Posted on

Andrew Harris: Life on the Edge

Talk of the T-Town Podcast Show Art

Episode 10

Be Elite at whatever level you are”

– Andrew Harris
PERFORMANCE DIRECTOR/HEAD COACH EDGE CYCLING

This week on Talk of the T-Town, Joan and Andy sit down with Andrew Harris, coach of Edge Cycling. They discuss sprinting in the US, club culture, gear ratios, and motorcycle racing.

Links mentioned in this episode:


Transcript

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town podcast, where we discuss all things track cycling. Broadcasting from the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, I’m your host and executive director, Joan Hanscom, along with my co-host, athletic director, Andy Lakatosh. Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town podcast. I’m Joan Hanscom, Executive Director of the Velodrome. I’m joined by my co-host, Director of Athletics Andy Lakatosh, and this week’s guest, Andrew Harris, founder, performance director and head coach of Edge Cycling. Before we get started, I’d like to take a moment to thank everybody who said nice things about the pod, left a positive comment or subscribed. Without subscribers, we can’t grow, so thank you. We love bringing you these diverse conversations and look forward to sharing more as we move forward into the new year.

Joan Hanscom:

Finally, one more thing. We’re extremely thankful to our sponsor. B. Braun, who is essential in helping us launch this podcast, and we’re looking forward to seeing them here at the track in the summer of 2021. Now, on with the show. As we mentioned, this week’s guest is Andrew Harris, founder of the Edge Cycling team. Andrew has a long history in the sport both as a competitor, strength coach and performance coach. In just a few short years, the Edge program has amassed more than 150 national championship medals, including 52 elite national championships. The Edge program has sent its athletes to the Junior World Championships, Pan-Am Championships, World Cup’s, World Championships, and had one athlete selected to both the 2016 and 2020 long team for the Olympics.

Joan Hanscom:

Andrew himself has traveled with USA cycling to coach the Sprint program at the World Cups and World Championships. Andrew, welcome to the pod and thank you for joining us. Even though it’s virtual, let’s jump right in and say it’s good to see you. We had a super weird summer here at the track and we all made the best of it, but your athletes in particular really appeared to stay focused and committed any year would have been really easy to let your foot off the accelerator. Talk to us about the year Edge had, how you approached this past summer, and how you see all of that hard work paying off as we move forward into 2021.

Andrew Harris:

First of all, thanks Joan and Andy and Maura for having me on the podcast. This is a great avenue and it’s always great to be involved with the Valley Preferred Cycling Center and again, our thanks too from Edge Cycling to B. Braun and the rest of the sponsors for putting on the podcast. 2020 is, as you said, has been a most unusual year, very odd. I hope we never see another one like it. Just to give you, I don’t even remember the timeline, but I think I was in Berlin, came back home for two days and then we took our developmental athletes up to Canada for the provincial championships. That’s when the word, the COVID word was getting out. We had a week off schedule then we got back, and that’s when the shutdowns began.

Andrew Harris:

The first thing we did was we had a meeting with our athletes. Some I met in person, some we did a Zoom meeting with. The theme of our meeting was, “Hey, we’ve got a big situation ahead of us here, and the biggest situations require the biggest responses, so we can, basically, we can feel sorry for ourselves, or we can take advantage of this and use it as an opportunity to get better. We’ll have this big opportunity if there’s not racing to put these sequential training blocks together and to get better, because we have a lot of ground to make up with our young guys in the international field.

Andrew Harris:

That’s the message that we gave, and the cool thing was I didn’t really have to sell it. They were really excited about speaking to more of our older elite guys right now, but they were super excited about it. There was that time period where we didn’t know whether there will going to be a national championships or not. One of our faster developing sprinters, we hope there’s not. We want to be able to basically train for 12 or 18 months uninterrupted and just to get better and help close that gap between ourselves and the international riders. Like you said, Joan, there’s no taking your foot off the accelerator, because there’s people out there that are getting better. If you take your foot off, you just coast, you’re going backwards, you’re either getting better, you’re getting worse. They not only accepted the challenge but they were excited by the challenge and we’ve responded really well.

Joan Hanscom:

I think that was really evident when we saw your athletes here at the track every day. They were clearly committed, they were clearly motivated, there was no hanging of the heads, and I think what’s interesting in what you said, Andrew, is it mirrors what I’ve heard Jim Miller say in that the goal hasn’t changed, just the date on the calendar changed. I think if you can frame it that way for athletes, that’s really useful. That’s a helpful way of envisioning it and it is actually opportunity to address some weaknesses, it’s opportunity to go back and say, “Hey, what did I do wrong the first time? Or not necessarily even wrong, but what did I learn and what can I do better? I have the luxury of time to address these things.” I think, Andy, your big picture athletes were the same, right? You kept everybody motivated and it was great to see.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. We had a very similar experience. Everything started to go haywire and we didn’t really have a lot of direction and things were uncertain, and I saw it as an opportunity to lead. That’s what people are paying us as coaches to do is to lead them and I was like, “Well, we need to lead now more than ever.” Similar to Andrew, when I said, “Hey, we want to stay on the gas, in a sense, pretend like this isn’t happening,” and we just keep training full gas. We got a resounding absolutely. No one wanted to let off the gas. I’ve talked to other national team coaches. It was largely the same thing. It was largely just, “Now is the catch up time. We’re not letting off.”

Andy Lakatosh:

I’m super interested to see what happens at that first Nations Cup because I think everybody is going to have gotten a lot faster, but nobody’s really raced, so it’s going to be interesting to see if he’ll have all the speed not a lot race savvy from well over a year of not racing. There’s some racing happening here and there, but not in en masse. I think we’re going to see a lot of really fast times. The 2021 Olympics is going to be super interesting to see. I feel like this especially blew it wide open for who could possibly jump up and grab a medal or grab a really great result that maybe we didn’t see coming.

