Where do you want to go?
I've been thinking a lot about this, as over the past few years with working for Hilton (it's been almost 4 years!) in the Victorian Sprint Group program, we've seen some amazing growth and some brilliant results. It's not all been perfect, of course, lots of hard lessons have been learned and there's more to come. One of the things we need to consider is pathways into the VSG. Until reasonably recently, we'd pretty-much say yes to anyone that wanted to have a go, sprinters being rare animals. But, these days, we've got a pretty good hotbed of talent here and the VSG is full.
So what do we do with the kids that want to have a go?
We need pathways into the squad. I very briefly discussed this with Hilts yesterday, and it's softly-softly at the moment, but some ideas to toss around, based mainly on talent ID, where talent isn't just being able to ride quickly as a J15, but also being committed. We (Hilts and I) put our hearts and souls into the VSG, it's all consuming for both of us, and we expect that riders in the program are equally committed. If you're committed and prepared to bust your arse for years, we'll move heaven and earth to make the program fit you in.
How do you, as a J15 or a J17, show commitment? It's easy to see speed, just race fast. Are you in it for the long haul or just dabbling for a bit of fun before you go and do something else? There's nothing wrong with dabbling, but the VSG is not for that.
Is it realistic to expect a J17 to show long term commitment? I think it is, to a point. If you can't ever see yourself as being an Olympian sprinter, then you're dabbling - if it's something that you want, now, then we're interested in you. We know things change, and life intervenes all the time, but if it's not on the radar, you shouldn't be wasting our time. The kids I've fed up into the VSG want (at the moment) to be Olympians, Perko and Anna are their heroes. This is really important.
So, some pathways, I run a sprint group outside of the VSG, which you all know about, the aboc Sprint Squad, it's a bunch of masters guys and developmental kids and some senior riders who for various reasons aren't in state development squads (but may be working towards them). That's one pathway into the VSG - if you ride in my squad, I'll see you, and see how committed you are as well as if you have physical talent. If and when the time is right, I feed you up the chain into the VSG. I've done this with a few riders so far. This means paying me though, and that's possibly open to suggestions of nepotism, it certainly can't be the only way in and it isn't.
Other pathways - work with another coach, specialise in sprint (if you can find a coach that will let you as a J17 or J15, they're rarer than they should be), get them to speak to Hilts if you're showing the right stuff. Win sprint at Junior Vics beating the kids in the VSG, that's sure to get our attention! Get spotted by a coach or testing through Cycling Victoria, as an example Carnegie-Caulfield riders sometimes get pulled up into the VSG if they show enough talent at their club training sessions or testing sessions.
There's others - if you think of some, I want to know!
Not everyone's happy
Earlier this week CA announced that J17 gear restrictions would be lifted to a 7.0 meter rollout, which is around 90 gear inches, it was to be lifted to 86" (6.75m), up from the previous limit of 82" (6.5m).
Many of you reading here know I am very much in favour of this, but not everyone is pleased. I hope to calm the storm a little, or at least provide some argument in favour. Note please that this is my opinion, and I am not representing any organisation except for aboc Cycle Coaching (me!) when I write this. Furthermore, I don't have any influence on the people that made the decision that I am aware of. I don't even know who they are.
Enough with the preamble ...
Firstly, the rule change does not mandate that every J17 rider ride 90". It means they are allowed to, which is not at all the same thing. J19's are allowed to ride up to 104" or something, they don't, because they usually can't. I work with J19's who can squat small cars and deadlift your fridge, full ... they're not anywhere near being able to rev out the J19 gear restriction yet,. and managing them through J17's is a challenge (be patient, your time will come, being restricted to 82" sucks, but next year ... repeat and hope the kid buys in to the argument).
If a J17 is a great revver, they will choose smaller gears, if they're a big, strong kid, they will push bigger gears. Up 'til now the rules have biased against strong kids and towards super-revvers, at least in sprint, which is where my attention is focused. I expect it's the same in enduro circles. Big, strong kids can't rev as fast as the hummingbirds (heavy legs, can't move 'em quite as quick, but they can accelerate!). We build kids up to be strong so that they can be competitive as J19's and seniors, and not spend another 6 years trying to get them strong enough, this is an even bigger task with girls than it is with boys - they put muscle on a lot more slowly than boys. One of the causes for the loss of elite sprinters after J19 is the almost insurmountable gulf between a J19 and a senior (hey, kid, race Perko, who is pushing 108" or more and Anna who is superstrong! good luck ...). I've interviewed a number of guys who've given it up after J19's and this is a common theme. They don't want to spend 5 or more years getting smacked before they're even at a level where they can keep up and not be embarrassed.
By better preparing J17's to use bigger gears, we hope to lift the standard in J19, and thus, make the transition to senior riders be less daunting. If J17's filters out a lot of the strong kids in favour of super spinners (which, at present, it does), that means J19's are in general, weaker than they could otherwise be as a population, and then less likely to manage the jump into senior ranks. There's loads of examples of this in sprint in recent memory, in particular in the girls, but also many of the boys have failed to make the jump past J19. This is for many reasons, but one is that the jump is too big for most of them to manage in a realistic timeframe.
