We are in the sprinting line on our way to the Olympic Games of London. Sofia has to participate in the four World Cups, Pan American Championship and the World Championship in order to make enough points to qualify.
The qualification system its complicated, it’s a ranking for Continents. The American continent has 5 places for the women’s omnium and we have Sarah Hammer (USA), Tara Whitten (Canada) and Marlies Mejias (Cuba) that have secured their places for the Olympics in the last season. The big dispute is between Angy Gonzalez (Venezuela), the Colombian Maria Luisa Calle and Sofia Arreola (Mexico).
Sofi hopes to finish in the top 10 of the World Cups and World Championship in order to finish within the first five in the Pan American Ranking.
Training base in
Mallorca is a perfect place for training; it has high mountains as well as flat and safe roads to do nice and long rides to improve the endurance. Mallorca has 2 different tracks where you can train and improve different things.
Sofia is currently training under the direction of Andy Sparks in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Supported by the Mexican Cycling Federation and the National Sports Commission.
The training objectives are to improve power and endurance for individual events of the omnium. Training with Sarah Hammer and riders from Turkey and Ireland has made significant changes in Sofia as she has improved both her power and her endurance on the track. In the last Pan American Games in Guadalajara 2011, Sofi showed the progress when she won the silver medal.
First World: Astana
In Astana, as in all World Cups, you need to do a points race of 40 laps in order to qualify to the finals in the omnium, they have 2 heats and the best 12 of each heat get to ride the finals. Sofia was 4th in her qualifying heat, showing again her progress in her endurance.
The omnium started with 24 riders, all the best girls of the world were there only two big names were missing: Tara Whitten and Sarah Hammer they both decided to start their season in the 2nd World Cup in Cali.
Sofia was looking strong but performed poorly in the elimination race and finished 13th overall at the end.
2nd World Cup: Cali, Colombia
For this World Cup Andy and Sofi planned to do the scratch race in addition to the omnium. The scratch race is an official event in the World Championships but not in the Olympics, this is one of Sofia’s favorites events and she can perform really good in it as well.
You also need to do a qualification ride before riding the finals, 2 heats where only the first 10 of each heat can go to the finals. Sofia was second in her heat and was ready to give everything in the next race.
The final had 20 riders, the best riders in the world for sure. She was trying to control the race from start to finish and maybe worked too much, 4 riders went into the break away and she managed to win the bunch sprint to finish 5th place, this complies in part with the goal set by Andy for this World Cup.
The next day begins with the qualifying for the omnium. Sofia had to ride the heat with the best two riders of the specialty (World Champ Tara Whitten and multiple World Cup Champ Sarah Hammer) She managed to qualify and had a very regular start in the first event (250m flying lap). In the second event (points race) she finished in 5th place, Sofi improved her chances in the general classification and she was getting closer to the top 10 she wanted.
In the next event (elimination race), a race that is usually very complicated as every rider starts the race full gas because every 2 laps the last rider gets eliminated. The excitement of the riders as well as their desire to win caused several crashes, Sofi was involved in one of them. She hit the wall of the track injuring her back, right arm and finger and so had to end her participation in this World Cup.
Sofi is currently in 3rd place in the world ranking of the scratch race and she is looking forward to top that at the World Championships in Australia but her main focus is to make more points for the Olympics, she still wants to secure top 10 in the next two World Cups in Beijing and the Olympic test of London.
There are now four more races where she can collect Olympic points: the next two World Cups, the PanAm Champs and the World Champs it will be a hard and close fight between the riders because everyone is working harder than ever before to get there but we are sure that Sofia can achieve her goal and make her Olympic dream a reality in London.
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!
Nancy caught up with her friend Sarah Hammer for a chat.
Sarah Hammer is an American cyclist from California, her dad (Cliff Hammer) introduced her to cycling when she was only 8 years old, she’s been racing since she was 12 and won her first National title in 1995.
After competing for many years Sarah retired from cycling in 2003 burned out from the rigors of competitive cycling, but in 2004 she found inspiration again in the Olympic Games of Athens, watching her old teammates and rivals competing at the highest level.
She came back to cycling to show the world what she was capable of; she has amazing discipline and a willingness to do things right, always looking for perfection.
