People first, stars later

February 15, 2016 § 17 Comments

Postdanmark Mini 6-days,

Copyright 2016 by Anne Juel

Ryder Phillips and Wulfgang Lochmiller completed the Copenhagen Six-day Mini in 6th place overall. It is the premier under-15 six-day event in the world, and the only six-day that offers a full six days of racing for the under-15 riders. The event has been going on for thirty-six years.

Ryder and Wulfgang won Stage Five, taking a lap on the field and winning the mid-race prime. This is the first time any Americans have won an under 15 six-day stage, or even scored any points. Wulfgang wiped out the week before while racing in Germany, so he was a bit torn up and he struggled the first few nights. They both came good on the fifth night and picked up what can only be described as a historic win.

The best part of this entire experience was the prep. The boys started doing weekly Madison workouts a year ago February. Ryder was pumping out five-hour, sixty-mile track workouts a few times a week for nearly eight weeks straight, and the boys were ripping the pedals off their bikes by the time he was ready to head out.

The progress that Ryder made prepping for the trip, and the passion he developed for cycling was incredible. It went from a nagging old man saying, “Dude, get your ass ready and turn off the x-box, we need to get to the track,” to the fired up kid saying, “Dad we have to go, we’re gonna be late! And we’re staying late for the intervals right?”

By the time they left for Copenhagen it was already a success, according to Ryder’s dad, Kevin.
“If he crashed out the first night we could still call the entire process a success just because of the personal growth he got preparing for it. He’s gone from the kid trying to hang with the adults to the kid that is hammering most of the adults, and it happened in a single off season.”

Daniel Holloway was also in Copenhagen racing the pro race and couldn’t have been more supportive, going out of his way to come down and say hello to the boys during warmup and offer them advice, although as 13-year-olds who already knew everything, it’s questionable how much of it they absorbed!

The benefits the kids got out of their first Euro tour will last them forever. They know how to travel on an international flight, how to exchange currency, how to order food from someone that does not speak English, ride a metro and get lost on a train and still figure out how to get back to their hotels. This doesn’t even include the fact that they can show up at an international race, find the promoter, mingle with twenty-six other kids that don’t speak much English, race in their heads while some Euro dude is babbling Danish on the PA system, AND race for the win.

Wulfgang hit the Berlin Six-Day before going to Copenhagen and meeting up with Ryder. He was nervous because of the size and reputation of the juniors there; there were some 14-year-olds who looked like they were prepping for the NFL combine. After the first heat Wulfgang snagged second place with points for the omnium and knew he was right at home, following it with fifth in the finals.

The next day he got second in the points race, which gave him yet more omnium points and put him in third place overall going into the final. He was having a great final and gunning for the podium when two other boys crashed; Wulfang went down as collateral damage. His bike was ruined, he had a bruised knee, and track rash on his leg.

Coach Tim Roach scrambled for a loaner bike so Wulfgang could race the final day, but after finding a bike and showing up to race the kid was simply to banged up to go. In Copenhagen the promoter and Danish club came up with a beautiful, perfectly fitting bicycle for Wulfang, saving $600 to overnight ship Wulfgang’s back-up bike. That and the amount of hospitality they give the American contingent left everyone feeling appreciative, humble, and embarrassed that the US doesn’t do the same for its foreign guests.

Most importantly, the success of these two boys was the result of the dedication shown by numerous track racers and coaches who gave untold hours of their time to coach, teach, show, and encourage Ryder and Wulfgang every step of the way.

This is what is so incredible about track racing, a level of personal caring and mentorship that is all but absent in the other cycling disciplines. Dave Grylls, two time Olympic silver medalist, donated hundreds of hours of coaching every Thursday.

Nelson Vails, John Walsh, Guy East, Matthew Chambers, and at least a dozen other expert track racers all came to the Carson velodrome and shared their passion, their expertise, and their decades of experience with these two young kids. Most juniors would be lucky to have a single pro roadie come to a junior road camp; forget having them donate endless hours to the kids’ success. Of course being coached by Tim Roach and Roger Young, two of the best in the business, didn’t hurt.

The fact that there are so many talented cyclists who want to give their time to the sport at no cost all, while USAC does little to take advantage of this and instead cries broke and wants parents to spend thousands on “talent camps” to “ID the stars of the future” is utter crap. Why? Because stars aren’t “ID’d.” They are made—made with time, patience, love, compassion, expertise, support, encouragement, and calculated risks.

It’s an amazing thing that the sport has people like Tim Roach whose response to USAC is “Nuts!” Tim puts his cards on the table and says go big, race in Europe, and see how good you really are. In addition, the kids get a global experience so when they’re at junior world’s they aren’t overwhelmed. For Tim to take these two kids to Europe along with his other racers was an amazing act of kindness and a demonstration of being a coach in the purest sense of the word.