Some of my colleagues have mentioned that by allowing J17's to push 90", that this will kill the sport and other hyperbole (and a half!), or that we shouldn't change a working formula (hey, it's NOT working! We bleed riders after J19, you haven't noticed?! Where are they all?). Nonsense. The current situation is that strong kids are held back (and they're often some of the best talents, so they go off and play some sport where their talent isn't nobbled), hummingbirds prosper and the less talented kids are off the back on 82". The only difference by allowing bigger gears is that the strong kids will be able to keep up with the hummingbirds. The less talented, or younger, or less developed kids will be off the back no matter what anyway. It happens now, it will continue to happen. I don't think much else will change. If it does, the rules can be changed again.
And this is the rub. Many are suggesting that club racer kids will give it up because 90" is too big and they can't keep up, there'll be no tactical development etc etc. Here's the thing. At club level, clubs are free to introduce their own gear restrictions anyway. You want a race where no-one can push bigger than 82" - NO PROBLEM! Just put it in the race rules. Brunswick did this on Saturday, everyone was on 90" (magic number?!) and it was great. Close races, lots of skill and tactical development. GOOD! We had first year J19's (the ones I trained overgeared last year and got strong and who hated being forced to ride 82" in competition) keeping up with senior sprinters, which made for good training races. But, for opens, state and national championships, the talented kids should be allowed to display their physical talent. It may well keep them in the sport longer and help us find the next group of champions. State and National titles are not "every kid's a winner" races, they're championships and the best kids should be able to win them.
I'm sure there will be people who will cite examples of successful riders who came through our current system, they do exist, and this is good (look closely at their development path before you cite them though, some will surprise you at how they got into the system, Cadel rode MTB, Matthew Glaetzer was a pole vaulter and did not come through gear restricted juniors etc), but we can do better (we have to, everyone else is!) and we can't say everything is great because some physiological freaks have survived it, if they even came through it. Our rules and development programs should not be judged by the success of the very rare genetically gifted athletes that pop up, but rather by the health of the whole ecosystem.
Finally, the knee injury furphy. Where's the corpses? We train our guys overgeared ALL the time, putting out much greater torque and power numbers than anyone else in the state (wanna bet?! I have data ... ), I have not seen a single knee injury. Not one. If a kid isn't strong enough to push a gear (86, 90, whatever) they simply won't be able to push it. They can grind at 60rpm up a hill (that's ok ...) in a road race out at Eildon or the 1:20 etc already if they want or have to. Knee overuse injuries come from throwing kids at huge miles and on badly fitted bikes, not from pushing a gear that's too big for them.
So there you go. I don't think it will kill anything, I think it's for the long term good of developing better senior riders
Thank you Brunswick!
Last Saturday afternoon (juniors) and evening (J19's and seniors) Brunswick ran the first of their "DISC-O" night Saturday racing. I'd had a little input into their race format. As anyone reading this knows, my big beef (apart from actual beef!) is that there's never enough racing for sprinters and we wanted to redress that a little.
The format had some of the usual enduro stuff, but it had abbreviated flying 200's (two lap windup) and lots of baby keirins. This is a format that I nagged Max Stevens about until he capitulated for the NJTS for this summer, and I can say, it works! It works really well. The baby keirins were 3 laps (kids) and 4 laps for the seniors (and we'll make them 4 laps for everyone from now on I think), with the bike swinging off with 1.5 laps to go. This is a pure sprinters keirin on little gears. Seniors were restricted to 90". Just about everyone was buzzing about how much fun it was, and how close most of the racing was (and no crashes in any of the sprint events). It was great to see how many of the guys learned and practiced keirin tactics in a low pressure, but very close and intense, format. Everyone got three keirins in the racing.
I got to have a bit of a look at some of the juniors and see if any showed any spark too, so that was handy.
Tick that one off as a win, a big thanks to the guys at BWK for having the courage to run it, in particular Cam McFarlane and David Morgan who made it entertaining and kept everything moving along well.
The seductive argument that practice alone makes champions is wrong
Ok, many of you have heard the story by now, train/practice for 10,000 hours and you will be the best in the world, a champion, an outlier etc. It's the stuff of dreams, you can be the best if you just work hard enough. That's an idea that sells a lot of books.
Unfortunately, it's wrong. Or to be generous, it's incomplete.
I first read about this 10,000 hour thing in Dan Coyle's "The Talent Code". A good book, with lots of things to learn from from a coaching perspective. I've adopted a lot of what Coyle wrote about in my coaching practice, it's good stuff, but it's missing something fundamental. It's also the fundamental argument made by Mathew Syed in "Bounce". Notably, Syed is a table tennis player, perhaps not the most physical of sports. In the recently published "The Secret Olympian" (anon, but it's a British rower, a bit of googling will tell you who wrote it), "anon" writes :
Syed's argument in Bounce - train enough and you'll be excellent at whatever you choose - is seductive. It's probably true for table tennis. But in general, it's wrong. As Bas van de Goor neatly states, 'You can learn to play volleyball; you can't learn to be tall. Genetics count'.
