Tales from the peloton, January 10, 2006
A change of location for this year's Australian Open Road Championships (AORC) could lead to an upset, especially in the time trial. Gerard Knapp reports on how one coach has a taken approach to preparing riders for this increasingly important event.
This year's AORC will be held on new circuits in Mt Torrens, on the outskirts of Adelaide, and according to Paul Brosnan, head cycling coach at the Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS), this year's TT course is like "chalk and cheese" compared to the previous circuit in Echunga. "It's pretty hilly for a TT course, and I think the time gaps will be even bigger than they have been in the past," says Brosnan, "and the weather will also play its part. In this part of the country at this time of the year, it's likely it could be very warm."
Brosnan believed that the new circuit for the road races is, "comparable to last year. It's fairly undulating and it will end up being a race of attrition, a 'last-man-standing' type of race. On the course, there's no real place to recover."
For the past five days, Brosnan has had a select group of riders from Tasmania out on the road and TT courses, familiarising the riders with the terrain and also acclimatising to the conditions. At this time of year, it's not uncommon for temperatures to exceed 40 degrees Celsius, and for hot dry winds to blow in from the desert. "Especially this year, Tasmania's had such a wet and cool Christmas period; so the climate could definitely play a role in the outcome, and it's important for their preparation to be riding in the conditions," he said.
No street crits
Meanwhile, many of Australia's top male and female riders have been racing around the streets of Geelong, taking part in the Jayco Bay Classic, a five-day series of street criteriums. But many of Brosnan's crew was racing at the equally fast and furious Christmas Carnivals, held between Christmas and New Year's Days, and he felt it was a case of too much intensity in too short a period. Matched with the importance of the AORC, especially as it's a Commonwealth Games selection race, Brosnan felt another block of endurance training may be more appropriate.
The men's U23 road time trial is shaping up as the unqualified test of the country's emerging male talent, with the favourites being Victoria's Will Walker (silver medalist in the U23 World Championships road race in Madrid in 2005) and Tasmania's Mark Jamieson, (sixth in the U23 men's road TT in Madrid).
Jamieson and fellow Tasmanian Josh Wilson have been preparing for the road TT in South Australia's dry heat, testing their gearing on the course. Brosnan said he'll be able to make a comparison, of sorts, as to whether the climate conditioning plays that big a role, as senior rider Sean Sullivan has being riding the same endurance block, but in Tasmania.
"Sean's an experienced professional and he can prepare himself adequately," he said. Sullivan is also out to impress, especially as the talented Tasmanian was caught up in Barloworld's implosion last December and was left without a team for this season; but it's understood that an American team is already interested in hiring him.
Another Tasmanian rider with an eye on Commonwealth Games selection is former junior world track champion Belinda Goss, but unlike the others, she did compete at the Jayco Bay Classic. Brosnan says Goss is on a different program, hoping to set qualifying times to be in consideration for Australia's track squad while in Adelaide as her focus is still on the track at this stage.
The Tasmanian riders were also taken into the hills around Sheffield in the northern part of the state for a training camp in mid-December, continuing something that's been done for the past seven years, according to assistant cycling coach Ron Bryan.
The early camp was a chance for all the riders - many of whom race in the US and Europe - to get together, go over bike set-up and work out their plans for 2006. As Bryan said, "it wasn't easy, there were heaps of climbs, as it's pretty hilly around Sheffield. There was very little intensity but it was very good for their aerobic systems.
"But on most days, they were averaging over 30km/h; it wasn't a dawdle." In fact, mountain biker Sid Taberlay put in an eight-hour training ride into a block headwind just to reach the training camp, and then set off with the others, where they clocked up over 700km of constantly undulating, hilly roads over six days. One Tasmanian who was at the training camp but won't be going to the AORC is Karl Menzies, who is returning to the USA to take up his new role at Health Net, the USA's top domestic road team. Menzies was in action with other TIS riders at the Burnie criterium, showing the power and strength that training in the hills of the Apple Isle promotes, something that prompted America's most successful domestic racing squad to hire him following a great 2005.