I’ve been listening to a lot of chatter on the internet lately about the do’s and don’t’s of Track Sprinting training and racing, so here is my advice as a coach.
1. Just because someone faster than you is doing something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you (or even them!). Some riders are just plain more talented than others and can still be quicker than you even training badly. At the Olympics, World champs, World Cups etc that I’ve been at I’ve seen riders with frankly ridiculous warm up protocols, poor technique in starts and horrible bike set ups, and every one of them is faster than me…. but they could be so much quicker if they were doing it better.
This goes for coaches too, it’s irrelevant how quick your coach is as a rider if they can’t understand how to relate that training to you and your needs. Often the riders that aren’t as naturally gifted make better coaches because they have had to analyze themselves more carefully to compete with their more naturally gifted counterparts.
2. Gearing is the biggest misnomer right now, firstly cadence is where you should be focussing, the gear choice being a byproduct of that. Emulate the elite guys cadences not gearing. For a variety or reasons gearing in training is different from gearing in races, and is usually a fair bit smaller (except over geared training efforts), think about this when designing your training program, again go back to cadences, you will find 94″ on a cold windy outdoor track is a very different gear to 94″ on double discs and tires at 220psi on a wooden indoor track, train at the cadence you want to race at not the gear you want to use.
3. The current trend for super big gears is a little misleading for most non elite riders (by elite I am talking 10.5 and under) for the less well trained and efficient athletes whacking the gear up can have a short term speed gain, it doesn’t mean it’s helping your long term development, and then we come to racing itself……
4. I know its fun to brag sometimes about things like peak power/max squats/chainring sizes etc, however it often becomes a focus and leads you away from the real aim which should be to win races! Too many people focus too narrowly on small areas and not seeing the whole picture. The 200m is just the entry ticket to the races, if your training is constantly about the “right” gear/cadence to do a good 200m there is a good chance you won’t be able to race as well as you could.
The Elite riders I know can do the same 200m time on gearing between 102 and 120 but you won’t catch them racing on 120! most will race on between 4-8″ less than they qualify and are pedalling at way higher rpms in a race than almost everyone who hopes to emulate this success.
The gear you choose to race in needs to be able to cope with a variety of tactics and scenarios, having an “overspeed” buffer where you can still be effective over a wide range of cadences is a big advantage, especially when rushing the slipstream on an opponent. Bear in mind the steeper the banking and the tighter the radius of the turn the more your rpms will go up in the bends, it can make quite a few rpms difference between the outdoor track/road you train on and the indoor one for your major comp.
5. There is no magic formula, no silver bullet, no perfect answer. Real progress is made by a combination of lots of factors, with the gear you use for your flying 200m just being one small part. Do you get enough quality rest? Is your diet conducive to excellent recovery? Are you working on all the aspects of your sprint? Starts, accelerations, top end speed, speed endurance, form, aerodynamics, recovery between efforts, tapering, roadblocks, rest breaks, mental prep, practicing tactics-observation, injury prevention, supplementation?
Some of these things are quite personal too, what works for Bob might not always work for John and vice versa. Although there are a lot of things that will work for the majority of people if applied at the right level for them and not just copied ad hoc from the elites.
6. Gym work.
In my experience with the athletes I have worked with and the ones I see racing and hear about, gym work is a vital part of MOST sprinters training. It’s the most effective way to build muscle mass (if you need more which isn’t always the case..) and can also be very effective at teaching better fibre/neural requirement.
What you do in the gym though can make a big difference, the training these days is quite different to the more body building programs of the 80-90’s and early 00’s. Todays sprinters are leaner yet stronger. Numbers are totally personal, just because you can back squat 250 and the other guy can do 400 doesn’t mean he will be quicker (Theo Bos couldn’t back squat more than 150kg apparently, he seemed to do alright…), what is relevant is progression, USUALLY an increase in gym strength for a rider will correlate with faster times on the track although there can be occasional exceptions to this.