Joan Hanscom:

Andrew, what are your thoughts on that? How do you see all this hard work paying off as we move forward?

Andrew Harris:

Yeah. I think Andy’s spot on. I think we’ll see some big … where the guys have just had this period of time to focus on getting stronger and faster. I think we’ll see some pretty spectacular times coming in the new year. I think everybody is going to be better. Certainly, the big countries, Holland and Great Britain and Australia and Germany, they’re not backing off. It’s not in their nature to back off. It’s going to be an exciting year. It’s going to be super exciting to get back to race and just get back to racing.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, no doubt. I think we’re all hankering for that at this point.

Andrew Harris:

Fortunately, the Ocean Spray time trials in the summer were huge. We’ve finished the big training block in June and, normally, we would taper bleeding in to our nationals and there were no national championships, so we had the Ocean Spray series. We decided we’re not going to taper, we’re going right back to work and start another train block. But it gave our athletes say a competitive environment to be in. It gave them just an opportunity for the younger riders to practice pre-race routine and stuff, so that was a huge, huge thing for us.

Andrew Harris:

The interesting thing is I worked with two very different groups of athletes, some that are knocking on the door of international competition, and some that are just getting their feet wet, brand-new to the sport of cycling. I wasn’t as concerned with the more elite guys because they have a very strong clarity of what we’re trying to achieve and they’re committed to the long-term picture, but we will call our foundation athletes or the younger guys that are just getting their feet wet. Some have just been through the community programs of the Velodrome, the air products program or BRL and that thing. They haven’t even really been exposed to competition, but they’ve responded really well too, and I’m especially proud of the way they’ve handled themselves and they’ve endured through this long period of no racing, even though thy may not even know what racing is at this point.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. I think those time trials were really important for the community in that … and maybe I’m reading the tea leaves wrong, but I think that consistency of the race experience that every Saturday we knew there was racing, it kept people in the habit. Even if it wasn’t about performance necessarily, although I think across the board we saw people really changing their focus and going for personal best efforts, even if they were in pursuit of disciplines that weren’t their traditional discipline, I think that establishing that habit was really important for us here at the track. I know, over the fall I saw so many people commenting that, “Oh! Not being up at 5AM and standing in cold, muddy cycle cross pits, all fall long was pretty nice.” I learned to appreciate my weekends, and I wonder what that’s going to be the overall impact of that on racing broadly speaking. For me, I think, here for the track community, having that consistency of opportunity to train and that consistency of opportunity to race, even if it wasn’t traditional racing, I think that really mattered in terms of just keeping that pattern in your brain, right?

Andrew Harris:

100%.

Joan Hanscom:

Because it’s easy to … habits are easy to break. Like, “Oh, two weeks without racing, oh gee, this is kinda nice.” For me, I liked that we gave people that opportunity to have that consistency of experience to maintain the habit and to maintain a reason to keep showing up. I’m glad your athletes felt the benefit of that as well. I think it’s going to be important for us as a community moving forward.

Joan Hanscom:

One thing that I’ve been curious about, and we were talking about it in the pre-show chit chat was endurance athletes. Edge cycling used to be known as Sprinters Edge, and you’re certainly known for developing serious sprint talent, Mandy Marquardt, James Mellon, you’ve traveled with USA cycling in a sprint coach capacity. Tell us about the name change to Edge Cycling. Has the focus of the program changed in taking on a more endurance focus as well? What’s behind that, Andrew?

Andrew Harris:

Yeah, great question, yeah. We started Sprinters Edge in 2012 with, I believe it was with just a couple of athletes, and I saw a need for there was no real sprint coach within the area at that time. We wanted to fill that void and I’ve always had a passion for the sprinters and sprint cycling. No, our focus hasn’t changed. I’d say it’s only expanded. Our aim is to develop the athlete, an athlete that happens to be a cyclist basically. Our goal with our development program is to prepare, take a young athlete and prepare them for the very intensive and the high volume of training that’s going to be necessary for them to compete at the top level. That’s independent of their specialty whether it be track endurance or sprint.

Andrew Harris:

What we’re looking at is just simply to prepare them, so they can handle the exercises and the training load at a later date when they reach the age of athletic maturity, which is typically the late junior years or the early, U23 level and on into the senior ranks. It’s an 8 to 10-year process plus, and so our focus hasn’t changed, this has probably expanded to include the endurance rider. You mentioned James Mellon, he is a perfect example of a long-term development program. Saw James and BRL at the Velodromes program when he was 15 years old. James was never winning races and that thing, but I noticed some qualities I thought, “This guy could be a pretty good bike racer.” He had a good acceleration. He might accelerate from 8th place in the pack to 4th place in the pack by the end of the race, but you definitely could see some qualities that pointed to him having potential as a good cyclist.

Andrew Harris:

I approached him and his parents and, it’s a funny story. They looked at me like I had two heads and they told me, “Well, James is a very serious student and he’s an Eagle scout, and all this stuff. Basically, we don’t think he’ll be interested in pursuing cycling at a high level.”

Joan Hanscom:

Whoops!

Andrew Harris:

I left it alone and he had some … he broke his wrist and, I didn’t have any contact with him but he came back to me looking for coaching some months later. We got him started. Interesting with James, James never played any typical stick and ball sports at all. He’d never, never been an athlete. It was a real challenge taking him on, like into the gym and stuff, absolutely no technique. We had to give him a very, very basic program for a year or two. In fact, the girls in their program were, he still jokes about it, they lifted a lot more weight in the gym than he did starting out.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s funny.

