Thursday, August 5, 2021
HomeStoriesDan Fleeman - Moving from Racing to Coaching

Dan Fleeman – Moving from Racing to Coaching

-

‘There’s a time to come and a time to go,’ the words of Danny Stam when he announced that he would retire at the end of this winter season, the Dutchman is 39 years-old. But whilst the former British under 23 road race champion, twice British hill climb champion and Tour of the Pyrenees winner, Dan Fleeman is 10 years younger than the six day man, he’s arrived at the same conclusion.

Dan Fleeman
Dan in action in the Sam Robinson Road Race in Scotland last year.

Fleeman won the British U23 title in 2004, one of the few races that he’d ridden in the UK prior to last year.

But there’s a ‘back story’ to that win; virtually 12 months to the day prior to it, Fleeman was lying in a hospital bed with two broken knees after a he was run down by a motorist.

Dan Fleeman
Enjoying the Scottish sunshine in the Sam Robinson race.

He takes up the story;

“The guy who was originally going to operate on me was an acquaintance of my dad, he walked into my hospital room and said; ‘what are you going to do now that your cycling career is finished?’

“I was about to bite his head off, but my mum did it for me!

“I told the hospital that I didn’t want that guy anywhere near me.

“I got this Polish guy who was brilliant — he told me that it would take a lot of physio but I’d be able to ride again.

“I was in a wheel chair for three months but I came back and won the British within a year.

“A fortnight after the race, I was in the house and the phone rang — it was the original surgeon, looking for my dad and he said; ‘oh, hello, what have you been up to?’

“I said; ‘winning the British Championship!’ and hung up.”

Dan Fleeman
Dan in the British Champs jersey.

With the national champion’s jersey on his back, his amateur continental palmares through 2005/6 included the Prix de la St. Amour, a stage in the Tour du Beaujolais and the combativity jersey in the Tour de Nivernais.

Dan Fleeman
A keen amateur in France.

He turned professional with DFL in Belgium for season 2007.

The team folded that winter and Fleeman joined Belgian-Irish squad An Post for 2008 — it turned out to be a good move.

Dan Fleeman
Daniel Lloyd drags Dan across to the break at the Tour des Pyrenees.

He helped team-mate Dan Lloyd to GC victory in the GP Extremadura, sharing in TTT glory along the way, with Lloyd returning the favour to assist Fleeman to take the tough Tour des Pyrenees in Spain.

Fleeman capped a great season with 7th in the Tour of Britain.

His reward was a one year contract with the Cervelo Test Team.

The season started well for Fleeman with a top 20 placing in the GP Lugano and strong rides in races as diverse as the GP Indurain and Fleche Wallonne.

Dan Fleeman
Dan’s Cervelo Hero Card.

Dan Fleeman
Not one, but two Raleigh Hero Cards.

Disaster struck however in the Bayern Rundfahrt at the end of May with a crash and a broken wrist compromising Fleeman’s summer programme.

By the end of the year he was back sparring with the big names on the Madonna del Ghisallo climb in the Tour of Lombardy — but there was no renewal with Cervelo forthcoming.

A winter of protracted contract negotiations followed, a contract with the Footon-Servetto team was a real possibility and so was a ride with a high profile Italian Pro Continental squad on the proviso that he bring a personal sponsor. But the Englishman fell afoul of the double-dealing which exists within the sport in Italy when the team manager cut a deal with the personal sponsor which chopped the Lichfield man out of the loop.

A resurgent Raleigh UK team – eager to snare a big name – signed him and whilst he produced solid results in UCi races, including 7th in Britain’s answer to Paris-Roubaix, the ‘Rutland,’ 7th in the Tour of the Pyrenees and 13th in a very close Ringereke in Norway; not to mention winning the British Hill Climb Championship by a huge margin, he couldn’t find the same motivation level of for UK races as he did when racing against top opposition abroad.

Season 2011 was a similar story, a hard-fought top ten in the tough Tour de Beauce in Canada and podium placings in British Premier Calendar events.

Dan Fleeman
Riding for top flight team Cervelo is the stuff of dreams.

But a move in to coaching with former An-Post team-mate Stephen Gallagher – under the ‘Forme’ banner – in the autumn of this year proved to be much more successful than either had imagined.

This, along with the fact that Fleeman’s Cycleshack cycle shop is proving highly successful, means he has decided to call a halt, rather than search for a contract in a very difficult European arena where a large number of Pro Tour riders are still searching for a contract.

Dan Fleeman
In action at the Tour of Lombardy.

We spoke to him just days after his decision was made.

Dan Fleeman
Raleigh Hero Card.

Why now Dan, you still have music within you?

