Archive for December, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Posted: December 18, 2012 in Opinion
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Finding it hard to find much time in the lead into the silly season, so no posts for a while… when I’m on holiday I’m sure I’ll have some time to get busy with the blog again.

Please suggest any topics you’d like to see covered off next year or any issues or concerns you have with the direction of junior cycling and I’ll be happy to research and write about them.  Early next year, I’ll have guest posts from a Sports Doctor, a Coach, a Mechanic and a Soigneur so that should be good!

It’s been good to hear some of the post topics being discussed on the infields of tracks around the place and on FB + nice to get the occasional feedback/comments.

Bet Santa is thinking he wants a carbon frame with Lightweight wheels for Xmas!

Bet Santa is thinking he wants a carbon frame with Lightweight wheels for Xmas!

Righto, have a great holiday period and enjoy riding with your kids, family and friends.  Heres hoping Santa is good to you!

CyclingDad

For parents new to the sport, the process of packing bikes up for travel can be quite confronting.  It’s taken me six-years to have any confidence at all in packing/unpacking my bikes.  One thing to remember…. there really isn’t much you can screw up BUT if it won’t go, don’t force it (unless you know what you’re doing)!

I’ll explain how I pack the track bike (being track season) and then add in elements specifically relevant to a roadie after that.

What to pack it in?

I’ve bought a you-beaut, inflatable, wheelable, light bike case and used it maybe twice.  Before that, on recommendation from my LBS, I just used cardboard bike boxes – that is, the boxes that new bikes come packed in!  And now I’ve gone back to them.  I’m sure you’re LBS will give you one.  When choosing a cardboard box, try and get one from an XL sized bike or, even better, an XL sized MTB!  Give the bottom some extra reinforcement of packing tape as sometimes the stapes do become lose.  They should also be happy to give you some foam tube protectors (pictured) and even some cardboard fork protectors that come with all their new bikes that they usually throw out.

This is how a bike arrives at a bike shop.  Try and replicate this when packing your own road bike. Notice the box as protection against the rear derailleur being squashed!

This is how a bike arrives at a bike shop. Try and replicate this when packing your own bike. Notice the box used as protection against the rear derailleur being squashed!

How to pack your track bike:

  1. Before taking out your seat post, mark the height with a piece of tape.
  2. Take your handlebars off from the steerer tube – that way, you don’t need to undo/redo the bars themselves, just reattach the stem to the steerer.  If you do for some reason need to take the bars off the stem, make a mark on the bars that lines-up with the where the stem plate joins the stem – so you can easily put it back in the right position.
  3. If you haven’t got an integrated head stem, you can use cable ties or extra spaces to help stop your forks from falling out.
  4. Take off the pedals.  A lot of people reverse these, but I usually add them to a small bag.
  5. I also like to put a fork protector in – a plastic guard that stops the forks from being able to be pushed together and potentially breaking.  Ask you LBS for one of these.
  6. Your track bike should fit in the XL box without removing the rear wheel.
  7. Add padding and/or bubble wrap to taste – although good packing should mean you don’t need a lot of protection as there won’t be a lot of moving bits!
  8. Put your front wheel in a wheel bag and slide it down beside the frame.
  9. Your bars and stem should be the perfect width to sit on top of the back wheel.  Add some tape to keep them from moving around if its not a snug fit.
  10. You helmet, kit, shoes, tools, a roll of tape (so you can repack) should all comfortably fit into the box.  Use a soft shoe or helmet bag to put them in.
  11. Don’t put small lose bits in as they could fall out the handle holes.  If you’ve got anything lose – tape to the inside of the box.
  12. Use your kit for additional padding.  Throw in a towel as well – good padding but also good for wiping up sweat or drying rain!
  13. Shut the flaps and tape well.

It’s pretty easy really and this method should work for all but the largest of track bikes or track bikes with long integrated seat masts.  In those cases, you’ll need to remove the rear wheel and use extra padding to ensure there is minimal movement inside the box.

With your pedals, remember which way they tighten and loosen; each is opposite to the other.  Both loosen by pulling up when the crank is pointing forward.  Don’t over tighten or they can be a bitch to get off.  And if it doesn’t feel right going on, don’t just keep tightening… there’s a big chance you’re cross threading them!

