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Entries For: July 2010


What happens to the girls?

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.







The contract is signed

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.




Vicki Pendleton on sprint training

We don't do long rides!

For the benefit of the curious, Vicki Pendleton

is the girl who beat Anna at Beijing for gold in the sprint.  She's worth listening to.




Houston, we have a (small) problem

Our track powertaps are not quite right

I'll cut to the chase (I'm pretty busy working on sprintTracker, my little python program to track sprinters times etc), I'm responsible for some 10 track modified Powertap hubs, two are mine, the rest belong to the VIS, the NTID and Hilton Clarke.

There's a small problem with them involving the chainline.  We never noticed it on mine because it's only about 3.5mm out and I'm no great torque machine and both my and Emily's bikes have reasonably long chainstays so the chainline problem doesn't really show up. However, under some of the NTID and VIS boys who have real motors we hear noises at high power outputs, so we investigated the chainline of the hubs.

Best illustrated with a couple of (poor quality!) photos :

pt track hub chainline  That's what they look like

campy track hub chainline  That's what it should look like

 As you can see, even with my crappy mobile phone photography and quickly cobbled up bit of cardboard measuring device, the PT hub puts the sprocket about 3.5mm (the width of the lockring) too far towards the middle of the bike.  I think the guys at Wheelbuilder made a mistake reading the width of the hub and assumed that the sprocket was where the lockring is,  which it isn't. Most people would never notice, the 3.5mm deviation is small and under enduro riders would not show up at all, but put them under a big sprinter putting out a lot of torque and it makes noises and runs rough.

The fix is pretty easy, the hubs have a steel axle end cap that you can see in the top picture (with the flat side to allow you to do it up), that needs to be 3.5mm shorter and the other side needs to be 3.5mm longer.  Then, all the wheels need to be re-dished.  Bugger, most of them were put together by Daryl Perkins and he tied and soldered them, which is a PITA to re-do.

Anyway, these things happen and I'm sure the guys at Wheelbuilder will send us corrected end caps ASAP.  They're smart people and proud of the work they do, they'll want to take responsibility for this and fix it.  In the mean time we can machine down the existing drive-side end caps and put washers under the off-side ones.  It's fiddly and shouldn't have to happen but this is prototype and first generation stuff, we expect a few teething issues.  It's the price of being on the bleeding edge.


Jens Voigt, HAF

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Read this ...

I love this bit :

I had plenty of time to come up with a fitting book of the day. It’s from the Disk World series by Terry Pratchett. In it, the protagonist is Conan the Barbarian, who is a 70-year-old who has just survived everything. At one point he, and his other old warrior friends capture this village, but then they find that they are surrounded by an army of tens of thousands, and his only reaction is, “Oh man, it’s going to take days to kill all these people!” And that’s the way I was today when I was lying on the ground. I just thought, “Oh no, I’m going to Paris this year, I’m going to Paris. There’s just no way you are going to get me out of this race for the second year in a row!”

Jens, 100% HAF.


Post camp self appraisal

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.


One time, at sprint camp ...

I'm in Adelaide, looking after a bunch of NTID sprinters

For the last two days I've been over here in Adelaide, at the Superdrome and some motel close by, looking after the Victorian NTID sprint squad as part of the NTID sprint camp that's running here for four days.

I've been lucky enough to work with Sean Eadie (who regular readers will know of) and Bryce Mitchell who's one of the WA NTID coaches, running a couple of training sessions on the track and also generally looking after the squad.  I've got 10 riders in my direct care, and while we have support from Josh (NTID co-ordinator) it's a daunting task.   To put it in context, we'll have to do two days of racing (sprinting, which is very coach-intensive) with my squad having just me to look after them, after two days of training sessions and other 'camp stuff'. The state squad, which isn't that much bigger, has three coaches and two mechanics and a host of family people to help out.  And they reckon they're over-worked!  Heh!

This is not a complaint,  I'm loving the opportunity to learn from these kids and also the other coaches, I roomed with Sean last night and we had some really good talks on sprint training philosophy and so on which I hope will end up with Sean and I co-authoring "the" book on sprint training ("the" book because there isn't one at the moment).  I've got Gary West's (national sprint coach) list of sprint drills to add in to our standardisation project that you can see a glimpse of here.  We have to dispel the old ways (no, sprinters do NOT need to do lots of road miles and race road in winter, that SLOWS THEM DOWN! FFS!).  I'm thrilled to be on the same page as Sean on this and we'll be able to work together to drag a lot of the current coaching practices for sprint out of the dark ages.

