Apart from working at Moment Bicycles and spending time with my wonderful wife Evelyn, I spend a lot of my time training for the U.S. Para-cycling team. Although I currently race in Category 4 with Moment Racing team, I have a mild case of Cerebral Palsy on my left side, which qualifies me for the Paralympics. In addition to competing in able-bodied road racing, I have been attending Para-cycling camps and events for the last year.
This past week I was invited to attend a Track Specialist Development camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Geared for up and coming cyclists in the Paralympic pipeline, the main focus during the camp was the development of skills. There were a total of eight athletes attending the camp: two tandem teams, two C4’s* (of which I was one), one C5*, and one C3*.
*C5, C4, C3, C2, and C1 denote the Para-cycling classifications based on disability level for upright bicycles. As a C4, my disability level is second closest to able-bodied.
H1-H5 denotes hand cycles.
Class B denotes tandems, all of whom the stokers are legally blind.
It was an inspiring experience to train in one of the best athletic facilities in the world, while brushing shoulders with some of our countries elite athletes. In fact, one of my roommates for the duration of the camp is a past UCI World Champion as a tandem pilot. Needless to say, I had a tough time trying to sprint around his wheel for a week. Our coach, Rick Babington had been with national team athletes a week before at Para Road Worlds in Sweden. He shared a wealth of knowledge, from choosing the correct gearing for a certain track event, to preparing for international travel with the team.
During the week we focused on individual track events, the pursuit and the kilo. These particular events are important to coaches of the U.S. Para-cycling team, as they are used to establish the time standards that athletes must meet in order to make the National Team. Each workout on the track began with a thirty minute paceline in an easy gear to warm up. After the warm up, Coach Rick explained the workouts which usually took the form of broken up Pursuit or Kilo efforts.
On the first and last days of the camp we worked on pacing for the Pursuit. The hard portion of the workout consisted of two 2 kilometer efforts, or six laps around the 330 meter velodrome. On the first day of training camp both of these efforts were done from a flying start. We were instructed to listen closely for our splits, not so much to worry about how fast we were going, but to make sure that our grouping of lap times remained well within a second of each other. The goal in racing a proper pursuit is not to go out too hard on the first lap. In fact, the first lap of a pursuit should feel like a breeze. It is entering the second lap that you should have settled in to a steady pace, somewhat similar to a time trial effort. You typically will hit your fastest splits in the middle of the effort, and if you do it right you can fight to hold the same split until the end, with a little bit of expected drop off in the last few laps. I had to fight my inner road racer to keep from trying to save energy for the end, because, as I quickly found out, total time is lost by going too slow in the first half of the effort. The key is to hit a threshold split, and hold on consistently for the majority of the effort.
Midweek, the focus shifted a little bit towards Kilo distance workouts. On the Memorial Park Velodrome a Kilo is three laps, so we did one flying lap at pace, the second lap easy, and the third lap at pace. This workout simulated the very high intensity that is required for the Kilo. These drills also helped me to focus on my cadence, as I used a relatively small gear.
Time away from our track sessions was spent resting, eating, and doing short rides on the road to stimulate recovery. It was so awesome to have no concerns other than training and sleeping for a week. Having such a focused and simple schedule really allows an athlete to put out very hard efforts in training, as well as enabling his or her body to adapt to the stress accumulated in training. While I was tired by the end of the week, my muscles were not sore, and I was able to continue to produce good numbers on the track. One of my takeaways from this experience, that all endurance athletes should practice, is proper recovery of both the mind and body.
Living at the OTC for a week was a great reminder to me of my goals in cycling, and proof that I am one step closer to achieving them. If you were to ask me if I would be a leg-shaven, awkwardly-tanned, weight-conscious cyclist training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center a year and a half ago, I would have resolutely stated, “No way!” It is amazing how time, commitment, patience, and BELIEF speak volumes when a person has goal. Although I am still far away from my ultimate goals in cycling, this experience has encouraged me to continue to give it my all.
I look forward to keeping you all up to date on my progress with the U.S. Para-cycling team! A big Thank You to JT and the team at Moment Bicycles for your support and encouragement, I couldn’t do this without you guys!
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