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2021: The Year of Opportunity

Episode 11

“We’re called the Valley Preferred Cycling Center for a reason. It isn’t just about racing. It’s about being a center for cycling.”

– Joan Hanscom
Executive Director, Valley Preferred Cycling Center

On this week’s episode of Talk of the T-Town, Joan and Andy sit down and discuss what the upcoming 2021 season could look like.

Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is 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.


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 cohost athletic director, Andy Lakatosh.

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to this week’s Talk of the T-Town Podcast, and a happy new year to all of our listeners. This is a podcast with staff only. We’re joined by Andy Lakatosh, director of athletics here at the track. Me, Joan Hanscom, your executive director, and Maura Beuttel, who is also sitting in on this call today. We are excited to start talking about the 2021 season. Before we go a step further, we want to reiterate that we’re very excited about the potential for 2021, some innovation, and we’re also telling you everything with a big, giant asterisk of COVID.

Joan Hanscom:

What we’re going to present today is our best case scenario, and we ask that if you are hanging on every word about what the 2021 season will look like, you just file it away in the back of your head, that there is an asterisk here, and we don’t have a magic eight-ball. We can’t see what’s going to happen with COVID. We are presenting to you today what we hope to accomplish, but we are aware that it may come with some pivots. With that somber message out of the way, welcome Andy, welcome Maura. Happy to have this conversation this morning.

Andy Lakatosh:

No, I’m really happy to be here and definitely excited to talk about this. We definitely finished with the age group best performances in September and the very next conversation you and I had the next day was, all right, what’s 2021 look like? Like you said, everything’s been COVID asterisk. We hope this is what’s going to happen. While I think we have a much better handle on what should be theoretically possible, I still remember the third week in June, we thought we were going to start mass start racing the second week of July, and it changed that much, that quick.

Andy Lakatosh:

We’re still taking it day by day, but I feel pretty confident in the plan that we have. I’m super excited about it. We’ve been talking about it. Other people have been talking to us about it, so it’s nice to finally publicly talk about some of what we got planned and where we want to go with things, but first-

Joan Hanscom:

Well, I want to stop you right there, Andy, and just flashback really quickly-

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s what I was going to say.

Joan Hanscom:

To offer up a big thank you to everybody who came out to play bikes with us this summer in the weird summer of 2020. I think it was really energizing in many ways for us as a staff. It gave us an opportunity to think creatively, or maybe it didn’t give us an opportunity. Maybe it forced us to think creatively which we did, and it was really gratifying to be able to have a season at all last year. I think it got us in touch with our customers who were here every Saturday in a different capacity, but we’re still here and we’re still present.

Joan Hanscom:

I just want to say to everybody who came out last summer, whether it was just to train, or to race the TTs on Saturdays, a big heartfelt thank you for continuing to come and play bikes with us. To just reiterate all of that hard work that everybody did, it really paid off, when we looked at the track records being set, new age group records being established, national records falling. It wasn’t a last year for us, 2020. It was just a different year. I just want to thank everybody who was willing to come out and play along and be part of what we did, and just recognize all of their hard work and what they accomplished.

Andy Lakatosh:

No, it was awesome having the community out. I know for me personally, leave the work side out of it here at the track, after being locked inside our houses in the spring, and unsure if even going for a bike ride with one other person was safe, or allowed, the mere routine of coming to the track on a Tuesday or Thursday morning at 10 o’clock and having a training session in the sun, even if we had different protocols of how we came in and temperature checks, and mass and everything else, it really made the year feels so normal, or more normal, more normal than it would have if we were still locked inside our houses, and so that was huge.

Andy Lakatosh:

When you look around at the other tracks around the country that opened in some capacity, or just did not open at all, I’m super proud of what we did and figured out how to do within the rules, and with guidance from LVHN, USA Cycling, and the County. There’s a lot of different hoops and stuff to jump through to keep everything safe and appease everyone. I think we did an awesome job, and super stoked on the community that came out and participated and played ball in a non-traditional year. But I think we had some really cool evolutions out of it.

Andy Lakatosh:

Like, having to register for a motoped session made them feel safer than I have ever felt behind a motor a day in my life, which was awesome. I look forward to keeping some stuff like that. It was fun to do the time trials, which I’d been conceptualizing doing for a few years, and adding in age group best performances as different categories and ways for people to stamp their name on the track, not just in a track record capacity, was a really cool evolution. I’m stoked that we got the opportunity to make those things happen because we had no other option.

Joan Hanscom:

Well, you made a good point, too, Andy. We benefited greatly, let’s say, from the partnerships that we have with Lehigh County, who gave us really great support. LVHN, certainly for providing medical insights and guidance, and also USA Cycling, which, USA Cycling doesn’t always get credit for doing a really great work. We talked with Tara McCarthy earlier in the pod season about how much work went into their return to riding and racing document, and it was really valuable. Again, just an opportunity to thank those three organizations for the support they gave us as well, because it was very, very helpful for us to be able to do what we did and we’re going to continue to rely on them as we move forward into 2021.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. No, it definitely played a huge part in us having confidence in what we were doing was the right thing and sticking to our guns. I definitely, I think it was a really smart move on our part, and a good approach to say, we’re going to open when we’re sure we’re going to be able to stay open. Not open for a week and then roll backwards. Because I think that, that’s harder on us. Really, it’s harder on the community that wants to use the track to be allowed to do something one week and then have to roll back the other way.

Andy Lakatosh:

I look at our summer and that we just built momentum through the entire year, and I’m proud of that. It’s through those partnerships and guidance that we were able to do that, so I’m grateful that we had so much input instead of just floundering about trying to figure it out on our own.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, exactly. I think they’ll continue to give us that good input and insight as we roll into 2021, which is, of course, a great segue to talking about what we’re here for today. I’ll start because it’s something that’s exciting for me. In the community programs realm, we are going to look at a traditional start to this community programming season, which is April timeframe. We don’t have an exact date yet, though we’re triangulating in with the hopes that we’ll be able to offer a spring bicycle racing league this year, like we have done in the past.

Joan Hanscom:

We do anticipate having the benefit of not having quite the group size restrictions that we were under last year, so hopefully it looks like a more normal BRL in the spring. For parents who are listening, who are interested in putting your kid in the BRL, stay tuned on the website. Those announcements will come out probably the mid February early March timeframe for when the start dates are for the spring BRL. Obviously we’ll run that all through our partner BikeReg, like we’ve done in the past, but stay tuned for that.

Joan Hanscom:

But we are anticipating a BRL that looks much more like a normal BRL than last year, which is really great because BRL is such an important piece of the pipeline for us. It’s how we get new track riders. So, returning to BRL is very exciting. But also kicking off the Women’s Wednesdays programming in April, which I don’t see any issues with. We ran it successfully all last summer, and Women’s Wednesdays is going to lead into something new and exciting in 2021, which is a Women’s weekend.

Joan Hanscom:

We worked closely with the participants in the Women’s Wednesday program to get their feedback on, okay, you’re coming out, you’re training on the track. You’ve done all of this great work with Kim Geist and Kim Zubris, and how do we convert you into bike racers? We took all of this feedback about just needing more information, more practice, more mentoring, and we compiled it, and we said, awesome. We’re going to do a two-day weekend at the beginning of the season after we’ve had an opportunity to go through the first cycle of Women’s Wednesdays and put on a weekend that ideally gets more women to actually show up and race bikes, and teaches them the difference between a points race and a scratch race, and teaches them, just some of the things that might be more intimidating for a beginner lining up to race.

Joan Hanscom:

Then we have the time to go into every week on a Wednesday and really spend some time doing mentored racing, doing mock racing. I just want to encourage, if you’re listening and you have bike racing friends who’ve always thought about, hey, I’d love to try racing on the track. I just don’t know much about it. This is a great opportunity. Particularly when we don’t know what’s going to happen with road racing. If you have female friends who have been thinking about the track might be cool, or I’ve always wanted to give it a shot, but I don’t know much about it. Encourage them to take part if you have daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s a very open and inclusive community. It’s a really great welcoming group of women and we would encourage anybody who’s a little bit curious about dipping their toe into the track racing waters to come out and try that, and it’s very exciting to me to try to continue the growth in that area.

Maura Beuttel:

Well, I mean, you’ll catch me there.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, Maura’s going to dip her feet in the bike racing waters this year, which is exciting, so we’ve already got one convert.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, I think it’s good and it’s important to have those different types of steps along. I obviously came up through a very traditional path of Pee-wee’s Air Products, BRL, so it was a very natural evolution as a kid to wind up as a bike racer. I definitely do love what we’re bringing to the track like Women’s Wednesdays and some of the other non-competitive programming that we have, because it gets more use out of a facility. Obviously, we are known as the premier racing venue in the nation, and probably in the world, because we do such a volume of high caliber racing, and that is our signature marquee.

Andy Lakatosh:

But it’s great to also have this diverse usage beyond just bike racing and it’s nice to get some of that cross pollination, not in the sense of like, if you’re going to participate at the track, you have to raise, but if you want to, I think we do an awesome job and this is just another bridge in between what was maybe a path, a river that seemed impossible for some people to keep building that up, because while we are super proud of our women’s numbers that we do have, especially on Friday nights and racing. You have to nurture that and keep it going, because I do want to see us fill out the track limit, both men’s.

Andy Lakatosh:

I would love nothing more than to have to say, oh, we’re going to have to [inaudible 00:13:16] our heats, or we’re going to have to move to just Cat 1s on Fridays, because we have too many men and women that want to race their bikes here week after week. That’s a great problem.

Joan Hanscom:

Absolutely. I think, one of the things that has come out of 2020, and it’s been discussed to death, I think on industry channels, but maybe we haven’t addressed it yet is, there are a lot of people who bought bikes in 2020, and they maybe didn’t buy a bike. Maybe they pulled their bike out of the basement and got it tuned up and started riding their bikes because everybody was looking for a thing to do outside, and it got to the point where you couldn’t even find a bike to buy. But what that means is there’s a lot of people out now with bikes and we can offer a service here.

Joan Hanscom:

We’re called the Valley preferred cycling center for a reason. It isn’t just about racing. It’s about being a center for cycling. One of the other type of community programs that we’re looking at developing is just a basic bike safety programming. We’re talking about running this in conjunction with the parks department, so it may not be common ride on the track. It may be, come learn your basic road safety skills. I know I ride on the road a ton and I’ve seen a lot of people doing some very unsafe things, riding on the wrong side of the road, just things that a basic bike safety course could probably help with a lot.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s another thing that in the community programming sphere we’re excited to explore and launch. We have a bike maintenance partner here at the track, so, can we get him to come out and do basic bike safety checks? There’s a lot that we can do for the community here particularly in this year of opportunity that says, hey, look, there’s a whole lot more people with bikes right now, what can we do to benefit that segment of the community? Hopefully, they decide that, yeah, this is a fun thing to do and I really dig my bike.

Joan Hanscom:

We see them more on local rides that leave out of the track. We see them in the stands watching the racing, but how do we integrate this great moment of opportunity with people having a new enthusiasm for bikes and bring them into our community? I think it’s a really exciting time.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, and I think, going, taking that, it’s trying to fill in another gap and another hole that maybe we’ve been missing in the past years. Again, that’s another lesson thing of 2020. We really had a lot of time not putting on 600 UCI events with 800 competitors in the month of June to really get into the nitty gritty of, okay, how can we squeeze more out of what is out there and what’s available? Stuff like the basic bike rodeo styles things, or the fact that we’re going to expand, try the track now into two different levels.

Andy Lakatosh:

We’ll have a two step try the track process that’ll run a couple Sundays throughout the season, and to help get those people that maybe did the bike safety stuff, really like riding, see the track and want to try it, a very, very basic beginner intro thing. Then something that leans a little more towards racing might not be for everyone, but the basic try the track was always very repetitive because you had a very green level of rider usually. This is a way to, for the people that maybe can’t come up for the Air Products programs two or three times a week during the summer, to get more experience before they start racing, hopefully this is a way that we can bridge that gap.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’m looking forward to just filling in all those holes, make it a really seamless process, that if you come out, hopefully in April, or anytime during the year, you just have one thing after another, after another to keep progressively building up and challenging yourself and getting more comfortable. Before we know it, we see you’re racing on a Saturday, Tuesday, and eventually a Friday.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, exactly. I think it’s just, like you said, it’s filling the holes in the ecosystem. It’s something I think that has worked really well for the men’s side of road cycling. If you’re interested in road cycling on the men’s side, there is literally a category for you to race. You start in Cat 5, and you have the Cat 4 evolution, you have Cat 3, Cat 2, Cat 1. You get your own separate fields. Then on top of that, you have age group master’s categories. I think that that is what makes that sort of passage through the sport easier. We’re starting to see more of that on the women’s side, where they’re starting to think about, how the categories break down so that you bridge those holes, inability, skill, whatever it is.

Joan Hanscom:

Seeing more of that. I think, if we can accomplish that here on the track, where there are those stepping stones, it’s just, instead of having to do this big six foot jump across a crater, you have a little bridge that goes from one spot to the other instead. I think that really drives more participation. It easier to advance, and so that’s really a big goal for us for 2021 is, how do we get people moving through our ecosystem successfully? Rather than having to say, “Okay, I’ve done one try the track.” That’s a mighty big jump to masters in rookies. Now, now we’re going to try to put in some stepping stones for folks.

Joan Hanscom:

I think that, that is a really important evolution. So, I’m excited that you’ve got your head wrapped around that and thoughts and plans for putting in those building blocks, rather than just saying, “Good luck, jump.”

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. No, it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been work for me to get back to … Because of being at such a high level of the sport, to go back to, okay, where was I, and where are our athletes at. That’s one of the great things through coaching that you come to have to challenge yourself to remember, and that’s why it’s fun even for our younger elite athletes or some older junior athletes to coach again, and remember like, oh yeah, I remember learning to ride in Air Products.

Joan Hanscom:

Beginners mindset.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, and learning to ride a fixed gear. It’s always fun to see everyone just enjoy. It’s a good memory of how much fun this is supposed to be. There’s definitely some creative thinking that’s going into like our Air Products programs, and how to make that curriculum little more organized and a little more progressive and challenging in some ways. The big thing that I am considering with all the creation of what we’re doing is of course, like the COVID side of it. If you want to jump back to BRL for a moment, spring could be a little bit early to try and get that together.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yes, we have the benefit of high school sports are happening in some capacity, and we’re an outdoor venue, so that makes it a lot better. And we have a great track record and great safety protocols and stuff. But the big thing to remember is that a BRL finals is, we’re talking about potentially 130 kids inside the center of the track, which is far more than two soccer teams playing against each other at once. We’re not talking about 12 or 16 kids on the field. We’re talking about that per race.

Andy Lakatosh:

Then you have all the other kids still on the infield, parents that want to be in the stands, and that we want to have in the stands. That’s one of the coolest things about BRL, but at this point, it’s a consideration that we have to keep in mind. Like you said early on, Joan, with all this stuff, stay on top of our social channels, stay on top of the website, because when changes have to be made and pivots have to be made, like we’re ready to do it. We have plan Bs, plan Cs all the way down to Qs, Rs and Ss.

Joan Hanscom:

We learned a lot last summer about what works and what doesn’t if we have to implement it.

Andy Lakatosh:

If I had a dollar for every season, every alteration of a season schedule I wrote in the spring.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah, I mean, again, we’re going to say it till we’re blue in the face here on the pod today, but everything we’re talking about does just come wrapped in that big giant caveat of assuming that the situation with COVID enables us to do all of this stuff, but again, very hopeful that it will, but asterisked. We’ve talked about the launch of the community programs, which I’m very excited about. Then that takes us quite nicely into the month of May, where we will hopefully kick off some racing.

Joan Hanscom:

I know Andy Taos has announced his masters and junior regional championships. For everybody who listens, Andy Taos, the legendary Andy Taos, who just a sheer legend in this sport and has done so much for this venue in particular, but the sport very broadly speaking. Andy’s back to run his junior regionals and masters regional championships in the beginning of May, because they already announced those dates.

Andy Lakatosh:

Juniors is the beginning of May, I believe, and then masters is that first weekend in June after Memorial Day, is what I’ve put into the calendar the other day.

Joan Hanscom:

Yep. Andy is going to be back with those regional championships, which is terrific. Again, I’ll say it on behalf of Andy, COVID permitting, but great to know that he’ll be back promoting his races early on, and then you’ve got a good plan for starting racing in May. Just broadly speaking, what are we looking at in May?

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, we’re definitely going to have a more diverse plan instead of races than we normally have. We’ll get to the Friday night stuff in a minute, but one of the big takeaways from the TTs, and the COVID year was that there’s definitely a hunger for more than just straight masters in rookies, or straight Tuesday night racing. With COVID limitations allowing, we’re going to start with TTs again, because I think that’s a great way, and we’re going to run those periodically throughout the year. Every couple of Saturdays we’ll have a TT, which is a great way people to bust out their race equipment, check where they’re at time travel-wise, and it will all be electronic timing with main sport like we’ve had.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’ll be live timing up on the website. That’s always been one of the biggest things coming from this track and going to say like a nationals is off-hand timing on a Tuesday morning in the wind without race equipment, and you hope that you’re going XYZ speed, and then you get to nationals and go, oh, oh no, that’s actually not the speed that I’m riding. We want to provide the opportunity for people to measure themselves accurately more often.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, so it’s the little touch points, right? It’s the periodic check-in. I think, particularly with something like a masters nationals here at home at the end of September, those touch points are going to be valuable. Much like last summer, we’ll give a shout out to Tom Maines. We’ll continue to have live track timing here all summer long for all of our events, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, which is terrific. But yeah, that live timing for the TTs is really nice, and it does provide, just like you said, that that opportunity to measure how the progress is going periodically throughout the season.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. We’ll do the same kind of thing where the age group best performances wraps up our TT for the year. Coincidentally, I’m going to set that right against masters nationals for any other age group athletes that want to come and try to have a crack at the age group best performances. Just to review with everyone real quick, age group best performances, the way that they’re different from say our track records, as our track records are kept … I modeled it off of what the UCI does, so the world records are for juniors and elites in XYZ events that are kept in the rule book and on the website, but the best … Everything masters category are called best performances.

Andy Lakatosh:

Whereas our track records can be broken anytime at one of our events with electronic timing and officials and everything else, the age group best performances, you’ll only get that one day a year on the age group best performance day to attempt those best performance times. It’s not in any time during the year, which makes it a little more fun and a little more challenging of …

Joan Hanscom:

No, it’s a target.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. It’s not just, oh, well, I’m having a good day. Let me go for it. It’s like, no, you got to be right on, on this one day to go get some of those records. Given some of the times that were put out last year, it’s definitely going to be difficult. It’s not going to be …

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. You look at a summer where that’s all people trained. I think we did see some stellar performances last summer that, if things are a little looser and freer over the summer and training is a little less focused because there’s more options of stuff to do, some of those times are going to be tough to beat.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, 100%.

Joan Hanscom:

It’ll be interesting to see. Yeah, that’s a great overview of what Saturdays are going to look like. Let’s talk a little bit more about potentially Tuesdays and Fridays.

Andy Lakatosh:

What’s going to happen with the very first weekend is we’re going to … It’s going to be a TT, and it’s going to butt up to this new Round Robin sprint tournament that we’re going to start doing, and then the Round Robin sprint tournaments are actually going to alternate in on Tuesdays. What the concept is, is that you’ll ride your 200 only at the TT the Saturday before the Tuesday. Then you will get grouped into groups of four of your closest competitors and you’ll sprint each person in that group once, still you’ll get three sprint rides.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s the cut past the early rounds of the sprints when there’s such a gap between the people that you’re racing in terms of speed and ability, and get down to just the best quality sprinting set. Every person that comes out to ride and do this training spring tournament effectively has three sprints that are all close in ability and speed. We’re going to pepper that in on Tuesdays to give our visiting sprinters and our local sprinters an athlete chance to really challenge themselves and do something a little different and get riders who have literally never raced on a Tuesday since they upgraded to come out and race on a Tuesday, just not in the traditional mass start sense of it.

Andy Lakatosh:

Then the rest of our Tuesdays will still be our traditional all UCI, or all USAC categories, one through five, juniors no gear restrictions in your race, your category. Masters in rookies, we’ll keep our masters categories. Some of them of those younger junior beginner, A&B categories. But I’m super excited for the spring tournament and getting that first one going in April and then seeing how they evolve throughout the year and have people come out and really make the most out of those.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, it’s a bit a nice bit of diversity in the programming as well, rather than sort of rotating through the same Tuesday night formats every week. I think it’s a nice injection of something new and different into the programming as well. I just want to also say we’ve been a full year without anybody doing mass start racing. People are going to be rusty, including staff on the production of racing. We haven’t produced a mass start race in over a year. I think all of us are going to … Athletes and staff together, officials, all of us, it’s going to be nice to have some ways to gradually swing back into that more traditional type programming as well as we all start to get used to how things run again.

Joan Hanscom:

Which takes us really, I think, to Friday nights and this departure from our traditional Friday night schedule. For people who’ve been following along on Fridays for a while, June is usually our traditional UCI month. There’s been a lot of things in the air this year. I mean, obviously we’re in Olympic year again. We’re in a repeat Olympic year. That factors into the thinking, the potential for international travel restrictions to still be in place. Also, the aforementioned, I don’t think it would be smart for us to go first Friday night of the year as UCI racing, just because again, nobody’s been doing any of that sort of thing.

Joan Hanscom:

So, we are pivoting our traditional schedule a little bit. We will have racing on Friday nights in June, fingers crossed, to see the aforementioned caveat about COVID. But we are planning on Friday night racing, kicking off in June as normal, but not leading off with our UCI block. Andy, take it from there.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. I think the first thing that we want to say is that we’ll get the full season announcement coming out early February. We’re still waiting on all of our final approvals from the UCI. We want to see if the world hopefully looks like it’s improving by the beginning of February, but we’ll be getting things up around then. I think another big thing to say, right off the top is, we want racing that has fans in the stands. 110%, that is what we are aspiring towards, and that applies more to our local community. Because, I mean, TTs are some of the most boring things in the world to watch, but we had no shortage of people that wanted to just come and watch bike racing this year and we look forward to getting that to that.

Andy Lakatosh:

Like you said, Joan, our traditional June coming out guns a blazing always worked really well when it was an Olympic year. Even last year, looking at holding our events in June, there were a lot of questions, there becomes a much smaller interest from the big international teams because we do get a lot of Olympic champions and medalists and people that will be going to the games. Even last year, looking at June events with late July Olympics, a lot of the teams, Canada, South American countries were … We’ll come down. We might actually not race. We might just come down for a training block for New Zealand and Australia and a lot of those countries.

Andy Lakatosh:

It was a much bigger lift because they didn’t want to pop halfway around the world, pop back over, and then have to go to Japan for the games. These are all things that we took into consideration with well, maybe June’s not our best time. That’s leaving. COVID out of it. If you roll the COVID aspect of it in, we start getting questions about what our UCI schedule is going to be. I started in October already. The emails start coming in and they just build from there. But typically, most people want to be booking their tickets for that type of stuff and committing to travel plans in March.

Andy Lakatosh:

If we think about where we were last March and where we’ll most likely be in terms of COVID and travel restrictions this March, booking tickets in March, $1,000 plus tickets for travel in June is not going to be very inspirational, let’s say, and have a lot of confidence around, do we think this is going to work? We looked at pushing back anyway, which of course, if we pushed back then, we’re … The closer we get to the games, there’s definitely an aspect of, we’re not going to get those Olympic athletes.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think, Joan, you and I sat there for a moment and said, well, there’s only 150 some track athletes that go to the games. There’s hundreds of other athletes, especially domestically that need UCI points, need racing. Just because the Olympics is happening, the world does not stop for all those development.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. All those Devo riders still need to be Devo in.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, and still want to be racing. Especially if you’re targeting or working at that kind of level, you want that July peak anyway. We looked at it and said, hell, let’s just run our UCI events the same time as the games. That is our plan for 2021, is that we’re going to go the same three weekends, double-header weekends as the Olympics from the 23rd until the 8th, I believe it is, and we’ll just run our biggest events then, and we’re going to do that because we feel that that’s when we’ll have our greatest chance of getting the international riders that we need for our country counts, which is, we can put on the greatest event in the world, but if we don’t have those five countries, we don’t get class one points, and that sucks for everybody.

Andy Lakatosh:

That is the biggest concern on our end for executing these events, but I’m confident in our ability to do that. I really like the name that we’ve come up with for the series. We’re going to take the series of UCI events this year and call it the T-Town Summer Games. We’re planning a little opening and closing ceremonies type of thing, a parade of nations to really showcase everybody that comes out and participates. I’ve already got schedules written, and I’m super stoked on some of the stuff we’re going to do there, some of the U23 and junior categories that we’re going to add in to boost points for those developing athletes.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think we’re still going to have awesome size fields and great competition, and really star studded fast athletes. I think, it’s going to give our domestic and local athletes a really great chance to punch up a couple level highers, and they could win. Eddie Dawkins and everybody else shows up and just …

Joan Hanscom:

Well, I think, just based on some of the conversations that have been taking place with with teams and federations, I think, yes, we’re not going to get the Tokyo athletes, but there are a whole lot athletes in the 2024 pipeline that I think we will see here because they’re federations, but to your point, still need them developing, still need them doing the work, and this is a great place for those athletes. It’s the opportunity to see the next gen come here this summer. I think that’s exciting. To your other point, it does give our local athletes a really great opportunity to continue to compete against the highest level, which is pretty exciting.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. Obviously, the UCI events will be a big peak in our year and a big thing that everyone will be targeting, but no, we are anticipating starting racing in June, and we’re going to build up the entire season towards those UCI events, obviously will be offered the 4th of July weekend. Elite and junior nationals is slated to be happening that time in Los Angeles anyway. But the thing that I really want to point out to everyone is, our UCI events, we put on for the points, for the athletes. We pay all those UCI inscription fees and all those officiating bills and all the timing bills for those 12, 16 hour days of racing, to get those athletes those chances, to get those points, and to have the exciting racing on the track.

Andy Lakatosh:

But bike racers love money. We do more money for track racing in a season than I’d be, very fair to say, probably any other track. In the theme of building into the year, we’re going to roll off those three weeks of UCI racing into our three biggest events. US Women’s Open, Keirin Revenge and Air Products, and then culminating with Keirin and Madison Cup as the final night, calling it the Robert Rodale challenge for the first time, which is going to be really fun and exciting. But if you’re planning to come and you have some extra time this day beyond your UCI points, stay for those races, because that’s when it gets really, really fun.

Andy Lakatosh:

Not that UCI racing isn’t fun, but I like racing when there’s going to be fireworks on and off the tracks.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, exactly. It’s got the DJ, you got the fireworks, you got the show, you got beautiful summer nights. Just as an aside, it’s nice here in the summer, so for people who are thinking about it, the summers here are beautiful. It’s going to be lots of racing opportunity. There’s great training around here. If you haven’t come to T-Town before, I’m putting in my plug for the area. Are you listening Discover Lehigh Valley? It’s a really nice place to ride bikes in the summer. There’s crit racing across the street. There’s beautiful roads everywhere to ride, and plenty of opportunity to race your bike here at the track and elsewhere.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s something. If you’re a bike racing enthusiast, it’s definitely something to put on your list to come experience for the summer.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, and talking about coming in an extended stays with the athletes, like we always have, we are going to continue to work with our housing providers and get athletes access to very awesome, comfortable housing out in Kutztown. We’re still finalizing those contracts and stuff, but athletes looking to come to the track and spend some time, we will throw up our athlete application, like we always do for athletes to contact us to get housing, but we’re going to do that a little bit later this year.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s not going to be a March 1 open type thing. We might be looking more at some time in April, and closing that around the end of may for athletes. But as always, fill that out, contact me directly alakatosh@thevelodrome.com. When you’re looking to apply to come and stay and get assistance from us, to minimize the cost to the athlete directly, the longer you stay, the better, and the more that you like to race, the better. Joan, you and I are 100% in accordance that full fields of racing make great racing, which makes energy, which puts fans in the stands, which then feeds back to the racers to want to race their bikes.

Andy Lakatosh:

It all starts with getting those people on track that want to race and want to race hard in big full fields. That’s definitely something that impacts our decisions and who we’re able to help be here the longest and stay the most. Another big thing that goes into selecting for me is, if you’re coming in from out of town and you have a coaching license, and you’re able to help a volunteer and coach one of our programs to work off some of your bill, that’s a huge part. That also goes hand in hand with shout to the local coaches.

Andy Lakatosh:

The more you get engaged, the more we help out, and the more your track pass can get paid and some stuff like that, plus it gets … The thing I always love most about coaching the community programs was you’re creating dozens of fans for you that come-

Joan Hanscom:

For yourself, right. Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

That come out and yell for coaching and coach Missy.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. It’s coach [Jinwei 00:41:58], coach Andrew. We did have some really great local coaches, Andrew Chu, Jinwei Tang, most notably last summer, Elsbeth, for sure. This makes fans out of your participants, and that’s an excellent point. And it’s great to recognize those local coaches who gave so much last summer as well, coaching those programs. But yeah, we definitely are always looking for good quality coaches to work in the programs and help build your fan base.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that’s looking like Friday nights. Hopefully, like you said, Andy, we’ll get the more detailed schedules up as soon as we get the sign-off from the UCI on our inscriptions and we start to have a better sense of just what’s going to be allowed and not allowed, but keep an eye out. That stuff’s going to go up as soon as we can, as soon as the UCI gives us their blessing.

Andy Lakatosh:

Certainly not holding onto it for anything.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

[crosstalk 00:43:01].

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Exactly. You just don’t want to put it out there and then the UCI comes back and request to change, or anything along those lines. As soon as we have those dates finalized and approved, we will move forward with that. Then that really takes us into September where we are looking at having masters nationals, which is great. Masters nationals, which was supposed to be here last summer is going to be here this fall, which is terrific and we’re excited to have that opportunity to have the masters nationals here in the fall.

Joan Hanscom:

Then, we’ll run a fall Velo Fest caveat on the tracks at resurfacing, which is the next point on my list. We are going to begin the process of the track resurfacing. For anybody who’s written on the Velo in the last couple of years, there’s a wobble and a crack in the intern three that we’re going to get fixed. Just generally, that is a maintenance thing that needs to get done periodically, and we are due for that this year. So, we know that, come the fall, we are going to bring in that track resurfacing project and we’ll know more about dates as we get closer.

Joan Hanscom:

But that is scheduled for this fall. Just to give everybody a heads up, that after masters nationals and the fall Velo Fest, we anticipate that the track work will begin. Again, more on that as we have the details, but it is something that people keep asking about and want to make sure they know yes, it is on track to have that resurfacing work done beginning in the fall of ’21.

Andy Lakatosh:

Just to make sure everyone understands what actually goes into resurfacing. In the spring, they will lay down a thin top coat that gives us this nice, new, pretty fast surface that has no cracks in it, and is really smooth and you can go really fast on. But in order to be ready for that, there’s so much prep work that goes into trying to grind out the bumps and repair some of those deeper cracks and really preserve the surface in the foundation so it doesn’t shift and so that we can last another 45 years with the same concrete laid.

Andy Lakatosh:

But that surface laying is very temperature sensitive and all the prep work has to be done before, and with snow and everything else over the winter, we have to start it in the fall because of how long it takes. It’s definitely not as simple as just waxing your car. There’s always something unforeseen that pops up. It is tough to look at another early fall closure effectively on our end, but it’s essential to what we need to get done for 2022.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. To that point, I’ve walked the track with the engineers and the contractors who are going to be doing the work. There are things that happen to buildings over time, including how the footings of the building settle into the earth. What you find is that, if you have these giant slabs of concrete, depending on how the building settles, you need to do things like create new joints in the track surface. So, you may have a giant slab of concrete in turn three that turns out it needs a joint, and it needs to become two giant pieces of concrete instead of just one big slab.

Joan Hanscom:

So, we’re going to be doing all of that work, cutting in new joints to accommodate settling. It is a lot of work, and a lot of it will also depend on when they get out there, after yet another winter, of winter impact on the track, how deep of the surface do they have to scrape off before they can put the new surface down? It is a very complicated process, and it’s sort of fascinating to walk around with the concrete guy and have him talk about the actual mix and blend of concrete. My brain was spinning when he finished talking about just all of the sophistication of the concrete science.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, and we’re such a pain in the butt because we are … Concrete is supposed to be poured flat. It is not supposed to be forward on an angle.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. It’s nice that we have people who are experienced in doing it, but it is a big job, which is why it gets done only like every 10 years or so, but yes, that is coming this year, folks. Some more on that as we know it, but I think that’s it, Andy. That’s our seasoned teaser. I think we’ve compressed a bunch of months into a very short timeframe here on the pod. But hopefully, it gives people a directional understanding of where we’re going and they get people stoked to come back.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. No, I’m super excited for 2021. Obviously, the season has been on our minds for months now, and as well has been in work for months. I’ve had many early mornings, creating this stuff and working out, trying to problem solve everything, and think about every response I’m going to get about what should be different in someone’s opinion, and trying to accommodate as much of that as possible, because we just want great racing and we want great ridership and a community that’s engaged and active and proud of what we do.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s definitely a real sense of pride for me being involved with the track and helping to create these great seasons. I look at 2020 as having been a great season, so I’m just excited for what 2021 will bring.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, absolutely, me too. We’re rolling into 2021 with some optimism, which is a nice way to feel. Yes, just that we will leave you with those words, stay tuned, because there’s more detail to come. With that, we’ll go to the official, this has been the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, please leave us a positive review. Like us, share us, subscribe to us, tell your friends to listen, because for us to keep bringing you these things, we need listeners, and so we thank you for those who have sat through our discussion today, and we hope you’ll join us again.

Joan Hanscom:

We have some more great guests coming up very shortly. Again, thank you for listening to the Talk of the T-Town with Andy Lakatosh, Maura Beuttel, and me, Joan Hanscom.

Joan Hanscom:

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.

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Andrew Harris: Life on the Edge

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:

Edge Cycling Website: https://www.edgecyclingteam.com
Facebook: @EdgeCyclingTeam
Instagram @EdgeCycling

Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is 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.


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.

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Lynne Munro: Standing in Your Difference

Lynne Munro

Episode 9

To be a pioneer, that means you’re the first person walking through the jungle with a machete. So I’m being hit in the face, you know, I’ve got the leaves and the twigs and the plants and all the things hitting me in the face and I’m cutting my way, and hopefully, I’m sure the people coming behind me will find it easier”

– Lynne Munro
Sports Science PhD, Biomechanist and Sprint Cycling Coach

This week on Talk of the T-Town, Joan and Andy sit down with Lynne Munro, sprint cycling coach for the Australian Cycling team, and discuss confidence in cycling, gender bias in the cycling community and the challenges that brings, and a dive into some “shop talk” between Lynne and Andy.

Find Lynne on Twitter @lynneamunro

Lynne Munro

Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is 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.


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 cohost, athletic director, Andy Lakatosh.

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. This week’s guest, Lynne Munro from Cycling Australia, has a lot of really interesting and important topics to discuss. We originally recorded this episode with my cohost, Andy Lakatosh, but we had some sound recording issues, but the topic was so great that we didn’t want to lose the episode and not bring you this really great content, so bear with us. In many parts of the conversation you’re about to listen to the role of Andy Lakatosh is going to be played by me, Joan Hanscom, as we rerecord some of the sound bytes that didn’t successfully record the first time though. While it may be a little bit of a weird listening experience to hear me voicing Andy’s questions, we hope you’ll find the content worth listening to regardless, and we hope you really enjoy what Lynne has to say.

Joan Hanscom:

Today’s guest is Lynne Munro. She joins us from Australia where she’s a sprint coach with the Australia Cycling Team. She’s been to T-Town for the past few years, with 2020 being the exception because we didn’t have any international racing, but we’re very much looking forward to having her come back. She’s an exciting guest to us because she’s a woman coach at a very high level of the sport, and in a world that’s very male dominated. We’re very excited to have her, so Lynne, welcome.

Lynne Munro:

Thank you very much and that’s very nice of you to invite me on, and nice to have the option to get to chat to you guys. I definitely miss not being over in T-Town this year, so it’s nice to have a bit of catch up.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, and hopefully we’ll get to see you next year.

Lynne Munro:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’ve loved our years over with you guys, so yes, it’s been a very interesting time kind of sitting at home and doing things differently this year.

Joan Hanscom:

If definitely didn’t feel the same in 2020 not having 200-some international cyclists in town for UCI events in June, and just having training sessions with 25 people at a time and running TTs, but it still felt like we were doing something, something that was pretty normal. Speaking of missing T-Town racing this year, let’s start. If you had to pick one thing that was your favorite coming to T-Town with the team for the past couple of years, what would you say that makes T-Town so special or that you enjoy the most about coming over?

Lynne Munro:

Look, I think it’s the people. If I had to choose one thing, there’s many things actually that’s been great about it, and it’s a combination of the people from the locals in terms of just the local community, but also you guys program stuff. It sort of has started to feel a little bit like family. We get to know the faces, get to know the personalities. I think also for us, because we tend to move around the world going to World Cups as they have been, or nation’s cups as they’re going to be, and you sort of touch base with a number of people that because your colleagues but you only ever see them for short periods of time. And so I think it’s nice. Also the last couple of years we’ve been over there for a full month and you’ve got lots of international teams and coaches and friends and colleagues from around the world and so that’s just awesome that you get to spend that time with people and get to know them a little bit deeper, and you have opportunities for social time as much as you do in competition on the track.

Lynne Munro:

So, it’s a really, really nice environment and it’s nice to, even for us be in one place where you can learn and grow, go and try some stuff out in the racing, go away, check and challenge yourself in terms of what you’re doing, let the riders have some time to reflect and debrief and then go back in again. In the meantime, you’ve got beautiful riding around the country as well so yeah, beautiful.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s definitely special to get that extended time here, and you get to know each other a little bit better, spend more time with each other, not just like at a World Cup where you fly in, do your race, and then fly off to the next one. For the listeners who don’t fully appreciate that, teams and athletes come here and they get to know our spectators, they get to know the personality of the racers here all season long. And one thing that gets lost in all of that is the personality of the coaches, and some of the really impressive credentials of the riders and the coaches who pass through here every summer. So if you could give our listeners a little bit of background on your own way into coaching, into your PhD, and all the things that have gotten you to the point where you are now as a very high level, elite level coach.

Lynne Munro:

Okay, I actually started off more in the strength coaching. That was my background and when I did my sort of undergrad in sport science, that was where my focus was, and I was riding and training a lot of the time myself. I’ve been quite a hybrid rider, done probably more road than track, but always been involved in competing on multiple sports as well. So that’s probably why I focused more on the strength side of things because I was involved in multiple sports across my time. Then as I was more focused on my riding people got to know that I had that background in understanding the science of it and, therefore, were interested in the training that I was doing, so I ended up cycle coaching and working with a number of different levels of rider locally. Then from there, progressed into, I ended up working with Cycling New Zealand and moved up in my sport science to do a master’s, and I did the master’s with the Sprint program there, which was when Justin Grace was building the kind of foundations of the New Zealand Sprint Trio, which was really, really exciting.

Lynne Munro:

Sort of, Damian Wiseman, who was the sport’s scientist at the time were building effectively what was a bit of a backyard project into a world beating team, which was really phenomenal to see happen. And then I got the opportunity to work with the cycling team in the Scottish program, and moved over there just ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2014. So I was with their program through the 2014 Common games, which again, really exciting. And that was a time where we were still actually looking at was like the back end of Chris Hoy’s career, whether he was going to still be in the Scottish team for the Common games that year. And then he’d actually decided to retire. So then sort of saw the transition that was then into the sort of era of Callum Skinner, at that point. And actually very young Jeff Arlen was kicking around the pits at that time, which was really nice. And there was a wonderful kind of balance between the GB program obviously encompasses the different kind of countries within the UK, in terms of Scotland, England and Wales.

Lynne Munro:

And so for the Common games, you sort of split out into the different countries, but you’re still kind of working with the parent body. So there was a really nice sense of having our own style and our own ethos within the Scottish program but then working alongside the GB coaches in the GB program as well, which was really nice. And then things because of that kind of split in terms of how Britain works, there was a bit of a low after the 2014 Common games for the Scottish program. And at that point, I got offered a PhD over in Australia.

Lynne Munro:

And for me, the big exciting thing for Sprint is we’re at this kind of stage where we’re really starting to understand the science of it a lot more. And I was aware already through my work with Cycling New Zealand and then Scottish team is that the there’s this real massive opportunity in Sprint to start to really hone what we’re doing, hone a training, hone understanding for more effective gains. So I really wanted to do that PhD. And it was quite a big step for me to effectively stepping back out of coaching for a number of years to do that. But I knew that it was worthwhile in terms of where I was going. So yeah. So I took that that scholarship opportunity, landed in Perth NWA in Australia, did my PhD there and actually, whilst I was there had the opportunity…

Lynne Munro:

Australia is very fortunate in having state based systems that feed into the national system. So each state has a very well support high performance program. So I actually supported the WA program, the WA Institute of Sport with their Sprint program, whilst I was doing my PhD. And my PhD ended up being in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Sport and the Sprint program of Australian Cycling Team. And that was always my pitch anyway, because I knew what I was going to be doing was something that was going to be groundbreaking and leading things forward. So yeah, really, very humbled to have the opportunity to pitch what I like to do to people like Nick Fletcher, our head coach, and he just thought this was a fantastic opportunity that I actually very naively pitched to do something that the AIS had been trying to achieve for about eight to 10 years, I believe. And I’ve heard that from multiple sources, and hadn’t managed to do it. And it was just pure naivete, that I then went, “Oh, yeah, I reckon I could probably do that.” And set my course.

Lynne Munro:

And so [Netflighters 00:09:37] was like, “yeah, great, love to see this happen.” And I achieved it. So I think that was for me… It was very challenging and PhDs are hard enough as they are, but then when you’re doing something that people haven’t been able to do before, you very quickly lose any supervisor potential and there’s not a lot of people that are able to help you. So I grew a lot in that time, a lot in a number of ways. And by the end of that program, the Australian Cycling Team brought me on board initially, actually as the biomechanist, on the back of the PhD. But then, because I obviously went to Commom coaching, we established a joint role with the South Australian Institute of Sport, which is where the Sprint Cycling Team is based. And so I lead their Sprint program, initially as well.

Lynne Munro:

So I was leading the Sprint program there, biomechanist for the Australian cycling team. And then after my first year there, we introduced a new program to the Australian cycling team, which was like an academy level, and sort of just one step down from the Olympic guys. So I started with Australian team there as the sprint coach as well. And so now I’ve ended up as a full time sprint coach basically. And the biomechanics stuff sits a little bit in the background. But I still use that skill base. And yeah, that kind of brings me to present day. So, been quite a journey.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. And you used a word that I found to be appropriate, interesting. To me, you used the word groundbreaking in talking about some stuff there, and I think groundbreaking might apply on the science side and the technical side of your work. But certainly you are one of the few women coaching in your discipline at your level. And I know that, speaking for myself doing what I do, I’ve sort of faced similar but obviously not the same issue, but being a female who is sort of groundbreaking in the sport as well. You face the same issues, I think on either side of the playing field. I’m putting on the races, you’re working with the athletes who are racing the races, but I think you can’t ignore that there’s a real gender bias in our sport, it’s heavily male dominant. And I’d be really curious to know, just for my own personal edification, but I’m sure our listeners are curious to hear, did you confront any of those gender barrier as you were getting into your roles? And have you experienced them? And how do we, as women in the sport, change that and raise other women up? Or give other women advice in the sport?

