Archive for January, 2013

The cycle of cycling…

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Opinion, Racing
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Well, its that time of the year again… track season is almost done and road season is calling  juniors with the promise of a fresh start and what might be.  For some, the track will continue right through to early-March for Junior Nationals in Adelaide – congratulations to all those that have made their respective state teams – but for most, the road ahead is taking up most of their thoughts.

I think this is one of the great things about the sport, as one season draws to a close the next offers a new beginning and a chance for improvement.  It keeps the kids (and their parents) fresh and enthusiastic.  Throw in opportunities to race mountain bikes or cyclocross or even BMX throughout the seasons and what is there to get stale about?!?

On the national front, the junior road season kicks off proper with the National Mountain Climbing Championship (aka Alpe D’Buffalo) on the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of March – a week earlier than usual due to Easter.  The timing definitely gives the kids who aren’t racing Track Nationals an advantage to take a break and get their climbing legs.  It’ll be tough for those coming from Adelaide to go straight from the velodrome to a 20km climb!

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Some of the winners from the 2012 Junior Mountain Climb Championships >> Photo courtesy Tony Reeckman Photography

One event that is missing this year is the Australasian Schools Cycling Cup (ASCC).  Not sure what happened here, but last year it seemed to lack the support of either State or National federations.  It didn’t help that the organisers had moved overseas, but the event had locked in long term sponsors (rare in these times) and was a terrific pathway for schools to get into the sport.  I think this is a major loss and will be sorely missed.

The first junior tour of the year is Adelaide’s historic Santos-Central Districts Junior Tour (13-14th April).  2013 will mark its 46th running and it really seems to have found its home on the calendar as well as its geographic home in the Flaxman Valley.  A real highlight is the road stage that climbs Menglers Hill (oft used in the Tour DownUnder) but really, this tour rivals Canberra for the best run junior tour on the calendar.  My advice is to make the trip if you possibly can.

The season enters a regular rhythm following this with junior tours across a variety of states.  My favourites are:

  • Wagga Wagga Junior Tour (27-28 April 2013)
  • Goulburn Workers Junior Tour (25-26 May 2013)
  • Mersey Valley Junior Tour (8-9 June – not confirmed date)
  • Canberra Junior Tour (6-7 July – not confirmed date)
  • Eildon Junior Tour (13-14 July 2013)

There is still some discrepancy between how different states run their junior tours.  Some use time gaps, others use points.  My feeling is points for the under-13s moving to timed tours for the under-15s and above.  Most tours offer two grades for age categories so blow-outs are less likely.  IMO, points for the under-15/17s lead to desperate bunch kick finishes, which in turn leads to crashes.

Any how… get ready to welcome road season.

 

Perspective

Posted: January 18, 2013 in Tips & Hints
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State Junior Track Championships can be a stressful time of the year for young riders.  With a trip to Adelaide for the Junior Track Nationals on the line, the pressure can become overwhelming.  This post isn’t about dealing with pressure, rather trying to help kids and their parents put things into perspective.

The reality is there are only a handful of kids who can win a National junior medal.  They’re the kids who got the genes allowing them to develop physically at a faster rate than most kids.  There’s a lot more to it than that of course; these kids need to have trained well, have a good temperament and a sound support team that has allowed them to make the most of their physical advantage.

Now I’m not suggesting these kids aren’t worthy winners; they clearly are.  What I’m saying is, to the kids that haven’t experienced early physical development, take heart and try to put things into perspective.  Set realistic goals around PBs and don’t see State Junior Champs or a spot on the plane to Adelaide as the be-all-and-end-all.  Trust me, no one is going to remember who the 2013 under-17 TT champion was but they will remember the kid that persisted, grew in his or her own time and ended up racing in Europe!

Some the current crop of Aussie pros struggled at under-15 and under-17 level.  Neither Leigh Howard or Glen O’Shea broke 2:40.00 for their IP as an under-15 and Glen was still outside the top-10 as an under-17 at Nationals… and look at them now!  Both Olympic medallists and multiple world champions and emerging top line roadies!

The records are littered with similar stories… even Cam Meyer struggled as an under-15 rider and it wasn’t until he was a second-year under-17 that he was physically developed enough to compete.

Every year the Nationals are full of kids making up the numbers.  The difference in results is astounding.  Last year a 2.31 qualified fastest for the JM15 IP, while kids from states, where that age category wasn’t particularly deep, were qualifying in high 2.50s.  So if you’re a junior from one of the bigger states and don’t make the nationals because of the depth in your state, don’t get down, just put it in perspective.  It really doesn’t matter… and besides, it gives you a chance to take a break and start to focus on road season earlier!

By the way, for those kids who are maybe just ‘making up the numbers’; suck it in, enjoy it and learn as much as you can from it… you deserve your state skin suit and just aim at trying to do a PB… Leigh and Glen did and look where it took them!

The Junior Calendar

Posted: January 15, 2013 in Opinion
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Each season begins and ends with… the CALENDAR!

It’s is the hardest thing for those that govern our sport, at all levels, to work out, but the most important for so many reasons.  Look at the shambles that surrounded trying to find a date for the Sun Tour (although that’s a whole other story).

Of late, state associations seem to be getting better at ensuring Junior events don’t clash – especially across road season – but, at the end of the day, there are only so many weekes available weekends.

I raise this issue after the junior carnival held at Echuca on the weekend.  It conflicted not just with the SA and NSW Junior State Championships, but also with the National Road Championships just over two-hours down the road in Ballarat.  Traditionally, a contingent of SA and NSW juniors make the pilgrimage to Echuca, but obviously when it conflicts with the State Championships that’s not going to happen.  Why can’t CA set aside a given weekend each year for all States to hold their championships in?  And why would CV schedule an event up against the pinnacle event on the domestic calendar and stop the kids from going to cheer on their heroes in Ballarat?

