~John F. Kennedy

Sunday, February 26, 2012

London World Cup

This past weekend the best track riders in the world toed the start line at the Olympic velodrome in London, England for the final stop on the 2011/2012 UCI Track Cycling World Cup circuit. The event doubled as a World Cup and as the test event for the Olympics this summer, therefore 340 athletes from 48 nations and 18 trade teams made the journey to the English capital to get a peek into the future. 12 Americans helped to make up those 340 riders, and enCompass Racing’s Maddie was among them.

Race Report:

“So what’s it like to ride under an Olympic champion?”

This question had been presented numerous times to me over the course of the past 4 hours, however at this particular moment a BBC reporter was holding a microphone all of 6 inches from my face. “Well,” I thought, “He definitely challenges us, but that’s only natural because he wants us to reach our full potential. And the Olympic title isn’t so much an intimidation as it is a motivator. It serves as a testament to how hard work can make dreams come true.” The reporter smiled kindly and turned back to Jamie to continue asking questions about his 2008 Olympic title, London 2012, and the USAC National Sprint Team. I sat back in awe and just watched, amazed at everything going on around me as Jamie answered question after question graciously and effortlessly.

Kevin Mansker and I, along with the US Sprint coach Jamie Staff, were seated at a table surrounded by reporters from several media outlets in Jamie’s hometown of Ashford, Kent. We had taken the train down from London earlier, and had spent the day exploring the roads that our coach had grown up training on with about 30 other people aged anywhere from 9 to 69 who had come out to support their hometown hero.

But let me begin at the beginning of this story, which had begun 14 days earlier on a plane headed from Los Angeles to Mallorca, Spain.

Para Cycling Track World Championships were taking place at the track in LA, so the Sprint and the Women’s Team Pursuit teams who were slated to compete at the London World Cup headed across the Atlantic for a 10-day training camp in Mallorca. We stayed at a beautiful villa 9 kilometers outside of the city in the quaint town of Esporles. The food was wonderful, the views breathtaking, and the weather, well, it dumped snow the majority of the time we were there. But we still managed to get in some amazing rides along a small farm road to the track to train. Training went well for the team, and everyone was excited to get to London to see the velodrome and get ready for racing to start!

Looking out our window into the courtyard of the villa.
The view of the citrus grove in front of the mountains with the snow clouds coming in.

Andy Schleck was at the track doing TT testing on our first training day in Mallorca.

We then boarded a plane to London, and our first day was scheduled as a sightseeing day to recover from the travel, so all of the team members were joined by our amazing support staff and headed out on the Tube to take in the views. Coming up the stairs to the exit of the Underground we were greeted by the towering silhouette of Big Ben and the intricate curves of Westminster Abbey. Everyone just turned and looked at each other with big grins and wide eyes. It was all beginning to sink in that we were actually in London! We hopped on an open top double decker tour bus and drove past monuments such as London Bridge, Trafalgar Square and the Olympic countdown, Hyde Park, and Buckingham Palace. These were sights that I had only ever seen in history textbooks and on the television watching Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding spectacular, and I was breathless at the chance to actually stand in front of them in person. After the tour we made our way back to the hotel to spin our legs out on the rollers in preparation for our first track session the next day.

Prince William's Regiment was on guard that day.

We ended the tour with Buckingham Palace.

The next morning we drove through the Olympic Park to get to the velodrome, and every person on that bus squirmed around in their seats to get a better look through the thick London fog at all of the venues. They were all very modern and sleek, and the best description of the velodrome when it came into view was that of a giant, wooden Pringle. But that uniqueness made it striking, and the anticipation was steadily growing. After passing through security we climbed the stairs into the infield and were all greeted by bright lights gleaming onto the whiteness of the wood and the colors of the Union Jack pasted on the walls. The track itself was beautiful, and offered a smooth, fast, amazing ride. There were several other teams scheduled in the session with us, and between pursuit exchanges and sprinters flying up and down the track, traffic was chaos. We all managed to stay upright and open the legs up with various activation efforts.