It’s her personality along with the support of her coach (and husband) Andy Sparks that has lead Sarah to become World Champion 4 times, member of the United States Olympic Team in 2008 (where she finished 5th in the individual pursuit), winning multiple World Cups and breaking 2 World Records last year in the PanAm Champs (individual pursuit and team pursuit with compatriots Dotsie Bausch and Lauren Tamayo.)
[N] It was pretty impressive to watch you break the World Record in Aguascalientes last year, when you walked to the start line you had that look in your eyes saying that you were going for it. What did it mean to you? Where you targeting that when you went to Aguascalientes?
[S] Yes, when I decided to go down to Aguascalientes I went to try to break the Individual Pursuit Record. We knew it was a great opportunity in a race environment that doesn’t come by very often. The track was brand new, really beautifully built and at an altitude of around 6000 feet.
[N] It was also great to see Andy coaching you and cheering for you every step of the way, I know is a victory for the two of you. What is it like to have him as a coach?
[S] Yes, it’s great, he is my biggest supporter hands down. It’s such an amazing journey that we both have been a part of, and together every step of the way.
Sarah Hammer World Track Championships – ©Copyright Paul Sloper
[N] It’s no secret that you’re targeting the gold medal in London Olympics. How did your preparation change when the UCI removed the Individual Pursuit and put the Omnium in the Olympic program?
[S] Yes it was a pretty big blow to hear the news of the removal of the individual from the program. Although I have had some success with the new omnium I still believe that it was a total mistake to remove the individual pursuit. I am excited about the new Women’s Team Pursuit and I think that this is only going to make women’s cycling grow and get more depth.
[N] We all saw you winning almost every competition in the last track season; whatever you’re doing you’re definitely doing it right. What does it takes to be in top form for the omnium?
[S] A lot of hard work!! No, really I do a medley of different things in a week, from road rides to track and gym. Each time I’m on the track I’m working something specific for the omnium. So it does keep it fresh and new but some days I long for my pursuit bars!!
World Championships Apeldoorn – ©Copyright VeloImages
[N] You and Andy were based in Switzerland the past season and now you are based in Spain, it doesn’t matter where you’re based, you are always traveling for races or training camps. I know from experience that being away from home is very hard, especially when is a country with a different culture and language. What kind of impact does it have on your life? Do you ever get homesick?
[S] Absolutely I do get homesick sometimes. I miss my family and my puppies. I do keep in touch regularly with my parents each week on Skype so that’s good. The major positive is that I am here with my husband so that makes things a lot easier.
Sofi Arreola congratulating Sarah after Women’s 3000 Metre Individual Pursuit World Record ©Copyright Nancy Arreola
[N] What do you miss the most when you are away from home?
[S] I miss the food the most. I am a SoCal [Southern California] girl so I need my Mexican food!!
[N] What do you like to do when you have a break from racing, do you have a hobby?
[S] I love exploring new places and hiking, that sort of thing. I am a major book reader.
[N] What are your plans for the next season?
[S] Next season plans are to keep progressing by earning points in both the Omnium and the Team Pursuit. Try to win a world title next year in Melbourne and then hopefully get to stand on the podium in a years time in London.
[N] Can you give advice to other riders that are trying to succeed?
[S] Give your 100% commitment in training and racing. Whatever you‘re doing right now, do it 100%
[N] Thank you for your time Sarah, I think everyone is excited to see you racing again. You’re a great role model and an inspiration to many riders and I hope you have another extraordinary season towards the London Olympics and accomplish that dream of winning the gold medal!
Sarah & husband Andy – USA Olympic Team Beijing
To find more out about Sarah click here to go to her website.
To find out more about the USA Cycling Team click here.
Sarah’s major career results include:
– Four-time World Track Cycling Champion
– 2008 United States Olympic Team
– World Record Holder – 3 Kilometer Individual Pursuit (3.22.2)
– Ten Times World Cup Gold Medalist
– 20 National Championship Cycling Titles
Our thanks to Sarah and all the photographers.
©Copyright 2011 Nancy Arreola & Anna Magrath @ Cycling Shorts. Please do not reproduce any content without permission from either Nancy or Anna and the photographers.