The first coaching day for the Development Squad took place on the track in Sundrive Park last Saturday. Following accreditation under the guidance of track expert Hugh Byrne, the squad were coached through an interval session with top coach Paddy Doran.
The initial threat of a few drops of rain soon subsided, thankfully, and the squad of 14 women were provided with a track bike each. They then spent a few minutes (cough cough – lot of minutes in my case!!) setting up the bikes to be similar to their road bikes, and getting ready for the accreditation with Hugh. Sundrive Park is Ireland’s answer to a velodrome, and while the surface and length differs greatly to an indoor track (not to mention the weather!!), the skills that you learn are just the same.
The Women’s Commission organised this session on the track to familiarise the athletes with track bikes, and the skills and drills involved, with a view to sending a group over to Newport or Manchester in the Autumn to get accredited indoors. We also want to encourage more women to participate in the Wednesday night league in Sundrive, and of course take part in the National Track Championships 2008. Thanks to Aideen Collard for organising the accreditation with Hugh.
Although most people were a little anxious at first – when practising on the grass – the nerves dispersed quickly enough, with a bit of practise, and a few drills on the track. By the time accreditation was over, and the two hours of coaching by Hugh passed it was time for lunch.
I think it was when we were finishing off the end of the greasy breakfast roll, and hash browns, dipped in ketchup, washed down with a pint of milk, that Paddy mentioned that maybe we’d prefer to just have a light lunch – cos the fun was really going to begin, with our interval session. (Bear in mind I used a bit of exagerration and improvisation with the food there – we are athletes after all… ).
Honestly, I mean it when I say fun… ok, sometimes the legs were screaming back at us, but what a buzz getting the interval session done in a controlled environment, with so many other girls around. By this stage we had swapped the track bikes for our own (again, I struggled a lot with the whole mechanics of it.. last as always… ) which was great. We split into groups, and did a variety of pieces, with advice on what gears were the best to go into for various length pieces, what kind of revs were good, and so on. Great learning, sometimes learning the hard way, by going off too hard. I mean, this was not meant to be competitive, not meant to be a race… but come on… there’s a rider just up ahead, doing an effort.. of course you want to catch her.. with the fear of God in you that the girl behind you will do the same to you.. Exciting stuff..
The day finished off with a Road Bike version of the Italian Pursuit. We broke into two teams, starting at opposite sides of the track, each team aiming to close the gap on the other. Every lap the groups get smaller, when the lead rider pulls up to the fence. Eventually you are left with two riders racing against each other… Just full on competition the whole time, and great practise of team work.
Thanks very much to Hugh Byrne for taking the time to go through all the skills with us, especially when most of the squad were on the track for the first time.
Thanks also to Paddy Doran, coach of the Women’s Development Squad, for making it a great day of learning, in such a fun environment. Those handouts that Paddy gave us had better not end up at the back of the press somewhere – because they have some great tips on how to get the most out of the interval sessions, which will be hugely beneficial to any of the squad who plan to race in Belgium this season!!
Thanks to Valerie (and family) for providing the tea, coffee, and, after much effort, the gazebo.
Photos courtesy of Paddy Doran.