Road Nats in review
After a long and interrupted year due to the COVID19 pandemic, there were times when I honestly didn’t think the 2021 Auscycling Road Nationals were going to go ahead. Yet here I was, slightly sunburnt, exhausted after four 12 hour work days back to back and drinking an ice cold beer in a Ballarat Indian Restaurant*. So how did I get here?
*Shout out to Masala Valley Indian Restaurant. Definitely in my top three Indian restaurants.
The journey started when the Auscycling announcement finally came through. The 2021 Road Nationals will go ahead as planned, albeit delayed by one month from January to February. As un-ideal as this delay was (redesigning training programs to peak one month later), this news was very welcome.
A cycling National Championship of any discipline is always a month long roller coaster as a coach and this year's Road Nationals were no exception. The nerves start about two weeks before as the riders start their taper. Questions start circulating in your head such as “Have we prepared enough?” “Is my rider too fatigued?” “Are they not fatigued enough prior to the taper?” “Am I doing everything in my power to ease any nerves or pressure my rider may be feeling?” These thoughts begin to circulate more and more as the event gets closer until it’s race day, and you have to accept and let go. It’s in the rider’s hands now. Your work is (almost) done.
My nationals journey started with one of my U19’s riders coming down with gastro 48 hours prior to the Individual Time Trial. This rider had been putting in numbers at training that I was quite happy with, however gastro would take the power out of a rhinoceros trying to stomp out a fire. Despite the illness, he rode really well and I couldn’t be more proud.
Day two started with the Team Time Trial. We had been lucky enough to have the opportunity to do some work with the Coburg Cycling Club in the lead up to this event, and they did a great job in putting forward a number of teams and finding the perfect balance between high performance and inclusivity. This day was very successful with a number of teams (including teams containing Kilowatt riders) finding their way onto the podium. This included one of the women’s teams successfully defending their National title. Great work team Coburg!
This trend continued throughout the remainder of the weekend with Kilowatt riders achieving success in the team’s criterium, and representing themselves and us well in the U19 Criterium, Road Race and Gran Fondo. I love the idea of the Nationals Gran Fondo. This event is becoming a yearly fixture to celebrate the rank and file of our sport. Unfortunately many riders were pulled from the course one lap earlier than expected despite being well ahead of the time cut off. This left many riders and coaches disappointed. We hope that next year this is corrected and we get a full race.
The end of the Nationals rollercoaster is always the reflection. I believe that in order to be a good coach, you must continually evaluate your own performance whether that be from a victory or a loss. This is how you grow and improve. Sometimes you have to ask yourself some hard questions and be brutal in the honesty of your answer. Ironically, this is actually my favourite part of any big race campaign. It is where I make the biggest leaps as a coach. I look forward to the reflection after key racing targets. Reflection does taste sweeter when it comes off the back of success though, I will admit.
My final thoughts on the Auscycling Road Nationals 2021 is this. At the conclusion of every rider’s Nationals campaign, every rider I coach - whether in victory, defeat or gastro - had a big smile on their face and was happy to be a part of the event (and on a bicycle). Sometimes as riders and coaches we get so bogged down on the result of a race that we forget the real reason we do this. Yes, winning a big race feels fantastic, and losing when you feel you shouldn’t leaves a bitter taste, but a smile can bring you back to reality. Coaching is as much about wins and losses as it is about building strong relationships with people. For the majority of us, riding our bicycle isn’t our job, but it is our identity, and the fact that these riders place their trust in me to nurture that identity and help progress that identity is the greatest gift. I love what I do. It is as much a passion as it is an occupation.
Three Peaks is this coming weekend, and we have a strong Kilowatt contingent ready to tackle the slopes of the alpine region. I can’t wait to see their smiles as they finish!