Friday, June 28, 2013

Building Junior Cycling and Triathlon Teams: Lessons from Louisiana

By Dr. Lisa Colvin, PCG Elite Coach

I started building a junior cycling team in April 2013 in the unlikely place of Monroe, Louisiana, one of the lowest socioeconomic areas in the entire United States, not exactly considered the hot bed of cycling opportunities. I thought it was high time to reach out to kids who loved to ride their bikes, wanted to learn more advanced bike handling and racing tactics, and could excel at this sport like no other they have tried.

I started with four junior boys. All had six to nine months of general riding under their belt, mostly at the heels of their cycling parents. As they started to spread their wings and were hungry for training, I kicked off a Thursday night Bike Handling and Criterium Practice. All riders (juniors, Cat 1, 2, and 3 riders, and their riding parents) moved through the USAC Certified Skills Instructor course I put on. Not only did they pick things up quickly, but they also relished in the fact that they could ride and learn from their hometown heroes. I was lucky to have Cat 1 and 2 racers that were willing to take the time with these riders to share with them criterium strategy, cornering, teamwork, and fair play.

More quickly than I had anticipated, my junior riders turned from newbie racers to a team to be contended with. Working as a team on the road served us well at the LAMBRA District Criterium, where we placed first with Hunter Keys, lead-out man Matt Rose killed himself to help his teammate win on a flatting tire with 300 meters to go, and Patton Sims went from being lapped to finishing in the pack sprint! It is very rewarding to watch these young men mature. They now have catted up from 5 to 4. Hunter once again had a great day, finishing ninth in his very first Cat 4 crit, with Matt Rose holding on for dear life but finishing in the pack sprint!

Hunter Keys (1st position), followed by Matt Rose (3rd position) of
Vantage Health Plan/Team Colvin Junior Racing

Matt and Hunter play a little cat and mouse with another junior

Patton Sims, Matt Rose, and Hunter Keyes await the start of their race
After starting a very successful collegiate team with zero dollars of funding and the NE Louisiana biker coming together to give us every spare part they had, bikes were built and a collegiate team triumphed over adversity at Collegiate Nationals in 2011 and 2012. Each year I put on the USAT-sanctioned Warhawk Youth Triathlon in conjunction with our annual adult race. I had my eye on two junior athletes from south Louisiana, ten-year-old Sarah Fry and her sister, six-year-old Katie Fry. As they were seeking new coaching, I took on these sisters as part of my triathlon team. Supportive, loving parents who trust you with their child’s development is always a rare gift for a youth coach. The first triathlon I coached the girls at was the Mississippi Kids Triathlon in Madison, Mississippi. An open-water swim, age-appropriate bike, and fast run carried these superstars to victory!

Check out these two videos their producer, Lori Fry (better known as Mom to Bear and Bug), made of an exciting race weekend and to celebrate them officially making the junior team!

All it takes is a little patience and willingness to give back to the sport and go to events with your athletes. My life has been enriched working with these teams, and YOU CAN DO IT in your own area.

Lisa Colvin, PCG Elite Coach

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