NJTS_V4… Kicks off in less than a month!

Posted: September 8, 2014 in Opinion

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.

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