Pay close attention to Kjell Power, it may not be long.
In the hierarchy of cycling esports, the names James Joseph Barnes and Kjell Power have no apparent justification for appearing in the same sentence. James is a stalwart on the esports scene and one of the most decorated racers the sport has ever seen. Kjell has had fleeting glimpses of elite cycling success derailed by his own doing.
James is a member of one of the sport’s most dominant teams. Kjell has bounced around from team to team and division more times than you can count on one hand. The fringe esports fan knows who to key on as the finale looms but will have paid close attention to acknowledge that the other has been in the races.
The indomitable divide between James Joseph Barnes and rising star Kjell Power isn’t imperceivable when you consider the one name that unites them—Aleksandar Coh.
“I immediately felt that he is a gentle soul and a kind person who hasn’t had the easiest life, but I also believed he had the killer instinct needed to perform in racing on a high level,” notes the founder of Endurance Sport, Coach Alex Coh. James Barnes credits Alex for making the changes essential in taking him to the next level.
Coach Aleksandar Koh
The Misbelief About Coaching That Holds Athletes Back
“One common misconception about coaching,” explains Alex, “is that it’s all about the workout structures and other forms of performance preparation.” This misbelief was holding back James and has proven to set Kjell free.
Kjell contacted Coach Coh after reading the December 2021 interview on The ZOM highlighting the pair’s accomplishments. Kjell began racing in 2011 at age 17 and had the gifts to take to it well, but life challenges prevented him from getting any traction in the sport. The weight of his mind became his most significant competition when his mother forced him to leave his home at that young age, and burdens of inadequacy and self-doubt mounted.
A carefree moment with Kjell Power.
Fragile Confidence and Self-Doubt Are Formidable Foes
The young Belgian enjoyed an ingrained love of bike racing, and he never lost the desire to explore his prodigious potential. In 2014 he was back on his feet despite relying on himself and committed to structured training with a coach. The three-year relationship yielded improvements that failed to materialize into solid results when mental struggles of excessive pressure and fragile confidence derailed him.
During the initial meeting with Kjell, it was evident to Alex that he wasn’t an athlete that he would have to push to train. Quite the contrary, recalls Coach Coh, “there was massive unused potential there for progress if we could break the behavioral pattern of overdoing things, and then dealing with the consequences.”
After researching his historical race data, Alex determined Kjell was a proper race specimen with a VO2 of 82 (for the record, James’ was 76) and a unique physiological combination of a 1,300W late-race sprint in a 56KG frame. “I also identified that he would need more time initially,” offers Alex, “so I made space in my schedule for it.”
Racer’s Human Performance is Not in Their Muscles
Alex set out to discover Kjells human performance, which he determined was not in the athlete’s muscles. “To perform at the highest level, you need to have the engine and genetics, but the key is unlocking the mind,” Coach Coh reveals. Alex is determined to find the perfect individual mix of hard work and an intelligent approach for his athletes.
“Working hard with the right structure will harden the mind and allow it to grow confidence and strength,” he says the optimal balance required for esports success. For athletes to succeed, they must be calm and centered at the critical moments of a race or training session, and Kjell didn’t have that.
We all have bad days, and modifying an athlete’s training plan to avoid adding to the overall stress is essential to Coach Coh’s training philosophy. Alex conferenced with his racer daily to discuss any and all problems that could affect training performance and amended the plan accordingly.
The Why Behind the Consequence
Coach Coh built a rapport and trust with Kjell. “I needed him to understand I am here for him no matter what and that his health, mental and physical, combined with performance, are my ultimate concern,” he affirms. The personal interaction led to a discovery that significantly impacted Kjell.
“We addressed the why behind the consequence,” asserts Alex. The consequence is a lack of performance or prolonged breaks in training due to overload. The symptoms are behavioral patterns like extreme dieting and overreaching at excessive intensity and volume, which aren’t the cause. According to Coach Coh, “It comes from our ultimate desire to control things to achieve the desired outcome for us, but it’s tough to look at things objectively when it comes to you, and that is where I come in.”
The Numbers Are Secondary
The objective improvements are impossible to overlook during the four months they have been a team. Kjell’s 12-sec sprint power increased by 100W. His 30-sec power increased by 150W to 850W, which for Kjell is 14WKG. 1-min power increased by 100W to 707W, 3-min power improved from 440W to 470W, and his 5-min power improved by 20W to 430W.
Alex is encouraged by Kjell’s vastly improved ability to recover and repeat the efforts noted above. “Prior, he was able to do it once, and it was game over,” admits Alex, “but with the ability to repeat efforts of this intensity, he can control the outcome of races better than ever before.”
The numbers are secondary to Alex when explaining Kjell’s development. “With his newfound mental strength, he has been able to perform exceptionally well in races while dealing with personal challenges,” which Coach Coh knows in the past would have sent him spiraling out of control.
Coach Alex Coh taking a moment to free his own mind!
Conclusion-Dream Goals Achieved Are First of Many
The mindset change has had a profound impact on Kjell’s race results and the achievement of his goals, and it has turned heads. He landed a spot on the Canyon Esports Beta team alongside eracing great Lionel Vujasin and marked the achievement of a dream goal that has taken Kjell full-circle. A dream he’s battled through ups and downs to make come true since being introduced to Zwift esports during a 2020 live event in Oudenaarde, Belgium, where he surprisingly finished second to Lionel.
It may be the first of many aspirations Kjell Power realizes in the esports racing scene. Coach Aleksandar Coh believes their athlete-coach team will do big things together based on a foundation of understanding, respect, and trust. “I am confident he will never return to his old habits,” he shares, “because there is balance in his life and less pressure knowing that I am committed to his success, and he trusts that.” The key to unlocking his young rising star’s mind and setting him free to soar.
Pay close attention to Kjell Power. If the recent Zwift Knockouts Series is an indication you may not have to wait for long.
Have you or your coach found the key to unlocking your mind to uncover the hidden human potential? Comment below! Your fellow virtual cyclists want to know.
For more of what James Joseph Barnes has to say about his coach check out this The ZOM interview.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit, and through its work and the pages of this site, Chris is committed to helping others with his bike. His gain cave is located on the North Fork of Long Island where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two college student children.