Thursday, 29 April 2010

Hey! You! get off my cloud!

Track Culture

What is it?

According to the latest uberchic ultrahipster vending machine for the coolly urbane, they are. Well blow me down with your single bean, name the farm syphon coffee breath. That ain’t no track culture wheres I comes from. Never seen no yoggie riding a gorilla bike in a limedrop skinsuit. So I reckon, hey, you! Get off my cloud!

I love postmodernism. Or is it now postpostmodernism. I’m not sure, as it’s been too long since I finished my Honours degree in Intellectual Wanking. Although I did enjoy it, and verbally ascribed orgasms amongst friends are always ego building. Anyway…. I suspect St Cloud is a front for the new postmodernists, thumbing a nose, or fixed wheel, at the likes of Nike and Addidas, while aspiring to be as Nike as Addidas. Or Puma. But definitely not Reebok.

While it’s nice, in a condescending, suburban way, to see “fixies” (let’s get this one straight, if the wheels spin, and the pedals don’t,  it ain’t fixed. Please learn this unto yourselves  Urbane Hipped Ones) being radically mainstreamed (yes, it’s deliberate), please don’t make claims on a neck of the woods where you don’t dare to venture, unless it’s a Come n Try day, and your bottom bracket is so low, and your rubber so slick, you pedal strike constantly and fall off the boards.

So what is track culture? I don’t think there is one. There are many. But my track culture is about grease covered hands, baby wipes, snapped on skinsuits, full fingered gloves in summer, astroboy rocket helmets, super record hubs with ceramic bearings (one removed), perfecting a the line of an entry for that 0.01 second, Shamals that really do race rather than bling on, swapping ideas, discussing observations, my turn, your turn, recover, next, lung busting, leg splitting, carbon fibre, steel and aluminium, diversity, comraderie, entering the bull ring for a goring,  a visit to the spew bucket after. It’s also post training coffee and food (if you can stomach it). It’s gunning it up on Facebook, sledging on Twitter while reporting live race results,  it’s lobbying for a women’s event that already (and only) exists for men. It’s gate starts, stopwatches, grimaces and tears, track wide grins and ecstasy, it’s the purring buzz of chains over cogs, the calls of riders within a race, the chessplay of knights to bishops, it’s getting to third wheel with three laps to go, or taking a lap with 25 laps to go, or blowing up shaking and baking the opposition, to whom you lent a tool/cog/wheel pre-race. My bike is not any more or less serious than yours. We do gym. We show respect, to ourselves, each other, the bike, the track, the sport. We pay homage to the past, while making the future. We congratulate our worst enemy when they beat us. There is a code. Most of us follow it, no matter how colourful and out there we seem.

But I can tell you one thing, it’s not a funky shop with a groovy name in a trendy inner suburb, selling brands never seen in a velodrome.

Friday, 23 April 2010

30 days of Cycling

I am toying with pursuing this "challenge", starting this weekend. 30 days in a row of some kind of butt on bikeseat activity. It's a good way to work on my base, which is what I need to do right now. The only thing that's kinda flagging red with me is this freaking virus that is still clagging and searing my throat and ears, hot cotton-woolling my lungs, and keeping me tired and aching. 30 days could see me ride my way out of the hole, or further into it. Guess there is only one way to find out!

30 Days is also about finding ways to enjoy being on the bike, rather than just thinking about each time I throw the leg over as "training" with its associated data, outcomes, achievements (or lack thereof), recording, note-taking, planning, progressions. It's off season for me now, so it's the perfect opportunity to refresh my body and my brain (although riding 30 days in a row is probably not so physically refreshing). I have five functional bikes (well, one almost, nearly, soon-to-be functional) so I plan to make use of use of all of them over the coming month.

Of course, by tomorrow, I may just say bugger that! and keep doing what I've been doing: train, recover, train, recover. Boring!!!!!

I don't think so!


