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On the mend and reflections on Manchester World Cup

This time last week I was lying on a bed at the Austin hospital doped to the eyeballs on morphine waiting for surgery to repair a hernia.  Today I'm home, with a new belly button that looks like something out of an Alien movie (it will get better!) after spending the weekend doing what little I could to help at Hilton's sprint camp that we held at DISC.  I'm pretty tired, but am well and trully on the mend.  Jayne has been awesome, but I feel terrible (and you should see the looks I get!) when she loads up with rollers, backpack, bags etc and I saunter along with her, carrying nothing ... It won't last, in a few weeks I'll be carrying stuff again.  Live it up, eh?  heh ...

It's been a very interesting week in sprint cycling.  At the track world cup in Manchester, the mens sprint qualification times were simply stunning. Manchester is not Moscow, it's not a track where times need to be asterisk'ed out, it's a "real" track.  It's not summer there, it's coming into winter, so the conditions would not have been amazing for speed.

Have a look at this :


Place Number

F200 speed 100 100-200
1 193 FÖRSTEMANN Robert GER 9.799 73.48 4.838 4.961
2 254 DAWKINS Edward NZL 9.871 72.94 4.905 4.966
3 293 PHILLIP Njisane TRI 9.936 72.46 4.924 5.012
4 106 GLAETZER Matthew AUS 9.944 72.41 4.911 5.033
5 222 PERKINS Shane JAY 9.945 72.40 4.919 5.026
6 169 D'ALMEIDA Michaël FRA 9.947 72.38 4.938 5.009
7 221 LEWIS Peter JAY 9.957 72.31 4.944 5.013
8 195 NIEDERLAG Max GER 9.964 72.26 4.905 5.059
9 276 DMITRIEV Denis RUS 9.976 72.17 4.944 5.032
10 179 CRAMPTON Matthew GBR 10.015 71.89 4.955 5.060
11 134 NAKAGAWA Seiichiro CCT 10.046 71.67 4.986 5.060
12 164 GASCON Juan ESP 10.068 71.51 4.987 5.081
13 306 CANELON Hersony VEN 10.106 71.24 5.003 5.103
14 288 SAVITSKIY Valentin RVL 10.111 71.21 5.027 5.084
15 153 PTACNIK Adam CZE 10.112 71.20 5.003 5.109
16 160 LEVY Maximilian ERD 10.115 71.18 5.034 5.081
17 315 AWANG Azizulhasni YSD 10.115 71.18 4.979 5.136
18 129 BARRETTE Hugo CAN 10.118 71.16 5.006 5.112
19 206 ARCHIBALD Matthew HPS 10.125 71.11 4.981 5.144
20 152 KELEMEN Pavel CZE 10.136 71.03 4.999 5.137
21 158 BALZER Erik ERD 10.137 71.03 4.994 5.143
22 258 WEBSTER Sam NZL 10.143 70.98 5.000 5.143
23 265 ZIELINSKI Damian POL 10.152 70.92 5.022 5.130
24 183 KENNY Jason GBR 10.154 70.91 5.029 5.125
25 104 BULLEN Mitchell AUS 10.160 70.87 5.012 5.148
26 281 SHURSHIN Nikita RUS 10.167 70.82 5.048 5.119
27 208 MULLEN Eoin IRL 10.199 70.60 5.068 5.131
28 207 VELTHOOVEN Simon HPS 10.210 70.52 5.086 5.124
29 248 HOOGLAND Jeffrey NED 10.234 70.35 5.060 5.174
30 142 XU Chao CHN 10.239 70.32 5.064 5.175
31 235 NG Josiah MAS 10.247 70.26 5.056 5.191
32 311 OLIVA Alexander WAL 10.270 70.11 5.072 5.198
33 133 KAWABATA Tomoyuki CCT 10.284 70.01 5.064 5.220
34 269 ESTERHUIZEN Bernard RSA 10.294 69.94 5.116 5.178
35 264 SARNECKI Rafal POL 10.300 69.90 5.088 5.212
36 204 BRETAS Sotirios GRE 10.390 69.30 5.163 5.227
37 163 MORENO Jose ESP 10.395 69.26 5.138 5.257
38 246 BUCHLI Matthijs NED 10.405 69.20 5.130 5.275
39 308 PULGAR Angel VEN 10.437 68.99 5.155 5.282
40 213 CECI Francesco ITA 10.548 68.26 5.200 5.348
41 173 SIREAU Kévin FRA 10.573 68.10 5.103 5.470


The top 27 riders rode faster than 10.2s flying 200's.  To qualify in the top 16, you had to ride 10.115 and even then Azizul missed out.  9.9 didn't guarantee top 8!  This is not the Olympics or the world champs, this is just a world cup.  Jason Kenny, the 2012 Olympic champion, rode 10.154 and did not quailfy.  Marty Nothstein, who won at Sydney in 2000, with a 10.166s (fastest qualification time) would not have qualified for this world cup.  He wouldn't have made the cut.

