Cycling Auckland is again promoting track cycling with sessions for newcomers which began in October, and are again under the direction of David Osten who has seen riders gain experience, confidence, skills and enjoyment and move on to succeed at higher levels. There are many riders who have come through this squad and gone on to win at national and even higher levels. Here's how David responded to questions on how the programme is running this season.
How many years have you been involved helping new people to track cycling at Manukau Velodrome?
I've been involved in the development squad for the past 8 years. Over this time I have seen a large number of riders of all ages try the track. Some don't like it, or just find other things to do. This is just a fact of life. My attitude is that I will teach/help/encourage anyone on the track and we will end up with a few who go on to succeed or just enjoy the track. For road riders the value is to gain the bike handling skills that are of value on the road.
What do you think are the key elements to introducing seemingly "green" cyclists to an aspect of the sport that may be quite foreign to them?
The track is a discipline that is not for everyone but it is a sport that for many appears challenging and interesting. With the system we run with the hire bikes it is open to all to "have a go". Some riders' first experience of the sport is riding on the track but for many others it is follows on from road riding. Track offers something quite attractive for riders who prefer it to the road which they ride for fitness. The track offers fulfilment whereas for road riders track training and racing is used to develop bike handling skills.
What numbers signed up for track development this year?
We had 70 register from the muster held in October. As always the numbers fall away but this is largely due to the time our season falls – exams, end of school year, Christmas/New Year, family holidays etc. This year we've had an average attendance of 32 over the two squads each Saturday. After the first 3 weeks the squad was split in two to allow for smaller groups with more evenly matched skill levels.
Were they already involved in secondary schools teams time trials?
Most riders come from the schools programme from schools from Massey and Whangaparaoa College in the west and north to Rosehill College in Papakura. The age breakdown is interesting: Under 15 = 23, Under 17 = 31, Under 19 = 10, Older riders = 8
In the Under 15 group there are riders as young as 9 and there seems a lot of potential in the group this year.
What are their greatest fears/concerns….if they have any?
For most there is some initial apprehension but this is quickly overcome in the first session. The major fear is lack of control, no brakes or free wheel. Some take longer to overcome these fears but as they gain confidence and learn new skills it is gradually overcome.
The banking is the big initial fear but this is usually overcome in a few minutes. Parents take a while longer to feel comfortable but relax once their children overcome their initial reluctance. The advantage of the Manukau track is that from most areas that the riders or parents are, they can't see the size of the banking.
What is your approach?
My philosophy at the squad is to focus on skills for the championship events. Fitness is the rider's responsibility – I give guidance but the track will not give fitness. The fun facing is left the Wednesday and Friday night race programmes which everyone is encouraged to attend.
Cycling Auckland offers this programme at no charge except for the hiring of bikes. Has this worked out well?
Bike hire is always a difficult area but for all the problems the advantage of having such a large pool of bikes available has led to many riders trying the track and once they decide they enjoy the racing and the atmosphere they find and buy and bike for themselves.
What have the initial sessions for the development riders involved?
The basic format is confidence and basic skills e.g. following a wheel, riding side-by-side, getting out of the seat and accelerating, diving off the banking. Once riding of the track is covered we move on to held starts and always the focus is not on speed but technique. I believe you will ride faster by riding slower to start with i.e. acquiring the skills and technique and then the speed will come. I seldom use a stopwatch for individual timing for the first 6 weeks.
How have the riders responded to the Madison session?
This was a great success and will be run again soon. Chris Whitley took the session and it was enjoyed by all riders. We had a great turn out for the day and most want to do it again. The real success at Madison skills were Sarah Gilkison and Lisa Haycock. It is to be hoped from this initial work we will produce quality Madison riders for the national champs in the near future.