Timo Cooper‘s career as a professional cyclist was thrown a curveball when he became a first-time father three weeks ago.
But the 29-year-old, who came out of a four-year retirement to join the Darkhorse Wheels team a year ago, saw fatherhood as a privilege and was looking forward to excelling at both disciplines.
“I train, work, coach and am a husband and father all at the same time. The thing I’m battling with the most is sleep – or rather the lack thereof.
“I have a lot less time to train, but it’s not all negative,” said Cooper, who won the Summer Fast One mountain bike race in Johannesburg before the season was halted for safety reasons.
“It’s made me think about how I can use my time better to still perform at my best,” he said, secretly hoping that he could turn the current racing hiatus into an opportunity to find proper fitness.
The days of riding four or more hours with friends to build endurance were gone, he admitted. Two hours in the saddle were a luxury at this stage and he expected that to be the plan for the next two to three months.
“I spend a lot of time planning my weeks in advance. My plan will consist of two options for that day depending on how the night went with my son Eli and if I’m up for a hard day on the bike or not.”
Every ride had a specific purpose and no time was wasted at all, said the Wellington local.
“I get on the bike, warm up for 10 to 15 minutes and then go straight into the efforts for the day.
“I’ve been logging all my rides since becoming a father as I want to see how I can improve or maintain with fewer hours on the bike by doing more specific work.”
Failing to plan was planning for failure, he said.
“There are many things to think about with a newborn, but if you plan you can make your life a lot easier.
“I try and make sure my wife Michaele and I are always a step ahead if possible to avoid the running around in the middle of the night to mix a bottle or find a nappy.”
He also made sure that by the previous evening his bike was ready and the correct kit laid out for the expected weather conditions.
“I make sure I use the time I have available (Eli’s naps) to get all these things sorted. He changes every day and I’m trying very hard not to miss a moment, whether a facial expression, a burp or even a cry.
“There have been so many moments during the last three weeks that will always stay with me, but the best one so far was the first time he fell asleep on my chest – what an amazing feeling.”
Not being sure when the season would commence made planning ahead a difficult exercise.
“Shaun-Nick [Bester] and I want to make sure we’re ready for the first race, whenever that might be,” said Cooper. “I’m taking this time to work on aspects of my riding that I’ve struggled with in the past.”
These days, he also coaches.
“I’ve been eager to coach for a very long time, but wanted to wait until I was sure I was ready and could add value to my potential clients.
“I offer my riders much more than just a training programme. I assist with nutritional advice, racing tactics and more.”
“I want to make sure newcomers can learn from my mistakes and from those of others.”
Cooper said he wanted to show his fellow riders that it was possible to perform at a high level while managing work and everyday life.
“Most cyclists think it’s impossible to excel and achieve lofty goals if you work full-time and have a busy home life. The best advice I can give anyone who wants to perform while he has a lot going on, is to plan.
“Make sure you get a training programme that takes your available time into consideration. This will be easier for you to follow and will assist with motivation and form-building.”
In these uncertain times, he believed it was important to focus on the positives and get things done that you otherwise wouldn’t have.
“Even though it’s a weird and stressful time, we have a chance to reset our lives and see what really matters and what doesn’t.”