Archive for October, 2014

Cycling Victoria (CV) is pleased to announce the presence of cycling aficionado Matt Keenan and Tour de France stage winner, yellow jersey wearer and current Australian Road Champion, Simon Gerrans at the second round of the Victorian Interschool Cycling Series (VICS) in Kew, Melbourne, on November 8. VICS is a unique series of closed road cycling races for high school students in Victoria that kicked off last Saturday at Casey Fields in Cranbourne, Melbourne, to the delight of parents, students and Cycling Victoria alike.

VICS was founded with the intention of bringing the sport to new participants, and having over 60 temporary VICS licences sold already means 60 new students racing for the first time. This is something both CV and Gerrans have labelled as a ‘big win for the sport.’

And everyone’s excitement now turns to round two in just over a weeks’ time.

But I didn’t race round one! Have a missed out?

Certainly not! The great attraction for schools to VICS is students can enter as many or as few races as they like. Entries for round two are open until midnight Wednesday next week (November 5).

Ok I’m racing round two! What’s coming up?

Well students, parents and fans alike; come one, come all and come down to the Kew ‘Teardrop’ at the Yarra Boulevard (Location) and spend some time with commentator and cycling tragic Matt Keenan whilst he interviews event ambassador Simon Gerrans on everything from high school cycling, to wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.

We can promise laughter, smiles, some fun times, and perhaps some more cycling converts by the end of the day. Whether you’re new to the sport, or a diehard fan, come and help us grow our two-wheeled obsession from the grass-roots up. See you there!

(Press release supplied)

I attended the first round of the National Junior Track Series (NJTS) the other weekend and observed a doping control up-close when one of the riders from our team was selected for one of four random doping controls being undertaken at the event.  They were random in so far as the riders chosen won the previous four nominated races.  Neither the young athletes, nor their startled parents/representatives had experienced anything like this before.  Some of the athletes selected wore it as a ‘badge of honour’, others were nonplussed, while those having to travel back interstate perhaps found it somewhat inconvenient.  I thought I’d share the process so those who are selected in the future know what they’re in for…

No translation required...

No translation required…

There was some concern that 13-and-14 year-old riders are too young to be tested, but ASADA have confirmed there is no ‘age minimum’ – which makes sense when you think of the age some international level gymnasts and divers for example.  However, this sort of testing can only be done at a ‘national level event’, which the NJTS qualifies as.  The other reason its not done all that often at junior level is the cost – in the vicinity of $700 to $1000 per test (depending what they’re testing for).

Once an athlete is selected, they are notified and allocated with a stalker – sorry, a chaperone.  This ASADA chaperone, of the same sex, then can’t let the athlete out of their sight until they have delivered both a urine sample and blood sample.  It was quite funny watching the targeted athletes wandering around with their ‘shadow’ following close behind.  All the chaperones were terrific about their role and provided information and support for their athlete.

The difficulty with the urine sample is it needs to be of a certain quality, or strength, to be acceptable, and drinking lots of water actually dilutes the sample, so care needs to be taken when trying to bring on a wee!  In terms of how it is taken… the chaperone watches the athlete produce the sample.  The athlete must be naked from the top of their thighs to above their belly button.  I assume so they can’t have a hidden urine store and feed that into the sample jar?  As these were junior riders, an athletes representative (or ‘witness’) watches the chaperone, watching the athlete, give the sample.  The witness remains with the athlete through the whole process.

This part of it was all pretty easy really, with no issues with any of the four samples.  The process from here is a bit of messing around – ‘messing’ being the operative word.  The rider pees into a jar, then must transfer this urine into two sample tubes.  These tubes are self locking and the athlete actually picks a random pack from a selection; checks they are unopened/still sealed; and goes ahead with the transfer… some more successfully than others… but you know what they say, don’t cry over spilt urine!

The urine collection tubes. These come in a randomly chosen sealed box and, once the sample is in them, are self-locked and tamper-proof.

The urine collection tubes. These come in a randomly chosen sealed box and, once the sample is in them, are self-locked and tamper-proof.

At this point, the athlete must fill in quite a bit of paperwork including checking the numbers on the lockable tubes match and writing these numbers down onto their paperwork.  The paperwork asks if the athlete is on any medication or had any medicines, creams, potions, tablets or the like.  It’s pretty thorough and includes things like pain killers.

The challenge with the blood sample is that it can’t be taken until two-hours after the athlete’s last race… so they need to hang out and let their body recover enough for blood to be taken.  This is were there was some angst amongst a couple of the selected interstate athletes – or more so their team managers – as there were flights to catch and in one case it was going to be tight!

This is an important lesson for all riders/team managers – allow enough time when attending national level events for a potential doping control when booking your return travel.

So the blood tests again were pretty straight forward.  The ASADA representatives did the interstate riders first and a qualified nurse was on-hand to expertly take the blood.  A similar process of the blood going into self-sealing tubes and checking of labels is undertaken; some final paperwork filled in and signed; and then it was off the airport in plenty of time to make our flights.

