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Olympic Training Center Cycling Camp

by Bruce Hendler - AthletiCamps

I had the opportunity to spend a week with 31 junior and espoir athletes (i.e. 31 sets of raging hormones!) at the USA Cycling national developmental camp at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in San Diego.  Through participation in regional level camps, both male and female bike racers from all over the country earn their way to this annual national level event. This camp focuses on testing, training, and preparation for the upcoming season.  Although younger riders are trained similarly to mature riders, there are specific areas of their training program that must be addressed differently because of their age.  Here is a summary of the week:


  • The first order of business at camp was performing heart rate versus power tests on each athlete to determine their individual training zones, anaerobic threshold (AT), and wattages at both their AT and peak of power.   One result was the extremely high heart rates achieved by the majority of the athletes.  Maximum heart rates in the 205+ range were not uncommon.  One athlete even maintained 220 during the last step of his test, which just about freaked me and the rest of the staff out!
  • Their muscle strength, pulmonary and cardiovascular systems are still developing.   A lot of discussion took place on how to build bike specific strength in younger athletes.  Just like mature cyclists, strength training is applied to their programs in the form of on the bike drills (slow, big gear repetitions) and weights (lighter/more reps). The key is not to over gear or use too heavy of weights risking injury.  For example, instead of focusing on big gear pedaling drills with rpms of 40-45, 60-65 rpms are recommended.   Gear restrictions are enforced in junior racing in the US, forcing them to spin a higher cadence and in turn develop their aerobic systems.
  • Creating good lifestyle and training habits in their training programs is essential and was practiced throughout the week.  Every morning, the athletes would meet at 7:00AM and go for a brisk walk and perform stretching and calisthenics.  Nightly wrap-up meetings were also held after dinner to review the day's events and present the upcoming day's schedule.  It was stressed that it's not just riding that makes you a great cyclist, but a lot of the little things that other athletes don't do that will make them successful.
  • Developing athletes should take part in a variety of sports and activities as they grow older and decide whether they want to pursue cycling as a profession.   John Lieswyn (Healthnet), a long time professional, was at camp to give the athletes an opportunity to train and talk to a pro and get valuable tips.  John also gave a great presentation on the Life of a Professional and tips to follow if they choose to make cycling their profession.  Discussions also took place about college programs and how more schools are offering scholarships.  NCCA programs are a great way to gain racing experience, while getting an education.   
  • The highlight of the week was the annual race held on the last day of camp, followed that evening by an award ceremony.  The OTC in San Diego has a dedicated one mile loop circuit for cyclists with a couple nice hills and a lot of turns.  A fun course!  Watching the races from the back as a mentor, the biggest opportunity for improvement came in tactics, aggressiveness, and skills (which is the same for most bike racers).     

In summary:

  • Heart rates for younger athletes can be very high due mostly to smaller hearts and blood volumes that limit the maximal stoke volume.
  • Develop their strength by using smaller gears when doing on the bike big gear pedaling drills and light weight /more repetitions in the weight room.
  • Use this time to develop their aerobic capability with pedaling drills and higher cadence on the road.
  • Develop good training and lifestyle habits that will help them achieve their goals as they grow older.  Remember, it's all about quality of life.
  • Expose them to many different activities. This will give them a fair comparison whether bike racing is something they truly want to pursue in the long run.  Educate them that going to college and cycling can be done together, especially in today's world where scholarships are now offered for bike racing.
  • Most importantly HAVE FUN!


Overall, the camp was a huge success and a lot of fun for me as a coach. The future of bike racing in the US is bright. Their enthusiasm is real and exciting.  The OTC is a fantastic location to hold an event like this because it offers an isolated environment where athletes can focus on the job at hand with no outside interruptions (although they did create a few!). It was a great way top spend my holiday.  I look forward to watching these athletes in 2004 and years to come, both on the domestic and international scene!   

Bruce Hendler
AthletiCamps - Aspire Higher
+1 (916) 784-3662

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