|Camp Quality - The 2005 Tasmanian Institute of Sport Cycling Camp|
|Written by The Licorice Gallery|
|Sunday, 19 November 2006|
It’s almost 9.30 in the morning and the sun’s rays awaken Mt.Roland from her sleep. Situated on the edge of Sheffield, the town of murals in Northern Tasmania, Roland is a stunning backdrop to this picturesque township where rolling hills and quiet back-roads entice cyclists from all over the world to journey here and experience the scenic surrounds.On the roads around here two wheels are as common as cows grazing in the paddocks, with anyone from German back-packers to Olympic athletes descending the hills or cursing the climbs.
In December last year it was the location for the Tasmanian Institute of Sport cycling programme to hold their annual five day training camp.On the first day when the bunch rolled out of Sheffield beneath the early morning rays’, i couldn’t help but count the medals and achievements that went with it.Hidden in the bunch were gold and bronze medalists from the Moscow World Cup on the track in 2005, a World Junior Individual Pursuit Champion, a national mountain-bike champion, a New Zealand under 19 road champion, a Herald Sun Tour stage winner and Tour de Langkawi stage winner. The list goes on. It’s no wonder the cycling department of the institute is widely regarded as one of the best in the country.
Since it began in 1994 the institute has overseen the development of many of Tasmania’s finest athletes, and placed the ‘Apple Isle’ at the top of the tree as far as elite cyclists go. The camp itself is split up into five rides; day one 90kms, day two 140ms, day three 160kms, day four 200kms and the final day a recovery ride of 50kms.However emphasis is given more to time spent in the saddle than overall distance rode.
Assistant cycling coach at the institute, Ron ‘Tubby’ Bryan (59) finishes packing the TIS / Cyclingnews.com team car and we depart Sheffield to follow the bunch. Bryan’s role with the programme is to identify talent within the ranks of Tasmanian cycling.“My role is to work with the younger people and their individual coaches, to try and give them some sort of guidance as to how to get to the next level”, he explains.From the age of seventeen, if a rider is showing talent and the dedication and commitment needed to go to the next level in cycling, and obtains some good results in national races, they can then be looked at by the institute to develop a career in the sport.
Once a rider has been identified as having potential they are then placed into a ‘target squad’ which is the stepping stone to being granted a scholarship with the institute. Their development will be monitored through training and racing and if augurs well will then be invited to undertake a scholarship. The offer is optional and riders can choose not to take on a scholarship. However, to maximize their full potential and to give them the best possible chance of success in cycling, a place in the Tasmanian Institute of Sport is extremely beneficial.
TIS head cycling coach and national junior road coach Paul Brosnan (35) has saddled up for a ride and a chance to chat with his pupils in between catching his breath and dropping back to us in the team car for regular updates on the day’s progress. There are currently fifteen scholarship holders in the institute. Three of these; Sean Sullivan, Karl Menzies and Caleb Manion race overseas with International teams and are therefore associate scholarship holders, this allows them to race in their teams anywhere in the world and return to Tasmania and train with the institute and utilize all the benefits of the system.All three had returned from Europe prior to Christmas and only have a couple of months off from their busy pro-team schedules. “This is the start of their training for next year” adds Bryan.
Riders drop back to collect muesli bars and hand over clothing as the day becomes warmer. The camp is held around this time every year in different parts of the state. “It’s the only time that pretty much all the riders are available” Bryan explains.Trent Deacon struggles to stay in touch with the group; however it’s a super effort just for him to be able to have reached this potential to be included on such a camp. Trent suffers from Cerebral Palsy and his commitment is unquestionable. In a sport where power, endurance and strength are key ingredients, Trent has them all covered with sheer determination and tenacity.He will ride in the National Track Championships for riders with disabilities in 2006. “We are not just looking for athletes with abilities, we are looking for athletes with dis-abilities who are out there” Bryan says with encouragement.
With riders travelling overseas for races and pro-team contracts and spending considerable time away from home; ‘homesickness’ can threaten a career in the sport. The institute goes out of their way to make sure all their riders who perform at an International level are never too far away from contact with family and friends, as well as their coaches here in Australia.Driving behind the bunch during the training rides Bryan keeps an eye on rider’s styles and their positions on the bikes. “You look for various thing’s, you have a look to see if their shoes are set-up properly because that’s really important, we’ve got a fit-kit which we will run on most of these guys while they are here on the camp just to make sure their shoes are right”.“The saddle height is really important and the cleat position on the shoe is extremely important” Bryan advises as we descend the hills surrounding Sheffield.
