British Cycling's Cyclo-Cross Development Camp One
Published 4 October 2011
Words And Photography Luke Webber
Following the success of last years cyclo-cross development camps for young riders, British Cycling coaches Simon Watts, Stuart Blunt and Nick Walling have returned to host three weekends of ‘cross specific tutoring.
With a focus on bike and lifestyle skills, each camp takes cues from British Cycling's Olympic Performance Programmes; giving riders of the non-Olympic discipline the chance to experience expert coaching and assess their riding throughout the season, the ultimate aim to achieve selection and career-best results at the World Championships.
Funded by British Cycling's cyclo-cross budget and based on a need to develop talented, young and domestically successful - but internationally inexperienced - racers, the second year of development camps will see three weekends; one pre-season, one mid-season and one pre-World Championships.
Now in its second year, we will follow the progress of three riders on each camp and throughout the season, gathering their thoughts on racing, training and the role the ‘cross camps have played in their development as well as documenting the coaching on offer.
Simon Watts heads the camp and is enthusiastic about its success to date.
"The Cyclo-cross Development Program has come about due to an investment of money by British Cycling with the aim of supporting 'cross focused riders and improving the results at international events such as the World Championships.
"Last year Brian Furness was badgering the likes of myself, Phil Dixon and Stuart Blunt based on fact that we are passionate about 'cross, not very good at saying no and maybe prepared to help and much of the credit for this must go to Brian.
"For the coaches, running this programme is separate and away from our day jobs, however we have been able to bring across the experience, professionalism and knowledge of regularly running camps and race trips as part of a world class program. So even though cross doesn’t receive UK Sport funding based on the fact it’s not an Olympic sport, we are able to try and filter in some of the best practice that the other disciplines have clearly benefitted so much from.
"Having run a number of camps and trips in the lead up to last year’s World Championships, it was great to receive the very positive feedback from the riders and marked technical improvements were made by individuals, this was then backed up with strong performances in on race day. Key members of the cyclo-cross committee then used their positive influence and the money was promised to repeat the programme this year.
"Having learned from last year, we have also been able to expand the camps to include under-23 and female riders, with the future plan not only to continue developing and improving the programme but also involving more keen and motivated volunteers so we can try and spread the acquired knowledge for future years to benefit."
SKILLS, DRILLS AND RACING
The first camp focussed on a combination of basic conditioning work on the road, with a series of skill workshops - from identifying the key skills of ‘cross racing to bike cleaning and goal setting.
Before starting a four-hour skill session, riders make their way through the ramped eight minute warm-up and are encouraged to pracitse it in training.
Simon Watts assesses rider technique on the rock step. Although not exactly the same obstacle as found on UK courses, small and medium-sized steps are often found on the continent and riding without dismount is an essential time saving skill.
Stuart Blunt demonstrates the different ways to handle a dismount, corner and run-up. Slowing in plenty of time and choosing the bike-holding technique to suit your body shape are two of the finer points.
Hugo Robinson demonstrates his personal preference to shouldering a bike up the steps.
WHAT THE RIDERS THOUGHT
Jack Clarkson - under-23, 19th 2011 Junior World Championships
"Last year it was more based on getting out of the corner faster; whereas this year the first session has been more skills based. Learning to go in to the corner slower and kick out faster helps a lot in the races. The weekends have been massively helpful - everything we do here, I'll go away and practice. I take what I have learned here and put it into my daily guidance. If I get a day off mid-week, I'll replicate a day of training on the camp; with a road ride in the morning and skill or speed work in the afternoon.
"Compared to my local cyclo-cross training sessions, there it's bigger egos. None of it is coaching, it's practice. There's no walk-throughs of the technique and I like that, to do things properly. In today's session we learned how to do something simple - carrying a bike properly up a flight of stairs - my technique was bad before today. Even taking another gear off going into a corner."
Hannah Payton - second-year Junior, 2011 British Champion
"It's been really good, it's not only good training by itself, but also teaches you how you should be training when you're back at home. There's a lot of really experienced people here that share their advice and show you what's right and wrong.
"I wasn't on the camps last year; I heard about them this year as I was invited - I thought it was an opportunity I couldn't miss. I didn't know exactly what it might entail, but it's been really good and helpful.
"There are local cross sessions to me, but it's good to come here and get different opinions from different people. The best tip I picked up so far was bunnyhopping.
"I'm really looking forward to the Trophy now, I think I have timed my training well. I was nervous before the weekend as there's only Beth and I as the girls here so it's quite tough on all those road rides to keep up with the lads."
Hugo Robinson - second-year Junior, 22nd 2011 Junior World Championships
"These sessions - including last year - are definitely a help. The kind of skills covered are the things that you may skip and don't do. So to go back to the very basics and break everything down really helped to concentrate on specific key areas of skills and then put them altogether because more often then not you don't practice the things you are not so good at. So this really targets the areas to give you the skills you need.
"Compared to last year this is a continuation, I think the standard of the courses and skills has now increased on the camps, the courses are better and more technical; for example we had a mock sand pit today and some quite high hurdles to get over so I definitely think we are bridging the gap between domestic racing and that on the continent.
"This year I will be doing a full season in Europe, so these sessions will be good preparation and brushing up on all of the skills and also it's very good riding. Last season I didn't get to ride at home much, on the continent the style is very different, so more often than not when I get home I find it hard to race as it's so different, riding with these guys, as you can see how they ride and it helps you to progress.
"The skills here you will find on the continent, it's just the speed is a lot quicker. Whatever level you are at, these sessions are a great help, you can learn to speed things up here from the basics up.
"The best tip so far, is going into the corner means you have to ride the fastest line - but on the continent you have to learn to take the defensive and offensive line at the same time and plan you race. You have to look at an attacking lap and a defensive lap and merge them together. In the UK you don't get so much of the tactics, you have to think more about the race, it's not just about who has the strongest legs.
"My main goal is to retain my national title as it is home soil in Ipswich my other races I will do are tempo or recovery with Europe as my biggest ambition.
"These sessions fit in with this goal, I get to see these guys - my competition and my friends - how they are going."