Matt Archibald writes from inside the BikeNZ Sprint team's Olympic buildup
Things have been changing very quickly here in Europe.
Our training has been progressing well in Valencia with everyone competing with each other and working hard. Part way into our fourth week into our stay in Valencia during some match sprint practice Eddie and Sam unfortunately came in contact during a sprint, which resulted in Eddie coming down on the rough concrete surface of the velodrome. Eddie got himself up and within a night of physio visits was able to get stuck into doing everything he can to get his body back into racing shape (which he has done remarkably fast).
As this was only days before racing in Cottbus, Germany. I was given the call up to race in Eddie's place. So on the Thursday night I was given the nod that I would be flying first thing in the morning along with Sam and Simon to Berlin. Along the way we had two flight delays a stop in Vienna and a 200km drive from Berlin to Cottbus (which doesn’t take very long on the Autobahn). We were fairly tired by the time we assembled our bikes and got off to bed. The following morning we were up early hoping to get a small amount of time on the concrete outdoor 333m track before racing. There were 50 sprinters in the men’s elite division with all the big teams that will be at the Olympics, excluding only the French and British. First up we had the 200m qualifier, which I was initially disappointed with finishing middle of the field in 10.38, Simon clocked a 10.36 and Sam 10.26. I felt I had chosen the wrong gear, however with the training load, travel and a concrete track 10.38 is still a respectable time.
First race was against Robert Forsterman and an unknown Polish rider. Forsterman controlled the race with his explosive power leaving me to finish 3 metres behind. In the next race - as usual when we are on the other side of the world - I met team mate Sam Webster in a one-on-one match sprint. I rode well, holding a gap and forcing Sam to come around the outside in the last corner. However, with the longer track the finish strait is slightly longer than on standard 250m tracks. The finish camera showed that Sam was able to get a tire width ahead across the line for the win. This meant I would finish the day with three Kierins. These plus the four kierins the following day all seemed to roll into one. Day two Simon and I teamed up with Mitch Bullen (Austrailia) to ride a team sprint. We made the final and finished fourth. Simon produced the 2nd fastest 3rd wheel time and I had the 5th fastest 2nd wheel time. Simon and I also both made the 7-12th final in the kierins that day. By this stage we were running on empty and both had very little power left. Overall, any weekend where you can do 12 sprint races against the world’s best is an awesome experience. I learnt a lot that can only be learnt during racing. Also the weather was very comfortable at 20-30 degrees and a bit of a relief to get away from the Spanish heat for three days.
Six days later we were again packing up or bikes and training equipment and on the plane heading for Bordeaux. We would fly through Paris for a short stop over (unfortunately didn’t have time to get out of the airport for a look) and then on to our final destination. We were all very excited to get to Bordeaux, because this would mean we would be training on a very fast wooden 250m track similar to the one in London. We were all looking forward to a change in the routine and to meet up with the rest of the track squad. We arrived unpacked, built and rode our bikes within a couple of hours of landing. The track felt really fast and, with the temperature in the mid 20’s, it was much more comfortable. For me the track feels a lot like the Invercargill track (on a warm day), with long straights and tight corners. So we were all fizzing to do some 100% efforts to see what we could do! Over the last couple of weeks the focus has shifted to more race specific efforts, long rests and fast times. I obviously cannot go into too much detail but I can say that everyone from every squad is looking very impressive.
Right now as I write it is the night before the Men’s Sprint team, and the men’s and women’s endurance teams leave for London for just enough time to get used to the track, While I stay in our training base with the other reserves. We will train for the next nine days as if we were racing and maybe do a few PB times as well. If the worst happens we will be on call ready to go.
I want to thank all my supporters who have followed my progress and helped me get over here to continue working towards being the best at what I do, and especially the ILT, Community Trust and Cycling Southland who have played a massive part in getting three Southland riders and a couple of Southland based staff over here.
Good luck to the team - can’t wait!
Photos from top to bottom, painted concrete Velodrome in Valencia, Me Left and Eddie Right practising team sprint starts in Valencia, Getting ready to race with Sam in Cottbus Germany, Cottbus track from the pits, The team and hotel owners out for Spanish tapas on our last night in Spain, me with a Bordeaux rowing course/lake behind, sprinters at last training session the day before leaving.