Joan Hanscom:

I know, I had one time and I started really on event marketing sides or a heavily marketing side of the role and not so much on the event production that evolved later. But I remember one guy from the industry said, “Well, at least you race bikes, so you have credibility with me.” And that was what it took for me to be a credible, even a marketing person in sport. And just he was so dismissive, “well you race bikes so that gives you credibility.” And I took that to heart like, “oh, I better never stop racing bikes because then I won’t have credibility to my male peer group.” I thought, “What a horrible thing.” But, in a way, it was good advice. Right. But in a way, it’s horrible.

Lynne Munro:

Yeah, look, it’s really hard. And I’m sure that everybody going through any high performing industry and sports will say all things are hard. But there’s this additional layer that happens when you’re dealing with bias of any sort, and you can you talk about this kind of the progressive pathway of privilege, and people will talk about the pathway privilege that have got everything their way and everything they find life less hard than if you… but I’m not saying for any stretch of the imagination that there are people in far more challenging positions than me. But as you say, when you’re a woman in this industry, and you look around, and there’s nobody else around you, it adds this extra layer of challenge to you every day.

Lynne Munro:

And there’s a sense of it can add self doubt as well, because you are sitting at the table. And the broader sense of that is the pits and the competition arena, but in even just in the basic sense sitting in meetings where there’s only you and only your voice is representing difference. And so there’s sometimes that question of going, “well, is it a personal difference? Or is it a gender difference?” And there’s nobody there to validate that opinion. And so when you do experience what you know to be biases, what you know to be dynamics that are not working for you and that are opposing you. There’s no shoulder to actually say, “no, hang on, that’s not just Lynne that’s feeling this, that’s us that’s feeling this.” So it’s incredibly tough.

Lynne Munro:

Over the years, I have definitely experienced odd bits of very explicit bias where there’s absolutely no doubt and you go, “Wow, really?” And again, there’s not nobody at your shoulder to help you go through that. I think more recently, I came across a turn, this European on a program for female high performance coaches through the AIS talent program. And it was helping us actually work through how to leverage change and how to affect systemic change in the system, which has been incredibly powerful. But early on, in that course this year, they gave us a paper that was talking about second-generational gender bias. And my naivete, and I’m sure there’s plenty other women out there who’ll have known that term. I didn’t know that term. And it was talking about the fact that first-generational gender biases are really explicit stuff that absolutely no doubt, I’m feeling that directly.

Lynne Munro:

The second-generation of stuff is more around the dynamics and in the room, and there’s subtleties of, that the humor is not working for you. So therefore, you’re not included in any of the jokes. And if you’re not included, then you start to feel like, especially with leaders and their peers, if the leaders are experiencing a sort of in-joke, and they’re all joking together, and you’re excluded from that, then you start to feel that separation. You’ve just said a minute ago, Joan, where you’re then asked to prove yourself or just all of the little subtle messages that you’re getting that you’re maybe not quite being listened to, or the way that you need the dynamics to be are not really being accepted.

Lynne Munro:

So all of those little things become a picture around you. And having that term, second-generational gender bias in front of me was so incredibly empowering to just go, “Wow, that’s what it is. [crosstalk 00:16:17] that’s what I’ve been saying every day.” And the more that we share this message and talk about it, the more that it comes out as a known thing that people like myself are experiencing, then it starts to let us have the confidence. And you again, you’ll know, Joan, is this sense of, “why do women not have the same confidence?” It’s because of this, because you’re questioning yourself as the odd one out on a daily basis.

Lynne Munro:

So yeah, these sort of courses are really important for women to go through and work through. We started with empower yourself, how do you change yourself? How do you change your relationships? How do you change the system? So you’ve actually got to work within first because I know, overcoming those self doubts is so important. And having the ability to stand in my true authority and be ever part of who I’m capable of being, that’s something I have to work hard with, because you’ve sometimes got to stand in your difference. And say, “it’s okay to have this different perspective.” And it’s needed, and embracing diversity, embracing inclusivity. That is part of what I have to represent. And it’s part of what I have to lead the way with. And that’s hard as well, knowing that on the back of trying to forge my way in my career, and being at World Cups, and really high in competition where there’s a lot of pressure on to produce results that in addition I’ve got to be this pioneer.

Lynne Munro:

And it’s not like, “do I want to be a flag waiver?” Well, probably not at the outset of my life, but now I fully embrace it. And I’m like, “yeah, I’m going to be that person, I want to be that person.” But again, to be a pioneer means you’re the first person walking through the jungle with a machete. So I’m being hit in the face. I’ve got the leaves and the twigs and the plants and things hit me in the face, and I’m cutting my way. And hopefully, and I’m sure that the people coming behind me will find it easier. And there’s days where I go, “I’m so proud of that.” I’m so proud that the people coming behind me are going to find this easier. And I’m trying to bring people with me.

Lynne Munro:

But there’s also days where I go, “Wow, that really stung.”[crosstalk 00:18:26] So it’s a up and down ride. And this yeah, but that’s a big part of who I am. And I spend a lot of time, as you guys know, in some of the stuff that I’ve done whatsoever in T-Town is spend a lot of time making sure I talk to women at all levels, from community level upwards. Making sure I talk to prospective coaches and spend time mentoring them and investing to make that difference. And that’s really the answer. We got to join together. We got to use our voice. We got to bring people with us and empower them and try and overcome. So [crosstalk 00:18:59]

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I like what you said when you said that that difference voice that is needed. And it’s understanding. We have to understand it inside that that difference is needed. Because I think just knowing that is really empowering, right? It is empowering to know what the sport needs, what our industry needs, whatever you want to call it. The change that we’re pushing is actually needed. And we’re doing the thing that like you said, will make it easier for the women following behind. But yeah, I like that perspective of, “yes, this is a needed thing, and I am willing to do the work.”

Lynne Munro:

Yeah, I look out and I know that that’s very readily acknowledged by everybody around me, meaning the man in the environment. That’s something we’ve been looking at a lot at our coaching strategy in the last few weeks and really recognizing that diversity is the most important part of having a successful organization hence coaching team is diverse perspectives. But what’s really interesting is whether we are taking actual action towards that. It’s easy to learn to be a passive process where, I’ve had people say to me, “well, yeah, we do know we need more female coaches, but we just have to wait till those women pop up. Or okay.” But what are we doing to help them pop up?

Lynne Munro:

And that’s where some of that sense of really helping everybody in the environment understand the barriers. And again, I had a male coach meet to say that, “well, but sometimes men are not confident.” Yeah, sure. I completely agree. There’s not just this confidence lacking just in women, for sure there’s difference, but as I said earlier, it’s that sense that there are additional layers of challenge to be the only woman or to be one of few women to find that confidence. And the statistics around the women that go for high performing roles versus men are dramatic.

Lynne Munro:

There’s this inherent tendency of men to just be able to find that ability to say, “Yeah, okay, I maybe don’t tick all the boxes on that job description, but I’ll go for the job.” Where is the statistics? Absolutely bad that women don’t do that. So we’ve got to overcome that. And there’s got to be some absolute action taken not this passive process to say, “we have to help, we have to do stuff,” if the dynamics in the room are not working for women, I mean, that’s the essence of this. We are a patriarchal society until women become equal.

Lynne Munro:

So the dynamics of any environment are going to naturally have evolved from men being around. And that’s not being feminist, that’s just a statement of truth, we’ve evolved as a male driven society and the same sport. So until those dynamics in the room shift, we’re not going to actually have a truly inclusive platform. And so we all have to be invested in it. And it’s not about women and men separately, it’s all of us, and really taking action to recognize that, “yes, diversity is so important, and we need to work towards it.”

Joan Hanscom:

Couldn’t agree more. And, yeah, and I love to hear your voice on it. And I love to hear that your Federation is taking a leading stance on it. And, hopefully, there are women listening behind to say, “Yeah, I want to be a coach, or I want to be the race director for World Championships or something,” and we just, like you said, blaze a trail, because it’s got to get done. We are 52% of the population, we’ve got to do it.

Lynne Munro:

Yeah. And it completely proves that people listening that want to get involved, and it’s men or women, put your hand up. There are ways to make this happen. And there is anxiety that goes with it. I have nerves all the time and we see all these things out in the media around impostor syndrome and things. There’s loads of people out there who are in roles where they have nerves, and they have weaknesses, but that’s part of human growth. So you put your hand up and say, “I want to do this, I want to try.” And you build a network, and you reach out to people like myself. I really do want to be somebody that advocates and helps. And I’ve got a lot of people that I’m helping in the background here. Not even formally through my role, but just part of something I want to do to help people and be available to people to help them move through their desired career and goals. So do it, take action, do it for yourself.

Joan Hanscom:

Right on, right on. Just to put it into perspective for the listeners who don’t necessarily go to World Cups on a regular basis, because there’s none in the US since 2017. When you go to the championships as a coach, are there any other women actually taking Pro Riders to the line? In the scratch races? Are you standing alone, at that level right now?

Lynne Munro:

It’s somewhat different in endurance. There are more women around in [inaudible 00:23:50] in sprint, very, very rarely. There’s a couple of women out there who are kind of managers slash coaches, they’re doubling into coaching and getting skilled in terms of purely coaching or coaching Sport Science. I’ve seen one other female in the French team, the assistant coach in the French team at one World Cup. And that’s it. That’s all I’ve seen. So, I think across the last couple of years, I say the French coach and one other woman that I’ve met in that kind of management role. So yeah, and it’s very interesting. I think sometimes I’ve stepped to roll a Keirin Rider up to the line. And you’re surrounded by guys either side, and especially rolling the men up. And these are big boys. And you’re rolling up to the line you sort of look up and down the line either side of you. And you’ve got probably big burly coaches holding big burly guys and then there’s me and it’s like… It’s actually a real moment of pride for me.

Lynne Munro:

And you know that there’s a sense of that sort of almost… there was one World Cup, actually, well, because you guys will probably know, there is a skill in [malling 00:25:04] people up to the line and holding them and it’s not a high level skill, but it’s still a skill. There’s still some sense, especially when you’re in the spotlight at World Cup, of rolling people up. And there was a guy, one of the male coaches standing next to me, he wasn’t really achieving it very well, who ended up leaning on me. And I was holding my guy and holding this coach and his rider at the same time.

Lynne Munro:

And it was like I had a picture in my head. There’s a brilliant photo I’ve seen on Facebook at one point where the whole Keirin line has tipped over. And oh my God in this World Cup was a sense of that. The spotlight, the cameras, the cameras come down the line and look at you and look at your riders and introduce them to everybody at home and in the audience. And I was just going, “Wow, I’ve got this whole line propped up right now.”

Joan Hanscom:

Speaking of World Cups in the elite level, one questions I had for you. Athletes are going nine one, and ten one in the 200. And we thought that was insane to have riders actually going that faster on the track. But it’s at 8000 feet or something like that. So you go, “Yeah, okay, anything’s possible at that height.” But then we get to World Cup Berlin and see a nine two and attend three from a woman at sea level. What do we think about the speeds? Does it even seem real to witness Dutch guys going that fast? And the German women were unstoppable at World’s this past year in sprinting? And just let’s get your thoughts on what it’s like seeing that in person?

Lynne Munro:

Yeah, look, I guess Firstly, just talking in terms of actually being a spectator sport before I go into the sort of background of achieving these things, it’s incredible. And that’s what sport is for me is that, it’s the highs and the lows, is the journey that you’re on, having those moments where you guess, “that’s the draw card, isn’t it.” That’s the moment of adrenaline where everybody just goes, “wow, human potential,” and it captivates the mind and the heart and the soul. Just looking at that sense of how people can rise and go above and beyond what we believe we’re even capable of. That’s what it’s all about, for me. And those moments of just everybody gasping together and that sense of collective all of the human race.

Lynne Munro:

In terms of achieving in sprint, look, there’s all sorts of factors that can contribute to this two things stepping forward. But I think we’re at a really interesting time in sprint performance right now where it’s almost the perfect storm scenario where lots of gains are coming together. An aerodynamics colleague of mine in Australian Cycling Team, talked about a real sense of understanding, just his area recently where he said, “you’re on this kind of exponential curve, where at the start of the curve, you’re starting to understand your area, starting to understand how it can impact and you have to learn how to apply that knowledge. And then the exponential curve suddenly kicks up, because you’re really starting to understand how to apply that knowledge. And then you get to kind of the top end, and it starts to flatten off in the other direction, where there’s no almost a limit to, we’ve kind of know much of everything that we think there is to know. And we also know how to apply it.”

Lynne Munro:

And so I think that sort of analogy to a number of areas of sprint, it’s like we’re almost in that really exponential pickup point of the curve for a number of areas, not leases, the physiology and how we apply that, the training application, understanding humans and how we get them on the line and how they find more in themselves. And the technology, use of gears, position, so supply and demand aerodynamics and power, all of that stuff that we’re achieving this amazing sense right now. And that was what really excited me about getting into first of all, my masters and then my PhD, is that underpinning my coaching is like, “yeah, there was this amazing potential to be tapped into in sprint.” And that’s not saying, again, talked to a colleague recently about some of the amazing gains that have happened in team pursuit recently.

Lynne Munro:

So it’s not that you suddenly like, “just because you’re in this sort of perfect storm era, that that stops there.” But I think that that’s kind of where we are is, we’re just seeing all these doorways open and people really starting to understand how to hone everything about what we’re doing. Also, including identifying people who are the right people for sprint. But traditionally, this is something we’ve talked about in Australia very much in our pathway process is, traditionally here, people have tended to be on the road as a road rider because that’s accessible and then they become endurance riders, then they’re maybe not good enough at endurance then suddenly they go, “Maybe that wasn’t my discipline, maybe I’ll go sprint.”

Lynne Munro:

Whereas if you identify early and this is what the Dutch are really good at, is that link between some of those guys been amazing BMXs. And so you’re identifying people who’re being sprint potential early. So there’s some of that at play here as well as actually we’re getting to know what the actual ideal person is for a discipline. And that’s a lot of work that I’m doing right now as well as really understanding the athletes. And are we actually getting the right riders into the right disciplines? In any sport, actually, have we got people sitting in sports that are fitting who they are?

Joan Hanscom:

You’re right. I think so often you see people who try to go against, not type, right? I mean, use myself as an example, right? I should never have gone into a sport that required you to be a small person, but yet I’ve done it twice. And it’s, “Can you find the person with the right genetic requirements for the thing.” And here, I’ve always sort of said, “the number one sport in America, right, is NFL football.” It is hands down the most lucrative sport, it’s the most popular sport. And I thought, “wow, if we could get our sprinters to come from these collegiate football programs, you’d be tapping in to the right genetic gene pool to make great track cyclists, great sprinters if you could get those people from that explosive of a sport with that size and makeup.” And that’s an oversimplification.

Joan Hanscom:

But I think that’s where you’re going to see these gains. If the top 1% of all your athletes goes into football, because it’s the best sport, most lucrative whatever. And then the top 1% of that 1% goes into the NFL football, we’re missing that whole amazing human potential in our side of the sport. So it’s putting those right athletes in the right place. And again, I know that’s a vast oversimplification. It’s the non PhD interpretation of what you’re saying. But it does open up the whole spectrum of possibility then for your sport when you see it happening. So it’s really fascinating.

Lynne Munro:

Yeah, look, I’ve got a couple of answers to that. Because the first one is, it’s also about enjoyment here. I don’t think any of us should ever forget that this is about doing something that you’re passionate about. So we can be overly scientific about this. And that’s something, I guess, really strongly to the fore in my coaching ethos is people. And I’ve had that one kind of almost hold me back through my coaching career. People see me as this Dr. Munro, “she’s a PhD scientist.” And so I’m a science based coach. And that’s almost exactly the opposite of who I am. I use that academic process to further my understanding, but it’s about people for me first. And so for me, it’s the finding of the passion, it’s the finding of the characteristics of somebody who knows how to apply themselves, is passionate, and relenting in doing so, that’s really got to be the most important characteristic.

Lynne Munro:

So when we talk about the characteristics of a sprinter, it starts with the personal characteristics. It’s not just the physiological. But yes, you’re right, Joan, and that’s like I said, that’s one of the big areas of work that I’m sitting with right now, is actually looking at who are the right people for this work across mental, emotional, physical characteristics, sporting backgrounds, how they’ve developed through the years, all of that stuff builds you this character of person. And when you get to that really high end, pointy end of the performance spectrum, it needs all of the attributes. If you’re going to be the best in the world, then you need the inherent characteristics. So your physiological makeup does have some inherent characteristics that are not trainable. Very limited trainability.

Lynne Munro:

And so if you don’t have those, that’s what becomes the separator. And it’s really interesting in terms of the ethics of this is we have these very long term athlete development processes where people stay and stay and stay and stay and stay and finally don’t make it. And so there’s a piece in there of just going, “could we give people feedback earlier,” to say, “Okay, if you’re heading towards that, you just might not have it.” Now, think, again, you’ve got to be ethically able to say, “Well, do you 100% know they’re not going to make it? Are you taking some of these dream away when actually you don’t 100% know?” So there’s some challenges there.

Lynne Munro:

But I also don’t think that we’re doing a service to athletes by keeping them in something that they’ve got this massive, aspirational dream towards, and you kind of going like, just like, “fundamentally, let’s just simplistically say you’re not fast twitch fibers. If you’re not fast twitch fibers, are you going to be the world’s fastest person?” No. And you can have the most passion, the most drive the most unrelenting approach to yourself and if you just don’t have your contract, our call is of muscle to be able to contract and relax quickly. You’re just never going to be the world’s fastest person. So can we actually use that information wisely and ethically in this?

Joan Hanscom:

So interesting. We’re going to take a quick break for our sponsors. And we will be right back.

Speaker 3:

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Joan Hanscom:

Super interesting Lynne. It’s super interesting. I think about, again, I grew up wanting to be a professional ballerina. Right? So I have short legs. And I remember auditioning for the Boston Ballet at 108 pounds. And five eight, 108 pounds. And they said, “you have everything we want, except you’re 10 pounds too heavy.” And I thought, “well, there goes the ballet career.” But they did that thing, right, where they’re just like, “Well, you got to be 98 pounds to be a ballet dancer.” And I was like, “Well, okay, I can’t be 98 pounds.” And I was glad they cut me off. But it was also a horrible thing to say. Because what if I’d gone for 98 pounds, that would have been crossing an ethical boundary?

Lynne Munro:

You’re saying [inaudible 00:37:00] Yeah, we’ve got to be careful. You can’t make calls too early, and take people’s dreams away. And that’s something that challenges the norm. And you look at, I think, the enemy is Victoria Pendleton scenario is really really interesting. Where the physical makeup of those two women were vastly different. And yet they were competing on the world stage as the arch rivals for the Olympic gold. So you’ve got to challenge some of the stuff. That’s one of the things that has changed phenomenally in sprint is, “what is the ideal sprinter?” Look at the track and field sprint scenario. The way those athletes looked 10, 20 years ago is very different from how we look because we start to understand biomechanics differently.

Lynne Munro:

So I think, yeah, you’ve got to be careful and the validation of what is inherent versus what is trainable or even slightly trainable is so important within this. And also what the goal of the athlete is? Is like if you literally have said, “I want Olympic gold,” then the coach’s role is to be as honest as possible. That’s an ethical necessity, to be brutally honest with people. And that’s sometimes where the hard stuff comes in as you’re having those honest conversations. And maybe it’s not something that that person wants to hear, but you got to do the right thing. If somebody is just saying, “Hey, I love doing my sport, and I just want to see how far it can go,” then don’t take the dream from them.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Right, man, that is a big differentiator there.

Lynne Munro:

Yeah, look, I think there’s a couple of things again in this is, we have definitely honed what we need in order to get on the line in the best condition in terms of understanding nutrition and sleep and all of the additional factors, but there’s a big piece in this which is the athletes’ empowerment. And to me, and again, it’s sort of to reinforce what I said earlier about not being based as a scientific coach, rather than being the personable coach. It’s about the person and empowering that person and knowing that some of those kind of performance characteristics of who the people are that make it are the ones who go the extra mile, because that’s just who they are. They want to do the detail. They want to do the extra stuff, they want to do… And it’s not always doing more, I think that’s important to say, it’s having the right balance. It’s having the balance of you’ve got to train hard but sleep and eat and recover well, as well.

Lynne Munro:

But there’s people who really know themselves. They know how to do that. This autonomy that you want to achieve in a rider and an athlete is somebody who can step up on the line having everything of their person known as much as possible, because then they know how to respond. They know how to get the best out of himself in multiple scenarios under pressure. And that’s an important part. So we don’t want to be completely spoon feeding this. And that part of the coaching journey is so important. Early on, you do need to be more of a teacher, because athletes don’t have that knowledge but you’re still trying to get them to learn. So how do you get them to learn? It’s not keep telling them the answers, is helping them explore the answers because those answers will become very unique to who they are. And the individualization is so important, it’s unique to that person. So their learning experience is very different to the next person.

Lynne Munro:

So your journey, as the coach goes through that, and then into a more equal dialogue, where it’s actually the athlete who might be teaching you some stuff, but you’re trying to work with them, rather than be the teacher of them. And by the time you’re achieving we talk in coaching circles about being athlete centered. And I just don’t really think we are, really truthfully, in a lot of ways. We have the athlete at the center of our focus. But does that mean that they are the person who’s really helping drive this and really being the person who… It’s about them, it’s about their career, their needs. And that’s very unique. So there’s a really big missing piece in the puzzle here for me about really understanding how we use this kind of self determination theory, because I don’t think we’re actually using it in the way we think we are, and needing somebody to get on the line in a place where they’re totally empowered.

Joan Hanscom:

For me, one of the things that stands out in what you’ve just said, is how it all falls back on assessing, do they have the right attitude? Do they have the right mentality and the right approach to their daily life, both in training and outside of the tract? And that’s something that can really shift.

Lynne Munro:

Yes, everybody’s capable and will develop in characteristics and behaviors across their lifespan. And so it’s not just physical changes that… and really, at the end of this point, anything that we’re doing is like it does very much become character. And so how do you identify that as a coach? Where it’s something is just inherently going to be them, might make small shifts, stepwise shifts in characteristics, or somebody who’s just glowing in that stuff? And again, you don’t want to cut people from their dreams too early. But there was an interesting quote, I read in an article recently that’s that said, “professionalism is who you are not what you learn to do.” And I thought, “that’s great.” Because there’s something around somebody who’s this exceptional person, who just has this stuff.

Lynne Munro:

And yeah, they’re going to grow better in it, but how much can you take somebody who’s completely unprofessional, turning up late, not doing the due diligence around checking their equipment before they go and ride or whatever it is? How much are you going to make changes? Or how far down the line to be in this exception person can you get them? That’s a really interesting question. And again, I’m not trying to say by any stretch of imagination, you should write people off. And I don’t think you should write anybody off. I think it’s about tapping into everybody’s unique potential. That’s what your role as a coach is. But it just becomes an interesting question when you get to that point where you’re seeking to be the best in the world, is such a small percentage we’re talking here. And if you’re identifying those people, or who are they? Who are they really? And how much are you creating versus how much do they just inherently are?

Joan Hanscom:

That’s the million dollar question right there. And that’s what you’ve said, you spend your time trying to figure out and balance. That’s where it winds back to, like you said, the balance between science and sport. Sports Science is a term and it’s an important term, but the others have to understand this. One of the interesting things I’ve always asked is about when it comes to talent ID outside of bike racing.

Joan Hanscom:

As a lifetime cyclist, specifically, as a track cyclist, I feel confident in the amount of knowledge I have about bike racing. I just inherently know it from years of doing it. But I also appreciate how difficult it is when you take a talented person or gifted athlete and try to teach them cycling, then the nuance of track cycling, and then all the way into the details of track sprinting at the most elite level. “Oh, and by the way, you’ve got to be able to pull 80k an hour and you windup and do it efficiently over and over and over again and ride at nine five in the rounds after you just rode a nine two in qualifying.” Isn’t that almost a bigger undertaking in a lot of ways? How do you guys quantify that? Because to me, that’s absolutely terrifying.

Lynne Munro:

That is such a perfect question for where I’m at right now in Australian Cycling team and the work that I’m doing. It’s a really interesting one, because through the course of long term athlete development process, through the pathway, you’ve developed this confidence, this merging with the bike, and being able to be fearless with your bike skills. And by the way, that’s a really interesting one in terms of some of the differences between men and women and looking at the confidence piece again. Because you need to explore being in that really unconfident space to learn to be fearless. And there’s a there’s a difference that if you’ve come from a background where I still watch the boys at young age, popping wheelies, going up hills on road rides, and goofing off and doing all this stuff, which is teaching them all this stuff. And inherently, and I’m going to say as a trend, right? It’s never anything other than individual with characters, but women tend to not do that stuff, not do the goofing off stuff and challenge themselves.

Lynne Munro:

So what you see then is, as you said, is that over the long term process, you’ll see the sense of learning racecraft, learning skills, which holds you in such good stead. But then suddenly, we’ve got this amazing platform to go through kind of talent transfer or talent ID processes go. But what’s the characteristics, the physiological mental characteristics of somebody that’s really going to be needed to be the elite performer? And then can you teach them skills on the back of that? And we’re still exploring this, right? It’s been a relatively recent thing in cycling, to start really in sprint cycling anyway, we look at this kind of talent transfer process.

Lynne Munro:

And I think we are starting to see that the times are great. But the racecraft is not so developed. So how can we fast track that? What we absolutely know, we can fast track the physiological development. So if somebody’s got the mental emotional performance characteristics, then great, we’ve got the right character, we can fast track the physiological gains absolutely no problem. How do we develop the racecraft? Because that sort of stuff in terms of skill acquisition, there’s a process of absorbing information and learning to process. It can’t be a top thing. It has to be an experienced thing. Decision making is learned as an inherent capability where you’re reading and processing subconscious information, semi conscious, subconscious and processing that. So how do we fast track that stuff? I think we’re in that phase right now of learning. And who’s going to come out on top, the long term slow burners or the fast track? Who knows, probably a bit bounce of both.

Joan Hanscom:

What you’re talking about is an athlete and a rider that you’re giving a lot of success to, or contributing a lot of success to. Their trajectory is that they’re experiencing today was better than yesterday, I went faster, I beat this person, I beat that person. And especially with young athletes, it’s super easy in the beginning, because they’re growing and maturing and getting faster anyway. The thing that we’ve been discussing is the problem of overcoming fear. You can have someone that’s just so successful, that their first failure is really earth-shattering.

Joan Hanscom:

And one of the concepts the coaches I’ve been talking to about was, how do we plan for controlled failure? Because in the Olympic cycle, all of this, we’re doing as much as possible. Race only when we have to and spend all that other time training may be to the detriment of race experience. And if you’re so… especially a high trajectory athlete, you need opportunities to fail and grow. So what are your thoughts and experiences around that? The concept of a planned failure?

Lynne Munro:

What you’ve just summed up is in essence the fact that we tend to spend far too much time on physical training, and with a double in technical and double in tactical training. And so are we holistic way developing athletes? No, because we’ve actually got… So a friend of mine actually studied the periodization of character development in athletes. Should we actually be sitting there and making sure that there is a periodized approach or plan, structured approach to growing characteristics? So yeah, absolutely, we need to. Is it controlled failure? [inaudible 00:48:34] probably the one which run that. It’s like, “do you want to control that failure?” It’s planned failure. What you grow is the athletes’ ability to respond and bounce back from that. And that, again, if you were to look at the ideal characteristics or performance characteristics of an athlete, a high functioning athlete, there’s going to be something in there, that’s their ability to seek failure, because they know that that’s a learning opportunity, but their ability to respond to it.

Lynne Munro:

So, we talk about high responders and low responders. And high responders, like you said, the ones who have got that steep trajectory, who with the underpinning training principles, right, or, uniquely apply for them being as right as possible, they can respond really, really well. And they’re high responder physically but there’s high responders in terms of the other areas of performance as well. And so the growth potential in somebody might be higher or lower than another person. So yeah, all of that holistic part is really, really important because you’ll start to see where one area, whether it’s mental or physical, whichever area is a skill base, whatever, it starts to be the limiting factor. And at the high end, you can’t afford to have a limiting factor really, you can still play to your strengths and weaknesses, for sure. But there’s some sense and understanding what’s inherently needed.

Lynne Munro:

And I guess also, just picking up a little bit one of the things you said there and in terms of these kind of fast tracked riders, you just make them strong. This is the question though is like, “is it strength?” Because strength is a trainable thing? Or is it cadence? Cadence to me is much more relatable to your ability to switch on switch off muscles, which is that inherently fast twitch characteristic. So we’ve actually identified somebody who has fast twitch characteristics, they’re going to have leg speed. And they’ve got to learn to coordinate for sure. But they’re going to inherently have that ability to contract and relax slowly. And then you can make them strong. So there is a bill, if we get this model of who we’re looking for and how we’re looking for them, right? You end up being able to actually be somebody who still has the fact that somebody maybe that’s been a long slow burner has had through training.

Joan Hanscom:

Let’s talk about cadence because this is actually a shoptalk thing that I’d love to discuss with you. We are going into way out the realm of big gears. 150 inch gearing for the men, women are getting up to 130. We are sealing really high speeds, cadences, RPM averaging around 200. You were looking at mid 120s and below. Now we see people who are experienced, a lot of cyclists getting down into the 110, 120 range without going too much down the [kins 00:51:15] rabbit hole. What’s the biggest game changer that makes the gears possible? And you’re talking about the ability to turn on and turn off quickly? High have a cadence do you actually need to have to be able to compete when you’re not going to pedal above 140 RPM in a race scenario ever?

Lynne Munro:

Right? But there’s still the underlying power cadence relationship, right? So Well, as you say, without going too deep into is, we have this power cadence relationship where we’re going to produce peak power at an optimal cadence for ourselves, right, generally sits between, probably 120, 135. So that’s where you’re going to produce your peak power. So it may be that you don’t erase it at these really high end cases. But what ends up happening is that somebody who’s got an inherently high absolute peak cadence, they’re unloaded shortening velocity of the muscles, is there going to have a power cadence relationship, which looks very special, right? They’re going to be able to produce power, really effective cadences. And so you’re using that information. Right?

Lynne Munro:

So there’s a couple of interesting things and why we’re using the big gears is, one is, there are some people who just don’t inherently have this wonderfully sprint characteristic, the perfect sprint characteristic. So they play to their strengths, which is pedal slower, use bigger gears. So there’s some riders out there across all levels of pathway who are playing to, “if I just make the gear bigger, I’m going to be able to use more strength and therefore shy away from having to go to higher cadences,” because they just don’t inherently have that in themselves. Right? But what we found here in Australia, at least is that the real special ones, they still have that cadence ability, as well. So they can be strong, but they can still… So you end up with this profile, it’s a wider profile and more able to be used effectively.

Lynne Munro:

So that’s one thing. And I think that’s an important one to say to, especially, people listening out there is, you don’t just play to going bigger in your gears, right, that’s potentially saying I’ve got a weakness. So you need to, when you’re developing, develop the full spectrum of cadence, don’t limit yourself, otherwise, you’re going to find yourself that that’s all you’ve got. You’ve become the one trick pony, that that’s all you’ve got to use.

Lynne Munro:

The other side of this in terms of using the big gears is because of the number of contractions that you have to do in any effort. So you can save yourself some fatigue. The more you contract and relax, the more that you’re going to build up fatigue for a number of reasons. And so you can play to that core as well. So we, for example, we can use the gear efforts in training to allow us to do more efforts, if that’s the intention, right? So you play using the gear stuff for a specific reason. And so yeah, there is a natural sense. We’re going to the bigger gears, because we’re starting, that’s why i said earlier in the chat, we’re starting to understand more how to optimize things, to reduce the rate of fatigue, to be able to play to strength, etc, etc. And all of that is still coming into the equation even for the ones who have cadence too. But the ones who are really coming out top have got this very unique power cadence relationship, which is saying something about their underpinning physiology.

Joan Hanscom:

Very interesting. And yes, you always want someone that can be the whole package. Harry in Holland with a Dutch, he’s able to get to 150 in sprint on his gear and hold it and ride nine five at the bottom of the track off a 17 0 start. So yeah, you can’t be a one trick pony and do that correct.

Lynne Munro:

And the ability to switch on and off happens during acceleration as well as high leg speed. Got your rate of force development things. And one of the things I think is really, really interesting in team sprint right now is we’re starting To look around at how the whole team hangs together very differently. And so the ability to pedal across a range of cadences equally effectively to play on different gears and play different roles in that technical delivery is so, so important.

Lynne Munro:

And you’ve got to be able as a rider to have a wide bandwidth for a coach to come in and say, “Well, look at the Australian team and World Champs this year is we ended up losing Matthew [Gard 00:55:26]. So who’s our third wheel rider?” 10 days out from competition and we go, “what do we do?” Right. So the only option we had was then the academy level riders coming in to plug a hole and you go, “Okay, well, are they going to get on if Matt Richardson gets off the line quickly, Nighthawk gets off on quickly? Is somebody coming in? A man three who’s still developing, you’re going to get on?” No.

Lynne Munro:

So we end up with Tom Cornish in one. And Matt Richardson ends up in three, because it’s actually about, “we need to get this team accelerated to the highest possible speed.” So we end up with Tom Cornish, was Jr. World kilo record holder. And that’s absolutely inherent man three right there. And that’s what he’s going to end up, I’m sure as, one day, man three in the Olympic team. And then you’ve got Matt Richardson who’s [inaudible 00:56:12] or who’s been training starts and single works, for all of the months leading up to it. That speaks volumes. And it’s just there’s so much in terms of having to have that spectrum underneath you that we are able to make use of that and apply it to really find what the winning team to hang together as.

Joan Hanscom:

I’ve watched the star Atlas for worlds, and I thought that it was a misprint. I was like, “why is Matt at the back? They’ve got this wrong.” Matt was at the front and Tom must have been at the back. I know, sure enough, I watched the video and I was like, “no way. Look at that, Matt’s in the back. And he’s going really well.” Yeah, that’s the perfect example right there and I’m so glad you brought that up. I’m also glad that you brought up the Team Sprint, because I wanted to talk to you about women’s teams go into three riders.

Lynne Munro:

Yeah, look, I’m thrilled with the developments in the women’s team sprint. And it is speaks a lot to this equality piece, equity pieces, not treating women differently. It’s like, “yeah, there are some fundamental characteristics in terms of physiology, cardiac volume, and things like that.” But we also have a lot of myths out there in terms of what we think are differences in women. I think it’s a good statement to make that there’s a lot of stuff coming out right now about how we train women, which I realized I don’t know. We actually don’t know the answer to that. Let’s actually get the environment for women, right first, because that inherently, is what’s going to allow women to get faster. So let’s look at the environment. Let’s look at the dynamics, let’s get all of that stuff on the table really effective.

Lynne Munro:

And then let’s start questioning how we train and use physiology. Because so many of the studies that are out there on women are not really based either on high performing women, so high performing athletes, or the training studies that are based around men. So we’ve got a lot of myths to debunk. And so actually putting this on the table saying, “Yeah, let’s make women equal in Team Sprint, and the race discipline’s great.” Absolutely. Because now we can start actually building the sport with that equality at the heart of it.

Lynne Munro:

There is I think, there will be some challenges in terms of the depth of field for the Team Sprint initially but again, that’s a good place to be, is to encourage that we need more women to make this happen. So there’s another additional benefit of doing that. And so, sometimes straight away when we’re deciding pros and cons of decisions, we go straight to, “are women different? Is the physiology different? Can they handle it in adversity commas? Whatever we’re discussing on the table? But there’s some things that we’re probably not bringing to the fore so much like these things, the additional benefits, more women being more equal, being considered in an equal playing field and then requiring some of the research to be done to really understand what’s needed. So it’s going to drive a lot of really brilliant changes for women in making that decision. So yeah, really, really stoked.

Joan Hanscom:

Last question. We want your side bet and you can’t say Australia because you’re Australian and you coach the team. I know they’re up there but men and women’s Team Sprint and Tokyo, who’s your money on?

Lynne Munro:

Look, at… I’ll say up front, it’s important. We, Australia is one of those nations. I’m sure everybody goes in it to win it. But we have a gold medal strategy around everything. We’re absolutely relentlessly focused on gold. That’s what we do. So we’re in it to win it. But if I ever want to go who’s our competitors and this there’s no question.

Joan Hanscom:

And who do you see being on the podium?

Lynne Munro:

Yeah, we got to look at the Dutch being there. There’s no question we’d be idiots not to be sitting there and looking at what they’re doing for the men and going, “Yeah, they’re doing something really special. What are the margins to get us up there and contending with them, no question.” I think with the women as you said, you look at the World Champs then the medal contenders, the medal right off, gold and bronze medal riders.

Lynne Munro:

So, we’ve got Australia, Germany, Russia, China, all within a margin of each other. And so that’s a really interesting one. But we’re in this very interesting year where you’ve got kind of remnants of a two up Team Sprint, moving into progression of a three, Team Sprint. And so you start to look up where the depth of field is right now to go to World Champs, is going to be a very different scenario from the Olympics. So it’s a fascinating area for women. And I think, in terms of that first rule, Champs three up is you’ve got some programs like Germany, who have got some depth of field there, already. And so they’re already going to be in that mode of being able to rehearse and practice.

Lynne Munro:

But at the same time, as I said earlier, some of the work that I’m personally doing right now to look at, “how do we get to that position where women are able to fast track?” We are looking at the characteristics needed, and we’re looking at who we need, in order to make sure that we’re going to do something really special in that regard. So yeah. And I know that there’ll be an era that will be looked back on in years to come where we’ve gone to Team Sprint being three for women. And you’ve seen multiples things at play that are not just about, “do you have the best riders?” It’s going to be how you get them to the line.

Joan Hanscom:

We’re going to see, we’re going to see. It’s going to be exciting when the games roll around, hopefully, fingers crossed, that they do roll around, and that we get everything sorted. And everything else sorted in the world first, right?

Lynne Munro:

Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. But look how exciting that is itself. Like, “okay, I don’t know, this is one of the most challenging eras that people certainly in our lifetime have gone through and there’s some incredible losses happening. But there’s also a lot of learning and growth in the background.” And the human race is going to move forward in incredible ways from this and sport is positioned to do exactly that. We’re kind of all in our little bunkers, doing our little things and trying to figure out where the gains are and learning and growing in different ways. And I think that’s going to be really fascinating emerging from our little dark places. And have we emerged [crosstalk 01:02:26]

Joan Hanscom:

After the year of great interruption is what we keep calling it here. Is the year of interruption, but people will shed the confines and come out either butterflies or not. But this has been just an incredibly fascinating conversation. And I, for myself, cannot thank you enough for sharing what you’ve shared. It’s been really just, I think, incredibly fascinating talk. And so I just want to thank you for sharing all you’ve done and Andy, I’m sure you are taking copious notes on your end, just from a personal interest standpoint. But yeah, this has been super fascinating. And I can’t wait to see what you’re up to next. And we’ll happily have you on the pod anytime you want to talk because it’s been extra fascinating and I just want to thank you again. We want to do what we can in partnership to promote women in the sport. And yeah, that’s really great.

Lynne Munro:

So thank you guys. Like I said earlier, I love coming over to T-Town and all of the fact that I kind of feel like I know you guys pretty good now. And yeah, things like this are so important. And not just for the sport and having sprint be more understood, there’s a lot more that we can do to help the community. It’s about having a community of sprint, it’s not just about high performance, and we want more people really understanding, enjoying and getting the most out of their training. But as you said, Joan, specifically for women right now, we need as many platforms as possible to start talking and just air in some of the support that we would like to have because it needs everybody to bring together and move things forward. So thank you and yeah, they will love to take you up on that opportunity to come back on later and talk some more.

Joan Hanscom:

Right on. Well, this has been the Talk of the T-Town Podcast with our guest, Lynne Munro and Andy Lakatosh joining us live from Los Angeles and tune in on Tuesdays. Please be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcast. Leave us ratings and send us questions if you have anything you want us to forward on to Lynne. Thank you so much.

Speaker 3:

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, The Velodrome.com where you can check out the show notes and subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode.

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Kristen Keim: Tackling the Year of Interruption

kristenkeim

Episode 8

This week on Talk of the T-Town, Joan sits down with Kristen Keim, Clinical Sport & Performance Psychologist.

Follow Kristen Keim:

Website: keimperformanceconsulting.com
Instagram: @thek2
Facebook: @keimperformanceconsulting
Twitter: @thek2

kristenkeim

Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is 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.


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 cohost, athletic director Andy Lakatosh. I’m really excited to bring you this episode of the Talk of the T-Town with Dr. Kristen Keim. I will say upfront though that we did have a bit of sound recording issues. So, we ask you to bear with us on the sound quality a little bit this week. The content was really good and Kristen has a lot of interesting things to say, so we didn’t want to lose the episode. We just wanted to be upfront with you that yes, bear with us on sound. We know it wasn’t terrific this week, but the content really is. So, please listen on and enjoy.

Joan Hanscom:

All right, welcome to the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. Broadcasting live from Bryansville, Pennsylvania. Today’s special guest is Kristen Keim of Keim Performance Consulting, otherwise known as a sports psychologist. And I cannot think of a more relevant guest to have in this week of all weeks than somebody who deals with mental health, because it has been incredibly stressful week. Regardless of your political affiliation, I think everybody is feeling the strain of election week. So, I think we could not have asked for a more appropriate guest this week. So, while you may not be listening to this on election week, I’m sure it will bring back some PTSD for you of election week. We’re cuing up right now. You can flashback to the strain of election week when you listen to this podcast.

Joan Hanscom:

But I want to thank Kristen for joining us and sort of tee up for our listeners who Kristen is and what she does. Kristen comes from a remarkably similar to myself background, although perhaps a bit more accomplished than my background. We both share a background in the ballet as well as bike racing, and we actually met through ballet, but we both took divergent paths from our ballet careers. Kristen went on to become a professional bike racer and then pursue her degree in sports psychology, and I left from ballet to become a middle-aged, Cat 3 lady bike racer. And Kristen working on cycling on the other side of things, so we have a similar but divergent background. Kristen has worked with athletes from Olympians and medalists and world champions all the way through middle-aged, Cat 3 bike racer ladies like myself. And so Kristen, welcome to the show.

Kristen Keim:

Thank you so much for having me on. I was excited and I’m really excited about this podcast. I still think that this medium is one of my favorites. Whether you’re into bikes or not, I hope today’s episode is something that you might want to share. Like Joan said, hopefully it might brought up PTSD with the idea that this was taped, but maybe this will be the salve that we all need. Because I think this might take us, no matter what outcome, a few weeks to everyone just kind of get good sleep and stop looking at Twitter all day long.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, or doing what I’ve done, which is the self-imposed media exile. I can’t bring myself to turn on the TV or look at my phone. It’s overwhelming.

Kristen Keim:

No, you’re doing good. That’s probably the healthiest. We don’t like extremes, but that’s probably the better of the extremes.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I can’t look. I keep you know, “Just look away. Look away.”

Kristen Keim:

Keep looking away. That’s all I’ll say at this point. Just don’t come back yet.

Joan Hanscom:

So, I joked when I asked you to be on the pod that I thought this was going to be a very special afterschool special type episode because-

Kristen Keim:

ABC.

