Archive for September, 2014

One of the things I most love about cycling is its seasonality.  Just when you’re starting to get bored with road, track comes along; then just as you couldn’t ride around in another circle, its road season again!

With this change in season comes renewed motivation… you’ve changed bikes and can’t wait get out there and put it to good use!  This, for me, is where potential problems arise.

Both track and road seasons are long seasons: road runs from when you finish track (this will vary depending if you ride Track Nationals) right up until around now (post-Road Nationals) – that’s some seven-months by my calculations.

Track now kicks off with the first round of the NJTS (early-October) and runs through to late-February or early-March – call it five-and-a-half-months.  But you don’t want to hit the first round of the NJTS without some track kilometres in your legs, so maybe add another month or so to this.

Any how, you get the picture… it’s very easy to jam 13 or 14-months of training into a year.. and that’s without taking a break!

Why is a break important?  In speaking to coaches it’s important to give young bodies a chance to be completely stress free; to recover, repair, grow and revitalise.  All coaches will tell you about the importance of rest – daily, weekly and, in this case, six-monthly.  A period of time where you don’t touch the bike or do any cross-training (unless its for fun!).

Sports physcs will concur and stress how important a mental break is for dedicated athletes – young or professional alike.

Take time to hang-up the bike and give your body a chance to fully recover from the rigours of full-time training.

Take time to hang-up the bike and give your body a chance to fully recover.

So, what’s the right length for a break?  Kind of depends.  If you’ve had a long season and powered right through, a minimum of two-weeks is thought about right.  If you’ve had a season interrupted with injury or illness then you probably need less time off the bike.  So there is no right answer, needless to say, you should be scratching the walls to get back on the bike when the rest is up!

When is the right time?  The most obvious time is between seasons, but I think we need to look at our broader timetable.  Is there a family holiday coming up?  Is there a school camp on the horizon?  Are you trying to manage two peaks in your season?  Choose a time that suits you and your goals (and your family) best.  If you have a coach, ask them to schedule it into your program.

I’m no coach, but having been involved in the sport now for some seven years, I’ve seen kids burnout from a lack of rest.  I’ve seen them hang up the bike for good and seen them go from on form to completely out of form almost overnight, and you can tell its because their body is crying out for a break.

Don’t take my word for it, look to the pros you aspire to be… they ensure they get a good break – often up to a month off the bike – every year.

“Bring on track” is the cry doing the rounds… but make sure you schedule in your break as well.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not going super well in October, its how you’re going in February that really counts!

Well, lots of blood, some tears… and broken bodies and bikes any way!

The carnage left after the JM17 crash on the last lap.

Some of the carnage left after the JM17 crash on the last lap.

For some, the three days of the Junior Road Nationals in Toowoomba was a very costly affair.  Never mind the cost of getting there – whether on your own or as part of a state team – but the number of crashes and hospitalisations means additional expenses for riders and their parents.  Before we try and analyse why all the crashes in the crits, lets focus on the event as a whole:

The Courses

All the courses looked a lot easier on paper than they did in the flesh.  Wind, dead roads and a nasty finish were the decisive factors.  In the ITT we did see genuine time trailers excel on what was a course suited to strong riders who knew how to suffer.  No real surprises with regards to the results here.

The best thing about the road course was the loop and the ability for parents and supporters to watch a lot of the race.  More courses should be designed with thought to the spectators in mind.

The roadie profile didn’t look all that tough and it wasn’t really until the peloton turned for home.  The 12km run back to the finish from the loop was when tied legs and a couple of nasty little hills took toll.  Having said that, it would have been a 30 rider bunch kick, in JM17 at least, had the other states started chasing the Victorian break earlier!

The Racing

I didn’t watch a lot of the racing but the whole idea of ‘team tactics’ seemed to be lost on all but the Victorians (in the aforementioned JM17 road race) who controlled the race with aplomb. Viewing from the loop and speaking to those in team cars afterwards, suggests it was reasonably aggressive racing, but attacks found it hard to get away in all grades until the decisive run home.  Keen to hear others assessments who might have observed from the side or the car… or indeed in one of the bunches!

