Peloton Watch
  Caitlin Ward Blog: Japan Track Cup  
  July 26th 2014 By Caitlin Ward  
  The Japan trip came up after not making the final cut for the Commonwealth Games Short team. I was chosen to compete with the rest of the Aussie team at the Japan International Track Cups - which was a great opportunity to learn how the AUS team members and coaches work on an international stage. It also was great getting to know the other athletes and coaches in a race environment. We all met up in Singapore where I had a short stop over before an overnight flight to Japan, where I luckily slept most of the way. We arrived at the airport in Narito at about 9am and got on a bus for 3 hours down to the Izu Velodrome. We then jumped straight on the track, which is shaped very much like Perth: long straights, short bends and steep banks. We got to work, quickly getting used to the track and finding the ‘sweet spots’ as speedily as possible before heading back to the Ohito Hotel for a much needed feed and rest.

The Japan Track Cups were very intense, with tight programs allowing for minimal recovery – a good practise for programs at World Cups and other international competitions. On the first day we were to depart the hotel at 7am for Track Cup 1, which incorporated both the Keirin and Sprint. Leading in I was both nervous and excited. It was nice and warm, a great environment and the Japanese had been very receptive. I was doing my best to soak in as much experience as possible and was really looking forward to racing. I was also keen to ride the entry line again, as it is very different to DISC or the Adelaide Superdrome where I wind it up allot more; the Izu Velodrome called for a late jump, something I’m not used to which was an exciting challenge to accept and execute. I qualified second by 0.075 in 11.294sec which I was very happy with, especially after a long flight, which was also a first for me. I progressed through the sprint rounds, working closely with Nick Flyger (coach) learning how to execute different plays to suit that track, suit my riding abilities and the difficult program that had been set (they ran heat 1,2,3 straight after each other – only leaving 9 or so minutes recovery). It was a very intense situation that called for all kinds of stamina and I was very lucky to have Nick to help analyse races quickly and plan for the next. In the final I was up against the Korean that out qualified me – I was nervous but determined to ride tactically and leave it all out on the track, and it paid off - YAY. It was an absolute honour to take my first win at an International elite race, I was very proud to stand on the top step and know that it was against some the best, that I had to defeat Simona Krupeckaite who was 2009 500mTT World Champion and World Record Holder in the semi’s to make the final and was incredibly happy that I did all my support crew back home as well as the team I went away with proud. We then moved on to the Keirin’s, which only included 2nd round and the finals which meant the race program and rest periods were significantly more than the men (we worked out I rode 9 races, whereas Jacob Schmid rode 15 in the Men’s competition). I love keirin’s because they are a lottery – they even out the playing field and force split second decisions that can determine whether you finish 1st or 6th. I ended coming in 2nd behind Krupeckaite which was another big win for me and a great confidence boost.

Day 2 called for a later start & a little sleep in, just what the sprinters sore muscles called for! It was a day of Keirin’s, which again meant I was only competing in 2nd round and finals – a quiet relief for my aching quads. I went in with goals to fix the mistakes I had made in the Keirin on the previous day and it paid off in the 2nd round – covering the attack from the back and holding out for the win. Unfortunately a split second mistake in the final had me caught on the hip from 2 and a half out and left me in 5th which ended the day with a touch of disappointment, however taught me a good lesson for my development and next competition. A special shout out to Jacob Schmid who in the Keirin after me held it up when 2 riders collided in front of him, both flying up the track and Schmiddy somehow cutting through the middle of them – impressive save. We then were lucky enough to get a tour of the Keirin School up the road, such an impressive facility with a 250m, 333m and a 400m outdoor track. Plus a ‘starting straight’ that had a ridiculously steep hill 80m down the track to slow the riders down, a roller room with a wide array of different style warm up/training machines and a shed, that had 100 or so bikes hanging upside down and all their other equipment.

On our Final Day we had another 7am wake up call for the Individual Sprint Championships of Japan Track Cup 2. It was colder than day 1 and obviously the legs were getting a bit fatigued but was able to practically hold my speed, only going slower than day 1 by 0.061; and went one better in qualifying – coming first in 11.355sec. I was very pleased with how I backed up as I felt like my body had coped really well with the intense trip: I went in not knowing what to expect and came out quite proud of how my muscles recovered quickly between rounds and between days. Usually in big competitions such as this one I am sitting further down in qualifications and fight through the rounds, so I knew exactly what the other girls were thinking – I had a target on my head as the one to beat that day, so staying focused, in the zone and not getting distracted by times etc was most important. Again, I luckily had Nick to help me analyse and plan for races quickly and certainly was very fortunate to have that support with the added pressure of qualifying first. I progressed through the sprint rounds, executing our race plans, trying new tactics and responding to my opponent which was an awesome experience, just because there was so much racing and thus so many opportunities to emphasise smart tactics and good racing. In the final, I came up against Meada, who was one that I raced at the ITS Adelaide so I knew she had minimal drop off and a good turn of speed, I also knew – so did I. The first race was very close – she made a mistake of not passing on the track correctly and paid for it, with the steep banks if you make your run too early you will get caught on the hip, and that’s exactly what she did. I came from behind in the second race, repeating in my head what Nick had said to me just before the race and taking deep breaths - it paid off too, a really important skill is controlling myself, waiting for the opportune moment, dictating it and then hitting it hard. So there I was, found myself on the top step, a very proud Ward, Victorian Institute of Sport & Hilton Clarke Athlete, Blackburn Cycling Club member, Cycling Victoria supporter and even more honoured Australian to represent my massive team, family and friends at such a well run competition in what felt like a ‘second home’ with the lovely Japanese.
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