Joan Hanscom:

Because we’ve worked together for a very long time, and so I think sometimes people are not willing to admit that they need a sports psychologist. They’re not willing to talk about those things. Whereas I think that it’s an incredibly useful thing to do and I also think that in the high-performance world where so many of our T-Town athletes play, it’s becoming a much, much bigger tool in the toolbox for folks. And so we sort of said anything goes in this conversation today ,because it’s important to be honest about the need for sports psychologists in your life whether you are a middle-aged maybe Cat 3 or a long team athlete on the Olympics pathway, or a retiring world champion. It doesn’t matter who you are, but there’s a benefit to everybody and I think if we’re honest about that upfront, everybody wins. And so, we may go down some weird paths, we may not. We may keep it all totally upbeat and happy, but we’ll see.

Kristen Keim:

I’m not. Yeah, like I tell people we’re all humans and I think that sometimes we just … Yeah, I mean the true strengt is vulnerability of asking for help. And I think that’s one of the most courageous thing is when I get a new email through my website or in my inbox, and whether if I have time to add on a new client or not, I always make sure that I write that person back and just say, “You know that’s one of the first, most courageous things you might ever do is just ask for help.” But there’s still a lot of obvious stigma and it’s still really hard to be vulnerable and to admit that you are struggling, or to just want to really be the best you can.

Kristen Keim:

You don’t even have to have an acute issue. I mean, no one’s perfect so don’t worry, I will find something we can work on. But, I do like that you don’t have to be super anxious or having issues after a crash, right? Or an eating disorder or any of these things that we look at like, “Well of course they’re working with a sports psychologist or a psychologist.” No, if you just really want to be the best that you can be, whether it’s at your job, being a parent, being a partner, training for just to do your first Fondo, I don’t care. When I talk to someone who’s middle-aged, Cat 3 bike ladies, my conversation with the next person who might be racing the Giro d’Italia is not that different on any given day. Because at the end of the day, we’re human and it’s a lot of things outside of sport that actually might be negatively impacting your optimal performance, is what we call it in psychology, for whatever your goals are.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I think that’s an incredibly important thing and I think it goes to the name of your business, right? It’s Keim Performance Consulting. It’s how to perform best, right? How to optimize yourself.

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

And you’re not limited to bike racers. You are working with a host of people across the spectrum, but that is a really important thing to remember. I think it’s a part of that high-performance mindset, right? We just did a pod with Kaarle McCulloch, who is a track racer from Australia. She made me laugh when we were speaking with her because she said that her sports psychologist worked with her on, a happy Kaarle is a fast Kaarle. As soon as she said that I thought, “Oh, wait. Happy racers go faster,” right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

Which is your mantra for your clients, and so there’s something really true about that. If you are happy, you perform at a higher level. How you get to happiness may not be anxiety attacks. It might just be finding a little bit of peace and time-out time, and how do you get the tools to have that kind of calm mind or focused mind, not connected to anything negative? How do you optimize yourself? And that’s such an important thing to think about.

Kristen Keim:

Well, and things are now, I mean I think that’s where we find a lot of that where we can convince ourselves we’re happy. Because I can tell you right now, winning whatever is not going to make you happy. I mean, go watch Lindsey Vonn documentary, go watch Michael Phelps’ one. I mean, both athletes miserable throughout their whole entire careers, and they are now happier than they ever were and they’re not even competing in their sport, and they’re not that identity. But, if they might have had the right help maybe they wouldn’t have been as successful. Maybe they would have, but hopefully they would have been happier through that. And yeah, I mean sometimes you have to sacrifice things. But I don’t believe it’s worth sacrificing it where you don’t even want to go back being in that part of your life.

Kristen Keim:

And then sometimes we have to learn the hard way. We just have to go through really hard things to find our pathway, maybe. So I think that happiness is going to be completely different for everyone. Happy racers go faster actually was not my thing. It was something one of my clients … It was right before the hashtags happened, and he was one of my first professional cyclists. He was a U23 rider, and one day we were just talking about kind of the same thing, like a happy whatever makes them faster. They were checking the boxes and trying to figure it out, and he said that. He wrote it back in the email to me. He said, “Yeah, like happy racers go faster.”

Kristen Keim:

I was like, “Oh, my God. That’s going to be my slogan.” He was like, “It should be.” And then that was right when the hashtags started so I started doing that, and it just stuck. I kind of like it in a way because it is fundamentally very simple. But I’m also very trained to know that as humans we’re very simple but yet complex. So again, it’s not … Some people are just like, “Well, yeah. Happy racers go faster, whatever.” I’m like, “No, really? I’ll argue you down any day, but everyone’s happiness may look different, you know?”

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Working in the medical field for a long time, in behavioral medicine in hospitals, someone going one day with not as much of a mental health challenge, like severe mental illness, and being able to like themselves a little bit better or not be as depressed, I mean that’s their gold medal and so that is their happiness. But some people, they would think that was their worst day ever, right? So I mean, I kind of say I’m Sherlock Holmes of happiness.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s a great way of framing it. It’s a great way of framing it, because you do have to peel back the layers and figure out that thing underneath it all. Yeah, and I think that’s an ongoing, long work in progress because it changes so much depending on where you are in life. But you mentioned when we started, you and I started working together way back in 2015.

Kristen Keim:

Oh, I remember.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I had had a terrible bike crash and I rushed my way back into racing after multiple surgeries. I just went right back to racing, and that was a mistake. I think head injury was a big player in that, and I know that’s one of the things that you like to focus on, and we certainly are. We are observant of that here at T-Town with our junior kids, and we want to make sure that they’re well-educated about head injuries.

Kristen Keim:

Awesome.

Joan Hanscom:

But in my case, I’d had a good, strong whack on the head and probably started racing before that TBI was fully resolved, and as a result kind of rewired my brain for anxiety. It was a big leap to admit that, and it was a big leap to say, “Oh, gosh. I’m going to reach out to this person who I really only know through Facebook and say ‘Hey, can you help me?'” But it has been something that I think is really rewarding, working with you, and so I want to make sure that people know that you can come to this through all sorts of different pathways and have it pay off and help you find that sort of process of rewiring your brain a little bit differently, but then also having tools to navigate times like today. Where I have tools in the toolbox that have nothing to do with my life on the bike, but I am applying them in getting through my work life or getting through election week or-

Kristen Keim:

Work life. I mean, when you came to me too it was more about like, “Get me back on the bike.” You were having fear of crashing. I mean, it was like that’s what you thought you were reaching out for, and then it was sort of like tearing back those layers where I was like, “Oh, whoa. We got … Okay, wow. I’ve got lots of work life.” But I had to meet you where you were at. I knew there was a lot more behind there, and I kind of suspected there was a lot more, and then you were very honest. Like when you filled out your paperwork of your mental health challenges, and that work just obviously got exasperated by this. A, because the chemicals in your brain are … Actually my dissertation, so I have a master’s in sports psychology but I also have my doctorate. I’m just a clinical psychologist, so I could just tomorrow work with anyone and not just athletes if I chose to, right?

Kristen Keim:

And I do. I mean, I work with a lot of people that some don’t even compete anymore. They don’t really even do sport anymore, but again when they reached out it was sort of like that was sport, and then realized that the sport was actually making them miserable, or whatever kind of stuff came out for them. I still work them; anesthesiologists, I mean some of the best engineers in bike companies. I mean, it’s crazy. I’m just very privileged and honored that a lot of these amazing human beings like yourself would even want me to be a part of y’all’s story. But it was interesting, because you came with this thing that you thought you needed to fix, and when you fix that everything’s going to work out. And then over time it was like, “Whoa. Okay, there’s a lot more to it,” but I had to meet you where you were at still.

Kristen Keim:

But then it got to the point where you started to trust me and we had rapport. Then you just got more comfortable sharing when you did. You were able to get past that in a way, but it also made you realize that maybe there’s other parts of your life that you weren’t happy with, or that you would like to change. Because yeah, we’ve been on a lot of journeys since 2015.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. Yes, we have. We absolutely have, and yeah, I’m thankful for that. I think for me, speaking very personally, it’s been super-helpful to work with a person like you because you do understand the broader ecosystem in which I function. I think it’s not just my hobby. I’m not just a bike racer for fun, but it’s also the universe that I inhabit and it is useful to have a person who understands the whole ecosystem and-

Kristen Keim:

The culture, and just the ballet piece, like understanding what you brought. I mean, that’s a whole nother culture people don’t understand, very few. It was interesting because I was actually talking to one of my clients about this yesterday. When I was a dancer I was, I don’t know how to say it, but like a higher level than the small little town I grew up in. I went on and I got a scholarship to University of Georgia, and I thought I was going to work at Dance Magazine and dance on Broadway. That was my whole envisioning when I was 18 years old. So dance was a big part of my life, but I was very athletic too, so it wasn’t my whole thing. So I’ve always been kind of like, a lot of different dimensions. For me, that was normal. But then I knew, I saw people that were like, “Eh,” just didn’t take it as serious as me, but then the other extreme of like, it was their whole world. There was nothing else. There was just dance, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

And maybe that’s a good and bad thing about me, because maybe, well if I’d only stuck really hard with dance, or really hard with cycling, what would have happened? But in looking back it’s like, “No, no.” I like to be kind of in a lot of things, which I think is why I ended up being a psychologist. But I never, ever envisioned it, but I was very type A, like very type A and perfectionistic. I tell people to this day, “I’m a recovering perfectionist.” So having known the era that you grew up in, and we had that dialogue and I understood the importance of dance, it taught me a lot about more of the world and the culture, with even body image and discipline and rigidity that I don’t care if you … You’re not doing ballet if it doesn’t have that rigidity. I mean, that’s just literally what the whole art form is.

Joan Hanscom:

Correct, yes. And I think that is one of the ways that ballet and cycling at least in my mind overlap so much, right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, totally. I agree with that.

Joan Hanscom:

That sort of quest for perfection in the ballet studio may be reflected in the image in the ballet studio, right? Because it’s all mirror-driven, and it’s so … I don’t know. It’s that repetition, right? It’s the absolute act of repetition every day for hours until you are perfect. It could be a finger placement or a wrist bend or whatever, how you lift your chin up, but it’s just so much perfection in the details. But then you transition over to cycling and it can go the same pathway, right?

Kristen Keim:

Oh, yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s the perfect weight per kilogram, or watts per kilogram. It’s the, hitting the right power range. It’s that same addiction to perfection. The perfection has just shifted to be a different thing. It’s, “I’ve held 250 watts for three minutes,” right? It’s perfection in a different way but it’s-

Kristen Keim:

That’s the five fouettes that you just did, or whatever.

Joan Hanscom:

Exactly, exactly. It’s the same thing, right.

Kristen Keim:

Well, it’s the same chemical base that we get.

Joan Hanscom:

It is super amazing to me that you go from one just perfectionist pursuit to another perfectionist pursuit.

Kristen Keim:

There was a few dancers in the early 2000s that I remember were professional that had been ballet dancers. I think I met two or three. I mean not that I would say every dancer is going to go on to be an amazing cyclist, but it wasn’t like I was the only person that I remember that had a prominent dance background. I mean, you included as one of those people. I tell people, I’m like, “Yeah, but dancers are like, ‘Oh, my God. The endurance that we have to have.'” I mean I always think of, “Well, how the hell did I do five eight-hour days and four-hour ballet performances?” You have to have stamina, so-

Joan Hanscom:

On three apples a day.

Kristen Keim:

Exactly, yeah, on a rice cake. And your era was probably even worse than what I grew up in, because I didn’t really see it until … Like I saw it, but it was just like it was a little bit more micro, because I had a lot more people who had eating disorders. They may not have looked even like it. They might have actually looked like a healthy athlete, but they were probably doing the binging, you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

They were probably, like this was before that was even like a real eating disorder. So I started to see more girls when I was in college who obviously had something going on. Because when I went to institutes and things like that, the culture was … I mean, it didn’t impact me as much. I’d heard about it, but it was just maybe just being naïve a little bit. But I luckily grew up, in my studio it wasn’t as much. There was a lot of different body types because I wasn’t brought up in an institute from that beginning. I just happened to be good at dance, and I was in the right place at the right time. Someone saw something in me, right? It wasn’t like I was brought up in that place of like, “Your body has to be a certain way,” like a lot of people are, and that impacts you.

Kristen Keim:

I mean, cycling was way worse, and male cycling. So when I got into cycling I was like, “Whoa, flaming eating disorders and disordered eating,” which is different. You have clinically eating disordered, and I think that was 99.9 of us. You have to have disordered eating, because most humans are not tracking what they’re eating, or their micros of, “Well, I’ve got so much cals. I’ve got so much protein.” I mean, I’ve got people that text message me because they were anxious because they weren’t going to hit whatever protein max because their flight was delayed or something. I’m just like, “Okay, that is a disordered lens on it,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

But they do not have a clinical eating disorder, which is very different. But I mean, that’s it. It’s like you said, overlap. And a lot of athletes, whether you’re a high-level soccer … I mean we see a lot of people, even if you become Cat 3 or whatever, I think at certain times you have done something where in your … Like you said, ecosystem’s really good. It was this goal, and you liked to have goals. Because you’re motivated for change and you like to see change. I feel like there’s just a population of humans that we just think everyone thinks like this. I’m like, “No. You know, a lot of people are just okay sitting on the couch all day and playing video games or whatever.”

Kristen Keim:

And so that’s why I became a sports psychologist was that it was really hard for me to sit there. And believe me, I could do it. But I was like, “I cannot see for the next 20 years, sitting with people who don’t want to be here, and do not want to change.” I was sitting there. I was telling them how to do it, and they don’t want my advice. They don’t want to be here. They’ve just settled. They’re complacent. Because even, I have depressed people that want to get better. I know how to work with them because that’s not their character. This is a difference than your mental illness, you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

So it’s like there is a piece that, “We can get there. We might need medication. We might need to talk every week or whatever it is.” But I just think, sometimes I feel like we don’t allow ourselves to be whole humans, where like you said the gold standard is that you just really want to crush this week at work even though you’ve only been on three hours of sleep and you’re stressed. But you know, you’ve got to show up. And just like me, I was like, “Yeah, I’m stressed. I’m not going to say I’m not. But that doesn’t mean I still can’t be a good psychologist and therapist,” because that’s just who I am. I’m going to show up and give it my best, and maybe I had an off day, right?

Joan Hanscom:

And so you-

Kristen Keim:

I didn’t hurt that person.

Joan Hanscom:

No permanent damage was done.

Kristen Keim:

No permanent damage. They’ll be okay.

Joan Hanscom:

You mentioned a really interesting thing, which is that a lot of your clients are A, type A, but they’re very goal-driven people. I think that that is obviously, high-performance world, you’re goal-driven. That’s a really interesting question that I sort of want to pivot the conversation around to briefly, because I think it’s applicable to a lot of our listeners, is we’re all goal-driven people and 2020 became the year of the great interruption, right? All the goals did not change. They just were deferred, right? And how have you helped your athletes with that, right? I know speaking personally, right, this was going to be my big return to racing year.

Kristen Keim:

Oh, yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

Because I had [inaudible 00:25:37] and it was going to be great. My legs are going to work, and I was going to get to race. Oh, well, we’ll see about that next year now. But you had people who are ready to go to Tokyo, and how do you go from being selected and qualifying for the Olympics, and just be okay with that and stay focused, and keep your eye on that ultimate goal?

Kristen Keim:

First off, you don’t have to be okay with it.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, see? That’s great. Coping mechanism number one.

Kristen Keim:

You know what I’m saying?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

It’s okay. You can scream. You can be depressed. You should be depressed, because if you’re not you’re just suppressing it, I’m sorry. And it’s just as bad, because I have a lot of clients who thought they were going to retire after this year. We even saw that with some mountain bikers who did end up … Annika Langvad. I mean, I’m sure she thought, “I’ve got everything together,” which obviously she did finally get healthy, and then what a weird way to go out, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Very kind of anticlimactic for someone who achieved all that she achieved. But again, unfortunately in our sport it’s like if you’re not hot you’re forgot, you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Which I mean, I don’t. The athlete that may not be doing that great for two or three years, they show up. They still do their job. They are there for those sponsors, all that stuff. So that’s kind of what we shifted to was, “All right. This sucks. Marinate it. This is a coronavirus. You need to stay home anyway, so just do what everyone’s doing. Stay inside or whatever your state, and just be like everyone else.” Because one month off and you going out there and training and probably causing more harm to yourself mentally and physically, because you’re going to probably burn yourself out, right?

Kristen Keim:

And then as it became more, each month got kind of like, “Well, we’re not going to do this,” then we just had to restructure it and say, “All right, so you’re stressed.” But it was really challenging, and why? Because everyone was completely different. Unlike if you were an athlete in Spain or France, but I mean I literally would have people like say in California, right? Where they literally could not leave their house or go out, or felt uncomfortable even being out there because they were just very moral people, right? Versus people who lived out in the middle of nowhere and could go and ride their bike and do whatever they wanted really, right?

Kristen Keim:

So then that was something because everyone … At least with people it’s like, “We know these races.” This is my job. I’m sort of like, “All right, we’re going to get into this rhythm where hopefully you’re showing up, not over-burned out, over-trained in your off season, training, whatever. You’re going to potentially hit your peaks,” right? We’re going to race, recover, race, recover. Maybe there’s an injury in there. All right, we get better, we go race. There’s not a chapter that says, “How to be a sports psychologist during a pandemic,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

[inaudible 00:28:47]

Kristen Keim:

So I mean, the only thing I could do was I knew I was going to be the only person, like the devil I guess on your back saying, “Less is more.” Because I was looking big picture where I was like, “I’m a realist.” I also have clients who are in the CDC, so I got background information. I was like, “This shit ain’t going away any time soon in America,” if we just look at … Obviously not to get political, but you can’t not get political talking about it, because it’s within for federation or state. Again, every state’s different. So for me it wasn’t fair because it’s like, “Well, literally you have to get off Instagram or whatever because you cannot compare yourself to other people. Because at this point, yeah, you might have a season but you are not going to be able to train in a way that you can, because you literally cannot, or you might be fined, or you might get the virus and die,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

So it was just me really being that stickler of making sure everyone was more rested, was doing different things, was coming up with other things like rides or benefits, finding meaning and purpose in other ways, spending time with their loved ones and just being more of that human. Just saying, “You know, your sports goals, we’ll worry about it when it gets closer to that,” so really being more present. And I think you can either get like an A, B, C or D of how you … Either A or F for how you’re pandemic-ing, is how I kind of joke about it. But really, and some of the athletes like, “Man, you got solid Bs in pandemic-ing.” Some, maybe not so much. You’ve got to learn lessons sometimes the hard way, but also there’s just … You just don’t ever know.

Kristen Keim:

I think it’s more learning within your body what you can do, and unfortunately as athletes we’re always one degree more of … I mean, rarely are people undertrained as much these days. It’s more that most people are overtrained, and then a pandemic, right? I don’t care if you even think that you’re not stressed. You’re stressed. I always said, “When it happened, imagine that you’re an astronaut out in space and you’re looking down on earth and there’s like a gray cloud around the world.” Because literally, the whole world is stressed and Americans, way more stressed.

Kristen Keim:

And then you know your Olympics might be canceled. But going and training, you’re going to go right back into your season. Everything’s normal. For me, just like a recipe probably for disaster, unfortunately. So it was more of just really teaching people to literally be more present and taking it one day at a time, with the most positive outcome that could happen. So let’s assume until they’re canceled that you’re going to be at least 70% where you would like to be. Yeah, without a pandemic you’d like to be 90%, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

But it’s not possible, because again I don’t care if you have [inaudible 00:32:08] and all these little gadgets. There’s nothing that tells you literally how stressed you are mentally.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Yeah, I know. I hear that, and it’s interesting. So I’m taking a business analytics decision-making course at the moment, which is fascinating. It’s using data, using framing to make decisions and all sorts of things. It’s a fascinating program that I’m in. One of the articles I just read for the program was talking about how people who got through the … Who pandemic-ed well to use your phrase, right?

Kristen Keim:

Right.

Joan Hanscom:

If you pandemic-ed well as a business leader, you were agile. You were able to pivot. You were adaptable, because the circumstances of the pandemic kept changing, right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

And so in an ideal world, at T-Town we would have had a season with the normal Friday-night racing. Everything would have run normally. Couldn’t happen, so we pivoted. We did organized training, COVID restrictions in place. We said, “Oh, we can’t have Masters racing so we’ll have time trials.” We were able to pivot and be very agile, and it was really I think a great season at T-Town for what we had to work with. We kept everybody safe. We had no positive COVID tests. We took a lot of temperatures. We went through three touch-screen thermometers for people’s heads, right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

We did it really well. We did it right. And so in reading all of this post-pandemic literature now for my class, what’s happening is that all of these people, who like our organization was agile and was able to pivot and think creatively. We’re nine months in now-

Kristen Keim:

But you had to do a lot. I mean, that was a lot of work.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, it was a lot of work.

Kristen Keim:

You had to make some sacrifices.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, but the interesting part-

Kristen Keim:

That’s what changed.

Joan Hanscom:

Seeing the psychology of it is that now people are having that agility fatigue, right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

There now are people who were so on it, who were like, “Yes, we’re going to be agile. We’re going to pivot. We’re going to adapt.” There is adaptability fatigue setting in.

Kristen Keim:

Their cortisol levels are here. They’re like, “We’re going to make this work.” But then unlike some people that just were like, “I’m just going to be a couch potato [inaudible 00:34:16] for two or three weeks, and just see y’all later,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

But again I love that, that fatigue from … But it was not not going to happen. I mean, I think that’s what we’re seeing about this virus where it’s like, I think it’s just people … So like my last client just was able to go over and do … I don’t know. It’s crazy what things you’re able to go overseas, but I’m not going to question it, and study abroad in Spain right now as an American. She was just talking about like, “Why is it so bad here?” I think it’s that. Now these people that for six months were nailing it and doing it, they were kind of like on this upper trajectory. But then there was never this time to just, like you know how you do three-week deals, one week off, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

There was none off, because even our off right now is stressful.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, right, and I feel like-

Kristen Keim:

Our base just went up a level of cortisol levels, you know what I’m saying?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

I don’t care what your universe looks like, because Instagram, people are like, “Oh, they don’t have life as bad as me.” I’m like, “Let me just pull out my violin,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Everybody’s afraid to touch the door knob.

Kristen Keim:

Exactly. Everyone’s got their own stuff. It looks different, and we can’t compare their stuff because they’re doing the best that they can with their makeup, you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Just organically, environmentally, right? I mean yeah, I think I would have pandemic-ed better if I’d been stuck back in Washington State where I could just go to the mountains and see this beautiful water and all that. I’m like, “No, I’m stuck in a state that’s really flat.” My back yard is beautiful. I have a chronic illness where I literally cannot go outside. So I can’t go outside. I’m not really in a beautiful space for me, like I love mountains and water, and I’m living back with my parents. Actually, I’m very blessed. It’s not a bad thing. But then I think about it and I’m like, “Well, what’s to say that would be better?” Because you can’t change that. You have to make the most of where you’re at.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Yeah, that’s it.

Kristen Keim:

But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have thrived more. Yeah, maybe. Who’s to say? All you can do is say, “You know, maybe I’m not functioning at the highest level, and maybe my mental health is being impacted. So now, maybe I do need to see about safely going into the mountains.” My sister lives in Charleston. She’s been spending almost every weekend getting up at like 4:00 am to go hike, to make sure in North Carolina she’s not going to hike at high periods. Because yeah, she lives by the water but she’s just like, “I’ve got to get out of Charleston.” There all these tourist people coming down now and she’s just like, “I can’t leave my house on the weekends,” right? Like you, she pandemic-ed all by herself. I’m like, “Yeah, and I didn’t.” I took for granted that I had three dogs and two other humans that I was pandemic-ing with, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, yeah. So now that we’re nine months into pandemic-ing, has the process changed?

Kristen Keim:

Yeah, I was just thinking it was six months.

Joan Hanscom:

No, believe me. March, April, May … Nine months of pandemic-ing. We’ve done nine months of pandemic-ing.

Kristen Keim:

My hair was chin length.

Joan Hanscom:

My hair long.

Kristen Keim:

I really do have COVID hair. No haircut obviously, this hot mess right here.

Joan Hanscom:

Yes, my hair was long when we started the pandemic.

Kristen Keim:

I have way more gray hairs than I ever thought I would ever have. I was like, “I probably would have gone two more years without these grays if it had not …” I am totally blaming the pandemic, COVID grays.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. So has the strategy for your athletes changed, or is it still be present and stay where you are?

Kristen Keim:

Well, it’s funny because I mean I had a lot of athletes who went back to race, whether it be Tour de France for men or world championships. And again, I work with athletes from all over the world but I was … I can’t say to my Americans, “Well, I’m really kind of worried about how this is going to go.” But I was in a way that like, it’s already kind of more of a challenge for Americans because it’s expensive. Even if you have good support from the teams it’s expensive, because usually you want to go over before. Maybe the team’s not going to pay for all that, right? Especially the American female athletes.

Kristen Keim:

I mean, I have some of the best athletes, they still work and they have to take off leave and they have to figure that out. So there’s all these … So you have that, which is usually stressful when there’s not a pandemic and you haven’t been training or racing at all. So I mean, how many times do you go race world championships with maybe never even racing?

Joan Hanscom:

Like zero racing in your legs, right? That’s insane.

Kristen Keim:

Zero, because one world cup for me still equates to zero. Because again, I don’t care how much we can mental it, and yeah, I was like, “They can fire me.” There’s nothing I’m going to do mentally to prepare anyone like that. That’s where I’m very scientific. I’m very evidence-based like, “You have to be physically fit, and you have to have racing in you. But you can minimize the damages, and you have to learn that this may not go the way that I anticipate. But it’s worth it because it’s my job, and I’m going to grow through it, and I’m going to learn lessons, but I’m going to try to do it as safe as I can so I’m not cracked to where I don’t ever want to ever race again,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Or, you just learn lessons and sometimes we have to just learn lessons the hard way, but it’s never about one season. I know you’ve heard me talk about that. I call it transition seasons, because I hate this idea of like, “2020 season, the 2021 season, the off season.” It’s like, “No, you’re training for three years. You’re training for five years.”

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that’s really something important for everybody to understand. I mean, I think we have a ton of juniors that race at T-Town, right? A ton, and a lot of them are hypercompetitive. They’re nationally competitive. They aspire to be nationally competitive, and it’s hard for them when you’re a junior athlete, right? And you’re racing, you should have been racing your age 16 year of your 15/16 junior racing season, and you’re not going to get to do that, or you’re not going to get to wear your national champion jersey that you won as a 15-year-old as a 16-year-old, because the next time you get to race you’re going to be 17 and that championship jersey doesn’t apply anymore, or those kind of things. I keep hearing-

Kristen Keim:

Totally. Those are legit upset things. I mean I hear that, too.

Joan Hanscom:

I know, and I think that that’s your point is so good, right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

“Hey, look. You can’t look at this in the sphere of one year,” just like you can’t … The lesson I’m focusing, my personal lesson this year, is not to focus on one workout. It’s to focus on the overarching training versus, “This one workout wasn’t a success so I’m a failure.”

Kristen Keim:

Exactly.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s looking at it in the broader context. I think something so important for our juniors to take away from listening to you is, it doesn’t matter if you’ve lost your age 16 season because it’s a continuum, because this is not … You have to look at the big picture. You have to look at, be forward-facing for 17, not backwards-looking at 16. I think that that’s such an important message for people to have, or for our Masters, right?

Kristen Keim:

Totally.

Joan Hanscom:

We were supposed to have Masters cycles at T-Town this summer. People plan their whole season around this national championship, and it’s deferred. I think as you get to be an older athlete, you start to look down the road and you say, “I have fewer seasons. I was ready for this year.”

Kristen Keim:

Oh gosh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. “I was ready,” yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

You know, and so I-

Kristen Keim:

That’s a sorrow. I mean, it is.

Joan Hanscom:

It is, right.

Kristen Keim:

Especially if that was going to be their last year of putting that … “My wife will only let me do it this one last time,” or whatever the excuse and things.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, right. But I think your point is so valid, whether it’s the Olympics or Masters National Championships, it’s all-

Kristen Keim:

Oh, and if you go over and you don’t meet your goals, if you don’t learn lessons, then maybe that’s the lesson that you needed that’s going to actually help you achieve the bigger picture. I think that was the biggest thing, was like making sure that everyone was still excited and wanting to race. If you were going into racing and yeah, there was all these unknowns, as long as you were there for the right reasons and you knew that you crossed your Ts and dotted your Is and did the best that you can, yeah, you can be disappointed in the outcome. You should be. I mean, I want you to win, too. But you won’t be disappointed in yourself and the effort, and then you just have to learn lessons and say, “All right. XYZ didn’t happen.”

Kristen Keim:

I have a lot of athletes who, “Oh, my gosh. I need to be winning U23s or juniors 17/18.” I’m like yeah, it’s one thing to hear, “Oh, people don’t ever remember that.” I’m like, “Well yeah, but the people that want to win that, as long as they don’t get burned out by the age of 22 are the ones that are going to go on and actually win world championships one day.” Because again, I can’t train that. The hardest thing for me as a sports psychologist is someone that’s under-motivated. That’s usually they’re depressed, right? Or they just don’t need to be doing their sport anymore, which I had that same athlete that kind of helped me cliché happy racers go faster. One day later down the road that we were working together, and I started building my clientele. Every few top athletes, people would stop their sport.

Kristen Keim:

He’s like, “Yeah, you’re really good at getting people to quit their sports.” I was like, “You know, I don’t think that will become my hashtag.” But again, it is important because I’m not here to make you win medals. I’m here to help make you a healthy, happy human. Because if you’re not a happy, healthy human, I promise you you’re not going to … Or they’re going to be empty gold. It’s just going to be like yeah, a gold medal or whatever, but you were so petrified. I mean, the worst thing I can hear was after, “Oh, I’m so glad that’s over with,” you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

I’m like, “You were that stressed? That made you that sick, that panic attack or whatever, that you couldn’t …” The whole European, “You were in Europe for two months at 18. Go meet some … Have your first romance, French romance. Eat lots of gelato. I mean, live life.” So I’m that person, because I might be the only person that’s in their network, unfortunately, of high performance, that’s going to make sure that the human side of sport is touched on. The more that you can fail and still get back up, that famous Japanese proverb of like, “Fall seven times, get back eight up.” That’s awesome. I mean, I love failing because I know at this age, when I fail I know right around the corner is I’m going to surprise myself.

Kristen Keim:

That’s my goal. It’s like, I want … Okay, cool. You want to go to the Olympics. I want you to win the Giro Rosa. I want you to like … What is that crazy thing that you’re like, “There’s no way in hell that will ever happen”? I want to help you surprise yourself. Even if you don’t have a sports psychologist, that would be my goal to any … It doesn’t matter if you’re listening to me and you’re a 15-year-old. What is it about your sport that you love and enjoy? Why are you doing it? What’s the why? And, how can you surprise yourself? And dream big. Go put that thing on a piece of paper and nail that thing to your wall, “Go to the Olympics.”

Kristen Keim:

Because if you can’t say, “I want to go to the Olympics,” I don’t care that your parents may be like, “Cute. That’s a cute dream.” No, because I can tell you, you ask Lea Davison, you ask Megan Garnier, I mean Sarah True. I can go on, Emily Batty, anyone that went to the Olympics many times even, that they were that kid that sat there when they were eight and said, “I want to go to the Olympics one day.” It doesn’t mean they have the best physical abilities at first. No, they work their ass off hard for many years. Every once in a while people are just going to be naturally talented, but-

Joan Hanscom:

Like the phenoms, but those are the exception, not the rule.

Kristen Keim:

Those people are usually like … But think about it. The phenoms, if we look at even European athletes it’s like, “Well, they’re not really phenoms. They’ve been riding and racing their bikes since they were two years old,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

The Marianne Vos, I don’t think that she … Obviously, she’s not any better than a lot of the other women. It was more like she had the mental edge. She had the support. There was just a lot of other things about her. It wasn’t just that she was a pure phenom, you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

But there are people that like they ride a bike one day, the next day they’re winning some race in Europe. But let’s see how long they stay in the sport, or how much joy they get out of it. Because the longer that you’re working at something, the more you’re going to enjoy it. But the minute it’s not fun, then the more that you set yourself up for not optimum performance. It’s not going to be like sprinkles and unicorns every day, but there’s days I wake up where I’m like, “You know, I really could go without talking to anyone.” Five minutes within my first client, I’m not even thinking about that, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

It’s because I love what I do. I don’t take that for granted, but sport is really hard and it’s really unique, unlike anything else. You can’t compare it with being a surgeon, because most likely it’s something that you had to have cultivated for a long time. I mean, even the Michael Jordans, look at it. He was a really good athlete in baseball. I mean, pick out anyone, a Michael Phelps. I mean, he was a rigid … I mean, look at what age we let him go to the Olympics and expected him to win everything at that age.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, and carry that.

Kristen Keim:

Most people, kids … Oh, my God. The burden of the United States of America on his shoulders. But then you know, you mess up one time and it’s like, “Oh, you’re tainted” or whatever. So trying to be the best is not going to be all glory days. But that’s why you should want to do it, because if it doesn’t make you scared then we only get one shot at life. I truly believe in setting big goals, but not everyone’s goals are going to be the same. Going to the Olympics, you don’t have to do that. It can just be winning your next race, or making an A in that class that at the beginning of the semester you didn’t think you were going to do well in. The mind over matter is a really true thing, and that’s part of what you and I have worked on in your professional life, previous challenge that came up because of TV shows or triggers in life and things.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. So yes, we can say, everybody, I had to call Kristen on a Saturday night because the Gilmore Girls gave me an anxiety attack, and I don’t know why [crosstalk 00:50:45].

Kristen Keim:

And that’s why I am dedicated.

Joan Hanscom:

I said, “I can’t breathe.” She’s like, “Why not?” I said, “The Gilmore Girls.” Yeah, it’s true. I don’t know why. I couldn’t say what it was about that episode, but it wasn’t a good one and I haven’t watched it since.

Kristen Keim:

Well, but you know, go back to where you were at that time in life. You were trying to figure out a lot of things, and that’s it. I always laugh. It’s like, “We’re all one degree of separation away from craziness,” or whatever you want to call it, right? I mean I think I’ve seen it. No one is immune from depression, anxiety. Everyone has anxiety and depression. They’re just words. There’s a difference between a clinical, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Where it’s like, “Okay, my activities of daily living are being … I can’t work. I’m not eating. I’m not sleeping. I’m not engaged. I’ve shut the world out. I’m not contacting my friends anymore,” whatever those symptoms are. And life is hard, and right now it’s hard. For you teenagers, kids listening, man, we aren’t talking enough about that generation. We just assumed, “Yeah, they’re kids. Y’all got it.” Think of yourself. I was like, “I don’t even know what I would be going through right now if I was in college or high school,” with how they’re adapting and just rolling with the punches.

Kristen Keim:

I have a lot of … As a world, I think we’re in good hands, honestly. Because I think again, hopefully more people than not will be evolving during this time, because they were spending more time with family. They were realizing what’s really important. Maybe they were excited to make new goals, or finally went back to school or took those risks as long as they’re safe, right? Because that’s kind of the beauty of life. Every day is a new opportunity to change whatever way that you want the story, is how I kind of look at it. Own your story, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

We all can start a new chapter.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. I think it’s super interesting, and I think there is an opportunity in this year of interruption, to sort of reset and to refocus and sort of figure out, reprioritize. And I know for me personally I’ve been trying to figure out, “Hey, do I still enjoy this process, the discipline? Do I still enjoy the rigidity?” I think you and I joke about that a lot, like I enjoy the structure. I enjoy the rigidity. There was a few weeks where I was like oh, questioning, “Do I still actually enjoy this? Because, am I just making myself nervous about it?”

Joan Hanscom:

I think it was a good time for reflection on that, and ultimately come out on the other side. You say, “Yes,” or, “No, I don’t.” In my case I came out saying, “You know, actually I do think that this is something I still enjoy.” But there was definitely a time of reflection on that, coming through this whole period. I think that’s not unique to high performance. It’s not unique to one particular age group. I think that the high school kids can do that, too. The Masters or my age people certainly can do that and say, “Hey, I’m focusing on this.”

Kristen Keim:

100%.

Joan Hanscom:

“This is an opportunity to reflect,” and do that thing that you were just talking about, the goal-setting. Maybe that goal-setting has changed in this time.

Kristen Keim:

Exactly. There is no going back to normal. I’m sorry, bike racing, even T-Town, all that is never going to look like it did before.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, it’s true. And so you either reframe that thing or you do a different thing. But I think that it’s been an interesting year for a lot of athletes in that regard, and certainly humans in general, right? Not just athletes, but everybody. But it is a time where I think it is a good opportunity to do goal-setting and to reevaluate where you are and how you prioritize things and really ask yourselves those questions about the enjoyment. “Do I enjoy two and a half hours on the bike doing VOs, yes or no?”

Kristen Keim:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

And if the answer is yes, then keeping doing your two and a half hours on the bike doing VOs, right? Or whatever the case may be.

Kristen Keim:

Yeah, I think some people are afraid like, “If I step away and I take a break that I’m not going to reclaim my happiness, or I’m not going to be as dedicated.”

Joan Hanscom:

Or they’ll lose their identity, and I think that’s a big piece is I identify [crosstalk 00:55:20]-

Kristen Keim:

Whoa, that’s a whole nother live podcast call.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, but I think it’s true. I think-

Kristen Keim:

To be continued.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, exactly.

Kristen Keim:

We can talk concussions. We can talk athletic identity. We can talk about what it’s like to be a female athlete.

Joan Hanscom:

Yes, to be continued. I like it. We’ll have a running string of these conversations. I’ve taken up a lot of your time and I’m incredibly thankful for it, but I do have one … We always do silly questions at the end.

Kristen Keim:

Oh, yay. Oh, gosh.

Joan Hanscom:

Well, so the question-

Kristen Keim:

Performance anxiety.

Joan Hanscom:

Yours is not super silly. It’s one I’m really curious, but we’ve got questions like, “Thoughts on Crocs?” We’re not going to give you the Thoughts on Crocs question. We’re going to make you answer spontaneously quick, snap, snap. Next tattoo?

Kristen Keim:

Oh, it’s already created. It’s going to be a place up on my upper arm. I’ve actually had to postpone it twice because of our current affairs, but you know it’s permanent. So it’s going to be related to my rare disease that I was diagnosed with two years ago, and it’s a piece that my tattoo artist … I can’t share it, because it’s her rights … She created. We came up together, and she has it up on the wall. Every time, like we’re on social media friends, she says she can’t even remember how many times people are like, they want that tattoo. They’re like, “That is the raddest picture ever.”

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, that’s amazing.

Kristen Keim:

Yeah, so it’s a pretty big piece. Again, we’re kind of the idea if I’m going to keep it black and white, but since then I’ve come up with three or four other ones that I want to get, as long as when it gets … I feel safe and everything to do that. Also, just physically allowing myself to be in a space where I can heal and all that stuff too, so good question. More to come.

Joan Hanscom:

I know I can’t wait to see. Because I thought so long about mine and then I thought I knew what I wanted to get my next one to be. And then I was like, “You know what? I think I’m never going to get a picture.” I’ve decided I’m only going to have words.

Kristen Keim:

Oh, I love that. Well, I definitely have another … I actually have other words and stuff that I want to get too, so yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

So I think all the words for me-

Kristen Keim:

Sometimes just thinking up that stuff is half the fun of actually getting it. I do feel like, I think it’s like the opposite maybe where I’m like, when I was younger I was more like it had to be something really important because I’m going to have it on me. And now as I’m aging I’m just like, “Whatever.”

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, because it’s so, “Fine.”

Kristen Keim:

And it’s for me. It’s like, “It’s mine.”

Joan Hanscom:

I look at mine and the words just make me happy every time I see it.

Kristen Keim:

Me, too.

Joan Hanscom:

I’m just like, “Oh, the words make me happy,” and I love the words, and I’m trying to live the words.

Kristen Keim:

And they should, exactly.

Joan Hanscom:

But then I was like, “Oh, pictures.” And I’m like, “I don’t think a picture would ever make me feel as good as the words.” But I’m a word person. I was an English major, and so I think-

Kristen Keim:

That makes sense. That makes sense.

Joan Hanscom:

You know?

Kristen Keim:

I could see that. I love that.

Joan Hanscom:

But I can’t wait to see yours. Oh, I can’t wait to see yours. That will be exciting.

Kristen Keim:

I mean, in 2021, maybe.

Joan Hanscom:

On episode five of our very special podcast series, we’ll unveil the tattoo.

Kristen Keim:

Yeah, exactly.

Joan Hanscom:

So before we let you go, tell people where they can follow you on the socials. Because you’re posting all sorts of good things, and we want folks to be able to follow along with you where you post. So let folks know, where can they follow along with you?

Kristen Keim:

Oh, well I am basically @thek2. I’m that at Twitter, so @thek2. That is my Instagram, and then I don’t really do as much on Facebook but there is a Keim Performance Consulting page on Facebook. And then yeah, and if you ever have any questions or you might even want to potentially work together in the future, right now I’m not really taking any new clients but I always tell people to reach out. You just never know. I might have an opening. I don’t say, “I have openings now.” I just kind of let life happen. But my website is keimperformanceconsulting.com, which has all my following information as well.

Joan Hanscom:

Cool.

Kristen Keim:

And yeah, and I love what you’ve done at T-Town. Obviously I have [inaudible 00:59:45] and I’ve always heard only positive things from the athletes, and especially since certain management has changed. Even this summer, I mean just how you did it was just like … I mean it doesn’t surprise me, but yeah, y’all knocked it out of the park. I think that we can let things … We have to open up and we can do it, but it’s just going to take compromise from athletes compromising, and then just a good city and town and infrastructure working together. So keep it up, and as long as we play by the rules we can have nice things.

Joan Hanscom:

Yes, yes. Well, thank you for joining us, and everybody follow Kristen on Instagram because she drops in the inspirational quote of the day with great regularity, and I find it to be tremendously helpful. So on that note, we shall let you go. Thank you.

Joan Hanscom:

This has been the Talk of the T-Town Podcast, with hosts 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. (silence)

Posted on

Brian and Gui: Completely Out of the Ordinary

Penny-farthing

Episode 7

“What could go wrong? 56” wheels momentum. Go 15, 20 miles an hour? Good luck stopping.

– Brian Boger and Guillaume Nelessen

This week on Talk of the T-Town, Joan sits down with Gui Nelessen and Brian Boger and breakdown Penny-farthings and discuss what an hour record attempt would look like on one.

Visit the Doyles Town Bike Works Website
Instagram: @bikeworkspa

Penny-farthing

Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is 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.


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.

Joan Hanscom:

Hello listeners, welcome to this week’s Talk of the T-Town podcast. I’m holding down the fort solo this week here in freezing cold Pennsylvania, while Andy’s enjoying some warm weather in southern California, and I’d just like to say, did I mention he owes me big? I’m super excited about this episode, because it’s a dose of optimistic wacky joy which, speaking solely for myself, is much needed right now. Our guests this week are a sort of two person comedy team, who are up to some absolutely awesome things in the coming season on an ordinary bike, which, more on that later, and they’re just generally great individuals who both give a lot to our sport.

