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Ballet Dancer Turned Track Cyclist

Old 05-10-19, 07:32 AM
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Rooni
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Ballet Dancer Turned Track Cyclist

Hi all,

Newbie track cyclist and newbie to any kind of serious cycling in general here. I am looking for some advice and direction to suit my goals. Any help would be massively appreciated.

Introduction:

I am 25 years old, 187cm (6 foot 1) and 92kgs (202lbs). I am an ex-professional ballet dancer and now work a desk job in the City of London. I went to a vocational ballet school for 8 years and danced professionally with national companies and opera houses for four years. After ballet I decided to try the sport of rowing as I am situated close to the River Thames which I enjoyed and given my background did quite well at but after a year I decided it was not the sport for me. What got me into track cycling was a trip to the six day cycling event in London and being in awe of the sprint events. Also as selfish as it sounds I needed to compete in a sport that only I could be accountable for.

Strength and fitness wise I have always been interested in strength and conditioning as it was fundamental to my ballet career. I also moonlighted as a personal trainer for many of the dancers that I worked with so I have a strong understanding of physiology and which exercises to use to develop certain aspects (more specific to ballet but I guess you could say strong is strong).

Current Training

I have been taking cycling seriously for the past three months. I bought a road bike, a set of rollers and have completed my accreditation at the Lee Valley Velodrome in London.

Below I have outlined my current training programme:

Monday Weights
  1. Back Squat 3x3 (90%)
  2. Single Leg Leg Press 4x6
  3. RDL 4x8
  4. Stir The Pot 3x10
Tuesday Watt Bike or Rollers
  1. Rollers (I am still learning how to ride rollers with decent bike control)
  2. Watt Bike either 4x500 meter efforts/6x5 second max power efforts/Big Gear Low Cadence 5x5 minutes (grind)
Wednesday Weights
  1. Box Jump 5x3
  2. Pause Back Squat 3x5 (75%)
  3. Clean Pull 3x5 (heavy)
  4. Neutral Grip Pull Ups 4x10
Thursday Velodrome
  • Sprint Session 4x flying 200 meters

Friday Weights
  • Back Squat 3x6 (80%)
  • Barbell Bulgarian Split Squats 4x6
  • Single Leg RDL 4x8
  • Stir The Pot 3x10
Saturday Road Ride
  1. 30/40km nothing too serious, just that I like being able to ride my bike outside.
(I have access to watt bikes and a good standard of gym equipment)


The all important numbers

  • Back Squat 190kgs (418lbs)
  • Max Power Watt Bike 1608w 154rpm

Goals

  1. Quantitative: Stretch - Compete at the British Nationals in the Sprint, Target - Compete in track cycling leagues.
  2. Qualitative: Be the best that I can be (cliche I know but what’s the point in doing it then)

Caveats
  1. Can only get to the velodrome once a week.
  2. I do not have a car so I am waiting for a hook at the velodrome, until then I have to use the rental bikes (gearing 90). I have done 12 flying 200 meters to date and my best is 13.44 on the rental bike.

Conclusion
  1. I am massively dedicated and passionate about a goal once I set my sights on it. Sometimes to the point of obsessive but you have to be and I would not live any other way.
  2. I am confident in my ability to put in the work, a career in ballet taught me that.
  3. I am new to cycling and I am still getting confident on a road bike so I understand that I am coming from behind.
  4. I realise I have only been doing this for three months so have a lot to learn and importantly I am willing to learn so will take any advice you can give me.

Questions
  1. What if any advice would you give me from the above?
  2. How does my training programme look? I am confident in the gym but with regard to what sessions I should be doing on the track, Watt Bike and rollers I have very little knowledge.
  3. When I do eventually get a hook at the velodrome are there any recommendations on bikes from the UK market? My budget is relative to my potential to reach my goals.

Thank you (even just for reading this lengthly post)!

Last edited by Rooni; 05-10-19 at 10:52 AM.
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Old 05-10-19, 03:25 PM
  #2  
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Wow, I look forward in just seeing where you will go. You are certainly off to a passionate start.