When asked about the secret ingredient that has the institute churning out quality riders, Bryan finds it hard to pin-point any one reason. “Once you get one or two quality athletes, then that lifts the sport in general. If you can get three or four then that lifts it even higher, so you have got so many role models that these guys have tried to live up to, it makes a heck of a difference.” Looking at the terrain surrounding us on our way into Sheffield I can’t help but feel the hills have helped in some gasping out-of-breadth sort of way!
After a long day in the saddle some of the team sprawled themselves out in Sean Sullivan’s room and relaxed by watching DVDs’. There was a pile of DVDs’ on the table that would fill the shelf in any Blockbuster store. Sullivan (27) has been in the institute for about ten years and explains how the camp helps him with a strenuous season. “It’s still good just to come home and to do these training camps and get the support from the TIS”. “After the Sun Tour I had a month off: at home it’s pretty busy at Christmas time so it’s hard to find the time to train, it’s good to come here and have a few days where you can just concentrate on training and getting up a good block”.“The whole level of riders in Tasmania has lifted, when I was a junior and went to the national championships you would feel a bit overwhelmed but now we go to world championships”.
One of Australia’s most exciting young riders, Matt Goss, (19), has also risen from this talented crop. “It’s been fantastic for me, like the progress i’ve made in the last two years since I have been here has been above what I expected”.Goss has been on a scholarship for around two and a half years.“It’s hard to be away from your family seven or eight months of the year: you also learn a lot about living and a lot about life; cooking your own meals, organising your own time, you learn a lot of life skills”.
Paul Brosnan and Ron Bryan are kept busy with maintenance and bike set-up duties; Belinda Goss slept after riding for most of the day on her own and Mark Jamieson spent time between chapters of a recent best-seller.Later in the week the bunch set out on a longer 160km ride or around five hours in the saddle. Once again ‘Tubby’ Bryan is my chauffeur as I slump in the front seat of the team car and glance at Matt Goss wearing shades that wouldn’t look out of place in a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s movie ‘A Clockwork Orange!
Although safety is paramount in the minds of all at the institute since the tragedy last year in Germany, Bryan says we all need a reminder of the dangers on the road. “Safety is one of the issues that we will dwell on this camp again; you’ve sometimes just got to remind them because you can become a bit lethargic”. “You just have to be on the ball all the time” he adds knowing just how close to home the accident in Germany was.Bryan is close friends with Louise Yaxley, a scholarship holder with the institute and recovering from injuries sustained in the horrific accident.
Target squad member Tom Robinson drops off the back but Bryan urges him on, telling him to find his own rhythm and drink plenty of water. Robinson keeps his eyes forward on the road ahead and nods his head slightly to acknowledge Bryan’s encouragement. The cycling department can call on several resources from within the institute to assist in their rider’s development. “We are able to utilize all the services of the institute” Bryan said. “John Gregory is here (Physiology) , Peter Culhane is here (Weights advisor), even down to things like physio, dieticians if necessary, the institute as a whole has access to all of those people”.
Matt Goss drops back after fifty kilometres for fresh bidons and an apricot bar. I’m thinking I’ll have whatever he’s having; after all, Goss is a duel World Champion in the Madison and Team Pursuit at Under 19 level – so much talent! Paul Brosnan throws the bike in the car after spending sixty kilometres with the bunch. He quickly tucks into some muesli bars before checking his mobile phone for messages.Brosnan started on the track spending time with Charlie Walsh for twelve months before heading across to the AIS road programme. After finishing racing he became involved in administration and team management with the AIS, in that time he took on part time coaching and went through the AIS as a scholarship coach. Brosnan spent a few months at the Victorian Institute of Sport as an assistant coach before landing the position with the Tasmanian Institute of Sport in early May 2005.
“What we are trying to do is breed a complete athlete: not everyone is going to make it, not everyone has the same talent; some have less talent but more commitment, and that might be what takes them over the line”, Brosnan explains.“The priorities of the TIS are that we are trying to get as many of these athletes competing and representing their country, and then at the same time in doing that we’re looking at them being able to use this as a tool and a potential career as well”.
Caleb Manion slides back to the team-car in search of a cold can of Coke. Coke adds life i thought, but he’s out of luck so it’s back to the bunch.During the camp individual athlete meetings are conducted by Paul and Ron covering rider form and progress. Talks are also held with strength and conditioning coach Peter Culhane as well as ACE (Athletes Career Education) co-ordinator Jamie Cox who emphasizes the importance of being able to juggle a sporting and working career. “The one thing about these guys is that they all love to ride bikes and I guess ideally they’d all like to make a living out of riding their bikes”.“We have to ensure that there are plan Bs’ and Cs’ in place for these young athletes to fall back on, for their own peace of mind to improve their cycling but also to give them something to fall back on once cycling’s over”, he explains.“The whole goal of the programme (ACE) is to try and make the athletes as self dependant as they possibly can (be)”.