Joan Hanscom:

So before that, a little housekeeping. If you’re enjoying the content we’ve been bringing you, please subscribe and leave us positive reviews. Nothing helps us grow the pod like subscriptions and positive reviews, and you can find us anywhere you consume your podcasts. Now, moving on to this week’s guests. Together we’re cooking up something super awesome for 2021, and I’m excited to have them joining me today to talk about it. Gui Nelessen and Brian Boger are here to talk about a sort of top secret project. Brian is a partner in Doylestown Bike Works, and Gui, among many things, captains their racing team.

Joan Hanscom:

To give you a little background, for those of you who don’t know Gui, he started racing more than 25 years ago at the age of 13. Several of those years were spent as a pro, traveling abroad. He has over 90 career wins, four Elite National Championships, one Masters Championship, 14 national medals, and five years on the national track team. But when you ride with Gui, he brings you joy. He does circus tricks, which I most enjoy being part of, and he’s also an incredible woodworker and craftsman. But, he might be most famous as the stuff of serious bike racers’ nightmares. Known for crushing souls, racing as The Shark in the industry race across Vegas. And with a last row start, I might add, I heard more than one very accomplished bike racer saying out loud, “Don’t get caught by The Shark. Don’t get caught by The Shark.” And they all got caught by The Shark.

Joan Hanscom:

So Gui, our famous shark friend, is here to join us. And we also have Brian Boger, who’s the partner at Doylestown Bike Works, and has served as a manager of their team since 2017. He’s expressed goals that are near and dear to my heart, which is to grow the women’s side of the team as well, and expand on their women’s racing program, and he wants their team to do epic things. He may or may not have other news he wants to share with us, but we’ll leave that up to him.

Joan Hanscom:

So, with no further delay, let’s get to it. Welcome, you guys, and thanks for joining me here on the pod.

Brian Boger:

Thanks for having me.

Joan Hanscom:

So, our viewers can’t see you, but behind you is a giant, giant wheel. A wheel that would go on a penny-farthing, or what you call an ordinary, and that’s, I think, foreshadowing of what we’re going to talk about. But first, I want to thank you, Brian, for supporting the track. You’ve been an excellent sponsor. You’ve sponsored us for the last several seasons, you’ve brought people out to race, you’ve encouraged people to race, you’ve brought folks out to spectate. So, tell us a little bit about Doylestown Bike Works, and why it’s special, what your goals are for the team, and then maybe tease up this special project we’ve got rolling with Gui.

Brian Boger:

All right, well, my involvement with the shop kind of started in 2011. My partner Fran Taloricco and I started the business, and since that time we’ve become an employee-owned business, so there’s six of us altogether that own the business. We’re really lucky to be in this amazing small town of Doylestown. The history of the Industrial Age and the Agricultural Age that’s here really lends itself to what we wanted to do with the bike shop. I have a lot of interest in the history of bicycling and where it all came from, and just across the street from our shop is an old Ag Works that manufactured bikes in the 1890s, and we’re lucky to have one of those bikes here in the shop.

Brian Boger:

As far as the team goes, it was interesting. I used to work at a different bike shop, and the owner of that shop always told me that you should never be involved with a bike team. He said that was a horrible thing to be involved in, and it would do nothing but bring disaster to the business. That stuck with me for a while, and I guess maybe three or four years ago, Chris Meacham and some of the west clients, some of the folks that you guys all know from the track, wore me down about starting a team, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. Turns out everything they told me beforehand was wrong. So, I’ve really enjoyed being involved with it.

Brian Boger:

My history of the track goes back to high school. I came up to see Nelson Vails race, when I was in high school as a cross-country racer, with my teammate and my current business party. And at the time it happened I didn’t know that anybody could race on the track. I thought it was some really exotic thing that Europeans did or something, I had no idea. So, all these years later, when I found out that pretty much anybody could race at the track, I wanted the team to be a thing to introduce kids to the sport, and let them find out that they could participate too. Dan Turner, one of my partners-

Dan Turner:

Oh, here we go.

Brian Boger:

…has been coming in and out of the picture. I’ll get back to Dan, but he’s largely to blame for this whole high wheel thing.

Dan Turner:

Leave me alone.

Joan Hanscom:

I wish that this was a video podcast, because it would be the funniest one we’ll ever do.

Brian Boger:

I stuck through that pretty well, didn’t I?

Guillaume Nelessen:

Yeah, you did.

Joan Hanscom:

You were amazing. So, for our listeners, there was everything from bunny rabbit ears to…

Brian Boger:

Penny-farthing wheels.

Joan Hanscom:

Penny-farthing wheels, some sort of obscene hand gestures?

Brian Boger:

I got a wet willy, all kinds of stuff happened.

Dan Turner:

He deserves it.

Joan Hanscom:

And Brian kept a straight face, and kept on talking, so that’s a sign of a true pro. So Gui, you’re the captain of this ragtag team of fast dudes, masters, elites, and juniors, and some women. Assuming we’re racing this year, you have a new baby on the way, are we going to see you out racing bikes next summer, if we’re back doing the bike racing thing?

Guillaume Nelessen:

Absolutely, with no hesitation. I’m a lifer. There aren’t very many of us lifers, but without bike racing, I’m not really sure what I would do with myself.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. Sad but true. I’m in the lifer category now myself, which is really weird. So Brian, you said to me once that you really wanted to grow the women’s side of participation on your team. Is that still a focus for 2021?

Brian Boger:

Yeah. When we sat down and wrote a mission statement for the team, the mission was to increase the diversity and representation of folks that were competing on bicycles, whether they were elite racers, or whether they were amateur racers. I come from a different sport. I was involved in other sports before all the bicycling stuff happened, and the sport that I was involved with, we were very successful in growing a grassroots program and that sport has done really well. A big part of it was growing a women’s side of that sport, and when I came into cycling I realized how much that was needed in this sport. So, certainly something that we’re committed to doing with the team.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, and that’s been a real commitment here at the track, so happily, one of the things that we discovered this summer when we were doing our data recap of the year, we’ve brought that number here at the track from not a whole lot of female participation to about 70-30, which is so much better than the national average is. I think USA Cycling, they go 88-12, 86-14, on percentages of women participation, and it’s really exciting that here we are ahead of that trendline. I think that you’ve got a lot to do with that.

Brian Boger:

I think the really exciting day is going to be when, as a team, we’re not recruiting racers from other teams, but we’re home-growing them here in Doylestown ourselves, and that’s the goal.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s super awesome. All right, so, here’s the question of the day. When I say ordinary, what do you guys think? Gui, go.

Guillaume Nelessen:

A long, long, long process. An ordinary process, with the creation of a really funky old bike.

Joan Hanscom:

So, for our listeners, an ordinary is another term for penny-farthing or high wheel bike. Last fall I was recovering from surgery, and I was awake in the middle of the night because I was uncomfortable, and I saw a video on GCN about somebody attempting the hour record on a high wheel bike. In the middle of the night, I texted Gui this story, and I was like, “You totally have to do this.” And that was probably one of the snowballs that started rolling down the hill. I don’t know if you guys had talked about it prior, but I feel guilty that I perhaps was an accelerant of this process. So what is the hour record on a high wheel bike, on an ordinary?

Guillaume Nelessen:

Brian?

Brian Boger:

The current record is just over 23 miles an hour. The team that you referenced in Manchester, England, managed to break that record last year. It was the first time that record had been broken since an American named Ben Rowe did it in 1883. At the time Ben Rowe broke that record, 22 miles an hour was the fastest any human being had ever propelled themselves, in any fashion, in the world. It was kind of the four minute mile of 1883. Right after he did it, the bicycle improved quite a bit. The modern diamond framed bicycle is called a safety bicycle, as an homage to the bike that preceded it, which was the penny-farthing, which was this incredibly dangerous bicycle, so people stopped riding them. So for a combination of reasons, that record stuck for a long time.

Joan Hanscom:

Now Gui, you are going to attempt the hour record. The hardest event on the track, you’re going to attempt the hour record on a high wheel bike.

Guillaume Nelessen:

That’s the plan. We’re going to fabricate them, and I think the plan is to do the original event, which is a three person hour record, and then also try to break the Guinness Book record that’s current, that is the hour record, like our traditional hour record is.

Brian Boger:

Yeah, the video that you saw on GCN, those guys had an unfortunate experience in that they assumed that the hour record was as we would know it today, an individual record. Bike racing at that time was always a paced effort. Individual attempts didn’t come around until later. So they went out and established what they thought was a record, only to be told, “No, no, no, you did this wrong. You needed to do it with teammates.”

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, can you imagine? That’s awful.

Guillaume Nelessen:

I mean, they still got the Guinness Book record for it.

Brian Boger:

Yeah, well the real problem is coming up with more than one penny-farthing. I mean, that’s really the problem, right? There’s two of them sitting behind me, but they’re not something you just trip across all over the place. And we were sort of confronted with the problem of like, do we have Gui exercise and stretch and hydrate for a year, or do we just build a better bike? And that’s what we landed on.

Joan Hanscom:

So Gui, talk about your bike.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Okay, so, at this point we kind of mooched off of a couple different designs. We took primarily one from Standard Highwheels, which is a guy in Finland? Brian? Denmark?

Brian Boger:

He’s in Sweden, I believe.

Guillaume Nelessen:

There we go. Somewhere not here. He’s kind of given us some pointers and some parts. He gave us a crown race, he gave us some fork blades. He hooked us up with a few little odds and ends that we kind of needed to put the puzzle together. But beyond that, it’s really just been going from a wheel size, guessing a frame radius, and kind of just playing Legos for grownups in my garage. I’m not going to lie, it’s a little bit like that.

Joan Hanscom:

So, everybody should follow along on Gui’s social media, @lostinstudio on Instagram, because periodically you will see the bike in process. You will see bits and bobs of this bike being assembled.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Right now, the bikes are built. As far as we know, we haven’t actually test-ridden one yet. They’re built, they’re being heat treated, we’re going to paint them, then we’re going to put parts on them, and then we’re going to test ride them. So we should be fine.

Joan Hanscom:

What could go wrong?

Guillaume Nelessen:

What could go wrong.

Brian Boger:

Guys in 1883 built these things, I mean, they didn’t even know not to pee in the water they were drinking in. I think we got it. I think we can handle this, you know?

Guillaume Nelessen:

We should be fine. We’re really worried about the paint color, let’s be realistic here. Because paint’s expensive.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh man.

Guillaume Nelessen:

And probably the most disappointing part of this process was Dan Turner, who was our wheel builder, and really the guy who sort of introduced us all to penny-farthing racing, for whatever that’s worth. The day that the skid showed up from Velocity Wheels with, I don’t know, five or ten [inaudible 00:14:58] 52″ wheels.

Dan Turner:

Don’t blame me!

Guillaume Nelessen:

That was an incredibly… This isn’t my day, is it.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh my god. We all think about, “Oh, it’s new bike day!”, and your new bike day is very, very different.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Just so we can give you a sense of perspective, Brian… Joan, you sent me that message last fall. Over a year ago. Brian had been talking to me probably six months prior to that with these subtle ideas, and vice versa. They’d lent me a bike to play with and ride around town, because I thought it’d be a great town bike. But then, we actually started the process, like “Okay fine, let’s build these things, let’s see what we got to do, let’s put the pieces together.” This was over a year ago, and our original deadline was March. Right now, we have like three wheels built, all the frames are built, but we still don’t have a bike, so.

Joan Hanscom:

And when did you say you were going to do this hour record attempt?

Guillaume Nelessen:

Next summer. We should be fine. It’s all in Dan’s lap, now. Dan’s just got to build all the wheels and assemble them.

Brian Boger:

It’s like taking a final in high school, honestly. The more the deadline’s there, the more pressure is on you. We would have had it done if the pressure was on us.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Yeah honestly, if Dan wasn’t just standing behind Brian, working, we’d be done sooner.

Dan Turner:

All right, listen up.

Brian Boger:

Should be dishing a wheel right now or something.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Correct.

Joan Hanscom:

So Gui, how do you train for the hour record on a high wheel bike?

Guillaume Nelessen:

So, that’s been a conversation that I’ve had with Bill Elliston and Bobby Lee, and I think we’re kind of just going to train the same way you’d train for an hour record normally, and we’re just going to kind of treat the bike like any other bike. It’s going to have a lap split, and we’ll figure out how much power I need to put out to hold whatever the split that needs to be over a period of time. We’re just going to have to dope it out bit by bit. It’s a little bit like starting from scratch. It’s the same way you’d start from scratch at any track with any bike on any gear. It’s going to take a couple attempts, it’s going to take some definitely early mornings at the track with a lot of people staring at me like I’m an idiot.

Brian Boger:

Well one of the things that I think the team in Manchester, I think they did the record at Herne Hill. The reason why penny-farthings persisted as long as they did… They were dumb bikes, it was a dumb idea. The pneumatic tire hadn’t been invented yet, the bicycle chain hadn’t been invented yet. And the large wheel was just simply a way to try to overcome mud and ruts in the roads. But the only reason they persisted as long as they did was because they were faster track bikes, for a long time, than the safety bicycle was. So there was this period of time where people were racing penny-farthings and racing safety bikes at the same time, but Herne Hill, and those tracks they were racing on, does not have even the bank that T-Town does.

Brian Boger:

So when Dan and I first… Actually, and if you remember, the first time that Shirley came up. Joan, it was before you were at the track. I started bomb-tweeting the velodrome, saying that we wanted to do a penny-farthing race there, which they summarily ignored for quite a while. And then finally someone reached back to me and said, “All right, what is this about?” And I pitched this idea. But Dan and I went up one winter and had him ride around the track. We didn’t even know if you could ride one on the track. We had no idea.

Brian Boger:

And I remember riding behind Dan on a track bike as he sort of tried to get off the apron and onto the track, and I remember saying to him, “You have to go faster,” and I kind of remember him being like, “Screw you.” And I’m like, “I’m not trying to be critical, I’m just saying.” We didn’t know if it would highside the pedal, we had no idea. And then last summer, or two summers ago, you relented and let us stage a race at the track with Gui and Dan. I think it was well received. I also thought it was a good idea.

Joan Hanscom:

The crowd loved it. Like, the crowd was nuts for that event. But I will say, because there were three guys in the race, and coming out of turn four, everybody was neck and neck. It was all lined up straight in a row coming through turn four, and I have never laughed so hard in my entire life at a sprint, because you can’t stand up on those things, and everybody’s head was bobbling back and forth like a weeble wobble, and it was the funniest sprint I’ve ever seen in my life.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Well thank you for laughing, because I was scared.

Brian Boger:

Scared shitless.

Joan Hanscom:

Well I was also terrified, because whoever was up high…

Brian Boger:

Dan.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that looked…

Guillaume Nelessen:

It was the speed, yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that was terrifying. I was like, “Whoa, I would not want to be that high up on the track on that bike.” But then you came into the home straight, it flattened out, and it was a brilliant three-up sprint.

Brian Boger:

Fortunately they’re pros, so.

Joan Hanscom:

But it was awesome, and the crowd was going nuts, and I thought that was one of the highlights of what was actually a summer of really good racing, but that night was really pretty awesome.

Brian Boger:

So another dumb thing that Gui got me involved in is one day Gui says to me, “You know what we ought to do? There hasn’t been a high wheel Nationals since…” I don’t know, I’m making up a year. 1896, I have no idea. Gui says, “We could do high wheel Nationals at the park across the street.” I said, “Oh, okay,” and he said, “Call USA Cycling and ask for Joan Hanscom.” You had just left.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, funny.

Brian Boger:

“And pitch this idea.” So I call USA Cycling and I ask for you, and they say, “Oh no, she just left for this new job, but we’ll patch you on to this other fellow.” And I talked to this other fellow, and I could hear him essentially just being like, “All right buddy, whatever.” And like three days later it was April the 1st, and the April Fools tweet from USA Cycling was about the resumption of high wheel Nationals.

Joan Hanscom:

No way, oh that’s awesome.

Brian Boger:

Yeah, that really happened. And I’ll get them. I’ll get each and every one of them, at some point.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s amazing.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Well it would be a pretty cool thing to bring back.

Joan Hanscom:

I think so. I think we should totally do it. I’m down. I’ll help. I’m in. I like the wacky. I like the wacky. So everybody who’s listening knows, the velodrome is committed to hosting this hour record attempt, and we want to make it a party, so there will be… Assuming, again, Covid, but beers on the track for people to come out and cheer. We want people to come out and watch the insanity and make it a party, because we want it to be raucous and mayhem for Gui as he tries to not highside the high wheel bike on the track.

Brian Boger:

Bring the hour record back on this side of the Atlantic where it belongs.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, there you go. So yeah, everybody needs to plan on being at T-Town when we announce the actual hour record date, because I think it’s going to be a good fun day.

Guillaume Nelessen:

I agree.

Joan Hanscom:

So Gui, what’s your excitement with this? What’s the…

Guillaume Nelessen:

I don’t know. There’s so many things… I guess, for a lot of people who don’t really know what a high wheel bike is, it’s a 56″ giant wheel. So everything that you take about bike racing, that gets you exciting, you think about on a bike. Or relationships you depend on on a bike, are gone. The relationship you have with your front end. Your stem, your bars, your handlebars, your control. On a high wheel bike it’s gone, because the bike has so much flex, and the wheel has so much flex, that your bars are moving like 30 degrees, and your legs are going, and everything looks like it’s falling apart. It’s the most exciting thing in the world to ride, because it constantly feels like it’s going to fall apart.

Joan Hanscom:

Exciting, terrifying, you know.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Both? But it’s also, you ride into town or you ride these things anywhere, and you’re eye to eye with semi trucks. My head is 8’6″ off the ground.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s amazing.

Guillaume Nelessen:

So freaking cool.

Brian Boger:

Dan and I were asked to go down to WMMR in Philadelphia one morning and show Preston, from Preston and Elliot, how to ride a penny-farthing, and Dan had rigged up his bike rack to carry two penny-farthings down the Schuylkill Expressway to the radio station-

Joan Hanscom:

Tell me you took pictures of that.

Brian Boger:

Just the looks on people’s faces in traffic that morning. They’re trying to get to work and are like, “You clowns. Get out of my way with whatever you’re doing.” [crosstalk 00:24:07]. Yeah, it was amazing. We decided to stop for gas at one point. Dan’s in knickers and a bow tie, and the people getting gas are just like, “All right buddy. Get a job or do something.”

Joan Hanscom:

Well I think I told you, I was riding on River Road down in New Jersey, and I passed three guys that were in full period gear on their high wheel bikes on a Sunday morning, and I was just like, “Where did you come from?”

Brian Boger:

I want to give those guys props. There’s an organization called the Wheelmen, they’re a national organization devoted to preserving the heritage of cycling, especially vintage cycling. We are very fortunate that David and Sue Gray, who have been lifetime members of our organization, lived here in Doylestown, and they’ve been incredibly generous. They have an amazing collection of vintage bikes, and they have assembled penny-farthings themselves, so they’ve been quite a resource to us through all of this.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Bill Soloway.

Brian Boger:

And Bill Soloway, who is one of the gentlemen you saw on the canal path that day, is another guy who has been really generous with his knowledge. So we are fortunate to have that resource in our community.

Joan Hanscom:

So, going back to the team effort that has to go into setting the official hour record. We got Gui, we got Dan, who’s the third?

Guillaume Nelessen:

Well Dan… Sorry Dan, I know you can hear me. Dan probably would omit himself, because Dan is a bike mechanic. He would never put himself in the place of a bike racer, probably because he knows better.

Dan Turner:

Correct. I will build the bikes, I will help you out mechanic-wise. I am not on the level of you, Gui, as a racer. So you got to talk to your friends and get some real bike racers.

Guillaume Nelessen:

So we have some ideas, we have some plans. We have a couple people who have expressed interest. Chris Meacham will probably get thrown under the bus for this one.

Joan Hanscom:

Okay.

Guillaume Nelessen:

But right now, I think we’re waiting to make sure we actually have bikes that are ride-able. We got to get through phase one. Phase one is build the bikes. We’ll Field of Dreams this shit. Build it and they will come. We’ll start there, how’s that sound?

Joan Hanscom:

All right, all right. The teaser who the mystery teammates are going to be, I like it, I like it. That’s interesting though, I wonder.

Guillaume Nelessen:

[crosstalk 00:26:43], Joan Hanscom.

Joan Hanscom:

No. No, nope, not going to be me. I’m terrified of those things, those bikes look scary.

Guillaume Nelessen:

They are, they’re so fast.

Brian Boger:

Yeah, they’re terrifying.

Guillaume Nelessen:

So cool. Well, we do have a couple small ones.

Brian Boger:

There’s a really good reason why every bicycle that came after that bicycle was called the safety bicycle. There’s no shortage of newspaper articles from that time talking about people doing… The term endo came from that bike, and being killed and paralyzed on those bikes. So, they’re not a good idea, at all.

Guillaume Nelessen:

All right, that’s enough. Don’t say any of that to my wife.

Joan Hanscom:

Okay, shh, Brian, pipe down. Now I forgot what I was going to say, because you made me laugh.

Guillaume Nelessen:

I’d also expect it’s from people hitting cars, and people hitting people, because when you’re out on the road, I will say, those things do not stop.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, yeah. You don’t have actual disc brakes or anything, so…

Guillaume Nelessen:

56″ wheels momentum. Go 15, 20 miles an hour? Good luck stopping.

Joan Hanscom:

How do they stop?

Guillaume Nelessen:

And 50″ cranks, or 150 cranks.

Brian Boger:

Your original fixie, it’s your original direct drive bike. You have to control your pedaling to stop the bike.

Guillaume Nelessen:

You have a garden hose of a tire with no grip, all of your weight’s on top of the front end, you’re attached to the thing via the cranks that are also the front wheel. You’re on a glorified giant unicycle with no exit strategy. If someone pulls in front of you, a deer, a Toyota Tacoma, anything, it dies or you die.

Brian Boger:

One of the original ways of stopping the bike, I always enjoyed reading about this, was guys would put on a big leather glove and grab the front wheel to stop the bike, because they were real men back then. That’s a terrible idea. [inaudible 00:28:34] cut their fingers off.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Actually if you go racing [inaudible 00:28:36] right now you’ll see the same thing.

Brian Boger:

That’s true.

Guillaume Nelessen:

You’ll see guys race on a rag, where they can’t afford brake pads, so they grab a rag and throw it on their rear wheel.

Joan Hanscom:

Wow. Okay. Alrighty. So this has got to be the new X Games discipline, right? Because it’s dangerous and fast and crazy.

Brian Boger:

Except it’s not really that fast and [crosstalk 00:28:58]. I think that one of things that the guys in England encountered, one of the things that they discovered, and I heard them talk about, is just how much respect for the guys that raced in that time. Because I don’t remember the gentleman’s name, but one of the gentlemen in England that was on that team was some kind of ultra rider endurance… Probably drinks coconut water and eats granola and stuff. But he talked about when he tried to do the record he fell short, and he was like, “I just assumed that modern training would mean this would be easy.” He didn’t come anywhere close the first time he did it.

Joan Hanscom:

So I’ve made no secret that I’m a Bradley Wiggins fan. I think I’m the only person in America who watched him do the hour record attempt when he did the hour record on the track, and I was glued to my TV. I was like, “Wow.” And honestly, he didn’t move for like 56 minutes, he just was perfectly still, and 56 minutes in or something like that, he kind of looked down a little bit, and that was the first time you saw his body move. He has really sort of famously said that he never did the full hour in training, because if you did the full hour in training you’d never, ever do it again because it’s so awful. So he said that his method of getting through it was 15 minute chunks, so he knew the first 15 was going to be awesome. He knew the second 15 was going to be getting harder. He knew the third 15 was going to be awful, and then the last 15, it was the great unknown, but he knew it was going to really suck. So, what are you going to do, Gui?

Guillaume Nelessen:

Well it depends. We’ve talked about this for both of them. For the three-person we even talked about doing it like an Italian Pursuit, because there aren’t really any rules written. It doesn’t have to be a pace line, it doesn’t have to be a team pursuit style. So we’ve had some discussion as to maybe we’d do it like a glorified Italian Pursuit. 20 minutes for the first guy, 20 for the second guy, 20 minutes for the sucker that’s got to finish. And I think, yeah, breaking it up into three chunks is really the only way you can go about it and keep your sanity, but honestly the speed is not going to be the same, and honestly I feel like the effort isn’t going to be… Not that it’s not going to be that bad, I just feel like it’s going to be different. It’s not the same as a bicycle, it’s not that fast, and I don’t think the speed is because the rider can’t go that fast. I think the bike has a speed limit.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I would-

Guillaume Nelessen:

So I think the only thing that’s going to change is the fact that the bike is manufactured with modern day technology. The spokes are not 1/8th gauge or 1/8th” thick. The rims are not solid steel. I think there’s a lot of things that are going to come into play that are going to make a really big difference, and I’m not sure it’s going to take every… Well sure, it’s going to be really, really, really hard, but at the same time, I think I can only make that bike go as fast as that bike can physically go.

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Guillaume Nelessen:

I’m not sure that bike will go any faster.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Physics is a thing, right?

Brian Boger:

Gui, did you read that article… So I created on our team page, I created a blog post about Ben Rowe’s 1883 record, and it was the first time I’d really read that article carefully. That bike that he raced it on, and set that 1883 record, weighed 21 pounds. It’s called a Columbia Light Racer. They specially built it for that attempt. And I was like, “Ooh. Man. That’s daunting.” I didn’t realize they had that… I don’t know why I wouldn’t realize that, but that’s a light bike. The bikes we’re making are way lighter than the ones that the English guys were messing around on, but they weren’t screwing around with that bike back then.

Guillaume Nelessen:

[crosstalk 00:33:03] to our bike yet. I’m actually curious now.

Brian Boger:

And actually the guy that Ben Rowe, the American that set that record, his pacer in that attempt was George Hendee, who was the guy who went on to invent Indian Motorcycles, and was kind of like the champion of his day. So yeah, he had some legit pacers with him.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s super interesting, actually. That’s sort of like, I don’t know, I don’t want to say Formula One of the day, but-

Brian Boger:

The people who witnessed him do the record said, “Yeah, Ben Rowe’s a piker and George Hendee was the real deal.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh that’s super interesting.

Guillaume Nelessen:

So we’re screwed, is what you’re saying.

Brian Boger:

We’re screwed. No, you’ll be fine! You’ll be fine.

Joan Hanscom:

It’ll all work out. It’s all fine.

Brian Boger:

So I would start hydrating, maybe stretch every day-

Dan Turner:

Don’t let me down!

Brian Boger:

Yeah. Ride your bike, periodically, that kind of thing.

Guillaume Nelessen:

I love the “don’t let me down” in the background.

Joan Hanscom:

So, when we first talked, Brian, there was going to be a whole project built up around this, with some documentary and some preparation footage of the bikes getting built, and Gui’s training, and early morning rides here at the track. Is that still in the works?

Brian Boger:

Yeah, we have a young man in our employ named Ryan Canney from Riverbank Creative, does a lot of our video stuff, and we’ve been dragging him out Saturday mornings and Sunday mornings to Gui’s garage and here to the shop. He has no idea what’s going on, but he’s been dutifully videoing all of this, so, yeah. He’s kind of confused by it all, but yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s cool.

Guillaume Nelessen:

I think we’re going to have this thing in, again, phases. We’re going to have the bike building phase, which we’re still working on, and hopefully come springtime, barring the end of this crisis, we can start really thinking about the training aspect. And it’s honestly not something I’ve put a ton of thought into. Only because I can only take one step at a time, and right now I still don’t have a bike, so there’s no point in me freaking out about borrowing someone’s SRM pedals to see how much power I actually put out on a high wheel bike right now. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

Joan Hanscom:

I was going to ask if there was going to be power measurement on this bike.

Guillaume Nelessen:

[crosstalk 00:35:26] so curious, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Because you said you had to put out a certain amount of watts to make a certain amount of speed, so-

Guillaume Nelessen:

We’re going to have to figure out what my lap splits need to be to make the time, and then we’re going to have to figure out how much power I need to put out to hold those laps, and then we’re going to need to figure out how that all balances itself out with me as a person. And we’re totally going to get someone to walk the line for me like it’s 19- whatever, ’94.

Brian Boger:

1883.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Oh no, 1994 was the last time I had someone walk the line for me.

Brian Boger:

Oh.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Team pursuit, or pursuit, when you have someone literally sit there and tell you where you are without yelling, just stand near the start line.

Joan Hanscom:

We’ll have Gary Sutton come in.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Sold.

Joan Hanscom:

“Gary, come in for this!”

Guillaume Nelessen:

Exactly. Someone who understands this crap!

Joan Hanscom:

That’s amazing. That’s amazing. I can’t wait, I’m so excited about this and I’m so excited that you guys were willing to come on and talk to us about it, and tease it up for our audience, because like I said in the beginning, this is some wacky joy, and I think we all need a little bit of wacky joy right now. While Gui may not be experiencing the wacky joy himself while he’s on the bike, the rest of us most certainly will, so I’m really excited about it, and I can’t wait to see the documentary, and I’m following along on your social channels. So Brian, where can we follow along with you on social to watch the progress?

Brian Boger:

We’ve been posting the progress on our Instagram account for the bike shop, Doylestown Bike Works, and also on our Facebook page. On our website, at doylestownbikeworks.com there’s a team blog and we’ve been updating it there as well. One thing I wanted to mention to you, Joan, we’re doing an event in December to fundraise for the team a little bit. We were going to do Bicycle Film Festival from New York City here in Doylestown this winter, but Covid, so we’re going to do it as a streaming virtual event December 4th through 6th, so if people are interested.

Joan Hanscom:

Make sure you give us that information, we’ll put it in the show notes.

Brian Boger:

Sure.

Joan Hanscom:

Cool. And Gui, people can follow along with you on both the Twitters and the Instagram, on @lostinstudio?

Guillaume Nelessen:

Just the Instagram, and I don’t even remember what my Instagram is. It might be-

Brian Boger:

It’s @lostinstudio, she said it exactly, she nailed it. I can’t believe you actually managed to log into Zoom today. That was shocking enough. And you beat me to it!

Guillaume Nelessen:

I had help.

Dan Turner:

Gui, I will follow you anywhere.

Guillaume Nelessen:

[crosstalk 00:37:58] half hour early, because I was worried about figuring it out. I don’t understand technology.

Joan Hanscom:

You did great though, Gui. And you had the best beer delivery service I’ve ever seen in my life.

Brian Boger:

And he looks great too, doesn’t he? Look at him.

Joan Hanscom:

Gui’s looking fit, man. He’s looking ready. We’re not worried about Gui in the hour record. We know. We’ve seen him race in the shark suit, we know what’s coming. On that note, you guys, thank you so much. It’s been a super pleasure. We’ll have you back anytime to talk about where this project is in progress. Maybe we should get back on after Gui gets to ride his bike for the first time, and we’ll put up some photos and we’ll let people get a sneak peek of what’s coming, and we’ll start growing the audience for you right now, Gui.

Guillaume Nelessen:

I like it. I like it. Nothing like having a lot of people there when you fail.

Joan Hanscom:

I don’t think you’re going to fail. I have faith.

Guillaume Nelessen:

I appreciate it.

Brian Boger:

I don’t even feel like you have to stop smoking or drinking. I think you’ll be fine.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Oh, perfect!

Joan Hanscom:

It’ll all be fine! All right. Well thanks you guys, we really appreciate it. Have a good night, have a good holiday, and we’ll talk more.

Brian Boger:

Stay safe, guys.

Joan Hanscom:

Thanks! Bye.

Guillaume Nelessen:

Bye.

Joan Hanscom:

This has been the Talk of the T-Town podcast with hosts 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.

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Kim Geist: Finesse and Fury

kimgeist

Episode 6

Taking on new projects always means there’s a give and take with old.
But one thing that keeps me going is that, I’m an athlete at heart and I’m driven by goals.

– Kim Geist
MS, ACSM-EP, CSCS; World Champion Athlete. Cycling coaching,
strength & conditioning, nutritional analysis.

This week on Talk of the T-Town, Joan and Andy sit down with Kim Geist, multi-time world (team pursuit) and national champion as well as Owner and Operator of Kim Geist coaching and coach for Team T-Town. We discuss what’s next for Kim– Finesse and Fury by Kim Geist Coaching.

Kim’s website http://www.kimgeistcoaching.com
@kimgeistcoaching #kimgeistcoaching
https://www.facebook.com/KimGeistCoaching/

Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is 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.

kimgeist

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 cohost athletic director, Andy Lakatosh. So welcome to this week’s Talk of the T-Town podcast. I’m joined by my co-host Andy Lakatosh, who’s calling in again from sunny Southern California and our very special guest Kim Geist. Kim Geist is a Lehigh Valley native and began her track racing here, at T-Town in the Air Products community programs. And she went on to have an absolutely stellar professional racing career that included, not only being the 2018 and 2017 world champion in the team pursuit, world cup champion.

Joan Hanscom:

She was the number one ranked rider in the world in 2018 and 2015. In 2019, she was Pan-Am Games two time champion, a long team member of the 2016 Olympic team, 2015 world championship bronze medalist, and many U.S national champions among other things. But equally, if not more impressive, particularly given that she’s only just retired from the sport. Kim’s credentials include a Master’s in Applied Nutrition and a Bachelor’s in Sports and Exercise Science, and more certifications that you can shake a stick at. That’s a lot to achieve while racing internationally. And so we’re very lucky to have her. All of which has led us here today to a podcast, and her two recent announcements about launching the Kim Geist Academy and Finesse & Fury by Kim Geist Coaching which we all can’t wait to talk about. So Kim, welcome to the pod.

Kim Geist:

Thanks for having me.

Joan Hanscom:

Let’s get started with the thought that for a lot of athletes, retirement is a scary thing. And a lot of athletes struggle with what comes next. They struggle with leaving the international stage, but you, on the other hand seem to have charged headfirst into something pretty amazing and pretty impressive. So let’s start with the decision to retire when you were really at the top of your game, and about your future plans and goals for the two programs that you just announced,

Kim Geist:

Right. I’ve been retired a little over a year now. The decisions, I don’t think easy to make in the moment. The sport is something that you’re putting really your everything into, to close the door that was for me 23 years at that point, competing in cycling, that was certainly tough. But one thing I always kept in mind while I competing, is that I was never just a cyclist. So I was always, in some other role throughout my entire career. I was a student, I was starting a business, entrepreneur, growing a business, I was always doing something else simultaneously. So when I made the decision to retire, I had a very clear path of something that I could move into. And that was very comforting, that it wasn’t necessarily a huge void that was gonna be left in my life. I was going to be involved in the sport in other ways. And putting that much, I’m in that much energy just in a different aspect of the sport.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. I mean, I think that’s really important for people to understand. I’ve talked to sports psychologist about it, and to have an identity outside of life as a competitor, is really challenging for folks. But I think that goes back to the point we made earlier, that you were getting a master’s degree and all of this training while you were an internationally ranked athlete. Something that I think young athletes should think about, right? That you can’t just be a hundred percent wrapped up into this identity as an athlete, because that day comes and it comes for everybody at some point.

Joan Hanscom:

So it’s important, I think for our listeners to understand it, particularly the juniors that you coach that, “Hey, look you’ve gotta run on parallel tracks and always be thinking about what comes next, perhaps.” So that takes us really to the Kim Geist Academy and the Finesse & Fury programs. Tell us about that. Tell us about, we’ve seen the teasers, we’ve seen the announcements on Instagram and on social channels and it’s on your website, but tell us a little bit more. Tell us about really what you hope to accomplish with the Academy and with Finesse & Fury.

Kim Geist:

Sure. So Finesse & Fury by Kim Geist Coaching, is really something that I was thinking about and it came about from all those years of experience and really seeing it all. All the things, good, bad, great, and ugly. And the Kim Geist Academy, really grew out of recognizing a need for that program. Recognizing that renting a facility and being on other teams schedules and not being able to really be detail oriented with that program, that a facility where I had complete control over schedule over equipment, over access, that was really going to be important.

Kim Geist:

And Finesse & Fury itself, really recognizing the positive aspects of athlete development, especially at the [inaudible 00:06:20] level, being able to recognize that I was a good person to be able to put boats together, and at the same time as I was going through the process, recognizing some of the things that just weren’t working. That weren’t working for me, that weren’t working for my teammates, that left people out, that weren’t supportive of sort of the athlete journey. So being able to recognize those things that I wanted to avoid and sort of this comprehensive coaching program for endurance back cyclists.

Joan Hanscom:

I think that’s a really interesting potentially controversial topic, but I think it’s one that needs to be talked about. What are some of those things? What are some of the things, the pitfalls that you’re hoping to avoid, that’s going to delineate, this program from what you potentially saw, personally firsthand or secondhand with your teammates. Talk a little bit about that, because I think that’s important for people to understand

Kim Geist:

Sure. The negative aspects and the positive as well. Probably going through the main points of the program is easiest way to describe that. So I’ve recognized that coaching based in experience as well as education is the best way to package coaching. So I’ve had experience with coaches who have been in the sport and have gotten to a very high level, but the drawback from my perspective with that, is that they have difficulty in explaining why we’re doing what we’re doing. And I as an athlete, by and all that much more, to something that I know the reasons why it will work. Not because it worked for you or because it worked for another athlete, but because here’s the science, here’s the act, here’s the studies, that describe exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Kim Geist:

And on the flip side, I’ve worked with coaches in the past, who have great education but not all that much experience in the sport. So in that case, we’re looking at oftentimes numbers only, and case in point towards the end of my career, I kept saying, “I’m tired, I’m just tired.” And working with coaches who were only looking at the numbers, the response to that was, “Well, your numbers say, you’re not tired.” Well, I am the athlete. I’m telling you what I feel. You’re unable as a coach to tell me what I feel. That’s great that the numbers say one thing, but it needs to be balanced with actual experience in the sport. There’s reasons that say, the coach with the experience can recognize that I am feeling tired.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. And so much of that’s communication too, right? Like understanding and trust. And if you have the right coaching relationship, that feedback, a good coach in my estimation knows when an athlete says I can do more and also knows when they really can’t. And when the message comes that I need a break. People need to listen to that and I’m sure it’s challenging with elite level athletes who always want to go, who don’t want to admit that they need rest. I think that’s a really important point that you’re raising as well, that when an athlete gives feedback, you at some point have to respect that feedback. And there’s a fine line between trying to get more out of an athlete and understanding where they really are and trusting them to give you truthful feedback.

Kim Geist:

Right? Yeah. I think there’s a difference. If I would have said, “You know what? I’m just so tired.” And that was met with, “Okay We know, but we need you to little bit more right now and here’s why. Instead of simply dismissing the statement. So I think there’s absolutely a balance there as far as coaching goes. And I think that comes from having the experience and being in the athlete shoes, and being able to actually look at the data and then make an informed decision.

Joan Hanscom:

Andy, when you get that kind of feedback from your athletes, what’s your experience been as an athlete, but also with the athletes that you’re coaching. I think it’s an important point that we don’t want to let go.

Andy Lakatosh:

No, it’s definitely comes down to really being in tune with your athletes, willing the biggest things for us in… Well, elite and age group athletes winds up being, are they rolling in all the variables that actually impact it? So as soon as something goes off track, I instantly try, someone gets really tired or they’re blown out or they’re super fatigued, I try to diagnose. Okay, is it just isolated to the training that we’re prescribing? Or is there a sleep deficiency or a nutrition deficiency, and really trying to help athletes hone in and figure that stuff out, because the more we check all those boxes and make sure those things are covered, the more we’re able to really push things to the limit. Right?

Andy Lakatosh:

I don’t think that pushing, going to your limit is not only the physical on the bike was I about to pass out or vomit I mean, that is a part of it too, but the ability to get up and repeat day after day and have the motivation to do it. So it’s definitely a conversation you have to listen to. And then I always try to get the athlete involved in, okay, what are all the variables? Are we accounting for everything? What can we do to solve this besides just, I need some more time off. Or is there emotional fatigue? I mean, that’s another huge part of it, too.

Joan Hanscom:

Life TSS. I like to call it for the master’s ladies in the room. It’s who don’t just train full-time. We have jobs and life stress, So there is life TSS. Andy brings up an interesting thing though, which is sort of this holistic approach, right? It’s not just training, it’s so many other aspects of what it takes to prepare as an athlete. And if I’m not mistaken, you’re taking that very holistic approach with the Kim Geist Academy as well. And offering the athletes that are training there, a lot more than just on the bike workouts. So tell us a little bit more about the Kim Geist Academy and what’s going to happen there and what it’s offering and what it’s really designed to do.

Kim Geist:

Right? So with the finesse and fury program, the use of resource partners is another key aspect. So outside of the Academy itself, one of the things recognized in this 20 plus year journey was that, I as a coach don’t know it all, and I’m not an expert in everything, but along the way have had really good contacts with other professionals in aspects of performance. So aligning with someone who has a greater depth of knowledge in nutrition, for example, who’s registered diet, a sports psychologist and massage therapist. So those things are, things that I can have a direct line of communication with those other professionals. So I can learn from my end and help to implement what they’re doing with athletes, and also have a resource that I can easily pass on to an athlete. So it takes the stress out of doing that research and finding someone on their own to work with, of course not dictating that they need to utilize that resource because we’re all different in all work with people in different ways, the resources at the Academy, strength and conditioning, equipment and training, indoor cycling.

Kim Geist:

And we have the ability to do meetings and presentations. So I can, of course potentially bring resource partners in and present on, and work with athletes on their specialties. But I can also present to this group, the community, athletes within Kim Geist Coaching, on topics that I’m an expert in.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. And that, what you’re describing, and Andy jump in here if I’m wrong, but what you’re really describing is high-performance, right? Which is sort of a commitment to excellence across all aspects of an athlete’s preparation not just writing programs. And that’s what true high-performance programs should be, right? It’s that attention to detail and excellence across all aspects. And if you can’t provide it yourself, you have the confidence to hand it off to other people. And at least that’s how I interpret what high-performance really is, it’s that attention to excellence everywhere. And I think that high-performance lifestyle as people like to call it, is applicable to all athletes, whether it’s juniors, elites, masters. But Andy you’re sort of living a bit of that right now out in LA. What do you think about that?

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. I mean, that’s… It is high performance or higher performance, right? For whoever the athlete is and trying to roll all those things in and going to the experts in the field to get that last 1% out of everything. I mean, I realized after 2012 for myself as an athlete, we were fighting an unfair fight. We didn’t have great USA Cycling engaged with every level of athlete, the way British Cycling did, strength coaches and nutritionists and sports psychologists, which is another huge part of it. And I started to seek those out. Those experts out for myself and much like Kim, whoever you have in your personal racing career just kind of rolls over as partners into your coaching career.

Andy Lakatosh:

And I think that’s really great. But there’s definitely… Kim touched on it a little bit, an ego with coaching because a lot of us used to be athletes but where like you start out and, “I know everything, I know exactly how to do this. I can do it better than everybody else.” And it’s funny because when you go through the USA Cycling Coaching Clinics, the level two clinic was full of egos. I don’t know how we got that many people in one room together. It was impressive, the level two clinic. And then you get to the level one, and the very first opening line of the week was, there is no silver bullet, nobody knows everything. And it was all about collaboration, right? And some of the greatest evolutions that I’ve gotten with athletes, when you just get stuck and you’re like, I’m doing everything I know how to do, but for this athlete, it’s not progressing.