These guys are not going to be successful volleyballers, not if they spend 20,000 hours of practice in the best hotbed in the world. Genetics matter. You can't be an elite athlete in most sports without winning the genetic lottery at birth. Sure, if you train you will improve, but how good can you get? Can you be the best at the world at whatever you choose to? Only if you've got the right genes. If you want to sprint, and you don't have working ACTN3, forget being elite. It just won't happen.
ACTN3 is just one of many factors influencing athletic performance
At the highest levels of performance ACTN3 genotype certainly make a big difference: among Olympic-level sprinters the frequency of individuals carrying two disrupted ACTN3 copies is vanishingly low (less than 3%, compared to ~18% in the general population). However, this large effect is due to the exceptionally strong selection that occurs during the slow climb to the Olympic level. The vast majority of athletes who start that climb will never make it to the top; those who do will be the tiny minority who have nearly everything in their favour, including the right genes.
So super-elite athletes need to have the right ACTN3 combination, but they also have to have a whole host of other factors working in their favour – this one gene is just a minor ingredient in a large and complex recipe. In fact, most studies performed so far suggest that ACTN3 explains just 2-3% of the variation in muscle function in the general population. The rest of the variation is determined by a wide range of genetic and environmental factors, most of which (particularly the genetic factors) are very poorly understood.
So what does that mean?
You can train your backside off, but unless you're gifted with the right genes, you're not going to be an Olympian. You will improve, but your upper limits are genetic. Having the right genes is not enough, not by a long shot, the world is littered with people with the genes to be superb who for whatever reason ended up couch potatoes, but it is a very important part of mix if you want to be an elite athlete.
Quick notes from Adelaide's professional development week :
Team sprints - it may be faster to be spread out more, but really good at holding the line behind the lead rider - it may be that the slipstream is longer than a "perfect" team sprint needs, but is very narrow. We'll do some fun experiments to work this out, look for a motorbike chasing a rider, with a few bits of welding wire and streamers attached!
Peak torque really does matter.
We can learn a lot from how much speed is maintained (or how quickly it decays) after it hits peak. Ie: the power required to slowly decelerate is much less than that which is required to hold constant speed, timing where we hit peak speed in a flying 200 is even more important than we've been thinking it was. (later is better!) - averages are misleading at best when it comes to analyzing sprint performance with power meter software. Have a look at Anna's data from her old world record. Look at the power put out while speed (slowly) decays. Remember KE = 1/2 m.v^2. Which is to say, momentum matters.
Female sprinters are a long term project - making them strong is a priority for their success in the long term. I am not alone in thinking this. Those of you who are female reading this - if you're not already - GET STRONG and be prepared for it to take a long time to happen. Anna spent 10 years getting strong. It's paying off now in spades. She spent her junior days being kicked in the arse by her sister, but she kept on getting strong and look at her now. Junior stars don't always become senior stars, the quick route to success isn't necessarily the best for long term development, ESPECIALLY for girls, ESPECIALLY where the rules are such that strong kids get handicapped by small gears. (we all know my rant on that!)
Get strong, go fast. Simple!
For the future of sprint cycling, we need to get masters sprinting
When I was a little kid, my dad told me about when he swam (he was very good, broke Australian records, swam world-class times) and played rugby. These things had a lasting impression on me. I swam as a kid, and played rugby (union, of course ... real rugby!), from pretty-much as soon as I could. What our parents do, sports-wise, many of us follow. For example, Shane Perkins, current world champion in the keirin, his father raced track and was no bunny. Shane is by no means an isolated example. Most of the sprinters we see have been inspired to race by their parents.
Not all of them, of course, follow in their parents footsteps so if that was all we relied on for new blood, eventually the pool would run dry. How do we find new juniors who want to sprint? One way is to get parents to have a go. A recent example is Emily Apolito, her dad took up track cycling as a master when she was around 9 or 10 years old, she saw how much he enjoyed it and she gave it a go and is now a very promising junior track sprinter. Think also of Will and Bridge Thomas, inspired by their father, I can go on, there are many juniors who started up after their parents had a go, who's parents maybe weren't Olympians like Daryl Perkins, maybe they started later in life but they found that they loved it and their enthusiasm rubbed off onto their kids.
So masters matter, not just because they make good guineapigs for coaches to test new methods on(!) but also because they bring with them their families, who grow the sport as juniors, starting off at ages young enough that their potential can be realised. Masters are in it for fun, but they bring so much more than just an entry fee to a race. We must encourage and support them.
So here I am in Adelaide for another week
I've been very lucky in this sprint coaching caper. Right from the start. So here I am in Adelaide again, after a weekend's assisting Hilton with the Vic VIS and TID kids at a sprint camp. Now I'm spending this week (I'm here for the first week of a three week junior worlds preparation camp) with Sean Eadie, assisting him as much as I can, working on The Book some more. Amazing opportunity to learn and develop, and hopefully be a tiny bit useful to Sean for the week too.
The water here still sucks, and finding an open supermarket on a weekend is a challenge, but that's Adelaide for you!