What differences for your road bike?

In terms of your road bike, again depending on the size, you should be able to leave your back wheel in.  Probably taking the skewer out though so the wheel is just being held in by the chain.  If you want to be extra cautious, remove the rear derailleur.  You can just keep it hanging on the chain, but wrapped in a rag to stop grease from going everywhere!  Take some photos of it before taking it off so you remember how it is meant to sit as it can be confusing.

With your bars on the roadie, take the them off at the end of the stem (remembering to mark their position) and, obviously with the cables still connected, tape one bar to the to the top-tube and the other to the forks (similar to photo #1) – so they’re the same width as your bike.  Give you frame some protection against rubbing.

It should look something like this...

It should look something like this…

Other than that, it’s pretty much the same as for the track bike.

Other tips:

  1. Pack rollers taped up in a cardboard box.  You should be able to find something the right size at your LBS.
  2. You shouldn’t need a pump.  Rely on locals if you’re going to a competition and on LBS’s if your riding for fun.  Obviously take a hand-pump for emergencies + CO2 etc.  Also, don’t worry about deflating your tyres for the plane, that they’ll explode is a myth.  Keep them inflated to whatever you usually ride on.  You don’t see the plane’s tyres exploding do you?

I know a lot of you will have done this a thousand times, but remember this blog is to help the parent new to the sport.  Please feel free to add your own tips in the comments below.

Junior Pathways

Posted: December 12, 2012 in Opinion
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With news that Team Jayco-AIS will no longer be a continental team offering our best under-23 riders a year-long contract and opportunities to race in Europe and around the world, it’s perhaps a good time to reflect on cycling’s pathways here in Australia.

There will no longer be a continental AIS team. This is the 2009 team and included Jack Bobridge, Michael Matthews and Leigh Howard, Rohan Dennis, Luke Davison and Glen O'Shea, Travis Meyer and Adam Semple.

There will no longer be a continental AIS team. This is the 2009 team and included Jack Bobridge, Michael Matthews, Leigh Howard, Rohan Dennis, Luke Davison, Glen O’Shea, Travis Meyer and Adam Semple.  Not a bad bunch!

Our cycling trail blazers headed to Europe with no support, usually not much money, but with an intrepid Aussie spirit and willingness to race.  I’m not talking way back with the likes of Oppy (20s and 30s) or even the 50’s with John Beasley and Russell Mockridge , but when road was really taking off – the late 70’s /early  80’s.  Riders like Phil Anderson, Allan Peiper, Michael Wilson, Shane Sutton, Neil Stephens and Stephen Hodge paved the way for today’s Aussie riders.

The AIS and state institutes came into existence in the early 90’s, and it was this well funded and well planned approach that really heralded the first wave of Aussies to invade Europe in any organised fashion.  Stuart O’Grady, Robbie McEwen, Bradley McGee, Henk Vogels, Baden Cooke, Dave McKenzie, Jay Sweet and Matt Wilson (to name a few) lead the charge and found homes with European teams largely due to the opportunities the AIS gave them; firstly to train as full-time athletes and then to race in Europe.

Robbie and Stuey battling for Green at the TdF - both alumni of AIS teams.

Robbie and Stuey battling for Green at the TdF – both alumni of AIS teams.

Charlie Walsh, often maligned for his uncompromising approach to training, can take a lot of responsibility for putting in place many of the systems that we reaped the benefits from long after he was unceremoniously sacked.  Heiko Salzwedel, the German cycling coach, had a similar impact on our road programs and many of our current high performance team trained and learned from these gentlemen.

It wasn’t a perfect pathway, as can be seen with the recent doping fallout; the AIS would often find a rider a European team, but once there, they were on their own and, as young naive riders, many became easy prey for Italian and Spanish teams with strong doping cultures… but that’s another story.

As of 2013, the Jayco-AIS team will revert to a National Team.  So it provides no permanent position for Australia’s best young riders, rather it offers a larger group of riders shorter guest opportunities to ride some of the top under-23 races around the world.  I’m not against this, but it does create a bit of a quandary for our best young riders who now must find a home somewhere else prepared to allow them to leave to guest ride with the national team.  I’m sure the AIS is assisting these riders find homes both locally, with NRS teams, and with international continental teams, but is this a better pathway structure than having a dozen of our best under-23 riders riding full time for the AIS team?