I don't think so! The plan is: Lawrence takes sprints! KC or no KC ;-) See ya in 2011, sprints!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

2010 Masters Women Team Sprint

After a lot of talking, mustering support, more talking, to-ing and fro-ing, by lunchtime on pursuit day (last Thursday) we had confirmation that a Women’s Team Sprint would go ahead, as a demonstration event only. A little victory, but one that was put on hold as communications became furry and blurry, with people being told different things at different times ie yes/no to the event itself; yes/no to combined state teams., yes/not registration has closed. This confusion meant that a couple of potential teams did not enter, which was very annoying for me as Chief Agitator for this event, and on behalf of those women who wanted to race, but were ultimately excluded because of these crossed communications.

The Actual Race:

A total of 6 teams lined up to race, a solid turn out. I paired up with Wendy Martin from Wangaratta (almost like Warragul! But not quite ;-P). Although we have raced together, we hadn’t raced as a pair before, so it was a matter of suck it up and see. Suck it up we did, and despite an interesting qualifying round, where poor Wendy spent two laps into the wind, rather than just the final loop, we qualified fourth and into the ride off for “bronze”.

Lining up for the finals, we were better prepared, had a game plan worked out and rode a smooth, team event, taking nearly a second off our qualifying time. Even though our opposition went fractionally slower, unfortunately it was not enough for us to come over them. I tell ya, it was the best fun! All the women who took part, took on board the nature and spirit of the event, as both a demonstration event, and as a political statement about women’s track racing. For that, I am very appreciative, and would like to thank everyone who raced it.

The Hard Work:

Once we had the event rubber stamped “GO!”, Mdm Hour (or is it Mdm ItalioTourer now??) got to work in her role on the CA Masters’ Commission, lobbying hard for the rule change to occur, so that the Women’s Team Sprint is a valid, recognised, sanctioned annual event. Liz spent much time discussing this with women at Nationals, taking on board suggestions, conceptualisations, opinions, feeding them into the Masters Commission, and then feeding back to the women what was being discussed and nutted out. Without that work over the final two days by Liz, we wouldn’t be so far down the track that we now are. For me, it’s one less email I need to send and keep chasing and for which I am grateful.

Once the CA Tech Regs include the Women’s Team Sprint, the next step is to move it up. Lise Benjamin is working hard to get the event incorporated into World Masters, via the UCI. Hopefully with Australia taking the lead, our changes to the regulations will model good practice for the UCI, and they will take on board the need for equity in this event.

This is the stuff most of the membership DON”T see, or fail to recognise. Lobbying, fighting for what you believe in, for the betterment of racing is emotionally draining, psychologically/cognitively hard work and requires dogged determination and persistence and time. And a tough skin, particularly as a woman in a male-dominated, old-school sport. It’s important that we get solidarity amongst female competitors on issues like this, to show demand and need, and also to support those who carry forward the banner for women’s racing.

Race Face

Events like Nationals and World Masters can have a magnifying glass effect. You know the one, where you intensify the sun’s heat to burn a piece of paper, or torture an insect. I was the insect to National’s magnifying glass. All the training and preparation you have, and have not done, is on display, and manifested in one’s performance. Or lack of.

It can be joyous, it can be shattering. It can itch like sunburn, or soothe the ache of swollen glands, a viralled body.

Three key moments stand out for me from this year’s Nationals.

1.      Finishing the 500m TT, thinking it felt slow, and looking up to see I had finally broken a 3 year mental time block. It wasn’t a brilliant time, but it’s the fastest I have gone in competition since Nationals 2007, where I was 0.2 sec faster. I may not have medalled, but for me, looking up at the scoreboard to see my time was the sweetest moment, better than any gold medal.
2.      5 laps into the scratch race, I swung up after my turn on the front and there was no one on my wheel. After having been boxed in for a few laps, the bunch then let me slide forward. I hung for a bit, with 15 laps to go, thinking what the hell do I do now? Do I wait for them, or have a crack at this gap they are giving me. So I did what any panicking, unfit track rider would do, I took off. And blew up. Game over for me. Sometimes I wonder where I leave my brain.
3.      Flying 200. I felt good. Until I stood up to launch the bike off the bank, and my left leg didn’t engage with my body or the bike. Was I undergeared? Probably. Did I overwork my brain and my emotions? Probably. My time was the slowest I’ve done on paper. Although I hit one of the fastest max speeds I’ve done in training. Go figure. It was crap. I was devastated. And then I had to watch someone else ride in the heats, who needs much more experience to do justice to being out there. I was deeply disappointed that in her opportunity to shine, she sat up (literally) and rolled over. Bitter? Yes. My fault? Yes. I need to get faster to make it into the heats so I can race. Upside? I realised I actually do want to race. Tell me I can’t race, not "good enough" to race,  I get sulky, very sulky.

