Pan-American Games - Guadalajara - Mexico
Last week was very crazy and very intense! It was time for the PanAm Games in Mexico!!!
This track is brand new and its SUPER fast, believe me when I say it could be one of the fastest tracks in the whole world, the track is in a place with great altitude (Guadalajara, Mexico) and it’s a nice indoor track. I think it’s perfect for someone who’s planning to break a World Record.
The races were so much fun to watch, the first day Colombia broke the PanAm Record in the Team Pursuit (4.59) and they won the gold medal against the Chilean team, while the women from Venezuela won the Team Sprint against Colombia, Mexico came 3rd with a team led by the veteran Nancy Contreras.
It was good to see Njisane Phillip (Trinidad & Tobago) break the PanAm Record in the 200 metres (9.91) in the morning of the second day of competition, he’s very friendly and knows how to get the crowd going crazy. He calls himself “the black Mexican” and all the people in Mexico love him. Unfortunately, he lost in the semifinals against Hersony Gadiel Canelon from Venezuela and had to race from the bronze medal. The final podium: 1st Hersony Gadiel Canelon (VEN), 2nd Fabian Puerta (COL), 3rd Njisane Phillip (TRI)
Another great race to watch was the men’s omnium with Juan Esteban Arango from Colombia dominating the field from start to finish, he was never lower than top 5 in all six events of this tough race and won 3 events to finish with 13 points, Luis Mancilla (CHI) was 2nd with 20 points and Walter Perez (ARG) 3rd with 28pts.
In the women’s Team Pursuit Canada was the one who took the highest place in the podium posting a time of 3:21.448 with Laura Brown, Stephanie Roorda and Jasmin Glaesser (who is German and got her Canadian citizenship just weeks before the event). 2nd and 3rd places went to Cuba and Colombia.
Sofia Arreola Omnium - PanAms 2011 - Image Copyright Nancy Arreola
Of course my favorite event to watch was the women’s ommnium as my sister Sofia was riding for Mexico, if the crowd was going crazy with Njisane Phillip I don’t know how to describe it when Sofi was riding. The track was completely full and you could hear all the audience screaming “Sofia, Sofia, Sofia” and “si se puede, si se puede!” (its Spanish for “you can do it”). It was fantastic to be there, and it was a great experience for Sofi to be able to race this big event in her home country.
She started with the 250 flying lap and finished 4th behind Cuba, Venezuela and Canada but in the points race she was super aggressive all day and managed to get away with 10 laps to go and lapped the field at the very last moment, it was such an epic moment and the audience went wild!
After that it was time for the elimination race, Sofia was now in 2nd place in the overall standings and again gave us a great performance, she pulled at the front the whole race and at the end Angie Gonzalez from Venezuela beat her in the sprint. It was good, 3 events done and 3 to go and she was sitting in 2nd place with a good advantage.
The first event of the second day was the individual pursuit, she didn’t post a good time and finished 4th again, so the overall standings were close and Stephanie Roorda from Canada had a chance to move her from her second place so in the scratch race it was all or nothing because Sofi is not good in the 500mts so if she wanted to keep her silver medal she had to win the scratch.
The race started with many attacks but nothing that would last, the average speed was very high because everyone wanted to finish in a good position. With 6 laps to go Sofi took control of the bunch again, pulling on the front all the way to the finish and setting a very high speed. It was impressive, no one could pass her and she won the scratch as Venezuela, Cuba and Colombia finished far behind.
That put Sofia only one point away from the gold medal with only the 500mts to go and now with huge advantage on the 3rd and 4th place. Marlies Mejia from Cuba posted a very fast time in the 500mts (35.1) finishing first and that result put her in the top 3 in the final classification.
Sofia Arreola with her Silver medal PanAms 2011 - Image ©Copyright Nancy Arreola
Women’s omnium results: 1st Angie Gonzales (VEN), 2nd Sofia Arreola (MEX), 3rd Marlies Mejia (CUB)
This is just the start of the track season, the World Cups start next month in Astana!! It’s going to be super fun to see which riders qualify for the London Olympics because nothing is written in stone yet!
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!