I discussed this somewhat with John Beasley on the w'end (Malaysian track coach).  He's got Azizul up to 10.115 and Josiah at 10.247 over the last few months.  What's the huge change?  It's big gears.  The guys are so much stronger than they've been before and the obsession with small gears and high cadences is over.  I've personally seen Josiah riding very low 10's flying 200's at DISC recently on training wheels with minimal tapering, and he's mid 30's, he's the strongest he's ever been and also the fastest he's ever been. 

No-one is riding 90's anymore, they're all up in the high 100's or bigger.  We know Forstemann rode 114" at Cottbus when he rode 9.7 there a few months ago (~148rpm average for the 200m, outdoors on concrete).  This is a far, far cry from the "old" days of 160+rpm.  Why is this?  Is it a recent discovery?  I suspect a lot of it is increased specialisation, modern sprinters aren't doing the road stuff they used to do, at least, not nearly as much.  They're getting stronger in the gym, stronger on the bike and riding lower cadences where there's less overall contractions, so greater endurance.  It's possible to hit 73km/h on smaller gears, it's certainly been done, but it's very very hard to hold the speed on small gears, you just run out of neural capacity, or "too much revs!".  Put on a bigger gear, and as long as you're strong enough to get it going, you can go further at the same speed.

Very interesting indeed.

Will anyone break the world record, which was set at Moscow (9.572) at a normal track?  They're getting pretty close now ... and not as a one-in-a-million freak, but dozens of riders look capable of it.



Adelaide with the AIS

Here for a week, picking brains!

I'm very lucky this week, Cycling Australia have invited me to spend a week with Gary West and the AIS High Performance sprint program.

I spent today with the squad in the SASI gym with Scott Baker, had some very productive and interesting discussions with Scott, then in to the Superdrome to watch and assist a little with the training session.  It's going to be a very productive week! I've caught up with Jacob Schmid (former VSG rider, now AIS sprint) and should see Emerson Harwood in a day or so too.

This is on top of last weekend in Sydney at a sprint camp.  Busy times!


In defence of the new gear restrictions

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






Strong enough?

How strong is strong enough?

There's a lot of contention about just how strong you need to be to be a successful track sprinter.  Numbers are thrown around by various institutes, talking about twice bodyweight for squats (presumably meaning power-lifting legal, raw) as an example.

Here's my take on it.

You can't be too strong, which is to say, you can't be strong enough, but you can do too much strength training.  What does this mean?

If it's taking too much time to recover from a gym strength session, which it will once you start pushing seriously heavy weights, such that it has a negative impact on your on the bike training, you're doing too much strength training in the gym. You're probably as strong as you can be without starting to specialize in strength sports like powerlifting or strongman competitions etc.  For many of us, this happens at around two to two and a half times bodyweight for squats, or anything up to about a 250kg squat 1RM for men, for women, around 150kg.

Zatsiorsky and Kraemer, in Science and Practice of Strength Training, 2nd ed, talk about the notion of time available for force development, and use the term Explosive Strength Deficit (ESD).  This is essentially referring to how much force you can apply in a limited time.  For example, they state that a shot put athlete who can benchpress around 220kg (~110kg/arm), can only apply around 60kg of force to their throw because it happens too quickly for them to use all their available strength, and that increasing bench press past a threshold doesn't significantly increase the force able to be applied.  This is a different beast to our track sprint cycling though.  We have the luxury of being able to control, to an extent, the time we have available to apply force.  A shot put athlete, as they try to throw further, has to throw faster, reducing the time they have available.

We can put on a bigger gear, if we're strong enough to push it, to go faster and keep the time available constant, or even increase it, for a given speed.  This is why you'll see riders like Shane Perkins and Anna Meares pushing big gears, while "weaker" riders like Vicky Pendleton, Theo Boss and the like will push smaller gears, faster.  We can optimise our cadence with gear selection to take advantage of our strength, if we have it, by pushing big gears, or our explosive strength, by pushing smaller gears.


A little (more!) selfindulgence

I'm kinda proud of this ...