The weekend's racing was good - everyone learned a lot and developed skills and confidence. The format was similar to the SSS, which as we know, works!
Laps of DISC yesterday, on the CBF250 ... Motorpacing doing 250m MAC's. Can anyone say "bloody cold"?!
I'll be all over the place!
July 2011, it's going to be busy. I'm going to Adelaide with the NTID and VIS kids on the 22nd for a sprint race meeting for J17's and J19's and then staying on for a week to assist/learn/get in the way with the pre Junior Worlds camp. The camp is three weeks long and takes the kids going to Moscow from the race meeting on the 23rd and 24th through 'til their departure to Moscow. I've been given the opportunity to stay with them for the first week and assist Sean Eadie. Along the way hopefully I'll get a lot of learning done. I'm looking forward to it, but I will be away from home for a week and will miss a couple of our winter DISC sessions.
In actual fact, I'm probably going to miss almost all the DISC sessions through July, on the 16th and 17th I'm (assuming it goes ahead) doing a whitewater rescue course. So I will probably miss that weekend also, and this coming Sunday I can't make it either. I've written a program that the guys can do without needing much guidance. Nathan's going to run this Sunday, I'll work something out for the others that I can't make. Ergo anyone?! Nah ... I didn't think so! Anyway, it's going to be hectic, this July.
I do have heaps of reading to do. I believe that any good coach needs to read widely and understand a lot of "stuff", so one of my current reads is a textbook on exercise physiology. Things are going well in the 'Haus, I lifted an equal PB deadlift yesterday (and can feel it today .. stairs .. urgh!), power's been down a bit on the bike for the last couple of sessions, but I think that'll come good soon. the other sprint squad people and assorted ring ins are all lifting well and their numbers are getting better on the track too. It's all good!
$20 and you can have one too!
It's a really big step ...
For those of you who don't know, here in Australia juniors are limited in the gears that they can use. Under 15s are restricted to no greater than 6 meters of rollout (~76") and under 17s to 6.5m (~82"). Under 19's are, to all intents, unrestricted.
This is not a rule without its detractors. It is my understanding that the rule is designed for a couple of reasons - firstly, to protect the kids from hurting their knees and secondly to level the playing field to encourage and support participation. It may also be designed to teach the kids to spin high revs (how else can you go fast on a little gear?!).
There are some consequences of this rule which I think (and I am not alone here, it was discussed at a recent sprint coaching forum at the Junior Aussies and my voice was not the only one) are inhibiting the development of some potential elite athletes.
The rule as it stands means that J15 and J17 sprinters have to be able to rev to very high cadences - we're talking in excess of 160rpm for the boys, for the girls it's around 150rpm to be competitive nationally. In elite level senior competition, that is not a requirement and stronger guys who can push bigger gears prosper with peak cadences nowdays around 145-150rpm for the men. But the rule discriminates against the stronger kids in favour of the super-spinners. The stronger kids can create greater force (torque) and potentially greater power, but if they're limited by cadence they don't get to benefit from this strength as much as they should be able to. We don't handicap the big kids in athletics, football or any other sport. We don't tell the big kids in football that they're not allowed to jump higher than the littler kids to win the ball or tell them not to kick a goal from 45 metres out because that's not fair to the littler kids who can't do it yet.
The super-spinners then, at the end of J17's (and the bleed through of this into J19's) run into the stronger riders and it's a big shock. This is when we lose a lot of them. There's other things going on too at that age, school gets harder, alcohol, cars, relationships and so on become bigger deals, but I suspect that the transition to the open playing field from the shelter of the J17 and below gearing rule is brutally hard and breaks the spirit of the super-spinners, who may have already broken the spirit of the stronger and heavier kids who may well be better in unrestricted competition but got sick of being beaten by the kids who the rules favour when they were younger. This ultimatly doesn't help the super-spinners either because they're playing on a field that's made to suit them, but it's going to change when they get older and they may be so addicted to winning by revving that they can't cope emotionally when it's time to play with the big kids, especially if they're convinced through their own limited experience that all they need is revs and they'll win everything.
So if this is a problem, what should we do about it? I don't buy into the "save their knees" issue - I'm yet to see any evidence in support of it. We overgear the kids all the time in training and I've never seen a problem. Even on big gears the peak torque the kids can put out is no-where near what they'd do on the school playground jumping on a football field or doing gymnastics or anything else we think nothing of all the time. Assuming that's the case, I think the rule should change. I think J17's, at least, should be allowed to ride bigger gears. Because you can ride a bigger gear doesn't mean you have to, and I know at least one junior who is so amazingly quick on tiny gears that they would not go up a gear even if they had the choice. It would be a rider's choice to use a bigger gear and a smart rider wouild choose the gear that worked best for them, just like they get to do in J19's and above. The transition to J19 would be less harsh for those who were thinking ahead to it, especially the girls, who need to get strong early because otherwise it's very hard for them to get strength later in life.
Not quite what I had in mind, but they are sprints ...
aboc, ie: me, is sponsoring this; Blackburn's running five sprint nights at DISC over "winter". The rough program is this :
Flying 200 for grading.