The kicker? It didn’t cost much more than going to a USAC cycling camp, thanks to grants from the Foundation for American Track Cycling. Of course as a parent it’s not about making stars anyway. It’s about making good people.



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Terror of the tarck

December 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

Splimsy O’Mulligan, the world-famous Irish advice columnist from County of Kerry lists these five keys to living a vibrant, fulfilling life:

1. Get out of your comfort zone.
2. Try to excel at things people say you’re not suited to.
3. Rub shoulders with the very best.
4. Charge the morning.
5. Fail publicly.

In other words, get up at 4:30 a.m. (#4), ride down to the Home Depot Velodrome in Carson, climb up on the 45-degree banking (#1), take up match sprinting (#2), practice in the morning when Johnny Walsh, Roger Young, Dan Vogt, and Paul Che are on the boards (#3), ride like a dork (#5).

Charge the morning

Sleep, like a discriminating taste in wine, is your enemy. Both will rob you of things that you can only do early in the morning. The only way to truly defeat sleep is to get up. We live right next to the finest tarck in the country, and it’s now open from 6:00 a.m. in the morning.  No matter what the weather or what time of year, the climate-controlled spruce boards are waiting for you to roll your bike around on them. Beginning in 2012, the tarck will operate like a fitness club, where you can ride as often as you like for a reasonable monthly fee and have daily access to the weight machines. And your excuse is…what? You need another hour’s sleep?

Get out of your comfort zone

If you haven’t done it in a while, tarck riding is simply stressful and unnerving.If you’ve never ridden the tarck before, it’s terrifying beyond belief.  There you are, locked in a wooden cage, forced to ride your bike at the top of a 45-degree bank where the consequence of going too slowly is to slide ignominiously down to the bottom with your ass full of splinters. No brakes, no gears, people whizzing by in close proximity, 6-person pacelines whipping up the speed until the riders are foaming at the mouth, inches from destruction, the slightest mistake capable of knocking down everyone and earning the undying hatred of all your fellow riders, constantly trying to figure out how to get on, how to get off, how hard to pedal, how to slow down without crashing out the person behind you…this and a million other things make tarck riding a completely different universe, and no matter how skilled you are on a road bike, the tarck will make you feel like the incompetent clod that you are in real life.

Try to excel at things people say you’re not suited to

If you’re a fast finisher on the road, give the pursuit a whirl. If you’re an endurance rider, you can practice being a sprinter. You will suck, but the tarck gives you the opportunity to try new types of riding in a controlled environment. No one will laugh at your attempts because to those who know what’s really happening on the boards you’re already marked as a flailer, and it has nothing to do with your event. The other reason people won’t laugh at you is because, unlike road riding, the tarck riders are a friendly and welcoming community. They’ll help you change cogs, adjust your bars, patiently answer any question, and give you helpful advice like, “If you’re going to ride your road bike here through LA in the pitch black early morning hours, get a red blinking light for the rear, you idiot.” Once you show up a few times they’ll remember your name, and no matter how long between visits they’ll always be glad to see you again. At the tarck you can be part of the crew just by showing up.

Rub shoulders with the very best

The Home Depot Velodrome is like a world-class birdwatching wetland during migration. If you hang around, there’s no telling what will show up. Olympic champions? Yep. National champions? By the dozen. World champions? Those, too. In addition to the international superstars who occasionally race at the tarck, there’s a regular stable of coaches and competitors who are over-the-top good. Roger Young, Tim Roach, Connie Paraskevin, Johnny Walsh, Keith Ketterer, and any other number of phenomenal tarck riders regularly hang around the Carson boards. The U.S. National tarck team is in regular attendance as well. Of course with all these great riders, you’ll feel like a complete kook, but that’s okay: you are a kook, and as long as you don’t crash anybody out, it’s all good.

Fail publicly

Road cycling lends itself to building the biggest castles in the sand. There you are, pedaling around PV or riding the canyons in the Santa Monicas thinking about this race or that race or the next stair in your stepping stone to greatness, imagining that you really can race a bike, or that this year is gonna be the year…etc. Then you go to some poorly attended race in Ontario, finish 55th, and slink home with hardly anyone the wiser. On the tarck, though, your suckage is seen by all and becomes part of the velodrome’s institutional memory: “Oh, there’s Wankmeister on his borrowed Bianchi again. Haven’t seen him since last year when he got yelled at by Walshie for stumbling down the track in his cleats like an idiot even though there’s a giant sign that says ‘Remove YOUR CLEATS.’ Hmmm, looks like he’s still clueless, let’s take a look. Yep, there he is, can’t hold a line, spinning like a sewing machine, yo-yoing off the back. What a wanker!” Like elephants, the tarckies never, ever forget.

So what are you waiting for? You’re gonna love it.

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