I'm incredibly fortunate to have been given this opportunity by Hilton and Team sprint startthe guys at the NTID.  Today I got to assist (in a very minor way, I was just a start-line holder for a drill) the AIS team training, getting to work with champions like Anna and Kaarle is just brilliant.

We're going to be seriously under the pump tomorrow, the racing starts and there's a full afternoon-evening's sprinting for all my guys and also research to carry out on how the other guys are racing and so on.  The kids have to manage their food for the afternoon/evening on their own, we're taking them on a 'guided shopping trip' tomorrow to help them choose foods that they can race on during a long block of track time, then lunch, then in to the track at ~1pm.  We don't expect to get out of there 'till 10pm or so, then a very late dinner and back at 8am on Sunday for more. 

It's my job to look after them all, get them in the right state of mind, manage any incidents, provide pre-race tactical support and post-race debriefing.  I'm very excited by the opportunity and the pressure and it's going to be a blast. I have a great team of riders to work with and we're all going to work together.  Don't call me, I'll be busy!  Bring it on.




Weather and safety

Congrats to CCCC

I see on the Interpipes that Carnegie-Caulfield have cancelled the Modella road race today due to concerns about high winds.  I commend them for this decision.  Organisers have a duty of care.  I wonder what conditions are like out at Eildon today for the Junior Tour?  Weatherzone suggests 72km/h wind gusts.  I hope we have the same level of commitment to rider safety that CCCC have shown.


Buddy, you're in the wrong place...

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No snake-oil here!

Today I'm working in at Cycle Science Mitcham (as I do on most Thursdays).  We often get reps in to try to sell us stuff.  Pete, who owns the shop, has a PhD in biochem and is a very smart man and a real scientist.  

So anyway... We don't stock Skins, or any of those other faux-compression clothes, for example.  No evidence, go away ...

Now, today, a rep shows up, from 'Eken Human Performance Enhancement'.  Yes, alarm bells are ringing ...

They sell those hologram/magnetic/snake-oil placebo bracelets that you may have seen around.  Buddy, you're in the wrong place ... GTFO!

aboc Invitational

We're low on numbers!

My original intention for the aI was to have some racing for the pure sprinters who have nothing 'til summer.  But, I've been underwhelmed by entries and late withdrawals which I'm surprised by, but if that's the market, we have to adapt.  So we're opening it up a bit, not to all comers, but relaxing the entry criteria.  The race is tomorrow night and we'll see who shows up!


On the pave'

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Thoughts on the first few days of the Tour

Prologue, ho-hum. 

Stage 1.  Bizarre crashes, but normal for the first week.  Everyone's desperate to snag a win early to take the pressure off.

Stage 2.  Guys, it's a rainy road, ride like it's a rainy road.  Old racing adage : You don't win a race on a descent, but you can lose one.   There's always been narrow roads and the risk of rain in the Tour.  At least it wasn't raining on the pave ...

Stage 3.  Pave.  Always going to be decisive.  Way back on '03 or '04 when it was last there, Armstrong and the other GC contenders were freed of Iban Mayo on the Pave.  It's a selective surface.  It's always been said that the first week of the Tour weeds out the specialists, ie: it hurts the pure climbers. The stages are long and hard and they soften up the lightweight mountaingoats.   The first week is why pure climbers very rarely win the Tour. This time it was Frank Schlek, C'est la Vie.  Armstrong lost time too, Contador, Andy Schleck and Evans coped well.  Cancellara had a sook about it (two days in a row, Fabian, channeling Cadel eh?) as did the old cheat (Bjarne Riis, btw, he had his TdF win stripped of him for cheating, but read this  .... Um, Bjarne ... You didn't win the '96 tour, you cheated and that result has been purged) but it's an important part of the Tour.  Take out the hard bits of the first week and you may as well do half a dozen ITT's up mountains to decide the tour.  The Tour is bigger than that.  It's bigger than the riders.  It's a race that requires a lot of all round abilities and a little bit of luck.  The great riders make their own luck.

Stage 4.  What is this, the rebirth of the old sprinters?  Petacchi?!  Two stage wins?  Wow.  Robbie McEwen's still got the smarts but hasn't got the legs anymore, but Cavendish, if I was one of his leadout riders I'd be furious.  You bust your guts to set him up for a stage and he sits up and watches the finish.  Not how to motivate your team mates.  Roll out Zabel and Kursipu!



The old lion, fastest of the contenters

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And so it begins, le Tour!

Armstrong, 7 times winner .. Undisputably the greatest tour rider of all time.  Last year in his comeback despite team issues and injuries, 3rd place.

Last night, he's the fastest of the real contenders in the prologue.  His team mates, right up there too (team time trial form is therefore very good) Early days, yes .. but ominous.  It's going to be another fantastic tour.



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