Gym is quite rev specific with most of the gym gains relating to roughly 0-75rpms on a bike, anything much over 100rpms is very difficult to train with gym work. Other factors are the age of the athlete and also how their body handles weight training, some athletes can cope with it really well and others get broken by it. Again the guys that make it at elite level are usually the ones that can cope with big workloads and big poundages. They are just more gifted than us at training, but what works for them now might be having some long term negative payoffs for later life. There comes a point where training at elite level goes past what is truly healthy for some people, worth considering when racing a bike is your hobby not your job… find what works for you, if your lower back can’t take squatting/deadlifting at a weight that’s useful try leg press or single leg squats instead. Don’t risk your long term health. Again find out what works for you and be prepared to change it when it stops being effective or causes you problems.
Finally… yes you can become elite/fast without weights, they are just a useful tool if you can handle them. ALWAYS put form 1st, remember you are using weights/resistance training to go faster on a bike, not to be the strongest guy or girl in the gym, little and steady improvements here are the way forward.
The difference between high quality tires and clinchers/training tires is as much if not more of a time benefit than between spokes and aero wheels/discs. Frontal area matters, aerodynamics is a very complicated arena, a simple rule of thumb for most of us though is if you make your frontal area smaller you will go faster for the same given power output, this goes for weight too, with 3-4kg’s being roughly a 10th of a second over a flying 200m, and more like 2-300th’s over a standing lap. Think about that when buying expensive wheels, laying off the cake could have a bigger gain 1st…
I think that’s enough from me for today ;)
Performance Cycle Coaching
I thought I’d bring you a little training video, here are some core exercises for cyclists.
Beth does a great demo of the Performance Cycle Coaching core workout while I crack the whip – this circuit is repeated after 2-5mins rest.
How To Keep Warm Cycling
With this spring still like the depths of winter I’d thought I’d share my tips for staying toasty if you’re yearning to ditch the turbo for the outdoors.
LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS… It all boils down layers.
1 Pair of Thinsulated Socks. £5- £10 is such a small price to pay
2/3 pairs of very thick wool socks. You may need slightly large shoes.
1 pairs of plastic type commuter over shoes. These are not pretty, but keep the wind out!
1 pair of racing over shoe! These are 1) to be stylish and 2) they will prevent 80-90% of the wind getting to the 1st pair of over shoes
The main advantage over leggings is then can be pulled of quickly at any stops and popped into your back pocket. I’ve never had to take them off, just keep your legs covered whether legging or leg warmers. Another advantage of course you can add fashion by mixing shorts/leg warmers.
Cold days wear two pairs. You can always pull them off.
Forget base layers. My personal favourite is 3 cycling jerseys. The main advantage is 3 zips. On climbs you can undo all 3 and let air in. On cold days this air conditioning works so well. How far you unzip, how many tops you unzip you control how much air gets in and how cool you want to be. The second advantage is pockets. 3 tops = 9 pockets. Plenty of room for spares! Also if it hots up (in Perth the temperature would be 0 degrees Celsius at 6am, by 10am it was 20 degrees) you can take a top or even two off and pop them in your back pocket.
You didn’t really think you got dropped because your jerseys were thicker than theirs did you?
CYCLING NECK SCARF
Essential piece of kit! Can be worn around neck (keeping the cold from entering your top through the collar, pull up over face for the strong head winds and fast descents, and also over your ears if need be. I normally take two, especially if climbing. When you sweat, they will get wet. So having a spare dry one to swap over for the last hour of the ride is always good.
EAR WARMERS/HEAD BAND
These allow heat to escape from your head, cool breeze to flow through helmet while keeping your ears snug. Again if you’re stopping a spare one is a good idea. These and the neck scarves take up no space what so ever. You could get 5 of each in 1 pocket.
Don’t be a hero. Buy expensive winter cycling gloves! Ski gloves can also be very good for keeping your hands warm (£50), but Aldi also do fantastic ones for £5.. On very cold days, a spare pair in a pocket means after 2-3 hours of working and sweating, a clean dry pair for the ride home can help. Whatever you choose make sure you opt for ones that give you the movement you need.
COATS / JACKETS
I don’t like them. However you need them for the rain. I still prefer 3 tops when it comes to cold, but obvious if it’s raining you need to keep dry. Buy a good quality gillet or you will just sweat into the arms of the jacket. One solution is to cut a small hole at the elbow to allow the sweat to drip out
Cycling Shorts Resident Elite Personal Trainer & Conditioning Coach
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Jetse Bol - Oscar Freire (Rabobank) - Image Wessel van Keuk/Cor Vos ©2011
When I was 18 years old and I got an offer to sign a contract with the Continental Squad of Rabobank I knew exciting thing were coming, what I didn’t know was how good was it going to be!
