how come i have never see USA in the olympic track cycling finals?
how come i have never see USA in the olympic track cycling finals?
Essentially, it's an equipment/money intensive sport without a good feeder program that fails to identify talent at an early age and develop that talent into mature, world class cyclists.
But the major difference between the US and the French, British, and the Australians is not so much the talent pool, but money. (I could be wrong here, but I believe that) once you are in their programs, you get not just a stipend but a living wage salary. It's really hard for an athlete who is aged 18-35 to work enough to pay bills, take care of family, pay mortgage/rent, car payment, etc... AND train twice a day. It's just very, very hard to do. If you can do it, you either have some VERY generous sponsors, live off of a spouse, or live like a broke college student...all for a slim chance of being a world-class athlete. Remember, you still have to beat the French, British, AND Australians!
Compare that with working 40 hours a week, making a good salary, and living fairly comfortable life and training 20 or so hours a week and at least being one of the fastest guys/girls in the US. Still get to race, still get to have fun. I think that's what a lot of people do.
Secondly are the lack of significant grass-roots and talent scouting programs in the US for track cycling. In the US, cycling is an affluent sport like golf or tennis. Most kids who get into cycling do so because their upper-middle class families are cyclists, too. The US has the world's best grass roots feeder programs for baseball, basketball, football, and track and field. Seriously. Think about it. I watched my 12 year old son try out for his county baseball league and it was like a MLB training camp. If a kid doesn't show talent by age 12 or 13, he won't get recruited to go to a "baseball HS" and may miss his shot to be drafted out of HS into the majors or get a scholarship to a college with a top tier baseball program. Same goes for basketball.
Also, cycling is a fringe sport in the US. Track cycling is on the fringe of the fringe sport. Compare the number of velodromes in the US to those in Australia. Relatively few US kids even know what track cycling is. But, they do know baseball, football, and basketball and aspire to be those types of athletes. Plus those sports don't require the cash investment that cycling does.
If every masters track rider in the country were to mentor 2 junior (15-19) riders with a little help, a little old equipment, a little encouragement and coaching, we could overcome most of our problems in 2-3 years. We expect close to 400 riders at the masters track nationals...just imagine what would happen if we had 800 new young recruits for the track.
A challenge to masters riders!
Jeff Hopkins and his staff have a really strong kids program at DLV with a few going to Jr Track Nationals next week. And to do my part, I loaned a kid a set of Zipp race wheels. He literally hasn't lost a race in the last 2 weeks he's been riding them to get used to them, including today's Omnium Pro Race Series race. His confidence is through the roof!
We do have the NTID (National Talent ID) program where riders do get coaching, but they only appear to select riders who are already good junior riders and don't do talent searches across large number of children in schools etc. Each state does have an Institute of Sport which provides scholarships to a small number of riders as well as support services (physio, psychology etc) and possibly as you say a wage to a very select few. Honestly not sure why a country like Australia with a population of only around 22 million punches well above its weight other than we are a sports mad nation. Though like many countries this is changing from doers to watchers with an ever climbing obese rate including the children.
Speaking of talent ID, British Cycling's Joanna Rowsell was found at age 15 via a program where a Wattbike was toured around schools and kids did a sprint and endurance effort on it. The top-rated kids were invited back for more formal tests. Like 3-4 years later she's a World Champion and world record holder. I think she says she never would have tried racing nor her parents backed her had it not been for the program.
I played tennis in high school. My coach was a wise man. My teammates and I once asked him, "Who's the best tennis player?". A simple question by simple-minded kids. His answer? "The best tennis player ever will never pick up a tennis raquet. He or she will never know what they could have been."
By the way, Dalai, Jeff Hopkins that I mentioned earlier is one of your fellow Austrailians. He was a prominent junior racer and won a jr World Championship in the Kilo before turning pro on the road.
I think he gets a laugh when junior racers beat the adults like today when a junior (age 16) beat me in a 4-up sprint. I was not happy.
Here is Hopkins as a junior:
Your tennis coach was indeed a wise man! Given cycling isn't one of the popular sports; plus adding the greater cost to get started compared to say running or basketball means the most potentially gifted athlete will probably not ride...
Nice clip! Hopkin's definitely holding his own against the big names of the day...
Around here, juniors get free bike, track time, and coaching. We would love to send people to the Olympics (heck Dale has been busy enough building tracks around the country and around the world). But without support from schools, it is pretty tough to get kids interested and involved. Local high school sports coaches don't want their kids doing track because it takes away from the school sports and is counter productive to track and field. There isn't much besides parents and luck to encourage talented youth to get into track riding. We are trying though...
We have to make it cool.
We have to get the word out. It's bad when I have to explain what track cycling is to other competitive cyclists! Maybe we can push for more coverage in US cycling magazines. Maybe that will piqué interest. Most people who actually try track racing leave with a positive impression.
The talent is out there, we just have to get some to trade the weekly crit for a night of track racing.
A few guys that I know have made the transition. As one crit racer turned track racer put it to us, "Track racing is awesome. I can race 4 races, kick some butt and get my butt kicked, and leave exhausted all within 3 hours."
I know 200+ lb (90+ kg) guys that suffer on the back of crits who think that that is the only racing that might suit them.