Earlier this summer, we caught up with a talented young woman who's not only studying for her A-levels but who is also training hard in the Junior road and track division. Lauren Dolan comes back to TWC with her Junior Racing Diaries to update us on her progression throughout July and what it's really like to be a young budding racer.
Words by Lauren Dolan
For the majority of the past few weeks I have found myself either staring out the window of a car or plane on a seemingly endless journey to my next destination (of which is usually another velodrome) or actually on the boards with the GB Junior Academy; my forearms in the skis (Time Trial handlebars) and my focus fixated on the wheel only centimetres ahead of mine.
I have spent a lot of time away from both home and school on various training camps or competitions in preparation for the European Junior and U23 Track Championships which start next week on the 18th July; kicking off Day 1 with the Team Pursuit Qualification. The first camp of our final preparations was based in Manchester. Coming from the south, it's a slight trek, to say the least.
Being a rider on the junior academy, travel takes up a significant part of our life. Only a few of the girls are based within the vicinity of Manchester's velodrome; so for most of us, we have to spend the day before camp travelling to get there. For me, the same applies for any camp, at any velodrome; I'm a million miles from anywhere!
Whilst in Manchester, the first part of the training camp was concentrated on the Team Pursuit; filling the 4-hour sessions with a mix of rolling, standing and flying efforts of 2km, 3km and 4km (race distance). These efforts are all full gas and are extremely demanding of the legs; pushing the biggest gear you can at the highest cadence you can. I find the efforts we do on the track very draining. They produce a different type of pain, completely different to the fatigue felt from a long road ride. I often come off the track after an explosive effort with the shakes as it saps every ounce of your glycogen stores from you.
You have to adapt your food intake to suit these efforts in order to fuel correctly, not just for the efforts in the session on that day, but also for the coming days of an intense session, where your body is put under a lot of strain.
It's paramount to get nutrition correct or else you end up finding yourself in a whole different state of fatigue; as I have found out for myself in the past. Quick release energy foods like flapjacks are great for keeping energy levels topped up and replacing the glycogen used up during the efforts.
The following 2 days of camp revolved around bunch races and Madison events. For the bunch sessions, we usually exploit the motorbike. We use it to help increase the speed at which we train at without expending as much effort. It's great for creating race situations, which is so important for tactical development. For the Madison session, we trained with the U23 and Podium GB squads.
We were training with Olympic and World Champions Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker. These opportunities are perfect for learning from the best, asking questions and getting feedback from riders at the very top(…whilst being a little starstruck!)
After a tough 3 days of camp, we were headed straight for Poland to compete in the UCI Poland Grand Prix, the track event that would aid our preparation for the European Championships. Our objectives here were to learn and gain valuable experience; any results would be a huge bonus.
We qualified in 2nd; enough for a place in the gold medal ride off against the host nation, Poland. The final ride was a tough battle but we had the edge and came away with the Gold.
The following day was all about the Omnium; Scratch, Tempo, Elimination and Points, requiring both physical and tactical prowess.
The omnium has become more of a thinking game, rather than how hard you can press on the pedals. I rode well, 4th in the scratch, won the tempo and won the elimination. I went into the points race in the lead. However, although teamwork on the track is illegal, the Polish girls formed a lead out train for every sprint, with their leading rider (who was second overall) sat in prime position when the bell rang. It was extremely frustrating.
I was never going to beat a team of riders on my own. The GB girls were all told not to work as a team as this would mean we would learn a lot more and develop tactically if we made our own mistakes and successes. Unfortunately, the Poles came out on top, but only in the short run for sure. The GB Academy is all about the long game; preparing us for the future, not for in a few weeks time.
This mentality is what sets the Great British team aside from all the other nations; why they are the unbeatable team on the senior stage. I was buzzing having got 2nd in my first international omnium and my 3rd one ever.
My focus never lapsed from the racing as the next day I was in the Points Race (also a standalone event) and riding in the elite women’s Madison.
The points race was, again, frustrating. The Polish used the same tactic as they did in the omnium, which brought about the same outcome. I got second… by 1 point. I was surprisingly content with the result though. I had shown I had assets on the bike which I had never expressed before. I had won a sprint! I also managed to take a lap. I made the race quite hard for myself, but no race is ever easy.
The final race of the weekend was the Madison, where you and your partner alternate between resting and racing, using a hand-sling to swap in and out of the racing line. The Madison is one of the most exciting races you can watch on the track. There are often quite a few crashes due to the nature of the race… very, very fast. We were riding against some of the best teams in Europe at an elite level. The race was so tough, and for pretty much the whole race I was chewing bar tape. Despite this, we managed to pick up 2 points in the sprints, which wasn't too bad for a couple of juniors!
I was gutted that racing was over, but it makes me even more hungry for success at the next event. This will be the European Championships in Anadia, Portugal.