I had to take it step by step, coming to a big team it’s a big challenge and requires a lot of dedication and effort but it feels great when you get the results you worked so hard for and especially when that step on the top of the podium that everyone wants its yours… when you cross the finish line in 1st place and you feel like you’re on top of the World!
This season I had a big goal in mind, it was my last year as an U23 rider and I wanted to sign a pro contract for the next season, I worked really hard last winter and made a lot of sacrifices along the way because I had to stay really focused on my goal.
We had our first training camp in February and the atmosphere of the team was great, it helps a lot for your results when you are part of such an amazing team, everything is so well organized and we (riders) keep good relationships with each other and with all the staff, which it’s the perfect thing to stay motivated and be at your best.
The season did not start as well as I wanted, but I performed very well in the Tour of Bretagne and that’s when everything started to go really well for me.
Another of the big goals for me this season was to win Olympia’s tour, I won it back in 2009 and I couldn’t defend my title in 2010 so I wanted to peak for that race this year.
I am super proud to say I achieved this goal, taking the title and also winning 2 stages and the points, mountains and sprints classifications, it was unbelievable! I had the support of the team and of course my family and friends were there to cheer me up.
The next big event of the season was the World Championships in Denmark so my coach and I made a special program to get there in my best form. I was in very good shape but the course didn’t really suit me, it was too flat and easy and also a bit short, I prefer a harder course where you can go for an attack and make the difference up that way but I finished 11th so I’m quite happy with that all things considered.
After that I got the news that the worlds were my last race for the Continental Squad. I was going to be a stagier for the Pro team, I had already done the Tour of Denmark and Tour de Wallonië before the Worlds. Now they picked me for Franco-Belge, memorial Frank Vandenbroucke and Paris Tours.
With that last one I already had some experience because I did the Paris Tours the year before for the U23 team, but now it was time to race against the big boys. This one was harder and longer but I really enjoyed it, I was involved in many attacks with Gilbert and Pim Ligthart and my form was really good! It was definitely a good experience.
Now the real fun begins as I have a Pro contract with Rabobank for the next 2 years. We had our team presentation earlier in December and our first training camp in Fuerteventura. It’s real now and there’s nothing I wanted more than this.
In January we have another training camp in Spain to get in to top shape for the season, my first race will be Mallorca Challenge and Volta Algarve will follow, after that I race Kuurne Brussel Kuurne. I looking to push myself this season, get stronger and improve my uphill skills and I also want to help the team win as many races as possible.
When I was 18 I thought this was a once in a lifetime chance to live my dream, now I know I’m living it!
Wishing you all a wonderful 2012!
Let’s get this party started!
Nancy Back in Mexico for the Nationals
My sister had a little break from her training camp in Mallorca to do the Mexican Track Nationals. I was so excited because the last time I saw her was back in March at the Track Worlds in the Netherlands. Our schedules are so different I hardly get to see her.
We had some catch up time, we went to all our favorite restaurants (Mexican food of course!) and had a really good time before going to Aguascalientes for the track Nationals. We did a road trip two days before the competition, it was only six hours drive so it wasn’t that bad and it was a good opportunity to talk and get updates on what we’d both been doing in our lives.
When we arrived and did our first training session at the track we knew it was the moment of truth, we were going for all or nothing. All the training and the hard work was going to be tested and we had to compete one more time for that gorgeous Mexican jersey.
Unfortunately my competition was soon over due to a back injury that has been holding me back since the start of this year. On the other hand my sister did an awesome job, she won the individual pursuit on the first day and showed a superior level of skill at the rest of the competition, I guess training with the World Champion [Sarah Hammer] helps a bit!
Sofi in her "AH" Team Colours
Her coach Andy [Sparks] was very happy with her results, “Great first day of racing at the Champs of Mexico for Sofia, getting the fiesta started with a win in the individual pursuit”.
We started the omnium the second day. Sofi and my younger sister Chely raced with our local team “AH” and I raced with my team Horizon Fitness-Prendas Ciclismo RT, so we were rivals for the first time! It was weird, we always race together but this time it was completely different it added more fun to the competition.