Andrew Harris:

Yeah. We’re developing the junior … two years later, he was able to progress and he won a national championship, represented the US at junior roles and that thing. But that was all still on a very limited load of training, and then he went to … he stayed local and went to Penn State Lehigh Valley for two years. We had a little more time, I’d say, to train during that period, so we upped his training volume and training load quite a bit during that period. He went from, basically, an 11-0 junior rider to riding 10-3 or 10-4 outdoors on concrete during that time.

Andrew Harris:

Then the next period of James’ career, he went to Penn State, the main campus. The workload there at school became much greater. The engineering program he was in was pretty demanding. We took away some of his training load during that period and some of it he just did selectively. He was stagnant for a couple years and just stayed in that same speed range. We had to be patient during that time. Then he graduated and, that was the first time we gave him a full time, what I’d call a world-class training load. We didn’t know how he will respond, but obviously, he responded really well to it. The point being is that, it was a multi-year process of gradually bringing him to the level where he would, when he was capable of taking on that world-class load of training, he would be able to handle it. That’s one of the big things that we look at with an athlete, with an elite athlete. Can they handle workload, and that’s very important, because it’s a huge, huge volume of work they have to do to be an elite cyclist, whether they’re sprint or endurance.

Joan Hanscom:

Absolutely.

Andrew Harris:

I don’t know how I got off on that tangent.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s a good tangent though.

Andy Lakatosh:

I actually find it super interesting what you said. It’s awesome to have that insight because by the time we see a James or a Jeffrey Hoogland or these guys rocking up and just delivering some insanely fast times, you really don’t know the back story and what went into them. I really like the explanation of James because, a couple things. One, we have some athletes we’re working with right now that have, like you said, never played a stick or ball sport, and it is amazing how much just basic movement, even though like we’re on a bike and we’re pedaling circles, we’re not bounding side to side, we’re not moving laterally, it’s all very, very longitudinal how we move on a bike.

Andy Lakatosh:

There’s so much that goes into just how you coordinate when your mind says go, what your body automatically does, and a lot of that comes from just basic movement stuff. I remember when I did the level one coaching clinic, they actually brought in a guy from USA Hockey, like ice hockey, because all MGBs are in the spring, so it’s easy to do this thing. I was like, “Why is a guy from hockey coming in to talk about cycling?” What they were talking about was their development program, because hockey starts really young, six, seven, eight years old and goes all the way up through college, but how to X certain age becoming a great hockey player is actually a lot about not playing hockey. It’s just going out and riding a bike or playing soccer doing these other basic movement stuff.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think it’s great that you explained and pointed some of that out because I think it is really easy for coaches in cycling and track cycling specifically, with power meters and stuff, to start doing very specialized type of training very early on. You miss some of that basic stuff then you get kids that don’t know how to handle bikes or don’t know how to safely lift weights, and I think that’s really, really dangerous and upsetting because we’re not laying some good foundation work. It’s interesting to know that about James and know that the guy that holds the track record road 99 and T-Town and sea level, was getting outlisted at some point. It happens to all of us.

Andy Lakatosh:

Talking about that transition from Devo into Elite without going too far down that rabbit hole, we know the lead side of things here is interesting, but I’m a firm believer that you can do a lot on just working hard on your own and stuff. I was wondering if you want to share some of what your experience has been like traveling with the national team and what do you see as the future for elite sprinting in the US. Obviously, you had two of our top athletes, James went off to Med school, but Mandy is still going strong. What do you see the next couple … and you got a lot of people coming up, what do you see Elite sprinting looking like here in the US in the next couple years, especially because the rest of the world is just … the world’s not slowing down and waiting for us, so we got a lot of catch up to play. But yeah, I wonder if you’d share some of your experiences with that.

Andrew Harris:

Yeah, absolutely. Traveling with the national team is a fantastic experience. first-class operation, the riders are well-looked after. When you’re a coach at a big event like that, your coaching role is a little different. You take on more of a support role, the hard work, the work is already done, it’s just a matter of offering some tactical advice, maybe keeping them on an emotional, helping keep them emotionally in the game and the right mindset. First-class organization given rider that gets to that level, they’re going to be some well-supported and have every opportunity to succeed.

Andrew Harris:

US and sprinting, my feeling is the US can be and will be one of the top cycling or the top cycling, sprint cycling country in the world, bar none. There’s no reason we can’t be. What is stopping us? I have some thoughts on that. But why not? I tell the kids all the time, our guys now that are knocking maybe a couple years away from an international performance, I’m saying, “What’s stopping? Why not us? What is different about the guys and us? There’s absolutely nothing different.

Andrew Harris:

When James Mellon was about 17, Jeffrey Hoogland and Perry [Larrison 00:22:52] and the Dutch squad were in T-Town. I said to James, I said, “Look over there.” I said, “Those guys put their pants on just like we do, one leg at a time.” He looked at me like cross-eyed. I don’t think he understood what I was saying. I think he was taking it literally. In fact, just a couple years ago, he told me, “Because I finally figured out what you meant by that, they’re no different than us.” I think we can be absolutely the top track sprint cycling country in the world. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a top sprinter.

Andrew Harris:

I would say, there’s been a … what I’ve seen is that I think this is the way it’s got to work, is what I’m trying to say. At the top level, we ave the elite athlete division at USAC. They’re all about winning medals and podium performances at the international level. When they have a rider that’s capable of that or very, very close to being capable of that, you can count on them giving you full support. I think where we’ve gone wrong as a sprint community over the years is, we try to put the cart before the horse a little bit. We need to get closer to that podium level and we can do that, I think, Andy you mentioned this, we can do so much of that right at home before we’re chasing racing around the world. We can do it right at home.