Any seat time is good. Generally we work in intervals and hard accelerations. That and basic bike handling skills. The efforts are hard, so half the time at the 'dome is sitting around recovering. Riding outside on the weekends is good for the endurance and the soul! ;-)
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Old 05-10-19, 07:36 PM
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This is how I see your generic strengths and weaknesses in your current situation. This is not an assessment of your potential, just pointing out where your current strengths and weaknesses are.

As a sprinter, your strength is good, power is decent, speed is okay, and your saddle time is minimal.

Being a beginner, saddle time is what is most important for anyone who is starting out. The rest of the stuff a cyclist does is to improve their cycling, but without actual ride time, you won't be a good cyclist. Wattbike doesn't count, but rollers do. To get faster, which is the weakest of your physical attributes, you will need to be able to put down power while pedalling, and on a fixed gear, you need to be able to do it fluidly. A stationary bike doesn't build the neural pathways the same way a freely moving bike does. Spend more time on your track or road bike.

Your strength game is good. No need to really focus on that too much. You would be better served with replacing one weight session a week with a real bike ride.

Saddle time will improve your power as you become better at pedalling and using that strength through your pedals, and your speed will improve because of that.

You're in a really good spot as a beginner in the sense that the major solution to your weaknesses is to just ride more. Most people need to develop skill, strength, AND the will to train when they start out. All you need to do for the next six months is ride as much as you can. You can devote less time to strength in the weight room which will also help in recovering from the riding.
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Old 05-10-19, 10:49 PM
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Hi, Rooni. Welcome to the forum and welcome to the sport!

Read this: https://www.bikeforums.net/track-cyc...ack-racer.html

Understand that fitness is the number 1 differentiator in the beginner and intermediate ranks. If you blaze through that, then you start racing others that are just as fit as you, then they kick your ass using bike skills. So, don't shy away from that in your training. If you can't do it at 25mph/40kph, then you won't be able to do it at 40mph/65kph.

Once a week at the velodrome is enough. More would be better as a beginner, but take what you can get. When you go, don't focus on laying down top speeds and whatnot. Put on a lower gear and stay out there as long as you can. You aren't there to go fast (right now), you are there to learn the curves of the velodrome in a pack shoulder to shoulder with others. At this point, you need comfort on the track. You don't want to be super fast and uncomfortable...that's scary for you and everyone else on the track, because they can see your discomfort (believe it or not).

Keep us posted!

Also, bear in mind that this is a relatively "slow" forum. But, the signal-to-noise ratio is very high
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Old 05-10-19, 10:56 PM
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Early on, you may want to do some really basic "get to know the track" drills where you put on a warmup gear and simply do things like:

- Ride 10 laps in the Sprinter's lane
- Ride 10 laps on the Stayer's line
- Ride 10 laps at the Rails/Boards
- (f the track is relatively empty) Safely and gently swerve back and forth. This trains the brain about the curves.
- No max speed efforts (to save energy for more reps)...OK maybe a couple, but remember the objective for the day.
- Ride in a paceline with others taking pulls (if they aren't elite fast).
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. I'd rather a rider ask me what he thinks is a stupid question (there are none) than have him pull an actually stupid maneuver

Also, bring your tools and feel free to tweak your bike fit.

A lower gear is important as you won't tire out as quickly and have to pack it in for the day.

Routines like this help new racers get their "track legs" faster if they can't get to the track very often. Basically, spend your limited time on the track doing things that you can only do on the track. Namely: Learning how to ride the curves. You can do strength and cardio training elsewhere.

Last edited by carleton; 05-10-19 at 11:04 PM.
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Old 05-12-19, 02:19 PM
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Thanks very much everyone for the advice!

The general consensus is more saddle time so that's what exactly what I shall do.

taras0000 - thank you very much for the advice. Saddle time it is, you have pretty much hit the nail on the head with what I have been finding in my own assessments at the track. Rollers, track and road it will be. Plus the mercury in the UK is starting to rise which gives me more excuses to be outside.

carleton - thank you very much for your reply and the link. I have read many of your posts so I hugely appreciate the feedback. In regards to track fitness, I have a question - in rowing we focused a lot on something called 'UT2' training which was training blocks of 20-30 minutes at 60-75% HR, this was to build our aerobic base and the theory was that we needed that UT2 base to be able to perform well in the anaerobic work for 2km races. Is that the same for track sprinting disciplines or is the attitude more that endurance work will slow you down?

