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  Holly Takos Blog: My T-Town Experience  
  July 4th By Holly Takos  
  Valley Preferred Cycling Center, Trexlertown. Photo: Supplied.  
  Settling In

On the 30th of May two of my SASI teammates Tom Clarke, Derek Radzikiewicz and I, started our journey over to the USA to race at the T-Town UCI Track Series. We left the cold winter in Adelaide and landed in the sunny Philadelphia, ready to embrace whatever experiences came our way over the next two weeks.

The entire trip we were surrounded by cycling greats. Starting with our own teammate, Shane Perkins who had organised the trip for us and took us under his wing. At the airport we were lucky enough to be picked up by Marty Nothstein, a world champion and Olympic gold medallist in the sprint, and also the race organiser of the famous T-Town races. So our car ride to Trexlertown was far from boring as we listened to stories from his career. We were also lucky enough to meet Becky Hall (Formerly Becky Quinn) a multiple world cup medallist. As well as this, we stayed at the Kutztown University with the other great international athletes, including Olympic medallist, Simon Van Velthooven, so it quickly became our own little T-town athlete's village. I was also very excited to be rooming with fellow Australian Lauren Perry, who I had come through juniors with and had always thought of her as being one of the friendliest people I have met.

The first few days we spent getting our bearings and starting our training in the gym, on the track and the road. It took a lot of getting used to training on an outdoor track. The track was beautiful to ride on and the banks were steeper than any outdoor track I had ever been on, but getting used to the weather was a challenge. Although it was warm, the weather during the first week was stormy which meant we were often having to fit our training in around the rain. Not something us track riders usually have to think about! Something else we had to get used to very quickly was riding on the right side of the road! Let's just say I had a few close calls. Haha. I was unfortunate to catch a cold the first week we were here, but luckily I bounced back just in time for the first race night, The U.S. Sprint Gran Prix.

U.S. Sprint GP

The morning of the first race rolled in very quickly. We woke up to rain and cold weather, which was far from ideal. However, we prepared as usual and made our way down to the velodrome. I was nervous as this was my first race on an outdoor track and I had only one session to practice my lead in and line. Despite the rain, wind and cold weather I knew that I had to treat this race as I would any other. I wasn't happy with my 200 qualifying as I made many mistakes, which I learnt from, but I knew that my qualifying wasn't the end of it. I knew I could race better than the time I had recorded and I did just that. I came away with third after qualifying in fifth and I was happy with how I raced tactically. It was very different as the sprint was only two laps and thus due to being bigger track it took some extra thinking and planning of tactics. So moves had to be made after the bell had been rung, which is a lot later than on the boards. The atmosphere at the track was crazy. The crowds were huge, there was music and other entertainment, food stalls and an amazing fireworks show to end the night! I was also very lucky to be riding against some strong competition, including the Canadian Rio squad. International competition is not something I often get to experience as I have only ever raced nationally or at Oceania Championships once a year, so I always try to take away as much as I can every time I get the opportunity.

The week in between the first race and the second we spent exploring the area. We rode through the beautiful hills and around the Amish communities, and visited some of the surrounding towns. My favourite day would have had to have been our day trip to New York, but ill cut that short as I could go on forever talking about how incredible that city is. I also had the new experience of being on local TV! I was very nervous for the interview but with help from Marty and Perko it all went smoothly.

Fastest Man on Wheels (Keirin)

I woke up the morning of the keirin day feeling really good and the weather was great. I was determined to take out the keirin race. I made it through to the final and was confident, as I knew I had the legs and the head that day. Coming into bend three, one lap to go I made my move to come around and I knew I had the speed but unfortunately I crashed out and ended up in the emergency room. It all happened really quickly and I don't remember everything. The crash was the worst I have had. I suffered a punctured lung, separated shoulder, cuts and bruises and was heavily concussed. At the time I was terrified as I was struggling to breathe and could hardly see straight as they took me away. I can't imagine how much worse I would have been if wasn't for my teammates who stayed with me the whole time. I was really lucky to have such amazing friends around me.

The Aftermath

Due to the punctured lung I was unable to fly home for a couple weeks, which meant I had to stay behind in the USA by myself. I was extremely fortunate to be taken in by a couple; Eric and Becky Hall. They owned the local bike shop, The Velo Shop, and so had met me only a couple times, but opened up their home and care, which I will be forever thankful for. My first week of recovery was terrible. I was suffering badly from a concussion and was unable to move from the couch for most days. The second week I started to feel myself again and was lucky enough to see Philadelphia, watch racing at the track and visit the bike shop a few days. I also started rehab this week and was cared for by an amazing team of physical therapists who took the time out of their busy schedules to see me.

The most disappointing thing about this crash was that I was unable to line up for the International Track Series in Melbourne. I had been looking forward to this race all year as I had really good form, which I confirmed in the USA and I was excited to see what I could do. It was hard to watch the racing, as I wanted nothing more than to be there myself. Despite this I'm more motivated than ever to get back into full training and ready for the rest of the season. I have started back on a stationary bike and am in rehab for my shoulder. I'm extremely lucky to have a great team working with me at The South Australian Sports Institute to get me back on track and reaching my goals for the year!

This trip was unforgettable and I learnt more than I ever could have imagined. I had many new experiences, which I will draw on for the rest of my career and life. From dealing with uncontrollable factors like the weather, to being self-reliant and to gaining confidence in terms of media coverage. We also met a great group of people over there from around the world and I have made friends that I look forward to seeing around the racing scene soon. Spending a lot of time at the track and in the Velo Shop I was also able to meet a lot of the community and meet people from all walks of life. But the most amazing friendship I gained was that of Becky and Eric and I now have a second family in the USA who are two of the most caring and loving people I have ever met. They taught me more than they know and I can't wait to get back here again to see them. The weeks that I spent in the USA by myself I learnt a lot about being resilient and staying positive and I know that I will come back from this stronger than ever.
    Thumbs up after racing TV time Holly with Eric and Becky Hall    
  Photos: Supplied  
 © 2016