Archive for May, 2014

The Canberra Junior Tour was on on the the weekend just gone.  Brought forward this year from the usual chilly July date, riders were greeted with perfect weather, with Sunday being a stand-out after the low cloud burnt off.

Organisers had to work around road-works in the precinct, meaning the start and finish for the ITT and road races was off-site and race distances were shortened.  This also provided a bit of a headache for the first road race with race scheduling affected and groups passing each other towards the end of races.  This didn’t seem to repeat itself to any extent for the second road stage and the crits went off like clockwork on the best criterium facility in the country.

The Stromlo Forest Park criterium track offers great viewing and protection from the elements.

The Stromlo Forest Park crit track offers great viewing and protection from the elements. Photo credit Michael Langdon.

The tour featured a strong team from New Zealand in the under-17 categories.  The Kiwis were coming off their national titles the previous weekend, so were right on the top of their form.  They hit the locals hard, who are still very much building their form towards August/September, securing four out of the top five positions in the opening stage TT in the men and three of the top six in the women.  With a team of seven men and six women, the Kiwis were always going to make it hard for the locals in the remaining three stages.

And so it transpired with the Kiwis patrolling the front of the peloton en masse, not letting anything get away despite repeated attempts.  The courses are such that natural selection thinned the field to an elite front group in both road stages in both the men and women, and despite their numerical advantage the Kiwis didn’t have it all their own way in the bunch kicks with locals more than holding their own… but they certainly did it tough, especially in the men with six Kiwis making the final selection of 11 riders on the tough second road stage.

The Kiwis driving on the front of the stage four crit in the JM17s.

The Kiwis driving on the front of the stage four crit in the JM17s.  Photo credit Michael Langdon.

I guess my question is, is this good for junior racing or is it unfair in what is meant to be an individual tour?  Of course the Kiwis aren’t the only ‘team’ to effect the outcome of the Canberra Junior Tour, with The Racing Kangaroos entering a strong team a few years back and dominating the results.  In the rules its called ‘collusion’ and can be penalised with disqualification, but I didn’t hear any parents complaining about the Kiwis in Canberra.

Collusion, in one form or another, actually comes into play in a lot of junior races.  Whether it be riders competing for the same sponsor, for the same club, or riders who are just friends; we see decisions not the chase, to block, or to actively disrupt a chase happen all the time.  It’s just a part of racing and its probably good the kids experience it and learn how to deal with it at junior level than it be a surprise when the reach higher levels of racing.

In fact, it is taught and used as a strategy each year at road nationals where state teams are riding for protected riders and with clear race plans.

I’ve been around the junior tour scene for a while now and to be honest, I think the Kiwis added a dynamic to the racing that made it different for the local riders.  Different in a good way.  At the end of the day, the final results very much related back to the ITT, with the top five in both made up of the same riders (although with slight changes in order).  So you can say, the strongest riders still finished on top… therefore teams racing had minimal impact on the overall results.

Four out of the top five on GC… what do you call a podium stacked with Kiwis?

Four out of the top five in the JM17 GC… what do you call a podium stacked with Kiwis?  Photo credit Michael Langdon.

I guess what it did do was limit the opportunity for breaks to go.  Although one did go in the second JM17 road race and stayed away for around 10kms only to be brought back on the big hill after the turnaround.  I don’t think the break got any more than maybe 20-seconds with the stronger local riders controlling it as their was a Kiwi in it.  Again… a good experience for all involved.

I wouldn’t like to see it at every tour, but I’d equally like to encourage the Kiwis to make the trip to Canberra each year to give the locals some new riders to race.

The under-15s were dominated by two very strong riders: Mitchell Wright in the boys and Claire Winterbourne in the girls – not sure what their competitors are going to do to be more competitive at Nationals, although I guess it is still only May.

The under-13 categories saw standout performances from two Queenslanders in Laura Berwick (sister of Sebastian) and Frank Momo; while in the under-11’s Ryan Britten and Lucinda Stewart add their names to an already impressive honour roll.

Full results can be found via links on the tour site as can some great photos.

The Mersey Valley Devonport Cycling Club (MVDCC) has been running its Junior Tour for some 50-years (hard to get exact details).  Winners include famous local names like Matt Goss and Ben Grenda.  Having now been to two of the tours I can vouch for the quality of the courses and of the organisation.

Action from the JM17 stage four kermesse from last year's tour.

Action from the JM17 stage four kermesse from last year’s tour, which was won by WA’s Matty Jackson.

If its anything like last year, the under-17s get to race on the course they’ll be using the following year as part of the Mersey Valley Tour for under-19s, which forms one of just three races for Junior World selection, so its worth doing for this fact along if you have designs on racing next year.

In recent year’s the tour has corresponded with an under-17 road camp.  This has variously been supported by the TIS, WAIS, SASI and the VIS.  This has certainly meant a quality field of under-17 riders were on hand.  The younger categories are often hit-and-miss depending on the depth in those years of local riders.  I’d suggest this year there’ll also be reasonable numbers in the under-13 and under-15 categories with a few coming over from the mainland to supplement local riders.

If it’s anything like last year, day one takes place in Sprent with a tough out-and-back ITT (uphill on the way out, downhill on the way back) followed by a road race around a challenging loop.  The base for day two is Railton with the road race that takes in the under-19 course with the Weegena Rd Climb (try 2.2km @ an average of 9%… ouch)… quickly followed by another 1.7km climb @ over 5%… double ouch!!

While roads aren't closed, they are very quiet with good support convoy.

While roads aren’t closed, they are very quiet with good support convoy.

Here’s a link to the breakdown in distances and courses from last year’s courses.

At the end of the day, its a great tour; and especially good if you want to make a family trip of it with lots to do outside the racing.  Plus, being a long weekend, you’ve got the whole of Monday to be a tourist before a leisurely trip home.  Fly or take the Spirit and have your car with you, the choice is yours.

Entries via this link.

Of course if you don’t a fancy a trip south to the Apple Isle, there is plenty of other racing going on: in Victoria there is the famous three-day junior tour, while in Queensland there is the Balmoral Junior Tour.