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Life in the Saddle Part 3 – Olympian Monique Sullivan’s Guide to Riding and Racing

courtesy of Monique Sullivan

August 08, 2016 – Monique Sullivan started bike racing at the age of 12, and chased her Olympic dream for the next 11 years. It wasn’t easy. At the age of 23 the hard work paid off and Monique proudly joined Team Canada at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England. Against the best track cyclists in the world, she finished 6th in the Keirin (a track cycling event where cyclists follow a motorized pacer before sprinting to the finish). It was the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and the roller coaster ride that is high performance sport.

 ©  courtesy of Monique Sullivan

Following the Olympics, Sullivan took two-years off the bike to work on her mechanical engineering degree. She recently returned to racing, and in her words, she’s “having more fun than ever on the bike.” In this 5-part series, Sullivan describes what it takes to become an Olympian and shares some advice about the journey. In Part III, Monique continues to outline some more basics that will set you up for success on and off the track. If you missed Part II, check it out here.

Sullivan is a multi-time national champ and took home three golds from the PanAm 2015 Games; placed 4th in Women’s Keirin on the final day of 2015 UCI Track Worlds in France; won bronze in the Keirin at the World Cup in New Zealand in Dec. 2015; placed fourth in the Team Sprint with Kate O’Brien at the World Cup in Hong Kong in 2015; set a national Team Sprint record on the Mattamy Homes track in Milton, ON in July 2016 before heading to the Games; she’ll race the Keirin, the Sprint and the Team Sprint in Rio. – ed.

Monique track cycling  ©  courtesy of Monique Sullivan
Part III: The Basics…continued…

Here are some more tips that will save you some time and help maximize your training.

Tip #6: Warm-up seriously. A productive warm-up is a time to focus and get ready for training. I like to chat with my friends before and after training, but during warm-up I always make sure to take the time to think about my workout and get my mind and body ready for the efforts.

Tip #7: Cool down properly. A full 20-minute spin after your workouts can help you recover and prepare for your next workout. During that time I always have a shake or snack so that my body has fuel to help start the recovery process. Chocolate milk is a good option!

Tip #8: Read the rules. Cycling rules are often written in a strange language that pretends to be English or French, but they’re actually very difficult to understand. My advice: read qualification criteria, UCI rules, and contracts multiple times and ask questions. Never assume that your coach, manager or any other staff have read the rules and/or understand them. I know someone who missed out on going to the Olympics because of confusion over the rules. If a rule gets missed, it’s ultimately you who doesn’t get to compete, not your coach.

Tip #9: Be on time. If you’re not ten minutes early, you’re late. This is important so that you have some gap time in case you forget something, but also because at most races you will be relying on buses to get to and from venues. These buses do fill up and sometimes even if you’re early you might not get a seat.

Tip #10: Ask questions and make a plan. Decide what your goals are and ask as many people as you can what it will take to get there. Step by step. You want to go to the Olympics? Make a list of what you can do right now to make that happen. For example, to get to the Olympics you will need to get to the World Cups, to get to World Cups you will need to make a qualifying standard, to get faster you will need to train, in order to train properly you will require proper nutrition and hydration. This is just an example, but the point is to break down big goals into small steps that are within your control. You can’t always control the outcome of a big race, but you can control the quality of your next meal, you can control what time you go to bed, and you can control how much water you drink.

It can be difficult to know all the steps that can lead you to the next level in the sport. Make it clear to the decision makers that you are committed and show that commitment through your training and performance. Sometimes you may need to be a pest in order to get the information you need for qualifications and that’s OK. People are busy and may need more than one e-mail reminder to get back to you.

Tip #11: Don’t forget your gear. When travelling, always bring your shoes, pedals, and a pair of cycling shorts in your carry-on bag. It is not uncommon for your bike box and bag to get lost during travel. It’s usually pretty easy to find a spare bike to ride, but you don’t want to have to borrow cycling shorts (see Tip #1 from Part II of this series)! [hyperlink to Tip #1…Part II]

Tip #12: Have a hobby or interest outside of cycling. This isn’t mandatory of course, but I’ve always found that having a hobby off the bike helps me balance out my days, and reminds me that bike racing isn’t everything!

Life in the Saddle Part 1Part 2

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