Monday, January 09, 2006
Tassie Wrap Up
Well it's better late than never right? That appears to be my mantra at the moment as I finally get the wheels going again after returning to the mainland a week ago - yes a full week ago. After spending time learning about wheel races and remember what it is to go FAST again, I have pretty much been sleeping for the last week - oh yeah and finding a place to live in Melbourne, and training...sounds rough - at least for an athlete ;)
As an appropriate wrap up, I've been trying to decipher the lessons I've learned over the week of racing as to improve upon my results when I return (as I promise you I will) and to give as a guide to any poor North American who thinks it is a good idea to go race Aussie freaks in the dead of winter. Now, don't get me wrong - by freaks I mean the good kind, the freak of nature that I always wished I could be. I'm talking about the Leigh Howards of the world (of which there may only be one) who can compete with some of the fastest men in the world at only 16 years of age, and the Ben Kerstens who can close a 30m gap like it ain't no thing (he does make me think of Dan though who would always get frustrated when Jim Fisher was dropped in a Tuesday night crit - "but you can go over 60km/h for a minute - how on earth can you get dropped? You should be able to close that gap easily" he would say). And the question arises, how does a mere mortal like myself compete with a system that pounds speed and mileage into kids at such a young age?
For those aspiring to compete at the carnivals, I shall start with this - SPEED. Get your leg speed up and work on sub-maximal starts. As the pushers hurl you up to over 20km/h you don't need to go from a dead stop, but getting up to speed quick is the key. Second of all, work on you anaerobic capacity. With most of the races ranging from 2-5 minutes going hard for short bursts is what you are doing - good training, but tough to get off the couch and do. Additionally, everyone here can sprint, so don't count on blowing the field away - as I said earlier, I am in an upsidedown world where my strengths are no longer useful...maybe I will get some Aussie influence while I'm over here.
With those two suggestions encompassing what I think YOU can do to compete, I must make comment about the system over here. I have found myself wondering, over the last 2 weeks, if I had been born in Australia would I still be racing? Would they have found me to be talented enough to put into one of their State institutes at the tender age of 16 (in this hypothetical situation I probably would have started riding earlier!) to rear my cycling talents. All the girls that I was racing where there, not representing teams, but rather their State institute - they have clothing and bikes and one can only presume coaches. I, in fact, would love to sit down and chat to one of the coaches here. Do they do things differently, or do they simply run enough athletes through a sufficiently difficult program that they produce the vats of talented, fast cyclists that they do? The closest to this kind of information we received was from Mark Jamieson's mother who mentioned that he was off to a two week Commonwealth prep camp and as long as he didn't get sick, he was going to compete - they would tell him in which events upon completion of the camp. As an aside, I give a big shout out to Mark as he is super personable and also one of the hardest bike racers I have ever seen. In one of the 16km scratch races, he broke away with a few other fellows from the gun only to drop each one of them and get caught with less than 5km to go. Somewhere near the end, the pack caught and passed him, but he didn't give up and with 3 laps to go he re-caught them. Upon catching the pack he went uptrack and attacked again. It didn't work, but man, it was impressive!
Anyways, I think there is much that we can learn, as Canadians, at both the macro (system) and micro (athlete) level on how they develop their cyclists. Speed from an early age and unbelievable role models seem to be the ticket. On Saturday Alena, Ryan, Chris and myself headed out to the Bay Criterium Series to watch Robbie MacEwan take out the 4th of 5 races. It was pretty incredible to watch as there were at least 3 tour riders in the field (also Baden Cooke and Simon Gerrands - who you ask - that's right, random Australians that we have never heard of ride the tour - and do well!). However, the highlight of the day was in fact getting to talk to the veritable voice of cycling - Phil Liggett. He's a super dude - was awesome with us - chatted a wee bit about Lance. In fact he told us that he was in Calgary for the Cancer fundraiser earlier this year - the funniest comment coming from Lance in a shock of dismay at having to get on his bike when it was -2!
The bottom line is - this is a cycling inspired nation! Coming here has bolstered my desire to be fast and given me a watermark for what is necessary to be world class. Racing over here is like nothing else I've seen - aggressive and fast - and I can't wait to race again (which will luckily be soon in Adelaide). Any bike racer would be lucky to make the journey to the land down under - I'm sure I will come back smarter and faster - not to mention more inspired!