Blood sample tubes in jars in bags… pretty secure I reckon!

Blood sample tubes in jars in bags… pretty secure I reckon!

The pack that eventually goes to the lab just has numbers on it – with no names.  And these numbers match up to the collected samples.  The athlete doesn’t let the sample out of their sight until it’s all finished and locked away in yet another sealable, tamper proof bag.

At the end of the day, the athlete needs to know their rights and in this case, they were encouraged to ask lots of questions and had the whole process explained to them in a step-by-step fashion.  The athlete also has the opportunity to add notes to the form if something has happened that you didn’t like or thought may have been out of order.

A step-by-step guide of the testing process can be found here.  ASADA has also recently produced some videos with athletes talking about their first tests (a couple of junior cyclists even make an appearance!):

It definitely was a fairly detailed process but I thought it was handled sympathetically by all involved.

Personally I still have some reservations about the whole Strict Liability policy and even the impost of the whole Whereabouts system, but I guess until there is a better way to ensure we are racing in a clean sport athletes will have to put up with these inconveniences as just part of what they do.

Another good resource, and something I know that any rider selected in a State Team in Victoria has to do (along with their parents), is this level 1 anti-doping test.  It’s a bit clumsy, but I understand that a new and improved version is set to be launched in December.

Round two of the NJTS is in Melbourne on the weekend of the 15th and 16th November.

I guess this post is inspired – maybe the wrong word – perhaps in response to so many of the negative comments I came across in articles about Simon Gerrans after the Road World Champs.  A lot of Anglophone cycling fans seem the think Gerro is nothing but a wheel-sucker.  They give him no credit for his uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time; to seemingly nominate races he wants to do well in and then go and do well in them; even just for finishing at the pointy end of so many tough races.

Is Mark Cavendish a wheel-sucker?  He must be: he sits on his team-males wheels, and any other wheel he can find, until the last 200m where he unleashes a withering sprint to try and steal victory.  I know its not quite the same, but Gerro is a handy sprinter – especially from a small group.

Did he do the wrong thing only pulling one turn in the run into the finish with Cancellara at Milano-San Remo the other year then coming around him to take the win?  Maybe ask Gerry Ryan (OGE Team Owner) if he did the wrong thing!

Cancellara towing Gerro and Nibali to the finish line in the 2012 edition of M-SR.

Cancellara towing Gerro and Nibali to the finish line in the 2012 edition of M-SR.

I’m still relatively new to the sport and don’t fully understand ‘old skool’ race etiquette and the like, but this is World Tour we’re talking about… not some C-grade race at the local combine.

Should he have chased on the weekend when away with six others trying to close down Kwiatkowski and falling agonisingly short of a rainbow jersey?  No one other than Gilbert was doing a turn so why single out Gerro?  Gerro had Michael Matthews in a group not far behind and it very easily could have come back together and if it did, I’m sure he would have been expected to lead Bling out so it was important he save as much energy as possible.  If he had been the odd one out and had chased, you can bet he wouldn’t have won silver.

I did pose the question of wheel-sucking to a couple of old-skool coaches who have done a bit of racing, at home and abroad, in their time and they both came back with very similar responses:

At Continental level and below, the wheel suck isn’t tolerated as well as at the Pro Tour level, they will be abused verbally and be pulled or pushed off wheels.  One of the reasons for this is that riders are hoping to be noticed so will do whatever it takes to ensure they have the best chance.  Another reason is that there aren’t as many cameras around so you aren’t going to get caught on film shoving some guy into the gutter.

And this:

It’s is a bloody-well race, not a bunch ride! No one pulls a turn in Europe unless it is to their overall advantage in some way. Why oh why do we beat up on the gift that Gerrans has?!? He is capable of getting into race winning selections (small bunches) and then outsprinting them! Your typical ITT beast or Dutch/Belgian stomper who also escapes in these groups generally lack the sprinting legs, sprinters cannot get up the punchy hills or spend that amount of time in the lactic-anaerobic zone before they blow (if it is flat)… Gerrans has all that covered and does it so easily that we write him off as a wheel sucker…

As well as this:

Sorry, in Europe nice guys finish last and end up working as domestiques for their career.  If that is what they want and find fulfilment in that role – all good, however, don’t go whinging about “wheel suckers”.  That word roughly translates to “smart tactician” in continental Europe. Over there, strong teams will dispatch wheel suckers if they don’t want them around and conversely a “good tactician” can wheel suck all day and avoid getting binned in a race.

What about advice for the kids:

Do everything you can that is technically allowed to win a race, if you aren’t doing that, then um… have a go at triathlon, it might be more your thing. Only expend energy IF it is in YOUR best interests (e.g. you’re working for someone else in the team or your contribution to the breakaway is required for YOU to obtain the desired result on the finish line). You don’t pull a turn because people are yelling at you to do it, you pull a turn so you end up better placed at the end of the race (i.e. in your best interests).

