We ask Great Britain Olympic Development Programme (ODP) Mountain Biking Coach, Simon Watts, 5 quick questions about his himself and his background in cycling.
What led you to working for British Cycling?
I started assisting on Talent Team camps and sessions while I was doing my teacher training. It was great experience, complimented my teaching and was a great transition out of competitive cycling while remaining in the sport. I then ran a school cycling club for a few years while I was a PE teacher, and really enjoyed seeing the young people progress and exit into racing the regional cross league. When a full time coaching roll came up at BC, I took the jump expecting to be back in teaching after the funding ran out in a few years. 9 years later, I am still here…
What motivates you?
Growing XC mountain biking into the high profile, blue ribbon, discipline it deserves to be. Holding high profile as a sport, with a great events structure and large participation base. However I would like to achieve that by increasing the achievements at the top level through regular elite World Championship and Olympic success. Developing those athletes and role models will in turn increase the profile of the sport and generate the next generation of champions.
What is your best experience with British Cycling, so far?
That is really hard, and I think it is still to come. The Olympics was certainly up there and I remember how proud I was when I was first asked to work a mountain World Championships. However the best experiences have probably come with this current group of Junior Academy riders, just in day to day camp sessions. I have tried some new things and they have responded well. At times things have been tough, but there is nothing better than getting through those challenges and seeing improvement off the back of it.
Who is your hero?
It probably comes from the group of world class XC riders Britain had in the 90’s while I was falling in love with the sport. I remember magazines with Tim Gould winning world cups and he was then on Going Live, which I thought was super cool. I can remember watching him race and thinking: ‘he is from Matlock, not far from me, it must be possible’. My bedroom wall had quite a few magazine posters of him and the Raleigh Team, Thomas Frischknecht and Chris Boardman
What advice would you give to a young rider?
Enjoy it. Get involved in a club and group, because it’s a great way to learn and grow with mates. Also develop your skills at a young age, and you can incorporate a lot of that into rides. Sprinting into dirt jumps, riding back up the hill to hit a feature on your home built trail is great training by stealth. Build the foundations in a safe traffic-free environment, while having the adventures, groups of kids should have.