Andrew Harris:

At the top level, we had the Elite athlete division of USA cycling. Then I think what’s got to happen would be next is we got to have clubs, local or regional clubs and teams that are committed to just sprinting and providing that world-class experience for the riders. To provide that experience, I think these clubs or teams have to have systems in place, systems for training, physiological systems, nutrition systems, systems for psychology, technical, the tactical models have to be in place. They’re not in place now because I don’t think there’s a lot of … there’s only a handful of sprint coaches in the US, and I think there’s got to be a big emphasis placed on coaching education and bringing the coaches up to speed and the clubs of the speed, so that they can provide this world-class experience for the athletes.

Andrew Harris:

Then, once that is in place, I’d say, the most important thing that’s going to support that is the culture. It’s got to be a winning culture, a no-excuse culture. We got to just get it done. Most importantly, that culture and this whole system is got to be driven by the athletes, and they’ve got to see that system that I think it’s a club system that the clubs have to take you to a very high level, and then you’ll get the support from USA cycling.

Andrew Harris:

But until then, if we have the system in place, I think it gives the athletes something to believe in, because the highest levels of performance are always come off the highest levels of belief. I think it’s going to happen. I think this early or centralization of a developing athlete is a mistake. I think we need to actually decentralize it, put the responsibility and the ability with the clubs and teams, the local clubs and teams, and let them develop the athlete. We have athletes and coaches that I’m sure would love to be able to stay home and develop to their full potential or close to their full potential before embarking on a lot of traveling.

Joan Hanscom:

I know Andy has a follow-up question to that, I can see it in his face, but I have a follow-up question too that I want to jump in with. It’s something that I’ve said for a long time and you touched on it, is the club structure. I think, on the road we saw the club structure really fall apart, that’s how you learned the skills when you are learning to ride on the road too. You had a team that taught you how the riding on the road worked. They taught you all that the basic skills of racing. The club structure has really taken a hit since, I think, 2012, 2013 is when we really started to see the club structure start to fall apart.

Joan Hanscom:

I have to imagine that that gets even harder when you talk about a club structure focused on Velodromes, because there just aren’t that many of them. If you have … and they’re all in various states of usage. I think, what is there now? 23 working tracks in the country versus 50 states where you have roads you can ride on. I just love to hear you expand a little bit on the club structure before I let Andy jump in with his question, because I know they all feed together, but that club piece is, I think, super important. I would say that I was ringing that bell when I was at USA cycling, and certainly here. I think one of the things we look at is how do our community programs feed the local clubs here, and I think that’s a really important role that we at the Velodrome can service.

Joan Hanscom:

Yes, we have the BRL, we have the kids programs, and our goal should be, and we have team T-Town. Our goal should be to feed all of the local teams. so that we have a healthy, thriving club culture. There shouldn’t be one super team. There should be teams to compete against each other, because if you don’t have teams to compete against, there’s no point in having a team. I’m a big believer, and in team T-Town being a feeder as people get into that more elite level feeding out to Andy’s program, feeding out to your program, feeding out to Kim Giese programs, feeding out to Star Trek, wherever it is that we can feed, I think that’s a really important role we can play, but I’d love to hear how you think that should work.

Andrew Harris:

Yeah. I think it’s the only way. I think, sometimes we were trying to, like for example, the ODP program. I think we were trying to pattern ourselves maybe after like a Great Britain program, where we were centralizing our development programs. We’re just too big of a country. It’s a 3000-mile flight to get to our only indoor Velodrome, and that’s just not feasible for a developing athlete. Sprinting is a little bit different too, because if you don’t develop the basic physical characteristics that you need, you can’t go race. You go and you try to qualify and you’re out in the first round or you don’t even get to the first round if you don’t qualify.

Andrew Harris:

Road programs are a little bit different, or even track endurance where you got to ride in the pack and you get that racing experience. Yeah, I think it’s the only way you can happen in the states is that have it centered around the clubs, perhaps some regional training centers around the Velodromes, the 23 active Velodromes. Coaches that are at the … very similar to the Australian system where they have the state programs, I think, where there’s five states in Australia? I’m not really sure, but five or six states, and each have their own state program. You decentralize the program, you have the club’s strong regional training centers, and then when riders get a very high level where they’re knocking on the door of being able to compete at the international level, only then do they start other, should we start centralizing the program.

Andy Lakatosh:

Joan, any follow-up to that or I could?

Andrew Harris:

Nah! I think that’s a good point for you to jump in with what I know is tickling your brain.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, lots of things and in that, Andrew and I could probably sit here for days and go about what could be done different. One of the things that I really like back at the start of that was the point that you made of, when you’re at that level for USA cycling from an Elite perspective, when you’re ready to go to international competition and perform, not just go to collect your jersey, ride a 200 in the 1st round and go home, but really actually perform, USA cycling will support you. I think, one of things that gets lost a lot because our country is so big and we don’t race against each other all that often is where that level actually is.

Andy Lakatosh:

James rocked up and got his 99 last year and was absolutely flying. He’s been the best in the country for a number of years and it’s like no matter how good you are to some extent you still get to your first couple PanAms and your first couple Nation’s Cups, World Cups, and there’s still so much to learn. There’s still so much that you have to go through and so much that you got to come back and adjust and up your game and then go back and make another attempt at it. Yeah, we can do a lot of it at home. There’s so much we can do. I think the biggest thing in my mind is just having that right attitude, because that … doesn’t matter how fast you go, if you approach USA cycling or probably any MGB with the wrong attitude of, “Hey, I need you to do X, Y, and Z for me,” you’re not going to get a favorable response.

Andy Lakatosh:

A Chloe Dygert of the world doesn’t rock up to Jim Miller and say, “You need to do this, that and the other thing for me.” She rocks up and she says, “I’m hell-bent on accomplishing this goal, that goal, and the other thing. How can we do it together?” I think that that’s a big cultural thing that needs to shift, because I think we spend too much time trying to just be taller than the next guy in this country and still realizing how short we are in the sprint world compared to the rest of the world. 92 and 99 are light years apart. You’re waving at a Harry Larrison as he goes by you.