And still some more advice (by the way, CyclingDad doesn’t necessarily endorse this advice):

Kids can do all of the above, negotiate a chop, set up a gate keeper to back the wheel sucker off or… put them in the dirt!  It sounds terrible but at least getting them to gain the skills and knowledge about it while not condoning it helps prepare them for what can happen.  Oh, and if you suck a wheel at Footscray, you’ll get a punch in the mouth!

And one final word:

Aussies in particular view cycling in terms of strongest over smartest (and cycling as an individual rather than team sport). Best evidence of this IS the world championship results (put Caleb Ewan to one side for the moment). We are monsters in the ITT world, but when it comes to the art of road racing, you only see brief sparks of brilliance in the Elites (Cromwell and Gerrans) and the odd anomaly like Caleb (who did spend half an U19 season in France learning the art, prior to his stint in the jayco u23s).  Simon rode like a consummate professional European road racer to achieve the silver and deserves it entirely.

So, is Simon Gerrans a wheel suck?  Not in anyone with any knowledge in the art of cycling’s opinion. And in terms of winning… it doesn’t happen that often, especially at World Tour level, so do whatever you can to give yourself the best chance.

In the pro tour, 'wheel sucker' translates best to 'smart tactician'… and they don't come any smarter than our Gerro.

In the pro tour, ‘wheel sucker’ translates best to ‘smart tactician’… and they don’t come any smarter than our Gerro.

Count the sleeps, the first round of the NJTS is only days away.  This will be CyclingDad’s fourth series, so I’ve compiled a bit of a cheat sheet for those new to the whole experience.  Much of this comes from a cranky old Victorian cycling coach who gave his OK to share it with you… Onya Cam!

Be warned, if you’re making finals, this is the most racing you’ll ever do anywhere, anytime.  Looking at the program for day one, if you make every final you’ll have seven (U15) or eight (U17) races in a four-to-five-hour period.  And they’re not exactly easy races – they’re against the best riders in the country!

So that’s an average of a race-every-half-hour or so… if only it worked like that!  It doesn’t and, for example, if you’re a JM17 rider, on day one you could very easily go from racing the points race final straight into the sprint final with only one other three-lap sprint final in-between.  So you’ll come from the track, straight onto the fence waiting for the next race – no cool down or anything!

The organisers run an elimination as the final event on the second day – the elimination is event most likely to cause crashes and to run it as the last event on the last day when riders are at their most fatigued is challenging to say the least – but they do it on purpose, to deliberately put the athletes under duress to see how they cope.

The fourth edition of the National Junior Track Series starts this weekend.  Are you ready for it?

The fourth edition of the National Junior Track Series starts this weekend. Are you ready for it?

So what are some tricks and tips to getting through a round of the NJTS:

  • Remember to pack everything – make a list and cross it off – license, skin suit (spare kit in case of crash), shoes, helmet, undershirts, gloves, sox, chamois cream (you’ll need it)
  • Check the weather and pack accordingly – arm and leg warmers and a long sleeve jersey if forecast is for cool conditions, maybe an ice vest if it’s hot.
  • Remember essential spares – although the host state is usually pretty generous if you do end up needing something.
  • Check your equipment and make sure everything is adjusted correctly – Have you grown?  Do you need a bike fit?  Is your saddle loose?  Fix it this week, not the morning before you travel.
  • Plan your week – maximise rest, try to avoid late nights and eat smart.
  • Wear comfortable clothes to travel in – tracksuits are popular – and plan your meals around your travel – don’t rely on airport food!
  • Don’t pack your multitool, allen keys, etc in your carry on luggage – they will be confiscated!  Tape them to the inside if your bike box.
  • Bring plenty to eat and drink – snacks won’t cut it for a 4-hour+ program, you’ll need some solids to help settle your stomach with all the fluids you’ll be taking in.
  • Check the program as soon as it comes out… know what heats you’re in, what number position you’ve drawn in the keirin… hopefully your Team Manager is all over this, but it’s also up to you to know what’s going on.  Especially if you qualify for finals or consolation races like the Robin and Cyclone Sprints.
  • Have your gearing set and checked – especially if you’ve just gone up an age-group – and be aware if you are going to change gears between events just how much time you have.  If you’ve moved from 15’s to 17’s ask yourself honestly if you can push the new gear in a race like the elimination or points race.  If you can’t, ride a gear you know you can push and still be there at the end.
  • Remember there’s no such thing as a stupid question for a junior at an event like this – so ask your Team Manager or your Coach if you’re unsure about anything.
  • Between events make an attempt to watch other races as well.  Try and learn from the better riders.  Pay attention to their tactics.  You are amongst Australia’s best junior athletes so there’s a good chance you’re learn something.
Here's a good table of food and water ready for the long day NJTS ahead.

Here’s a good table of food and water ready for the long day NJTS ahead.

I’m sure there’s other advice other parents and athletes can offer in the comments section below.

Good luck, have fun and remember – you don’t really want to be going great now… you want to going great at the end of February next year!