We’re almost half way through the track events and we have seen some exceptional performances, like Victoria Pendleton’s keirin gold medal or the gold medal in the team pursuit. If you watched the races, you might have seen in longer events (like the 4000 meter team pursuit) that the coach is standing right next to the course and occasionally something to the riders.
However, it’s not all about the shouting! In these longer events, pacing is everything. Since you don’t see your opponents directly, it’s quite difficult to gauge the exact effort you need to stay ahead of your opponent. This is where pacing comes in. Prior to the race, the rider(s) and the coach aims for a certain lap time and the the riders aim to ride at that specific pace.
But how do they know how fast or slow they riding? Since they ride at 40-50 km/h speed, visual signs are easier to notice, thus the position of the coach reveals them how they are doing. The coach stands somewhere in the finish line area, depending on their pace. If they ride bang on time, he stands right in line with the finish line. If they are slower, he walks down a few paces from the finish line, parallel to the course, if they are too fast, he walks a few paces up, depending on the time difference from the previously agreed lap time.
This visual clue helps the riders to notice how their pacing is going and thus keeping up the maximum sustainable effort for a long time.