Andy Lakatosh:

Coming back to the development side of things, the ODP, that was an interesting project from my perspective. A lot of what you were saying about a state-style or regional-style system that focused on education, I presented the USA cycling in 2018, a 10-year step-by-step plan of how to accomplish that and how to accomplish that for minimal investment focusing on leveraging your coaches and your programs and your teams and your local Velodromes and creating from a grassroots level up that pipeline starting from the very bottom. Ultimately, they went with Lee’s idea and what became the ODP, because it came with money. My options didn’t come with money, and I think that they jumped a few too many steps ahead.

Andy Lakatosh:

They talked about a lot of coaching education, but the only thing that happened there was that one talk that they did at Junior Nationals that year and then nothing else ever came of that, and that was definitely a lot of Lee selling his personal ideas and stuff, and it wasn’t really about the development type stuff that you’re talking about, the really basic like, “Okay, here’s a 14-year-old, time to go play soccer for a little bit while they ride their bike and get faster.” You had a lot of sheer numbers and talent. You had a lot of kids that were IDed involved with and on the radar of the ODP, and now we … We have the ODP, which was privately donor-funded for the whole thing. I think a lot of the money got blown through in a lot of those camps. Like he said, traveling cross country is is a big ask and being coached remotely by one coach cross-country is a big ask, especially at that age.

Andy Lakatosh:

Now, we have the ODA, which is very much athlete-funded, at least on the surface. There is scholarships and stuff available, but big contrast in those two, the execution of those two systems, and again, jumping in at that middle-upper end of the pipeline, not so much the grassroots side of it like we’re talking about here. You had a lot of athletes that were IDed and on the radar of the ODP, so I was wondering what you, in your experiences with it, what you thought worked about the ODP, what didn’t work about the ODP, and what are your thoughts on the ODA and the new option that’s out there, and how much does this announcement of these programs, because you’ve been around the sport a long time, I race with your son, Epps. We’ve seen a wide range of USA cycling’s programs come and go over the last 20, 30 years.

Andy Lakatosh:

To some extent, there is no surprise that there is a new version of this and another will be another new version in another 24 to 36 months, but anyway. ODP, what do you think? ODA, what do you think? Programs coming up, how does this impact what you guys do on planning for 2021?

Andrew Harris:

Yeah, okay. Yeah, I think with the ODP, not to dwell on a program that’s come and gone too long, but I think the biggest mistake I saw with the ODP is I call it putting the crown on the rider when they’re not there yet. We named this kid, again, we centralized program when we had riders that were going 10-6, 10-8 that range, which is great and they certainly have potential, but again, I think we’re centralizing those riders too early. Again, the ODP neglected the coaching education aspect of it, so never bring it-

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. I was not a fan of the culture and the attitudes that stand out of those kids that instantly got named to the ODP, but a lot of that stems from leadership. You need leadership with good culture to keep that driving forward in a good way. But yeah, I just wanted to second that I did not, and I like that term, putting the crown on too early. I’m going to steal it and use it, I hope that’s okay.

Andrew Harris:

Yeah. Again, it’s the early decentralization, I think, that’s … the decentralization is really the way to go with the ODP program. As far as the new ODA program, I listen to Jim [inaudible 00:38:40] presentation the other night that he gave in front of a junior group. I do think Jim recognizes, he spoke … wasn’t speaking directly to the sprint program, but he spoke to the road development program and he recognized that there are clubs and teams out there, such as Hot Tubes and Lux and others. I don’t know what it is now, it was actually detailed 2020, but there are great development programs out there with strong coaching and stuff and he, his intent I think is to allow them to continue to develop their riders because they’ve seen that, obviously, we’ve had huge success on the USA cycling had huge success in the road with the [inaudible 00:39:25] Simmons, and the other juniors and the U23 athletes’ exceptional performance there.

Andrew Harris:

The sprint program is a little bit different than the road program. I think once you get road rider to a certain level, you can throw a way to … you have to throw them in the bunch and that’s the way they’re going to learn with the track sprinters not going to have that opportunity. But yeah, I’m excited about the ODA. Have we changed anything in our program? Are we trying to get, push riders towards the ODA program? No, not really, we feel like we’re doing a pretty good job of a lot of things already that the ODA is doing, and we have a setting where we have the riders in-house right here. They’re not traveling back and forth and chasing camps and that thing.

Andrew Harris:

We can do that for two reasons. Number one, we’re confident that if we can bring a rider to a certain level that USA cycling is, indeed, going to offer that high level of support for them. Then, the second reason is we’re confident that we have the facility, we have the sports science, help from sports psychologists. We do the performance monitoring, we keep a lot of data right here in T-Town where there’s a lot of racing opportunity with UCI series and that thing.

Andrew Harris:

The other thing is the valley is rich with a lot of really good schools. We encourage our riders to get an education. We feel like, right here, we have a really great training ground, and preparation ground without chasing these other things. We’re not trying to prepare riders to go to the ODA. We feel like we’re doing a good job with it here. Can we get better? Absolutely. We’re striving every day to get better. I think that we’re making some strides in this year with COVID. It’s been an interesting year because we’ve touched on it earlier. It’s given us a lot of opportunity to evaluate how we’ve been doing things and improve on those things. That’s where I stand on the ODA and ODP programs.

Joan Hanscom:

I think that makes a lot of sense, and you made a good point Andrew. You do have access to some really top-notch racing here locally that some kids other markets might not have, because there isn’t a UCI block elsewhere. Here, we are blessed in that we have the opportunity to put our local riders up against the world’s best pretty consistently over the summer in a normal year. I think that is one really great, great point that you made about why your program is thriving here, is that there’s all of the components. It’s not just, yeah, we have the great weight room and we have super nice [wide 00:42:34] bikes. You also have a place to do the real world implementation of your programming. I think that matters.

