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Mitch Docker has seen a lot of changes during his 16 years in the peloton, and they’re not all for the good.
Increasing demands from sponsors, staffers and the emergence of a data-driven sport have left the retiring Aussie questioning the impact modern pro culture can have on young riders.
“I don’t love what it’s doing to the younger riders. The pressure now these guys have, whether that’s exterior pressure, or the pressure they put on themselves, is a lot,” Docker said in an interview on the EF Education-Nippo website.
“Tom Scully [Docker’s teammate – ed] was telling me about this … he said the juniors knew more about cycling than he ever knew at that age. They just have so much knowledge available, which could also work against them.”
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Docker isn’t the only rider that has witnessed the growth of science in cycling. Veteran Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang recently spoke with VeloNews about how the “datafication” of the peloton has totally changed the game.
“The sport has become even more professional and even more ways of measuring everything, and it’s even more scientific even it was 10 years ago,” Fuglsang said.
The proliferation of power meters and increasing professionalization in the sport has seen growing focus on watts, heart rates, body composition and sleep quality. Juniors are able to train like a WorldTour stalwart and more young talents are jumping directly to the top-tier of racing than ever before.
Docker believes that’s not always a good thing.
“These young guys are probably better coaches than I am, but they have no experience,” he said.
“I’m not saying experience is everything, but also knowledge and science isn’t everything. I feel like it’s tilting too much that way these days, to the science, data and that side.
“Years before it was more about experience. Old guys would roll away because they’ve been in the peloton forever and could sense things. That was sort of the trend when I entered cycling and now I feel like it’s swung the other way.”
Docker has now hung up his racing wheels and packed up for Australia after spending more than a decade living in Europe.
He intends to keep his popular “Life in the Peloton” podcast rolling while bringing his wisdom to the table as a member of Team EF Coaching.
With his wife currently pregnant with their third child, he’ll be keeping busy.
“We want our kids to spend time with their grandparents and I just don’t see there being too much left for me to achieve in the cycling world,” he said. “Overall, I am really excited for this next step.”