Enduro Mag’s Jim Buchanan and Empire Cycles’ latest ‘up and coming’ rider, Vini Crighton-Poli hook up with top UK Enduro racer Neil Donoghue to sample some of his coaching.
Being a UK mountain bike rider and not knowing who Neil Donoghue is seems about the same as being a car enthusiast and never having heard of Ferrari! You’ve only got to look at this quiet, modest unassuming guy’s racing history to realise he definitely has the Jacob’s to teach any rider how to better their skills. I have ridden on and off with Neil, known by his mates as Donny since 1996, when amazingly we were on the same shop team, riding under the banner of Longmynd Cycles, he was pretty young then, and that was probably the only time I stood half a chance of keeping up with him! Donny came up through the ranks of British DH fast, having factory rides for the likes of Royal Racing, Halfords and MBUK. Now after over ten years as a pro racer Donny has achieved such fantastic results as Multiple top 10 World Cup DH finishes, Brit Junior National Champ, 10th overall at Mega Avalanche, 6 Elite British DH Medals and the icing on the cake being the UK Gravity Enduro 2012 British champion and current 2013 points leader. With the new discipline of Enduro Donny now seems to have had a boost in exposure, you don’t seem to be able to pick up a mag nowadays without seeing this heavily sponsored factory looking fellas’ mug all over it, so it was interesting to see what Donny had on offer in the form of coaching.
Firstly let’s talk qualifications, Donny is fully equipped with certificates as CTC Trail Leader, CTC Skills Instructor, CTC Jumps and Drops Skills Instructor, he is fully CRB checked and REC First Aid qualified. He offers several types of coaching from the total beginners, kids or adults, to those like Vini and myself with more experience, but needing to hone our race skills.
As for locations his main spot is Llandegla, North Wales, for the Jumps and Drops coaching, where Donny will film your riding and during lunch you can watch a slow-mo replay with advice and tips to better yourself for the second half of the day. Donny can also offer private sessions for individuals or groups, where you can learn other things than skills, such as bike set-up and preparation, riding position, etc. Then there is the guiding, where Donny will take you and others out on big off-piste rides for the day, offering tips and just a great day in the saddle. Donny also offers skills coaching in a holiday location, where he teams up with the chaps out at Pure Mountains in the Sierra Navada region of Southern Spain, taking riders out on epic rides whilst offering techniques coaching on the trail.
As for us, Vini and myself, I always think you can never know enough, Donny has helped us both a great deal, just in watching the ridiculous speed he can hit sections, the way he just seems to manual sections with ease and get over rough stuff like it’s not there. We learnt a great deal about things you wouldnt think were important, like bar and lever position, even where you have your cleats set up on your shoes. With myself it really was a case of teaching an old dog new tricks, but really this was all about Vini, with Donny offering him a whole wealth of experience to help out with Vini’s up and coming career in the MTB world. Vini has the talent and backing to become a top pro rider, so Don has given him tips on dealing with potential sponsors, working with the monster that is social networking and self composure. Its great to ride with the Don, to see exactly what can be done, as for what he taught us, well I just reeled in my 1st podium and Vini is going from strength to strength, watch this space for both our future results. I don’t really want to give away much of Don’s coaching secrets on here so if you really want to know how to further your game in riding, check him out at neildonoghuecoaching.co.uk
Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Doc Ward (http://www.doc-photography.com/)