Sofia won the flying lap and then I lapped the bunch 3 times to win the points race, the classification was very close and Sofia was beating me in the overall classification by one point. Then it was time for the elimination race, my back was in so much pain. Sofia won again and I finished in 4thplace, at the end of the day Sofia was leading the overall classification and I was still in
Sofi Arreola going for the win
contention for medals but my coach and I decided that it was better if I quit the competition because I didn’t want to have more damage done to my back.
Very disappointing news as I won two gold medals at the Nationals last year and was hoping to at least defend my titles but my health comes first.
The second day of the omnium started, Sofia was leading with a comfortable advantage and she did her best to keep the lead. She won the individual pursuit of the omnium and then it was time for the scratch race, I have to say that it was a very chaotic race!
There were several attacks as the 2nd, 3rd and 4thplace were very close in the GC [General Classification], then Chely made an attack and got away, in the final lap Sofi was way ahead in the sprint and everyone crashed behind her. One of the riders touched Sofia’s wheel by accident and that caused the crash. Some of the riders were in a very bad way and had to go to hospital, even one of the race’s commissaries was injured!
Accident At the Mexican Nationals
There were broken bones, blood and many, many scars! Only my two sisters were fine… it was devastating, so the judges decided to end the race right there and they didn’t do the omnium’s final event (500 metres).
So that meant that Sofia won another National Jersey to add to her big collection, she showed again she was the strongest in the competition but still she was very sad because her rivals crashed, “I can’t even think about the victory, I just hope the rest of the girls are ok…”.
Sofi Arreola racing at the Nationals
One of the biggest surprises of the championships was the comeback of Belem Guerrero (former Olympic silver medalist) and Nancy Contreras (former Jr World Champ of 500 metres). Belem retired after a bad season before the Beijing Olympics’ and Nancy just had a baby four months ago!
They were both in good form, Nancy was looking super fit even after having a baby! It seems like she’s worked really hard to get her fitness back to win two national titles. Belem was also looking very good, she was winning the points race after lapping the bunch once and just when she was getting ready to make another attack she crashed! It was again a bad crash… she broke three ribs and couldn’t keep on racing, such a shame! She is such a talented rider and an icon of Mexican Cycling.
This Championships had a lot of surprises, crashes and emotional moments. It was really nice to be there and have the whole experience (even if I had to end my race sooner than expected…).
With this results Sofia has secured her place in the PanAm Games [Pan-American Games] this October, this event is very important for Mexico because it’s a big competition, a huge test before the Olympic Games in 2012 and also because it will be held in Mexico this time! What a better feeling that racing for the National Team in your own country!
Sofia is now in an altitude camp in Colorado and will return to Mexico to ride the team pursuit and the omnium in the PanAm Games and after that she will be more than ready to start the World Cup season!
Let’s get this party started!
All images ©Copyright Nancy Arreola
Sofi & Nancy
My Sister Sofi
by Nancy Arreola
Sofi and her papa Rolando in Apeldoorn for the World Championships
Sofi Arreola is a young successful rider from Mexico (she also happens to be my sister) and she’s aiming for a place to ride for her country at the London Olympic Games in 2012.
Sofi has won 6 gold medals in the Jr. PanAm champs, 4th place in the Junior Worlds in Moscow 2009 and she’s finished within the top 10 in almost every Track World Cup she’s competed in. She was invited to the World Cycling Center in Switzerland for the 2009-2010 track season and that changed her life. Her results as a Jr. were really good but it wasn’t until she met her new coach Andy Sparks that she started to look at cycling in a different way.
Not everything has been easy for her, she’s had to fight for everything… including her own life. Sofi was a premature baby and she almost didn’t survive. The doctors told dad that he should be prepared for the worst because it was very possible that she wouldn’t survive the night, but she fought and she won that battle. She was getting 15% less oxygen than other babies for one and a half months and she was so tiny.
We had to take lots of care with her because she was always getting sick (I have to admit… I was SUPER jealous because she was getting all the attention from my parents). She used to be allergic to everything so she had to go to the hospital once a month to get 30 injections in her tiny little arms. I could see in her face she was in so much pain but she never cried or complained about it; 3 years old and she was so tough! She wasn’t 100% healthy but my little sister was never weak. She has been giving me life lessons since the minute she was born.