The NRS is now very much a part of the cycling pathway in Australia.  From 2008 to 2010 it established itself without any real assistance from CA.  Then over the last two-years, with CA support, it has blossomed into what is hoped is a sustainable ongoing model.  There still needs to be further support for teams, namely longer term TV security that they can offer their sponsors, but its heading in the right direction.

One thing the NRS will hopefully do is help alleviate the dramatic drop off of riders coming out of under-17s and into the black hole that is under-19s.  Teams like Charter Mason Drapac and Polygon Australia are offering riders coming out of juniors with a chance to race NRS events.  This can only be a good thing.

The state institutes, while very definitely part of the pathway, do their best on varying budgets.  There doesn’t seem to be any real systems or KPIs that run through them all.  They seem to be separate islands operating as best they can, very much relying on their key personnel and the success of their state federation in raising funds from their respective state governments.  I think this is the next area that needs to be overhauled, not on a state-by-state basis, but by CA who put money into each of the institutes already.

The NTID programs seem to have been overhauled recently, but again it seems to be ad-hoc at best across the various states.  In some it is non-existent, in others it is simply integrated into the institute. Some better communication from CA might make things clearer here also?

Continuing to work backwards some states have federation run regional academies (Victoria have four regional academies), some have private academies (e.g. Illawarra Academy), some have clubs with a strong junior development ethos (e.g Wagga Wagga in NSW, Midlands in WA, Gold Coast GoldStars in QLD), some have privately run junior teams (e.g. Racing Kangaroos & the newly formed Team Bike Ride Tasmania) and some offer scholarships through teams like Team O’Grady (SA) – which has worked through many structures and now seems to come under the Jayco banner (what would cycling do without Gerry Ryan?).

Cam Meyer was fortunate to be part of the enviable WA pathway, then went straight on the AIS conveyor belt.

Cam Meyer was fortunate to be part of the enviable WA pathway, then went straight onto the AIS conveyor belt… too easy?

Some work and are money well spent, others arrive, last a year or two and then petter out.  There is surely a better way to structure and support this most important period on the pathway?  I fear it is on the CA agenda, but so far down on the list of things that need to be done that we won’t see any movement for years.

If we work back any further there is… nothing.  Cycling is terrible at identifying its emerging young riders (under-13s / under-15s) and even worse at giving them any encouragement, let alone support.  They, and their parents, are left to find their own way.  One of last year’s winners of the NJTS got a pair of pedals and a pat on the back and told to keep going but not to burn out.  They couldn’t even access their local indoor velodrome for pursuit training in the lead-up to the Nationals despite being almost certain to medal!

Most states don’t have formal development programs for under-13 or even under-15/17 riders, and those that do, might get a couple of half-day sessions throughout the year.  Better than nothing, and at least its some recognition for the kids that get selected, but hardly a ‘program’.

Cycling needs to realise that it is competing with many other sports for these talented kids.  Sports that identify, nurture and appreciate their emerging athletes… not leave them to fend for themselves.  It doesn’t need to cost a lot and perhaps it can come from CA – an invitation for talented kids from around Australia to attend a training camp twice a year – once for track and once for road… it would be the highlight of the season for many of them; heck, they’d probably even be happy to pay their own way!

I guess the question is: Is it better to offer more riders an opportunity to race in Europe or keep doing what we’ve been doing well and offer the best 10 or so riders with a smoother pathway to success?  And then should those riders give back once they make it… now that’s a whole other blog!

Dealing with illness

Posted: December 11, 2012 in Tips & Hints
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First up, I’m no expert in these matters, but like a lot of things in life, often in areas of managing illness in young athletes common sense doesn’t seem to be that common!

Here’s the hypothetical: your child has had a particular open on their race calendar for the whole season, maybe its even a round of the NJTS.  Three or four days before the event they come down with a runny nose, swollen glands and a nasty cough.  Approaching event day, there’s no real improvement – despite rest, vitamin C and echinacea.  They’ve been resting so they haven’t really done any efforts to test the effect the cold might have.  What to do?