Representatives from The Australian Sports Drugs Agency spoke at the camp mid-week as they do with all state institute camps. “It’s an absolutely vital part of any camp” says Bryan. This is organised by the institute: Ken Price and Melissa White will chat to riders about the effect of drugs in cycling and for the first time the target squad members will see a beacon which is used for urine samples after an athlete has been approached to undertake a drug test.During the ASDA meeting Paul Brosnan gets a call from mountain bike star Sid Taberlay who has ridden up from Hobart through the central highlands to get to the camp. He has already been in the saddle for eight and a half hours and after suffering enough in head winds, sends an S-O-S to Brosnan for someone to pick him up and stop the pain.
A half hour TIS Philosophy session with Geoff Masters, the TIS Executive Officer, followed the ASDA briefing. During the session he let the riders know what was expected of them as Tasmanian Institute of Sport members, both on and off the road, and went through some of the lighter moments that they had been through during the year.A barbecue followed for all concerned and the smell of sausages sizzling away wafted high over the resort and into the darkening hills around Sheffield.
Kevin Tabotta has left an indelible mark on the cycling program with the institute, a fact that Paul Brosnan and Ron Bryan recognise with the utmost respect. Tabotta spent seven years with the institute before taking up a new role with Cycling Australia as high performance manager in Adelaide in January 2005. “It’s his hard work and the foundations he’s laid for the programme to be where it’s at: it’s easy for me to come in and pick up where he’s left off” Brosnan said. “It’s what he has established that has really brought Tasmanian cycling up from where it was prior to his arrival”. “Basically when he took it over it was mainly juniors” adds Bryan. “Now we’ve got people who are racing all over the world”.
Mark Jamieson is a former pupil of Tabotta’s and is one rider who has benefited from the institute with flying colours. “It’s been a great help, i’ve been with the TIS since ’99 now, and without them i wouldn’t have got the exposure to the big races and these camp set-ups which is for me a great benefit because I don’t get to train in a bunch very often”.A junior World Pursuit champion and often overseas Jamieson finds the TIS cycling programme sets him up for the mental toughness required in the sport at the elite level. “I think for me mentally; the mental part is preparing everyone, giving them the experience and the exposure and the mental strength to deal with that (pressure)”.
Back on the road and riders speed at more than seventy kilometres an hour on a tricky descent that has me appreciating ‘Tubby’ Bryan’s skills behind the wheel just that little bit more. Like riding onto a sand dune their speed drops instantly to about fifteen kilometres an hour as they climb Spellmans, a steep two kilometre ascent at fifteen percent gradient. “At this time of year they have come off their road season and had a bit of a break, they’ve all had close to a month back on the bike but low intensity work” says Brosnan as the bunch fractures on the climb up Spellman’s.
“So what we’re doing now is bringing in distance and strength, so what we call this is a strength endurance phase”. “They’re getting volume and putting a foundation down for their season (ahead)”. A foundation is crucial to the rider’s overall year as they race so frequently and therefore don’t get the chance to put base kilometres into their legs like they will on the camp here in Sheffield. “The kilometres are all done at tempo as well, it’s not super intensive” explains Brosnan as we cruise up the climb. “The climbs are obviously going to be very difficult, but they get the volume in because they are not doing it at a super intensive pace, and also they are in a bunch as well so they do get recovery”.
We get to the top of Spellman’s to find the bunch gathered at the side of the road. It’s lunchtime on the road and there are some hungry riders to feed. After 100 kilometres have been covered they munch on muesli bars of any variety and replenish their water stocks.Three and a half hours into the ride and the rain starts to fall. The riders return to the car to grab their wet weather jackets. Matt Goss has forgotten his and asks Paul Brosnan for a loan of his Australian jacket. “Australia, I’m going to be in the Olympics!” Goss says putting the jacket on. “You don’t mind me getting it dirty do you Broso?” he quips.
We pass a homestead in the tiny township of Preston where some locals have their feet up on the patio over-looking the road. They seem to be watching the world go by and the sight of the TIS peloton and team-car could well be a highlight of their year. You get the feeling they wouldn’t see too much traffic out this way – let alone some of the country’s finest athletes!
Caleb Manion who rides for the Jelly Belly professional team in the USA drops back to the car and offers us some of his sponsor’s latest product. A packet of Sports Jelly Beans to help with energy levels: yeah right Caleb as if I need them reclining in the comfort of the team-car, some how I thought he may be back for them with a 200 kilometre ride again for the bunch tomorrow.
