The last two years have had a huge impact on everyone, and professional sport has been challenged like never before.
Dan Lorang, coach to three of the four current triathlon world champions at 70.3 and Ironman distance, and Head of Performance at pro cycling team BORA – Hansgrohe is able to provide a unique perspective.
Being a key player at the top tier in two different sports – triathlon, which is still very much based around individuals, and cycling, where it’s much more about the team, means he’s seen markedly different ways of dealing with the pandemic at an elite level.
“I’d make a clear distinction between the triathletes I’m coaching and the cycling team at BORA,” he says in the final instalment of our in-depth interview with him as we focus on the impact of COVID on both sports.
“[On the triathlon front] With Lucy [Charles-Barclay] for example, there’s [husband and coach] Reece on her side who is there on a daily basis to go through that process with her. And it’s the same for Jan [Frodeno] who has his environment in Girona.
“So for me as a coach I just try to give guidance, where we should go with the training. Should we go more on recovery given the circumstances? Should we focus on something special because we have the time?
“But having people close with them makes a huge difference. As a coach it’s a luxury, if I had to do it all on my own with all these different athletes it would be quite hard. Because you don’t have them in one place.
Exuding confidence – and adapting
“But with the BORA -Hansgrohe cycling team it’s a different situation. I see them more often, I’m the coach on their side and you also had to deal with the situation when races are cancelled and then they are rescheduled so it wasn’t easy.
In the early stages of the pandemic, Lorang explained how he and the team reacted: “We tried to communicate a lot, to have good contact. Video calls really help – you can actually see each other’s faces, see how the athletes are reacting to what you’re saying.
“In many ways it was trying to give them confidence that we have a plan at least and that we’re not just swimming around – and that this plan can always be adapted, no matter what happens. That they don’t have to be too concerned about it.”
Lorang joined the German-based UCI WorldTour team six years ago and has been Head Coach, Head of Innovation and now – encapsulating all those areas – Head of Performance.
And while very different to the triathlon work, it’s something he clearly gives and gets a huge amount from. Bouncing off both sports to feed his inquisitive mind, the counterpoints between the two push him to new levels and is a deliberate policy.
‘Man against man’ for GOAT Frodeno
Whether cycling or triathlon, it’s all about individuals and listening to them. For example, a COVID-limited tri calendar affected Jan Frodeno and Anne Haug very differently.
“Jan is more extroverted for sure and Anne is more introverted,” says Dan. She would not need competition at all, she’s happy to train and if somebody would pay her and give her recognition for training, this would be enough for her. For Jan it’s the competition, the man against man.
“So in COVID, Jan missed the competitions for sure but then he created his own ones. He really needs this. When he has that line for a competition, that is what motivates him – ‘I want to be fit on that day and then I’m full in.’
“But for Anne it was not so important, she could train the whole year. Even without competition she’s still motivated because for her she wants to feel she gets better and better. She likes the process to work on herself, no matter if it is a race or not.”
But for a while it was a slightly harsher environment for his BORA – Hansgrohe cyclists.
“It was initially a new thing for me being responsible for performance for the team as a whole,” Lorang acknowledges, on his step up from his coaching and innovation roles.
“But that’s what I wanted, to go through that process and I’m really enjoying it.
“Cycling is professional sport, it’s more like a business. Every person on the team has a key role to play. All these people have an influence on the athletes and that was different for me and a challenge to make sure that’s all positive.
“It’s still personal, but a little less so than being a triathlon coach.
“You have good relationships with the cyclists you coach but you always know they could change teams for other reasons. That’s very different to the long-term relationships with Anne and Jan for example.”
Dan Lorang TRI247 Interview: