Feature: Girls School of Racing

Feature: Girls School of Racing

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Feature: Girls School of Racing

Posted: 22nd January 2010 | Source: Olympic Talent Programme

As the Olympic Talent Programme continues to develop activity across the country with the simple aim of creating more, better bike riders, the coaches turned their attention to the girls for a trial of a new initiative - a 'Girls only" school of racing.

Above: The girls assemble in track centre for a pre-ride briefing

Bright and early on Sunday 17th Jan, 40 invited girls from across the UK assembled at track centre of Manchester Velodrome to find out what this new initiative was all about and what was in store for them over the following four hours. Olympic Talent Coaches Tim Buckle and Anneliese Heard led proceedings and with everyone ready to go, riders filed onto the track just after 8am. A number of the athletes attending had either competed at the Revolution the evening before or had travelled up to spectate, and although the night was a short one, everyone was bubbly and ready to ride.

Above: The girls get on track and warm up prior to the start of the skills session

The day was planned to deliver basic skills as all Schools of Racing aim to do. Talking to Gary Coltman, who heads up the Talent Programme, he emphasised that the basics are critical - and it's really important that the most basic skills are continually repeated and developed. "When we watch the racing and the young riders are under pressure, the red mist comes down and the basics can go out of the window". "These are critical points in the race and being really good at the simple things make a big difference. Only with these basics well and truly in place will a rider be able to really make use of more advanced tactical strategies".

Madison technique was the topic for the day and following some time riding in a line, moving around the track and becoming comfortable, the session moved on. First of all though, the basic technique of the change needed to be re-visited and Tim Buckle turned to his creative side and, borrowing riders shoes provided a fun, interactive demonstration of 'shoe Madison' (I think Adidas won - of course!).

Above: Riders practice their Madison changes

The following two hours saw 10 teams at a time on the track repeatedly performing Madison skills, with video feedback provided during their rest periods that was really effective in drumming home the learning points and bringing to life the explanations that the coaches were providing. The motorbike was used to set the pace which enabled the string of riders to stay together and take the pressure off of the physical side of the session, ensuring that the riders focus was firmly on the skill development.

Above: Olympic Talent Coach Tim Buckle provides valuable video feedback to the group.

To ensure every angle was covered to provide as much as possible in terms of coaching input and feedback, Talent Development Coach John Scripps took to the track and, riding with different partners, was able to provide great feedback immediately following each block - once he had caught his breath!

Above: Far right - Talent Development Coach John Scripps prepares for the Madison session

Anneliese and Tim had paired the riders initially so that the more experienced girls partnered a rider with less experience and it was noticeable that apart from some talented athletes in the groups there were also be some budding young coaches! Everyone bought into the exercise fully and as a result, all riders moved on very quickly throughout the morning. The session then ended with the most experienced partnering the most experienced for a short sharp effort with the motorbike swinging off with 5 laps to go to provide that all important race finish to a great morning of coaching!

The day didn't end there though! A planned workshop took place immediately after some lunch, during which time the girls were put into groups and tasked with coming up with some questions to ask our panel of special guests....

Academy riders Katie Colclough, Lucy Martin and Hannah Mayo had agreed to give up some of their time and come along to the velodrome, providing the opportunity for the girls to ask questions of them. Although not that long in the sport themselves, the three girls already have bags of experience to share (and not all rosy stories!). Anneliese ran the Q&A that was a perfect opportunity for everyone to learn about life as a female bike rider and the challenges that the girls have faced. Katie, Lucy and Hannah have all come up through the GB cycling team programmes and now live and breath cycling 24/7.

Above: Hannah Mayho, Lucy Martin and Katie Colclough hold court in the Q&A session, giving a valuable insight into life as a full time racer.

Speaking to Gary in the days following the event, he confirmed it was a very successful day and another step forward to the development of the talent pathway for females. Gary confirmed the feedback was positive; "I have had only good comments from the day and the academy girls also praised the initiative. "Looking back they told me that they would have relished the opportunity to be involved in workshops where they could ask specific questions of senior female athletes in a girl-only environment, and they were only to pleased to give their time to assist in this way - which is great"

"Following on from this, as a team we have recognised the benefits and are now looking for more opportunities and we have already included a girls-only part to our National School of Racing at Mallory Park in the February half term". .