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Cyclists train like commandos at AIS

Some of the world’s toughest military education and training regimes will be inflicted upon Australia’s best female cyclists when the Australian National Women’s Endurance Cycling Program Selection Camp begins at at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra on Monday.

The 2013 camp, which has been modelled on Military Special Forces selection methodologies and activities, will see 20 hand-picked riders from across Australia assessed for qualities and attributes required to be a professional female cyclist in the international peloton in 2014.

First held in 2011 and renowned as one of the toughest selection camps in Australian sport, a number of Australia’s leading international and domestic cyclists have progressed through the camp including reigning national champion Gracie Elvin, Grace Sulzberger and Rachel Neylan.

‘The theme of the camp is based on selection activities run by the SAS, the Australian Commandos, the US Rangers, Marines and Navy Seals,’ said AIS / Cycling Australia Senior Women’s Road Coach Martin Barras.

‘However, we have picked out the methodology, rather than the emphasis on the brutalising, as we want to focus on performance in relevant challenging environment.

‘You want to challenge them, but you want to challenge them in a way that is relevant.  You don’t take them out on pack marches for hours, but you remove hope like what can happen in the middle of a Tour, with the amount of climbing or dealing with foreign culture.’

The nine-day camp is separated into three three-day phases, with the first featuring a range of technical, mechanical and physiological skills assessments both in the laboratory and on the road.

The second is a highly-demanding ‘resistance to fatigue’ phase with an overloaded schedule including a non-stop array of bike specific drills, daily rides of up to 200 kilometres, simulated situations with different languages, diet and sleeping pattern changes.

‘The second phase is where it gets really interesting’, said Barras. ‘We load it up so we see how they resist the fatigue, as that is a very important element of being a high-level bike rider.

‘And while the first phase is organised, everything is mapped out and highly detailed, the second phase is chaos, unorganised, with constant change to see how they cope. It’s devastating.

‘Once we finish this phase, we will be able to see those who aren’t able to adapt to the higher workloads and you are left with those who are physiologically and mentally able to adapt.”

The final phase features a series of challenges and while the there may be a decrease in the workload, the intensity of the challenges increases, with a particular emphasis on team formation assessment.

‘In this phase we are trying to see who gets it as a team racer, who can actually come together and come through as a potential leader’,  he said.

‘After this we will be able to clearly select those who have the attributes of what it takes to be an international professional level cyclist.

But going into the camp, we don’t put a number on the eliminations, nor the selections. We take whoever is capable; it could be two or seven.

‘But it’s not just about the selections, the camps provide the best opportunity to educate and train the riders and the process ensures that they just haven’t been ‘picked’ for the team, that they have been ‘trained’ for the team and what is expected from them.

‘And the one thing we never envisioned, that has worked so well, is that is sets our team culture, whether they are successful in the final selections or not.

‘All who attend the camp will be able to represent our program, and tell the wider cycling community what it actually takes, what we are looking for and hopefully in time that will help to shape Australian women’s cycling,” Barras concluded.

The camp will run from November 3-13 at the AIS in Canberra.

The successful riders will be notified shortly after the conclusion of the camp, with the riders to head overseas to contest the European season in March 2014.

Full list of selected riders:

  • • Chloe McConville
  • • Louisa Lobigs
  • • Katrin Garfoot
  • • Samantha de Riter
  • • Emily Roper
  • • Jessica Mundy
  • • Chloe McIntosh
  • • Emma Viotto
  • • Cassandra Dodd
  • • Jade Colligan
  • • Brittany Lindores
  • • Kristy Glover
  • • Gina Ricardo
  • • Sophie MacKay
  • • Carley McKay
  • • Ellen Skerritt
  • • Megan Bagworth
  • • Jemma Brown
  • • Janelle Crooks
  • • Tessa Fabry

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