Andrew Harris:

Right, absolutely, a hundred percent, it does. Thanks to you guys. We have a great … their programs continue to grow. The UCI racing is a huge thing for us, for our more advanced riders. Then there’s the racing opportunity for our endurance. This community is just, it’s the perfect setting to develop a cyclist. We’re very fortunate to have that.

Joan Hanscom:

I think that that’s a nice segue way into our look at the international state of the sport. I know Andy and Lynn Monroe had a really fascinating and intense, I’d say, at points conversation about changes we’re seeing at the international level of the sport. Bigger gears, faster times and, I know Andy, you’re much smarter on this topic than I am because you’re an actual sprinter, so take it away. That’s a great segue way into the discussion of where we see the international level of sport.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. Andrew, you’ve been around the sport longer than I have here in T-Town. We’ve seen such a transition from … I still remember, I think it was 2004, I was at my first Elite World Championships in Melbourne. Gideon [inaudible 00:44:12] and I were riding the Keirin qualifying heats, and we were having this great debate between the two of us, because I just said, “Screw it! I’m going to go big. I’m not afraid to throw in a big year and really let it fly. This is the world’s Keirin, it’s going to be fast.” I read 98, I rode 5114, and was like, “Man! I don’t know if I’m going to really get that gear going,” in a Keirin with a motor drop off.

Andy Lakatosh:

Gideon said, he’s like, “No, man! It’s too big. It’s too big. I got to go lighter, so I can spin.” I’m like, “Oh, what are you going to ride?” He’s like, “I’m going to ride a 97 so I can spin.” We’re talking about less than gear inch difference. That was where we were, and that was just 16 years ago. It was like, “No, man! 98, 97 the big debate. Now it’s like 128 or 138.” They all feel the same after that, so which one I’m going to go on? The gears are bigger, the technology is bigger, the times are faster, the racing styles and the rule changes, which I’m not a fan of, has changed drastically in the last couple of years. But if you look at it broad strokes, I was just wondering what would have been some of your favorite changes and evolutions in the sport, changes that are on track in the racing. Is there anything from the past that you miss the most or wish was still around?

Andrew Harris:

Yeah. That’s funny, you’re talking about the small gears. I remember my coach in the David Roger Young, I remember telling him meet you at T-Town, he says, “If you get a really strong tailwind on the backstretch, because you might go to 94.” Yeah, it’s changed quite a bit. I love the big gearing, because it’s changed, obviously, changed the sport and the dynamic of sprinting quite a bit. Back in my day it was John Clayton. The gals coming around you. You make a right turn and try to prevent them from doing stuff. The sprinting has become cleaner. It’s obviously longer because of the bigger gear ratios. Place is a little different, emphasis on the energy systems and how you prepare for the sprint.

Andrew Harris:

I think the really cool thing, one of the things about modern day sprinting, you hear a lot of people say, “Well, it’s not tactical anymore, since the long drag race.” I find just the opposite is the case, because of the bigger gears, because of the longer sprints, and in a way people can, whole speed tactics have become so much more important, it’s subtle. It’s not as quite as visible as it might used to be, but tactics are so much more important to do a high-speed stall on the big gears and the time, the rush, it’s become very, very different and even more pronounced than it used to be.

Andrew Harris:

I love that. I love the new technology. I love the science. I’m a sports scientist in my educational background. I love the science and I’m learning every day. There’s some fantastic new stuff coming out in the sports science field. It’s exciting. I love to keep up with the science and then weed out stuff that I don’t think will work in the plot with our riders. Then we experiment with stuff that we do think will make us better. We’re constantly changing. I really love that that’s what keeps me up at night. I love studying and improve and then trying to learn more, so that I can give that information to our riders, pass that to our riders.

Andrew Harris:

Things … let’s see. The things I miss in racing? I guess would be … I think you’d talked about attitude a little bit earlier. I think, I miss the day at T-Town when the internationals would come in and would be a USA versus the World thing. We have the attitude, you’re going to step on our turf, you’re going to … once you step across that blue, either roll across that blue line, you’re on the track, we’re going to hit you right on the mouth. You may be better and you may beat us, but you’re going to be in for a dog fight. I miss that attitude about it. I think there’s a little bit of like … you obviously need to respect your opponents. I do miss a little bit of the fight in the sprint.

Andrew Harris:

I guess the biggest thing at T-Town I miss are the really big crowds. I know you guys are making great efforts, and I think we’re going to see the crowds coming back in, but I miss the big crowds back in the 80s when we were three deep. There were a lot of people there that weren’t necessarily cycling experts. They were just the general public and they come to see a bike race and they got turned on by it. sometimes I’d be yelling, it was like very similar going to an Eagle’s game. It wasn’t always a friendly atmosphere [inaudible 00:49:46] for you and sometimes you have that pretty tough skin.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s awesome. That’s awesome.

Andrew Harris:

Yeah, the backstreet rallies and stuff. I miss that at T-Town and maybe we can bring that back a little bit too, but those are just some of the things. The sport is changing, and I think 99% of it’s for the positive. I think track cycling is going to grow. It’s going to grow in states. We’re having great success. The women’s track endurance is a great success. I think it’s up to us and up the riders and coaches to develop the sprinters. The men’s endurance squad, obviously, with Ashton we’ve had huge success there too. Particular the sprint program, it’s up to us to, the riders and the local coaches to bring it up to a standard where we’re going to the international level.

Joan Hanscom:

I think that’s an excellent point for us to jump to a quick commercial break. Then, when we come back, let’s talk about that more, because I think that’s a really interesting topic as well. We’re going to take a quick commercial break to recognize our sponsor, B. Braun, and then we will be right back.

