Irishman Gallagher was one of the first pros I interviewed in my new life as a cycling journo. It was the Three days of De Panne, six or seven years ago and he was the only rider from the late Frans Assez’s team to make the cut for the final time trial – which was just as well because the team only had one time trial bike.
His stage racing fortunes would improve though and in 2008 he won that hard man’s picnic, the RAS in Ireland in the colours of Sean Kelly’s AN Post.
I was with Vik when I first met Fleeman, De Panne again, a few years ago when Vik yelled; ‘that’s that laddie Fleeman!’ as we drove past the DFL clad rider; we chatted for ages, beside the coast road.
I was one of the few who picked up on his win in the Tour of the Pyrenees and lived through his injury-blighted year at Cervelo and then a winter of contract negotiations which would have cracked Tony Montana, never mind a young Englishman.
The last two years he’s been with UK pro squad Raleigh; he’s won the British hill climb championships twice (09/10) and is one of the best when the road rears up – the last two British Elite road championships have seen him as one of the very few to offer any resistance to the Sky Juggernaut.
Fleeman and Gallagher are a bit older and wiser these days, Fleeman’s personal life hasn’t been as smooth as he would have liked, albeit things are good now whilst Gallagher lost his baby son after a 13 month battle with illness, several years ago.
The man from County Armagh has since ploughed a lot of energy into the The Children’s Heart Beat Trust charity and the Sportiv he runs to honour his late son’s memory, Cody’s Challenge.
They’re still ‘cheeky chappies’ but they’ve lived a bit and are worldly young men now, rather than ‘daft laddies’ as we say in Scotland.
I was little taken aback when Dan announced to me that he and Stephen have decided to go into coaching – under the ‘Forme’ banner.
But as I fired the questions and the answers snapped back, I realised that the comic duo may still have good gags but they’re paying attention to the serious stuff too.
Dan Fleeman: It’s French for ‘fitness and well being.’
PEZ: Why now?
DF: It’s something that Stephen and I have been thinking about for a while – this is a good time of year to start because people are already thinking about the 2012 season.
I’ve been coaching a few local riders which has worked out really well – and I’ve enjoyed it.
PEZ: Why should a rider who wants coached go to you guys?
DF: Our unique selling proposition is that we can offer a full spectrum; not just coaching advice – lab testing, bike fit, massage, psychology, nutrition, power, blood tests, we have everything in house.
It’s not just us – although we have the experience as professional road cyclists – we have a whole raft of experts.
These people are all specialists whom I’ve encountered in my career as a pro, not just folks I’ve got from the phone book.
And it’s not just the road, we can advise on MTB, ladies racing, cyclo-cross…
We’re also building a network so that you won’t have to travel a long way to get what you need, we’ll have facilities all over England and Northern Ireland.
PEZ: Sounds expensive!
DF: We offer plans to fit all levels of budgets – from a basic set up to personal coaching from Stevie or me.
We’re set up to look after everyone from the guy trying to improve his Sportiv riding to the rider trying to win a spot on a Continental team.
PEZ: When I first met you, Training Peaks played a big part in your preparation.
DF: I’m still on very good terms with Hunter Allen at Training Peaks and he’s very kindly helped us with our web development; and our systems which enable Stephen and I to monitor all of our clients downloads and see what our coaches are doing.
I think more people are into tech matters and realise that power and watts are important tools.
But we have a big spread of methods, not just hi-tech – although we’re now at the stage with the Garmin’s where we can check if you’ve been to the pub whilst you were out!
We also be in a position to offer discounts on hi-tech training aids to our clients.
PEZ: But hi-tech can be a bit impersonal?
DF: We start all of our coaching relationships with a one-to-one chat so as we can understand the individual’s situation – you have to be aware of what people have been doing and what they want to do.
As an example, I’ve been coaching Pete Smith, who’s racing in France, this year [*we interviewed Peter on PEZ, link ?*] and it only took me 10/15 minutes to figure out that he’d been grinding out too many miles – we dropped the distance and added two, three, four minute intervals and turned his form around.
PEZ: And what would you tell a 16 year-old Dan Fleeman?
DF: I’d tell him to do less miles – but having said that, all those miles have given me good endurance.
And I’d tell him to do more specific work – on his sprinting and on his climbing.
PEZ: What do I do if I want to be coached by you guys?
DF: Phone us and we’ll arrange a two hour face-to-face consultation so we can establish what time you have available, what events you want to target and, what’s worked for you in the past and what hasn’t.
If you need advice on diet, we’ll organise that; and bike fit, massage – whatever you need.
PEZ: How far do you intend to go with the business?
DF: We have a lot of plans, training camps for one – but not the usual ‘turn up and kick hell out of each’ other stuff; they’ll be carefully monitored to get the best out of everyone.
We also have future plans for altitude training camps.
And one of the things I really enjoyed about my time at Cervelo was that was at the training camps there would be seminars most nights about nutrition, aerodynamics, whatever – only 30 minutes, but really good, we’ll be doing that.
Not for the first time, Mr. Freeman impressed me.
If you think that Dan and Stephen could be the ones to set you on the road to Het Nieuwsblad glory, check them out on www.formecoaching.com.