Charlie Walsh's response to "Memories of Green" interview with Robbie McEwen
Charlie Walsh, Head Cycling Coach of both track & road cycling at the Australian Institute of Sport from 1987 to 2001, and past contributing writer for Bicycling Australia magazine, wrote to us with a response to the interview with Robbie McEwen we published in two parts across the July / August 2012, and September / October issues in 2012. Here is that response...
Robbie McEwen Was Told “He Would Not Make It”
For many years I have heard of Robbie expressing his discontent with our assessment back in 1993 that he would not make it. It is fair to say one does not necessarily always get it right but what we have to consider is that assessments are done on the information we have at that time and the athlete presents this picture of information to us. A coach will provide a viewpoint to an athlete which represents the picture the athlete has actually presented to the coach. Coaches must be honest with an athlete so the athlete has the opportunity to do something about it. The athlete has the option of whether they can acknowledge and appreciate the communication and get on with it or at the other end of the spectrum they can resent the view given to them and hold a grudge. Then there is something in between the two. Either way at least having been given the information the athlete can do something about it.
The picture Robbie McEwen presented to us at the National/AIS Track Endurance Program in the very short time he was with us was one where he would not satisfy the international competition demands and therefore would not make it with us. What we do know is that following his experience he did something about it in pursuing his road career. Whilst he can freely express his views it is important that what he conveys is in fact a fair picture and he accepts his responsibility for his role in presenting the picture.
A recollection of his short time with us follows:
Peter Day was the Queensland coach at this time.
Peter contacted us at the AIS Track Cycling Program and discussed the option of sending McEwen to work with us for a period of a few months with the understanding of funding his participation with us. The impression I had was he doubted McEwen would make it as a track endurance cyclist but he was interested to give him an opportunity and also see what his road prospects were. I also understood there was some question as to his training history and the exposure would be good for him.
Not everybody is able to be a track endurance cyclist just as everybody cannot be a mountain climber or a road sprinter. The track endurance area requires very specific fuel delivery for extended high intensity periods and also for repeat efforts. We had a good look at McEwen for the track endurance area and he was not competitive against the high performance standard of our group. Consequently he was not seen as a talented prospect for track endurance cycling.
Following further discussions and the given the support of Peter Day we took McEwen to Mexico where the emphasis is on road cycling. Peter wanted to give him more exposure to cyclists who were high quality road training cyclists. The conditions in Mexico are challenging and at times he struggled to keep up with the group. Whilst we know that for a variety of reasons riders at times will struggle, it is the attitude they show us which we see is a measure of their commitment. This is part of the picture they present to us and they should accept their responsibility and take accountability for this.