I asked Leanne Cole to do a special sequence for me: race face. That’s what Nationals was all about. You can see it in these photos: anticipation, aspiration, expectations, nerves, effort, more effort, pain, relief. 

Friday, 9 April 2010

Masters Women Team Sprint. Time For the 21st C!

This is going to be a long post, just a forewarning, and in no way an apology. This topic warrants thorough discussion and analysis. On Wednesday, I read the CA Tech Regs regarding the Team Sprint at Masters’ Championships, as I am interested in getting a team together and entering next Saturday.

Na├»ve, ignorant me thought it would be simple. Ask a fellow trackie who has a similar approach to such events as I do (ie not too seriously!!) and is a similar speed, but has more endurance and we’ll enter on the day, as per the requirements. Because, of course, at all levels, all age categories, the Team Sprint for women consists of a 2 gal team over 2 laps.

But that’s where I am wrong. Currently, as the Tech Regs stand, for Masters Championships, the rules state:

(p58) Note 2: Team Sprint - Combined age of each team shall be no less the 135 years
1. There shall be a minimum field size of:
i. 6 starters for men’s category 1 to 5
ii. 6 starters for women’s category 1 – 4
iii. 4 starters for all other categories
2. If the field size is less than the above, categories shall be combined as per rule 3.65.03

And further, on p 59:

3.65.09 Team Sprint
1 The combined age of each team (which may include women) shall be
no less than 135 years, with each competitor’s age taken as the year
of birth shown on the licence. The team shall comprise riders only
from the same State/Association. There shall be no combining of
riders from different States/Associations, unless the Technical
Commission permits a composite team. A composite team should
only be allowed if there are insufficient competitors from a
State/Association to make up such a team having regard to the fact
that a team may be made up of different divisions and gender.

The rest of the referring Reg discusses how the event is practically run.

So let’s dissect this.

The minimum combined age: if the event was run “traditionally” then it would be impossible for a women’s team (of 2) to make the combined age requirement. But as the regulation stands, ALL teams, including women’s teams, must have 3 members.

How to compose that minimum combined age: As I read Note 2, a team can be composed of WMAS 1-4 or WMAS 5 and above. Men’s teams can be composed of MAS1-5 or MAS6 and above. I may be misreading this section of Note 2, as some of my colleagues have suggested this part of Note 2 applies to ALL events and not just the Team Sprint. If so, then this Note needs re-writing and to be made more clear.

But, if it does refer specifically to the Teams Sprint, it is actually impossible to present a women’s team of 3, combined age of 135 with ANY WMAS1 or 2, because the maths doesn’t work. Even if you have 2 x 48yr olds and 1 x 38 yr old, the total is 134. But as I said, I could be wrong in terms of what this bit of Note 2 is actually referring to.

Team composition:

“The combined age of a team (which may include women)…”

This wording indicates that the usual composition of a team is solely male, and consideration may be given to including women in that team. The Regs don’t explicitly state a team may be comprised solely of women (ie this is not the norm, male only is the baseline status quo from which the Reg has been written), nor does the event allow for a separate women’s category (unless Note 2 refers to the Team Sprint, when by proxy, there is an allowance for women to run separately). A combined gender team races against the men presumably. I am yet to see a combined gender team, let alone a specified category for combined gender teams.

I cannot imagine 2 guys, in their search for a third team member, asking a woman to be a part of the team, for two reasons. 1) to get a woman who would be able to race a comparable time to a male counterpart, you are looking at a WMAS1 or 2. This then causes issues with the 135 minimum combined age requirement. 2) ego factor. I do not believe there would be any men, who are prepared to put themselves and their money on the line in the very competitive Teams Sprint, who would be “willing” to include a woman in their team, whether to make up numbers or because that woman was actually fast enough to be competitive.

