What's Cool In Road Cycling

USA Cycling: The Future is Still Bright

For the second year in a row, I spent a week at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Chula Vista (just outside San Diego) as a coach for the annual USA Cycling Developmental Camp, between Christmas and New Years. This year’s class consisted of twenty Junior and Under-23 riders from all over the country, who had earned their way up to this invitational camp through regional camps this past summer.

The state of the art facility has everything an athlete needs to be able to focus on their training. The OTC at Chula Vista hosts many sports, including rowing, softball, track and field and cycling. The surrounding area, which is literally a stone’s throw away from the Mexican border, is a great area to ride. The many hills and empty roads allow big groups to go out and train together without having to worry much about traffic, except of course, for the many government vehicles which are constantly patrolling the border.

View of the surrounding mountains from the cafeteria.

This year’s weather definitely challenged the staff. Persistent rain in the San Diego area caused us to alter routes on a daily basis. So, instead of going into the hills every day, we went down to the beach and Coronado Island (rough life!).

The camp’s schedule is busy, but we try to give the athletes time to relax and get to know each other. Here is a summary of some of the things we did during the week:

Testing – The first day was spent performing Conconi tests (Heart rate vs. Power) on all the riders. As usual, most of the younger riders have extremely high heart rates. I think the winner was 216, followed by a close second of 213! We then compile the results and talk about how testing can benefit their training, and urge them NOT to compare results (even though they do). In cycling, testing is mostly used as a tool and not a performance predictor. We explain to them that there are many things that go into winning bike races beyond their physical capacities. However, young riders do have an excellent opportunity to begin collecting physiological data early in their career that will allow them to learn more about themselves as athletes.

Each evening there is a presentation and preview of the next day’s schedule. This year, one of our guest rider leaders was Zak Grabowski. Zak is a seven time national junior champion with a great deal of experience racing both on the domestic and international scene. Zak came up thru this program and recently signed his first pro contact at the age of 19. So, he was a perfect choice to talk to the younger athletes and answer any questions they may have. Some of the more significant points Zack emphasized were:

• Always honor the sponsors by wearing your team kit on the bike and at all events that involve the team (i.e. team dinners), and wear the off-the-bike clothing they supply. Take a few minutes to write your sponsors a letter, thanking them for their support and send them race results. They are the ones paying money for you to ride!

• Respect all members of the team structure and allow them to their jobs. “If the mechanic tells you to bring your bike to him within 45 minutes after the race, don’t do it 50 minutes after” or “if the training ride starts at 10:00, be there ready to go at 9:50, not 10:00 or 10:01.”

• The riders have the easy job in riding their bikes. Let the mechanics handle their responsibilities, the director handle theirs and do what you are told, especially as young riders.

• Present a clean and dedicated image. Act, ride, and dress like a professional. Bike racing is a business and honoring your sponsors and respecting the team environment will help you to get future contacts and team spots.

Annual Race – There is a one mile criterium course at the OTC. A fun course with a few sharp hills, a tunnel you ride thru with a lot of turns. Each year, on the final day, we hold one race for the women and one for the men. Every one has a great time in what could be called a suffer-fest! It was a great way to end the week.

This year’s camp was another success! I look forward to the camp next year and hope the weather is a bit better. If you are a Junior or Under-23 aged rider and want to get involved in this program, contact your local district representative. You can qualify for this annual camp by first taking part in regional camps around the country. You can also look for updated information at www.usacycling.org by clicking on “Developmental Programs.”

Happy New Year and safe riding in 2005!

Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com

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