So this week’s “Fast Friday” features an update on an athlete I’ve been working with for about 4 years now: William Mokgopo – an elite mountain biker and national representative.

William has been through a rough last 2 years, struggling on and off with illness and injury, keeping him out of regular competition. He has also only recently finished his degree in Sport Science, adding the stress of exams and assignments to his woes.

The Goal…

William and I had a sit down at the end of 2018 to discussed the goals going forward and what it would take to achieve them. His primary goal is to qualify for Olympics 2020 in the Cross Country discipline. The main priority for me as his coach was to ensure he was in the right mindset, healthy and injury free to allow him to be consistent in his training. We made several changes to his lifestyle, including his living arrangements. The focus being on living a “High-Performance Lifestyle”.

As of today, this is the longest uninterrupted period of training we have had in the last two years, and the results are definitely starting to show. William’s dedication and complete mental shift has been incredible to witness.

A bump in the road…

Unfortunately, as the sport goes, William crashed in a warm up the day before his first SA Cup Race of the season. He was able to start the race but having injured his wrist and shoulder, the pain ultimately forced him to retire from the race.

This was a huge disappointment for him and knocked his confidence in a big way.

I decided that we needed to keep his focus on the task at hand and keep him training, focusing on sessions on the Wattbike, as well as keeping him in the gym, which allowed him to keep training without having to put his hands on the bars. This way I could ensure that he wasn’t losing any conditioning and we could still push on.

After missing the second race of the series due to injury, he was then ready to participate at the third instalment of the national series in Bloemfontein. We had a great build up in the weeks prior to the event, as well as some promising race simulation sessions and I was excited to see how he would do.

However, on the start line, William’s nerves got the better of him and when the gun went off, his body went into complete shutdown and he just couldn’t recover as the race progressed. He had no legs on the day, resulting in further disappointment.

Now I know this all sounds like doom and gloom, but wait for it, it gets better, I promise…

Getting back on track…

The following week, in the debrief, we discussed a few mental strategies for coping with the pressure. I also showed him some of his race data and highlighted the positives. The important thing now was not to focus on the result as an outcome, but to rather focus on ticking all the boxes in the build up, as well as all the processes on race day.

It is at this point that I need to commend William on his dedication and trust in the process. Fast forward five weeks and we were on our way to the fourth race in the series at Mankele bike park in Mpumalanga.

Having me there helped calm his nerves and distracted him from any of the regular race day sideshows. The race started in its usual frantic, mad rush for the single-track and with that, William was forced back several places towards the back of the field.

I was in the feed/tech zone and when he came past me in the first half of lap one, he looked shell shocked and on the back foot. I shouted to him to remember the process and tick boxes, one at a time. By the end of the first lap, he looked much more settled and focused on the job at hand.

Now this is where we start to see some light and shake the gloom!

Every time William came past me and took on a new bottle, he was sitting in a better position than the time before. He was composed and riding head to head with some of the big race names in the sport. He finished this race in 11th place – his best result in the past two years.

While the result might not be quite where he wants it yet, the lessons he learnt and confidence he gained from this race, knowing that he can ride with some of the best, has just stepped up his determination to the next level.

Upon analysis of his race data, he was consistently posting one of the fastest times up the biggest climb of the day. This was one of our main focuses in training and here it was, paying off.

I have also included a few smaller XCO races in William’s training program to help with building confidence, honing technical skill and learning to hurt and dig deep when the going gets tough. What I mean by hurt is that I’m using these as training races and therefore not tapering him into the events, but rather riding them with a big week of training in the legs.

I am also closely monitoring his training data and his weekly “test” sessions to see how well he is recovering and handling the training load.

We are six weeks away from SA XCO Champs and now in his peak training block. This event is used for the selection to World Champs later on in the year.

About Coach Devlin Eyden

Devlin Eyden has a passion for seeing his athletes grow and excel. From novice cyclists across all disciplines, to elite mountain bikers representing South Africa at World Championships.

In addition to helping you ride faster, for longer, Devlin also has the personal touch when it comes to your bike setup, aiming at improving the overall rider experience.

With his background as a Sport Scientist as well as a Strength & Conditioning Specialist, cycling performance is Devlin’s main priority, be it in the gym, the lab or out on the bike.

Being a keen cyclist and having completed the Cape Epic among others, Devlin has first-hand experience in what it takes to reach your goals.

If you’re looking for a once off training program or ongoing, high touch support Devlin has you covered.


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

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