1.5 lap dashes (4 riders at a time I think)
Team sprints (graded by your f200, not able to nominate your own team - this is still being 'discussed', I am not happy about not being able to nominate my own team or starting order). These at least will be no longer than 3 laps (they originally wanted 4 laps, huh? What 'team sprint' has 4 laps? And then expects the poor bugger that rode 4th to race again in 15 minutes?!)
1k handicap, held start, no push (The kilo is dead, no-one trains for it anymore ... why is this in the program? To embarras sprinters?)
Scratch races for the leftovers
If there's enough time, keirins to finish.
I will only be racing the F200, team sprint (assuming an acceptable team and I'm lead rider) and the keirin, assuming the program doesn't have to be cut short because there's too much going on. The other stuff is just silly and I'm not doing it.
Those of you who were at the last round of the SSS will know that the above is not what I planned, but since I'm not running this, it is what it is and it's better than a night of scratch, points, h'cap and/or motorpaces. It's a start. If it's a bit successful, we can lobby to make it different for later rounds or next year etc.
So that's tonight's festivities at DISC.
I've been pretty busy with the NTID squad and helping Hilton for the last few weeks, as well as coaching in the 'Haus a lot, running Spin, Sunday DISC sessions, and that's my excuse for not writing much here in May. I have loads ot writing to do for The Book too ... lots of gaps to fill!
Why everyone defaults to enduro
How do most people get started in a sport? Usually it's at school, or you get invited by a few friends to join a team etc. Most of the 'sharp' sports (Olympic or other elite level, football, criocket etc) get their talent young, at schools or by blind luck and co-incidence. Then there's everyone else who maybe missed that boat.
Why did you start riding your bike? Most of the people I speak to (and after almost a decade of coaching, that's quite a large sample) started out wanting to get fit. They're mostly older (not juniors, most of my coaching clients have been masters age or mid 20's starters), mostly got a bike, went off and rode Beach Road, did maybe a few things like the Bay in a Day or the Alpine Classic (or wanted to but didn't think they could). They saw Glenvale, got interested and had a go (it's easy to start with crits). Kids do it a bit differently, maybe it's a school around the bay program, or they pick it up from their parents, who maybe raced or are racing.
What do they do? Endurance racing. It's all endurance. Crits, 90% of track racing (certainly Blackburn's track program is endurance based, I expect most other clubs do the same or similar), road racing ... everyone's doing endurance.
The same thing with running, there may be a few sprint races at schools and a couple of the fast kids go off and get popped into little aths or similar if they're lucky enough to have a PE teacher who notices and is well enough connected to get them started, but everyone does the cross-country run, adults train for half marathons or triathalons. Who trains for sprints? Who even thinks they could? Very few people, in my experience.
I want to change this. I want sprint to be big. I want YOU to have a go, and if you've got kids, to have your kids exposed to sprint. It's the pointy end of the sport and it is not inaccessable. We're making more sprint races, we run a sprint series, we want YOU to have a go.
International competition, oh my
5 days in an insulated-from-reality-bubble. Wake up, go to velodrome (via shops) - assist Hilton, assist Sean Eadie, push riders, council riders, congratulate/commiserate riders. 12-14 hours later, go back to motel, take 3 hours to unwire enough to get some sleep, repeat ...
My first taste of real international elite competition and I'm hooked. Sprint camp was one thing, this was a step up. In a way it was more of the same, we had a lot more support - mechanics (Ian, Gary, Tony, thank you!), to look after all the bikes, wheel changes etc, support staff to handle all the odd jobs (Josh, Emily, thankyou! you guys were great). Hilton ran the warmups from his throne in the pits and we both looked after the riders during racing. We had a squad of 7 core riders and a few we helped out, at some points we were over-supplied with people to help, at other times there wasn't enough of us. We did good things, we made mistakes, we learned. We learned and we learned ..
Our sprint guys did very well, we got some medals to bring home and everyone learned a lot. A highlight was seeing Imogen and Taylah racing in the Keirin final with Anna Meares (and Immy's ride to qualify for it, glued to Anna's wheel!), Nathan's storming first lap in his team sprint and Jaron's jammed in the middle of a 4 wide sandwich in the J19 keirin final. As a first year senior Nath was always going to be behind the 8 ball, but he rode well and has a good picture now of where he has to be (and he can be!).
Some talent to watch out for, a Kiwi girl, Stephanie McKenzie. She won the J19 500m and the sprint, and her 500m start was the best 500m start I've ever seen from a girl. Girl's don't rattle the start gate, Steph did .. Wow. Watch for this one in the not too distant future. Guess what her background is? Gymnastics (explosive power and strength) and Olympic weightlifting. Is there something in this "get the girls strong" idea after all? Anna didn't ride the 500, but any time you get to see her racing is great, she won the sprint and the keirin in the style that we've come to expect. She's a class above the rest at the moment. The world cup will be interesting indeed.