It’s a tough one.  I think you want to get as much as advice as possible from both western and eastern medical practitioners.  One rule of thumb is: if it’s above the shoulders race, if it’s below don’t.  That is, if its in your chest don’t do it, but if its just in your head (throat, nose, etc), there’s a good chance you won’t be too physically disabled or adversely effected.  Another rule of thumb I use is to take their HR: if its more than 10-15bpm above their normal resting HR, pull the pin!

For mine, its about weighing up the importance of the event.  If its a simple open with nothing more than some dollars on the line, I personally would advise them against racing.  But what if it was the State Champs, an event that will determine the selection for the State team!  What if their main goal for the season revolved around a good performance with the hope of making that team, what then?

Again, try and take the emotion out of the decision for them.  Tell them, this particular under-age championship is just a tiny blip in the whole of their cycling career – give it some perspective.  No one remembers a junior champion and they don’t want to screw up the rest of their season by going deep when they’re sick and then getting sicker.  Start to get them to focus on, or start to form, their next goals.

Kids are going to want to ride, it's got to be the parents roll to guide them to make the right decision.

Kids are going to want to ride, even if they’re sick, it’s got to be the parents roll to guide them to make the right decision.

I’ve seen kids racing sick time and again, and I think it’s our responsibility as parents to help our kids make the right and sensible decision and definitely not to push them to ride when ill.  They’ll be other opens and they’ll be other championships.  It’s not worth racing when your really sick and its only worth racing if you’re a bit sick if its a significant event.

The other issue that has raised its head in recent times is young athletes going to National Championships as part of State teams when they’re sick.  They’ve been selected and they want to race more than anything in the world, but by mixing closely – sitting next to someone on a plane, sharing a room, sharing an ice bath – there is a very real chance they will infect other members of the team.  This is very unfair and needs to be monitored closely by Team Management… something that perhaps hasn’t been done that well in the past.

Love to hear others thoughts and experiences.

NJTS – What’s the Points?

Posted: December 6, 2012 in Opinion
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I’m a big fan of the National Junior Track Series and think Max Stevens and those involved at CA have done an wonderful job of establishing this pinnacle series.  I’m off the Tassie tomorrow for my son and his team to compete in round three in Launceston.  I think the extension of this season’s first three events to two-day affairs is also a positive move – it does make them very long and hard days though!  An Aussie coach, who was in Perth, suggested that for riders making all finals it was as much racing in as short a timeframe as they’d probably ever have to cope with!

One element that I do think needs to be reconsidered is the points system.  There were changes this year from last: with points changing from 10, 6, 4, 2 to 5, 3, 2, 1 – for first to fourth – but that’s not the issue I have.  It’s for the riders just below the very top.  Riders that make a lot of finals but consistently finish mid-field (5th to 10th).  They’re arguably in the top 10 juniors in their category in Australia, but have nothing to show for it.  They have the same number of points as those that haven’t made one final – that is 1-point per round they’ve ridden.

It would be great if there were more points on offer in each final and the points went deeper – maybe for the top 10.  If its too hard for judges to keep track of finishing positions higher than top-four (and there lots of mistakes in the Sydney results), then maybe extra points are earned simply for making a final.  That way, a fairer and more reflective ladder is built – especially below the top-five or so riders.

I know its not super important for some kids/parents, but for others, who are finishing right behind the leaders and have nothing to show for it, there is no recognition for their hard work and for being so close.  The rankings so far can be found here by the way.  Good luck to everyone racing in Launceston.

Any how, my thought for the day… what do you think about this idea?

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We are smack bang in the middle of the National Junior Track Series (NJTS) – a series that has given under-15 and under-17 juniors the chance to race each other more often than just at Nationals.  I think it’s fair to say this series have provided a much needed pinnacle to the junior track calendar and, in only its second-year, it can be lauded a huge success.  But what’s happening on the road?

Most states are now starting to release their 2013 Winter Junior Calendar.  They unsurprisingly look very similar to the previous year’s calendar… and the year before that… and the year before that.  One good thing is that states now seem to try and not conflict junior opens – something that wasn’t the case even three-years ago.