Andy Lakatosh:

Is actually just like peer group discussions, right? I have a handful of coaches, both domestic and international that I bounce ideas off of them. Kim, I’m not sure if this is your process too, but it’s like I try to take ideas or concepts or objectives from what other coaches or other programs are doing, and figure out how to translate that into what I’m doing. Not just the straight, “Oh, they did standing starts in X gear, so now I’m going to do standing starts in X gear, and that’s going to make athletes faster.”

Andy Lakatosh:

There’s definitely more art and science and blending of it and really interpreting why someone’s doing something and how that fits, than just straight blanket jumping into it. And that’s where coming all the way back to it, having experts in the fields that you can communicate with and work with, nothing’s worse than the strength coach with someone and they’re like, “No, I got this, just leave me alone.” It’s like, well, I gather that you got this, but this is a team thing. This is high performance like you said.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. I could listen to you guys talk about this all day, because I think it’s fascinating because I’m not one of you. I just, as a person who isn’t elite, you just find it fascinating to hear all of the things that go into it. And that really drive excellence in our sport. And I think it’s fascinating. I could listen to you guide for a long time, just talk about that. But Kim, you’ve got a lot more going on and stuff that, laughed. So and Andy made this point too, people all have a lot on their plates these days, right? And we’re all juggling a lot of things. And then when I said to you, “You have a lot on your plate.” You’re like, “I have a pressure cooker.” Or was it a Crock-Pot something like that. That was like-

Kim Geist:

It was a stockpot [crosstalk 00:20:02].

Joan Hanscom:

So you’re not just doing the Kim Geist Academy and Kim Geist Finesse & Fury. You are doing a lot of other things. You are coaching our team T- Town kids, our team T-Town program, which I think is thriving under your coaching. You are leading our women’s Wednesdays program, which I have harped on I think in every episode, how pleased I am to see our women’s participation here at T-Town growing. And I’ll say it again for those in the back who might’ve missed it the first 10 times I said it. We’re at 70, 30 participation, here at T-Town, and that’s something that I want to see, continue to grow and you’ve been an incredibly important part of that with women’s Wednesdays. And now we are getting ready to have our first annual women’s weekend coming up in may of this year, assuming COVID allows us to do these things. So how are you doing it? How are you staying sane I guess, but keeping all the balls in the air. And doing it all very well from what I can tell.

Kim Geist:

Sure. Taking on new projects always means there’s a give and take with old. But one thing that keeps me going is that, I’m an athlete at heart and I’m driven by goals. So for me to wake up in the morning and know that I have a whole heck of a lot of things to accomplish, that gets me super excited and excited to do things well. And really I’ve, maybe not a whole lot of people realize this, but I’ve been coaching in my own business now for it’ll be 12 years, early summer. So behind the scenes, I have a good organization, a good infrastructure for myself to be organized and focused and very efficient. So that’s really how I accomplish all those different things, but being involved with things like Women’s Wednesdays and team T-Town, it’s a really nice balance for me.

Kim Geist:

So yes, I’m going in this new direction that’s, as we’ve said, high performance oriented, but that does get stressful. It’s a high pressure situation. People have big goals and they expect that they’re going to meet them. And it’s a nice balance for me to take a step back and work with athletes on the beginner level too. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a woman in Women’s Wednesdays, go from absolute fear of death in her eyes at looking at the track and this bike with no brakes, to 20 minutes later Or coming off the track and being, “Whoa, sign me up for this thing. This is so awesome.” That sort of thing gets me really excited and really motivated to do all that I’m doing.

Joan Hanscom:

Kind of going along that line, we just had a conversation on an earlier pod with Lynn Monroe sort of emphasizing that at her level with Cycling Australia, she’s very sort of unique at that high level of coaching in the sprint world. And I’m not sure that there’s a female equivalent to Lynn right now in the endurance world of that really high level coaching and high performance. And it’s exciting that you’re going there that you’ve been much like Lynn on this trajectory of really being at the highest level of this sport. And has that ever been one of your ambitions? To be like Lynne, a bit of a trailblazer in that space… I just finished up the TrainingPeaks Coaching Academy thing that they do every year as coaching summit. And one of the things that was talked about, is how few women are actually in the sport coaching and you’re obviously moving into that high-performance space. Has that ever crossed your mind, that you’re doing something that is a bit trailblazerly? Or you just doing your thing?

Kim Geist:

It cross my mind yes, but I’d say it’s more just doing my thing.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. Right on.

Kim Geist:

Yeah. Within, sport within life but in my mind, gender boundaries is as optimistic as I’d like to be, or minimal. So I’m just another person who’s the right person to fill the niche. And I’m going to do the best of my ability, whether a female or male.

Joan Hanscom:

So Andy had flagged this up for me in conversation, and Andy, you are the same as Kim in this regard. So I’m going to let you talk about it, but you started here at T-Town. And now you’re here still at T-Town in this complete lifecycle. So why don’t you both talk about what that means to you as having been through this, again this started as a youth, like you’re coaching now at team T-Town and racing here, and then coming back to coaching here. I’d love to hear you both talk about that because I think it’s pretty cool. And it says something very special about the place.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, my first question to Kim is so because we came up just a few years apart from each other, and Kim would have to race my sister every other year. So that was how we knew of the legend of Kim Geist. Like, “Damn we have to race Kim this year. This is going to be a really hard year.” But I started in Pee-wee’s and then went through everything. Did you do Pee-wee’s as well? Or did you pick up Air Products partway through?

Kim Geist:

I started the youngest age at Air Products. Yep. Ran the track like-

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s a funny transition. I remember I think 2004, I would have been 19. I coached my first Air Products class on like, I mean who would have been Pat McDonald’s gave me and Mike Friedman, the worst two o’clock in the afternoon session to coach in July. And I’m like, “I have no idea what to tell these kids to do. I barely know how to ride the track.” And I think that’s one of the things about going through the programs and then coming back to coach the programs, that’s actually a great… If there were only a bigger employment pool with like elite coaches down the road, we could be the university of like how to start from, I’ve never coached anything, to you can be coaching world champions like yourself and other people that pass through.

Andy Lakatosh:

And it’s such a… I remember when I started private coaching too, I was completely fearful of taking money from people. I’m like, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t guarantee you, you’re going to get where you get to.” And now I’m like, “Oh yeah, you want to do something, I know boom exactly what to do.” It’s funny how that evolves. Did you have a similar thing or what was your transition with the community programs and experience and coming back and coaching? How does that make you feel?

Kim Geist:

It has been quite the process for sure. Coaching, that thing is always something that I wanted to do though. So, yes, and starting out, I think my experience was very similar. I remember being an assistant coach in one of the Air Products programs, and just being during the headlights, “You want me to do what? These people are going to listen to me? I know what I’m talking about, but really they’re going to buy it?” So being able to now, Gosh, I probably did my first Air Products assistant coaching like most 15 or so. So all these years later to be able to look back and then see how far I’ve come as a coach, through these programs and through my own programs, it’s a pretty neat experience.

Andy Lakatosh:

What’s your… Have you coached… So you do JPA, actually, you and I started JPA together back in 2012. We did the very first iteration. It was just like a summer nationals prep course. And of course, like both Kim and I attention to detail, we went way over the top. I mean, we did standing start day and we had like two video cameras. We had people split into three groups. We were… And that was very early on in the, Hey let’s play coaching idea. What’s been your favorite, because I love coaching the community programs because I feel like globally, the lifestyle that I get to lead and the career that I have, and I’m very happy with, is all thanks to the track, right? I don’t think of it in terms of like cycling because you can cycle anywhere or in terms of a particular person. To me, I owe it to… I owe my livelihood to the track.

Andy Lakatosh:

So it’s a real sense of pride and enjoyment to me to give back and be a big contributor to the place that it is now and the place that it’ll be in three, five, 10, 20 years from now. But I definitely loved BR the most. BRL was the absolute most fun to coach. And I was wondering if you had a favorite program or anything that stands besides JPA, because I’m sure the kids are gonna listen to this and be like, “Kim you better like us the most.” But what’s been your favorite program?

Kim Geist:

I think I would agree as both, an athlete in the program and as a coach that BRL is most enjoyable. It’s really teaching these kids some really vital lessons on how to race at that point. So you’ve gone from, let’s just learn about track bikes and the velodromes, to actually putting things together and seeing things click and the light bulbs going on. And that’s a really neat process. And really, I can’t say enough positive things about all of the development programs at the velodrome. When I was formulating the new program, Finesse & Fury, I had to really sit down and seriously think about, where do these athletes really come from? Do I have a pool? Will that pool be there in the future? And the answer was yes, that I believe the programs at the Arabella velodrome are that strong, and will continue to be that strong, that if these riders have the same experience that I did and they have somewhere to go and appropriate home to continue their goals and their dreams that will be successful.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s super cool. We’ll keep doing the programs for you Kim. That’s our goal. The goal here is to really keep the focus on growing what we do here and making more Kim’s and Andy’s, if we can, happy Kim’s and Andy’s. We want happy athletes coming out of the track and sending them into programs like the ones you two have that do take them to that next level. I think, one of the really important things to do that life cycle that you’re talking about is that, “Yes, maybe they start in Pee-Wee’s, but you have to populate bike racing outside of your own ecosystem by nature of what bike racing is, right? You have to have other programs thriving and being strong for there to be competition.

Joan Hanscom:

And so to me, it’s really important that there is that next step for folks and that athletes who come through these programs then know where the right home for them to go is in the next step, right? Because if everything is inside, it doesn’t work. You have to have a place for people to go outside of what your own programs are, as that next step of the evolution so that there are people to compete against. Like you have to… Competition only works when there’s more than one place for people to grow as athletes. And I think that’s a point that can’t get made enough times, is that sometimes people want to hold things really close and own everything. And when you want to own everything, you end up stifling everything. And so the goal here is really to almost be finishing school for bike racers, right?

Joan Hanscom:

We’ll move you to a certain point. And then there are all these really great programs around here that we can be a feeder system for. And then hopefully that just grows and grows and multiplies itself and we do see a 2024 version of Kim Andy, and a 2028 version of Kim and Andy. And we see a whole lot of people like me who are just enthusiastic about the sport, who will be thrilled to watch that process unfold in front of us and we can cheer. But it’s all part of creating this really healthy ecosystem that we want to grow here at T-Town. And there are a lot of really qualified and great people around that are doing that hard work. So it’s pretty cool to be part of.

Andy Lakatosh:

Joan I think you touched on a really important part there, right? Because it is an ecosystem, but I think one of the things that makes T-Town most successful, and I’ve definitely said this before, is that the track does own and have the vested interest in so much of that initial grassroots development and growth and feeding into our programs. And I definitely think that’s a shortcoming for a lot of other venues, is that they’re just a venue that things happen inside of, instead of being a living, breathing thing that is invested in getting people on bikes, because someone’s got to do the mass, let’s just get people to ride bikes and ride a velodrome, because it’s going to continue to reduce unless people will graduate to that next level. But when you look at the number of high-level programs that there are in T-Town that are focused on bike racing, it overflows into the entire nation, right?

Andy Lakatosh:

If there were three other T-Towns in the size of our country, we might find a lot more of the Kim’s and the Chloe Dygert’s and the Jen Valente’s in these phenomenal athletes. And I definitely see it, some of the other tracks, I mean, the track here is close, but it’s a building and it’s a track and they organize the usage of it. But without that ownership of, especially the grassroots stuff and the organization of the racing, the long-term vision just doesn’t get executed, everything becomes short-term. And I know you and I don’t have a really strong long-term vision of where we want the programs and the racing to go to. And I think that that’s absolutely crucial. I think that’s what makes T-Town to, me that’s the primary thing that makes T-Town so special. That plus racing outdoors under the lights on a Friday night in the summer, there’s really nothing bad… I mean, why do you think I’m riding? I just want to get one or two more goes at it.

Joan Hanscom:

So that’s funny because Andy is training real hard right now. Yesterday, he was texting me his power numbers which I will not share, because those are his power numbers, but he was texting me updates which I’m always happy to see. But Kim, are we ever going to see you up on the track again, or is that done? I know last year we were talking at the crit across the street. For those of you who don’t know, there’s a Thursday night crit that happens here across the street from the track that’s pretty spicy sometimes. And Kim had just been saying that she was retiring and I was like, “Oh, you’re going to miss it.” And you were like, “No. Not going to miss it. I’ve got to do other things now.” Where’s your head on that now?

Kim Geist:

Yeah. I still feel the same way. When I retired, part of the factor was I really felt very confident that I had exhausted my potential. It was the correct time to stop. I will never again be that fast ever in my life. And trying to get up and compete again, I don’t think I would take enjoyment from it. I experienced nearly every single thing I wanted to do in this sport. There’s just nothing left. I find much more joy and being able to help other people achieve what they’re working on at this moment. Not to say, I’ll never pin the race number on and go out and have fun or ride in a race to help someone else out to coach them along. But as far as big goals and the bike racing, I feel very comfortable that will not happen.

Andy Lakatosh:

But that’s where my question was going to be because you and Bobby Lee are two of the most fit, retired cyclists I’ve ever seen in my entire life. You guys ride so much and you got to have form. So as race director and staff for the racing here, absolutely. I’m going to try and find a way to beat you guys and putting a number on and riding Madison flying lap or Madison cup, or hopping on a… Just having fun because that’s… When I look back at all of the things that I did, I can definitely say rider of the year is right up there at the top. For me, that was a big pride thing. And it wasn’t so much the win, it was more the experience and those memories of those nights. And that’s some of the best memories that I have and I love it. And so I can’t wait to get out there and race again. And I hope to see Kim out there racing with me when I do, for fun of course.

Kim Geist:

For fun, yes.

Joan Hanscom:

Well, Kim you said there were some fun things that you hadn’t gotten to do because you were so focused on racing. Did you do any of those or did COVID screw it all up?

Kim Geist:

Oh, I packed in a ton early on and then COVID happened and that slowed down dramatically. But yes, there’s so many things that I would just say, I don’t feel like a normal person. There’s all these normal people things out there that I’ve never done in my life. Now as the time I need to do these.

Joan Hanscom:

So when COVID is over, what’s the first thing you’re going to do, of that list of normal people things that you’ve never done?

Kim Geist:

Oh, I cheque some money off. A lot are actually outdoor things. So I haven’t been getting those in sort of outdoor country things. A prime example is, I’ve never gone on a hike before.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, wow.

Kim Geist:

Not like all the time. Yeah. Right. Oh, wow.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that one isn’t oh, well for me. That one I’ll give you a formal wow on. Well, right odd, okay. I get it. I did not realize the extent to which you had not done normal people things.

Kim Geist:

Yeah. I tried out some other sports, which would definitely not be my future Olympic sports. I did shooting and kayaking and horseback riding.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, wow.

Andy Lakatosh:

So talk about random sports and cyclists. I have to share this one because I just spoke to him the other week. Kim, do you remember Kit Carson from out here?

Kim Geist:

I do, yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

So I was catching up with him and he was saying how pre COVID out here. He was in a Dodgeball League, a competitive Dodgeball League. And I was like, “You were barely coordinated enough to ride a bike, how did you play Dodgeball?” He’s like, “Oh, I broke fingers, I rolled my ankle, I tripped over myself all the time, first one out.” And I was like, “Okay. You know that sounds like a cyclist trying to do a normal sport. Okay. Go back as you were.” So yeah. hand-eye coordination sports are not high on the list of things I’ll be doing after cycling.

Joan Hanscom:

But if you did, you would be 100% full on.

Andy Lakatosh:

I would wind up with broken hands and twisted ankles and the whole thing.

Joan Hanscom:

Alright. Well, we have persuaded, Maura, who I’ve been dying to get more integrated into the pod than just being our engineer, sound engineer to jump in as part of our production now. And so this is the time which I’m going to toss it to Maura and put you on the spot, Kim, with the traditional asking of the wacky podcast questions to wrap things up. So with no further delay, Maura hit Kim with your wacky questions.

Maura Beuttel:

All right. So I have a list pulled up on my computer and we’ll go with some questions about food because I’m hungry. First up, do you consider cereal to be a soup?

Kim Geist:

No.

Joan Hanscom:

Because it’s in a bowl.

Kim Geist:

Of course.

Maura Beuttel:

Right.

Kim Geist:

I see where you’re going there, but no.

Maura Beuttel:

Alright. Next step, is a hot dog a sandwich?

Kim Geist:

Oh gosh. You have no idea how hot of a topic this was and say the last quad on the national team. Every single dinner, this would come up. No, I did not personally consider it a sandwich.

Maura Beuttel:

Okay. And if you don’t consider it a sandwich, what do you consider it to be then?

Kim Geist:

A hot dog?

Joan Hanscom:

I would say it’s more consistent with a taco than it is with a sandwich.

Kim Geist:

Now we’re splitting hairs.

Maura Beuttel:

All right. Do you think an animal Cracker is more of a Cracker or cookie?

Kim Geist:

Cookie, it’s sweet. I love animal crackers by the way. Good question.

Maura Beuttel:

Solid snack. All right. Last question. How do you feel about cilantro? I know a lot of people think it tastes like soap.

Kim Geist:

Really? I enjoy cilantro. Now I won’t be able to eat it without thinking it tastes like soap. But I do enjoy cilantro.

Joan Hanscom:

I could see Andy shaking his head. And I don’t know if that means he is pro cilantro or are anti cilantro, but-

Andy Lakatosh:

It does not taste like soap. Those are things you can never unhear. I don’t know where that came from.

Maura Beuttel:

I think it tastes like soap. That’s just me.

Joan Hanscom:

I think there is a genetic component to cilantro that you either have the taste buds for it or you don’t genetically. And on that note, we will wrap up the tack of the detail podcast for this week and offer a very sincere thank you for spending time with us today, Kim. We wish you all the best of luck with the Finesse & Fury program and with the Kim Geist Academy and of course, with everything you’re doing with us here at the track and yeah, you start today with teen T-Town back in the gym so get at it.

Kim Geist:

We will do that.

Joan Hanscom:

Thanks everybody. Have a great day.

Kim Geist:

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, the velodrome.com, where you can check out the show notes and subscribe. So you’ll never miss an episode.

Posted on

Matt Rotherham:
For the Love of T-Town and Tandems

mat rotherham

Episode 5

There was something different about it… it was a show! The announcers were energetic and it made it feel like.. NASCAR–just cycling!

– Matt Rotherham
Track Cyclist
6x World Champion Tandem Pilot

This week on Talk of the T-Town, Joan and Andy sit down with Matt Rotherham, former Rider of the Year, and discuss what T-Town means to him, racing tandem bikes, and fond memories with friends.

Find Matt on Instagram @matt_rotherham94

mat rotherham

Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is 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.


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.

Andy Lakatosh:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town podcast. I’m Andy Lakatosh here with Executive Director, Joan Hanscom. Today we have Matt Rotherham, legendary rider of the year, track record holder, Commonwealth Games gold medalist, Paralympic tandem driver world champion. Are you world record holder as well, Matt, for the kilo?

Matt Rotherham:

Yes. Hi, everyone. Yeah. World record, both the 200 and Kilo. Yeah, been going all right.

Andy Lakatosh:

All right. Welcome, thank you for joining us. How are things in the UK?

Joan Hanscom:

Andy, we should add that Matt is on vacation, so he is not in the UK. He’s on holiday. And for our listeners who can’t see Matt, he’s wearing an absolutely delightful Hawaiian shirt and making me exceedingly jealous of his location.

Matt Rotherham:

I’m very sorry. But yeah, we’ve done a lot of hard training recently. Last week was the end of a big training block for us on the tandem. Yeah, it kind of felt like a well deserved break at the end of that. And then I guess, get home Monday, hit the ground running and get back to the grind and hopefully then set up for next year.

Joan Hanscom:

Right on. Right on. Andy, you’re in somewhere sunny as well, yes? Calling in from delightful sunny SoCal?

Andy Lakatosh:

Yep, from San Pedro in the Los Angeles area. The sun just came up not too long ago. So Matt’s sipping his afternoon wine and I’m getting ready for coffee. Anyway, Matt, you’ve been to T-Town a bunch of times. Obviously, you’ve stayed in my house with me, so we’re good friends.

Andy Lakatosh:

I know how much you love it, but for the listeners and our local spectators and stuff that don’t the backstory, you’ve been riding a very long time and have really progressed your way up. You understand the value of watching compelling racing and it motivating someone to go all the way to a Chris Hoy, Jason Kenney level of riding.

Andy Lakatosh:

Can you tell us about your start, how you discovered cycling? I know your brother rides. Was it a family sport for the whole family? Just a little bit about how you got into that and how you fell in love with riding.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah. Well, we’re not actually a traditional cycling family. My dad had seen it… I don’t know, at Commonwealth Games in Manchester or the 2004 Olympics. And he went to get riding on the Velodrome. He essentially took me down to have a watch of some local racing down there and that sparked my ambition to give it a go. So I joined my cycling club. Which I mean, I’m now chairman of the cycling club I first started with. It started at Eastlands Velo 15, 16 years ago now, just as a beginner and really just went from there. Just progressed through the club and I was looking to progress through to the under 16 national team and won medals at national championships and that kind of thing and progressed to junior level and interest was sparked through the local T-Town style racing that we had for a while in Manchester. So those big Friday nights that people are used to in T-Town. We had a similar thing going for a while and Manchester caught the Revolution series. I remember going to those and thinking this is exciting and I wanted to get into that myself. So yeah, I was looking to progress through to junior to under 23 level and yeah, everything went well. I was junior European champion in the kilo which is my kind of main event and yes.

Matt Rotherham:

But then when I got to 20, I hadn’t made much progress for a while, so I was removed from the national program, which ultimately brought me to T-Town and a lot of the ways to keep my cycling career going. And I was lucky that the guys at T-Town looked after me and gave me accommodation to get there and entered me into races. And from then that being out in tea town and getting stuck in and I don’t know, just being part of the atmosphere really sparked my ambition again in cycling and it helped me progress onto where I am now.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s super interesting just to touch on what you said because you were part of the very famous British system, right. Like you came up through a track program that’s pretty world-renowned and does an amazing job of development of athletes. And of course, that’s something that I think traditionally our Federation has struggled with a bit and I would love to get your insights on what the value of that Devo Pathway was. You said you washed out at age 20, but it’s an incredible pathway and it’s one I think our Federation would love to be able to replicate but hasn’t got the resource. Talk about that just a smidge.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah. Well, it starts off at the bottom with a large pool of riders and it’s built on this pyramid style model where every step up the ladder gets more and more removed. And the system in the UK does work and there’s times I guess around my time when I was on the under 23 development team, that things didn’t work at that time and there were riders that did not make it around the same time. But generally it’s a good system that gets everybody involved with at the lower level. They encourage you to do all different disciplines and then as you get a little bit older, you get towards 16, 17, they start to ask you to specialize in chosen discipline and that kind of thing. So it’s not just you go in, sprint straightaway. It was always like build a well-rounded athlete as a young rider.

Matt Rotherham:

Hence, I guess why when it came to T-Town I was quite good at, I’ll do all the races from Sprint to Madison. I’ll do all the length racing. Because that base that you build throughout the formative years as a cyclist. You’re encouraged to do as much variation as possible. I think that’s pretty key is that you do a lot of different things and then as you progress on, you pick which things suit you the best and hone in those skills. But to start off with, you do a little bit of everything and I think that seems to work.

Joan Hanscom:

Right on.

Andy Lakatosh:

So it’s really interesting. We had Kaarle McCulloch on the podcast. We did hers last week. And she was similar to you in the sense of like showed up and like, you got racing, I’m for it, right. Put him in, coach. I’m ready to go. And she said that she really liked it. And that doing the Tuesday night scratch races and points races and stuff for her was really a tipping point because she had only been in the sprint type world for a long time and then she had been very much focused on riding team sprint and in her job in team sprint and riding the 500. And she kind of shied away from some of the sprint and keirin because she felt it was outside her range. And so she started doing the bunch races in T-Town, she said it felt like it was sprint and keirin racing, just slowed down, so she had more time to think about it. And that she really left here, and since then in the individual events has really been trending up because she has started to look at it in a different way and gained a different type of confidence.

Andy Lakatosh:

But I know for you, it’s part that, and it’s also part, you just love racing your bike and you love being under the lights on a Friday night, the energy, working with the crowd, and that’s something that’s unique and I’m sure high on your list of things that you love about T-Town. But one of the questions I had was, Your first visit to T-Town, coming off getting booted from the national team program slash wanting to leave and then getting dropped into a dorm room in a college in the middle of a cornfield, and riding yourself to the track. Anyway T-Town has got a lot of elements that make it special, make it unique, but I was wondering that first visit, what stood out, what things stood out to you the most and really made it the most special? That you were like, “I’m coming back every chance I possibly can.” Besides Tommyboy’s Pizza.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, so there are things like Tommyboy’s Pizza and floating down the river. But no. What really got me, it wasn’t what brought me back, but when you were just talking then it reminded me of what really got me stuck in straight away, when you are coming round turn 3, turn 4 and you hear the bell going mid race, and it’s like, “Attention riders, attention riders, we’ve got a preem, a 50 Dollar preem.” Things like that, that break things up, but that I just loved. There was something different about it, it was a show the announcers were energetic and it made it feel like NASCAR just cycling. And the commentary was different to what we get here, and things like that. The music that was played was just, hooked me in really. Yeah, but in terms of coming back, it’s just probably for one, having good weather out there, racing in extreme heat sometimes is difficult. But generally we are able to train hard, we’ve got the derby ride on a Sunday, that you can get stuck into and different things like that, you can race a crit on the weekend and, there is just so much going on.

Matt Rotherham:

Obviously, you guys have got races Tuesday and Friday, and so you ended up racing as part of… you didn’t do much training, you just race all the time, but that just helps you progress. Yeah I just loved the friends I made out there and the community of T-Town. And then having that weekly, or twice weekly racing to really get yourself stuck into. There’s bits of prize money to win which really just pushes you each week right. Come on let’s get this and the varied race program is amazing as well. I personally over the last few years have as I’ve been doing my tandem riding now I’ve not had the need to score UCI points so I’ve not needed to focus on those races so much. So I prefer to come out when I can come and do things like Madison Cup and Tandemonium obviously. That are the sort of really fun races that I think people still come out to watch. Because everyone likes coming to watch tandems race. Yes, actually that does remind me, and you say, “What did I come back for?” I think Tandemonium and making those memories, that very first year, and I think we might have come close to track record that year, but didn’t break it then. Things like that really just highlighted for me how fun racing was.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think a lot of what you’re describing is two things. One it is a very summer campy type thing. Especially if you’re staying in the dorms and stuff, there is just that routine of Tuesday, Thursday you have your training sessions in the morning. Racing Tuesday, Friday, like you said the derby, the training crit. There are all these… You almost don’t need to have a really structured plan to come and get really great training and racing. And even on the endurance side of things, which is something that makes it unique. But the energy, and we are very lucky in the sense of, we have great ambience that we’re outside on a summer night, and the lights are on and it’s hot and that’s something that you can’t get on an indoor track. I have often said when I come back from LA and being indoors all the time. Man I love to just be riding at sunset on the track in the warmth. It’s great. We also have a legacy of bringing spectators and having great racing. How does that energy compare to the energy that you would experience at the revolutions, which are a very high caliber event? They weren’t run in a weekly series type of format. Similarities and differences between the two, in terms of energy of anything else that stands out to you.

Matt Rotherham:

You look at opening night and step up to the track and fire service have turned up and they put the crane out.

Andy Lakatosh:

The big flag

Matt Rotherham:

And draped this humongous American flag and the sun is just starting to set. You’ve got country music playing in the background and you’re just building the atmosphere and then someone comes up and sings the national anthem. That brings goosebumps, you can just feel the atmosphere at that. Everyone is excited and then it would be like, “Pro men to the ready area.” It was always Kick Start My Heart by Mötley Crüe getting you ready to go. You’d line up on the rail and the boom, off you go racing starts. There is just something straight away that hooks you. I guess racing we have here is a little bit more clinical really. When I used to watch it as a kid, the Revolution series, it wasn’t weekly, but we tend to have maybe one every 2 or 3 weeks over the winter. So it got that short little burst of a little season. And when I first went to watch that it was all about being, not necessarily an exhibition but it was the fastest riders in the world coming to put a show on, there would be Chris Hoys, Arnold Turnan they were both bitter rivals in the kilo. And then Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy would do battle and things like that. They’d turn up in the Sky Plus HD kit that looked incredible and things like that.

Matt Rotherham:

But it was very clinical I guess. As a kid you’d turn up and watch the races and you would see 80 laps for a points race on the scoreboards, you’d be like, “We’re not doing this.” Then you’d go off on a walk go to the track center and at that time you could go in to the center of the track and you could go get autographs from everybody and all the riders. There is something you could get involved there and T-Town does have that same thing of that fan interaction which is good. I do always like when we hang around after racing and just to say, “Hi.” There is something really cool about that. I saw that growing up in cycling. So I guess this is a thing T-Town brought back some of those fond memories I had of growing up, going to watch track cycling. But both equally professional events. And then added to that the weekly format you have in T-Town where it’s always one after the other. Next week, you finish Friday night and then it’s like what is next week. Maybe you change your training a little bit but what is coming up.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that’s awesome.

Matt Rotherham:

There was just always something to keep you excited.

Joan Hanscom:

I think there is something to be said for that consistency of a season. Because it is that, it doesn’t… In a rider of the year competition. It just all ties together in a really beautiful 3 months of summertime thing that people do. 4 weeks if you’re only here for the UCI block, but it is kind of magic when you have that camp T-Town for the summer. It’s the thing for a whole three months of just get away camp for bike racing.

Matt Rotherham:

Exactly and for us riders as well, obviously unfortunately there has only been one year that I’ve made it for the whole season, that was 2016. That brings Rider of the Year into play, we see. You go racing, and there are points every race night to try and win that Rider of the Year. That for me was a big draw as well. There is a sort of extra thing to it. And so for me it takes the focus away a little bit from the big UCI stuff, and you’re there for Rider of the Year races. Which I Think is really cool as well.

Andy Lakatosh:

So popping back to the, we’ll talk about Rider of the Year and some of your T-Town accomplishments in just a second. But popping back to the T-Town versus Revolution series. Because we’ve come a long way, Because I’ve known you for going on five plus years now. I’ve seen you kind of grow up and mature, both as a rider and also in terms of how you view and understand the eco-system, the fragile eco-system that is cycling events. The Revolution was this massive behemoth, amazing thing that drew all these spectators and yet somehow it just disappears. Effectively overnight and pretty much without warning. And if you look historically through a lot of different tracks and a lot of different race series, that happens a lot. And Joan knows this from all the events that she has promoted. To a certain extent I would say a lot of cycling, the majority of cycling events, you basically have a life expectancy on them. Where you’re like, we are going to run this every year for a couple of years, and we’re going to milk it for as long as we can, and eventually it’s going to dissolve, and that is just a natural thing.

Andy Lakatosh:

And then something else takes it’s place, and something else takes it’s place. But we’re going on, this is our 45th year of racing, and we have still got something in COVID, not the normal Friday night, but we’ve still got something. Which is, I would assume a true rarity aside from the classics or something like that, that happens every year. And we’re talking about a season. You’ve grown and you definitely have a different perspective than say, five years ago, in terms of understanding what actually goes into it and what makes it possible. And some of that is from me yelling at you and saying, “Matt, this is why we do these things, this is why you can’t have your cake and eat it too, it’s for the best of everybody.” I was wondering if you could just share some of your insights having been deep in both, in multiple aspects of it. What you see and some of how your perspective has changed over time on that.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, you’re right. I think the benefit that you guys own or run the track and also then promote races. You talk from a financial perspective, I guess you’re in a lucky position to run things without the cost of an indoor velodrome for one. And that is a real killer here. The thing is you can try to put events on. So we’re obviously talking pre-COVID at this point. It is sad and I don’t know at what point cycling crowds will be back, especially indoors. It’s fortunate, and the track, if you want to run a race, the track here costs double, than in Manchester for example I think. Which is really counter productive when you’re trying to run an event to inspire kids. Because I’m riding now because of the events I went to as a kid, because that’s what inspired me, and kids don’t get that now. Yes, you’ve got maybe Six-day have started up in the UK a little bit more and so you have got that aspect but that is a very different style to T-Town or Revolution and that kind of thing. And so we are losing that draw for young riders to aspire to.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, I don’t know who the onus is on now. I would like to start getting involved with the… Not with the running, but with the encouragement of organizations who run things because I can really see it with my club. I don’t know, I look at the kids and I’m like, “What are they actually going to watch?” That we had the beauty of being able to go to when I was young. T-Town, you guys have that, the kids that get involved with the Air products classes, will also then turn up on a Friday to watch. So you get that, both that introduction to beginner classes to be able to get into riding, and then you can also go and watch the pros on a Friday night. And you can really see clearly how you can go in T-Town from Air products through to BRL and then you might do the Saturday racing and then you get into Tuesdays, and then you get into Fridays, and there is a clear progression through the T-Town system really.

Andy Lakatosh:

We should just be the national team right?

Joan Hanscom:

Now you’re talking Andy, now you’re talking.

Matt Rotherham:

But it’s not surprising that you guys have made great riders throughout history. Because there is that clear progression, Air products have been involved for a number of years, haven’t they?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, their support has been tremendous, and this year for example, we have Kim Giest coaching the team T-Town kids. She was a product of Air products. Kim Giest got her start riding in Air Products. she is a multiple time world champion and now she is retired and working with our kids. And what a life cycle. That’s such and incredible eco-system to have cultivated. She understands the program because she did the program and now she is giving back to it, which is really amazing. But it’s that lifecycle. You can say, “Ow my gosh she did this and became world champion, I want to do this.”

Matt Rotherham:

Absolutely, and you can see how it’s possible in T-Town. Because you can genuinely start as a… Well you’ve got PeeWee Peddlers before Air products. You can start at that young age and just move on through the programs, and it’s relaxed and fun, unless it’s like over, Ow I’m going to struggle with Fahrenheit, over a 100 degrees is really hot, isn’t it?

Joan Hanscom:

Yes.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s a little toasty.

Matt Rotherham:

So I know we coached in over 100, and so that, okay maybe that’s not enjoyable for kids. But the rest of the time it’s great. They can get in and they can go watch Friday nights, and then eventually they can race it. I’ve got friends out in T-Town who talk about that, as young kids All they wanted to do was race Friday night. And then when they did, I was there with one of my friends, eventually wins a race on a Friday night. And you can see how he has started as a kid and gone through and then to win it on Friday night, which is what he has always aspired to. So I think that progression through T-Town is mint.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, totally.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think you hit on a… To me I’ve always thought this, I think you touched on a key thing there Matt. The track, we own every aspect of that. We own everything from PeeWees, which is where I actually got my start, to Air Products, to BRL, to Saturdays, Tuesdays, Fridays. We own that whole progression so it’s our own vested interest that it succeeds and that it happens. And that definitely makes it a lot better than, like you said, especially in a… Now granted Manchester is an overwhelmingly busy venue because the national team books out 20 of the 24 hours of the day for training there. So there is not a whole lot of time to put on racing, and it’s obviously at a premium. But that makes it hard if the track is not the one putting on the racing or British cycling isn’t putting on the racing. Like you said, they want to charge and make money off that track time, regardless of whether, they don’t have… There is that x-factor, like you said that is tough to quantify.

Andy Lakatosh:

We talk about development pathways and having this opportunity and that opportunity, but it’s like, how about just the motivation to get up and actually come out to the track in 100 degree heat, and ride. You said it might not have been fun, but guess what, the kids all still came. They didn’t stay home, so that is a testament to how fun it can be, and also another thing that we glossed over, didn’t really point out is that not only can the spectators come and meet the riders, but the riders are doing the coaching. I’ve coached Air products, Missy has coached Air products, you’ve coached Air products. Kim, Bobby-lee, all of these great athletes that have come through T-Town coached these programs. For us as athletes at the time, we’re like, “I can’t believe these kids are listening to us.” But they go on to really value and remember that. And I Think that plays a huge part in really having a love for the sport and not just… It might generate better high level success, an identification program that says, “You have talent. We’re going to take you and fast track you to being junior world champion or being team sprint starter.” And that’s great in that respect, but do a lot of people come out of that pathway loving the sport like you do and wanting to give back to it.

Andy Lakatosh:

You say you want to get involved in helping to get racing going in Manchester. Hey come over and you can sit in the office with me and do Joan and I’s job. Any day of the week in the summer and we’ll show you, I used to think a lot too, Man there should be more prize money, or there should or this racing, more of that racing. Then you actually get on the other side of the counter and you go. “Ow there is no money to be made in this.” And, “Wow, the UCI schedule really fills up quick when you are trying to do every event, in every discipline, in every gender, equally.” It definitely gets tricky. But I definitely think you hit on the head with the fact that we own that. You’ve obviously gone on to win some really big stuff. Multiple tandem world records. Commonwealth games medals, world championships and medals, and then you have T-Town Rider of the Year. Tandem record holder. Which I will take back at… I think it should only count if you go ride at 104 like we did, because I know junior girls that don’t sprint on 104s. 60 12 was a little bit of cheating, but I’m going to let it slide as long as you get on the tandem with me, 2021 or 2022. And we have a fair crack at it together.

Andy Lakatosh:

In your personal ranking of victories and results and stuff, and things that are memorable. Where does some of that T-Town stuff fall amongst some of the other great things that you’ve accomplished.

Matt Rotherham:

The thing is for me, I want to have a good career in cycling and achieve as much as I can I guess. The thing that I want to take away at the end of my career is as many memories as I can. And so it’s not for me in terms of ranking, which was more important, obviously the world records are massive and looking forward to Tokyo next year, that is the number one target. Ask us in a years time, hopefully we go there and take gold, I expect that would be the career highlight. But then that doesn’t make it any less important to me that winning Rider of the Year, or taking the track record on the tandem, or I don’t know there have been some good Madison’s that are up there. It ranks high as far as I’m aware. Because it’s not about what is most important, it’s what I look back on the most, as being the fondest memories ultimately. So winning Rider of the Year was pretty massive and it was nice to win it alongside Missy that same day, and that for me was pretty cool. Yeah, I’ll never forget that.

Matt Rotherham:

But at the same time, we look at the Gold coast commonwealth games, and we went the fastest we’ve ever gone on the tandem there, when we went like nine five for the 200 meters. And the thing is, I can remember that where we are coming down the home straight, about to come into the final lap and the corner just approached ridiculously fast.

Andy Lakatosh:

Really quickly

Matt Rotherham:

You’re coming down the home straight and then you’re like, “Ow no turn one.” And that was throwing the bike down and we did this in training last week, one of the coaches pushed us in using the motorbike, and pushed us up to speed, and it turns we were going nine five, nine six pace then. And you realize how scary fast that is. And that’s becoming like white knuckle ride at that point. When its like, hit turn one and you’re like. “Hoa, turn it in.” And that for me is really thrilling, so whilst we won gold that day and took home a record, that’s not necessarily what I took away from that. What I took away from that was the feeling flying into turn one, at 76, 77 kilometers an hour, and the thrill of that.

Andy Lakatosh:

Am I going to make it out the other side still below the blue line, let alone the red line.

Matt Rotherham:

And then the standing ovation that came from the…

Andy Lakatosh:

Well that never hurts either.

Matt Rotherham:

6000 people there as well. It was incredible. We won gold and I’ve got the medals hung up at home, but it was that, that I take away as the fondest memory. So while you don’t put that on a [inaudible 00:33:17] particularly, to me that is one of the biggest things.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’ve seen smaller things on peoples resumes recently. Like I won this on a Tuesday night, and you just look and you’re just like, “Are you kidding?” Come on you won an event on a Friday night, that is great, but let’s talk about world cups and stuff. Anyway what I wanted to say generally about that is that I’ve often discussed this with friends, where it’s… We say all the time, “Like focus on the process. And its about the journey not the destination.” 100 percent, my biggest wins, my Pan Am games medal or when I set the track record on the tandem, I remember little aspects about the ride. And just to put this all into perspective for the people that are listening.

Andy Lakatosh:

My record on the tandem for the flying lap was 17.3 which at that time was basically and average speed of about ten four and now T-Town is obviously shallower, but it’s also a bigger longer track. And notoriously tandems are very difficult to hold below say the red line. And we’re also taking about tandems that were manufactured between 1944 and like 1995. So we’re not talking about the same tandem that Matt goes nine, five on, that is a whole different animal. But as a driver what I could feel on the bikes is you would steer down, and then you could feel when the back rider would catch up, like the back end of a tractor trailer, getting into the lane with you. And then it starts to pull you down track so you counter balance up track. You just start this weird oscillation. And so my trick was always get down there, pin it, quickly balance out the oscillation, then hold on for dear life.

Andy Lakatosh:

And you know, ten, four speed on T-Town on the tandem, and of course we are not doing it every single week. So this is not a normal thing for us, was absolutely pure shit terrifying. So the concept of going nine, five, whether it’s on a better bike or a steeper track to me is absolutely mind blowing. So kudos to you for doing that, but then again you know, the dutch guys going nine, two at sea level. Ow, there is an interesting question, if you can divulge. Gearing to go nine, five on a tandem?

Matt Rotherham:

Well that was essentially the biggest gear we could find to be honest. We can only, because of the way the tandem is spaced out at the back, for our training wheels it is spaced wider than a normal bike wheel.

Andy Lakatosh:

It makes it hard to get a big ring on.

Matt Rotherham:

No, it’s to do with the sprockets on our training wheels. We use normal sprockets, but then the disk wheels have not got that wide axle. So we have got our own manufactured tandem sprockets, which are spaced out. They only go down to 13. So unfortunately we can’t go… Our normal range is up to 64. So we would normally go 64, 13 which is 133 I think. Now Commonwealth games when we had done well that season. We were like, “This track is super fast.” The conditions were amazing, the air was thin it was hot, the track is literally the nicest surface I’ve ever ridden on. So we were like, “We’re breaking that world record.” And also the sponsors of Commonwealth games that year were Longines, the watch company and they said, “If you break a world record you win a watch.”

Andy Lakatosh:

Game on then.

Matt Rotherham:

We’re breaking a world record. Shout out to the Trinidad team because they sort of ran around track center trying to find a chain ring. So we managed to get a 65 from those guys. So we got the biggest gear we could and, I don’t know if we could go a 12 sprocket we probably would I guess. But that was big enough.

Andy Lakatosh:

Here is what is mind blowing, obviously national teams are not calculating gears of other riders just off of video. There are no secrets, it’s funny when you ask someone a gear and they go, “Ow I can’t tell you.” It’s like really, I can probably call six different people that would tell me every different gear you have rode in every race last year. But we know that the Dutch guys on their individual bikes are going 140 to 150 inch gears, for their 200s. Which is, tandem used to always be like, “Okay this is where we go one cog smaller than we go on our individual bikes.” Which is why we were on 104 when we did our track record, versus say 96 back in 2007. Now we are talking 115 inch gear on an individual bike. So if you applied that same thing, you’d be on a 165. If we were still using that same mentality, which I am sure you would love right.

Andy Lakatosh:

Then we are talking about eight, nine. Which is for driving the motor on the track, I can say nine, five is pushing it. That’s quick. But the fastest I ever went was eight, six on my own, which I got off and I was shaking afterwards. And I got I think it was Hugo from Canada timed at eight, nine one time. And it’s absolutely terrifying. And now we’re approaching those speeds on individual bikes which is mind blowing to say the least. But thanks for sharing. That insight is really funny. You were the stoker for the tandem record here and now you’re a driver. Which one do you prefer?