A week in the life of

What I've been up to lately

I've been pretty busy of late... Last weekend (no, sorry, the weekend before, June 23 and 24) I was looking after a bunch of VIS/Sprint Academy sprinters* at the Perth Speed-Dome on a flying visit to race a Grand Prix and the Westral, we flew in to Perth on Saturday morning, drove to the velodrome, trained, back to a motel, dinner, sleep, back to velodrome for a full day's racing, packed and drove back to the airport and flew home.  Phew!  I was so tired when I got back to Tullamarine I couldn't see straight, thank you Jayne for rescuing me! If I'd have tried to drive home it would have been a dangerous trip indeed.

We've also, in conjunction with Blackburn, started running Friday night training sessions at DISC.  So far they've had low attendances, but hopefully word will spread and we'll get more numbers - we run a sprint and enduro session, with each group getting roughly 20 minute time slices.  It's a format that works well and I've been using it for years with our Sunday sessions, but the Friday nights we have the luxury of three hours, not two on Sundays.  More time!  Sundays are chugging along well, it's been pretty cold in at DISC but we're doing good quality work and the guys are going faster (when they attend regularly!). Our program is always published in advance on this website, and I am more than willing to entertain requests and suggestions for additions and alterations to the program.

Also the Tuesday evening Spin sessions at Blackburn are trundling along - we've had some huge nights and some quiet ones - if you're not coming, I'd really like to know why, it will help me to improve the sessions if I know why you're choosing to do something else.

So that's Friday and Sunday and Tuesday evenings locked away.  What else?  Wednesdays I'm at DISC doing the Victorian Sprint Group coaching, assisting Hilton Clarke, and he's away in the US for a holiday until the 16th of July, so that's Wednesdays from ~11am 'til 7:30pm or so.  This also happens on Saturdays, from ~11:30 'til 5ish.  Lock away Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun.  Anything else?  Oh, yeah, coaching and lifting in the Powerhaus gym on Mondays and Thursdays from ~3pm 'til 8 or so.

That's, ahh ... pretty busy!

So if I've been a bit slow in getting back to anyone with emails etc, now you know why! I have to set dates for next summer's Summer Sprint Series, urgh ... Calendars ... Clash. clash clash ... Keep an eye here for dates.


* - No, I am not employed by the VIS, I was sitting in as a Sprint Academy coach for Sean Eadie while he's in Italy with the seniors in the leadup to the Olympics



Why I don't do single leg stuff in the gym

A lot of S&C coaches do, but I don't, here's why

Why do we put sprint cyclists in the gym? There's a couple of reasons, some more or less valid than others.

My reason is to make them generally stronger. 

What does that mean?  It means muscle growth - bigger muscles (myofibilar, not so much sarcoplasmic, hypertrophy) are stronger.  Cycling is a skill, pedaling is a skill, building big strength needs to take place outside the realm of riding, you just can't make a ride hard enough to trigger a response similar to a 1RM or 5RM squat, deadlift or power clean on the bike, ie: to make you seriously strong you need to get off the bike.   To get real strength gains outside of novice effects, you need big overloads and that can only be done effectively in the gym under a barbell doing big compound lifts.

If we take that as given (and not everyone will, and that's ok), then we're interested in muscle growth, which means overload, which means maximal loading on the muscles we care about.  You can't do maximal loads on single leg lifts.  You can get some benefits from it, but not as much as you can from a double-leg lift.  Bulgarians, single leg press etc just aren't as hard on the triple extension muscles as their two-legged bigger brothers are. If anyone gets close to half of their squat with a one legged squat, they're wussing out on their squats.

So why would you do single leg work?  Good question.  Some would say because pedaling is one legged, we should train one legged, maybe, but that's the skill part of the equation and we have a very specific, very effective way to display our strength in a relevant fashion, and that is .. to ride a bike.  To build the skill of holding hips stable etc, do very short, big gear efforts - standing 1/4 laps etc on big gears - 4-8 pedal strokes at maximal effort.  I don't buy into the whole one legged thing and my riders who train in my gym never do one legged stuff (or any "core" mumbo jumbo, because all the Big 5 are core exercises anyway, but they're useful core exercises, not circus tricks) are as strong in the core and as stable on a bike as anyone you'll ever see. There's a lot of circus tricks and just plain silly bullshit done in the name of strength training, most of which is just wasting a trainees time.

Personally, I want my guys to be brutally strong, and to be highly skilled at displaying that strength - so we squat, we deadlift, we power clean, we press and we deadlift, and we do very short, high intensity work on our bikes in big gears. The guys at the AIS, the VIS etc, they love their one legged stuff, and that's fine, maybe at elite level you need it?  I don't know, my guys are developing juniors and masters, not elites on the whole, but I think, at least for the guys I work with, one legged stuff is a sub-optimal use of their time for questionable returns.  I also don't like legpress, I think it's a risky exercise and the removal of the trunk muscles to control the hips in a leg press is, I think, sub optimal, if in doubt, use more body rather than less (compound, not isolation, exercises).  Yes, benchpress is similar to legpress in this regard, but it's a compromise exercise and is included for reasons other than developing relevant strength for sprint cycling.  Your mileage may vary. Your opinions may differ.  That's good!



in brief

Is it possible to be too strong?


