When an a Junior National event gets postponed the Prep Camp actually becomes the highlight. 15 riders joined us at TECT Park for the best of both worlds- a real test in a range of conditions and not having quite as much of your heart hanging in the balance should you make a mistake. When you look at it that way, our camp would actually be much more fun than the real thing anyway! Especially when your coach has special motivation to see you improve.
This camp stirred in me a determination to show these riders what it really takes to handle this particular track in every kind of condition that we might see it. The bumps up here can be brutal, cutting short and sharp in all kinds of directions. On top of that we had powder in exchange of deep ruts, something just as likely to punish the rider who got out of balance. You might have seen it happen to me on an instagram post I shared at the time. It pays to be prepared out here, and I was determined to help my riders be at their very best- which involves staying off the ground.
I saw a suitable quote from Mike Tyson today about how people think you have to be tough to be a boxer, when the truth is you need to be a thinker. That is exactly how I tried to train these young men. Giving them the skills to stand out from the pack, to do things that other riders could or would not do. My goal was to teach them how to see a punch coming and not just get out of the way but to punch back.
What follows is one example. There is a tight corner tucked away in a hidden part of the track that is followed by the longest uphill section on almost any track in the North Island. Any gain or loss here will be multiplied ten times by the time you reach the end of the straight, and if you crash here it is most likely there will be no one there to help. It gets very rough and on this day it was also very powdery so we needed something a little special to make it through this corner consistent and fast.
In preparation I needed to make sure they put their pointing fingers into action, one for the front brake deep in the corner and one for the clutch in case they either needed to stop suddenly or slip the clutch to turn on the rocket boosters. This is not natural for many people but crucial for full control (in my humble opinion).
You could sit, but standing through most of the rut definitely gave more options so long as they were low to the bike to keep their arms bent. Knees coming forward and inside foot slightly off the peg is ok. I am a slow learner in this area because it still blows me away to see riders at least as fast when standing around a corner as they would be sitting, except for the fact that they also have more options. It is something I have known for years, yet I am freshly amazed every time.
Now the ultimate in smart riding came when they could choose to practically stop for a moment before popping the front wheel out of the rut with a burst of power followed by a moment of no power to allow the rear to climb out of the rut. There is a lot to coordinate here, and not many riders were able to do it, but everybody (and I mean every single rider) made progress in this area. Those that could do it were instantly better off, able to take control and rocket into orbit over the next jump.
Like I said earlier, this is just a snippet of what we taught, and doesn’t factor in the bonus of wet weather that we got for day two where we worked on different skills again. Those riders who joined us were treated with a fairly epic couple of days in my opinion, even though the second day started a little late (my fault). When they think of the junior nationals being postponed I hope that they feel a little less gutted because they still had a good experience on the track.