Meet Ed O’Connell - Coach for BALANCE, LEARN & PEDAL classes
Coach Ed O’Connell is a firm favourite with our younger kids and it’s safe to say the feeling’s mutual:
“I do a 9am session on a Saturday which is for the kids under 5 who are able to pedal without stabilisers. I love it because these kids just tell you everything, they’re so open and receptive to learning. As you can imagine, Under 5s are pretty unpredictable, add in the ability to pedal and it can get a little crazy - like herding cats - but I love it! If ever I’m away and unable to do the class, Graham (Briggs) says they ask about me all the time, I think he feels like they don’t notice he’s there sometimes!”
Ed’s journey to coaching was slightly unconventional, having always been able to ride a bike he didn’t start cycling ‘properly’, as he puts it, until he was 17. At this age, his brothers were doing loads of cycling and he felt left out. In his own words he was ‘rubbish and getting dropped by them all the time’ so he was determined to train properly and beat them. Once he started training, he soon caught the bug and started doing some crits and road races.
When the time came to apply for University, he chose Derby because a new velodrome had just been built. Ed remembers watching Graham Briggs, Ed Clancy OBE & Ali Slater racing on TV and he thought he’d give it a go.
Ed says : “It was during my undergraduate degree that I really started to take the sport seriously. I was riding my bike full time and doing my course around the training - which is not how most people approach Uni”.
Once he’d graduated from his Civil Engineering degree, he was offered a scholarship to stay on and ride his bike in the BUCS competitions. If you’re wondering what an obvious study choice would be for a keen athlete, you may be surprised to learn that Ed completed his Masters degree in Intelligence, Security and Disaster Management!
Ed explains more:
"During my undergraduate degree I was riding with one of Ed Clancy’s current teammates, Charlie Tanfield, and a few other guys. We broke the National University Team Pursuit record, so they wanted as many of us to stay on as possible. Charlie went off to Manchester but I stayed on and won Silver the following year.”
It was during his Masters degree that Ed met Cherie Pridham, manager of Vitus Pro Cycling. Impressed by his work ethic and passion about cycling, she asked if he’d be interested in helping out with the Vitus team. It started out casually before Ed then found himself driving down to a training camp in Calpe in Spain in 2019 and working as a soigneur and mechanic.
“I stayed with them until June supporting at a few races and of course was pleased to meet Graham, Ed & Ali in person.”
And the rest, as they say, is history:
“I went for a bike ride with Graham and he asked if I’d be interested in coaching. I didn’t know what he had in mind at that stage, but I’m so glad I said yes! I coach a bit of everything. I enjoy 1-2-1 sessions and have some regular riders. There have been a few kids I’ve helped learn to ride who have special educational needs. Often for these kids having a consistent coach each week is important because they need to build a relationship with one person. Teaching them to ride without turning them off to the sport can be difficult as they may have already had a few false starts trying to learn. But I find it really rewarding when I hear a parent say they can’t believe I’ve managed to get their child riding in just two lessons. It’s really satisfying. I’m so proud to be part of Clancy Briggs - I fully believe in everything we’re trying to do”.