The Logistics

There is no doubt Toowoomba is blessed with one of the nicest criterium tracks in Australia – although whether it is indeed a true crit circuit was debated trackside by a number of people.  There are no real technical aspects to the track at all; just beautiful sweeping, perfectly cambered hot mix corners and wide open straights; where’s the technical challenges of a true crit?  Oh, and where’s the shade for the spectators (rubbing Aloe Vera into burnt forehead)

I thought the support for the road race was first class with more than enough police and official bikes to manage the traffic – it was almost a rolling road closure!  It needed to be as there were highway sections that did see a lot of truck traffic.

There was definitely concern over the medical plans.  It seems hospitals weren’t aware the event was one; first aide wasn’t aware of what equipment was available or indeed where the hospital was; and it took almost an hour to get an ambulance to the course (why wasn’t there one in attendance?).  CA needs to undertake a thorough investigation into what went wrong in this regard and, despite six hospitalisations, they are very lucky no one was more seriously hurt.

The Crashes

Was it last-day tiredness?  Team racing tactics?  Too big a fields?  Issues with course set-up?  Desperation?  Or just bad luck that there were crashes in five out of the six criterium races held on Sunday; including three alone in the JM17 final!  I have it from a number of riders that there was a lot of hands-off-bars during the racing, with riders pushing each other out of the way.  Maybe we needed a moto-commissaire to monitor and take action on inappropriate racing?

The argument that Nationals is the only time these kids race as a ‘team’ is also worth considering.  Do state riders feel it is their ‘right’ to sit the wheel of their teammate if they want it and will do what they need to take it?  I don’t know, might be drawing a long bow, but just spectating there was a lot of looking for wheels/trying to form a train in the run into the finish.  On the Thursday teams were even practising their lead-out trains, which is great, but VERY hard for inexperienced riders to actually organise in the closing laps of a race.

There has been a lot of talk on the interwebs about the crashes and some interesting and knowledgeable assessments have been made:

  • The ease of the circuit actually made it more dangerous… that is, the lack of any technical aspects and long sweeping bends together with the fast hot mix surface means it is a much easier race for riders to just sit-in… meaning there is little or no attrition during the race… meaning there are still a lot of riders left at the end who perhaps aren’t used to racing in big bunches.  This same ease of riding the circuit potentially gives a lot of riders a false sense of ability that they can indeed mix it in the heat of battle when patently they can’t!
  • The length (or time) of the criterium has also been raised by good judges… that is, its too short and therefore there are still too many riders left at the end of what is too easy a race (see above and below).
  • As the photo below, taken moments before the last lap crash, shows riders don’t know how to race in big bunches and take contact.  The photo shows riders with their elbows extended – this is a disaster just waiting to happen!  Contact in bunches of this size is normal, but contact needs to be made with the shoulders NOT the elbows.  Elbows bounce off shoulders.  Elbows are connected to forearms, which are connected to hands gripping handlebars, which soon connect with the ground.  Riders need to learn how to race in big bunches and take contact before they get to nationals.
A photograph taken just moments before the big crash on the last lap of the JM17 criterium race at the Junior Road Nationals.

A photograph taken just moments before the big crash on the last lap of the JM17 criterium race at the Junior Road Nationals.

 

The Highlights

Standout performances by Mitch Wright (winning three-out-of-three) and Alana Field (two-out-of-three) in the boy’s and girl’s under-15 categories respectively.

Chloe Moran (JW17) could have, and probably should have, won two gold medals – after winning the ITT, she crashed in the final corner of the road race with a 40-second lead!  She has a big future none-the-less.

First-year rider Godfrey Slattery’s win the JM17 road race was memorable as was his ‘policing’ of the criterium for his team mates, not letting anything get away during the race.

The improvement of the South Australians.  They may only have come away with two medals (Chloe’s and Cooper Sayers bronze in the JM17 road race), but they had a lot of top-10s that promise big things in the very near future (think track nationals).  Brett Aitkins appointment as SASI coach seems to have had immediate and positive effects, amongst the juniors at least.

The rise-and-rise of the Queensland under-15 girls… they walked away with five of the nine medals on offer in the category across four different riders.  Look out for a bit of Queensland dynasty over the coming years.

 

There are some terrific photos doing the rounds – both official and just from family and friends.  Check out a few of these:

Laura Berwick <https://www.facebook.com/lauraberwickphotography>

Eugene Lambert <https://www.facebook.com/eugene.lambert.167?fref=ts&gt;

Peleton Cafe <http://pelotoncafe.com.au/photo-galleries/&gt;

Feel free to add additional links in the comments and keep your eyes out of the official photographers <esisportsphotography.com.au> to upload theirs.

