Where to begin!?
I’m writing this on my return flight from the Manchester World Cup. My teammate Cristin is two rows in front of me. We started the day with Bobby Lea, Kim Geist and Cari Higgins—also of the US Team—and Megan Hottman, of DFT Treads Cycling. We left Kim & Bobby in Pennsylvania while Cari & Megan flew on to Denver. Cristin & I are heading back to Los Angeles where we’ll resume training Tuesday at the ADT Center.
I flew to Los Angeles shortly after Thanksgiving to train with the new US Sprint Coach, Jamie Staff. Staff was hired by USA Cycling in July 2010 with the challenge of building an internationally competitive sprint program. Staff retired from competition last year after a career that began on the BMX track and ended with his winning gold at the Beijing Olympics as the starter for the British Team Sprint team.
At Elite Nationals, I learned Staff had an open door policy for now. I did well at elite nationals—two gold and two bronze medals—so I took a few weeks to consider whether I wanted to pursue the sport at a higher level. If I learned anything in 2007, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to succeed at the world class level without committed support from an organized program.
We decided we were still game so I emailed Jamie to see if I could join his training group between the holidays.
That was three months ago. What started as a ‘try out’ has become a work in progress!
When I arrived in LA, 2009 elite national champion Cristin Walker was the only female sprint athlete training with Staff. She was doing road work and being groomed for next season. Staff has been straight up since taking the job that he’s got a long term vision and is building a program with the 2016 Olympic Games in mind.
New for London 2012, the Team Sprint is being used to qualify sprinters for the Olympic Games. Prior to myself and Tela Crane from Seattle joining him, Jamie had only one female–Cristin–in camp. When we arrived, he suddenly had enough bodies to field a team.
So we got to work. No promises were made. Jamie’s a high-energy, driven, process-oriented coach. We show up every day, work hard and give him our best. He gives us his best and expects our best. That’s how it goes.
By January, Staff felt we were fast enough to race the World Cup. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think he saw this season as a chance to gain international experience, establish a UCI ranking and if all goes well, earn Olympic qualification points. At the very least, he saw it as a chance to get US women back in the game.
It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least! Cristin and I flew to China last month for the Beijing World Cup. It was my first elite international race since December 2007 and Cristin’s first World Cup ever. Long travel, crazy jet lag, funny food, very little English . . . nothing like diving in head first!
We did well in Beijing: placed 11th with a respectable time of 35.954. We also scored Olympic qualification points our first time out! Last week we rode a 36.054 in Manchester . . . just 1/10 second off our best.
With Beijing, the travel and cultural differences take some getting used to. Manchester is an entirely different beast: sold-out crowds, non-stop loud music and cameras in your face. The stimulus factor is a 10+ and learning to concentrate and focus on your race is a cultivated skill.
We’d grown accustomed to going 2/10ths faster every time we rode together, so we were expecting a faster time in Manchester. Cristin and I also came home from China sick as dogs, though, and lost valuable training time between the two events.
Still, we’re ahead of schedule: Instead of waiting ‘til next World Cup season, we’ve got two World Cups under our belts. And, we’ve set a time we can only improve on and have seen first-hand the best in the world perform.
Plus, we’ve got a UCI ranking and have scored coveted Olympic qualification points. Whoot! I’ll post photos soon and do my best to explain what it takes to qualify for the Olympic Games . . .
For now, I’ll just say this: Every pedal stroke counts!
Until then, cheers!