I'm not going to fill this page with details, 5 days of living and working in a surreal bubble has fried my head and I'm still catching up on sleep, but suffice to say it was an amazing experience and a lot of good will come of it. I have a tentative agreement now to be able to do over to the AIS for a couple of weeks and hold Gary West's stop watches etc (learning, learning ...) at a date to be determined and Sean Eadie and I did a little work on The Book. Hilts and Josh (NTID manager) and I had a meeting about how my work with Hilts is going and I got some good constructive critism, there's a few things I need to really concentrate on which is good.
In the mean time, It's round 3 this coming Sunday. Hrm, I think I've been on a track bike once since round 2? If I'm lucky ... I don't think I'll be riding any PB's! heh ...
A huge weekend
Last week I had a bit of a cold, which meant I stayed away from the NTID training session on Wednesday (didn't want to give anyone my bugs) but by Thursday I felt ok. By Friday, my voice was getting pretty croaky, and by Saturday I'd almost totally lost my voice. Now, I'm not a shouter like Hilton, but I do shout at my riders, and every attempt I made to shout encouragement was a feeble squeak! Not ideal for coaching at a championship ... Quite amusing for everyone there though, I'm sure!
The Metros ...
It was a hectic weekend, I had the aboc'ers to look after as well as the VIS and NTID riders. Saturday morning was pursuits and I didn't have too much work to do then, I did walk the line for a couple of riders, including aboc'er Cam Woolcock who got himself a medal, Liz Randall (also a medal, gold!) and Emy Huntsman (NTID endurance) - I made a mistake while giving Emy her pacing, a bad one that may have cost her a gold medal. I need more practice if I'm to do this again at a championship - In my defence, it's not what I'm concentrating on, but I probably shouldn't have done it for Emy. Emy, if you're reading this, again, I'm sorry.
In the afternoon it was time trial time (sprint!) - the aboc Sprint Squad was there in force, Dino, Emily, James, Chris, Cam, Yasmin. All of them rode well, we got a couple of gold medals, a silver or two and a load of PBs on a slow day (thick air and cold). The NTID and VIS girls I was also looking after (although mainly just carrying bikes, Hilton had the floor) rode solid races and as you'd expect, won or placed in everything. That sounds like a big deal, but it is what we expect. The NTID and VIS program cherry picks the best talent, if they don't win everything we're not doing our job.
Sunday ... Sunday's the biggie for me. I love match sprinting. Also coaching the 500 (Emily & Yas, don't worry, the 500 is a very high priority!) but match sprinting stuff is where there's actually something to do on race day, the TT's are all won in the weeks and months leading up to them from the point of view of a coach, match sprinting has a lot more on the spot coach involvement, at junior level in particular. For the TT, all a coach has to do is make sure the rider is at the right brain-space at the start and warmed up well. Match sprinting is another level.
Hilton was going to be busy loading vans to take over to Adelaide, so I was left on the floor to run the show for all the guys. I think I had about 15 or more riders in my care : Dino, Emily, Ruby, Courtney, Madeline, Adele, Caitlin, Yasmin, Stuart (V-Train!), Clint, Emerson, Jacob, Luke, James, Chris. I think that's it? Anyway, Hilts had the NTID and VIS guys do their warmup, I had the aboc'er do theirs (different! but all coaches do things differently).
Then things got messy. It started when the organisers decided (but didn't tell us) that they'd changed the flying 200 from 3 laps to 2. This is a big deal for the 15's and up, they train for 3 laps and last minute changes like this are simply not acceptable, it stuffs up their timing. We made a fuss about it and Hilts managed to get them to change it back for the 19's and above, but it was unfair and caused a lot of angst and slow times by our riders, save for Courtney, who unofficially (the electronic timing didn't work ... I'm not joking, it was a bloody disaster) smashed the JW15 Australian record.
Then some of the races got dropped from the program. I'm not going to mince with words, this is unacceptable. The kids that show up to race care about their racing. They train and they work hard. To have their races chopped from the program to save a few minutes is not on. I'm still very angry about this. One of my guys was heartbroken and there was nothing I could do about it.
After that, the rest of the day went well. My job was to council the guys on tactical decisions and hold them on the line. It looks like I have a conflict of interest when I'm involved in coaching multiple riders who are racing eachother, but I'm careful not to tell one rider anything confidential about the other and I think they all trust me to be ethical in this area - it's important that they do, and that I am 100% on this. If any of you read this, I assure you I will never tell your competion anything about you and I will never tell you anything you don't already know about them either. My main job while in the thick of it is to get the riders feeling confident and motivated (a challenge indeed sometimes!) and to encourage them to be assertive and aggressive on the track, to make their move and commit to it. The older, more experienced sprinters need less tactical guidance and I mostly left them to themselves except to check if they needed anything and give them an ear to talk to if they needed it.
Again, everyone rode well and the NTID/VIS combo swept the field, as they should. My aboc'er did well, with another bootload of medals and a lot of very valuable experience gained for the Vic titles coming up soon.
At the end of the day, Speed is the best tactic. 90% of the races will go to the faster rider, but the thrill is in getting a slower rider over the line first. It happens, and we did it a few times on Sunday.
Leanne Cole got some good photos, go have a look.
Phew .. that's done. I'm off to the Oceanias tomorrow, back on Sunday. More of the same. Bring it on!
