Fresh from coaching Dave Ryding to a monumental World Cup victory in Kitzbuehel, Tristan Glasse-Davies reveals what it’s like to work with Britain’s leading Alpine star
By now, you’ll have seen the footage. As it becomes clear that Alex Vinatzer, the 22-year-old first run leader from Saturday’s Slalom World Cup in Kitzbuehel has lost too much time to catch Britain’s Dave Ryding confirming Britain’s first ever Alpine World Cup victory, the camera pans to Ryding’s support team who are in various states of joy, disbelief, and unbridled emotional release. Among them is Tristan Glasse-Davies, Ryding’s coach of 12 years, and speaking to him over the phone on Monday, the magnitude of that result is still sinking in.
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“It was a bizarre feeling,” Glasse-Davies says, reflecting on those moments immediately after Ryding’s victory was secure. “The moment I probably enjoyed most – apart from seeing Dave on the podium! – was seeing him come onto the finish with the lead. There’s a positive feeling coming down at the front of the field, and that’s a big thing by itself. Coming from sixth in the first run to sit in top spot, it puts the pressure on everyone who’s got to follow that.”
Of course, it wasn’t just the reactions from Ryding and his team that caught the eye on Saturday. Alpine skiing made the front pages in Britain for the first time in years, and plaudits flew in from around the world, including from fellow skiers (Mikaela Shiffrin, the US Alpine legend, filmed herself celebrating Ryding’s win on Instagram; Chemmy Alcott was in tears on the finish line) and stars of the wider sporting world (Damon Hill, Brian Moore, and Graeme Swann were among those tweeting their congratulations). For Glasse-Davies, this was probably the least surprising aspect of the weekend, owing to Ryding’s reputation on the circuit as “just a really nice guy.”
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What is it, though, that’s earned him so many admirers? “He’s very respected, but he’s also very respectful to others”, Glasse-Davies explains. “People know it’s not easy to do this, coming from Britain. We aren’t a traditional Alpine nation, so to compete at this level, we’re already up against it. I think a lot of the respect he gets comes from that.”
As if to prove the point, in victory Ryding immediately pointed to the support of those around him for getting him to this point. As one of the inner circle, Glasse-Davies is perhaps uniquely well-placed to explain what it means for that wider team.
“Well, we’ve been on this path for a long time,” he says. “Since the 2009/10 season we’ve been working towards this, and probably the thing is that we’ve always shared the same goal of trying to improve, every day, and every year.”
“Part of what makes it work is that there’s a really great team all working together. It was great working with Ali (Morton), who really helped me a lot, and with Ryan (Farrow), Jai (Geyer) and Alain (Baxter) too. It’s a team that fits together really well, and having (Ryding’s Slalom World Cup teammates) Billy (Major) and Laurie (Taylor) in there too, we’re all driving each other on.”
After that much time together, Ryding and Glasse-Davies must be good friends? “It’s not like we’re super best friends, but then Dave was one of the Best Men at my wedding, so there’s a real bond there”, he explains. “We’ve got a good connection, but being a coach there has to be a critical side too, and that’s never easy. It can create tension, but Dave always know I’m doing it for him and to improve.” Glasse-Davies pauses for a moment, before adding “You know, Dave’s got a lot of qualities that enable him to be up there with the very best. And he always wants to improve.”
Talk of improvement moves us onto a subject that’s been a focus of Ryding’s development since his early days on the World Cup circuit. “Dave loves to go on about the left foot technique!”, Glasse-Davies laughs. “I’m not sure why. But no, it’s not perfect yet. We’ve still got work to do.”
Will that work take on a slightly different hue, with the ‘will he, won’t he?’ question of a potential World Cup win now settled? “I think we will have a different feeling now, yeah”, he says. “We’ve put out lives into this, and honestly it doesn’t sit well when you’re not getting the results. This takes some of the pressure off, but at the same time, Dave doesn’t like to look back. To get one across the line is a great thing, but Dave wants to look ahead.”
Taking that look ahead, it’s the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing that loom largest on the horizon. For Glasse-Davies, that’s a task which has become if not easier, then certainly less pressurised.
“Yeah, the pressure’s off a little bit now, I think, and that’s a good thing”, he suggests. “You know, when it comes to the Olympics, we’re in the same position as every other athlete who goes there. There’s no competitive advantage.”
“My role now is to make sure Dave’s in the right frame of mind to go and attack. If I can address anything that’s bothering him so he can concentrate on his skiing and putting his best skiing out, I’ve done my job.”
On Saturday, that team effort delivered something extraordinary. Who’s to say it couldn’t happen again?