I am going to try post a monthly progress report so any advice along the way would be greatly appreciated!

Last edited by Rooni; 05-12-19 at 02:37 PM.
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Old 05-12-19, 07:02 PM
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Your physiology says, you've got big gains ahead, so grab the bull by the horns and immerse yourself.

From your program standpoint, you have a lot of workload in there. You're young-ish, so you could be handling it ok, but I would consider splitting it up with a day or 2 of recovery work in there. Keep up the cardio work as well, and don't underestimate just how fit you need to be to be a good track sprint cyclist.

Get out there and race, race, race. On the track ideally, but shorter crit style races would work well too. Learning how to race is a big part of your development. Looking for cues, watching riders' moves, when to jump, they're all things that come with experience.

Lastly, it sounds like you've got the funds to allow, and so I'd highly recommend touching base with the Black Line Coaching guys (not to be confused with Black Line Sprinting-BLS). I have a friend using their services and they are showing themselves to be extremely knowledgeable.
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Old 05-12-19, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Rooni View Post
Thanks very much everyone for the advice!

The general consensus is more saddle time so that's what exactly what I shall do.

taras0000 - thank you very much for the advice. Saddle time it is, you have pretty much hit the nail on the head with what I have been finding in my own assessments at the track. Rollers, track and road it will be. Plus the mercury in the UK is starting to rise which gives me more excuses to be outside.

carleton - thank you very much for your reply and the link. I have read many of your posts so I hugely appreciate the feedback. In regards to track fitness, I have a question - in rowing we focused a lot on something called 'UT2' training which was training blocks of 20-30 minutes at 60-75% HR, this was to build our aerobic base and the theory was that we needed that UT2 base to be able to perform well in the anaerobic work for 2km races. Is that the same for track sprinting disciplines or is the attitude more that endurance work will slow you down?

I am going to try post a monthly progress report so any advice along the way would be greatly appreciated!
You need to be fit to get fast. Without a decent aerobic base, you won't be able to make it through a sprint workout.

This is a link to a post from another thread. You'll probably come across some similarities from your foray into rowing. If you have any questions, kepp them coming.

https://www.bikeforums.net/20858071-post4.html
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Old 05-13-19, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Rooni View Post
carleton - thank you very much for your reply and the link. I have read many of your posts so I hugely appreciate the feedback. In regards to track fitness, I have a question - in rowing we focused a lot on something called 'UT2' training which was training blocks of 20-30 minutes at 60-75% HR, this was to build our aerobic base and the theory was that we needed that UT2 base to be able to perform well in the anaerobic work for 2km races. Is that the same for track sprinting disciplines or is the attitude more that endurance work will slow you down?
No problem.

1: Training program advice is highly subjective and very personal. What works for one may not work for another. Figuring out what works is part of the athlete's journey. Even the top athletes and coaches in the world don't get it right sometimes. Notably, in a documentary about the US Women's TP team, it was noted that Jennie Reed (former world champion Keirin rider and top sprinter, 3x Olympian, Olympic Silver in TP) was training with her enduro teammates like an enduro, when her energy systems were very different. She was essentially running anaerobic for ungodly amounts of time when the others were aerobic. When they discovered this and adjusted her program (separate from the others), she got even faster.

2: Modern sprinting isn't about pure power. It's more about speed-endurance. So, not only do you have to get up to an acceptable speed, you have to be able to hold it. So, endurance work is part of the game for sure. How much? That's the $64,000 question. It's not about max power. It's about 10s, 15s, 30s, and 1min power.

I know that doesn't answer your question directly, but hopefully it illustrates that it's a difficult question to answer.

You may be ready for a coach to write a program just for you. As an experienced dancer, I'm sure you can find similarities in the sports/professions in this area. Just any guidance from someone who will take your money and give you cookie-cutter workouts isn't as good as quality guidance from an experienced instructor.

