Archive for June, 2014

I started riding on the road with my son when he was around 8-years-old.  He was on a little red 24″ Specialized Allez and would get all sorts of looks, waves and words of encouragement whenever we went out for a ride.  It was nice.  It demonstrated the ‘community’ in ‘cycling community’.

Now he’s all grown up – well he’s tall any way – and doesn’t have that ‘cute factor’ (more that awkward teenage factor) and when we ride we don’t get any more looks, waves or words of encouragement.

Not long after starting on the bike, we found ourselves in Tassie riding the beautiful roads around Launceston.  And in Launceston EVERYONE WAVES.  I’ve been back to Tassie quite a few times now over Christmas and you can tell the mainlander (as they call us), because they’re the only ones that don’t wave ‘hi’ to passing cyclists.

I think Scott McGrory, Bendigo local and Olympic Gold Medallist, started some discussion about the wave on an episode of the popular The Bike Lane in early 2013.  He also tweeted some comments using the hash tag #bringbackthewave.  I want to keep the campaign moving…

We went for a ride in Bright the other weekend.  It was a gorgeous weekend weather wise and it seemed there were two bikes for every car up that way.  We did a Mt Beauty loop on the first day; climbed Buffalo on day two; and, while the others rode, I rested on the third day.

On the first ride I thought I’d try a little experiment.  I’d wave at every rider that was coming the other way and see what sort of a response rate I got.  I’m pleased to say that I got around a 44% positive response rate (38 out of 88 riders).  Now I reckon I can excuse around a dozen of them as they were descending particularly fast or on technical parts of a mountain, so I can mark this up to around 50%.

Beach Rd on the other hand, I’m lucky to get a 2% response.  Occasionally a lone rider will respond or, of course, if you know someone coming the other way, they’ll always give you a wave, but generally, Beach Rd riders don’t wave.  Now on a Saturday or Sunday morning I can understand that you’d be waving every few seconds with the numbers on Beach Rd, and I’m not advocating people taking their hands off their bars at that sort of interval, but… I think there are occasions, where you find yourself on the front of a bunch and see someone coming the other way that a slight raise of the hand or even nod of the helmet can’t hurt.

I’m not sure if its that people fear they won’t get a response – I’d say this is the case – but if we can’t be friendly with each other, what chance do we have with our relationship with car drivers.

And that’s the other occasion to wave: when a car driver does something courteous.  It might be that they should legally have done it, but give them some recognition.  A little wave of appreciation for seeing you and treating you as they should… this sort of response will breed a better relationship.

So, for those of us in the big-bad cities, #bringbackthewave, you might the surprised at the responses you get and the positive feelings you create.

Women tend to wave more than serious male cyclists all dressed to impress.

Women tend to wave more than serious male cyclists all dressed to impress.

Reading the wonderfully written story in The Saturday Age about Zac Shaw a month or so back got me thinking… is our (that is, Australia’s) fixation on performing well at Junior Worlds a good thing?  No other nation seems to care as much about results at Junior Worlds as Australia.  Why is this?  Is it just a tradition?  Are medals at Junior Worlds part of the ASC/AIS Winning Edge funding requirements?  Is it driven by a number of coaches who only work with young athletes and lose them when they move out of juniors (under-19s)?

In many ways, as the father of a junior cyclist, it doesn’t make sense!

Junior World’s comes around as young cyclists are entering year’s 11 and 12 – the two most important year’s of schooling they will face.  They can always come back and do uni if their cycling career doesn’t work out, but they can’t redo their HSC or VCE (or whatever its called now days?).  They get one shot at getting a good enough ENTER score to get into university… and if they happen to be one of the top junior under-19 cyclists, they also get the chance to continue Australia’s proud tradition of being the leading nation at the Junior World’s.

The only problem is the two don’t really go hand-in-glove and a number of our junior athletes seem to focus on the Junior World’s as the be-all-and-end-all, never looking beyond this big prize.

Perhaps this is where the problems start?  What problems you ask… well just last year, three of our most promising young cycling prospects hung up their bike.  Zac Shaw (VIC), Jack Edwards (NSW) and Kelsey Robson (WA) all returned from the Junior World’s as Champions sporting rainbow jerseys and seemingly the keys to an exciting cycling future.  Right?

Jack Edwards on his way to some rainbow stripes!

Jack Edwards at the 2013 Junior Track Worlds on his way to winning some rainbow stripes!

Sadly, very wrong… all three amazing talents have hung up the bike and are pursuing a more ‘normal’ life.   In the article, Zac says he is happy… while Jack Edwards can’t stand the sight of a bike at the moment.  Kelsey was more realistic in her reasoning stating female cyclists can’t make a living.

I know that “the powers that be” are concerned about this and are trying to work out why this is so.  Some feedback suggests that parents can have a significant impact on the outcome of a young athletes decisions.  It’s a very hard balance to be the parent of young cyclist… I’m sure that gets magnified significantly when they are selected on a Junior World’s team.

As parents, as our kids grow up, we are: coach, mechanic, soigneur, taxi, cook, psychologist and more.  There is a fine line between encouragement and falling into the category of ‘pushy-parent’.  We all want the best for our kids, but it is sometimes difficult to step-back and look at the bigger picture… and our kids need us to, as they’re living in the moment and find it hard to see the big picture themselves.

I don’t think there is any one thing that caused any of Zac, Jack or Kelsey, or a long list of juniors past, to prematurely hang-up their bike.  I think its a combination of personality, environment and opportunity that determines outcomes like this.  I guess all we can do as parents is provide the most caring, supportive environment and network possible.  We can protect them from unhelpful influences while preparing them as best we can for what can only be an uncertain future.

Or course not all who represent Australia at Junior World's hang up the bike…

Not all who represent Australia at Junior World’s hang up the bike… Jackson Law, Jack Cummings, Alex Morgan & Alex Edmondson take Gold in the Teams Pursuit in Moscow in 2011 all are still riding at different levels.

I say uncertain as no matter how good, how focused and committed they are, the reality is that they’re only one crash away from the end of their cycling career… so we as parents need to help prepare them for life beyond cycling.  Athlete welfare is one of the buzz phrases doing the rounds.  This isn’t new in cycling, with Michael Drapac the original outspoken critic of the CA high performance pathway and recent articles on the cyclingtips.com.au blog making claims about out how badly athletes were treated under past coaching regimes.

I’ve started to write a blog on here about the black hole that is under-19’s racing – especially for athletes (and their parents) coming from the comparatively well organised junior racing on both the track and the road.  But it actually makes sense that there isn’t as much organised competition for under-19s… as stated above: they are in year’s 11 and 12.

Any how, some food for thought… would love to hear from parents of under-19 athletes on how they’re coping with school and training.