Tales from the (indoor) peloton, December 15, 2008
The members of an American trio which competed at this season's Gent Six Day have several things in common. Austin Carroll, Guy East and Jackie Simes are young, ambitious and very good track racers. They all returned to Gent last month and performed well in the UIV Cup races. Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake discovered their origins in cycling and where the sport may take them.
Most people will generally ride a bike in their youth, but not many take it up as a competitive sport. With the family background Jackie Simes IV enjoys however, there was almost no other path for him than to become a bike racer. "I had the freedom to do what I wanted, but if I wanted to go in this direction [cycling] it was encouraged," said the young Simes. His father, Jackie Simes III, participated in three Olympic Games, while 'junior' started racing at the tender age of nine. "I went to the local track once in a while and I picked it up from there."
For Austin Carroll, things evolved without genes - in a more organic way. "I have been riding forever. I raced BMX. I started racing mountain bikes when I was 15. When the LA Velodrome was built I started riding there - more as cross training, but I got hooked on the track," said Carroll. Now he is racing for the wins at the UIV Cup, something he didn't dare to dream of initially.
"Winning Dortmund was such a great feeling and experience for both of us" - Carroll felt special that he and East were the first Americans to achieve a UIV Cup overall victory.
Carroll has partnered with East on the track consistently since last year. This gives the pair a unique advantage over other teams, which are normally thrown together at the last minute. Carroll hopes they could continue to compete together for a while. "We complement each other really well," he explained. "East has a really good time trial and I have a strong burst of speed."
Last year, Simes had the pleasure of riding with East, and they did well. "We won the last night in Gent," he says. The pairing followed an unfortunate accident for Carroll. "Last year I crashed the second night here and dislocated my shoulder. I wasn't able to finish." Otherwise, Carroll and East were together for the same programme. "We did Amsterdam, Dortmund, Munich... we did the same races, but it was a big improvement from last year to this year."
Alternately, Simes had a tougher time in 2008. "Last year was definitely more successful. Being used to your partner is part of it. Last year I was also fortunate enough to race a couple of Six Days before Gent." Ahead of this season's Gent Six Day however, Simes only had a couple of one-day events with his British teammate Peter Williams; hence his hope to ride a more consistent schedule next year. "I would really like to get some top placings in the overall."
Carroll is also already excited to come back to Europe for a higher goal. "I would like to do some of the pro Six Days next year. The Olympics are a goal, too." His partner East shared those sentiments.
Track or road?
Like the dilemma that faces many track riders, all three youngsters are undecided whether their future lies in the velodrome or on the road. Simes rides the summer road races with the Time Continental team. "Our directeur sportif is Eric Saunders, and the team is based in North Carolina, so I spend a lot of time down there during the season."
The Pennsylvania native gets limited track time, explaining that, "In the winter, if it is nice, we do Saturday afternoon Madison training on the track. If the weather isn't good I probably won't end up on the track that week."
Even when he gets on the track, it can be cold and windy. "It is almost like riding on the road." During the summer Simes gets to ride the track around three times a week, as long as he is not travelling for road races.
A sucker for punishment, Simes' favourite workout is putting it in the big gear on the track and riding all-out for 45 minutes behind the motorbike.
East will be riding for the Trek Livestrong outfit next year, with another young star of the sport. "I like both road and track, it is good to mix it up a bit. The team is going to be good, with guys like [Taylor] Phinney in it and Axel Merckx running it." Merckx is already keeping in touch and sending congratulatory notes, and the training camp is scheduled for January.
Carroll has ideal conditions in Los Angeles, even in the winter. "I train on the track three to four times a week," he said. East has only a flat 400-metre track to train on at home."You just try to make the most of it," the eternal optimist said.
Carroll and East live a couple of thousand miles away from each other and the only way to train together is during camps. But Carroll emphasised is was not a big deal. "We were at the training centre [in Colorado Springs] together, then did Nationals. We do have enough time after the road season ends and the track season starts to get used to each other again."
The European experience
All three riders were very impressed with the fierce racing, but also have gained experience, since their first trip over. Simes raced in Gent for the first time in 2006. "That was a bit rough, it was the first higher level Madison I did. There was definitely a lot of learning involved. But I think coming over that first time benefited me a lot."
It is the same for East and Carroll, whose coach, Clay Worthington, was full of praise. "Last year, they were competing for sixth. Now, they compete for the win." The pair won the Six Days in Dortmund, Germany, which left its impressions on Carroll. "Winning Dortmund was such a great feeling and experience for both of us – being the first Americans to win one of those races."
Carroll also noted the enthusiasm of the crowds. "In Dortmund and Amsterdam there were a lot of people. But here in Gent it is really amazing - the people are really into the racing, especially here at the UIV Cup, where there it is flat out racing." Carroll discovered the Belgian passion for the sport. "Here, when you say you are a cyclist, people talk to you. I love it! It is such a cool experience; especially when you come from the States, where the people don't really understand it."
Besides racing, cultural experiences were also part of the programme for the trio, as Carroll points out. "We went to one of the concentration camps near Munich. It is a cool experience to broaden your horizons and learn about history in Europe," he said. Carroll was especially thankful to be able to do all this at this particular moment in his life. "Guy and I are so young and we have seen so much. It is just amazing and a great experience."