Sofi & Nancy
Life goes on…
Our younger sister Chely and I are really hyper so my parents introduced us to sports at a very young age. Chely is 2 years younger than Sofia but she was just as big as her and beating her in every sport they tried! I bet she can’t say that anymore though… haha!
When I started cycling both my sisters were doing speed skating and they were really having fun with the sport but after one year they took part in a local bike race and they instantly fell in love with cycling, just as I did.
Sofi did the State Championships two weeks after that but she didn’t qualify for the Nationals so she made it her personal goal to win it the following year, she worked harder than anyone else, never missed a single practice and she was really serious about eating well and taking her recovery to a whole new level. It was impressive to see a 13 year old girl behave like that.
Sofi at Apeldoorn - Image ©Copyright Anton Vos
The next year she won everything in the State Championships and got 2 silver medals in the Nationals, since then she’s won almost every competition she’s entered in Mexico. The first time my sister ever rode on the track she won the Scratch Race in the elite category when she was only 14 beating Nancy Contreras (former 500m World Champ) and yeees… she beat me as well but let’s forget about that part!
Sofi & Rolando (Papa) in Puerto Rico
Arreola Family LtoR: Rolando (Dad), Sofi, Chely, Nancy (Mum) and Nancy
She’s had many good results in her short career but also had her ups and downs. In her first Jr. World Champs she crashed in her opening event and was forced to use a wheelchair because she couldn’t walk, but even that didn’t stop her from doing the road race and TT.
She also crashed in the Central American Games last year in Puerto Rico. She was knocked out but the first thing Sofi said when she gained consciousness was “where’s my bike?!” she finished the race concussed and went straight to the hospital not knowing where she was. All her efforts that day gained her a bronze medal for Mexico, a bronze with a good taste of gold.
I’ve seen her do an Omnium going from the ambulance to the track and then back to the ambulance again because she was really sick and even then winning 4 out of 6 events (it was an important race because it would decide who was going to the track world cups to represent Mexico). The Olympic dream has been in her head since she was a little kid and it’s that determination and desire that leads her to keep fighting.
Even with those chaotic races she’s had good results on her way to London, she finished 2nd in the elite PanAms [Pan-American’s] last year and 4th in the Scratch Race at Manchester’s World Cup, putting her in 2nd place in the world rankings but eventually she finished 4th at the end of the track season.
Of course Sofi and I have the support of our whole family. My dad Rolando goes to almost every World Cup with her and when we’re in Mexico he follows us both to every single ride providing all the support while training; my mum Nancy is the one who makes sure that Sofi has everything she needs. Mum calls the FMC [Federación Mexicana de Ciclismo] almost every day, books her tickets to World Cups and she also makes sure that she has all the right equipment to train and race. Chely and myself are her biggest supporters!
Sofi with her coach Andy Sparks
But I think the main thing that has made the biggest impact on her career is training with Andy Sparks, she was training with him when she was in Switzerland and now she’s followed him to Mallorca where they are now both based.
Andy is an amazing coach and they get along really well. She has a lot of respect for him and follows everything he says 100%. Since she’s been training with him we’ve seen her gain more confidence in her skills and has a better attitude while racing. Andy gives her the right motivation and the perfect training to be at her best in every competition.
Sofi knows that nothing is impossible if you work hard for it and you give your best at all times. The fact that she gets to train with Sarah Hammer is also a major boost for her, Sarah is her role model and inspires Sofi to become better every day. Sarah and Andy have been an amazing support for her when she’s away from home, even when she’s missing family, home and friends she’s surrounded by great people in an amazing environment and we know she’s happy even though we all miss her.
She had a complicated season last year but has pulled herself together and focused on doing things right and hopefully she’ll qualify for the London Olympics and achieve a good result. She’s taking it a step at a time, the next track season will be crucial for Sofi, as it will be for many other riders across the world, in order to qualify for London she needs to get good results in the 4 World Cups and the World Championships in Australia. It’s going to be a fun season; I am excited to see how it goes!
Sofi & Nancy - Sisterly rivalry while training - Mexico - March 2011
Thank you very much for reading and I’ll be giving you more updates about the World Cups and who has a chance of getting to ride in London 2012 via my articles here at Cycling Shorts!