Andy Lakatosh:

The Talk of the T-Town podcast is brought to you through the generous support of B. Braun Medical Inc. A global leader in infusion therapy and pain management, B. Braun develops, manufactures and markets innovative medical products to the healthcare community. They are also strong believers in supporting the quality of life in the communities where their employees work and live. We here at the Velodrome have a special affinity for B. Braun because not only are they innovators in the medical field, but they like to race bikes. Every season, you can catch the B. Braun team competing in our corporate challenge, and man, does their team bring out the stoke. In 2019, they packed the stands with employees cheering for their team, and we can’t wait to see them out on bikes again soon.

Andy Lakatosh:

We’re back with the Talk of the T-Town podcast, I’m Andy Lakatosh with Joan Hanscom. We got Andrew Harris on today. Working backwards from what you said right before the commercial break, [inaudible 00:52:16] jumping up and being a real phenom, that’s a perfect example of what we touched on earlier of, USA cycling didn’t develop him. He didn’t come through a pipeline. He’s a supreme talent, but he rocked up and delivered some performances that said, “Hey, I’m close to that level. Now, can you help me?” It’s definitely been a coordinated effort to get him up to that world’s podium a handful of times, but I think that’s a great example of, get ready to do a lot of it yourself and then, because that last 3% is the worst percent of the entire thing, so you definitely got to be ready for that.

Andy Lakatosh:

I totally, as you know, I’m 100% a not-in-my-house person when it comes to T-Town. I will go down swinging and fighting to stop you from getting by me to the and probably over the gray area limit of the rules in mind. I still remember Roberto Chiappa used to come every year and the track used to pay for his ticket for him to come and he would just whoop on us and take all of our prize money, one year I just said, “Enough! You’re not getting by me in this next race come hell or high water.” It made for a very entertaining race. He was very mad at me for the next six weeks after that and told me by flipping me off every time he saw me.

Andy Lakatosh:

Some people asked me, “Why did you do it?” I’m like, “Because I’m not just going to roll over and let him beat us on our track. If he wants it, he’s going to have really fight to take it from me.” Yeah, I don’t think we have enough of that type of attitude. Again, I probably should not have pinched him at rail for the entire last lap, but I think you can take the attitude away of just not-in-my-house. I caught the tail end of the three deep around the rail in the late 90s and into the early 2000’s, and yeah, there’s nothing better than that type of energy coming from outside the track. Inside the track it makes the racing energy better, and all just feeds on itself, biggest advantage we had in the 80s and 90s was, there wasn’t anything else to do and you had the Velodrome in a cornfield and there were more cornfields. There’s a lot more stuff to do now, but I do think we are on a good path.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think a huge part of that is, as John and I discussed on a regular basis, our local athletes, our local talent, getting engaged with the community, not the cycling community but just the general community. Helmet safety programs and just … Then also, I think a huge part of it falls on the local riders conversely, and get your friends to come out and watch your race. I used to harangue people starting on Tuesday night already, “Hey, I’m racing on Friday. You’re coming out to watch, right? I’ll make sure tickets are at the window for you. Come out and watch.”

Andy Lakatosh:

I still have a few friends from when I was racing from completely outside the sport, whether from the Russian industry or high school, and I’d still occasionally come out to watch bike races because I know it’s just a fun outdoor thing to do on on a Friday night. I think that the athletes, it’s all very symbiotic. If the racing is good on the track, the spectators are into it, and if we promote the local people, more people want to come out but it’s the local people promote the venue and come out and race. That all feeds, I definitely think it’s … I don’t like pointing fingers. I think we all need to take some ownership of it and do the best that we can to continue to grow this place, because it is a multi-year process and it takes a lot of different avenues to make it happen.

Andrew Harris:

Yeah, absolutely.

Joan Hanscom:

Andrew, I want to circle back to, there’s this theme happening of the T-Town versus the world, and the local talent, the local elite talent taking on that top-level talent from GB, Australia, New Zealand. As an elite coach, a lot of times people talk about imposter syndrome, and “Oh! Am I good enough to do this or am I just a pretender?” I think athletes succeed more when they overcome that. As an elite coach working with athletes targeting racing against Australia, GB, New Zealand here at home or away at the World Cup, Nations Cup, international level, how do you handle that with your athletes when it’s maybe a bit of a disappointment that they did line up, and to Andy’s point, not necessarily come out on the side of the podium that they thought they would or hoped they would. What’s your tactic for dealing with that? Yeah, I find that super interesting.

Andrew Harris:

yeah. I think that begins the first day with an athlete. With our program, not just the elite athletes but our very youngish, 13, 14 year olds. We have a saying where we say, “Be Elite where you are,” being Elite whatever level you are. If it’s a beginning rider that is just starting out in the sport, be elite at learning the techniques. Be elite at learning the rules of bike racing. Whatever the very beginning is, all way up to the Olympic level athlete, be elite at that level or wherever you are. We call being elite is basically just being the best version of you.

Andrew Harris:

if you do those things, there is no shame. If you were doing absolutely everything you possibly can to be the best you can be and you’ve covered all the bases and you’ve checked all the boxes and you’ve done all the work, there’s no shame in the things you take away so much. I always said that sport is the best education. You’re going to learn things like work ethic, perseverance, the will to compete, integrity, all these things come. I think the best lesson, some of the best lessons come from sport. Whether you’re a 14-year-old junior and you don’t succeed there or you’re an Olympic athlete and you get beat there, as long as you’ve brought the best version or you, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

Joan Hanscom:

I think that’s, yeah. That’s one of the great things that sports can bring. I’m a huge fan of this podcast, I’ve referenced it probably every week that we’ve recorded one of these. There is a podcast out of the UK called The High-Performance podcast and, really, what they talk about is what is high-performance? Because high-performance, you maybe learn it in sport, but you maybe learn it as an athlete. I learned it in ballet school. High-performance doesn’t necessarily just mean Olympic level athletes. It’s a high-performance mindset of where you are. It aligns very nicely with what you just said, Andrew. It’s that mentality of, “I’m going to be the best where I am.”

