The second SprintFest training session at Hillingdon, held on Sunday in dry conditions, saw the introduction of a further balance and coordination exercise – namely contact from another rider.
"The trigger for this was the message coming from race organisers that there has been an increase in the number of crashes during races over the past couple of seasons as new riders present themselves on the start-line with a lower skills set,” said coach John Leitch who organised the session.
For this part of the afternoon, riders were first matched up by size, so that when the ‘leaning over’ aspect got more ambitious and more weight was transferred onto the other rider, there was no mis-match. Pairing off riders by size also ensured that the two were of an equal weight.Riders made contact under controlled conditions using their shoulders, elbows and upper arms.
“There was a full range of emotions at this initial stage, with some pairs finding themselves quite comfortable with contact from another rider, while others took several attempts to even make the lightest of touches,” said John. “By and large there was a lift in the confidence level at each time round the practice loop.
“We had two pairs, though, who were struggling to get beyond their panic mode and with each being as worried about their partner’s ability as about their own, so four riders who had progressed gloriously stepped in and helped. “The result was a new mix and this surge in comfort, along with a reassuring voice next to them, saw all four get on top of things.”
The SprintFest session attracted a total of 20 riders with a full range of ages, from veterans from LVRC to youngsters racing on Junior and Under-16 licences. The first part of the sprinting sessions saw riders allocated on ability into one of four groups each of five riders.
The short head-to-head races were run at medium-laps until the final 400-500m before the line so that the result was based on sprinting ability and sprint judgments such as gear selection, cadence and sheltering behind a rider (as the final 200m drag to the line was into a headwind).
Following a three-lap recovery group ride after cooling down during the ‘contact’ exercise in pairs, the final part of the afternoon saw riders allocated to pairs, one rider as the lead-out and the other as the sprinter. Individuals alternated between the roles of sprinter and lead-out.
“It was interesting that fewer riders came to this second SprintFest, when contact from another rider was on the agenda, than to the first afternoon when we were covering the question of throwing the bike at the line. “The fact that very few racing cyclists feel themselves in need of help with the question of how to react to contact from another rider during a race suggests that they have already put their house in order and race organisers can anticipate a more crash-free season ahead,” said John. “That would be wonderful. “A second conclusion, however, could be that they feel these incidents are always down to someone else’s bad bike handling.
“I’d been wondering, somewhat tongue in cheek, as to whether or not there should be some compulsory sessions for new 4th Cat riders so that they at least started their racing career with some minimal ‘quality assurance’ stamp. “Short of this drastic step, perhaps race organizers should ask new riders to demonstrate their ability before allowing them to sign on…. perhaps by proving they can ride shoulder-to-shoulder as a pair, leaning on, for a distance of 100m.”
- John Leitch.