June 22, 2009 (Canmore, AB) – The Canadian Cycling Association conducted the first annual National Mountain Bike Talent Identification Day (West) in Canmore, AB on Sunday. The event was held in conjunction with the Canada Cup and featured 14 athletes and three coaches who were nominated to the program by their provincial cycling associations. The camp was lead by CCA Development Director, Mathieu Boucher and National Mountain Bike Team Coach, Dan Proulx.
The day began with an athlete meeting and introduction to the new program. The goal of the Talent Identification Day was to provide athletes with a team building opportunity; an early introduction to the National Team Coach; technical skill development and information on systematic training throughout the year. Athletes were also given information on the development pathway from the provincial to international level.
The ride session took place on the Canada MTB Cup course in Canmore. Athletes began with a session on starts where they tried to match the speed that the elite riders had done during the race on the previous day. Almost all of the athletes were able to challenge the start speed of Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mtn) for the first 60 meters of the course. The juniors were putting in a 110% sprint to match the controlled start speed that Kabush had used in the race. This was an important eye opener for some of the athletes who hadn’t realized just how fast you need to be in order to compete at the elite level. The athletes improved their starts significantly during this session. The start work was mentioned as one of the most valuable components of the camp by the most experienced juniors in attendance.
The next segment of the camp featured some of the technical sections used in the Canada Cup. The first section was a steep 30m descent that featured two options at the bottom — a small jump over some roots or a slightly slower line around the roots. During the elite race, top riders like Emily Batty (Trek Store Toronto), Kabush and Derek Zandstra (3 Rox Racing) all took the more conservative line around the roots — the same as the top juniors in the race. Several of the less experienced juniors, however, opted for the jump where they risked a crash and increased the potential for a flat or mechanical. This was a great lesson for the juniors. While some lines may appear fast, sometimes the potential risk can outweigh the benefits.
The second part of the technical section featured a relatively simple single track with roots and very subtle features (located 400m before entry to the coal chutes) that required the athletes to gain speed from the terrain. Even in the elite race at the Canada Cup there was a large difference in efficiency on this section between the top five athletes and the rest of the field. The best athletes were able to pump and roll through the terrain – gaining speed and using momentum to float over the roots and rocks in the section. Less experienced athletes were forced to feather the brakes and pick their lines more conservatively due to a lack of momentum. Each undulation in the trail jarred them and scrubbed speed from these riders.
The best riders rolled with the terrain and increased speed without effort over the same section. The interesting thing about this trail is that many junior riders didn’t stop to analyze this section during their pre-rides because it wasn’t seen as a significant technical feature (i.e. big drop or steep climb). When asked about the sections most important for the juniors to compare themselves on, Kabush (the race winner) recognized this simple section as an important area for the juniors to get feedback on. Clearly the elite athletes in the sport are thinking about the subtle features of the course as well as the major technical areas.
Mastering line selection, floating over rooty terrain and gaining speed from terrain changes are all important skills that allow the best athletes to pull away from competitors of equal fitness. For coaches and athletes hoping to develop this skill at home, some time spent fluidly rolling through the rhythm section of the local BMX track would be the fastest way to learn some of the agility and flow skills required for this terrain. Interestingly, the MTB Worlds course in Canberra, Australia features several sections where athletes must use these types of skills to generate and preserve speed.
The final instructional segment of the day was a 40m double track climb at the lowest point of the course (before the main Georgetown climb). Kabush and Zandstra covered this section in 15 seconds. Batty was 20 seconds over the same section. Each of the juniors got a chance to compare their “estimated race speed” with that of the pros. Most of the athletes were able to match the speed of their elite counterparts for this effort (totaling just 400m with lead-in). The eye opener was that the comparative time of the elites was taken on the final lap of the Canada Cup race while many of the juniors were only able to equal the speed on a single burst effort. Again, another indication for the juniors of exactly how fast the elite riders are going.
The wrap up for the day featured a discussion of the elements needed in a proper training program. We discussed the general outline for a training year, the types of training required in their program and the importance of routinely practicing all types of training throughout the year (i.e. an occasional sprint during the winter”¦some endurance rides in the middle of the racing season etc.). We also discussed the importance of fun and the length of time (about 10 years) that it takes to move from beginner to the elite level. We also talked about our mission to become the best mountain bike nation in the World.
The first event in the Talent ID initiative was successful and we hope to build and expand on this program for the future. We have some really promising young riders who are passionate about cycling and becoming part of the National Team in the future. As coaches and stakeholders in the sport, we have to do our best to provide these riders with inspired programs, quality training and positive environments that encourage performance, teambuilding and fun. The athletes are motivated and eager to succeed. We have some great potential out there!!!
The next National Talent ID Day will take place in Bromont, Quebec on Monday, July 6th and is open to Eastern athletes and their coaches. Please speak to your provincial team coach about being included in this initiative.
Video feedback from this camp will be posted soon. Special thanks to the Canmore Nordic Centre for their cooperation in holding this event.
National Talent ID Day — Canmore, AB
1. Samuel Beaudoin – Alberta
2. Isaac Niles – Alberta
3. Allison Beveridge – Alberta
4. Felix Wilberg – Alberta
5. Ragnar Robinson – Saskatchewan
6. Evan Guthrie — British Columbia
7. Tyler Allison — British Columbia
8. Kris Dahl – Alberta
9. Jayden Aldrich – Saskatchewan
10. Samantha Grover – Alberta
11. Anna Schappert – Manitoba
12. Lauren Rosser — British Columbia
13. Andrew Spahr — Alberta
14. Sean Qi — Alberta
1. Kylie Case — Manitoba Cycling
2. Leana Dyck — Saskatchewan Cycling
3. Rick Vircavs — Saskatchewan Cycling