Joan Hanscom:

It could be, I’m going to be the best Cat4, I’m going be the best student, I’m going to bring the daily practices behind that, whatever they may be for your specific place, where you are, whether to focus as a student or in your workplace or on the track. It’s fostering a high-performance mindset that I think is really important and helps overcome those potential disappointments.

Andrew Harris:

Right, right. Yeah. We use the saying, either you rise or fall through your level of preparations. As long as you’ve done the preparation to its fully, you’ve done everything you possibly can to prepare yourself for that moment, win or lose, success or failure, you have nothing to be ashamed of. That’s basically it.

Joan Hanscom:

I think that wraps up the super heavy portion of our programming. I think it’s … we got nice and deep on some stuff. We like to and on a lighthearted note. I think we’re calling it more as minute now, if we’re not mistaken, where Andrew, I’m sorry, you are now going to be subjected to the wacky questions. It’s like the speed round of wacky questions. Maura, we turn it over to you.

Maura Beuttel:

All right, Andrew. Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Andrew Harris:

Gosh! That’s a tough one for me because I watch so little movies I don’t even know who-

Joan Hanscom:

Say Brad Pitt, Andrew. Say Brad Pitt.

Andrew Harris:

Say Brad Pitt? All right, Brad Pitt.

Maura Beuttel:

All right, Brad Pitt works. What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Andrew Harris:

Biggest pet peeve? Oh gosh! I’ve got so many. I guess-

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s just usually .. you had a long list of stuff that just ticks us off.

Andrew Harris:

Yeah. I would say one of my biggest things is, with track cycle is talking or chatting in the pace line or warmup with the juniors. That’s one of my biggest pet peeve.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Andrew’s athletes, are you listening? No more chit chat.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’ll do you one better. Talking international like scratch race on the track, like how do you have time to talk? You should be racing.

Andrew Harris:

Right.

Andy Lakatosh:

Get out and go.

Andrew Harris:

Right.

Joan Hanscom:

All right, Maura, next.

Maura Beuttel:

All right. Favorite place you’ve traveled to.

Andrew Harris:

I think Belgium. Last year I went to Ghent, Belgium, a great little town. Had some good quality racing there, but it’s just the culture, the cycling culture there and just the people, I love the country. Planning to go back there pretty soon actually yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

Amen, I second that. I miss my cycle cross career days when I got to go to Belgium every year and eat chocolate and drink beer and watch bike racing and ride bikes, yeah.

Andrew Harris:

Right, right.

Joan Hanscom:

Belgium is like a little slice of heaven.

Andrew Harris:

I was fortunately there to. After the racing was over, I stayed a day or two and got to enjoy some of the local product and the .. it’s good time, yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

All the local product is good.

Andrew Harris:

Yeah.

Maura Beuttel:

I haven’t been but it’s definitely on the list. We’ll close out with, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up?

Andrew Harris:

Oh! Yeah, that’s probably easy, like a professional motorcycle racer. I started my athletic career, I was a motorcycle racer, motocross racer. That’s how I got into cycling, all the injuries I accumulated over the years racing motorcycles, riding the bike to rehab, and bike off to rehab my injuries, so yeah. I still have a huge … I’m still a huge fan of motocross and supercross racing. If I wasn’t in cycling, I’d certainly like to be involved with that sport in some way.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’ll just jump in to say that’s a really cool and very little known fact about Andrew is that he used to do a lot of motorcycle racing, and it definitely is a huge factor into what makes him such a great motor pacer to follow out on the track. I’ll say that I’m very discerning, I’m very picky about who I would actually get behind the motor I own and there’s not many people in the world, let alone the nation and Andrew is certainly, certainly one of them, because you definitely … and Andrew’s son, Epps, who used to motor pace us was another one of the few people that I would trust.

Andy Lakatosh:

Epps around 21 was a little bit reckless to be following on the motorcycle, mostly because he just rolled out of bed from the day before five minutes when he came barreling into the track with the door hanging open on his Jeep because it wouldn’t close. Now he’s a state trooper, but yeah, you’re definitely putting your life in the hands of the driver when you get behind him and having a really great handle of track cycling and motorcycles is an absolute must, and that’s not very common. I’ve seen a lot of bad motor racers.

Andrew Harris:

Epps told me he was absolutely petrified motorpacing you guys, by the way.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s okay. Most people usually are. I’ve had a couple of guys behind me going low nines. I think I had Hugo one time in LA at 89 and it is terrifying. LA is a smooth track, you can hold the line pretty well. There’s no bumps, there’s no wind, like there isn’t deep down to catch you and blow you around. But you’re going that fast and you’re like, and especially Hugo is a guy like head down, full-tilt boogie, I’m like, “He’s not going to see if I need to move. He’s just going to run the hell into me,” so here we go. Epps, god, he was fantastic, though. Still like laughing with him about those hot Tuesday, Thursday mornings at the track.

Joan Hanscom:

On that note, I think we’re going to wrap it up for this week’s episode. Andrew, thank you so much for joining us. Very, very fortunate to have you on, and hopefully, we can get you back as the season starts to open up in 2021. Yeah, have a great break and we’ll see you in 2021.

Andrew Harris:

Thanks for having me, and I’m looking forward to a great season. See you guys soon.

Joan Hanscom:

Thanks, Andrew. This has been The talk of the T-Town podcast, with host Joan Hanscom and Andy Lakatosh. Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode, brought to you by B. Braun Medical Inc. Head on over to our website, thevelodrome.com, where you can check out the show notes and subscribe, so you’ll never miss an episode.