In some ways, I think State Champs should be later in the season and closer to the Nationals.  Why?  Firstly, its hard for any athlete, let alone a junior, to peak twice; and secondly, once state squads are selected watch the selected riders stop racing for fear of falling!

Calendar

While there is an argument for having the six-or-so-weeks between the State and National Junior Champs: it gives the team a chance to specifically train, especially for the team events, I think this could easily be countered by each state selecting a bigger squad prior to their States, which not only acts to broaden the recognition of juniors, but allows riders to train specifically for team pursuits and team sprints.

Another downside of having the Nationals so late in the season is that there is only three-weeks between them and the first national road championship – the Alpe D’Buffalo or National Junior Mountain Climbing Championship!  What chance do our best juniors have of having a break or switching between track and climbing in three-weeks?

There are many other conflicts between events: the Christmas Carnivals for one.  Then on the 9th and 10th of February there is the Ararat/Ballarat double, up against the terrific Wagga Wagga Golden Wheel Carnival, which offers a great junior program.

I’m not saying its easy… and I think those in charge are trying to do a good job. But why doesn’t CA take some leadership in this and work with the States to ensure there is the absolute minimum of conflicting dates each season?  I guess CA has bigger things to worry about?!?

 

Tassie Carnivals Review

Posted: January 9, 2013 in Opinion
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Back from a great trip to the Apple Island; caught up with friends and the youngsters got to race the carnivals.  It was an important year for the carnival organisers, having commissioned Jump Media to do a review into the carnivals a year ago (you can see it here), this was the first opportunity to see if they would implement any of these recommendations. As this is a junior blog, I will focus mostly on areas that concerned the junior competitors.

Part of recommendation 40 of the review was to specifically market the event to mainland junior cyclists.  Unfortunately the carnival series went backwards in a big way in making it appealing to junior cyclists, wherever they came from!  While those juniors that stayed in Victoria for its Christmas Carnivals got between four and six races at each carnival, sadly juniors in Tassie – especially the under-13 and under-15s – were treated like second-class citizens.  Two races at Latrobe (actually one for the under-15s after their Wheelrace was abandoned due to a crash and not rerun); three races at Launceston (one less than has been on offer in the proceeding 10-years); two on each day of Devonport (congratulations should go to Devonport as at least they moved them so the races were close together and out of the way within an hour of each other); and three at Burnie (with two-hours between each race).  That to me, is a big FAIL.

The Latrobe carnival started well with some good scratch racing although it did show up a real lack of depth over past years.  There was very little competition to outstanding local under-13 rider Daniel Di Domenico; while there was a big gap between the top three under-15s and the rest.  I guess that’s why handicap racing is good!  The under-17s did have good depth with two full grades and some close and exciting racing.  Maybe the under-17s come as they know they’re going to get a decent number of races?

One thing that was shown up as inadequate at Latrobe was the level of medical provided.  A nasty crash in the under-15s bought down nine riders.  Three ended up needing to go to hospital but had to wait for over 40-minutes for ambulances to arrive!  I would think that the carnivals could afford to have their own paramedics at each event (especially withe price of admission – $18 for Latrobe + $7 for a program and all for two races!).  While this wouldn’t have changed the wait for the ambos, it would have meant there were enough spine boards and other medical equipment to go around and someone other than a parent taking charge.

The Junior 2 (or under-15) Launceston Wheelrace Final wasn't held till 10.25pm - well after most 12 and 13 year old's bedtime!

The Junior 2 (or under-15) Launceston Wheelrace Final wasn’t held till 10.25pm – well after most 12 and 13 year old’s bedtime!

Got to say Launceston, usually my favourite carnival, was a real disappointment.  Rather than run an afternoon program to get some of the less interesting races and junior races out of the way, decided to run one long session starting at 5.30pm and running till after 11.30pm!  Madness.  No one is going to want to watch six-hours of track cycling.  I found myself sitting there waiting for the junior Wheelrace Finals at 10.15pm (when most of the kids would usually be tucked up in bed!), watching D-grade Elimination races!  Why?

Run an afternoon program to get through the majority of junior racing (be good to go back to four races for the under-13/15s) and a lot of the lower grade racing.  Then run a compact three-to-four-hour program that offers non-stop quality racing.  Cycling Victoria do it with both the Austral and the Melbourne Cup on Wheels… it’s not that hard.  And where did the wood chopping go!?!?!?

Devonport was Devonport – two days of well run racing BUT only two junior races per day!  Not sure how many people will come over from the mainland for that when ALL mainland events offer a minimum of three races for ALL grades (and usually more!).

Burnie was a good day but why can’t they put a program together that gets the three junior races out of the way early – or at least two of them with a bit of gap to the Wheelrace?  Then start the senior racing later in the program – it would work for everyone.

Other general comments:

  • Crowds were lacking compared to the past few years despite a cracking line-up of quality elite cyclists.
  • The new website is worse than the old website (if that’s possible).  It was dearly lacking in information and was updated maybe three times in the three months leading up to the carnivals.  Good job with the carnivals having a FaceBook page though.
  • Announcer wasn’t bad with juniors but was embarrassing to hear him trying to say Malaysian names and also he kept calling world champion Kenny De Ketele, Henry… was Henry his dad maybe?

Overall I’d give the carnivals a D-minus and suggest they in fact went backwards from the past few years.  Would love to hear what you think?