Matt Rotherham:

The thing is, in Great Britain, there is a big history of tandem racing. So 30, 40 years ago the tandem national championships were massive, and it used to be a Commonwealth games discipline, able bodied. And the thing is then they always said, “You put your engine in the back and essentially your brains at the front.” Now I’m not saying I can’t ride a bike.

Andy Lakatosh:

So you’re saying Tom is the brains? And just so everybody knows, Matt set the track record with his brother Tom, who also came to T-Town and raced every year, and is our defending Rider of the Year. He gets two years to now claim he was Rider of the Year. But Tom is quite a character, and we’ll have him on here at some point. If you really know Tom, that is a very troubling statement. That Tom is the brains and Matt is the engine. Anyway, continue.

Matt Rotherham:

Well no, you’re right, but the thing is I’m built more like a stoker sort of potential. Just the… I’ve got a bit more strength than Tom for example. So the natural choice, If we were racing tandem 30 years ago, I would be the stoker. So that has always been my natural position. I’m reigning able bodied sprint tandem champion. I race that with one of my teammates Helen. But even then I was stoker. So she drove and I was at the back. And the thing is she got both world records in the para cycling herself, so I know she can ride the bike doing ten, four. So the day we went nine five or they might have gone ten , five, ten, six but I know that she can handle the bike so I was… It’s nice being with a rider that you’re confident to go full gas. So I don’t know if we rode together whether I’d be able to go full gas or not. I’d be like, “Whoa I’m not so sure.”

Andy Lakatosh:

Ow come on. I’ll tell you, we tried, the guy I rode with Bembar Chesky one of my absolute best friends, the very first time, because he had driven tandem the year before. We tried where I rode in the back, we did about four laps, got off the track, he was like, “All right, I want you to try.” He was instantly like, “All right, I trust you.” And really that is the crux of the issue right there. Because I rode with another great friend of mine, teammate Gideon Massey a couple of years later. And he is considerably taller than me, we were on a bike where he could see over me into the corner, and he trusted, but it was one of those, I trust you to a point type thing.

Andy Lakatosh:

When you’re really dialed in as a driver you know, we did a really hard effort we came in and I’m sitting there and I turn to him like, “Hey were you looking in the corner?” And he’s like, “Yeah, why?” And I’m like, “Because I could feel you subconsciously as I’m trying to get to the black line.” I can feel you being like, “Laky, a little bit higher, too low, too low.” And he’s like, “You could really feel that?” I said, “Yeah no I could feel that.” And you really can, when you’re dialed with your stoker or not dialed. It’s definitely a make or break thing, it takes a lot of trust there.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, you’re right, and this is the thing that I’m now, have raced a number of years with Neil Fachie who has got so much experience. And the thing is he having done it for so long has got that intuition. Really so, he is only 60 odd kilograms. So we is considerably lighter than me as well. If I say you don’t notice him on the bike, that is no disrespect. You feel the power that he produces but in terms of when you go into the corners, it’s like riding an individual bike, you point the bike and we are sort of playing at the moment with head position, so we are both tipping our head in a little bit or tipping it out. We are sort of experimenting with the way to go with that. But I think a good stoker is that one that knows to relax, knows to tilt the head in slightly and essentially just don’t look. Essentially if you close your eyes and pedal it’s probably easier and [inaudible 00:43:52] T-Town I’ll have two different gears in my legs when I’m stoking there. Because I’ll go into the corner and it will be like pedal smooth and just keep the bike nice and low and then you get to the straight.

Andy Lakatosh:

Here comes the turbo.

Matt Rotherham:

And then you get to the corner again and it’s like, “Okay, smooth, smooth, smooth.” And then you come out into the home straight, boom, boom, boom. Yeah you have to balance the effort a little bit more.

Andy Lakatosh:

That is definitely… as a driver you appreciate the smoothness. We are going to take a quick break here to hear from our sponsors and we’ll be right back with more from Matt Rotherham.

Speaker 4:

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Andy Lakatosh:

All righty, welcome back to talk of the T-Town podcast. I’m Andy Lakatosh, with Joan Hanscom, here with Matt Rotherham. Matt so we just talked about tandem, having a stoker. Smaller stoker versus a bigger stoker on the back, and where you put your power and all that kind of stuff. I’m going to get a little personal here, because you and I are in the same club, and we’re in the bigger side of sprinters, guys right? And sometimes that’s just, we’re very endowed to put on muscle. I eat chicken and go into the gym and it’s like, “Ow look there is four more pounds of muscle.” We also very much like wing night and Tommyboy’s that is absolutely delicious, I know it is a… you share the… It’s a struggle for us at times. Some people can just eat whatever they want and stay super lean. I know you’ve experienced in your national team some of what… because you guys hold a very high standard for how lean you should be 24/7, and if you’re not then obviously you’re just not serious enough, and there is definitely a healthy balance with that. Because I was always, even amongst well… Usually your friends are the worst.

Andy Lakatosh:

But amongst friends it was like Laky is the fat one on the team. It’s difficult right? That can really mess with your motivation and then I always wound up turning to food which didn’t help the situation at all. But if you’re comfortable with it, because you seem to be like me, to be in a much better and happier place in terms of accepting that, and also being like, “This is where I’m at, and this is how I work, and this is what is healthy and good for me.” If you could share some of your experiences with that.

Matt Rotherham:

I mean if we talk about the sort of, the progression with the academy at British cycling, when I was on the program, there was not much focus on the training, every meeting I had was, “Ow you need to lose weight, ow you need to lose weight.”

Andy Lakatosh:

Just Exhausting.

Matt Rotherham:

We’ll do a… and it just wore me down. It wasn’t motivating, it wasn’t… and at that time I didn’t see that, that was the key to my potential. We didn’t really look at anything else. Any other bit of training. It was just, “You need to lose weight, you need to lose weight.” And that didn’t work for me. I’ve realized that, yes it is simple physics. If you have a higher power to weight ratio you are more likely to go faster, so I use that now as motivation to be the right weight for race day, because I know it can positively affect the performance. And it takes time to learn that I guess. And that is kind of the way that it is setup now. The riders do seem to learn a lot more about themselves, it’s your choice if you want to lose weight or lift more in the gym. You can take ownership a little bit more. And yes, I needed to take ownership at times, but the mechanisms weren’t there to do that. And recently, I’ve realized the way to do that. You find an event that you’re focusing on and look at the weight that you are, look at the target weight you want to be. And now I plan week on week what the progression needs to be to… essentially I’m looking towards Tokyo next year and trying to be in the shape of my life.

Matt Rotherham:

And so I have a better healthy relationship with food and drink, that means when I go on holiday now, that is time to relax a little bit more. And when it’s time to train and you’re two, three months away from an epic goal, I’m more motivated to knuckle down and lose a little bit of weight and… Which is why it’s lucky that T-Town falls in the summer, when we’re away from racing. When it gets to half price appetizers at Applebee’s on a Friday night after racing, or Taco Tuesday at 1760 or whatever. You can let your hair down a little bit. We’re also riding a lot more when we’re there. I guess it falls in the right time, but as long as you then come back and it’s like, that was the relaxation time, and then now it’s serious training and knuckle down. If you come at it from a healthier way, I think it works better.

Matt Rotherham:

So yeah, we are lucky, and I don’t know which way I would have it, would I rather be that type of rider that can’t put muscle on, but at the same time, doesn’t also put much fat on. Or be in the position that I am, where we can go in the gym, we can eat well and put muscle on, but with that comes the potential fat gain. I think I’ll take it as I am now. I’ve come to, not come to terms, but I’ve recognized how I best work within that routine. To fluctuate throughout the year, that maybe you put a couple of kilos here, and the lockdown over this summer wasn’t helpful in that perspective. But since then, like I say. We set little goals weekly, hit majority of them and got to this… we had a little in house race last week, and I was my target weight. And so I know I can trust myself when the time comes to get in shape. And ultimately the main goal is Tokyo next year, and we want to go there and win gold, and especially we want to accelerate that bike as fast as we can. So I know that If I can lose five kilos say, that it has a potential increase in time.

Matt Rotherham:

I’m kind of excited really, because I want to get to that ideal race weight. And make me super fast. And hopefully we get the best performances out when I’m in that shape. So yeah, we’ll see, and hopefully the year plans out in the right way to hit all those targets.

Joan Hanscom:

I mean I think this is a super important conversation to have in our sport broadly speaking. I grew up in [inaudible 00:52:22] where I had a director of the company I danced for who would put teacups in our clavicles to make sure we were thin enough. If you could hold a teacup in your clavicle you were doing okay. Or if who could count, who could count the most bones in their sternum. If you can count the bones in your sternum, you’re doing all right. And then you translate into road cycling, in my case. Where it is the same thing, power to weight ratios, and eating disorders, and for both men and women. We recorded yesterday with a sports psychologist talking about the same thing. I think this notion of having a healthy approach to your body weight, having a healthy approach to how you’re going to get there, instead of really a disordered approach. It’s rampant in our sport and it’s really great to hear you say, both of you actually. Because I know Andy, how hard you have worked over the summer as well to pivot on that sort of approach mentally. That we’re taking a healthier look at how to get there.

Joan Hanscom:

Instead of just a pinch test and lose weight, it’s important that we have that, “Ow, you know what this is an approach, for a goal like Tokyo.” And we’re going to get there, we’re going to get there in a healthy way, we’re not going to become obsessive about it.

Matt Rotherham:

And with… The thing is I now want to go on that journey, and it’s not like right, you have a skin pinch test next week, you better be in shape. It’s now, I ask for those tests, I go, “Right, I would like this test here.” I want you to challenge me on my weight at this time. And I’ve worked out that’s the best for me. If I’m the one that goes to them, to my nutritionist and say, “I want help with this.” Then I guess it’s that ownership that I mentioned before that works better. Where I’m going to them and saying, “I would like to do this, please help me.” Not, “Ow yeah you’ve got to do this.”

Joan Hanscom:

Much healthier

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, it just doesn’t work. And I guess had I got challenged at that time, that I didn’t want it enough, because I never wanted to lose the weight. And I’m not sure that that is the case. I think where once I got to the academy I’d lost that drive potentially and there are certain reasons for that. I didn’t want to lose weight because I didn’t, yeah… But now I know the benefits of it, I have a healthier perspective on it, I ask for help when I need it. I recognize when I’m struggling and I recognize when things are going well, and I am just more self aware of what is going on.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, so much healthier.

Andy Lakatosh:

For me personally it comes down to balance and just accepting accountability for my own actions. Sometimes you do just let yourself have the pizza and you need to just be okay with it. But you also need to hold yourself accountable when it’s like, “Ow that’s the third pizza this week.” And I don’t mean slice, I mean entire pizza. So there is some balance there. It would be a whole separate discussion, but that drilling it into you every single session about, this is what you need to do, and this is what you need to focus on as a coach, and as an athlete. I see both sides of it. In terms of as a coach when someone is in a program targeting X objective and someone is missing a very key, core concept. Whether he is doing all the training, getting to bed on time, not partying, or selective partying I’ll say. Selective river floating. Whether it is food, it’s really like, as a coach you sit there and go, “You said you want this. Why are you not doing it?” It’s a very simple, just make the choice and do it. And really eating, and we’ll have a nutritionist on here eventually that will talk about a lot of that and what goes into that, but the eating part is just as important as the training.

Andy Lakatosh:

And the analogy that my nutritionist uses is. Does training make you weaker or stronger? And you always default to is, “Ow it makes me stronger.” It’s training. No, how do you feel at the end of a session of 500s, over-unders, threshold work? Well I feel weak. Okay so what makes you stronger is what you do in the kitchen and what you do in the bedroom. In terms of eating and sleeping. And so your training is so detailed and so specific. If you really want to operate at that level it takes the ability to focus like that. And just like you need off days in training, you also need off days nutritionally right. It’s just a matter of how far off center you wind up going with that. Like I said we could do a whole another call and get way into the weeds on that. We’re approaching a good amount of time here. So a few more questions that I have, just real quick.

Andy Lakatosh:

So 2020 obviously not 2021 was supposed to be your year to come and challenge me for rider of the year. Keirin Cup and all that other stuff, that’s going to now have to be still on tandem. Beyond 2021 and the Paralympics, what is the main objective for Matt Rotherham, or will you just see when you get there?

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, I don’t know and the thing is, I’m interested ultimately just out of pure intrigue more than anything else in. I get to Tokyo hopefully the best form of my whole life, so then I would also like to get on the solo and just see what I can do there. But I have no plans on that ultimately. We have the Commonwealth games which are kind of a major event for us. And they’re in, well it’s the Birmingham Commonwealth games but the Cycling is going to be in London. But that will be a pretty major event. And so we come off Tokyo next year and we are sort of into Commonwealth games and Paris prep. So ultimately I would love to build a legacy doing what I’m doing. And we are starting to push the boundaries with the tandem riding. And the thing is, when you look back at the old tandem racing at world championships, the tandems were always faster than the able bodied riders, sorry the solo riders. If the solo riders were doing ten, six the tandems would go ten, four or something. I think that is roughly what would happen at our nationals for example.

Matt Rotherham:

So tandems are always faster, but over the last 10, 15 years, when we have had the tandem racing in the Paralympics, there has been this slight disparity where the solo riders were significantly faster. Whilst the tandems were going 1:02 for the kilo, [inaudible 00:59:14] is doing a minute flat. So it’s like, “Wow what is going on there?” But over the last three or four years, we have got to the point where Commonwealth games for example we actually on the tandem qualified faster than what Matthew Glaetzer did, who qualified fastest there. So that was pretty cool. Our world record on the tandem is faster than… It is the fastest sea level kilo out there, which is a good place to be. I want to keep pushing that boundary ultimately. We are figuring out the best ways to go about that, and I am genuinely excited for the next few months of seeing where we go. We are now on a position to really push the boundaries and I’m really excited for that.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think what you have got to do, is you have go to take the tandem and go to Moscow, I mean honestly you’ll just run out of gear, right, but three 33 banked at 45 degrees, I mean I would guess you could drive a car on that at about 100 miles an hour without issue. I would like the test that out personally. So all right, in the appropriate for general consumption on a podcast. Craziest T-Town story, funniest, most unbelievable scenario. It doesn’t have to be in the track, just from your experiences being in Pennsyl-Tucky to race, what is the craziest memory you have? Or funniest?

Matt Rotherham:

You get pop bottle rockets in America, they are banned in the UK. But me and friends, we would be lighting them out of our hands and do silly things like that. I don’t know how crazy the float is, the podcast version. We blow up airbeds and just sleep, we would park down the river. So we would park the cars down the river and then ride back, and then we would pump some airbeds up, jump on the river and float the day down. And things like that, it’s not particularly crazy but they are the good little extras that we don’t do at the track. Yeah just really good fun I guess.

Andy Lakatosh:

Good stuff, yeah definitely, it’s one of those whole experience things, you have just got to come and just soak it all in and enjoy the whole thing. So before we wrap up, couple of rapid fire questions, and Joan, Omar feel free to jump in here, I just have a few jotted down here so. All time favorite race in T-Town?

Matt Rotherham:

Do you know what, one of my earliest best results, one of UCI keirins, I managed both semi-finals, finals to get Ellie [inaudible 01:02:27] wheel and I got second. I only got second, but that for me was like a thing. I could do this.

Andy Lakatosh:

London Six-day, a win at the London Six-day, a win at T-Town, like a big one like keirin cup or whatever is the most memorable for you. Or a win at the revolution, which one would you take if you could do any one today?

Matt Rotherham:

You are asking me to choose between home…

Andy Lakatosh:

Ow yeah, ow yeah.

Matt Rotherham:

And my second home. Give me a Madison cup win or something.

Andy Lakatosh:

All right there we go. Uptown espresso bar or bagel bar?

Matt Rotherham:

Bagel Bar.

Andy Lakatosh:

Okay, wing night or taco night?

Matt Rotherham:

Do you even need me to…

Andy Lakatosh:

I do, I do, for the general public, not for me.

Matt Rotherham:

The Tavern Monday night wing night. In Kutztown there is two bars that do wing night, and there are two separate… half the riders go to Bason street is it down at the bottom? Half go there for wing night, and I don’t think I’ve ever been. The Tavern, Kutztown Tavern wing night.

Andy Lakatosh:

All right, last one from me. Favorite T-Town song that you hear and you’re like, “That is T-Town.”

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah Kickstart my Heart, I already mentioned it, and there was recently… and recently we haven’t don’t it but the first two or three years when I was going you’d do the national anthem and then attention pro men, to the ready area, and then Kickstart my Heart gets going and get ready for a 10 lap scrap to something really short and sweet. That got the goosebumps going absolutely.

Andy Lakatosh:

Joan any quickfire questions?

Joan Hanscom:

No I Think those are all good ones. We don’t need to go into the Crocs or Birkenstocks questions today. Crocs or stocks? No, we are not going to do that this week. But yeah those are awesome answers, we’ll have to queue up the right playlist for you when you’re here next Matt. So you can fire yourself up accordingly.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s all I hear from these guys. Is playlists, playlists playlists, every single year.

Matt Rotherham:

But it’s atmosphere, and the thing is, you ask us what brought us back, it was little things like that, you know there are loads of songs that I listen to, half of Florida Georgia Line would get played before racing. Or Country Girl I think is it Luke Bryan. That just remind us of T-Town. The music is half of it if I’m honest.

Joan Hanscom:

We’ll take requests, we’ll have the DJ take requests.

Andy Lakatosh:

We’ll have a DJ which will make it considerably easier. So all right. I think that wraps it up here for us. Thank you very much Matt for getting on and doing the podcast with us, especially on your holiday. Although I know talking about T-Town is always a fun experience for you. That wraps it up for us. Thanks for listening to Talk of the T-Town podcast, thank you to our sponsors and we’ll talk to you all next week.

Joan Hanscom:

Good luck in Tokyo Matt.

Matt Rotherham:

Thank you very much, Cool hopefully see you guys soon.

Joan Hanscom:

Bye bye.

Joan Hanscom:

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, bought 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.

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Kelsey Mitchell: Getting on Track

kelsey mitchell

Episode 4

There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing, and so I just constantly remind myself of that if I’m ever feeling a little less motivated one day.

– Kelsey Mitchell

This week on Talk of the T-Town, we sit down with Kelsey Mitchell and discuss transitioning from soccer to cycling, making the Canadian National Team as well as the Canadian Olympic Team, setting the flying 200m TT world record, and training through COVID.

Find Kelsey on Instagram @kelsey.mitchell9

kelsey mitchell

Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is 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.


Transcript

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to 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.

Andy Lakatosh:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town podcast. Today’s guest is world record holder Kelsey Mitchell of the Canadian National Team. Joining us by phone from Milton Ontario. Joan and I are here in the podcast headquarters in T-town. Kelsey, thank you so much for joining us today. I noticed last week on your Instagram that it was your two-year anniversary of being on the national team. First off, a big congratulations on that. Second, your background was not in track cycling or cycling at all. Can you give us a quick rundown of how you found cycling or really how cycling found you?

Kelsey Mitchell:

Yes, for sure. My two years was last week, time flies that’s for sure. I started track cycling late 2017. Never been to a velodrome, never ridden the track. I had really no knowledge of what track cycling was. I attended a kind of an Olympic combine here in Canada where they test an athlete’s strength, speed and power. And I had a good vertical jump. And so they tested me on a Wattbike and my power numbers were good. And so they got me on the track to see if I could ride a bike and they were happy with that and signed me as a Fast-Tracked Athlete. And I’ve been on the team two years now and attended… T-Town was I guess my first ever racing experience, first ever track cycling environment experience. I guess that was in June, 2018.

Andy Lakatosh:

And at that point were you officially on the national team that first trip or were you on like a Divo type squad or did you just wind up coming on your own?

Kelsey Mitchell:

Oh, I wasn’t on the team at that point. I was invited to come along just to I guess try racing and seeing how I handled it. And so after that, fast forward two months was nationals and then I did the standard that was necessary to get onto the team and then I officially signed the next month.

Andy Lakatosh:

Oh, that’s awesome. So because the biggest gap for everyone is kind of from that ID process to the national team. What kind of things were you provided or instructions were you given to help get you from, “Hey, you might have some potential here,” to how much guidance did Cycling Canada give you in that process?

Kelsey Mitchell:

So I didn’t own a bike, not even a road bike. So it was my club back in Edmonton, Alberta, they got me a track bike. So I was riding the track there which is a concrete track similar shape to T-Town 333 meters a little more bumpy but it was good to train on there. So they got me the track bike. And then secondly, Canada invited me to do a three-week camp in May 2018. So I was training with the national team definitely in over my head. I could barely do the warm up even it was a huge learning curve. Then after that, the following month we came to T-Town and within the concrete truck there and the second in Canada had their mechanics, their whole team, their coaches and everything out there. And so I got the support from them. Then I went home for a month, trained through the summer and then was preparing for nationals. And so once nationals happened and I did do the standard, they brought me onto the team and then they’ve been supporting me ever since.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s awesome. It’s great to have such a black and white target of make this time and you’re in. So it’s cool to hear the differences between different programs and how you get to that next level.

Joan Hanscom:

I mean its super cool that there’s vastly different disciplines too, right? I mean, soccer and track sprinting are not remotely the same skill set. So how did you have to change your mentality to approaching sport and training? What’s the big difference in how you train as an athlete for a sport that’s vastly different?

Kelsey Mitchell:

Yes. I always played dew sports growing up. Played the variety from basketball to volleyball, soccer. So it wasn’t that I loved soccer but I just loved being an athlete. I loved running around, I loved jumping, I loved being with my teammates and just like everything about it. I loved working hard and pushing my body. And so when I went to this Talent ID Camp, I was open to anything. And there weren’t actually a lot of team sports that were looking to pick up an athlete. So I knew that I’d probably be switching to an individual sport which definitely was a struggle at first. You’re training with teammates but you’re competing against them as well. And so it’s the constant love-hate relationship. They do really well you’re happy for them but you need to do well as well as with constantly pushing you which I actually really like.

Kelsey Mitchell:

I’ve definitely learned to love individual sports. And when you’re out on the track, you don’t have a whole team supporting you or if you mess up it’s on you. So just learning how to handle that kind of pressure, I guess, on race day, knowing that if I have a great race, it’s on me. If I have a bad race, it’s on me. So training wise, I came from a running sport. I only never really rode a bike because I was injured had rolled an ankle or something. So I was stuck on a stationary bike. So I didn’t have the best relationship with biking when I first started but now obviously I love it. And we’re in the gym three times a week which I never really lifted when I played soccer. We’re on the track a lot. We’re doing two-hour rides on the road.

Kelsey Mitchell:

Nice and easy working in zone one or we’re on the track at a hundred percent working zone six or seven. I’ve learned a lot definitely over the past couple of years like how important nutrition is, how important sleeping is, how important all the little things are and how much they add up to you being successful. Playing soccer university, we’d played two games on the weekend and then we’d go out for a couple of drinks on Sunday fun day and you’d do it all over again. And it’s just not the healthiest environment, that’s for sure because you’re pushing your body physically and then mentally the school and then you’re not getting the right nutrition arrests. So even that was a huge learning curve coming in to the national team and learning how important those little things are.

Joan Hanscom:

Sleep and recovery are our hot topics in the cycling world. These days everybody’s got a Whoop or an Oura Ring. And it seems there’s a big focus on tracking your recovery and tracking what influences recovery and tracking your sleep. Is there a metric you guys are using?

Kelsey Mitchell:

They monitor our heart rate just when we’re sleeping sometimes or first thing in the morning. Just to see if our resting heart rate is as low as it is normally in case we’re getting overtrained. But other than that, we’re not doing anything too crazy. I’ve definitely heard about some of the science new technology people are using to figure out they’re recovering properly. But right now it’s just based on feeling and heart rate.

Joan Hanscom:

Well, I’ll tell you I had a glass of wine last night with dinner and my Whoop today told me that I should not have done that. So my recovery score was not good.

Kelsey Mitchell:

All right you don’t need that kind of negativity.

Joan Hanscom:

My recovery score was not a happy thing today but enough about me.

Andy Lakatosh:

One question I had around your soccer background is do you ever wind up missing it now? Do you ever still play at all? I mean, I’m assuming that running sports and things are probably outlawed from the team to prevent injury.

Kelsey Mitchell:

Yes. Running was kind of frowned upon… Once I joined cycling, they’re like, “You need to learn how to pedal properly. You’ve ran your whole life. Now we need to switch it over.” So I’m not playing any soccer at all. Injury, obviously you want to avoid that? I miss the team for sure. I miss the people. I loved the atmosphere of team sports and everyone working together towards winning or a common goal. I’m still in my group chat from my old soccer team back in Edmonton. So I’m still up to date on everything but not playing anything.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s great. So it’s a pretty crazy thing. When you think that you were playing soccer in 2017 and then two years later, you’re setting the world record in the flying 200 which was also just about a year ago or so which is a huge feet. And I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about that trip, that ride, setting that record and it’s not very often we get to talk to world record holders. So it’s kind of cool to know what that experience was like.

Kelsey Mitchell:

So we went down to Cochabamba Bolivia, which is at an altitude of I think 2,600 meters. I’m not sure what that is in feet but pretty high up in the sky. So air density is quite low there, meaning that we can get up to speed and hold that speed a little bit easier than we can at sea level. So we had a good feeling that the record was going to be broken. It was held for I think four or five years, pretty long time by Kristina Vogel, a German rider. So just went there, in training, we were doing some times that were close to it. So we had no idea what was going to happen. We didn’t know if we were going to be able to break or not, but on race day tossed on a big gear and the wind up felt super easy save so much energy. If you’re ever to watch the video of the world record that I said my line was absolutely terrible.

Kelsey Mitchell:

I think I came above the red a few times. So it doesn’t look pretty but it was definitely fast. And just looking up and seeing new world record, I was super excited and my teammate was there cheering and I wasn’t the last one to go though. So I knew there was a chance that someone else after me could beat it. So hold onto that moment for couple of minutes until the next rider wins and they didn’t break it. And then it was just kind of wait to see if the next one would and it didn’t get broken.

Kelsey Mitchell:

So then I was the proud owner of a new world record and it was a pretty cool moment and it was actually more exciting when I came back and I had some interviews and stuff and people were asking about the world record but in that moment, I mean, you don’t get a gold medal for doing the fastest 200 meters. You have to go through a bunch of match sprint rounds to get on the podium. And so that was kind of my focus in the moment but coming home and talking to everyone and they were pretty pumped about the world record. And so it was cool.

Andy Lakatosh:

I really like one thing in particular that you said there and that’s that you don’t get the gold medal for riding the fastest 200 time. There’s definitely a handful of people, mostly Americans, who believe that the fastest 200 time is all you need to do. So I really appreciate that you said that out loud but also it was funny when you described just kind of going around the track faster than you ever have.

Andy Lakatosh:

I remember, I think Nicholas Paul’s ride, he was a little bit above the red line at some spots too. And you could even see in the Kieran’s and stuff. Not everyone was used to going that fast which of course we can behind the motor but racing that fast and having to pass people that fast, it’s definitely a new type of sensation that we don’t really get to experience unless we are at those tracks or if you want to have motorcycles race each other which I would not suggest doing on the track but that’s really exciting. And it’s great that you’re world record holder but I mean, I know internally, you’re far more proud of your T-Town flying lap record, correct?

Joan Hanscom:

Everybody.

Kelsey Mitchell:

For sure. That was the biggest moment ever.

Andy Lakatosh:

Talking about T-Town and being here, you’ve only had two trips down. Tell the listeners what are some of your favorite memories or favorite things about visiting down here? Obviously we didn’t get to have a season this year so it’s nice to reminisce and think about 2021 coming up and what it’ll be like.

Joan Hanscom:

And why other people should come here too.

Kelsey Mitchell:

100% everyone should go to T-Town. T-Town was my first experience for everything, pretty much. It was a fun, cool environment, tons of riders. I still remember my first year and my coach wanted me to get more experience on the track in just riding around other people. And I would do with some of the bunch races, just the fun ones. And I was a hazard out there. I had no idea what I was doing. And I remember the elimination races where you don’t want to be the last one to cross the line and you excel at the line just to beat that person. But then you’re riding full speed into a bunch of people who have maintained their speed. And you’re trying to backpedal because obviously you don’t have brakes. And it was just a very stressful race for sure but learnt a lot while there.

Kelsey Mitchell:

And I guess I kind of fell in love with the sport when I was there. I was still quite new. I loved the training and I loved pushing myself. I don’t know if I loved riding my bike and just going there and the environment and the crowd just… I’ve had more people there watching me race there than I ever had at any of my soccer games. So it was just something cool. This sport is cool, and T-Town makes it fun, and just the environment in general is just definitely missed a lot this year.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, we definitely missed it too. We were able to do some racing here and we had training and stuff which felt normal. And we’re one of the few tracks here in the US that was able to do anything. So we feel very privileged about that but we’re certainly looking forward to 2021 and hopefully a year that it looks a lot more norma.l but speaking of fun trips and that you guys didn’t get to come down here this summer, obviously, we saw on social media the entire sprint team went back to your home track for a training camp. I’m assuming that was probably in place of traveling anywhere else because you can’t really leave your own country now. But what was it like getting back to that track and where you started from and coming back as the same person but a different rider?

Kelsey Mitchell:

So not being able to go to T-Town, we wanted to do some concrete track training. And so there was talk of going to Alberta because there was one in Calgary and one in Edmonton and obviously, I pushed quite hard to go to Edmonton, my home. So it was cool having the sprinters there. We did arrive in the mountains and all the athletes had never even seen a mountain. So it was really cool for them to see it. And then riding the track, I remember because I started in late fall here. And so I remember riding it for my first time ever and just bundled up so many layers and it was so bumpy and I was cold and I was like, “I don’t know if this is for me.” And obviously, this is a huge 180 and now being on the track is just one of the best feelings in the world and being back at home.

Kelsey Mitchell:

It’s still bumpy but it was tons of fun. We weirdly had great weather, didn’t get any rain, and so it was really cool. And I knew my time that I had done before. And so I was beaten all my previous records which was always a good feeling and set a fine 200 meter on that track. So, that was kind of cool to do that in my hometown.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s super cool. And I think you’ll probably continue breaking records that most tracks that you go to. So you’ll have to come back here next year and go for all of our sprint records again.

Kelsey Mitchell:

Definitely we’ll be coming back.

Andy Lakatosh:

Oh, we can’t wait. But one of the things you said about big highlight and fun part of the year, brings me to something else I want to talk to you about. Congratulations on officially making the Olympic team for Canada, even though it is to a delayed games, way off in an optimistic future somewhere. But Canada committed pretty early to naming their full team. And I was wondering what they said internally because we see some other countries people that are retiring or stopping. Do they have any contingency plan if anything like that happens with you guys in the squad or I was just wondering what being named to the Olympic team felt like. And then kind of some of the behind the scene stuff.

Kelsey Mitchell:

Yes. So we had a pretty good idea of what the team would look like in April but there was no official announcement till the end of July. And I think there’s pros and cons to announce the team early. Track cycling is lucky enough that we have the spot qualified. We were able to finish our world back in March and we knew which countries had how many spots, where I know a lot of other sports are still competing which is a whole other level of stress knowing that you still don’t have a spot at the Olympics. So super lucky to have the spots locked in. And to be honest, personally I’m very happy that Canada decided to announce who they’ve selected. I think it’s just something to work towards, your going, the timeline. Hopefully everything goes through and it’s safe to host the Olympics.

Kelsey Mitchell:

So for me, it was great to be announced to have the announcement and know that I had something to train for within the near future, then 2024. I think it could affect some people differently. There are some athletes that I think were planning to retire in August 2020. So knowing that it’s postponed and they have a whole another year and they’d been named the team and they have some external pressure from their teammates to still train and act as if it’s happening. So there’s pros and cons to having it be announced early. And we do have alternate announced if something were to happen but we definitely don’t think that way.

Joan Hanscom:

I mean, I think we’ve heard from some other US-based athletes where they say the goal hasn’t changed, right? Just the date. And a lot of them have been trying to turn it into opportunity where they say, “Okay, this just as extra time to work on skills that I might be lacking. Or this is extra time to strengthen a weakness.” Do you sort of view it the same way as this is just opportunity, or does it feel like a weird delay?

Kelsey Mitchell:

Oh, 100%. It’s a blessing for me. Since I joined the sport, I’ve always kind of been playing catch-up, learning how to ride the bike, learning how to ride a track, the tactics, the right thing to eat, how to prepare for race day, everything. It’s just such a steep learning curve. And 2019 was such a crazy year for racing that I was blessed with another year to train and just focus on all the things that I kind of missed just because it would go, go, go, as soon as I entered the sport. So I get to an extra year to get stronger in the gym, get stronger on the bike. Perfect…

Joan Hanscom:

That’s good [inaudible 00:20:57].

Kelsey Mitchell:

… my race tactics.

Joan Hanscom:

That should be scary for your competitors. Definitely a scary thing to contemplate.

Kelsey Mitchell:

But for me, I think it totally is a blessing in disguise.

Andy Lakatosh:

So speaking of making improvements and moving forward and making gains. At least from social media, it appears as though the entire Canadian form is on some pretty great form right now, or at least you’re all looking despicably fit. So that alone has got to be making everybody…

Kelsey Mitchell:

Thank you.

Andy Lakatosh:

… nervous. But with a open kind of 12 months of… Well, right now we don’t still don’t have any official racing on the schedule. What is your training been the past seven months since worlds? Did you guys make any substantial changes from what you would have been doing for training in a normal summer without any racing?

Kelsey Mitchell:

Yes. So back in March when everything kind of happened and then April everything was announced with the postponement of the Olympics, some people took breaks then went home, and took some time just to mentally recover from it and take that time which I guess they haven’t really had in their whole athletic career to breath and just live life not as a full-time athlete. For me, and a couple of my other teammates that I’m sure you saw on Instagram, we are here and we are training. We didn’t stop. We took this extra year as an opportunity to just get stronger and get better. And we love training. This is why we do this sport and we didn’t want to stop. And definitely, we’re all getting stronger, we’re all looking fitter which is just a bonus.

Kelsey Mitchell:

But we had a huge roadblock so got some miles in and just, well, I guess the velodrome was closed for two months. So we were just at home on stationary bikes just training away, had some gym equipment in the garage, we’d set up on the sidewalk and we’d lift weights out there. And when we got back on the track, we were so grateful to be back and just reminded us, don’t take it for granted enjoy every day that you’re able to train. And some athletes weren’t able to train because the schools were closed or they weren’t able to be with their teammates and stuff.

Kelsey Mitchell:

And so a cyclist definitely had an upper hand there being able to still train whether it was virtually on Swift or finding gym equipment and able to lift still. So that’s kind of been our training and now we’re back full time at the velodrome. We’re back in the weight room, the team is together but kind of a part the athletes there’s three girls, three guys sprinters. And so we kind of stay within our cluster during training but it’s nice to be back into to see everyone even if you can’t see their mouth because of the mask but it’s just nice to be around people for sure.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s great that you guys are able to return. I know when we opened the track here and we were able to get back to some kind of training even with modifications. It just helped things to feel so much more normal. Just having that routine that was going to the track at X time, doing your efforts and going home even if masks were involved in some social distancing. But speaking of these groups of three riders, Women’s Team Sprint was announced as officially going to three riders. So any racing we do from now on would be a three-woman team sprint with the exception of the games, of course, because that’s all bedspace restricted in the village but for you guys, you definitely look like you’re going to have a rock solid squad for the first go at it. But was the announcement more of one of excitement or was it a little more kind of fearful for you guys and what position have you been theoretically assigned in the lineup that you’re going to have to ride?

Kelsey Mitchell:

I personally was excited. The guys raced with three and so I thought it would be great if the girls to race at three as well. I’m just waiting for that 500 meter to become a kilo. I think that’s the next change that’s going to be made but…

Andy Lakatosh:

I think that’s in the near future as well, too.

Kelsey Mitchell:

And so I have a longer sprint in me, in general, so I’d probably be trained at a P2, P3. I think our squad could have a pretty good run with the three team sprint. So we’re excited for it.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s awesome. I mean, it’s going to be a really exciting year it’s definitely going to encourage depth. I’m a huge fan of parody across the board. That’s why we write the racing schedule is the same here now, same prize money payout. So it’s great to finally see that happening. Jumping back a little bit to the COVID training or just training in general really. We all have those days where you just don’t want to look at a bike let alone get out there and work out. And a topic that comes up regularly is as a coach and as an athlete how do you get through those things? And assuming that you’ve encountered those days too, what do you do to get yourself through those days? Or what do you tell yourself to make it happen? Or is there ever a tipping point where you just say, “Hey, I just need the extra day off today.”

Kelsey Mitchell:

For me, I think it was a blessing that I joined the sport a little bit later. I was 24 when I decided to commit fully to track cycling. And I rode the track for the first time at 23. So I was a little bit older than most. And it was a blessing because I’d played sports my whole life, played post-secondary soccer. And once that was over, I had the little midlife crisis where I was like, “I’ve always been an athlete. I don’t know what to do with my life.” And the summer before I tried out at this ID camp, I was driving a truck eight hours a day. I’m just sitting there thinking I had a lot of time to think essentially. And now when I get up and maybe I’m not as motivated to go ride my bike, I think back to when I was driving that truck and it’s just like, “This is my dream.”

Kelsey Mitchell:

This is what I wanted. I wanted to be a full-time athlete and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. And so I just constantly remind myself of that if I’m ever feeling a little less motivated one day. And as individual as the sport is, you still have a team around you, and I definitely feed off the energy of my teammates. One day you’re not feeling it but they’re feeling it.,You feed off that energy and vice versa. There’s definitely those days but there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

Joan Hanscom:

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 the 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.

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Kaarle McCulloch: A Happy Kaarle is a Fast Kaarle

Kaarle McCulloch

Episode 3

It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s about having fun and getting out there and putting yourself in a position where it’s quite uncomfortable, and understanding the reasons behind why things happen, and just trying different things.

– Kaarle McCulloch

This week on Talk of the T-Town, we sit down with Kaarle McCulloch, many time World Champion, Commonwealth Games Champion, and 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist. We discuss career highlights, Cycling Australia, overcoming setbacks, and funny team memories.

Find Kaarle on Instagram @kaarlemcculloch and Twitter @kaarlemcculloch

Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is 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.


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.

Andy Lakatosh:

Welcome to Talk of the T-Town Podcast. Today’s guest is many-time World Champion, Commonwealth Games Champion, and 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist, Kaarle McCulloch of the Australian National Team. Kaarle is obviously joining us by Zoom from Australia where it’s 9:00 AM tomorrow morning, while Joan and I are here at Podcast Headquarters in Trexlertown at 6:00 PM local time. Kaarle, thanks so much for joining us today. I’d like to get started by pointing out that you are by far our most decorated podcast guest ever, or this far. World medals and titles, Commonwealth Games, Olympic Medals, and all across the entire sprinting discipline, not just one particular event. Of all of the races and great results, is there one in particular that stands out brighter in your memory than all of the others? And what is it that makes it so memorable?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Well, thanks for having me, first of all, I’m definitely happy to be here talking to you guys. As you said, I have had a fair bit of success and a lot of great results, but I think probably the stand-out for me was my 500 meter time trial win at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. That was in front of a home crowd, and probably my biggest individual title to date. It was significant because I had my teammate Stephanie Morton go off quite a fair bit before me, and she set a time quite a bit faster than my PB at that point in time. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I really need to pull something special out here.” I knew if I could get to the end of the first lap in front that I would set myself up for the best chance of success.

Kaarle McCulloch:

I distinctly remember the crowd just yelling at me and getting behind me, so I crossed the start-finish line with one lap to go, and because the time is obviously a little bit delayed, I was a little bit further into bend one and I could hear the crowd just really roar, and I thought, “Okay, I’m in front, I’m in front, keep going, keep going.” As I hit half a lap to go, and just passed that half lap mark the crowd got a little bit louder, so I thought to myself, “Oh no, I’m starting to slow down, come on, come on, come one.” I crossed that line and the crowd was just absolutely ecstatic. I looked up and saw a PB, I saw the number one. There was still two more riders to go, so I had to wait that unbearable-

Andy Lakatosh:

Oh, the anxiety.

Kaarle McCulloch:

… few minutes. Yeah, until I found out that I had one, and I got to celebrate with my parents and my family, and probably do one too many victory laps. But that was definitely a career highlight to me.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s so funny that your memory involves the crowd, because obviously the crowd here in T-Town is one of the things that we definitely pride ourselves on having more often than not, especially on a regular basis. But my favorite memory was actually setting the tandem flying lap record here. The thing I remember the most about it, aside from the fact that it was scary as hell getting around the track that fast, and the funny thing was at the time, we rode 104 on the tandem, and that was considered huge in 2007. And I actually had to lie to my tandem partner and tell him that, “No, no, no, we rode 102,” because 104 just felt way too big.

Andy Lakatosh:

So we do it, and we cross the line, and the scoreboard’s behind us in turns three and four. I knew we had to get the record, because the crowd just got so loud, and we were trying to get through one and two and look over our shoulders and see what the time was. Yeah, it’s definitely cool when the crowd lets you know that you did something special, Because it all sucks about the same while you’re doing it.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah, definitely.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s awesome. Thanks for-

Joan Hanscom:

That’s so different from my bike racing crowd experience, where they’re always like sympathy claps. I race bikes and they’re like, “You’re doing great.” So I get the sympathy claps, which by the way are not nearly as motivating as the cheering that you all receive.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s why you’ve got to take up track racing. I was in London with Kaarle in 2012, and she could probably speak to this more, but that was by far the loudest velodrome stadium I’d… you couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone talk to the person next to you when British person got on track.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s so cool.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah, I remember that actually. I think I read a statistic somewhere that it was louder in there than the engine of a 747 taking off.

Joan Hanscom:

Wow.

Kaarle McCulloch:

So that probably puts it into context. It was just unbelievable, and I really feel like that was one of the most insane crowds I’ve ever been a part of.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

And no wonder their team did so well there then too, because you have that, what is it, the 12th man in sports, they always talk about the extra team player is the crowd. That’s amazing.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, that was definitely a special experience. I’d also like to point out for our listeners that you’ve actually spent time racing here in T-Town, twice in your career. I believe it was 2008 and again in 2017. 2008 we would have probably just met in passing, but 2017 Kaarle came over and had beers at our house, and went down a huge slip and slide on the 4th of July. But back to the racing side of things, for your career-wise those are pretty different stages in terms of where you were at as an athlete and as part of the Australian program. 2008 just missing Olympic team selection but still being part of the National Team, and 2017 your visit was with the New South Wales State team. If you would please talk a little bit about your visits, and the things that were different or the same, and where you were at as an athlete in both of those times.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah, sure. So 2008 I guess was a little bit of a consolation prize in some regards, for the three of us who went over, Jackson [Iglett 00:06:28], Scott Sunderland and myself. But by the end of that trip I didn’t really feel like it was a consolation prize, because I had just such a wonderful time in T-Town. And obviously we-

Andy Lakatosh:

How long were you here that year?

Kaarle McCulloch:

… I think we were there for six weeks. So it was quite a long period of time, it was definitely the longest trip that I had ever done away. I was still quite young, I would have been 20 years old. So my last experience probably on a big trip was my Junior Worlds, which is in 2006 in Ghent, in Belgium. So it was definitely not a consolation prize for me, because I just had an amazing time. We spent the first three weeks there in a hotel, and then we were lucky enough that the organizers were able to secure us a little house so we got to actually live together in a house.

