July 14, 2015 (Trexlertown, PA) – Canada’s National Sprint Team recently completed a 3-week training/racing block at the Valley Preferred Velodrome in Trexlertown, PA. Why would our team leave their new world-class indoor velodrome in Milton, Ont., and drive for seven hours to train at an old outdoor concrete track in Pennsylvania?
Well, it’s mostly due to a crew of track-cycling crazy people down there that have created a unique atmosphere that attracts many of the top track racers in the world each summer (several of the athletes in attendance were on the podium at the Track World championships this past year).
National Teams from New Zealand, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Trinidad, Japan, El Salvador, Argentina and the USA had athletes competing. During their time there, Team Canada competed in four different UCI Cat. 1 competitions and gained valuable racing experience against some of the world’s best as well as gathering all-important UCI points.
The UCI Cat. 1 racing started on June 5 and ran until the weekend of June 20 – detailed schedule here:
– June 5 – US Sprint Gran Prix
– June 12 – Fastest Man on Wheels
– June 19 – Festival of Speed
– June 20 – Red Robin All-Stars
The team had some excellent results coming home with three golds, one silver, two bronze, a couple of tough 4th-place finishes, two track records, and many personal bests along with some solid top-12 results. We caught up with some of our athletes who made some time for interviews and shared their experiences with us.
On June 5 Kate O’Brien broke Connie Paraskevin Young’s 200m record (11.569) that has stood since 1996 at the U.S. Olympic Trials by almost a full 10th of a second with a time of 11.487. O’Brien’s teammate Monique Sullivan went 11.423 on June 19 and then on the same day O’Brien topped that mark posting 11.327. She also earned a silver medal and a 4th place-finish in the match sprint tournaments. O’Brien from Calgary, AB is an Olympic bobsledder who is currently juggling both sports.
How does it feel to be the fastest female rider ever in T-Town?
KO: It’s kind of strange to me to be referred to as “the fastest female rider ever in T- Town”. It is not something I ever thought would be attached to my name, so it’s a pretty big shock. It’s a massive honour and I was happy to be able to break that record wearing the red maple leaf.
Beating Connie Paraskevin-Youngs record is a pretty big deal. There is a reason why the record has been there for so long. Going into qualifying did you have that magic number in mind, or were you just trying to go as fast as you can? What about your second record-breaking ride?
KO: Last year in T- Town I was brand new. I rode a 13.9 200m TT. To be perfectly honest, I really was just aiming to be better than I was last year. I had absolutely no intention or dream of breaking a track record. In fact, during the ride I was just thinking about the ride; the push for points, how to minimize the tax on my legs and how to do so without going so slow as to slide off of the track. When they called my time as a new track record I was completely gob-smacked. The second ride was similar to the first; I knew the day was quicker and was hoping that I could do better than I had the time before. Not so much to break the track record again, but just for my own personal goals. It occurred to me that it would be kind of nifty to do 11.3 something but it was just more of a fleeting thought. The day of, the wind was really making me nervous and my line wasn’t great so I was even more shocked when they announced an 11.32. Such an honour and surprise – I never thought it would happen.
You told me after Bobsled Worlds that you were going to dedicate yourself to cycling. You’ve obviously been training hard, but could you share with us what you think is the main reasons are for your new burst of speed?
KO: Indeed for the past couple of months I have been training exclusively for track, which I do think has contributed. Erin [Hartwell/coach] did work with me on just getting comfortable riding a bike, things we were not able to do while I was doing bobsleigh due to the lack of time. The T- Town thing in particular I think is due to the fact that T- Town is a 333m outdoor track, so it’s less banked and technical. It’s more of a brute force thing so I can get away with using less technical skills, which at the moment, I don’t have.
You were the fastest in qualifying. What do you think you need to do to be the fastest in the Match Sprints/Keirin?
KO: I need to learn a lot, but I need to do a lot of work on my tactical skills. There are so many intricacies and patterns for those events and they’ll likely only come with experience.
Sullivan won gold in both Keirin tournaments and bronze in the match sprint races.
How does it feel to beat some athletes who finished on the podium last year at worlds?
MS: The racing went really well. It is always a treat to get to race in an international field with less pressure. It gives us the opportunity to practice, try new things, and learn.
What do you think has been a factor in your increase in speed?
MS: It is hard to compare form directly to the other nations in the off season because everyone is building towards the World Cup in a different way, but I was really happy to get the opportunity to race with such a great international field so close to Pan Ams.
You beat Connie Paraskevin-Young’s long standing 200m record, but your teammate bested that time. Both you and Kate were the two fastest sprinters in qualifying. Leading up to the PanAm’s, what do you feel your chances are to win gold just less than a month from now?
MS: We are working hard building up to Pan Ams. We are all hoping to have good form when it really counts and I think we have some really good chances for medals. I know I’m doing everything I can to get them.
In the Team Sprint for PanAms, what countries are you worried about the most?
MS: For Pan Ams we are watching Cuba, Mexico and Colombia for the team sprint.
Barrette won a Keirin tournament, came 4th in the men’s sprint qualification with a new outdoor PB in the 200m TT, and came 4th in the match sprint tournament that followed.
To what do you attribute some of your new found speed?
HB: Being able to train in a new environment at the new velodrome in Mitlon sure helps. My training is more structured than before and I am really pushing hard every day to get to a new level in my career. I believe that having to prepare for the Pan Am Games at home in Canada also helped me train harder than ever over the past few months.
What are some of the benefits of racing in T-Town leading up to Pan Ams?
HB: There was a strong field of good international sprinters racing every weekend since the races were UCI class 1 category. It was a chance to test my legs for the first time since the 2015 Track World Championships last february. Since the races went really well, I’m getting back in Toronto with a lot of confidence before the Games.
What were some of your biggest challenges in T-Town?
HB: My biggest challenge over there was to perform under pressure and to get some valuable UCI points and at the same time continue through those weeks to train really hard to be ready in time for July.
For the Pan Ams, what event do you feel offers your best chance at a gold medal?
HB: I do strongly believe in our chances in the Team Sprint. Since it is an event that is easier to predict we know we have a good chance to collect gold considering our progression lately. I hope to perform just as well in the sprint and especially in the Keirin.
Who will be your most challenging competitors?
HB: Fabian Puerta from Colombia and Hersony Canelon from Venezuela
Thanks to all of the athletes for giving up some of their recovery time to share their thoughts and answer questions for us and fans. As they complete their final preparations on the Milton track we wish them the very best at the upcoming Pan Am Games.