Where to begin? A couple days ago we were with Dr. G for swimming. Yesterday was Coach Bobby and “magical running.” And today was with Neil Henderson to talk all about the sport of cycling. I cease to be amazed at the highly skilled and talented coaches USAT has brought in for this camp. These guys are doctors at their respective disciplines. It’s amazing!!! Neil has coached a world champion in every cycling discipline and in every age category. Now that’s quite a resume. And I must mention we had to take a short break during his lecture so he could check on how one of his riders fared in today’s stage of the Tour de France. And this guy is working with us? That’s awesome!
We started off in the classroom going over everything from bike safety to road awareness to the science behind going fast on the bike. Then we went outside to practice some drills to become more skilled at bike handling. We did slalom course drills–learning how to lean and take corners; bike balance–see who can go the slowest from point A to B without losing forward momentum, unclipping or getting out of the saddle; wheel touches–riding on the grass in pairs touching each other’s rear wheels; the “up close and personal” drill–riding 2 and 4 abreast jostling, touching elbows, bars and learning how to counter balance when someone invades your bubble. (Note: I’m learning that “your bubble” doesn’t really exist on the bike. You must get used to other riders and riding in close, tight knit conditions.)
After bike handling, it was off to lunch and then a drill session in the pool. Then we hopped back on our bikes and headed to the Garden of the Gods. This was a fun ride. It was really our first group ride away from the OTC grounds. We practiced drafting, pace lines and shifting. When to up shift and down shift is an art and skill–the more you practice it, the better you get at it!
You might be wondering why I am practicing “drafting” if most triathlons are non-drafting races. Good question. Yes, most tris are non-draft races meaning you must give the person in front of you a minimum of 3 bike lengths. Essentially you can’t invade their bubble! However, in ITU, Olympic-style racing (the racing I would like to become proficient in), you are allowed to draft on the bike. To put this as simple as possible: a non-drafting race is like you going out for a bike ride alone. A drafting race is a group ride. Imagine the peloton in the Tour de France–a group of riders traveling at fast speeds. Ok, maybe I won’t be going that fast or in that big of a group in a tri, but you get the idea!
A drafting race combines an element of team work that non-drafting races do not. Once you exit the swim leg and hop on the bike, you want to get a group of riders to work together. The more you work together, the faster you will go. Depending on how many there are in the first bike pack, you can get some good speed and pace lines going. When you ride at the front you do what we call “a pull.” You are working the hardest pulling the group along. Then you drop back and another rider pops up to take the load. You fall back to the end of the line, get in the draft zone and rest until it’s your turn to pull again. This is drafting in the most basic terms. Of course there are many strategies along with this–when to pull, draft, attack, counter attack and more.
After the ride it was dinner time and then a talk with Susan Williams. Read the blog: An Olympic Dream to learn more about her story.