We still remember clearly, it was a long tiring bus ride through the North of Chhattisgarh. The narrow curvy roads made us feel sick but the view kept us going. That’s when we happened to share seats with one of Nimish Makadia’s hardworking student, Ankit pal.
The entire time, he kept us entertained with his jokes and stories about cycling. That’s when we got to know more about his Guru, Nimish Sir. After listing to all the stories and the hard work they put into before, during and after the race, we were moved.
We couldn’t wait to get back to our office and get in touch with Nimish Makadia so we could interview him. And when we did get in touch with him, we couldn’t wait for him to fill in the answers quickly so we can share more insights into his life and coaching with you.
Can you tell us about your background in sports?
I got into active sports at an early age of 8 years and represented district and Gujarat state in football and gymnastics. However, it was cricket that took my fancy and I took it up very seriously and ended up playing professionally in England and Holland from 1991 to 1995.
How did you get into cycling?
Cycling happened to me in 2011, more as a part of my fitness regime than a sport itself. However, I soon got hooked on to the pedals and took to ultra-endurance cycling completing my Super Randonneur series multiple time since then. I love my long distance rides.
What made you become a coach of cycling and not any other sport?
Once I got into cycling and started communicating with cycling enthusiasts from various states, I realised we had a lot of talent and enthusiasm for the sport but we lacked a scientific and comprehensive approach towards this sport.
While in other sports like cricket, tennis, badminton, there was total professional approach with strong coaching network, which enabled kids and adults alike to train scientifically. As these centres brought with them a complete support team of trainers, dieticians etc, even parents and mentors were ready to take up these sports for their kids.
Cycling, however, was still untapped in this respect, since I myself couldn’t get access to cycling coach, I started reading blogs, articles and training plans etc. As a qualified fitness trainer and years of experience in sports, I was aware that it can never be “1 plan fits all” Hence, I decided to take up coaching and went on to do my Level 3 from Association of British Cycling Coaches UK.
What is the right age for kids to start training?
Most of the times, sports like football, cricket, skating, swimming etc are introduced to children with professional help right from the early years like 5 and 6 years. This is not the case with cycling. Children do start pedalling early but that’s generally just for fun and fitness. During this period, cycling helps to develop mortar skills, sense of balance, concentration and bike control. Training for races starts only around the age to 12, that too with short distances and intense workouts. Hard and long sessions usually are recommended only once the kid attains physical and mental maturity.
What are the different coaching methods used by you?
There are various disciplines within cycling like Track racing, Road Racing, MTB. Even with these, there are different categories like a time trial, mass starts, pursuits, keiren, etc where the distance and intensity are varied. Therefore, the coaching methods have to be customised keeping event categories in mind. Further, the training plan is made keeping in mind the riders strength, his goals for the year, how much time he is able to dedicate to training, his lifestyle, etc. A good training plan has to be a balance of volume, intensity, and recovery, backed by a balanced diet plan and off bike strengthening.
When you think of a typical day as a coach, what kind of tasks would you be doing?
No amount of words can explain the purview of tasks performed by a sports coach. It may seem simple as imparting techniques of training to win. But in reality, it goes way beyond it that I think can be best depicted by this image
What are the most satisfying and rewarding parts of being a coach?
Like in any other profession, there is a lot of pressure involved in coaching too. Tasks have to be accomplished, training sessions have to be analysed, progress has to be achieved and quantified, deadlines have to be met. Targets have to be achieved. Even during the event, and considering the nature of the sport (cycling) I think the anxiety levels are high for both participant and the coach alike.
But no financial reward can be as satisfying as the pleasure I get to see my kids give their 100% and perform well in the events they have trained so hard for.
The biggest reward that coaching has given me is the respect that I have earned from my students and their families alike. You feel as if you have been placed on a pedestal with everyone’s hopes resting on your expertise. Though this surely adds to my pressure.
What are some of the achievements of your students?
It takes a lot of time to develop a national level cyclist. Cycling per se is a very demanding sport and I have to start from scratch, yet in a short span of 3 years quite a few of my trainees have represented the state at the national level and won accolades for their performance in various age and competitive categories. Even in the ultra-endurance cycling, my trainees have achieved distances which they never dreamt off and that too with improved timings.
What is the most difficult part of being a coach?
While working with the kids the difficult aspect is keeping them focused. Nowadays they have so many avenues to lose focus from their sport. It is not easy to have them follow a fixed regime which makes them start the day at 4:00 am daily, and train for 2-3 hours then attend school/college and later go for tuitions in the evening. In fact, weekends are more strenuous have 4-5 hours of training. Discipline thus becomes very important. Early to bed and early to rise is a mantra that has to be practised every day, day after day.
Academic priorities also lead to sports taking a back seat at times. Usually, kids join me around the age of 13/14 years and by the time they are ready for real hard training, they are in 12th grade. They tend to take a break from cycling and that brings us back to square one.
What is your vision, where do you see yourself a few years down the line?
In the years to come, it is my dream to own a professional cycling team. Not many people know that in road cycling its all about a good team, though the rewards may be on individual performances. I would love to develop a team with the scientific and technical approach with a financially sustainable model for cyclists.
What is your take on the future of cyclists in India?
Cycling has come a long way since I started following the sport since 2011. I have observed a stupendous growth in the approach of young cyclists. Right from the kind of equipment they have now and then. Even under 14 kids are achieving speeds of 40+ which was not the case earlier.
Even in track cycling, the gap between the international cyclist and our Indian cyclists is narrowing down. Now we see Indian participants giving podium finishes at international events/championships. However, this gap is somewhat greater in road cycling, but I think that with a growing emphasis on a more technical and professional approach towards the sport, its bound to narrow down in the years to come.
The sport surely has a bright future for budding cyclists. It’s a heady blend of speed, adrenaline rush, tact, and glamour.
What’s your number 1 tip for a rider to improve?
I always tell my students that there is no substitute for hard work, Train, train hard, train smart. Rest well, and eat well. Follow 3D approach. Determination, discipline and dedication and you will achieve what you have set out for.
Special Thanks: Nimish Makadia and Ankit Pal