The DBR Canberra Junior Tour is arguably the best Junior Tour in the country.

The DBR Canberra Junior Tour is arguably the best Junior Tour in the country.

On their calendar, each of the Australian states offer a ‘pinnacle’ junior tour (JT).  In Queensland, it’s probably the Toowoomba JT (or the Goldstars Carnival); in NSW I think its the Wagga Wagga JT; in the ACT its the Canberra JT; in Victoria it’s the Eildon JT; in Tassie it’s the Mersey Valley JT; in SA its the Central Districts JT; and in the West, its probably the Peel JT.  Most of these events have a rich history and all offer terrifically organised racing over challenging courses.  They are also usually well attended by local and some interstate riders.

What’s stopping CA taking these events, or whichever events put up their hand, and creating a National Junior Road Series (NJRS)?  It would be a whole lot cheaper than the way they have set-up the NJTS!  These are existing events. Sure, it would be great if they could offer travel subsidies like they do for the NJTS, but even starting without this would assist each of these events and strengthen junior road racing in Australia.

There would perhaps have to be some guidelines put in place so all the events were run in a similar fashion.  It would be good if they were all timed events for the under-15/17s and run on points of the under-11/13s.  It would be good if there were mandatory distance totals for age groups (currently Eildon run circa 50km stages for under-15s, which is well above the CA guidelines) and perhaps that each event includes four stages including an ITT.

The Mersey Valley Junior Tour does it right with winner's jerseys, trophies and speeches from the riders.

The Mersey Valley Junior Tour does it right with winner’s jerseys, trophies and speeches from the riders.

Come on CA, put this on the agenda at the next Road Commission meeting to discuss.  Junior road racing might not be as financially rewarding for CA as the track – given its ASC funding is based on international results largely from the track – but this is an initiative that will take just one person to champion and organise.  If you’d like to see this, why not send an email to Sean Muir from CA <sean.muir@cycling.org.au> and let him know!

Boys and Girls Racing together?

Posted: December 2, 2012 in Tips & Hints

I’ve heard on the grapevine that mixed junior racing is likely to be implemented for the under-11s and under-13s for Victorian Opens next road season.  It already happens at some open track events around Australia.  Tassie has been doing it for years.  And it happens every week in graded club racing.  So, is it a big deal?

Under-13 boys and girls at the start of a road race in Tasmania. This is set to become a regular event at Opens in Victoria.

Under-13 boys and girls at the start of a road race in Tasmania. This is set to become a regular event at Opens in Victoria.

Girls develop more quickly than boys, especially in the early years.  Boys maybe tend to be more daring/competitive than girls.  The biggest issue with this change will likely be with parents accepting it.  The reality is, there is so much discrepancy in the rate of physical development of young riders that it really won’t matter if boys and girls ride together.

There are numerous upsides:

  • Bigger fields will make for learning better race craft and better bike handling
  • It will specifically benefit the girls who often have very small fields and are racing the same riders week-in-week-out
  • More efficiently run events with perhaps two less races to be run, meaning the events finish earlier
  • Less requirements for officials and volunteers at events, saving on the need for additional commissaires, lead & follow-car drivers

Look at how it has benefited Tasmanian girls Lauren Perry and Macey Stewart.  Two girls who where always at the top throughout their junior careers (they are now first year JW19) and raced on a weekly basis against the boys – even at the Christmas Carnivals where the racing was very willing given the prize money on offer!  I think both girls benefited from not just their own rivalry, but especially from the experience of racing against the boys.

Boys and girls on the track at Wagga Wagga - the girls more than hold their own in the younger years!

Boys and girls on the track at Wagga Wagga – the girls more than hold their own in the younger years!

There will still be open events that offer individual racing for the J11 and J13 girls and boys – including the unofficial national championship for these age categories, The DBR Canberra Junior & Women’s Tour.  At events like this, these young racers get the chance to race the best kids in the land.

Another interesting point is that at The European Junior Cycling Tour, held each year in Assen, in The Netherlands, they mix boys and girls – but they do it in such a way that they mix girls a year older with boys a year younger.  The results are, that the girls do very well in the younger categories, but then, by around our first-year under-15, the boys start to take charge.

I think this is a positive move to help grow these younger categories.