The St Ambroise terrace can be accessed from the Lachine Canal bike path!


In mid-June, the RocklandMD presented by Medique cycling club gathered on a gorgeous summer evening for a laid-back barbecue at McAuslan Brewery’s terrace by the Lachine Canal. We called it a club “launch,” but there was no smashing of champagne bottles on the side of a ship, so to speak. The relaxed, friendly nature of the event was consistent with the core values of what we are trying to do with the club, and certainly what Toguri Training is trying to do with coaching in general.

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The RocklandMD cycling club is not an initiative of Toguri Training but rather, the project was started by our clients. To say that means a lot to me, and it speaks volumes of those involved. Six months earlier, representatives of our sponsors began to meet to discuss the goals of the club. As I sat across the table from Daniel Gagnon (RocklandMD), Earl Ralph (Medique and Buanderie Blanchelle), Marc Yedid (Richter Chamberland), Lorne Bienstock (Bofinger and McAuslan Brewery) and Luke Gregoire (Cycle Technique), it became clear that I was surrounded at the table by successful professionals who loved cycling, trained hard, were good at it, and had made bicycling a key component of both their socializing and social networking.

What really brought everyone together, however, was that they wanted to share their experience of cycling with others. I know that sounds cliché but the “experience of cycling” can mean a lot of different things. For the organizers of the club, cycling involves a desire for fitness, the pursuit of excellence, and a laughing competitiveness. We also want to support developing young Category 1 racers–because we know how hard it is to train the required hours to race while going to school or working and we’re in a position to help. Finally, we want to create a supportive environment for any Masters racers and anyone at Toguri Training who wants to be part of the club. Masters racers compete whenever they want and have access to coached group rides. The club is inclusive, casual and its activities will be developing as the summer goes on.

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I’ve discussed the club previously here, but I want to discuss the social aspect of club riding today. What does it really mean to “socialize” while training on your bike? And what is the relationship between networking and coaching? On one obvious but very important level, cyclists socialize by organizing group rides with friends. They share riding tips, routes, check out each other’s equipment, talk about work and family, plan trips, commit to charity rides and tell rather large “tales of the big ring.” Later, they might share photos, maps and training data on various social networking sites. This kind of socializing is always a part of the experience of cycling and central to the history of the sport.

On another level, riding with others is key to the development of speed, bike handling, muscular endurance, tactical know-how and an astute “group awareness.” Attending to unfolding group dynamics during a ride can produce some of the most memorable social experiences you can have on a bike. Sometimes you take long pulls, sometimes you sit on, but rolling along fluidly for kilometre after kilometre–at speeds you could not maintain on your own–requires social awareness and produces a type of bonding. Learning how to get out of your own head and to read the group’s fatigue level is a gateway for peer groups to get more fit and faster in a supportive context. Too many groups just hammer to sprint lines or the top of hills in an effort to drop each other. That’s super fun but there are other highs that can be achieved by riding with others. In fact, who you ride with will often frame your limits and experiences of the sport. That’s why Toguri Training takes time to schedule outdoor group training, and coordinates training schedules to provide access to a variety of peer groups for workouts. The social aspects of cycling don’t come with the sport as an added bonus; they are central to its history and experience. They are therefore part of my coaching philosophy and fundamental to the informed spirit of the RocklandMD club.

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I’ve scheduled six weeks this summer to research the latest scientific literature related to three aspects of cycling that I need to know more about in order to achieve my goals as a coach. I want to use this research to better evaluate and modify our approach to training, in particular the period from late fall until the new year. I also want to think about other components of cycling in relation to “social networking” in ways that expand our understanding of this term beyond simply a web-based phenomenon. The main question is simple: what is the relationship between social networking and all the various components of cycling?

This is not about reinventing the wheel but rather, enriching my commitment to a sport that brings many of us together in a variety of ways. I’ll outline specifics about this research later, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy some photos of the barbecue. They were taken by JF Houpert. The sun was shining, glasses were clinking, and riders got a chance to meet the people behind the logos on their jerseys. As twilight mingled with the trees, the smell of flowing beer was in the air–and so too was the quiet, galvanizing promise of things to come.

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About Scott Toguri McFarlane

Scott Toguri McFarlane is a former Elite racer, and the founder of Toguri Training Services. For more than a decade, his approach to training has helped aspiring professional racers, provincial team members, and recreational cyclists of all ages and ability achieve their goals, including gold medals at National and Provincial Championships.

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