Next week I'm off to assist the NTID and VIS guys at the Oceania track championships in Adelaide. That's why we moved Spin forward a week. I'll be carrying Hilton's bags mainly, but it's another great opportunity to gather experience at elite level, even if all I do is carry heavy stuff and push buttons on stopwatches I'll be soaking it all up and learning as much as I can. It'll be quite different to the NTID sprint camp I went to way back in July, where I pretty-much ran the show for all the NTID sprinters for two days, it'll be a good intro to how it's done with more coaches present etc.
I'm supposed to be in at DISC today with the squad (my usual Wednesday, 11am -> 9:30pm or so), but I've got a bit of a cold, it's not enough to stop work etc, but it is probably contageous, so I've pulled the day off so I don't share the bugs with the guys in the squad who are racing the Metros this weekend and/or are going to Adelaide.
Last weekend I was given one of the most enjoyable jobs in cycling, I was asked to commentate at the Country Track Championships. This was heaps of fun, I hope I added some value to the event and didn't make too many mistakes. Two days in a row of full-time commentating is not as easy as it sounds. The next time you get cranky with Phil and Paul, just try doing it yourself! Maybe it's the non-stop yapping that's brought on this cold?
Anyway, I'll be right in a day or two. I spent some of today getting equipment for the 'haus, we now have a pair of 20 and a pair of 25kg bumper plates. These are expensive things, some of the guys are strong enough to need them now (good!). I had another visit to the physio which was positive - my cranky shoulder is slowly improving (about time!) - I got out on the water on Monday evening and surfed some standing waves and felt very happy in whitewater, so that's good. I hope to be able to get some heavy squats done soon. It'll be a long rebuild, I reckon I'll be pretty happy with a 120kg squat to start with! But .. slow progress is good.
How many revs?
Some simple maths today.
A 500m ITT, on a 6.5m rollout (J17 gearing) is 77 revolutions, or about 39 pedal presses per leg. On a 6m rollout (J15), it's 83 revs, 42 per leg. Not much difference!
If the 500m is ridden in, for example, 39.8 seconds on a J15 gear, the average time per revolution is 0.48s, or 0.24s per each leg stroke. The average cadence is ~118rpm. These averages are nonsense, the rider accelerates from a standing start which totally blows the average cadence calculation.
So, how about the flying 200, where the rider will mostly maintain speed for the distance (with some losses in the last 50m or so). Let's take our J15 rider, and a sample time of 13.455 seconds. 200 metres at a 6m rollout is 33.3 revolutions, or about 17 pedal strokes per leg. In 13.455 seconds that's 0.4s per rev, or 0.2s per pedal stroke. If you consider that the leg only produces useful power in a short range of the pedal stroke, let's say about a 60 degree arc, that's two thirds of the pedal stroke that contributes useful power, so our J15 has about 0.13s to push as hard as they can per leg, 34 times (not including the windup, of course). It's even less time if the rider's going faster, of course. The Australian JW15 record for the F200 is 13.310s (Imogen Jelbart) and for JM15 it's 11.968s (Mitch Docker), Immy was spinning at around 150rpm, Mitch at close to 166rpm. At those cadences each leg has around 0.1s to produce power and about 0.15s to recover before doing it again. That's less than the blink of an eye.
I wonder how close the girls can go to the boys as juniors? If the female talent pool was larger would we see JW's keeping up with JM's, at least in the J15 and J17 groups? At these cadences on little gears it's not a strength game, it's how fast you can fire your triple extension and recover to repeat it.
Got to get 'em spinning when they're young ... The game changes in J19 and above, but we've already discussed that here!
They stop going faster, why?
Way back many months ago at (I think) one of the NTID conferences I've been lucky enough to go to, female sprinters were discussed. One very common thing is that many of the ones that do very well in JW15 and JW17 often simply never go significantly faster once they get to JW19.
Why is this?
I have one thought about this, bear with my hypothesis, this is gut feeling not science :
When they're riding JW15 and JW17 the game is all about leg speed because they're restricted to tiny gears. There's a certain amount of strength required (and you see this in the ones that do well out of the starting gate) but it's mainly a game of cadence. This favours the girls who don't necessarily have a lot of strength but can spin like the clappers.
This is pretty obvious; girls aren't boys. From a hormonal perspective, girls have roughly 10% of the testosterone that boys have. Testosterone is the main hormone that drives muscle growth (amongst other things). As such, it's really hard, without cheating, for girls to pack on significant amounts of muscle. They can certainly grow stronger and put on some muscle, but unless they resort to training with the aid of the needle, they never get big and thus, strong enough to push bigger gears at high cadences. The only female sprinters that ever looked like Sean Eadie were cheating (eg Tammy Thomas and Annalisa Cucinotta). Combine this with old-school training methods that has them out riding lots of road miles, which blunts any muscle growth stimulii that they may get from sprint training and you get a kid that can spin, but will really struggle to push bigger gears and thus, go any faster when they're old enough to be able to push bigger gears. We see this with some of the girls I work with, they're amazing as JW15's and JW17's but come JW19 the game changes, and it changes a lot. The stronger girls start to take over and the super-spinners become less dominant.