“On reflection I wish I had done what Dan Lloyd has just done — Garmin let him go, and rather than ride for a lesser team at a much reduced salary, he’s decided to call it a day.

“I should have done the same two seasons ago, but my situation was different then and I carried on with Raleigh.

“But you’re either a pro or you’re not a pro – £10,000 per year won’t pay a mortgage and enable you to live, unless you’re still staying with your parents or your wife is supporting you.

“One of the problems you have as a rider is that agents aren’t interested in riders who are on minimum wage; if they have a ‘star’ on a million Euros then they don’t really need anyone else.

“I spoke briefly to my current team and to Champion Systems – and perhaps if that had come to fruition then I might have continued, but to be honest, my heart isn’t in the UK race scene.

“The clincher is that the coaching business has taken off in a way which none of us foresaw; in the weeks prior to my making the decision to quit I was having to deal with a dozen emails regarding the business before I could get out on my bike.

“It’s never been my style to do things in a half-baked fashion and I’ve made the decision that my future lies with the coaching business.”

Dan Fleeman
Dan looks like he’s enjoying the Belgian weather.

Why can’t you get excited about the UK race scene?

“Prior to last year, I’d only ever done a handful of races in the UK, I started off in mountain bikes as a junior then when I got into the road I went to Belgium and France to race – when I won the British U23 title that was one of my very few races in the UK as an amateur.”

“I rode with DFL, An-Post and Cervelo; with all of those teams we were riding big races with big crowds, closed roads and great atmosphere – I rode Fleche-Wallonne, Piedmont and Lombardy with Cervelo.

“I’m not criticising the UK scene – there’s no doubt that it has improved greatly these last few seasons – but it’s just not like racing on the continent and that was the norm for me.”

Dan Fleeman
Dan’s last race last weekend.

Can a rider go straight from the UK race scene to Pro Tour?

“People are going to cite Russell Downing as an example of a rider who did just that, but that was because he won the UCi Tour of Ireland.

“He could have won every UK Premier Calendar race for five years and not got a Pro Tour ride — it was the UCi Tour result which got him the contract.

“The UK scene is definitely bigger and better than it has been, but there aren’t enough races — you have six or seven excellent Premier Calendars and then…

“There’s only one stage race and it costs a fortune to even just enter races — on the continent the organisers get the sponsorship and cover your costs.

“To ‘make it’ you have to go to the continent when you’re 19 and stick with it, keep plugging away.

“It’s not the racing which cracks guys, its being away from home, family, friends — if you can hack that and just keep at it then you’ll get there.

“Look at Matt Brammeier, people say; ‘he’s come from nowhere’ but he hasn’t — he’s been out there, racing, living the life, getting that bit better every year.”

I thought you might have signed off with a hat trick in the British hill climb championship?

“I might have done if I’d known that I was going to decide not to race again; but we simply didn’t imagine that the coaching would take off in the way it has done.

“And the course wasn’t really for me — the guy who won it was on a time trial bike!”

Getting back to contracts, do most riders leave the negotiations ‘til too late?

“Definitely, you have to be sorting out your ride for the next season in June or July — the continental guys say that you have to be sorted for the next season by the end of the Tour de France.

“If you’re a ‘big’ rider then your agent will be phoning around to get you a deal — the more money he gets for you, the higher his cut.

“But if you’re a smaller rider then you have to be pro-active, as I said earlier, the agents aren’t that bothered about you if you’re on minimum wage.”

Dan Fleeman
Dan with Daniel Lloyd, and Nicolas Roche.

What about your dream of riding a Grand Tour?

“I’m disappointed, naturally — but I did as well as circumstances would allow.

“Five years ago I didn’t think I’d be on one of the biggest teams in the world — but all through my career I moved up and was always thinking about how to improve, how to get better.”

“Physically I’m probably better than I was with Cervelo but mentally it’s very difficult to go from lining up in Tour of Piedmont to trying to scrape a living in the UK.

“I have 40 years of work to do, I want to get on with my future now rather than eke out a living on UCI minimum wage.”

Dan Fleeman
Sucking it up, Tour of Lombardy 2009.

Where did the coaching idea come from?

“I was coaching a few guys locally — and I always have folks asking me about where to get a physio, a massage or a bike fit.

“If you’re on a big team then all of that is taken care of for you — but even then, that’s only when you’re at the races, at home you have to sort that out for yourself.

“Over the years I’ve built up a support network; physios, nutritionists, coaches, bike fit – all people I’ve worked with and trust.

“And that’s the nub of our coaching concept at Forme that we can give you all the support and knowledge that you need to progress.”

But isn’t half the world into coaching now?

“I don’t want to comment on what other folks are doing, but in general coaches tend to be ex-riders or sports scientists — and you can learn a lot from both.