Last edited by carleton; 05-13-19 at 02:27 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 05-14-19, 10:10 AM
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Not sure if you’ve been Herne Hill Velodrome is great for Track time - it’s cheaper than Lee Valley and there are plenty of decent sessions - race training on Monday 7-9pm and Saturday 10 - 12pm and track league on Wednesday evening.

Everyone there is really helpful.

Rental bikes aren’t the best but fast riders do fine on them! Many people ride track bikes there and take the front brake off.

Maybe see you there !
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Old 05-14-19, 10:39 AM
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Forgot to mention - you would need training accreditation for the sessions and for the track league you need racing accreditation.

It’s an easy process but accreditation is not transferable from Lee Valley.
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Old 05-14-19, 06:34 PM
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So you're an ex-rower and 13.44? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you're going to end up being an enduro, not a sprinter. But you'll find out, and the most gains you are going to get will be from track time and actually racing. Do as much racing as you can. 200m to point races.
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Old 05-14-19, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by tobukog View Post
So you're an ex-rower and 13.44? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you're going to end up being an enduro, not a sprinter. But you'll find out, and the most gains you are going to get will be from track time and actually racing. Do as much racing as you can. 200m to point races.
13.44” doesn’t mean much for a new racer. He might easily be 12.4” in the same session with the right gearing, windup, and line. There are so many things that can go wrong with a flying 200, and they all compound each other...not to mention the competency of the person doing the timing!

Pull out the stopwatch app on your phone and see how fast 1” passes.

My first flying 200s in training were maybe in the 14 or 15” range when I had no idea what I was doing. I made it to 11.5” as an old guy.

Keep in mind that Cav is squarely an enduro and can roll a 10.x” flying 200. He’s not a normal human, but I mention him to illustrate that enduros are very capable of riding fast times...when they train for it

Last edited by carleton; 05-14-19 at 10:44 PM.
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Old 05-15-19, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by carleton View Post
13.44” doesn’t mean much for a new racer. He might easily be 12.4” in the same session with the right gearing, windup, and line. There are so many things that can go wrong with a flying 200, and they all compound each other...not to mention the competency of the person doing the timing!

Pull out the stopwatch app on your phone and see how fast 1” passes.

My first flying 200s in training were maybe in the 14 or 15” range when I had no idea what I was doing. I made it to 11.5” as an old guy.

Keep in mind that Cav is squarely an enduro and can roll a 10.x” flying 200. He’s not a normal human, but I mention him to illustrate that enduros are very capable of riding fast times...when they train for it
Like I said, out on a limb. He could very well end up being a sprinter. Rowers often make very good enduros. Dancers, who knows .
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Old 05-17-19, 02:32 AM
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Originally Posted by taras0000 View Post
You need to be fit to get fast. Without a decent aerobic base, you won't be able to make it through a sprint workout.

This is a link to a post from another thread. You'll probably come across some similarities from your foray into rowing. If you have any questions, kepp them coming.
Thank you for the link. So I have swapped out a Watt Bike session for a rollers session - a) because I need to be able to ride rollers comfortably and b) to improve my bike handling, but also I found them quite a tough workout and have no problem nearing my max heart rate.

My session consists of 2x20 minute Watt Bike warm ups with a 5 minute break in between.

Watt Bike 20 Minute Warm Up: 5 minutes 90rpm, 2 minutes 95rpm, 2 minutes 100 rpm, 2 minutes 105rpm, 1:30 minutes 110rpm, 30 seconds 115rpm, 2 minutes 90rpm, 6 seconds Rev Out, 1 minute 90rpm, 6 seconds Rev Out, 1 minute 90rpm, 6 seconds Rev Out, 2:42 minutes 90rpm.