Kaarle McCulloch:

I just remember having a great time with the race scene. It really helped me, because I was at the early stages of my career, I’d only been cycling for three years at that time. What I really do feel that it did for me is it set me up for success in the immediate future. So I’d missed out on Beijing, and was quite disappointed on that, but the next season I became world champion and I really feel like my time in T-Town really helped to establish the foundation for that season, and was able to help me to propel forward into the next three or four years of my career.

Kaarle McCulloch:

I do remember I was quite a highly strung athlete at that time. I was so focused on cycling, I didn’t really want to have anything to do with-

Andy Lakatosh:

Fun?

Kaarle McCulloch:

… the good times. Yeah, pretty much fun. My teammates would spend some of the nights after racing out having some drinks with the rest of the riders, and I feel like I definitely missed out on that a little bit. But I guess in the years to come I would start to learn that balance is really important, and come 2017 when I came and returned for that year’s worth of racing, I was definitely far more relaxed. I feel like I got more out of the experience, because I tried to experience all of it. In fact, I actually made our team stay a little bit longer so that we could experience 4th of July in America, before we flew home. That was a really important thing to me, to go there and not only participate in the racing, which was fantastic in 2017 actually, in the women’s field was just outstanding. I really was able to set up my season again, going into 2018 season and winning that Commonwealth Games title, I really feel like T-Town set up that base for me to be able to propel off and have a really fantastic season in 2018.

Kaarle McCulloch:

But I also do think that some of the, I would actually have to say my career highlight was my 2017 trip to T-Town. That is the most enjoyable, most fun, just amazing trip that I’ve ever done. It wasn’t with the National Team, it was with my State team, and I was really grateful for the opportunity to be able to take some younger riders across with me and help them experience what it can be like on the international scene, and then also show them that it is a balance between fun and seriousness. So yeah, I just loved my time in T-Town.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, you are always certainly welcome to come back and race any time you like. And actually, that reminds me, one other thing that I do really like about you and about a bunch of the other racers that came over with you, because this is a lost concept here, with some of our specialists, let’s say. You guys raced everything. And both as a racer who raced everything, and then as a race director who wants full fields on the track, I definitely greatly appreciate that. You always seemed like you were having fun riding the other miscellaneous, the scratch races, the missing outs and stuff like that. I really wish that more athletes locally, domestically would really get behind that and just enjoy the fun in bike racing. Because if you live your life for just 200 after 200 at a time, your whole career’s going to be over.

Andy Lakatosh:

I always thought of it as for me racing, you only get 12, if you’re here full time, you get 12 Friday nights under the lights a year. If you’re waiting for those handful of sprint tournaments, you’re missing out on a lot of really fun experiences. I always appreciated that you seemed to share in that enjoyment like I did.

Kaarle McCulloch:

I definitely feel actually that the Tuesday night racing that I participated in, which was more endurance style, whilst hurt like hell for me, because I was so unfit at that period of time and it was all endurance races, that actually opened up a whole new area for my sports psychologist and I to work in. Because I’d go into those races, the scratch race and [inaudible 00:11:22], and because things weren’t so hectic and fast-paced like a keirin or a sprint, I could see what was happening in the races before things would happen. I was sitting there after those races thinking to myself, “I really obviously understand how tactics work, and that I’m quite a skillful rider, but I don’t understand sometimes why I can’t apply that same decision making to sprint and keirin.”

Kaarle McCulloch:

So when I went home from T-Town, I sat down with my sport psychologist and we started discussing that, and it started opening up this whole realm of brain training for myself. I was doing thing like, it’s a special thing called a neuro tracker, so you wear these special 3D glasses and you have a screen in front of you that’s 3D. There’ll be eight balls on the screen, and four of them will turn orange, and then all of them will go back to yellow, and you’ve got to follow the ones that were yellow, because they’ll move around and they’ll come at you. I got to the stage where I was doing that on a bike, while looking over my shoulder as with sprint race, so the idea was that I was having to make decisions as quickly as possible. T-Town for me really set up that learning for myself to be able to, I think, take my tactics and my racing to another level.

Kaarle McCulloch:

And I really feel strongly about the fact that sprinters should do endurance races, and endurance riders should do sprint races, because you just can learn so much. It doesn’t matter, if you’re to race a Tuesday night race scene, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It’s about having fun and getting out there and putting yourself in positions where it’s quite uncomfortable, and understanding the reasons behind why things happen, and just trying different things.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s so cool.

Andy Lakatosh:

I definitely know I’m a little bit partial, but I’m going to nudge you here and say you should really consider a career in coaching after all this.

Joan Hanscom:

Absolutely. That’s just fascinating to me.

Andy Lakatosh:

See I’ve argued for years that the last three laps of a scratch race, or the last three laps before a sprint in a points race is the exact same thing as the last three laps of a keirin. It’s all positioning, when to make your move, reading the race.

Joan Hanscom:

You’re just more tired.

Andy Lakatosh:

You’re incredibly more tired, but if you’re still there as a sprinter, I can promise even when you’re tired you probably have more sprint than the skinny endurance people, so give it a go. But yeah, I’ve argued that for a long time, because skills are skills, and pack skills in scratch racing they move over into keirin, just the speeds get faster.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s just fascinating because as you were talking, I could visualize you with the lights, training. But how the race here on a Tuesday was like the real world application of that, instead of lights to follow in track you had people. So it’s almost like visualizing their helmets are lights or something, I don’t know. But it’s a super fascinating mental picture to have, and that level of training, and reaction time training, and mental training is super fascinating. Yeah, that’s a cool story.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s funny, because that actually goes into the thing I had written down to talk about next. Leave it to Australia, like GB, to just have all the fancy technological toys.

Joan Hanscom:

Next level.

Andy Lakatosh:

Here it’s like you want to get better at managing multiple things at once, go ride a scratch race. In Australia, wear these fancy 3D glasses and go ride around looking backwards trying not to fall off the bike.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s fascinating.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Actually the neuro trackers are U.S. Special Forces training, so I believe they use it-

Andy Lakatosh:

We don’t have access to that, come on.

Kaarle McCulloch:

… with their Special Forces. So I can’t take credit for that, I have stolen that from you guys.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, but you’re applying it in ways that I don’t think we are.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s the cool thing. You say, “Hey look, there’s this cool technology that exists, and we should apply it to our thing,” which is just next level thinking. It’s super cool.

Andy Lakatosh:

But it’s kind of like Cycling Australia’s always been seen from our side here in the States as this mythical organization, with all these fancy secrets, and tools, and special projects. I can’t talk to certain friends in Australia about certain topics, Alex Bird, going quiet, “I can’t tell you, I can’t answer that question.” So to a certain point it is true, because you guys are trying to be cutting edge and always find an advantage here or there, or a better technique. But it’s also perceived on our end that in terms of the Cycling Australia system, you don’t want to leave or be let go, because it doesn’t seem like they’re very keen on letting people back in, they seem very happy to replace and move on to the next one. Part of that is a testament to their depth that they have as a nation, and the state system and how it feeds.

Andy Lakatosh:

But you’re actually one of the few people that I know who had left the National Team program for a couple years following London, and then come back in really in force. As far as I’m concerned, the best form and bast racing tactics that I’ve ever seen you display. It’s awesome as a friend to see that, but it’s that being in, being out, and working your way back in can definitely be a difficult journey. I was wondering if you’d be willing to share a little bit of what factored in to being in there, leaving, coming back, and what that process was like for you?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah, I guess it’s a complicated situation. But I guess for me, in London we won bronze in our nine, the team sprint, and it obviously wasn’t the color that we were quite searching for. Up until that point I had done everything that Cycling Australia had asked of me. I did every single road ride, if it was rain, hail or shine, I did every rep in the gym, there was not one stone that I didn’t leave unturned. And I didn’t feel like I had gotten the best out of myself in London.

Kaarle McCulloch:

The fall-out from London was that I started to not quite get along with the coaching staff the way that I thought that I needed to in order to take my career to the next level. So what actually ended up happening was that I decided that I needed to go and work with a different coaching system, which ended up being Shawn Eby, who at the time was actually working down in Cycling Australia and he had coached Shane Perkins to some success, and Shane is a regular attendee of T-Town, and of course now he actually rides for Russia not for Australia. I found myself in a really difficult situation politically, because Shawn ended up relocating back to Sidney, which is my home state in New South Wales, and I followed him because he was now my coach.

Kaarle McCulloch:

So I wasn’t I guess being seen or heard down in the Adelaide environment, which is where the high performance program is, and I had a pretty average season in 2013-14, where I didn’t improve my results, but I also wasn’t probably, I don’t think I really deserved to lose my scholarship. But I guess Cycling Australia are always looking to give other people opportunities if their current athletes in the system aren’t progressing, and going on in a forward motion. So I found myself sitting outside on the steps of gym in New South Wales, basically in tears after I had the phone call from the coach at the time at Cycling Australia. I was 25 at the time, and I realized to myself, “I’m 25 years old, I’ve just lost all my source of income.” I hadn’t achieved what I wanted to achieve in my career yet, and I didn’t know that Cycling Australia believed I could. I had no skills or qualifications, because I hadn’t finished my uni degree, and I was just like, “Wow, what am I going to do?”

Kaarle McCulloch:

At that period of time, I had to really decide whether I was going to continue on, because there was a very great chance that I probably wouldn’t get myself back under scholarship, because it is very… In fact, I don’t know that I know another athlete that has actually got themselves back onto scholarship, at least at my level. So I knew that I was really up against it, and particularly considering we were two years out from the Rio Cycle. I guess I was really lucky that I had Shawn, because Shawn really believed in me essentially, and that’s what I felt that I was missing. We just worked really hard together, and I decided that if I was going to continue on to Rio, that I had to also look after myself as a person. So Shawn and I actually came up with some really fantastic I guess rules for myself when it came to making a comeback.

Kaarle McCulloch:

One of those things was a happy Kaarle is a fast Kaarle, so every time I left training on a Friday afternoon, he would say to me, “Don’t come back for training on Monday without a story.” That meant that I had the freedom to go away over the weekend and actually live my life, and figure out what does Kaarle like to do away from cycling. I also re-enrolled in back in my university degree, and that helped me to focus my energy on something else other than cycling as well. It’s this balance, right? Yes you have to be all invested into your cycling career, but if you’re just invested in that, it can drive you crazy. I have to admit, I went a bit crazy because I was just so focused on that and not enough on who I was, and what I wanted to do away from the bike.

Kaarle McCulloch:

I re-enrolled in my uni degree, and I’m pretty happy to say I’ve got two subjects to go now, which has been a long time but I’m almost there. But that’s definitely helped me. And I managed to get myself to the Oceania Championships in 2014, and basically just really had a great meet. Put myself out there, Stephanie Morton and I went to the Mexico World Cup in Guadalajara and won the team sprint, and then that saw me get re-selected to the 2015 World Championships in Paris, where Anna and I teamed up to win bronze. I was quite emotional from that, because I basically was told that there was no chance for me getting back in. I rode the fastest first lap of any Australian in that Olympic cycle in Paris. It didn’t eventuate in a selection for Rio, but it put me on the course of where I am right now.

Kaarle McCulloch:

So I got myself back in there, I’m still in there, I’m the oldest in the team now, it feels a bit weird.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s awesome.

Kaarle McCulloch:

But I’m back, and I’m still here, even with Tokyo being postponed the way that it has been. So yeah, I guess that’s a little snapshot or summary of that period of time in my career.

Joan Hanscom:

Wow. That is such a cool thing though, right? That’s the power of just wanting it. But figuring out that wanting it isn’t enough, and that there’s got to be a different pathway. The sports psychologist I work with says the same thing, happy racers go faster. And where do you find the happy, and I think Andy’s living a little bit of happy racers go faster now, he’s rediscovered his love for the bike, but it balances. There’s something to really be said for that. You can make yourself completely, absolutely bonkers if the wattage on one effort isn’t right, and you beat yourself up, and you’re not worthy. Or you can have perspective, and you realize that it’s a spectrum, it’s a continuum, and you’ve got to have all the pieces in place. It’s such a cool story to hear you say yeah, I had my mid-life crisis at 25, and I fought back. So cool.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah, pretty much.

Andy Lakatosh:

Because I’ve been there, we call that a quarter life crisis.

Joan Hanscom:

Okay, quarter life crisis.

Andy Lakatosh:

I experienced my one third life crisis.

Kaarle McCulloch:

I hope there’s not another one. I’ll tell you what, it was some tough years. I definitely wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, but it made you who you are now, and it’ll make you who you’re going to become, and that’s really cool. That’s a thing that you can pass on, that’s a legacy learning. That’s super cool.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, but for me, re-discovering enjoying riding again, because I took eight years where I did not like a bicycle at all, and now I absolutely love it. It’s interesting because when you go through that kind of stuff and you come back for the right reasons, and you come back with balance and stuff, at least what I find is I see it very differently now. I’m choosing to get up and do the training, and it’s like I want to do this. I definitely understand, we were discussing in the office Chloe’s interview where she said, “Some days I just really don’t like the bike, I don’t want to ride it.” I know Joan that was confusing for you, but for me it really resonated with me. Yeah, no I’ve been there. I’ve hated the bike, I’ve hated everything to do with riding, and you get up and do it anyway.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’m not sure how it feels for you Kaarle, but I definitely feel more free about training now, and also once you find that balance you don’t feel as guilty when you need to live life. You realize that living life and taking care of X, Y, and Z and your happiness actually helps you to do better when you’re on the bike. At least that’s how it is for me.

Joan Hanscom:

Absolutely translates, right. Happy racers go faster.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Definitely.

Joan Hanscom:

It all goes back to that, yeah. A happy Kaarle is a fast Kaarle.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Exactly.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’ll go back for a second though, to Shawn. Because that is a character and a half. And you have to understand, I knew Shawn as a racer here in the early or mid-late ’90s. Shawn as a racer was not the same bubbly, friendly individual that he is now. I remember watching him, and Darren Hill, and Gary Niwon square off in keirins with Marty and the other guys here. We’re talking ’90s rules, keirin racing very liberally, at its best.

Kaarle McCulloch:

No rules, in other words.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. I actually have this concept where we’ll do racing here, except we’ll set it by rules by the decade. And then you have to go to the gearing, and also the rules from that decade. So ’90s was kind of like anything goes, but no bigger than a 92. So it would be interesting, to say the least.

Kaarle McCulloch:

That would be really cool.

Andy Lakatosh:

Did you know Shawn, angry Shawn I’ll say? Did you know him at all, or did you just get good, polished, more mature, it’s kind of like the version I hope people will come to know of me is like, “Oh, that’s nice Andy, that’s not angry Andy.”

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah, that’s a funny one actually. Shawn is from my home state Sidney, and when I first started cycling I did not like Shawn at all. And I’ve told him this, he was this big, scary, loud character, and I was this very serious, have to do everything like this kind of person. He tries to get you to understand yourself, but it can be quite confronting, because right we don’t want to sometimes look at ourselves. So some of the questions he would ask me I’d be like, “Why is he asking me this, and what is happening here?” When I eventually went to him to ask if I could work with him, it was one of the most I guess revolutionary things for me, because I realized I didn’t even know this person.

Kaarle McCulloch:

We sat down and we had a coffee, and I just blurted out all this stuff that had happened over the London cycle. He just sat there and he listened. He didn’t interject, he didn’t ask me any questions, and at the end I just sat there waiting for him to respond. He just said to me, “I believe.” I was like, “What?” This guy is this big, over the top character who is quite scary, and he’s actually very grounded and he listens to you, and he wants to know you as a person. I just go so much out of him, I really learned so much from Shawn, and things that I still use today. Like I said the happy Kaarle’s a fast Kaarle, he wanted to know me as a person first before an athlete. I’ve been to his wedding, hist 50th birthday, I really feel like I’ve made a connection with Shawn, which I really value.

Kaarle McCulloch:

If I did step into coaching, I think that would be quite a critical thing for me. Because at the end of the day, the coach is the person who holds the athlete’s hopes and dreams in their hands, they’re quite responsible for it. An athlete invests a lot, they want to feel like that coach is on that journey with them, and it really felt like Shawn still is in some way, even though he’s not my coach, because he was just so integral in getting me back, and getting me to this point. When we do have a catch-up, he doesn’t ask me how my riding’s going first, he asks me how I am first. That was important to me. Shawn, I’ve had some great experiences with Shawn, and I’m so grateful to him. He can, as you mentioned, seem over the top and a little bit scary, but he’s at the end of the day quite a grounded person who really wants to help people discover themselves, which can be quite confronting for some people.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s funny, because you have to get to actually know Shawn. I guess with any burly sprinter, you have to actually get to. Maybe it was more common in the early 2000s, where you went to a race and, at least we were taught, you have to hate everybody that you’re going to race, and don’t be friends and don’t talk to anyone, and there’s all these secrets, don’t tell anyone what you’re doing. I haven’t been at that level in a while, but the couple of guys I do talk to, some of the Australians, when the Dutch riders come over, the GB riders now, everybody’s very open book. Because at the end of the day, we’re all doing the same stuff. There is no silver, magic bullet to this, you have to work hard and be smart about things.

Andy Lakatosh:

But Shawn, yeah it’s cool because he’s one of those guys that I know I would see at any World Cup, any time, and just instantly pick up right where we left of, have a great conversation, laugh about all kinds of stuff, not just what’s happening on the track. That’s definitely something that’s fun, and I think it’s very easy in high performance sport to not make those connections, especially with people from other teams and other countries. And it’s definitely… Yeah, I love Shawn, I think he’s great. I hope he comes back over here sometime soon so we can… Actually I want to have a coaches and legends keirin, I’ve been talking about this for a couple years now.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Oh, wow.

Andy Lakatosh:

Let all the coaches square off and race them.

Joan Hanscom:

That would be amazing.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’m not-

Joan Hanscom:

We talked about that last 2019 summer-

Kaarle McCulloch:

That would be cool.

Joan Hanscom:

… what that would look like here. Because the season here in 2019 was a bit bonkers, it was a crazy season.

Andy Lakatosh:

We wrote our most aggressive UCI schedule ever, and we somehow lived through it.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, we survived. We just say we survived the summer of 2019.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Well done.

Joan Hanscom:

But yeah, we kept talking about doing that there, because of who was here and it would have been super cool to do it. So maybe 2021 is the year, Andy.

Andy Lakatosh:

I know, I’m just trying to hold on, which one do I fall into now? Do I fall into the elite side, or do I have to do the coaches, or the legends?

Joan Hanscom:

You’ll have to do the coaches, and you’ll have to crush everybody. That’s the… sorry.

Andy Lakatosh:

And on that note, let’s take a quick break for our sponsors, and we’ll be right back.

Andy Lakatosh:

The Talk of the T-Town Podcast is brought to you through the generous support of B. Braun Medical Incorporated. A global leader in infusion therapy and pain management, B. Braun develops, manufactures and markets innovative medical products to the healthcare community. They’re also strong believers in supporting the quality of life in the communities where their employees work and live.

Andy Lakatosh:

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:

And we’re back with Kaarle McCulloch, on the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. We just finished talking about your journey in and out of Cycling Australia, working with the great Shawn Eby, and some of the things you had to overcome personally, and also personality-wise with USA Cycling.

Joan Hanscom:

No Andy, that’s you dear.

Andy Lakatosh:

Sorry. Cycling Australia. A little bit too similar at times. It’s massively impressive that you were able to come and find the motivation to fight back into the system and get to that level. A lot of riders could see that as a massive setback, and possibly just give up eternally. We all have setbacks, and aside from that, is there any particular biggest setback that you’ve experienced personally, either on or off the bike? And how did you overcome it, because obviously it’s not holding you back right now?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah, I can think of a couple of things. I think the period of time between London and that 2015 era were some of the toughest years in my personal life and on the bike as well, because obviously I lost my scholarship in that period of time. But I learned a lot about myself in that period of time, and I worked really quite closely with my sports psychologist for a number of years and we didn’t talk about anything to do with the sport because I needed to help myself figure out who I was and recover from the situations that I was going through in my personal life. So I really am a big advocate for sports psychology, and I believe the foundation of sports psychology starts with actually understanding yourself first. Because if you don’t understand who you are, and how you think, and why you behave sometimes, then you’re never going to actually truly understand how to get the best out of yourself. I guess that my whole motivation in life is to get to be the best potential of Kaarle McCulloch, both on the bike and in my life. So I’m quite into trying to figure out how I can make myself better.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Fast forward some years, really up until this point in time I think, I’ve said it every time I’ve been injured in my career, I’ve said, “Oh, this is the worst thing I’ve ever gone through.” So it’s probably just because you’re living it right now, but I would have to say I’m actually recovering from a back injury at the moment that I had suffered… well I hurt myself in, it’ll be a year exactly next week, actually. And I was in the best form of my career up until that point in time. It was a Friday, the end of a really hard training week, and I didn’t feel anything happen in my back, but as soon as I started cooling down my back started to spasm up. I thought, “Oh, that’s a bit strange, I’ve been feeling a bit tight all week, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

Kaarle McCulloch:

24 hours later I basically couldn’t move, and I had injured, or slightly irritated a disc. So it wasn’t anything catastrophic, my MRIs didn’t show anything really that severe. This is in November, and we’ve got a lengthy selection and qualification, so basically I had to try to get through that season really not in a good place. That ended up with me having six cortisone injections into my back just to keep me ticking along. Get to the World Championships, and manage somehow, I have no idea how, to get the silver medal with Steph Morton in the 10 Sprint, but I just had one effort in me in that World Championships, and that was the semi-final ride where I managed to do an 18.7 and Steph just brought it home for us, and give us a chance to ride and defend our World Championship jersey, which unfortunately we were unsuccessful, the Germans definitely have set the bar now.

Kaarle McCulloch:

But the rest of that competition for me was just an absolute catastrophic failure. I was really well off the pace that I was in 2019, and I was really quite worried actually about whether I was going to get myself into some kind of form to be able to contend for gold in Tokyo. Obviously a few weeks later COVID hits and the world just implodes. So for me it’s been a slight blessing in disguise, but I’ve actually been in this really challenging position where I would feel okay for a little bit in my back, and then I would regress quite badly, I’d have to rest and then get back up again. That resulted in me, about three and a half months now, basically saying to my coach Nick Flyger that I couldn’t go on if that was going to be the resulting pattern.

Kaarle McCulloch:

I’m a bit emotion about it, because it’s been quite tough. I had pain in day to day life, I couldn’t get out of bed without having pain, I couldn’t bend over or pick anything up. So it wasn’t just on the bike, it was in life, and I was just like, “Wow, I can’t do this any more.” I stopped everything, I stopped training. I said to my coaches, “I can’t do it, but I will commit to a different course of rehab.” We were talking more cortisone injections, and I just didn’t want to do that. So I went and saw a specialist in Sidney, I went and saw a physio that I had worked with in 2013-14 to rehabilitate a knee injury, and I have been, the last four weeks, pain free. Touch wood, I just want to touch wood right now, and I was back on the bike last Friday for the first time.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Just talking about enjoying riding again Andy, I forgot the feeling of the wind going past your ears when you ride. Mind you I’m doing a murder pace 500 at 50 k’s an hour, so it’s not very fast, but-

Andy Lakatosh:

Wind is wind.

Kaarle McCulloch:

… it’s like, “Wow-

Andy Lakatosh:

Speed is speed.

Kaarle McCulloch:

… I’m so excited to be on my bike again.” And I’m not lifting particularly heavy weights in the gym, but I’m progressing, and like I say my back is getting better. In the end, as I mentioned, it wasn’t actually anything catastrophic with the structural parts of my back, but I was diagnosed with a high degree of active neuro-tension, which just means that I couldn’t relax my muscles. So this first month of my rehab was literally me setting a timer on my phone for every 20 minutes, and checking in with my body to see if there was any areas where I was just gripping. Basically for the first two weeks, every 20 minutes I would unconsciously have this tension in my body, and I had to start to teach my body-

Joan Hanscom:

Wow.

Kaarle McCulloch:

… to just relax. Just take a step back, it’s okay, we’re not doing anything dangerous any more. So it’s been a challenging time, but I feel like I’m giving myself the best opportunity now to hopefully get to Tokyo in 2021, as long as everything goes well in the world with COVID, and put myself and Steph in the best chance, in the best position to take out the gold. Because I really do believe that we haven’t quite seen the best of ourselves just yet.

Joan Hanscom:

Wow. That is a story. And I say that as a person who has had cortisone shots in my spine. When I had my cortisone shot in my spine, it was similar, for a sports injury. I’m lying on the table and they shot my spine with the needle, and nothing happened. My doctor was like, “How does that feel?” I was like, “Fine.” And he’s like, “Oh, bad news.” I was like, “Really?” And he’s like, “Yeah, that’s not the reaction I need, I’ll be back.” And then he gave me the second shot, and I remember screaming, “Fire,” because it felt like he’d set my spinal column on fire. He was like, “Oh, that’s what I was looking for.”

Joan Hanscom:

So to go through that as many times as you did, I have a whole world of sympathy for that, because I just remember yelling fire, and thinking that my entire nervous system had been ignited with lighter fluid, and it was not a good feeling. So kudos for you for enduring more than one, because I wouldn’t. I was like, “No, not doing that again.”

Kaarle McCulloch:

Well, I didn’t want to have any more. The thing with cortisones is they don’t actually solve any underlying issue, they just mask it. Which is what I needed to do to get through that 2020 season, but if I wanted to be better than I ever have been in Tokyo, I needed to address the underlying pattern, which was basically that I was probably slightly over-trained up until that point, and my body was just not coping with the workload. So we’ve learned a lot, which is fantastic, and we’ve got some strategies in place that will hopefully stop any repeat back issues, for the whole team, actually.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, wow.

Kaarle McCulloch:

I think that it’s been a blessing in disguise, but not an enjoyable one.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, right. Wow.

Andy Lakatosh:

There’s a whole generation of Australian sprint cyclists behind you who need to thank you in advance for what you went through-

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

… to set things up better for them. Remind me how old are you now?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Do I have to answer that?

Andy Lakatosh:

Oh, come on.

Kaarle McCulloch:

No, I’m 32. But you know what? It’s so weird because talking about riding, I still feel like I’m 21 when it comes to the bike. There hasn’t really been a day where I’ve gotten up and not wanted to train, or go and get on my bike. I keep saying to my coaches, if you can get me to Tokyo and my back is good, who knows, maybe you’ll see me in 2024. But it’s really dependent on whether I can rehabilitate this back to a point where I can just go and do what I want to do on the bike.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, think about how lucky we are, you are that this happened to you in 2019, 2020, that this didn’t happen to you in ’99, 2000 or before that. Because it just would have been you’re done. There would have been no chance, no we’re going to try to figure this out, it’s either do the shot and make it or don’t, and we don’t really care otherwise. So in a way you’re almost lucky that it happened when it did. I only ask your age because as I train I encounter things that are like, “That didn’t used to hurt that way, and that didn’t use to bother me, and why can’t I just,” because I still, in my head, I still think like I’m 21. And God help us when I get back on a bike, if I try to race like I’m 21. According to those rules, it’ll be entertaining, I would suggest everyone buy tickets for Elite Nationals next year. But-

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, okay. But let me tell you, as the old lady in the room, it doesn’t get better.

Kaarle McCulloch:

It’s interesting you know though, because I really feel, particularly with sprint cycling, and even really for endurance cycling too, we participate in a sport that is non-contact, unless you obviously have a crash. So I really think that there’s longevity for people in this sport. If you look at people like Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, who are some of our greatest Olympic champions in the sprint, they were in their mid-thirties. So I get this fact that we see this young talent coming through who are exciting and definitely great prospects, but it’s our own athletes who have experience, and time, and races, and training history under their belt that if we can really look after them, and cater for them. And this starts from when these young talents come in. If we look after them, their careers could be 15 years.

Kaarle McCulloch:

That is really probably how it should be, because I feel like I still have more to give, and I think that it’s because of this massive training history that I have behind me. If I can get this back sorted, then I really feel that the best is yet to come. This is because of the time and energy that I’ve invested in these years previous. Andy, who knows, maybe you’ve got your best years to come too.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, I did go faster here this year than I ever did in my elite career before, so there is that.

Kaarle McCulloch:

There you go.

Andy Lakatosh:

But I’m going to chalk that up to a 60 tooth chain ring.

Joan Hanscom:

And the best boss ever.

Andy Lakatosh:

And the best boss ever that I-

Kaarle McCulloch:

Exactly.

Andy Lakatosh:

… Gray hairs have given me wisdom, not just high blood pressure. Or which came first. Thank you a lot for sharing that story.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, thank you.

Andy Lakatosh:

Because we all encounter something like that during our careers, and that’s, especially to have it all going on compounded by COVID, it’s just like you’ve got to be-

Joan Hanscom:

But with the looming pressure too of Tokyo, right?

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

It was a cauldron, no doubt, right?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

It was a cauldron.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s definitely one of those things where, and you’re talking about, it would be interesting to really know what is the dollar amount that Cycling Australia has invested into you, or GB has invested into Jason Kenny over his entire career to get these results. And you definitely don’t want to, I wouldn’t want to just walk away from that investment. And with new technology and training tools and stuff, we’re always striving to keep athletes injury free, and there’s definitely an aspect of mental and emotional fatigue that comes from dealing with recurring injuries and illnesses, and the stress of competition and everything else. It’s one of those things that can really make an athlete start thinking about what is the next step after cycling. At the same time it can also stop them from wanting to think about it, because they don’t want to face that reality.

Andy Lakatosh:

But I’m sure at some point the thought has crossed your mind like hey, if there isn’t Paris, what is next for you? You said you’re finishing up your uni degree and stuff, but have you thought about beyond that, do you want to share? What are you thinking post-cycling career Kaarle’s life looks like?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Definitely I’ve got to get this degree done, because I started this degree in 2006 when I left school, and it’s been-

Andy Lakatosh:

Well mine isn’t done yet either, so there’s that.

Kaarle McCulloch:

… it’s been quite intermittent. I didn’t really do any study when I got first accepted into Cycling Australia in 2007 through to basically 2015. I did maybe one or two subjects. I’ve just been slowly chipping away at it since, so as I mentioned I’ve got two subjects to go. I will complete them in the semester post-Tokyo next year, so I’ve got a period of time now where I’m study-free. I know I talked about balance, but I’m actually quite looking forward to the prospect of not having to do that. But I am seriously considering potentially looking at the coaching.

Kaarle McCulloch:

I’m involved in a project at the New South Wales Institute of Sport with the women’s… we’re trying to get more women sprinters into the sport, because if Stephanie Morton and myself decide to retire after Tokyo next year, there’s quite a big gap. We don’t have quite the depth that some of the other disciplines have, and we’re in a situation where the team sprint now goes to three riders instead of two, where we have maybe one rider who’s on the cusp of potentially breaking it into being somewhat competitive, but still probably a cycle away from being super competitive in terms of medals. So we’re embarking on a bit of a talent transfer project where we’re looking at riders from other sports who don’t quite make it to Tokyo for their respective sport, and trying to entice them over into cycling, and seeing what we can do with them. That’s something that I’ve been somewhat involved with, but obviously with Tokyo being pushed another year further, to next year, it’s stopped my involvement in that project a little bit.

Kaarle McCulloch:

But I am considering coaching. I’d really like to coach females, particularly female sprinters, that’s obviously what I know, but I think with my degree, which I’m studying to be a P.E. teacher, but there’s a high degree of exercise science subjects in there. There’s a lot of new research coming out with how to train the female athlete, and working with their menstrual cycles, and trying to understand a little bit better how that works and how it impacts. I think, to me, we talk about the gap between men and women, and I know women are never going to reach what men can do, but I think the key to us getting closer is actually understanding how the female body works a little bit more, and how we can actually optimize performance for females within their menstrual cycles. That’s something that I’ve been really keen to looking at, and also understand why we don’t have more females in the sport. Because I think there’s a cultural thing there, and I think that needs to be looked at and potentially changed a little bit as well.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. Amen to that, and I think that’s something that we care a lot about here. We’ve seen the numbers here go against the national trend for participation in bike racing, which is amazing. I think USA Cycling does about 88% male, 12% female, maybe on a good year, 85% male, 15% female, and we ran our numbers this year and we’re running 70%, 30% female here. It’s a huge, if you’re not paying attention to 50% of the population, you’re missing a huge opportunity. You’re missing potential, you’re missing the next you, you’re missing the great athlete if they’re just not coming to your sport. I think it’s something that we really, just as an entirety of the sport, really need to pay attention to, because it’s something we all struggle with, why are we so male dominant.

Joan Hanscom:

And so much of what you said too is true, it’s like sports science is all performed on men. We don’t appreciate that women athletes are different, it is a different animal, and how you optimize a different machine is, if you look at the body purely as a machine, how you optimize a different machine, you have to explore that and understand it better to really do it. Fascinating stuff.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’ll speak to it from the male coaching side of it. The conversation about your menstrual cycle and stuff, that’s one of the first conversations I have with my athletes, it’s noted in your training. It’s just a very matter of fact type of thing, because it is important to know. So I’ll be super interested to see what you find in research and studying and stuff, so please share that and keep me in the loop of it, because I agree with you that the potential that we’re tapping across the board in terms of human potential in general is very limited. The more we remove what we think the limitations are, and I think we’re seeing that in sprint cycling specifically with the gears going just out of control, well why not give it a shot. I think the same thing with training techniques, and how fast can a woman go and how fast can a man go, I don’t think we actually know the limit, so why set one or why have a preconceived notion of one, let’s just approach it as a totally clean slate and see where we can go with it.

Andy Lakatosh:

So that’s very exciting. I’d love to see you as a coach, and then you can partake in the coaches and legends keirin with me..

Joan Hanscom:

There you go.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Oh, I don’t know about that. Not sure, I don’t know, I don’t know. I think you’d be too rough, all the boys from that era with the no rules keirin, I’m not sure about that.

Andy Lakatosh:

We talked about doing it with Lynne, who’s going to be on the podcast coming up here, and she was super game for it. She had the same kind of concern, I said, “That’s all right, we’ll just put the guys on an 81 and we’ll let you ride whatever gear you want, we’ll keep it interesting that way.”

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah. No, I’m all for fair play. Just like we, actually one of the big changes since the last time you were here is we are hard on the equal prize payout men and women, no matter what.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yep.

Andy Lakatosh:

That was one of the big things I was excited about when I started to get involved, Joan since she’s been here 100% on board with that. The 70/30 split we had this past year was just from our participation in COVID, I looked up our International Unique Entries from the UCI last year, and I think we had 75 or so men and maybe high 50s for women. Granted that’s a little bit different, it’s kind of like a World Cup, field limits are field limits. But it’s motivating to see that we do draw good crowds of high caliber bike racers of both genders.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, 100%. It matters.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s neat to see.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

It matters to survival, to be very honest.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah. Yeah, well I think if I was to get into coaching I would probably, well I would most definitely see big value in using T-Town as a foundation building-

Andy Lakatosh:

That is what we love to hear.

Kaarle McCulloch:

… Yeah, program or even to go to assist the athletes in becoming better. And racing the endurance races, and experience a fourth of July, and just getting out there and having fun with their races while learning something.

Joan Hanscom:

Cool. We like that.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, no 100% on board for that. Shifting gears a little bit, just because I’ve known you a very long time, and I knew the Kaarle who did not leave the house after about 7:30 PM. I remember sitting at the training center in Colorado Springs, and I’m chatting with Alex and Gideon, and Kaarle’s there, and the sun is well up, the sun is not going down for hours, and we’re all just hanging out, shooting the shit and having a good time in the cafeteria. Which normally can turn into hours in the OTC cafeteria, and Kaarle’s just very casually like, “All right, I’m off to bed.” I thought it was a joke, I looked at her and to Alex, and “Well what is she actually going to do?” He’s like, “No, that’s what she does, she goes to bed.”

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s the Kaarle I knew, never missing a training session, never having a cheat meal, never going out, going to bed before dark, which is basically I’m describing my own personal life right now. But you talked about happy Kaarle, and having a balance and stuff, so now that things have loosened up a little bit, what does Kaarle like to do besides going to bed before the sun goes down?

Kaarle McCulloch:

I do like to sleep, but I have to admit my bed time has blown out a little bit now. It’s definitely well past the sun going down, so you’ll be happy to know that. But I still manage to get eight or nine, sometimes 10 hours of sleep a night, which I just love.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’m jealous.

Kaarle McCulloch:

But I guess the things that I like to do for fun, I think I’ve been really, really blessed I guess to have met my current boyfriend Kevin, who’s actually, well was a diver, he retired three weeks ago. He’s from Mexico, he became Australian citizen just before Rio, and he is a Mexican. So he loves his tequila, he loves to go out dancing, he’s very care-free, but he can be serious when he needs to be. And he’s really helped me to just relax a little bit and to get out and enjoy life. He likes to skateboard, I’ve never skateboarded before, he’s taught me how to do that. Taught me how to salsa dance, which is not very good but I can sort of say that I can do it.

Kaarle McCulloch:

And I do make a point now, when I go away on trips, if some other riders from different countries and some of the Aussies want to go and have a drink after a race, I’ll be one of the first down there. I really feel like it’s important to just relax after a race, and just experience other, go and talk to people from other countries, and like you said Andy, you realize at the end of the day that everybody’s just trying to do the same thing. Everybody wants to go to the Olympics to win a gold medal, so when you can just get out there and have a little bit of winge about your coach, or teammates to somebody else, everybody remembers that they’re in the same boat at the end of the day.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, 100%. That’s definitely something I regret is not making more friends through the process. Obviously I wound up having some great friends out of it, like Kaarle’s here on the podcast, and I know if I ever bump into her at a race, or World Cup. And that’s one of the things that’s really unique about this is the Milton World Cup up in Canada, that’s just a six hour drive for us. I went up the last couple years that it was here, and you’re just bumping into these people from literally half way around the world that you haven’t seen in months, maybe years, and you’re just catching up and shooting the shit, and that’s definitely one of the fun, unique things that I love about this sport. Like Chris Hoy is larger than life, until you talk to him. Then he’s just Chris Hoy.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, right.

Andy Lakatosh:

He’s not Sir Chris Hoy, he’s just, I’ll still call him Sir, but yeah, everyone’s pretty down to earth. And if they’re not I don’t know what their problem is, but hey. One final Australian stereotype I’d like to talk about is that all Australians are crazy. What I mean is there’s a reputation of the Australian team of always getting up to something crazy at training camps, post events, junior worlds especially, I know because I witnessed some of it. And that’s just to put it nicely. I know chatting with Ryan Bailey he’s got a whole list of stories from that late ’90s, early 2000s era. But you guys have always been full of some colorful characters, and I was wondering what the craziest story or experience you have that is de-classified that you can actually share that won’t jeopardize your scholarship that you’d like to tell the listeners here on the T-Town Podcast?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah, I think the thing that I always notice when we go away to World Cups or World Championships, especially when we’re sharing a hotel and therefore dining rooms with other teams, is Australians are the loudest, laughing like crazy at dinners and every other country just seems to be quite serious. So definitely I think we’re probably have rightfully earned that crazy stamp, but I think it’s probably more the fact that we just enjoy a good old laugh, and this not taking things too serious, which is a little bit ironic seeing as I was that serious person, but I’ve tried to loosen up a little bit.

Kaarle McCulloch:

But in terms of a crazy story, there’s so many really. Nothing that’s super bad, but I actually had a different story in mind that I wanted to tell you about you just mentioned-

Andy Lakatosh:

You can tell them both.

Kaarle McCulloch:

… Well, you just mentioned Milton, and probably one of the most funniest things that’s ever happened to me was at the Milton World Cup. It must have been not last season, the season before. We had done three races in three different weekends in three different continents in a row. We had a race in Adelaide, then a race in Paris, and then a race in Milton. Steph and I, we just got faster and faster and faster, to the point where when we got to Milton, we actually rode an Australian record in the team sprint. We’re sitting in our hotel room on the last night before we had to fly out, and she said to me, “Do you feel like a champagne?” I said, “Yeah, yeah I do.”

Kaarle McCulloch:

So we got into a taxi and we just Googled where their closest pub was. We pulled up to this pub and it just looked dead, you couldn’t see anybody in there. We told the taxi driver just to stay there while we went in to just see if there was actually anything going on. We walked in, and everybody in the pub paused, looked at us, and then the whole pub goes, “Yeaaaaaaa!” It was a full-on cyclist, and we were like, “What the hell?” That was just an amazing experience, and we had a glass of champagne, we talked to all the people in the pub, and then we were home tucked in bed before midnight, and the next day we went and saw Niagara Falls. It was just one of those spur of the moment, let’s just go and see what’s out there, and have a bit of fun.

Kaarle McCulloch:

As a team, we had decided that we weren’t going to go and do anything, and we’d done it on the sly to try and not let the coaches see us, but it was so funny because the next day, it was neat because the coaches that were out in the pub from the other countries, and our coach came up to us and said to us the next day, “So, how was the pub.” We were kind of a little bit like, “Oh no, we’ve been caught.” But we were responsible. And I think that that’s the key really. You just have to be responsible with that sort of thing, and not be too silly.

Joan Hanscom:

You hear that Andy? Don’t do anything too silly.

Andy Lakatosh:

My stories are not de-classified enough for T-Town Podcast. See, when I went to Junior Worlds both times, USA Cycling had this brilliant idea to deter us from going out. They were like, “We’re going to book them on the 4:00 AM flight out, so that there’s no way they’re going to get up to shenanigans, because they’re going to have to get up early.” Well, we sure showed them, when we decided, “Oh, we’re just going to stay up all night.”

Joan Hanscom:

That’s the obvious choice, yes.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

The rest of the story is thereby classified. However, there’s always that rule of no, don’t go out, stay in. We obviously live in a different world today than say early 2000s, but yeah, there’s always a certain aspect of doing those things that makes it really fun. Thank you for sharing that story. You were the hero of the bar that night.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s it for all of our extended talking questions. We have a couple of lighting round questions that we put everyone through, so you are not going to escape those.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Okay.

Andy Lakatosh:

Here we go. If you had a pet parrot, what would you teach it to say?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Oh gosh, I don’t know. Probably Kevin, my boyfriend’s name.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s awesome.

Andy Lakatosh:

It would be even better if it sounded exactly like you, and he wasn’t sure if it was you or the parrot. Let’s see. Favorite country you’ve been to?

Joan Hanscom:

New Zealand.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well that’s basically next door, that’s like New Jersey for us.

Kaarle McCulloch:

I know, it’s not really fair, but the countryside there is just amazing.

Joan Hanscom:

Fair.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’ve never been, so I’ll add it to my list. Favorite color?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Blue.

Andy Lakatosh:

Ah, me too. Favorite smell?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Oh. Probably spaghetti bol, the smell of spaghetti bolognese. That’s just, as a kid I just loved to eat that, so I love the smell of that cooking.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, it’s dinner time here so now I’m hungry, thank you.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, thanks for that.

Andy Lakatosh:

Cat or dog, and I already know the answer to this one.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Dog.

Andy Lakatosh:

100%. Vegemite, love it or hate it?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Love it.

Andy Lakatosh:

I don’t understand that one at all. If we can’t see air, does that mean fish can’t see water?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yes.

Andy Lakatosh:

Okay. And how do you feel about wearing socks with sandals, yes or no?

Kaarle McCulloch:

Well, I have to say that I’m a bit of a, I do do that sometimes, especially at cycling races. But if it’s casual setting, no.

