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Cycling’s learning curve

By Mark Etheridge

Unfamiliar conditions and the increased level of competition counted against our para-cyclists at the UCI World Track Championships in Los Angeles last week.

The team of five failed to return with medals but managed two fifth spots through Jaco Nel and Roxy Burns and perhaps, more importantly, brought back a wealth of experience.

And it’s experience that team manager Ben Capostagno reckons will be invaluable.

“Unfortunately, our athletes don’t have access to a wooden track or the competition of the level seen at World Championships. As a result they tend to make small errors when using the starting gates and slipping on the wooden tracks. Roxy’s time in her 500-metre time trial was heavily influenced by her inexperience with the starting clamp used at competition. There is little doubt in my mind that this cost her a medal.

“Similarly, Jaco Nel was struggling with his backwheel ‘fish tailing’ as he came off the bends and rode onto the straights. This was caused by him stomping on the pedals as opposed to keeping a nice even pressure throughout the pedal stroke. This cost him time and probably a medal.

“He experienced the same problem in the team sprint. He doesn’t experience this on the concrete tracks we have here in South Africa.
Sadly, without a significant amount of time spent training with start clamps and wooden tracks, it will be difficult for our athletes to overcome these problems.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom says Capostagno, a PhD student at the University of Cape Town (UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM) and High Performance Coordinator for Para-cycling South Africa.

“The most positive aspects were probably Jaco’s performance in the 1000 m time trial, Roxy riding a personal best in her 3000m pursuit and the performance of Jaco, Dane Wilson and Stephan Herholdt in the team sprint. I think Dane’s performance in the scratch race was also a highlight of the championships.

“The team are motivated to improve and I think that the trip was beneficial in highlighting certain areas of their training that need attention. We will work closely with these athletes to assist them in their preparations for London.”


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