Its another beautiful morning in Sheffield and the riders will face their longest ride of the camp with 200kms to cover. They will pass through many picturesque townships; Mole Creek, Deloraine, Westbury, Frankford and Port Sorell to name a few.However there could be no better start for them than on the outskirts of Sheffield and at the foot of Mt.Roland where they will ride through Paradise, yes there is such a place and its right here in Tasmania!Belinda Goss, Grace Sulzberger and Trent Deacon set out some fifteen minutes before the main bunch. They aren’t reeled in until around forty kilometres into the ride just past Chudleigh.
Goss, (21), is the most experienced female athlete on the cycling program and without the TIS says she would not be where she is today. “Without it I wouldn’t be riding, that’s definite, cycling is really expensive and the TIS have supported me right throughout and even with me moving to Melbourne they are still helping me out”.“For me it’s nice to come home and catch up with everyone because I don’t get to see them a lot, and it’s always a good hard solid week of training”.
Grace Sulzberger, (16), has only just taken on the scholarship but already feels at home in the Institute: brothers Bernard and Wes are also members. “Oh, being the little sister it’s hard but hopefully I can follow in their footsteps”.Grace comes from a cycling family with parents Michael and Linda competing for a local veteran’s club. “They’re really happy now three of us have got a scholarship”.“We’re a really close family so we keep in touch which is really good, lots of support by them”.
Ryan Sullivan hands his jacket to Ron, a hot day has been forecasted at twenty-five degrees and the riders prepare themselves early into the ride.Paul Brosnan has joined in again and eases back to the car, “You wouldn’t be dead for quids” he yells to us – it’s a beautiful day for a ride!At the 100km point the bunch stop at the Frankford general store to take on some energy bars and top their bidons up with fluid. Belinda Goss inquires at the store for the nearest toilet, one of the hazards for the girls on the road I guess?
Sports scientist John Gregory has been putting in the kilometres with the bunch during the week as well. Gregory has been with the institute for three years now and spends time with athletes assessing their bike set-up and body mechanics. Speaking at a session with the group at the camp, John touched on three specific areas; recovery, form and persistence.“Over the years we’ve done a lot of lab testing but it’s going away from that now. “It’s more track-side or coming to camps, a lot of video and putting things on people’s bikes like SRM’s and GPS to try and gain information”, explains John.
After four hours in the saddle and 125kms have been covered, the bunch stops for lunch at Port Sorell. Ron hands out to riders his ‘Tubby’ specials – club sandwiches. On this camp the athletes will get their energy levels up to scratch before they leave Sheffield each day with breakfast consisting of toast, cereal and coffee, but what they eat depends on the athlete’s own choice. During the ride they will consume sports drinks and energy bars and depending on the time set-out for them on the ride, will either have lunch on the road or when they return to camp.
“On a ride like this they will burn up something like 16,000 kilojoules; the average man should consume about ten and a half to eleven thousand a day, these guys have just burnt-up 16,000 in five hours”, John explains while i wonder sitting back in the front seat just how many I have got to go today before I reach my average.“In the Tour De France they do about 25,000, so it’s about two thirds of the Tour De France kind of energy expenditure which is huge”, he adds as i begin to lose my breadth and quite possibly my fitness as well!
The pack are motoring along at around 45kms an hour on their institute provided Avantis’. Avanti supply the institute with twelve new road bikes each year and currently the riders are on full carbon machines with a dura-ace ten speed gear system. Their helmets and shoes are supplied by the Specialized Company and Santini are now on board to provide knicks and jerseys. Target squad member Tom Robinson (16) is struggling once again on the climbs. ‘Tubby’ offers encouragement from behind the wheel, “Just go at your pace mate, are you right for food?” Just roll back (to the bunch) when you get up to the top”, we all add our encouragement knowing that this amount of time spent in the saddle is new ground for someone as young as Tom.
The bunch splits approaching Sheffield. Some of them find their competitive spirit and race each other to the town sign, others are happy to roll home and take in the stunning scenery around them. Back at the camp and Paul, Ron and John gather in a room to study Grace Sulzberger’s position and technique on the bike. Fruit-cake is on the bench in the kitchen and riders wander in and out grabbing a handful and head back to their rooms for some well earned rest. John films Grace as she pedals on a stationary bike. Later they review the video on TV and discuss adjustments that need to be made. Like sister like brother and Bernard is up next, followed by the chatty Jamo even after 200 energy sapping kilometres!
The camp will adjourn to the local hotel tonight for some quiet drinks and a game of pool. I mean let’s face it, after 200 kilometres in twenty-five degree heat what better way to spend a few hours than blowing the froth of a cold Tasmanian beer, surrounded by friends who have endured the same and suffered as much. Camping sure is fun in Sheffield!
Published in Bicycling Australia magazine March-April 2006 edition.
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 December 2006 )|