Junior Road Nationals – Blood, Sweat & Tears!

Posted: September 16, 2014 in Opinion, Racing, Road
Tags: , , , ,

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.

  1. Bruce says:

    A great wrap up of the weekend. In relation to the crashes, I found watching the races on Sunday very distressing, CA and the race organisers need to have a good hard look at the event and report back to riders and parents. An unpublished internal review just wont cut it. As parents we accept that the sport has some risks but Sundays racing took it to another (unacceptable) level.

  2. Leonie says:

    Cycling Dad, I don’t want to sound like I am making light of the crashes as I know how serious they can be but is any crit course safe with U17 Mens/boys? 1. The phenomena known as “teenage boy’s brain” widely proven by scientist and parents.. 2 Testosterone -most of those boys have more testosterone than they know what to do with. 3. Winning a medal – the prospect of winning a medal, however slight for some boys, can lead to some desperate manoeuvrings. Just some food for thought.

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