“But with us you get the best of both worlds, Dan Lloyd is working with us, he’s ridden the Tour de France, I’ve ridden in support of Carlos Sastre and Stevie Gallagher has won the Ras.

“But we also have guys like David Bailey working with us — he’s a fully qualified sports physiologist and was part of the GB coaching staff at Beijing.”

Two final questions, will we see you pin on a number again and will we interview you again?

“You should, never say never, so maybe I’ll come back to racing when I’m fat and 40?

“And interviews? – of course, when I’m coach to the stars!”

Check out Forme Coaching for more information on what Dan and his Forme team have to offer.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Jon Sharples – the man behind Trainsharp’s “Perfect Bank of Knowledge”

Coaches, everyone has one these days and a name which keeps cropping up when we interview riders is that of Jon Sharples and his ‘TrainSharp Cycle Coaching’ company. In time honoured VeloVeritas fashion we ‘had a word.’

Tomás Swift-Metcalf Blog – Storm Damage

I haven’t written an update on the Tomás Swift-Metcalf Blog since the penultimate stage of the Volta a Portugal. I have been wary of writing bullshit in such stressful, emotional times. I don’t like to speak of the problems in cycling, since I find them so boring. It’s the first thing anyone outside the sport mentions when I say I’m a cyclist.

Dan Fleeman – Coaching in a Lockdown

In these ‘Strange Days of COVID-19’ if you’re a racing cyclist, what do you do about training? We asked ‘Dig Deep Coaching’ founder, Dan Fleeman for his advice on how to train in these trying times. Fleeman is a long-time friend of VeloVeritas, past winner of the British u23 Road race Championship, the Tour of the Pyrenees and rode as a professional with DFL, AN Post, Cervélo and Raleigh...

Richard Davison – “Personalised coaching employing genomics is the coming thing”

It’s not often we have a professor in the pages of VeloVeritas but that’s exactly what Richard Davison is; as well as Assistant Dean (International) at the University of the West Coast of Scotland. He was also instrumental in the setting up of British Cycling’s current coaching system and does ‘one on one’ coaching with riders. Richard was also a successful rider on the Scottish scene a year or two back – and that’s where our interview starts...

Jody Warrington – How Riders Can Cope in a ‘Lockdown’

In the overall scheme of the world’s current predicament, guys not being able to race their bikes doesn’t even register but if you’ve been training all winter to realise goals you set yourself for the season and overnight they’re plucked from your grasp it’s not easy to handle. We spoke to one of the most respected coaches in the area, Jody Warrington about how riders can cope with ‘lockdown.’

James McCallum – “This year is about development and mentoring”

As James McCallum (Rapha Condor Sharp) prepared for the recent Tour of Normandy (won by Europcar’s Jerome Cousin) he took time to talk to VeloVeritas about his hopes for the 2012 season - his sixth as a professional.

At Random

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 9: Andorra – Barcelona 196.3 km

Joaquim Rodriguez is building on the foundation of respect he laid at the Giro. The little Catalan isn’t sitting around waiting on Froome bludgeoning him in the ‘contra reloj’ on Wednesday; he’s riding like a champion, ‘la course en tete’ – at the head of the race, especially when heading 'home' to Andorra.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2011

On a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in Gent, Rabobank's Sebastian Langeveld took the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2011 victory by inches from breakaway partner Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky Procycling and the winner last year), with another Sky rider Matt Hayman third.

James McCallum – Winner of the David Bell Memorial 2011

Rapha Condor Sharp's James McCallum has been at it again; winning, that is-the 46th edition of the Davie Bell Memorial, this time. VeloVeritas unfortunately couldn't make it down to one of our favourite races, but we were on the phone to 'Jamesy' and organiser Chris Johnson, soon after the dust had settled.

Berlin Six Day 2012 – Day Two

I’d forgotten the raw horror of a Frank Zander gig; ‘If I Had a Hammer’ was blasting out at around 11:00 pm and it occurred to me that if you’re a bad musician then Germany and the Berlin Six Day 2012 is the place to be.

David Griffiths and Anna Fairweather take the Scottish Hill Climb Championships

On a day when a raw wind scythed across the Borders hills, that slim man who must feel the cold more than most, David Griffiths (Pro Vision Scotland) defended his Scottish Hill Climb Championship on the savage, technical climb out of Stow Village in the rolling Scottish Borders. Griffiths tells us he’s heavier than last year but still looks pretty damn skinny to us.

Billy Warnock Memorial Road Race 2015 – Ben Hetherington Takes the Win

Ben Hetherington of Achieve attacked into the final drag maintaining a slender lead all the way to the line to take a strong victory with Jack Rees also of Achieve winning the bunch sprint.