Now let’s just take a breath and head to the track.

Cyclingdad is a big supporter of the National Junior Track Series (NJTS).  About to enter its fourth season, the NJTS has already proved its worth with no less than six junior world champions having won or finished in the first four of the final standings of the first three NJTS series.  That’s how the powers-that-be judge its success and justify its funding… for me the real success has been watching the young riders from my own club (and hundreds more from around Australia) improve their riding and experience all that travelling and racing as a ‘team’ encompasses.

There will be even bigger fields this year with the inclusion of first-year JW19s.

There will be even bigger fields this year with the inclusion of first-year JW19s.

The inaugural JW17 winner was Lauren Perry (TAS) with year two winner in the same category, being Courtney Field (VIC).  Interestingly one is an outstanding track endurance athlete and one a track sprinter… yet the format allowed them both to take overall honours.

The three JM17 winners have been Jack Edwards, Matt Jackson and Cameron Scott – all rounders each of them.  Edwards took home a rainbow jersey from the 2013 UCI Junior World Track Champs, while Jackson was perhaps unlucky to miss out on selection for this year, and Scott (who also won the inaugural JM15 category) is set to step-up to the under-19s this season and one would think is a shoe-in for Junior Worlds selection next year.

So what’s changed for V4 of the NJTS?  The major change is the inclusion of bottom-age JW19 riders.  Teams can now have six under-15/17 riders + one first-year JW19 rider.  These JW19 riders will have to ride on restricted JW17 gears and will race against the JW17s but have their own points category in the overall aggregate.

I think the inclusion of first-year JW19 riders is a terrific initiative and will offer those interested in continuing racing the track, but who might not be in a state institute, greater opportunities to compete at a high national level.  And I don’t see the restricted gear thing as an issue as it will promote race craft and tactics and, to be honest, I’m not sure many of the bottom-age 19 women can push an 88″ gear through two days and ten races at any rate!

Some of last year's top-age JW17s will be back this year.  It'll be interesting to see which riders support the initiative.

Some of last year’s top-age JW17s will be back this year. It’ll be interesting to see which riders support the initiative.

Tweaking over the first three series has lead to what I think is a well structured series.  Changes to the points last year to award a point for making finals saw a much deeper and more reflective accumulation of points scorers.

The schedule of races is (reasonably) balanced: with the heart starter, keirin, cyclone sprint, two-up match sprints and sprint derbies favouring those with fast twitch fibres; and the elimination, points races and sometimes longer scratch races favouring the more endurance based athletes (especially when qualifying heats are required) .  The fact that ALL athletes are encouraged to compete in ALL races (and most do despite the howling of some coaches) is of benefit no matter what their physiology.

Event Director Max Stevens is happy to get his hands dirty if called on… with National High Performance Director, Kevin Tabotta, on hand to offer some advice!

Event Director, Max Stevens, is happy to get his hands dirty if called on… with National High Performance Director, Kevin Tabotta, on hand to offer some advice!

The other big challenge the series provides riders is the strain the schedule puts them under.  The better age category riders often have six to seven races a night for two nights with each night being a three-to-four-hour session.  They are put under significant stress, especially with some of the longer races being held late on the second day/night.  I watched last year for example riders get through the Elimination heats; then go straight into the Cyclone Sprint final with very little recovery; before lining up straight away for the Elimination final – and all this at the end of the second-day program!

It also teaches the kids (and the coaches) about the importance of nutrition, hydration, sleep and recovery.  I doubt the kids will ever race another meet as demanding… certainly when they get to senior level, and those lucky enough to race Oceanias, Nationals, Worlds or even the Olympics – the programs are much, much easier than a round of the NJTS.

Last year's winning team, Brunswick Cycling Club Orange.  Brunswick has won best stand-alone club for all three years, as well as beating institute and combine teams last year to take the overall title.

Last year’s winning team, Brunswick Cycling Club Orange with coach Vanessa Bof.  Brunswick has won best stand-alone club for all three years, as well as beating institute and combine teams last year to take the overall title.

Cyclingdad says… bring it on!  All information can be found here.