2015 Pan Am Track Cycling @ Velodrome in Milton ON

The velodrome in-field where athletes warmed up and cooled down…

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Athletes warming up on rollers, awaiting their events…

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Track Start Technique

Sprint finishes can come down to hundredths, even thousandths of a second and proper lunge technique at the line was the difference between moving on in qualifying heats.  Bike handling skills were paramount as athletes dueled for the optimal line by weaving behind the other using the entire width of the track and its 42o bank to try to outwit the other only then to sprint shoulder to shoulder in the final all-out to the finish at speeds no less than 64 kph…

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Canadian Track Cyclist Monique Sullivan at the start of the Kierin (wearing red flame helmet designed by a friend)…

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The heat took a few times to get through as sometimes even the pros fall.  The fact that the pros do fall demonstrates the value of bike handling skills to avoid the falls of competitors, and to avoid sustaining an injury which could take an athlete out of competition…

Monique immediately after winning her event, and after a couple of laps on the safety, starts her cool down on the in-field on a road bike…

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Canadian Track Cyclist Remi Pelletier’s Omnium Flying Lap

Athletes would initiate their cool down immediately after their event with a couple laps on the safety just to slow down.  At the exit point off the track, their coach would be waiting with their road bike so that they could switch and cool down on a bike which has gears. Cool down was fascinating to watch as not only did it serve the physical purpose of flushing the body of the effort, but it appeared as a step for athletes to cool down mentally and emotionally as well.

The energy in the velodrome and the intensity of the events left us as spectators excited, almost edgy; so athletes who are on the receiving end of the foot stomping, stand shaking, flag waving energy of a cheering crowd need to come down after their events to recover, refresh, rest, to refocus on upcoming events.  The speed of the cool down was so slow that for a moment you could mistake it for a children’s merry-go-round at the CNE.  In the context of needing to come down off the ‘high’ of an event, the speed makes complete sense and raises the appreciation of the importance of cooling down and how it should be done.

Lesson learned…

Cooling down between events, or after completing a day of competition should be looked upon not only as an aspect of physical recovery, but equally as mental and emotional recovery: a time to let go of what just happened – both successes and failures – allowing the athlete to empty, free themselves to be ready to press forth to that which lies immediately ahead.  Even if there is no additional competition that day, starting the recovery process with a proper cool down can move an athlete beyond the emotion of the results, allowing them to complete post competition analysis objectively identifying targets for upcoming training.

Cooling down either completely at the end of a day of competition, or partially between events is a strategy which also applies to training, as the ability to recover between intervals is key to developing consistency.  To be able to do so free of the success or failure of the prior repetition, being able to remove judgement until an appropriate time, being able to be fully engaged in the moment allows athletes to learn to recover quickly: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The ability to recover quickly was apparent at the velodrome as falls were not uncommon and athletes had to shake them off, get back to the start line, and be fully ready to compete.  Those who didn’t fall had to refocus, psyche back up to give the event their fullest attention as if it was the first call to the start line.  The day of competition is no place to learn or to test out refocusing strategies, again, proper cool down training and recovery training between intervals can set athletes up to have an edge that their competitors simply haven’t developed.  With events won or lost by hundredths or thousandths of a second, more often then not, edges are what define consistent peak performers.

Unfortunately, cooling down is left by many age group athletes to the showers, and for many masters athletes to the pub; yet cooling down is as integral to consistent peak performance as anything else.  It is such a simple strategy, requires little skill,  but significant repetition, and perhaps that is why so many athletes dismiss it and the value it holds as negligible.

It is often the simplest training which holds keys to peak performance, but too many athletes and coaches see simple as rudimentary, that which applies only to novice athletes.  Often smart training is mistaken for being ‘too simple’ and is overlooked, but consistent peak performers know the difference.

One thought on “2015 Pan Am Track Cycling @ Velodrome in Milton ON

  1. MGrodski Post author

    While watching the Canada – Argentina Pan Am basketball game, it was interesting to see that when Canadian players came off the floor they would head off to a stationary bike just off to one side of the court to complete a cool down.

    It only makes sense that athletes (and teams) seeking a higher level of consistent performance, plan and prepare for upcoming training and competition by completing a thorough cool down between training sets, at the end of sets, and after competition. A complete cool down will expedite recovery allowing athletes to resume training sooner, and/or move between competitions with the ability to expect equal or even higher levels of performance each time.

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