Sun streamed into our room as I parted the curtains the next morning and I let out a little smile, as the weather gods were seemingly bestowing upon us clear weather for the day. Today Jamie was taking Kevin and me on an adventure to his hometown of Ashford, and I could barely contain my excitement. As the wheels turned faster and faster the industrial setting of London gave way to green rolling country hills dotted with farm houses straight out of a story book. Upon arrival we descended the platform stairs to the street and were greeted by a large crowd of both kids and adults who were already straddling their bikes raring to go. An easy 45-minute ride winding through village lanes brought us to Jamie’s pub, which soon after our arrival filled close to bursting. Jamie told us all stories of his racing days and was the star of the show when he produced the glistening gold medal he rode to 4 years ago. After a healthy amount of autographs were signed and pictures snapped, we once again mounted our bikes and headed out for a longer ride to explore hills and twisting rural roads joining charming country villages. Our final destination of the day was at a sports complex, and the amount of people had doubled from when we originally departed the train station. Obstacle courses were created, and kids were zipping every which way on their bikes, while numerous media outlets were beginning to set up shop. Various radio stations, TV channels, and newspapers interviewed us for 45 minutes before we were recruited into competing with the kids on the various courses. Interacting with Jamie brought so much joy to these people, which created such an amazing feeling that we were able to give back to the community. I know that both Kevin and I left Ashford with a huge smile on our faces and a better understanding of how big the impact of taking some time out to share and connect over a simple dream can be.

Jamie has a train named after him, and it was just our luck that we got to ride on it!

Over the next two days we were kept busy with training sessions, recovery on the rollers, massages, and preparation meetings with the coaches so nothing really interesting worth mentioning happened.

Then came race day! I was racing the team sprint along with fellow national team member Cristin Walker. She got out of the starting gate cleanly, and I sat waiting in her slipstream ready for a smooth transition to get me up to speed so I could rip it for my lap. I ended up riding a good time split for my lap, executing a technically sound ride, and accomplishing everything that I needed to. Coming up the home straight and giving a bike throw at the line I knew that I had given it my all and rode with no regrets.

On the second day of racing I was slated for the individual sprint tournament. In the qualifying 200 m I rode a time of 11.9, finally riding under 12 seconds at sea level, and I was definitely excited about that! With this being an Olympic year, the times are consistently dropping lower, and unfortunately I wasn’t quite fast enough to make it into the tournament. However, each time I ride I can see progress in my performances, and the gap is slowly closing to the top girls. It’s all about the baby steps, and I know that if I am patient and work my butt off every day in training my time will come.

The keirin. A race that for the past year and a half I have avoided, rather successfully. This stems from me preferring to race time trials because it’s just me against the clock. There are no tactics to play out, there are not 5 others riders bumping around for position, there’s just me. But on the last and final day of competition at the London World Cup and for the first time in eight months I was lining up to race a keirin. It was going to be fast, it was going to require power, and it was going to be fun! I had no expectations, and I didn’t have the slightest clue what to expect. So I told Jamie to tell me exactly what to do, and I would try to execute. He came up with a simple yet highly operational plan for the first round, and I rode exactly how he wanted me to, finding myself in the mix. I was surprised, yet excited, so I put my head down and pushed on my pedals as hard as I could until I crossed the finish line. I ended up 3rd place with only the 1st rider advancing through, but without doubt I was happy with that result. The reps were up next, and I didn’t quite ride the way that we had hoped, but all the lessons that I needed to learn were learned.

Riding in the 200 m qualifier.
Photo Credit:

I am pleased with all 3 of my races because the progress and improvements that I have worked hard to make were measurable since the last time I raced in Astana. All of the USA Cycling staff worked so hard to make it a great weekend, and I know that I couldn’t have done it without them so I would like to give a shout out to them. My amazing sponsors also deserve a very big thank you. Mix 1 for providing the best recovery that keeps me refueled and recharged day after day. Dave Tiemeyer and Tiemeyer Cycles for making my bikes an absolutely amazing ride and never giving me any excuse to go slow. Rotor for supporting me with super light cranks and chainrings that spin beautifully. Q Cycle for keeping my feet happy in the best shoes ever. Full Cycle for being great mechanics for any problems that may arise with my bikes. And lastly, thank you to everyone who has supported me in other ways, I couldn’t do it without you.

No comments:

Post a Comment