So that’s the nuts and bolts issue with the Tech Reg as it stands. But there is more. At every State, National and International Championship (ie CSV, CA and UCI) apart from Masters, the womens’ team sprint consists of a two woman team and is raced over two laps. There is NO provision in the CA Tech Regs for a masters women’s team sprint to be run according to a “normal” women’s team sprint. At Masters, it must be run as per the men’s team sprint. Now I have my own issues with the UCI cutting racing distances for women. Cycling is one of the very few sports where women do NOT compete over the same distances, or in the same circumstances as men. Unless you are a masters female cyclist doing the team sprint.

Normally I wouldn’t complain. However, there is a HUGE issue with numbers in Masters women racing. Quite simply it is incredibly difficult to get together a team of 3, and have a field of more than 3 teams at a Masters competition. If teams were allowed to comprise two women, as per the standard format, then the field would be bigger and therefore more competitive.

So by increasing the number of members per team, it effectively reduces the size of the field, which then appears as though there is a lack of interest and depth of field, in the event. Some women just cannot find a third person for their team. There is currently the option to include a man in the team, to make up the third member, but that creates issues of its own. 1) It would be easier to find a third woman than a man willing to be the third rider ie damn near impossible and 2) part of the issue is currently not having a distinct, correctly run women’s team sprint. By including a man in the team to make up numbers to be eligible to race as the rules currently stand, is politically shooting yourself in the foot. The point of this discussion is to develop an argument for having a separate women’s team sprint, run according to current UCI/CA women teams sprint rules.

So as it stands, the current Tech Reg that facilitates women competing in a team sprint event at Masters Championships can readily be shown to be sexist, discriminatory, ageist and prohibitive for women, and women’s only teams. There is a token effort at inclusiveness “(which may include women)” (p58) which is insulting to say the least. There is no need for this wording, and it could be readily replaced with less offensive, more positive wording such as combined gender teams are eligible to compete.

My desired outcomes from all of this are:

1) Separated men’s/women’s/combined team sprint categories
2) Revised minimum combined age restrictions: over 135 and under 135 for men and combined teams of 3 members; over and under 90 for women.
3) Women’s team sprint to be run as per the current rules for UCI/CA women’s team sprint
4) A rewording of the tech regs 3.65.06 and 3.65.09 to be clearer, remove sexist references, and to include the above three points.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Feeling Sorry for Myself

I have been reading Leon’s blog and dreaming.  It’s the end of the season, with one more meet to go, albeit a major championship, and  I am dreaming of another place, with new adventures,  that is far  from the clamouring demands of training, work, study, every day life.

I have a week of training left. I’m not sure that’s more juggling my “health” against training, on a fine line of just enough, but not too much, and not really knowing where that line is. This cold virus is something else that only time off the bike will fix. People who heard me barking last Saturday at the track will vouch for that! I just want to go to bed and sleep off this deep seated fatigue, body aches and bad attitude. Yep, I am still totally over it, and my brain is not engaged with the job I have to do next week. So be it. Major meh!!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Track Talk podcast

A small bunch of track buddies talk issues around women track cycling, over a few bevvies at the recent Melbourne Cup on Wheels.

Thanks to the Yarra BUG Radio show on 3CR 855am Community Radio


Browsing the entries online for National Masters, I am slightly bemused to see I am (currently) the ONLY WMAS3 entry.

In fact, I 'm not. It's just that the rest of the 40-44 women who have entered are on Elite licenses. I find this curious and puzzling. For most competitive masters women, having an elite license doesn't change anything. There are not enough numbers of women racing opens to have separate races for elites and masters. We get lumped in all together, which I like. I am sure I've posted on the license issue before, but this time, I've done a little bit of quick and dirty research to see what races those WMAS3 elite categoried riders have done ie I went searching for a justification of their elite license. In Victoria, only one raced Senior States and competed in the elite category. In NSW none of the elite 3s raced elite/senior champs.

So if someone can explain to me the benefits of a WMAS3 racing under an Elite category license, I'd love to know!

It's Time!

Melburn Roobaix time!

Enter! I have, Mr Flowerpants has, hundreds of others have. Time is running out... entries capped at 399.