Is it possible to spend so much time training for strength that it impedes your ability to train on the bike? Ie: can you over-do strength to the detriment of your sprint cycling?


Is the balance a tricky thing to find?




Strength (and power) vs LSD

Not 60's psychadelia ...

Pictures vs words again ...


strength vs lsd

LSD is "Long, Slow Distance", or long rides at moderate to high (aerobic, E3) intensity, not high intensity short intervals (like Tabatas).

As sprinters, we need strength (and power) in spades, and some high intensity endurance, but not much (arguably not any) LSD work.  Hopefully that chart (borrowed from FIT, by Dr Lon Kilgore et al) helps explain that a little.



It's good to be home

I have a lot to digest

I've come back from Adelaide, and am trying to settle back into the Real World again.  The week with the junior worlds guys was amazing, a huge learning curve, a lot of really good discussions with some of the best sprint coaches in the world (Gary West & Sean Eadie) and some great bull-sessions as well.

It'll take a few days for it all to sink in, I expect to be busy writing ...

It's good to be home.  I missed my aboc Sprint Squad guys, and training myself (and I had FAR too much beer, 4kg worth of lard I now need to shed!).  Overall, a very productive, intense time.

I love my job!



Is not what you think

When we think of endurance, we usually think of long things, long rides, long efforts on the track, long runs (urgh!) etc.  That's part of it, sure.  In the context of sprint training, endurance is two things - the ability to produce power over the duration of our races (short times, not a lot of endurance required and it's very specific) AND, importantly, repeatability.

It's not enough to be able to ride a flying 200, you have to be able to repeat the effort, over and over.

So how do we train for that?  In the gym?  Yes, you can, we do multiple sets, anyone who'se trained with me in the 'Haus, knows we do 3x3 and 5x5 etc rep ranges, why?  The intensity comes from the first couple of sets, the last set is strength endurance, in a useful context. 

On the track?  Repeating efforts, not making them longer.

Rant ends here!


up up up!

A good night's training

Tonight at DISC Nathan did some good motorpace work for us. I got my second fastest speed ever, a paltry 63km/h, but for an old guy with no talent, that's ok!.  Pmax wasn't a PB, at 1351w, but my P5 was the best I've done this year, which I'm pleased with.  I did some reasonably heavy squats yesterday and my deadlifts on Thursday were PB's, things are coming together ... We also had a really good turnout at DISC after last week's 4, we had I think 11 or so riders, thank you to all of you who came and to Nathan in particular.




A busy month, July

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!

Oh, and we now have aboc Sprint Squad ploarfleece beanies.  Perfect to keep your bonce warm at DISC or spin this winter.  All the cool kids have one .. aboc sprint squad beanie

$20 and you can have one too!



Watts, that is ...

Tonight was the second of the Blackburn "aboc" (but not run by us) sprint nights over winter.  It was a bit of a messy night, some things took far too long to happen (we sat around for ages after the first race before we did the team sprint).  But .. I was pleasantly suprised by my peak power, I hit 1400 watts for the first time in a long time, which is promising.  I raced ok, in the two races I had against live oposition, Caitlin "the flicker" Ward was too fast (and a little too hard to pass!) for me and in the B grade keirin final I was baked and pulled out after 2 laps, no legs left at all. I was reasonably happy with how I went, considering the recovery from my injury, I'm not unhappy with my progress.  Yesterday in the 'Haus I squatted (singles) 150kg and deadlifted 175kg (again, just a single rep) and the deadlift was a struggle but I got it without too much rounding, but the squat was easy.  The deadlift isn't that far off my previous PB (185kg for a double), the squat is still way down, but it's getting there slowly.  Don't rush it ... the summer sprint series is still months away.... I did have to race in front of most of the VIS and NTID kids we coach, I think they got a laugh out of watching an old, slow, talentless bloke, it was all in good humour and I think most of them had fun.

The series needs work to make it run better, but as Richard Stringer and I discussed afterwards, we'll chip away at it until it works.  Tonight we got to nominate our team sprint teams which was an improvement, little steps ...




J17 to J19 - ouch

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.




