The Derek Laughland Memorial Award was set up in memory of Derek after he tragically passed away due to a brain hemorrhage at a round of the Scottish Enduro Series in 2017. He’d always loved riding and racing his bike, and the Laughland family felt that something could be done in his memory to help give back to the sport that he’d always been so passionate about.

Since late 2018 Dirt School has been working with the Laughland family to help up and coming riders realise their full potential. A couple of months ago we ran an article about the West Lothian Clarion that you can read here, but this month we thought we’d introduce you to Jonathan and Eliza - the two athletes that were successful this year.

Our two 2021 Laughland Memorial Award Athletes

Both riders were already experienced racers but felt that they were looking for something a little extra. The first session that we ran was for both of them to come along for an assessment and some feedback on where they were with their riding and racing. In other sports the culture of coaching is already established, but mountain biking tends to be largely self taught, so when you take a capable young rider through a structured program for the first time they respond very well. Both Jonathan and Eliza were no exception. They responded very well to feedback and we set about laying out how the next couple of sessions would work. 

Dirt School coach, Andy giving feedback to the athletes

At Dirt School we work with all kinds of riders from beginners right through to some of the world's best racers. This gives us a great overview into progression through our sport, and specifically how riders can control certain obstacles, gradients and grip. We call these control mechanisms. Identifying these in a rider is crucial to helping them improve.

Skills session with Dirt School and two Derek Laughland Memorial Award Athletes

Over the years we’ve found that a lot of competitive young riders tend to make the same mistakes. Just like the West Lothian Clarion, both Eliza and Jonathan were using their perceived exertion to gauge their speed. In other words “if it feels fast to me then I must be flying”. In actual fact speed comes from confidence, and confidence comes from control. Teach a rider how to ride with control and in turn they will become more confident. 

Dirt School coaching at Glentress with two Derek Laughland Memorial Award Athletes

With this in mind we set some goals and made arrangements to meet again for their next sessions.

The weeks flew by and in no time at all we were back out with Jonathan. After a chat about how he felt his riding was coming on we decided to look at sessioning a technical track with the intention of putting a full run together - honing his race craft if you will. Often riders make faster movements when under the pressure  of riding against the clock, but the secret to a good run is to carry momentum and save energy for where it counts.  Jonathan responded well to feedback, and we chatted about how he could improve his times by sticking to a plan. Lots to work on but all of it positive and heading in the right direction.

Jonathan breaking down control mechanisms to help with his future racing

Next up was Eliza who was traveling quite far for her session. Because of this we decided to run a full day session on challenging trails that would bring up lots of key techniques. As soon as we started it was clear she was at home on the slippery technical trails that Innerleithen has to offer. We tried to balance her session between technical and tactical. Technical being her technique, and tactical focussing on her race craft. It was a pretty intense session with a lot to cover but she smashed it and by the end was absolutely buzzing.

Eliza getting feedback from Andy on her body position

It’s such a privilege to be able to work with such dedicated and switched on riders, and upskilling the next generation of racers is an honour. We’re looking forward to seeing where Jonathan and Eliza end up.

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