Olympic Training Center Cycling
Campby Bruce Hendler -
I had the opportunity to spend a week with 31 junior
and espoir athletes (i.e. 31 sets of raging hormones!) at the USA Cycling
national developmental camp at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in San
Diego. Through participation in
regional level camps, both male and female bike racers from all over the
country earn their way to this annual national level event. This camp focuses
on testing, training, and preparation for the upcoming season. Although younger riders are trained
similarly to mature riders, there are specific areas of their training program
that must be addressed differently because of their age. Here is a summary of the
- The first order of business at camp was performing
heart rate versus power tests on each athlete to determine their individual
training zones, anaerobic threshold (AT), and wattages at both their AT and
peak of power. One result
was the extremely high heart rates achieved by the majority of the
athletes. Maximum heart rates in
the 205+ range were not uncommon.
One athlete even maintained 220 during the last step of his test, which
just about freaked me and the rest of the staff out!
- Their muscle strength, pulmonary and cardiovascular
systems are still developing.
A lot of discussion took place on how to build bike specific strength in
younger athletes. Just like mature
cyclists, strength training is applied to their programs in the form of on the
bike drills (slow, big gear repetitions) and weights (lighter/more reps). The
key is not to over gear or use too heavy of weights risking injury. For example, instead of focusing on big
gear pedaling drills with rpms of 40-45, 60-65 rpms are recommended.
Gear restrictions are enforced in junior racing in the US, forcing them
to spin a higher cadence and in turn develop their aerobic
- Creating good lifestyle and training habits in their
training programs is essential and was practiced throughout the week. Every morning, the athletes would meet
at 7:00AM and go for a brisk walk and perform stretching and calisthenics. Nightly wrap-up meetings were also held
after dinner to review the day's events and present the upcoming day's
schedule. It was stressed that
it's not just riding that makes you a great cyclist, but a lot of the little
things that other athletes don't do that will make them
- Developing athletes should take part in a variety of
sports and activities as they grow older and decide whether they want to pursue
cycling as a profession.
John Lieswyn (Healthnet), a long time professional, was at camp to give
the athletes an opportunity to train and talk to a pro and get valuable
tips. John also gave a great
presentation on the Life of a Professional and tips to follow if they choose to
make cycling their profession.
Discussions also took place about college programs and how more schools
are offering scholarships. NCCA
programs are a great way to gain racing experience, while getting an
- The highlight of the week was the annual race held on
the last day of camp, followed that evening by an award ceremony. The OTC in San Diego has a dedicated
one mile loop circuit for cyclists with a couple nice hills and a lot of
turns. A fun course! Watching the races from the back as a
mentor, the biggest opportunity for improvement came in tactics,
aggressiveness, and skills (which is the same for most bike racers).
- Heart rates for younger athletes can be very high due
mostly to smaller hearts and blood volumes that limit the maximal stoke
- Develop their strength by using smaller gears when
doing on the bike big gear pedaling drills and light weight /more repetitions
in the weight room.
- Use this time to develop their aerobic capability with
pedaling drills and higher cadence on the road.
- Develop good training and lifestyle habits that will
help them achieve their goals as they grow older. Remember, it's all about quality of
- Expose them to many different activities. This will
give them a fair comparison whether bike racing is something they truly want to
pursue in the long run. Educate
them that going to college and cycling can be done together, especially in
today's world where scholarships are now offered for bike racing.
- Most importantly HAVE FUN!
Overall, the camp was
a huge success and a lot of fun for me as a coach. The future of bike racing in
the US is bright. Their enthusiasm is real and exciting. The OTC is a fantastic location to hold
an event like this because it offers an isolated environment where athletes can
focus on the job at hand with no outside interruptions (although they did
create a few!). It was a great way top spend my holiday. I look forward to watching these
athletes in 2004 and years to come, both on the domestic and international
AthletiCamps - Aspire Higher