Andy Lakatosh:

And final question. Do you think we will actually be able to get Alex Bird onto the podcast? Get him to divulge his secrets?

Kaarle McCulloch:

I would say 50/50, and I’m actually going to catch up with him on the weekend, so I’ll try to swing it to the way of yes.

Joan Hanscom:

Put your thumb on the scale, all right.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

I haven’t even hit him up yet, but when I do I’m going to use all my best, “Listen come on, I really need you to do this as a good friend, we’ve been friends a long time.”

Kaarle McCulloch:

Yes, definitely guilt trip him into it.

Andy Lakatosh:

My job is dependent upon it.

Joan Hanscom:

Nicest boss ever.

Andy Lakatosh:

All right, I think that wraps it up for us. Thank you very much Kaarle for being on the podcast, it’s been a pleasure. And thank you for sharing all those great stories. We look forward to having you back here in person racing, sometime in the near future. And when you come back, you will have to partake in keirin revenge-

Kaarle McCulloch:

Okay.

Andy Lakatosh:

… which is a very fun keirin team racing that we do here.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Oh.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, it’s quite a good time. And a little bit of Andy’s rules. Thank you very much.

Joan Hanscom:

Thank you.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Thank you.

Andy Lakatosh:

And best of luck with Tokyo 2020, or 20 whatever it’s going to happen. Yeah, we’ll be rooting for you.

Joan Hanscom:

Thanks so much.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Thanks guys.

Joan Hanscom:

Bye.

Kaarle McCulloch:

Thank you.

Joan Hanscom:

This has been the Talk of the T-Town Podcast with hosts 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.

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Tara McCarthy: Pixie Bike Racer Extraordinaire

Tara McCarthy

Episode 2

There’s not a moment where I’m not giggling because it’s the stupidest, most fun thing of the year on bikes.

– Tara McCarthy, National Events Director USA Cycling

This week on Talk of the T-Town, we sit down with Tara McCarthy, the person who makes national events happen, and discuss racing pixie bikes, COVID protocol, national championships and selection processes, and fond memories.

Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is 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.


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.

Joan Hanscom:

Hello. Welcome to today’s episode of Talk of the T-Town podcast. Today’s guest on the pod is Tara McCarthy, National Events Director at USA Cycling and my friend. Both Andy and I have been fortunate enough to work with Tara in a professional capacity over the years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be real world friends with Tara. So thanks for coming and spending the time with us. It’s funny to be connecting over Zoom and not in person like we used to do in our desks weren’t all that far apart. But we really appreciate you taking the time. I know you’re a busy lady. So for everybody out there who’s listening, Tara is the person on the team at USA Cycling who makes your national events happen and she has a hard job. I think in some years, she’s had up to 18 national championships that she’s been quarterbacking. This year, I think was stressful in a whole different host of ways that didn’t involve quarterbacking national events, but rather quarterbacking the cancellation of national events. So Tara, welcome to the pod. We’re super happy to have you.

Tara McCarthy:

Thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be here with you all from across the country.

Joan Hanscom:

So for those of you who don’t know, Tara and I were co-workers at USA Cycling. And if I’m not mistaken, our actual first event working together ever was the 2013 Cyclocross World Championships, which for any of you who are not cyclocross people, were I think the absolute nightmare scenario of race production ever. And I think it was your first cyclocross race. Is that correct?

Tara McCarthy:

So it wasn’t actually my first one. I actually organized a small local cyclocross race at the property between USA Cycling, USA Triathlon’s properties here in Colorado Springs. I would say though, that it was a beautiful day. We had about 200 riders. So it wasn’t the true cyclocross organization that some folks have gotten to experience in their cyclocross event directing experience.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. So that week, back in 2013, we had the Masters course set up at an alternate venue. We were all stuck in our beds at the hotel on Wednesday morning. And at 4:30 in the morning, the tornado warnings started going off and we all had to seek shelter in the hallways of the hotel, and then we went to the course and there was no course. And so Tara and I have been in the trenches for a long time. And then that was Wednesday. And then Thursday, we got word from the Army Corps of Engineers that, “Oh, by the way, your entire venue is going to be underwater by 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, so your two day International UCI Elite World Championships better all move to Saturday.” So if we didn’t kill each other that weekend, I think there’s zero chance we’ll kill each other over a Masters National Track championships detail.

Tara McCarthy:

Oh, my gosh, that was, as you mentioned, one of the hardest events that I’ve ever worked. I mean, you mentioned a tornado. And we woke up one morning and went to the Masters venue, and there was a 40 by 40 Expo tent that had rolled through the start finish line. And there was like 400 feet of finished fence just laying on the ground. That I think was probably the moment where it just didn’t feel good anymore.

Joan Hanscom:

Well, and I have to say like looking at that, it was very intimidating as a race director because you’re like, “Ah, crap.” And then you took a step back and you went, “Oh, I’m so glad I’m not racing today.” Because that was horrible. That was horrible. So yes, enough of our cyclocross glory days. Let’s let people get to know you because I think everybody’s used to seeing you at national events with your radio strapped on and the focused march around the venue, getting stuff done. But your background is not in cycling, which I think this is a super rad thing to know about Tara. Tara started her sports background in rugby, which is not usual. It is an unusual sport for women to play, though widely embraced I think more on the East Coast than anywhere else as a women’s collegiate sport. But now you’re an avid cyclist. So tell us a little bit about that transition because it’s not normal. It’s not abnormal, it’s not usual, let’s say.

Tara McCarthy:

Yeah, so I think playing rugby was an extension of growing up with three brothers, two of which were older and one younger, and my older brothers would pretty much babysit me. They’re seven and 10 years older. And sometimes that babysitting turned into, “Oh, we’re going to play flag football with all of our friends who are guys.” And I think just growing up in that kind of rough and tumble environment made rugby a really attractive and normal to me sport. And it was really fun. The camaraderie with other women, getting to tackle other women and then have a beer after the game in a social manner, really kind of suited me. And during my rugby career, one of my teammates and I hate saying this on a cycling podcast, because people are going to be like, “Really, you’re going to mention triathlon?” But I mentioned triathlon. So one of my rugby teammates competed in a triathlon, I was like, “Oh, I’ll totally do that.” I used to swim when I was little, no problem, this will be easy.

Tara McCarthy:

So I actually used my mountain bike at the time to race on road triathlon and when I did not win, I decided to buy my first road bike, because I wanted to win the triathlon the next year. So that was my introduction really to being on a bike in a competitive manner. And after 12 years of playing rugby, the body just, it breaks down. It’s not an easy sport for your body. My nose is definitely crooked from playing rugby. Riding a bike became more attractive. I did use riding bikes as a training mechanism for rugby. And so it was a really easy transition from training for rugby into training just to be fit and then inevitably came racing and I’ve been racing now for the last number of years.

Tara McCarthy:

I would say that cyclocross is my favorite type of racing besides pixie racing. Cyclocross is actually I would say pretty similar to rugby. You’re chasing someone down. For my part, I don’t like getting the whole shot. I like kind of hunting people down as the laps go by. So there’s that sprinting aspect. There is the tactical aspect of okay, how am I going to take this run up? Am I going to try and ride it halfway? What’s my strategy here? And that’s really like rugby, and so I love cycling, I love getting outside, I like being on the bike for a bunch of hours, I like mountain biking with friends and grabbing a beer in the parking lot afterwards. It’s been a really good sport to transition into.

Joan Hanscom:

So that’s the most Tara like story ever though, like, “Oh, I’m just going to do this triathlon on my mountain bike and just crush it.”, and I love that because that’s so you, because Tara in passing mentioned pixie bikes, so I know Tara to have raced road because we were teammates and we raced crits together. That was fun. You obviously race mountain bikes. You race BMX, and you race pixie bikes. Does anybody know?

Andy Lakatosh:

I have to be honest, I don’t know what a pixie bike is.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s a little kid’s bike, like a tiny little kid’s bike.

Andy Lakatosh:

Oh, and you race on it.

Joan Hanscom:

That you buy at like a Goodwill store and every year in the springs, there’s this wacky group of people that do this pixie bike race but if you’re from Colorado Springs, you will appreciate where Gold Camp Road is and where Red Rocks is.

Andy Lakatosh:

I get cold shivers when you say that road name.

Joan Hanscom:

And so like the last time I went to the pixie bike race, Tara, you were in like a full downhill helmet like the full kit and they come hurtling down like the gravel parts of Gold Camp Road, and that whole surrounding environment and then onto the pavement and they are just hauling downhill on pixie bikes and it is hilarious. But Tara was the champion that year that I was there and I know you just had the pixie bike race a couple weeks ago. So did you repeat champion?

Tara McCarthy:

I did not win this year for the ladies. There’s two types of pixie bike racers in the springs. There are folks who purchase their kid’s bike and when we say a kid’s bike, it’s not like a smaller mountain bike. It is, I think it’s 20 inch or 16 inch wheels or under with coaster brakes. So you’re talking a true kid’s bike. My bike is a Huffy Rock It that I purchased the morning of the pixie race. So there are the two groups. So my group of friends who buy the kid’s bikes from Goodwill the morning of the race. We do a quick check, make sure it has coaster brakes that function, at least in the parking lot, the handlebars are on, the wheels are tightened down. And that’s pretty much our check.

Tara McCarthy:

Then the other group of people purchase their bike and modify it so that saddle height would be that of a normal bike. One of the guys welded two kid’s bikes together. So it’s essentially a tandem with one saddle and a wide enough top that you can actually ride it like a regular bike. So our group of friends just does it for fun, we don’t really care. Although yes, I am competitive, and I do want to win for the ladies. But given the fact that we are on very small bikes, and when you actually sit on the saddle, your knees are up to your shoulders, there’s not much winning on the morning Goodwill bike purchase. But there’s never a time in the 10 minutes that it takes to go down a two mile gravel road and then 30 miles per hour down pavement. There’s not a moment in that where I’m not giggling because it is the stupidest, most fun thing of the year on bikes, like it is hands down one of my favorite times of year, so I didn’t win, but still the best.

Andy Lakatosh:

So nothing that extreme, right? Nothing modifying bikes and stuff. However, T-Town has been known post national championships, funny enough that we’re going to have one here next year at the end of the year, because for a couple years that we were having, like Elite TrackNats would be here and they’d be here into Labor Day weekend, and then the season’s done. And that was the way that we end the season. So afterwards, this is before camera phones could take pictures of everything all the time. Staff and medics and some racers would hang out afterwards and share a couple beers. And inevitably, we would wind up having a Keirin pace by the tricycle, but the Keirin was done on the little yellow Harry Havnoonian or frog bikes that we have now with full grown adults. So I’m thinking I want to see an unofficial registration for that on the national schedule for next year as a final, so a bunch of masters are carrying on midget bikes, what could possibly go wrong? But that’s the closest I’ve gotten to seeing that. That’s a little bit on the, yeah, I don’t know if I’d go down a gravel road on a tiny bike.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, I have to tell you like I was at the finish line with beers. And I have never seen little kid’s bikes going so fast in my entire life. And it was hilarious. And they had to turn. So they’re coming down this hill. And then there’s a turn into the park and you’re just like, “Oh boy, are we going to make it?” It’s crazy fun. So that segues nicely into one of the things we’re talking about for T-Town next year, which is big wheel bike racing. There’s a brewery in Easton that does it every year. They have big wheel bikes for grownups. And we are thinking about Thursday nights, we should really have a big wheel bike racing league here at T-Town. And so that’s something else we’re looking right now. We’re shopping for our big wheel bikes, because we want to do something-

Andy Lakatosh:

Wacky and fun-

Joan Hanscom:

Wacky and fun on Thursdays in addition to in addition to the dead serious business of track racing.

Andy Lakatosh:

With of course, a grand season league finale on a Friday night. We’re definitely thinking like, I was thinking we should do like a [inaudible 00:14:09] style start where they have to run to the bike and then like a full Grand Prix course go through the infield, ride the track backwards type thing.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. So stay tuned.

Tara McCarthy:

That’s awesome. Do that. Please do that.

Joan Hanscom:

And you’ll have to do one of the races, like the Thursday nights will be the qualifiers for the big Friday night show. So you’ll have to come and jump in, Tara. You’ll definitely excel at the big wheel bike racing.

Tara McCarthy:

Oh man, I love that there’s going to be qualifiers for a big wheel final. I love it.

Joan Hanscom:

We’re anticipating high demand for big wheel bike racing, Tara. Anyway, so you mentioned that you came to USA Cycling from triathlon. So you made the big move across the parking lot. How was that? Was that different cultures, same culture? I don’t know many people who’ve worked for multiple NGBs.

Tara McCarthy:

It’s a similar culture. The folks that work for national governing bodies in sport, it’s a nonprofit, even though it’s a sport environment. And I think the cultures in nonprofits are probably pretty similar. At least it was a pretty easy transition from triathlon to cycling. I will say that my mom for a number of years was telling her friends that I still worked at USA Triathlon, but I was only doing the cycling portion of a triathlon. So that was a bit of a challenge to get her to understand my new job. But working for national governing bodies and being involved in the Olympic movement is a phenomenal experience. And I don’t know, it’s just really cool to see people that you’ve helped at events, that you’ve had events for all, of a sudden be on a world stage and be world champions or Olympic medalists. It’s super cool.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think when I lived in Louisville, and we were doing the USGP in Louisville, we had a host of little kids that were from Louisville, and actually in Madison as well, and we saw them, but I think by virtue of the contact that they had with their role models and their heroes in the sport at the USGP events that happened in their hometown, we saw this whole little generation of kids then go on to become pro bike racers themselves. And I distinctly remember Emma Swartz being at the number presentation party in Madison handing the race number one to Katie Compton. And now, Emma Swartz is racing at that elite level as well and that’s super cool to see that generational shift and you watch people go from being like the 10 year old junior to be in the same race maybe with Katie Compton or at that level, and it is super cool and I think we see a lot of that here at T-Town as well. I mean even Andy, Andy started in the kids’ programs here.

Andy Lakatosh:

Also did James Mellen, and he now, first guy here to go sub 10 seconds and-

Joan Hanscom:

Mandy Marquardt-

Andy Lakatosh:

Holds the track record, like James came through all the same programs I did from peewee peddlers all the way up to racing in UCI events and World Championships.

Joan Hanscom:

Kim Geist started in peewees.

Andy Lakatosh:

Bobby Lea.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I mean, it’s really cool to see that progression. And it’s one of the really fun parts of working, like you said an Olympic sport. You see people go from kid to absolute champion.

Tara McCarthy:

Yeah, I mean, I’ve gotten to watch Megan Jastrab literally grow up on a bike. And now, she’s a world champion in various disciplines, racing with Jennifer Valente in the Madison. Was she a junior when she first did that, Andy? Was she 18 still?

Andy Lakatosh:

Jen or-

Tara McCarthy:

No, Megan.

Andy Lakatosh:

Megan-

Tara McCarthy:

Megan was still 18.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, so she, yeah no, she would have been. Her racing age would have been 18 last year, when they would have done… did they do the Milton World Cup together? I think they did the Milton World Cup together, which was the final one in January. So her race, I don’t know if she even physically would have been 18 but her racing age would have been 18.

Tara McCarthy:

Yeah, yeah. So it’s been super cool watching Megan grow up and become a phenom on the bike and getting to know her family. It’s just really special watching kids grow up and then all of a sudden become superstars in the sport.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. And you feel like you played a little part on that pathway, right?

Tara McCarthy:

At least I can say I know her.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I feel like we did play a part. We give them the platform. What they do with the platform is up to them. But we at least provide the platform and a pathway. Without races, there are no racers, right?

Andy Lakatosh:

And I’ll say this, having sat on both sides of it now as the person complaining at nationals to Tara about X, Y and Z that shouldn’t be going that way because it doesn’t make any sense to me to be on the side of putting on those events. You really don’t realize how much it does depend on what Tara does and what we do to make events like that happen. If we weren’t doing it, there would be nothing and it wouldn’t matter if you had Taylor Phinney. He’d have no stage to go ride and perform on. So yeah, there’s a newfound respect for me after running events here of what goes into it.

Joan Hanscom:

Andy’s learning.

Andy Lakatosh:

Growing up and getting gray hairs, one you see [inaudible 00:19:43] at a time.

Tara McCarthy:

I’m good at that.

Joan Hanscom:

I’m good at giving Andy gray hairs. So speaking of the platform of national governing bodies, 2020 was no joke for a lot of national governing bodies. A lot of organizations had to reorganize, some went bankrupt and actually had to go through a really complete reorganization. USA Cycling was not exempt from that struggle obviously. You went through a lot of COVID upheaval and staff impacts. A lot fell on you, because you are one of the few people left on your particular staff, and for those who are listening, there’s sort of multiple staffs at USA Cycling. There’s the events team, there’s the elite athletics team, there’s the marketing team.

Joan Hanscom:

So on Tara’s team, a lot of people got furloughed, and that left Tara to carry a pretty big burden. But there was also some real innovation that was happening at USA Cycling during that time, which was interesting to watch you, your work. We were really impressed with what you guys did, you and Chuck on the creation of that safe return to cycling document. I can tell you that I used it, along with the guidance that we got from our hospital partners on how to run things safely here at the track this summer. And we were really fortunate that we did. We ran a robust training schedule, we ran TTs every weekend. We could not have done that without an awful lot of help from USA Cycling. And I don’t think the general listener fully appreciates how much work you guys did. I mean, you were consulting with the USOPC, with their medical team, you have your own in house medical officer. Talk to us a little bit about that, because I was enormously thankful for what you guys did. You helped us stay in business. So talk a little bit about that.

Tara McCarthy:

Sure. Well, I appreciate the accolades, Joan. That was a project that took a group of people. There were seven of us working on the documents from the return to riding and racing guidelines to the risk assessment tool to the club guidelines. It was a several week long project, just with seven people primarily focused on getting that out the door. We felt it was pretty critical to have a quick turnaround on that once we made the decision to move forward with the project. And as you mentioned, we worked with our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael Roshon and the USOPC, Chief Medical Officer Jonathan, excuse me, Dr. Jonathan Finnoff. And then we also utilized resources from the CDC and the WHO, and also tons of other resources to put together that guideline.

Tara McCarthy:

And if you think about it, the folks that worked on that, there’s probably about 100 years of bicycle racing experience in that document. So everything from make sure that trash cans have covers, here’s how you should run registration, here’s a scenario that you can use for your parking areas, that is the culmination of 100 years of experience in organizing bike races. And the group that put that together, we met pretty much every other day on that, bringing each other up to speed on the research that we had done, as well as some of the visual helpers in there, that Shawn Brett put together that looked phenomenal in document in regards to registration flow with a drive up window, tables, et cetera.

Tara McCarthy:

And we actually used that information that we put together to work with the Colorado Governor’s office for our state’s regulations when it comes to athletic endeavors. Prior to talking to the office, they had no information restrictions guidelines in regards to endurance events in the States. So there was only information about guided trips. So for instance, if you were taking a group on a raft down the Brown Canyon or adult sports leagues and the likes, so not only were we able to really push this out to event organizers and help them like we helped you. But we were able to work within the state’s legislation to help move forward the regulations for endurance sports in the state, which is super, super cool.

Tara McCarthy:

And then beyond those documents, we also held webinars. We discussed the current situation. We answered event organizer questions, and we also provided event organizers the opportunity to talk to Dr. Roshon and actually ask medical professional questions. During this whole time, we’ve had, so much information coming out is from the media that sometimes it’s a little bit hard to discern what could be true, what could be false and what really applies to you and your situation. So allowing Dr. Roshon to answer questions directly was one of the highlights that we heard from event organizers after the webinars were over.

Tara McCarthy:

And then lastly, we’ve held a number of calls with different event operations companies, venues such as velodromes, fundraising rides, Gran Fondos. And we’ve provided our staff expertise for them in order to really review their safety plan, go over the logistics and operations of their event, and really just what we’re seeing out with events that have taken place currently, being able to provide that experience and knowledge to them. So overall, it was a huge project. It’s still ongoing. We continually talk about what education we might need to bring to event organizers. Currently, it kind of almost feels like we’re in this down period where everyone’s almost, we kind of know what we need to do now and we’re kind of waiting to see what happens over the next couple of months. So probably within the next month, month and a half, we’ll actually have an event organizer summit and talk about some of the virtual opportunities that people have taken advantage of in our industry as well as what people have done for in person events.

Tara McCarthy:

So ongoing, we’ll kind of see what next year brings and what information we might need to bring to people. But overall, yeah, it was a huge project. And it was really something special to be part of because I think sometimes people don’t see USA Cycling as a leader in our industry. And I think this project and our expertise really kind of showed that yeah, we know what we’re doing and we are here to help you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a sanctioned event. It doesn’t matter if you’re the governor’s office, like we are here to give advice, we’re here to lend our expertise. So it was a pretty cool project to be part of.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think you know, I shared your document with the county. It was part of what I used to make the argument that we should be allowed to hold events here. It was super helpful to us. The updates for the webinars were always a very welcome opportunity to hear where we were, the latest understanding of COVID. And it would be, I think great if moving into 2021, before the season rolls out again, to just have a bit more of that. And you referenced something super interesting, which was the virtual events, and I know, I did a virtual road race here. And I did a virtual road race here, where I did a time trial, and it was super fun. and we experienced that. But one of the things that USA Cycling is doing is going into eSports.

Joan Hanscom:

And I was curious, I just got an email, I think about yesterday about sign up for this latest uphill climb or something. Who’s driving that initiative internally? Because at least as far as I know, when I left, there wasn’t a whole lot of expertise in that area. So is that something that, and I know in talking with Rob DeMartini, he definitely sees this as an emerging discipline of its own. And we’d like to see USA Cycling be much more relevant in that world. Who’s driving that internally? Who’s got the internal knowledge base?

Tara McCarthy:

So I mean, that’s really been a leadership initiative and on the ground, which doesn’t really apply when we’re talking about eSports. But I’ll use on the ground. On the ground in our staffing, the initiatives have been led by Stuart Lamb, our Director of Event Services. And I mean how long has Zwift been up and running and Strava? Strava was probably just before 2010 and Zwift, what, maybe five, six years ago?

Joan Hanscom:

2015, I think.

Tara McCarthy:

So I mean, what’s that?

Joan Hanscom:

2015, I think.

Tara McCarthy:

2015. So, I mean there’s a 10 year history in our industry of eSports in some capacity. And so we’ve been pretty lucky as a sport that we’ve had these technology solutions in place when the pandemic struck. I mean, think about, take rugby, for example. You can’t play rugby now. There’s not really a way to play virtual, maybe like a football video game. But there’s not really a way to test your capacity in a virtual manner for other sports. So we’ve been pretty lucky. And in the past, we’ve had conversations with Zwift about partnerships, so it’s not necessarily that this initiative is brand new as of this year or as a response to the pandemic. It’s always been in the background.

Tara McCarthy:

I would say though as an organization, and for folks who run events, the thought of virtual competition is somewhat challenging to our mindset, because there’s the question of the equipment. Is the equipment valid? Is someone putting the correct weight into the system? So there’s all these logistical challenges to a virtual environment that we still need to figure out. But there’s no question that eSports is here, and we’ve definitely worked on partnerships with various platforms this year, and those things are going to stick around.

Tara McCarthy:

I don’t see us going back to just in person racing once the pandemic ends. I think it’s going to be a mixture of in person and eSports for the very long future. Esports spans the continuum of riders, you have new people on pelotons clipping in for the first time ever, and who knows if that experience on that platform is going to get them outside and maybe racing at their local crit or their local time trial or Gran Fondo. This is something that I think our industry needs to and maybe not our industry, but USA Cycling and other event organizers needs to embrace because it widens our market. It increases the amount of people who are riding bikes and it’s here for the long term, so let’s capitalize on it.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, absolutely. On that note, we’re going to take a quick break and throw a little love to our sponsor, and then we’ll be right back.

Andy Lakatosh:

The Talk of the T-Town podcast is brought to you through the generous support of B. Braun Medical Incorporated. 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.

Joan Hanscom:

All right, we’re back. And it’s time to get into the meat of the track related discussion, let’s say because we’ve been talking about all sorts of other fun and interesting things which I love. But national championships, that’s your big wheelhouse, USA Cycling, like we said, some years up to 18 that you’re quarterbacking and this year, obviously none because of the obvious circumstances that we find ourselves in.

Joan Hanscom:

I think you walked a really hard line this year, as did Andy and I. We kept hope alive, right?

Andy Lakatosh:

Every week.

Joan Hanscom:

Every week, it was a pivot, it was an evaluate, it was where’s the governor? Where’s USA Cycling? Where’s the-

Andy Lakatosh:

Where’s Florida?

Joan Hanscom:

Where’s Florida? It was a perpetual on your toes, be agile and adapt. And I think you guys were doing the same. I think you wanted to keep hope alive that something could be resurrected, if it all safe and possible. But ultimately, the decision was made much like our decision not to go to mass start racing this year was made that to be good citizens and to observe community safety to observe rider safety, national championships were canceled. We were in constant contact about the masters and para national championships, which we were very much looking forward to hosting here. But tell us about that. I think again, give us some insight into the world that USA Cycling on making those decisions as the summer progressed, and then maybe give us a little bit of insight into what you guys are thinking about 2021.

Tara McCarthy:

Yeah, so that’s a lot to unpack, Joan.

Joan Hanscom:

I know, it was a lot.

Tara McCarthy:

So I think the first thing that I’d like listeners to hear is that canceling an event for an event organizer is a heartbreaking thing to do. Even though we’re USA Cycling, we still run our national championships A to Z, and the people that have been working on these events has sometimes, they’ve been for years. So for instance, Mountain Bike Nationals, I’ve been working on that event for eight years. And I’m super excited to where it’s grown to, and it’s almost become my baby. And so having to cancel an event that you’ve kind of watched grow up is a really hard thing to do. It’s not easy. It’s not taken lightly, and not having events this year prevents us from doing the work that we love to do for the riders that come to our events.

Tara McCarthy:

And I mean, the situation like you said, Joan, definitely on your toes. Every single week brought a different answer to whether we would have a national championship. One week, it was changing dates, the next week, it was changing formats to meet county requirements, changing locations. There was not a week where there was not an emotional roller coaster of yes, I feel like this week 90%, we’re probably going to have Masters Road. And then the following week, it felt like 20%. So it was just, it was really crazy, and it was interesting watching how membership responded to our communications.

Tara McCarthy:

First of all, thank you to all the people who are really understanding as to the changes, as to the lack of information available at that current time. I really appreciate everyone who just kind of stuck with us as we worked through the months this summer. And then we also got to hear some of the outcries from folks. For instance, when I announced that we would not be holding any amateur racing, we would just be holding elite racing, there was quite an outcry from from the junior riders and junior parents and those viewpoints helped us make some decisions.

Tara McCarthy:

So sometimes it’s hard hearing from people that you didn’t make the right decision, but also it’s good because we can adjust and do things in the best possible manner for our membership. And I also want to convey that even though we talked about date changes, format changes, location changes, the most important thing on our mind was the safety of our host communities, our riders, our staff, our vendors, et cetera. And a lot of times, we felt like the changes to the race format were probably pretty safe in terms of bringing people together. But we felt like the travel with people from all over the country was probably not the safe part of holding an event.

Tara McCarthy:

Holding a local race, people are somewhat close together, you know what your caseload is. There’s no airplanes, there’s no someone handling your baggage, there’s no hotel stays. So that was a really important consideration when we did cancel pretty much all of the national championships this year. And it’s not fun to make those announcements of a cancellation. And I know it was heartbreaking for the people like our collegiate riders who May was their last race that they could have done in their collegiate career. We have juniors who will never race a junior race again. That’s a really big disappointment for those riders. And I completely, I understand that and I hope people understand that we also feel disappointed and heartbroken that we did have to cancel.

Tara McCarthy:

With that said, I’m really happy where I’m sitting today that we did cancel. I think it was the best decision that we could have made, and a disappointing year but we are looking forward to 2021. Right now, I am planning for a full contingency of national championships. Now, having said that, we don’t know what’s going to be happening. We don’t know what health department regulations are going to be. We don’t know what case loads are going to be. So even though there’s a calendar with dates and locations, that could still change. Formats can change. But I am going into next year planning full force and we’re going to see what happens.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, I mean, I hear that 100%. Our season planning is well underway here. We have a lot of things outlined, sketched out, and I’m getting into the nitty gritty details of UCI schedules for races right now. And we say it every day, everything comes with a huge asterisk of like COVID dependent. And for us, the one upside is at least from a planning perspective, we went through so many different scenarios last year that we already have a tentative A, B, C, D, E, just keep going plans, which makes it a little bit more of a relief. But yeah, I mean, we’re all fingers crossed on let’s hope that this gets better and we can do things that seem or are normal coming into 2021.

Andy Lakatosh:

But I did have one interesting thing, I like the way that you phrased it of you guys made a decision. And then you had to deal with the outcry of people wanting something. I like that word outcry, because I just call it crying because you’re never going to please everyone. And one of the things that I learned being on the track committee, because before getting on the track committee, I was like, “This is very simple. This is what makes the most sense. And this is what we should do, because this is going to be the best thing for everybody involved. And so let’s go do it.”

Andy Lakatosh:

And then I got on the track committee and realized, “Oh no, some people will argue their point until they are blue in the face just to get what they want.” It becomes very frustrating. And one of the things that came up all the time was for track nationals, where they would be, when they would be, what the schedule should be. And I learned that you’ll never please everybody and that someday, you just have to make a decision. And so I’m sure that people that are listening would be interested to know what the bid process is. And if you could explain a little bit how locations are selected for nationals. And that sometimes, it might seem logical to do it at a particular location but that location might not have even put their hand up that they have any interest in it whatsoever. And that can really make things difficult. And the average athlete does not see the behind the scenes of how those things get selected or the kind of internal objectives of moving it around the country. So if you could explain a little bit some of the insight into how that works, not that any of the people that really like to cry are going to listen particularly to this or remember it, but it’s worth, I find it interesting when I learned it.

Tara McCarthy:

Yeah, sure. So I think one of the biggest misperceptions from our membership is that… I’m trying to think how to phrase this. People want us to go to certain places. People living in New York want us to go to the northeast. People living in California want us to stick to the West Coast. And while it seems really easy from an outsider perspective, just to say, “Hey, this city already has a crit, you should come here.” Our national championships, as you mentioned Andy, are bid out, which means that cities take a look at all of our requirements, and say, “Hey, I’m going to throw our name in the hat.” And throwing the city’s name in the hat means that they actually split the expense of the event with us. So the destinations-

Andy Lakatosh:

Which can be huge.

Tara McCarthy:

– that put their name in the hat actually have a financial requirement and service requirement in order to make the event happen. USA Cycling could not financially host a national championship on our own, so we find some great partners who are interested. They want to show off their destination to our membership, and we choose from the best destination of the bids that we receive. So like I said, very easy to say, “Hey, come to our town.” That town does have to put up money, services, hotel room blocks for our staff. And sometimes we don’t get bids from places where people want to go. And we choose the best option amongst the bids that we do receive.

Tara McCarthy:

And so that I think is the number one misperception about how we choose locations for our national championships. And for anyone listening, if you do have a city that you think would be a good fit, go talk to your city officials, talk to your convention and visitor’s bureau or your sports commission. We’d be happy to have a conversation with them. We definitely want to get to various places around the country but we can’t go there unless we have the support of your city.

Tara McCarthy:

So I think that’s number one. And then number two is the scheduling portion of this. We have 15 to 18 national championships a year. We have a staff of four, one right now, but a staff of four normally that manages all of those national championships. So you have to consider, can you have something on top of another national championship? World championships, where do those fall in the schedule? Do we want to be close to a world championship? Do we want to be six weeks away, four weeks away, et cetera? Other high level events, including sanctioned and unsanctioned events. So for instance, let’s see, Belgian Waffle Ride, are participants going to choose that over Masters Road? And how many weeks apart should those be?

Tara McCarthy:

And then we also actually have a lot of conversation with our Canadian counterparts up north and make sure that their calendar and our calendar are flowing well. We do know that folks do travel across the border to compete. And so we don’t want to overlap and take anybody’s participants away. And so those are just some of the things that we take into consideration in terms of dates and locations. I would say that we want to get to a legacy date for our track nationals. I do think it’s important to have a date that people know for the next five years, “This is what it’s going to be. I need to take off work. I need to submit vacation request. I just know when it’s going to be. I know when my training plan needs to be enacted. I know what races I need to hit prior to it.” But every year, the calendar changes and it’s getting harder and harder to come to a decision on September 1 through 7 is going to be Masters Track Nationals, there’s so many moving pieces that getting there has been really challenging. But I would love to get there. And I hope that answered your question. Did I miss any pieces of that, Andy?

Andy Lakatosh:

No, I think that it’s… I remember sitting on the board of directors, you see the financials of what nationals cost, and it’s not a profit, it is a cost. And that definitely factors into and I think our thing is, is that people don’t realize that for us, the velodromes have to take on that cost sharing. And that can be very expensive thing to undertake. And that’s why there’s not a lot of other tracks aside from us in LA and Rock Hill and Indy for collegiates that really want to take on that burden. And so it gives you limited options, and at the same time, you guys want to pick a place that’s going to run a great event, that has the infrastructure, has the staff, has the experience to really knock it out of the park. And yeah, so what your city does and what your township does for, I mean, there’s definitely a huge, you guys have all the metrics to show how much tourism dollars a nationals championship generates. And that’s a big deal to municipalities in terms of getting on board and saying, “Hey, we’re going to spend some money here because it’s going to drive people here, and it’s going to help our economy and stuff.” And now more than ever with hotels suffering, well especially back in the spring suffering for people traveling anywhere, it’s a big impacting factor to local economies.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. I mean I think one of the things that we learned during the USGP was there might be a venue that’s in a cyclocross hotbed. But if the city or the municipality doesn’t want you there, if the destination doesn’t want you, everything gets a lot harder. And when you have a partner, like we have here in Discover Lehigh Valley, they want to support events. That makes-

Andy Lakatosh:

Our jobs a lot easier.

Joan Hanscom:

It makes our jobs easier. It makes Tara’s job a lot easier. Having that relationship and instead of it being a sponsorship or whatever, it’s a true partnership. When you have a partnership with your destination, everything is easier in terms of event implementation. And that is such a true thing. That’s why we took cyclocross to Louisville. Everyone’s like, “Louisville, why are you going there with the GP?” And we’re like, “Because we had a partner in the Louisville Sports Commission that was incredible.” And you have to use that as a metric when you’re making decisions, like how much is your partnership going to help the event be better? How much is the local organizing committee going to get local restaurants and bars and attractions on board in addition to hotel rooms or police support, or any of that, permits, any of that stuff that people don’t appreciate about event production is so much easier when your destination really wants you and invests in you being there.

Joan Hanscom:

So yeah, I think that’s an untold story of how these venues are selected, but really, really, really important. I’m glad to hear you’re taking the same approach we are to 2021 though, like going into it with an optimistic outlook.

Tara McCarthy:

Yes.

Joan Hanscom:

Being optimistic, but being realistic as well. I think that’s sort of been our mantra, be optimistic, but be realistic. And be ready to pivot if need be. But fingers crossed that we are going to get to have our our Masters Nationals here next year and that you’re going to get to work your butt off at all 18 national championships next summer. I hope to see you hammered and worn out when you get here.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, so that was the serious portion of the conversation. For those of you who are listening, I think we touched on it a little bit with Tara’s love of every different bike discipline. But she’s also a complete Renaissance person. And I don’t know that this is completely appreciated by everybody. I view it as like, what wacky thing is Tara going to do next? Because I’m boring and all I do is bikes but Tara is not boring. Tara has done beekeeping, beer brewing, climbing, pottery. You’re obviously an excellent mountain biker. We convinced you, Tom Mahoney and I, we took you to a ballet class. So that was interesting. For those of you who don’t know, both Tom Mahoney and I have an extensive ballet background. That was probably the craziest fun day that I had in the springs just because Tom and I were flashing back to our wannabe ballet dancers. It came back like in a snap for the two of us but you’re a trooper.

Tara McCarthy:

Okay, hang on. Hang on here. We need to talk about this for a minute. So I go to ballet class with Joan and Tom as Joan described are professional dancers in the regular world. And then my friend Jocelyn who told me that, she took a couple dance classes here and there and I was like, “Okay, I’m not going to be like, I’m going to be okay, right? I took Ukrainian dancing when I was a kid for like two weeks. I did ballet and gymnastics when I was six. It will be fine, whatever.” We go, and I can’t even turn my foot a certain way. And Joan and Tom are literally doing a duet of dancing across the floor where I would have thrown up because they were turning so fast. And I look over at Jocelyn, my friend who’s like, “I took [inaudible 00:51:43].”, and she’s totally fine. She looks beautiful and gorgeous and all ballet and I literally was like, “You liars. You all lied to me. I even bought ballet slippers for this stuff. This is ridiculous.” So we went once.

Joan Hanscom:

It was really funny, like Tom and I, we’re doing partnering. It’s astonishing to me probably because I wasn’t thin enough. But had I been 20 pounds lighter, Tom could have gone right into doing lifts, like partnering lifts like we’d never left the ballet studio.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s so funny.

Joan Hanscom:

It was hilarious. So for all of you guys who have seen Tom Mahoney at multiple national track championships, lo and behold, both Tom and I have an extensive ballet background and it was hilarious. And we will never-

Tara McCarthy:

Don’t go to ballet class with them, anyone.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, so how are the bees?

Tara McCarthy:

So the bees are good. My original hive swarmed this spring and luckily, I was home and for those of you that don’t know what a swarm is basically, the hive split in half because it was growing too large for the hive that was in. And so I actually got to scoop up thousands of bees that decided to park in a lilac bush on my property. And so now I have two hives. I don’t think the second hive is going to survive the winter. They didn’t fare very well. And I think they actually might have swarmed when I wasn’t home. So I think that we’ll be back down to one hive next year. So they’re doing pretty good. I haven’t really messed with them too much. I just kind of let them do what they wanted to this summer.

Joan Hanscom:

Nice. Are you still climbing? I miss CityROCK.

Tara McCarthy:

I haven’t been, I’ve been a little leery about being indoors with other folks and they have great safety precautions in place. But I haven’t been climbing, no.

Joan Hanscom:

CrossFit? We forgot to mention Tara is a big CrossFitter.

Tara McCarthy:

So I have been doing some CrossFit workouts at home, nothing like being in the gym. I did go to Olympic Lifting last Saturday for the first time in six or seven months and I was a little bit sore on Sunday and yesterday. So I’m going to try and ease my way back into the gym depending upon how I feel about it.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I’m still gym nervous. I know Andy’s been going to the gym a lot. I instead chose to invest in a 35 pound kettlebell, which describes the extent of my lifting at this point, which is very sad. Let’s just say-

Tara McCarthy:

If you can even like buy kettlebells right now.

Joan Hanscom:

No, I found one on Amazon. I was very excited to get my hands on my 35 pound kettlebell because I thought, “Well, if I got heavier, I would just kill myself or drop it through the floor of my apartment building and kill my downstairs neighbors.” And so that is the extent of my lifting at this point, but I will have to get back to it at some point. Anything else in the wacky Renaissance Tara world that you’ve been doing lately?

Tara McCarthy:

So this year, since I’ve actually been home and not traveling every other week, I’ve been foraging-

Joan Hanscom:

Like for pine nuts, for example?

Tara McCarthy:

Yes. So Joan introduced me to this wonderful liqueur called the zirbenschnaps. And basically it’s Austrian, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, Austrian.

Tara McCarthy:

Yeah. So it’s an Austrian pine cone liqueur. And so I actually forage some pinyon pine cones this spring and I made pinyon pine zirbenschnaps. And one of our friends Brent was over. We were brewing beer last night. And so we actually tried it. It’s not too bad. It definitely has that drying in your mouth factor. And it doesn’t have quite the warming nature of what we had in Hartford, Connecticut at Cyclocross Nationals. But we were indoors. We weren’t outside in 20 degree weather for six days. So I might have to take it snowboarding and check out that property of it.

Joan Hanscom:

I was talking to Jim Miller yesterday, and he was in Austria for Mountain Bike World Championships. And I immediately, I had just seen your post on Instagram of your pine cone schnapps that you made and I was like, “Damn it, why didn’t I ask Jim to bring back pine cone schnapps?” I was so mad because my old business partner Bruce Fina lives in Austria and so he would, special request, bring me back goodies from Austria when he would come over to the States for the races. And one of the things that I always requested was Haribo with sugar, as opposed to the corn syrup that you buy here, so real Haribo, pumpkin seed oil, which now I’ve discovered you can actually buy at the Wegmans here in Pennsylvania. I’ve never seen it any other grocery stores anywhere else I’ve lived but pine cone schnapps was the third. So it was Haribo, pumpkin seed oil and pine cone schnapps. And then I saw that you actually successfully made the pine cone schnapps and I was very, very jealous because it is good. But yeah, I think that might have been like our super spreader event of the flu in Hartford that year because we all ended up getting the flu and we were all drinking out of the bottle of pine cone schnapps at various points during the week. And so that may have contributed to us all getting the flu.

Tara McCarthy:

That’s how we get through Cyclocross Nationals at USA Cycling. We just carry a bottle of schnapps with us every day.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, the pine cone schnapps, it was good. I miss that stuff. So if anybody knows how to make pine cone schnapps, send them to The Velodrome or Bruce if you’re listening, special delivery from Austria because it is the season where you want pine cone schnapps. So, setting all of that aside, Tara, we do what every podcast in the world does. We do the wacky round of questions at the end. So we’re going to put you on the spot for the wacky, wacky questions. This one is courtesy of Maura Beuttel, who is our new event marketing coordinator. If tomatoes are considered a fruit, does that make ketchup jelly?

Tara McCarthy:

Well, Maura, I made tomato jam this year, so yes.

Joan Hanscom:

So yes. Okay, ketchup is in fact jelly. In keeping with the 2020 theme, the apocalypse, asteroid or volcanic eruption?

Tara McCarthy:

I think I’m going to go for surprise, volcano.

Joan Hanscom:

Okay, could happen in Colorado. You never know. There are volcanic type things there. Favorite beer.

Tara McCarthy:

Oh, boy. This one’s hard. I don’t know. Oh well, actually, you know what? I can’t remember what brewery it is. But it’s called Princess Yum Yum. It’s a raspberry Kolsch. And I know Kolsches should be fairly even flavored and adding raspberry just kind of knocks that to the side but it is so refreshingly delicious. If you can find that anywhere you can buy beer, you should purchase it. It’s Princess Yum Yum. It might be the Denver Beer Co.

Joan Hanscom:

Okay, Princess Yum Yum. Candy corn, yes or no?

Tara McCarthy:

Just the white part of it.

Joan Hanscom:

Interesting. And finally, favorite foods, sweet or savory?

Tara McCarthy:

Savory. There are multiple times a week where I just eat popcorn for dinner.

Joan Hanscom:

Healthy, okay.

Tara McCarthy:

So much fiber.

Joan Hanscom:

On that note, Tara, we are going to let you go. You’ve been an exceedingly good sport, asking I mean answering all our wacky questions and diving into some of the more serious stuff as well. So we want to thank you for taking the time with us. And hopefully we’ll get you back in 2021 when we know if our optimism was the right way to go. But yeah, fingers crossed and stay well and thank you again.

Tara McCarthy:

Yeah, thank you all.

Joan Hanscom:

Bye.

Tara McCarthy:

Bye. 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 the 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.