Irish Cyclists get on Track in Alkmaar

Last weekend a group of over 21 headed to the Indoor cycling track in Almaar, Holland. The group picked up many new skills from local coach, Herman Schenk, who dedicated 4 hours of training to the Irish girls.  NEW PHOTOS ADDED…..

Cycling Ireland’s emphasis for London 2012 is being placed on Track Cycling. In light of this the Women’s Commission brought a group of Seniors, Juniors and Underage girls to Alkmaar, Holland, last weekend for two fully coached sessions in their Velodrome. For many of the riders it was their first taste of Indoor track cycling, and local track coach Herman Schenk and his wife Bea guided us through two sessions of two hours.

Holland now have three indoor cycling tracks in Holland, and the set up in Alkmaar was great – very welcoming, easy to access, and Herman and Bea eased everybody’s nerves straight away, taking the group through as many drills as could be squeezed into the two sessions. Herman coaches many of the top women in Holland, and his coaching style reflected his experience. Bea came up on the track with our group setting the pace, while Herman stood track side with a microphone explaining what needed to be done.

The focus of the sessions were primarily track familiarisation, as everyone was a little nervous to start with. For some riders it was one of their first tastes of fixed wheel bikes, and the concept of cycling without brakes!! To start with the banking looked steep, the wooden floor looked slippery, and the pace we had to hold sounded fast… but the minute everyone got up on the track the nerves subsided. Herman and Bea brought us through many drills, from learning how to follow wheels, in groups and behind the motorbike, to practising our flying lap sprints. On Sunday we practised a few of the different race events, and after the last session we were different riders walking away from the track.

It was particularly encouraging to see the group of Underage and Junior riders putting us Seniors to shame. We had 9 girls under 18 in the group – Rachael Withers, Rachel Mitchell, Ailbhe Ivory, Fiona Guihen and Heather Beirne were already old heads at track cycling, so handled the boards no bother.

The younger girls took to it straight away. Kayleigh Gibbons was track rider of the year in Sundrive Park in 2008, and we all got to see how she earned that award. Once her nerves passed she demonstrated the sprint she has become known for in Sundrive. Caoimhe Ivory sees herself as more of an endurance rider, and over came the pain of a crash in her first lap, when she landed on an old bruise, to get back on the bike and put out some fast times in the flying lap. Our youngest rider Jenny Neenan (at ten years old) showed a lot of promise too – improving her time each session. We discovered a star of the future in young rider Michelle Mullen – whose experience lies in community games cycling. She took to the track for the first time this weekend – and her strength and ability left all us Seniors gobsmacked on the sidelines.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the weekend, and are already looking forward to the next trip over. For me the hightlight was the team pursuit, when I teamed up with my Raven clubmate Jennifer O Reilly, and former rowing crewmate Sinead Jennings, taking on three of the top domestic riders Orla Hendron, Jenny McCauley and Fran Meehan – it was some buzz!! Needless to say we all need to practise this a whole lot more – how great would it be to have a track in Ireland!!

From an organisational point of view Alan Neenan, from Neenan Travels on Nassau Street, was extremely helpful from the start – booking flights, accommodation and sorting out train times. Alkmaar is roughly an hour from Amsterdam, and the trains run every 15 minutes or so. We stayed in a hotel beside the station, and the track was roughly 10 minutes away on the bus (number 165 for anyone thinking of going over!!). Alan, Ger Ivory and Michael Mullen travelled with us, which made supervising and organising everything a whole lot easier. Alan and Ger have a huge amount of experience at track cycling, and Michael was on hand to capture all the Kodak moments.

Depending on track availibility we plan a similar trip early 2009. We will be bringing a similar sized group – which again will be half junior/Underage and half seniors. These trips will be run in conjunction with the Development Programme that we launched earlier this Winter – more details will be discussed at our training camps.

More photos to follow. Cycling Lucan report HERE