Count your strokes

Less pedal strokes = faster races

Back in the old days of sprinting, everyone rode tiny gears and span like the clappers.  It's reported that Gary Neiwand rode 92" at the Sydney Olympics (old days? That's only 11 years ago!).  Rev rev rev, that's what the coaches of the time drummed into everyone who was sprinting.  But now, everyone's (the ones who are winning, anyway) pushing bigger gears.  MUCH bigger gears.  I've personally seen 10.1 flying 200's ridden on gears in excess of 106" by riders far from peaking for their best performances. I've seen the 50 metre splits for their efforts.  The guys recording the fastest times are not necessarly the ones with the quickest individual splits (although they can be!) - but their drop off in the last 50 metres is less.  This is partially a pacing strategy - watch a modern flying 200 and you'll see the jump happening later than you'd expect, and partially a result of using bigger gears.

Big gears mean more strength is required to get going in the first place, but also, less fatigue per meter ridden.  The flying 200, for example, is a speed-endurance event that has a maximal exertion time of around 14-16 seconds from the kick to the finish line.  According to a recent study[1] fatigue is brought about by the number of maximal contractions, not so much the speed of them.  If you can use less pedal strokes to cover a set distance by making the gear bigger, you will fatigue less PER METER and thus, probably have a greater average speed over the distance.  You need the torque to accelerate that big gear though, which is why riders like Shane Perkins, Chris Hoy and Anna Meares have huge legs and backsides and like to lift heavy things in the gym.  This applies to sprinters, not enduros.  Lance was superb at 120rpm spinning away up hills winning the Tour, but we're talking about short term sprint efforts where, literraly, every fraction of a second counts and we're not running aerobically.  Different animals ...

So, mash big gears with pride, but make sure you're strong enough to get them going in the first place!

I wrote more on this in the book :



[1] Fatigue during Maximal Sprint Cycling: Unique Role of Cumulative Contraction Cycles, ALEKSANDAR TOMAS, EMMA Z. ROSS, and JAMES C. MARTIN, MEDICINE & SCIENCE IN SPORTS & EXERCISE 2009


Reps! How many?

We default to 5's when we start

Here's why :

rep continuum  That's one of my favorite charts.  It tells us much about adaptation as a function of intensity.

Lift heavy, get strong ... Repeat!


Chris Hoy loves ... squats

High bar, but no-one's perfect!

Here's Sir Chris Hoy, talking about his favorite gym lift, the squat.  He's doing high bar, where we do low-bar in the 'Haus, but we'll let him get away with it this time .. If youtube is being consistent, the girl he's talking to is picking her nose in the sample shot below, heh!


Here's a diagram showing the different squat variants, stolen from Starting Strength, Basic Barbell Training, 2nd Ed.

squat variants


Another trainer to try?

Looks good for enduros, potential to be good for sprint

For a long time I've been a champion of the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine ergo.  I think I own 6 of them?  It's got a stonkingly heavy flywheel which makes it good (ok, at least, viable) for standing start and acceleration work, which sprinters need.  It's not without issues - the main one being tyre slip under heavy torque - ie: Those standing starts that we want to train on it.  It's issue is that it uses a roller drive, and we can work around that with skateboard deck tape (lasts around 5-10 starts depending on the rider) and it does eat tyres.  We can mate it up to a road powertap and get power and torque (sorta) from it, which is good too.  They're also pretty quiet (fluid), unlike wind trainers.

But ... it's roller driven.  A direct drive would be better, without doubt.  Of course, to do this, would mean that the powertap wouldn't be any use, so we'd lose our data.  Bugger ... We could use SRM's, if we had a huge budget, alas, not this week!

The other good trainer is the BT Ergo, which is a direct drive wind trainer.  It's bulky, it's very expensive and it has next to no inertial load (no flywheel) so it's not good for training acceleration (great for constant power etc, but not for sprint work where we want to target acceleration).   It, being direct drive, does not suffer from wheel slip though (although, since it has no significant flywheel, that's not really an issue with it anyway!). There's a power-based trainer or two around as well, the Computrainer is probably the most famous of them, but it's not a sprinters trainer.  And the AIS's Wombat, the VIS's Godzilla etc (custom made jobbies, with uber-flywheels and SRM's and a big budget to put them together!)

Here's a new player on the block (thanks to Scott McGrory, we had a brief chat about it yesterday at DISC). It's the Lemond Revolution.  Direct drive (no slip) and a flywheel.  We lose out on power measurements with it, at least at the moment, but it might be worth a play - I will see if I can get one to add to the collection of trainers I have, to see if it can fill a niche in our sprint ergo program.  If the flywheel has enough mass and we gear it up right it might be a valuable tool.



Racing tonight!

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!

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