Why do boys do ok in spite of mixing in lots of road riding? They're awash with anabolic hormones in their late teens and for them it's not too late to undo the damage done to their fast twitch by endurance training. But for the girls, their opportunity, I think, comes a lot earlier and is lost if it's burnt up by too much endurance training.
So, if that's true, or at least on the right track, what do we do to get the girls strong without cheating?
The time when they're growing the most is early to mid puberty. This is when they have the most of the other growth hormone, HGH. This is when they need to be in the gym getting as seriously strong as you can possibly make them, and doing high power and high torque efforts on the bike and NOT DOING ANYTHING CATABOLIC. This means STAY AWAY FROM LONG ROAD RIDES!
Conventional wisdom says keep the kids out of the gym, I say nuts to that and I'm not alone. I'm in favour of getting, in particular, the girls, in the gym as early as possible to get strong so when they're old enough to push big gears, they're strong enough to do it. Keep them doing short, sharp efforts. Anna Meares started as a kid racing BMX. Short and sharp, high power, high cadences and high torque. Shanaze Reade and Willy Kanis are more elite track sprinters who started (and still do) race BMX. You can add the required endurance work later, and that's endurance for dealing with the needs of a track sprinter, which is not the same thing as the endurance needs of an enduro cyclist and should be trained differently. You may pay for this in the short term with them being a bit heavier as JW15's and JW17's because to put on muscle they need an anabolic diet (calorific surplus high in protein and low in the foods enduros live on, ie: simple carbs), but getting the girls strong AND able to push high cadences is, I think, the key to getting them fast in the long term.
It's official now
I have a title :
NTID Victorian Track Sprint Assistant Coach
The Australian Sports Commission is now actually going to pay me. This is great. Paid coaching gigs are few and far between and this is a fantastic opportunity to get paid a bit whilst learning.
The person who writes their own appraisal has a fool for a client and a fool as a supervisor!
On Saturday and Sunday I was "the" coach for the whole NTID group. I have to admit that I loved the situation and while I didn't do everything perfectly, I'm confident that most of the work I did do was good. Some important things got missed though as I was spread very thin and I can, and will, improve my performance in future. I think that the general idea of the camp was best served by my work in the infield, and I think that's what Josh (NTID project coordinator) wanted of me, and on the day he was the boss.
Things I need to get better at on trips include, but aren't limited to, include :
Data gathering - I was too occupied in the middle with tactical briefing and debriefing to keep track of what everyone was geared on and their times. In future if I'm in the same situation (30 riders, one coach) I'd get better organised with co-opting parents into doing the data recording. I also need to have my stopwatch with me all the time and my notebook.
I did have help from one parent who got almost all of the F200 times (100m splits) for pretty-much everyone who was there (thank you, you know who you are), but I didn't get splits from the team sprints, which I should have done. I needed to have a better handle on my helpers. I made the mistake of assuming without checking that we'd be able to get times and splits from the timing team, as I generally can in Melbourne. This was a flawed assumption and not one I will make again.
We did get some notes on the races, but my hand-written race notes are sketchy at best, video is the best tool for this and in future I'd have a cheapy video camera with a load of storage to record all the races, if possible. My VX2100 is too big to cart around to camps when traveling light and it's overkill for tactical analysis work.
I need to get a lot better at recognising people I need to keep an eye on, this will come with more experience and it's something I'm very conscious of.
I may have over-coached some of the kids, but that's hard to judge. I left the older and more experienced riders alone mostly, except to ask them if they wanted or needed any guidance and to help them debrief after their races. With the more experienced guys I basically listened to them and gave them a sounding board pre and post-race without any judgement. I'm confident that that's what they wanted and needed. The younger ones and less experienced ones I was more active in talking to, mainly encouraging them to be more assertive and to take risks (to roll the dice) during races rather than being passive. I may have relied too much on intuition with this, but it's hard to tell. As they days wore on I spoke less to them pre-race and listened and debriefed more after their races, as they got better at making their own plans.
It's a judgement call on how much is too much and I'll get better at reading the guys and giving them what they need without over-doing it.
The only feedback I received afterwards was positive, but I guess that's pretty normal, the people I didn't hear from are the ones I'd be worried about if I'd over or under-done them. Not many kids are good at giving constructive criticism to adults, so I don't expect much immediate negative feedback, even if I totally cocked it up! I didn't get any negative feedback from some of the more confident and senior guys, and they're the ones who're most likely to do so, but again, lack of negative feedback from that group is not an indicator of good coaching. With the NTID kids not from our (Vic) squad I didn't know them well enough to be a lot of help.
Things we need to make sure that, as a team, we take next time includes a good, working track pump that everyone knows how to use! They all packed as light as they could, which meant we didn't have a pump and had to scrounge one. Some team rollers would also have been of benefit, we had to borrow time on other teams rollers in the pits.
When I was in the thick of it in the middle, with all the races happening and the kids wanting guidance it was intense and amazing and I loved it. I have much to learn but this is where I want to be.