember practicing to ride, or learning to ride, but I remember riding with my dad through local woods when I was pretty young, maybe 5.
When I was 11 or 12 I started riding with the local cycling club, Bourne Wheelers in South Lincolnshire. I’d always enjoyed my mountain bike so when we saw an ad for a local club, I turned up for the youth session and smashed around on my mountain bike. Until that point I didn’t realise you could do something in a more organised way. This is when my enjoyment and passion for the competitive side of cycling started.
When did cycling start to become more serious for you?
It was all about the mountain bike initially but then it became cyclo-cross - that was the first race I did because it was similar to mountain biking and accessible in the area.
Then I went from cyclo-cross to going into a bit of road riding with my local club which developed into a bit of road racing. At that time British Cycling had a talent team - the bottom rung of their development pathway. The club put me in touch with someone responsible from there, I did a few races and got some advice from them and then a year or two later, got picked up for the national squad and that got me more into racing and opened more doors.
When I turned 18 I got onto the British Cycling programme where you lived in Manchester with the under 23s squad. You all lived together in a house and spent a lot of time on the track, the idea was that it would feed into the Olympic programme. At that point it started to go from being a hobby to a bit more reality that it could actually become a job.
When was your first professional race?
My first official professional race, I think probably as a senior, it was the Tour de Normandie, it was really into the deep end for me because I was still 19 so relatively young and it was quite hard. It’s a renowned hard race, early season, terrible weather, Northern France, 7 days long - a real jump into the deep end!
What have been your career highlights?
Since I turned senior, I’ve probably done over 300 races.
I would say my biggest highlight was right at the end of the JLT team - when I was on the same team as Briggsy and Ed - right at the end of that I won a stage of a race in France, the final, hardest stage of a race called Kreiz Breizh Elites which is a UCI event.
That was the biggest race I won as a senior. Because it was towards the end of that chapter with the JLT team, it was nice to end it on a high.
Ali Slater wins fourth and final stage of Kreiz Breizh Elites. Image Credit: Condor
How did you meet Ed & Graham?
I remember I raced in France and I was racing for a French team at that point so I was abroad. At this particular race, the JLT team were there with Briggsy, (I think he ended up winning that race) but that was the first time I properly got talking to them and the first time that I met John Herety.
Why did you want to be involved in the CB Youth & Junior Development Programme?
I think it’s really fun working with youngsters. I’m particularly passionate about the Youth & Junior Development Programme. As I’m a racer and someone who is competitive, it’s great working with the youngsters who are aspiring to race themselves.
Having said that nothing beats teaching someone to ride a bike for the first time - I didn't realise how rewarding I’d find it working with the really young kids too. Really gratifying.
Ali Slater coaching for Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy with Ed Clancy OBE
Cycling is quite a hard sport, there are lots of different things to learn, from race tactics to how you should train to the nutrition aspect, there’s a lot to learn and we felt that as a group we've got a lot of experience from all our past racing and we wanted a way to make that more accessible to youngsters while still making it ultimately really fun.
We wanted to teach good skills but with the maximum enjoyment so as to package the learning in as exciting a ways as possible.
There's lots of training aids, power meters, heart rate monitors, we wanted to make sure the kids understand that all that can come later, it’s now all about the skills and the physical capability can catch up.
What are the benefits of online learning when it comes to cycling?
What we noticed in the face to face sessions is that sometimes when we're on the bike and riding around together we don’t have the time to focus on some of the important stuff that’s just as important as the peddling for a potential athlete. Things like mindset or nutritional approach and how to create a support group around them. How to communicate with the important people in their lives, friends, parents etc. All that key information is all part of what makes not just a successful cyclist but a successful athlete. We wanted to get that across and the online platform allows us to get a group of people together to have that discussion. It’s the perfect tool for that.
Another thing we realised is that because everyone develops at different rates, just because you're not in a place to be selected by ability for the British Cycling programme when you’re really young doesn’t mean that when you're 18 or 20 you’re not going to be physically ready. But if you’ve not had access to the key supporting skills to support future physical capabilities, it’s so much harder. That’s one of the driving forces behind the programme. We wanted to make this level of knowledge more accessible for the vast majority of people. Someone may not develop physically until they're a bit older which may then mean they miss out on the key learning opportunities. But if they have access to this, they can maximise it all the way through.
How’s the Youth & Junior Development Programme going so far?
I think we’ve got some characters! The kids who get the most out of it are the ones that are the most questioning. It’s gratifying when you see some of the kids really engaging with the programme. We’ve been doing these turbo sessions and we can see them on Zoom, it’s been nice to see the ones who’ve done them before you can see they’re starting to understand what you’re saying about pace judgement and controlling their effort.
The narrative is going on all the time, we coach them through the ride as they go, remind them to keep eating, drinking and if doing a really hard effort we give them as much encouragement as we can between breathing ourselves! In a like minded group it’s much easier to get that motivation and get the most out of your session and everyone encourages each other.
Some of the kids are pretty quick! They’re a bit of a handful, we’ve had some of the older kids who definitely keep us on our toes! I don't think anyone has managed to beat the coaches in a virtual race yet, but they’ve certainly not been far away!
Find out more about our Youth & Junior Cycling Development Programme, open to ages 10-18 Nationwide.
Find out what John Herety had to say about the Youth & Junior Development PRogramme