Feature: National School of Racing

Feature: National School of Racing


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Feature: National School of Racing

Posted: 20th July 2010 | Source: Olympic Talent Programme

As the Olympic Talent Programme continues its mission to increase the pool and standard of talented youth bike racers across the UK, the Talent Development Coaches have been busy delivering "Pre Nationals" schools of Racing in Road and MTB XC with the track discipline still to come.

In addition to continuing to develop young riders core skills, techniques and tactical awareness, the Pre National's Schools aim to raise the standard of competition at the Championship events by instilling confidence and helping the young riders focus on the process that will enable best results.

Both days took place at the venues where the championships are going to be held, something that although not critical, ensured that all the aspects and challenges that both the Pippingford venue (MTB) and Hog Hill (Road) will throw up.

All riders attending were entered for their respective championship as this was a pre requisite to attendance; there were close on 40 youth and juvenile riders participate at Pippingford and a total of 85 youth A and B boys and girls benefit from the day held at Hog Hill.

Above: Talent Development Coach John Scripps briefs the riders at the start of the Hog Hill session.

The MTB day was broken down into two core sessions - one being a full course recce and the other session focused on a key part of the course, the quarry area. The course recce followed the course previously used for the Southern XC race and looked at various areas in detail where the riders were challenged to try different lines, approaches, gear choices etc and study how one section leads into the next. The coaches often challenged the riders to think about and feed back upon how they will be linking the sections and at what point they would start to think about the next part of the course and begin to set themselves up for it.

Assisting on the day were various volunteer coaches (who without the day couldn't have run) and also a couple of very well known expert riders in the form of Jenny Copnall and Billy Jo Whenman. Six time National Champion Jenny was a great inspiration for the girls in particular and really provided a great insight into how she approached the course and thought about the different scenarios that the riders may face once the flag has dropped. Billy Jo - still a young rider himself who's achieved podium finishes in National Series events as well as some major road races grew up playing on his bike and that can be seen in his technical riding skills that he was able to demonstrate to the young riders. Billy Jo's skills were particularly evident through the quarry section where, as the riders found out, the race could easily be lost.

Above: Billy Joe Whenman in action

All in all, it was a excellent day with great weather. The progression of many riders throughout the day was clear to see, and this together with the feedback received by the organiser of the day - Talent Development Coach Ric Jamieson, it's safe to say that everyone went away a little bit better - which is the number one objective for all School of Racing days.

Above: Billy-Joe talks riders through Pippingford's technical quarry area

Above: A rider putting that coaching into practice on Pippingford's singletrack.

Just one week later and the team of Talent Development Coaches were back ‘down south' at Hog Hill to promote the second of the Pre Nationals schools and as with the MTB day the weather was again glorious and only really challenged the riders with how much they needed drink to maintain hydration!

The format was again the same as all other School's of Racing and after a briefing by Talent Development Coach John Scripps who headed up the day, the riders were soon to be lapping the circuit in club-run style undertaking many core skill challenges as they went, such as gear changing, moving in and out of the saddle and bunching up to ride shoulder to shoulder - something that the youth A boy's will certainly need to deal with in the championship event when 100 riders take to the start line!

Just before heading out for the warm up however, it was only appropriate that everyone present joined in a ‘salute' of three cheers for Lewis Barry who had sadly passed away earlier that week. From Garforth, near Leeds, Lewis was a fantastically popular young bike racer who will be missed by all that knew him, and a cheer and a smile as the day began was a fitting tribute to a talented young rider who never failed to put a smile on everyone's face.

On their bikes, assisting on the session were a number of expert riders who all made massive contributions, from riding with the youngsters and demonstrating skills through to an on-the-bike Q&A session that formed the warm up of the afternoon! Tony Gibb, a former World medallist on the track and prolific winner on the domestic Pro scene joined the Youth A boys group, passing on heaps of tactical advice on how to approach the course that shall provide an unusually hilly championship for the young riders. Adjusting his training day to attend was Academy rider and former Talent Team member Alex Dowsett. Alex who now rides for the Livestrong Team alongside Taylor Phinney was enjoying a spell back home and clearly relished the opportunity to give something back to the young riders present. Interval training may not have been planned for the day, but as he and Tony got stuck into the session that focused on counter attacking, he could be seen to be going ‘up the road' with on numerous occasions with different riders as nominated riders came darting out of the peloton as each breakaway group was duly reeled back in.

Above: Tony Gibb talks tactics

Above: Alex Dowsett getting stuck in to some racing drills.

Also helping out on the day, and resplendent in their Road National Championships jerseys were Junior ODP riders Laura Trott and Dan McLay. Both young riders were clearly enjoying taking a day off of their busy race programme to work with the youngsters, and not long out of the youth ranks themselves had plenty of current and very relative advice and information to pass on.

Above: Dan Maclay in his National Champs jersey gets stuck in.

Dan mixed in with the Youth B boys often seen carrying out the exercises alongside them to demonstrate the technique or give them a helping hand when they needed a wheel!

It was pleasing to see such a large girls group giving real optimism for the future of the female side of the sport. Junior National Road Champion Laura Trott was a great inspiration and passed on some really useful advice to the Youth A & B girls that made up the group.

As well as the attacking and counter attacking sessions, the riders learnt about and practiced the theory of ‘sliding room' to give themselves a chance on a hilly circuit if they are not the strongest climber in the race. They also practised getting into and holding position for the finish and various other skills that will come into play not only in the Championship event but in all their bike racing in the future.

After ending the day with a set of ‘finishes' where the riders completed two laps of the bottom (flat) circuit and then raced it out up the hill to the finish line, the only thing that remained was a Q&A with the panel of expert riders - well that was after catching the last 5km of stage one of Le Tour on the TV's in the function room of the centre that completes of the wonderful facility at Hog Hill.

The day was also used as a great opportunity to link the Go-Ride & Talent Programmes together to inspire more youngsters into the sport - and a lucky school group from Southend joined in the day having won an inter school competition. Go-Ride coach Keely Bunton provided the day as the prize and the young budding cyclists spent their time being coached and having fun on the MTB track that runs around the perimeter of the circuit - as well as receiving a session to chat to Alex about his life as a cyclist - and of course ask him lots of questions about his bike!