Something I really struggle with on rollers is bouncing in the saddle at the high cadences. Does anyone have any advice on how to reduce this?
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Old 05-17-19, 02:39 AM
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Originally Posted by carleton View Post
Early on, you may want to do some really basic "get to know the track" drills where you put on a warmup gear and simply do things like:

- Ride 10 laps in the Sprinter's lane
- Ride 10 laps on the Stayer's line
- Ride 10 laps at the Rails/Boards
- (f the track is relatively empty) Safely and gently swerve back and forth. This trains the brain about the curves.
- No max speed efforts (to save energy for more reps)...OK maybe a couple, but remember the objective for the day.
- Ride in a paceline with others taking pulls (if they aren't elite fast).
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. I'd rather a rider ask me what he thinks is a stupid question (there are none) than have him pull an actually stupid maneuver
I went to an open drop in session at the track this week and tried all of the above. Starting with the 30 laps on varying lines was definitely a good warm up and also got me much more comfortable on the track so thank you. I also practiced riding standing up and accelerating standing up as this is something I need to improve on, especially in a wind up. I would accelerate standing up on the home straight as if about to doing a flying 200 and then recover for 3 laps and repeat all again.

I think I will do a couple more of these sessions before going back to the specific sprint sessions.
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Old 05-17-19, 02:45 AM
  #17  
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Originally Posted by Bluscuba View Post
Forgot to mention - you would need training accreditation for the sessions and for the track league you need racing accreditation.

It’s an easy process but accreditation is not transferable from Lee Valley.
I will definitely check out Herne Hill, thank you. With the weather in the UK just about being tolerable it will be nice to be outside!

Do you know what the accreditation process is like? Obviously any track time is time well spent but I don't want to spend too long on the accreditation process.
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Old 05-17-19, 02:51 AM
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Originally Posted by brawlo View Post
Your physiology says, you've got big gains ahead, so grab the bull by the horns and immerse yourself.

From your program standpoint, you have a lot of workload in there. You're young-ish, so you could be handling it ok, but I would consider splitting it up with a day or 2 of recovery work in there. Keep up the cardio work as well, and don't underestimate just how fit you need to be to be a good track sprint cyclist.

Get out there and race, race, race. On the track ideally, but shorter crit style races would work well too. Learning how to race is a big part of your development. Looking for cues, watching riders' moves, when to jump, they're all things that come with experience.

Lastly, it sounds like you've got the funds to allow, and so I'd highly recommend touching base with the Black Line Coaching guys (not to be confused with Black Line Sprinting-BLS). I have a friend using their services and they are showing themselves to be extremely knowledgeable.
Thank you for the reply! Definitely ready to grab the bull by the horns so any advice is hugely appreciated.

I am quite used to volume from dancing as that was around 4-6 hours of training a day as well as performances but I do have to be careful as track cycling is all out efforts and with ballet you never could get to 100% effort as your technique would just fall apart.

A friend has recommend crits so that is something I will definitely look into.

I have looked into coaching as it is something I feel I would benefit from and also something I am used to from ballet. Black Line Coaching looks to be very popular and I see a lot of the Lee Valley riders in their skin suits. They have no prices on their website so I imagine it is expensive but I am sure you get what you pay for.
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Old 05-17-19, 02:59 AM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by taras0000 View Post
You need to be fit to get fast. Without a decent aerobic base, you won't be able to make it through a sprint workout.

This is a link to a post from another thread. You'll probably come across some similarities from your foray into rowing. If you have any questions, kepp them coming.
Thank you for the link.

I have swapped out a Watt Bike session for a rollers session as - a) i need to get proficient in riding rollers and b) i think it will really improve my bike handling skills and pedal smoothness. I also find them a tough workout and currently have no problem nearing my max heart rate.

My current session is 2x20minute watt bike warm ups with a 5 minute break in between.

Watt Bike 20 min Warm up:
5 minutes - 90rpm
2 minutes - 95rpm
2 minutes - 100rpm
2 minutes 105rpm
1:30 minutes - 110rpm
30 seconds - 115rpm
2 minutes - 90rpm
6 secs - rev out
1 minute - 90rpm
6 secs - rev out
1 minute - 90rpm
6 secs - rev out
2:45 minutes - 90rpm

Something I am struggling with on rollers is bouncing in the saddle at high cadences. Do you or anyone have any advice on how to combat this?
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Old 05-17-19, 04:36 AM
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https://www.riderhq.com/o/428/herne-...elodrome/enter

hi - it’s an easy accreditation process. Book here for the induction and training accreditation. That will get you onto all sessions except racing. You can do race accreditation if you decide to do track league or the open sessions.

