Women’s Trip to the Track in Alkmaar – PHOTOS AND REPORT!!

Last weekend the women’s commission organised the second of the winter camps to the velodrome in Holland.

What a great weekend – 2 sessions of training – coached by Herman and Bea, and 3 races on Saturday evening, which were held as the “entertainment” to the Dutch National Championships for men over 50km. That’s a whole lot of track time in just 24 hours!!!!!!

Check out Kayleigh’s report on the track website HERE . And if you can read Dutch – the report on the madison HERE

Checkout the photos HERE


Last weekend the Women’s Commission took over a group of riders to the Velodrome in Alkmaar, Holland. This was the second trip to the track this winter for the women, and this time the women were able to build on their skills and put what they learnt into practise in races against the local Dutch riders.

The cycling scene in Holland is massive – this is one of three velodromes in the country!! We were very fortunate to be once again coached by experienced coach Herman Schenk, and his wife Bea. Herman is coach to many of the top riders in Holland, having coached Marianne Vos and Theo Bos, and is used to co-ordinating groups of about 100 riders training on the track at any one time!!

Saturday was a long day for the group – and luckily we travelled over the night before, so were well rested. The session from 11- 2pm was an intense learning curve – where we did some warm up exercises before cramming in the rules and skill required for both riding in a bunch, and riding a madison. The idea of the madison was a bit daunting before going over – especially for any of us who had been looking at it on you tube. But once Herman and Bea talked us through the steps, everyone picked it up straight away. For the younger riders like Kayleigh and Ailbhe this was one of the highlights of the weekend. Everyone surprised themselves though, and it was amazing to see the trasnformation from the last trip to Alkmaar in December. We were cycling around the track holding hands, and slinging each other by 2pm on Saturday, laughing at how nervous we had been the first time we were in the Velodrome. Imagine having this at your doorstep!

Gillian McDarby travelled with the group also to share some of her knowledge from her training on the track, from the correct sprinting position to tips on how to use the rollers. Before the racing on Saturday evening the bulk of the warm up had to be done on rollers. For many of the riders this was the first attempt, so a crash course was necessary.

Speaking of crash courses – we had two new riders with us in Alkmaar, and both took to it no bother. Gillian commented on how impressed she was with Andrea Fagan and Adrienne McCarthy. Andrea is a courier with no background in bike racing – and nothing fazes her. Adrienne regularly races on the road nationally – but had never been on a track bike before this weekend. Within hours she was flinging Fionnuala around the track in the madison.

On Saturday evening the Dutch National Championships over 50km for the men was taking place, so the atmosphere was fantastic. Herman had arranged with the organisers for women’s races to also take place – and he invited some of the girls to race against us in three events. The leaders race was first, this was raced over 25 laps, with a sprint for the line every lap. 2 points were awarded to the first rider, and 1 to the second. This meant that the racing was aggressive and fast. I managed to get one point, unfortunately that was the only point for the Irish – the skill and practise of the girls came out in the sprint, but it was a buzz to be stuck into the action, and racing for the points anyway. Ailbhe Ivory put in a gutsy performance in the early part of the race, digging in to get second on the first lap.

The second race was the points race. This was on ten minutes later – so not much time to think between the two! The race was over 24 laps – and the sprints were spread out. This made the pace more jumpy – but it meant the group stayed together. Rachael Withers decided to grab the race in the early stages, and made a few attacks out of the bunch – but the Dutch girls were too skilful and worked together as teams to keep everything together. I made a couple of attacks – and got a bit of a gap in the closing part of the race – but unfortunately was brought back in the last couple of laps – and missed out on points.. Still – it was great to see everyone putting in gutsy performances in their first track race!

The madison was the highlight of the weekend, especially for the spectators. Two Irish teams entered it. Fionnuala ní Bhradaigh raced with Adrienne McCarthy in one team, and myself and my Raven teammate Jennifer O Reilly raced another team. It was some buzz!!!! The race was 60 laps, and while myself and Jenn got off to a great start – leading the race for the first handover – right up to the second one, we just were too messy with a couple of slings, and missed a couple of pass overs… Despite this the experience was amazing – there were riders everywhere so you had to concentrate whether you were racing or just riding around. The way the madison works is there are teams of two competing. One member of the team is always racing and everytime they pass the other teammate, who is waiting above the blue line, there is a handover, like a relay… but where the cruising rider is accelerating and grabs the hand of the one racing – who drags them along until they are up to speed – and slings/FLINGS them off to do their leg of the race… fantastic!!!

On Sunday morning – at 8am!!!!!! We took to the track again – a little more tired than the previous day – but determined to make the most of the rest of the weekend. We continued with the skills session, and it was an opportunity for some of the riders to practise a 2km. A few riders like Fran Meehan, Michelle Geoghegan and Roisin had timed themselves in December, and could see their progress in a month – despite the tired legs after racing! Andrea, Adrienne and a few more took the chance to record their first time. Following this we practised some standing starts, before getting stuck into a Devils race. This was the best part of the weekend for some of the riders like Junior Heather Beirne. It was like a game of donkey, where everyone was riding around, but the last rider over the line was knocked out. It was so much fun – Orla Hendron, who is known for her good race tactics, was even cought out in this – with Roisin and Adrienne just passing her at one point. I have to proudly add that us Ravens were first and second in this little race – at the risk of getting rotten eggs thrown at me at the next race….

Needless to say we had a great weekend, there were no crashes, no tears and no fights!!! So you gotta say it was a success. Thanks a million to Herman and Bea for making the trip so enjoyable – and easy!! Thanks also to Gillian who was a huge help, she has great track experience, and was able to pass that on to us. Thanks also to Alan Neenan, of Neenan Travels who was a huge help when it came to booking flights, accommodation – and helping with train time tables. Unfortunately this is the last track trip for the winter – I hope you all enjoyed them. And lastly – I just have to add… the Juniors and youth riders are just awesome… great riders, enthusiastic, pick things up quickly, great fun – and so polite..

The Junior and Youth riders were subsidised on this trip once more, thanks to the help of women in sport.