They run sessions all year round unless there is ice on the track or high winds but now is a good time to be starting!

Herne Hill has top pedigree - Tony Doyle, Bradley Wiggins, Graeme Obree right through to current riders like Ethan Hayter and Fred Wright have all excelled there.
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Old 05-17-19, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Rooni View Post
They have no prices on their website so I imagine it is expensive but I am sure you get what you pay for.
I've found this is not always the case. I've encountered expensive coaches who were worthless and inexpensive coaches who were fantastic - and vice versa. I would encourage you to talk with the coaches and find one that will provide you the kind of coaching and instruction that works best for you - if the coach is not communicating well or providing you training plans that you just cannot complete, then it does not matter how good of a reputation they have or what they cost. Also, ask around and see what others think of them - you might be surprised by what some athletes think of coaches out there.
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Old 05-17-19, 05:37 PM
  #22  
Baby Puke
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Originally Posted by Rooni View Post
Something I am struggling with on rollers is bouncing in the saddle at high cadences. Do you or anyone have any advice on how to combat this?
Really common when rollers/high cadences are new to you. Have someone look at your fit, bars too low/seat too high makes this worse. Relax your grip on the bars as well, basically just rest your hands in the hooks, and depending on your style, it may help to push yourself back into the saddle a little bit.

Also, you need to learn how to pedal a little differently at super-high cadences- if you just smash-smash, down-down, you'll be bouncing all over the place. You need to concentrate instead on whipping the pedal quickly along the bottom of the pedal stroke, and in your mind you need to be a little "ahead" of what your feet are doing. A former coach described this as being like advancing the timing on an engine- you mentally fire the pedal stroke a hair before you are actually there. Sounds complicated but it does become second nature with practice.
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Old 05-20-19, 12:43 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Rooni View Post
Thank you for the reply! Definitely ready to grab the bull by the horns so any advice is hugely appreciated.

I am quite used to volume from dancing as that was around 4-6 hours of training a day as well as performances but I do have to be careful as track cycling is all out efforts and with ballet you never could get to 100% effort as your technique would just fall apart.

A friend has recommend crits so that is something I will definitely look into.

I have looked into coaching as it is something I feel I would benefit from and also something I am used to from ballet. Black Line Coaching looks to be very popular and I see a lot of the Lee Valley riders in their skin suits. They have no prices on their website so I imagine it is expensive but I am sure you get what you pay for.
We’ve got the Black Line Open at the Derby Velodrome this bank holiday Monday, if you want to watch some sprinting and ask a few questions then come on up. I think we’ve got around 60 men and 40 women entered.
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Old 06-04-19, 07:18 AM
  #24  
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Hi all,

Thanks to everyone for all of their advice so far! It has been heeded and I am seeing improvements with a PB on max power every week for the past three weeks (now 1712W), becoming more comfortable and confident on the track and weights going up.

I am now looking for some advice on bikes. My question is, are you better off buying a standard aluminium or steel frame and spending on the components or is it better off getting the best frame you can afford with big standard/factory components?

My current options are either a Dolan Pre Cursa frame, Dolan TC1 frame or Moda Forte frame and then spending on the spec:
  • Shimano Dura Ace Bottom Bracket
  • Shimano Dura Ace Crank Set
  • Shimano Dura Ace Chain Ring
  • Mavic Ellipse Wheel Set
  • Alpina Carbon Sprint Bars
  • Izumi Track Chain
  • Saddle, etc.

OR for the same total price as any of the frames plus components listed above, purchase a Boardman TRK 9.2 2019 complete bike, (apologies, i do not have 10 posts yet so cant post link)?

As stated in a previous post I am 187cm, 90kgs and hoping to compete in sprint disciplines.

Any advice is much appreciated!


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Old 06-04-19, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Poppit View Post
We’ve got the Black Line Open at the Derby Velodrome this bank holiday Monday, if you want to watch some sprinting and ask a few questions then come on up. I think we’ve got around 60 men and 40 women entered.
Would have loved to have come but unfortunately was away. I am hoping to get to a few of the Herne Hill race events over the summer to watch some racing and pick some brains!
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