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Director Sportif Experience at North Star GP- part 2 North Star GP

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Director Sportif Experience at North Star GP- part 2 North Star GP

By ALP Coach Patricia Schwager

This blog is about my experience with directing the All Stars Collegiate Team at the North Star GP. Part one last week was about the pre camp, the blog this Friday is about the 5 days of racing.

 

Race day 1: North Star GP started off with a double day. The morning was a short and flat 5 mile time trial, followed by a downtown criterium in the evening.

It was an early morning for the team staff and riders. We left the house by 6am to make sure we would have a good parking spot, enough time for a solid warm-up on trainers, time for the bike checks, etc.

Race day was finally here and of course the girls were a bit nervous. But they all did their very best in the TT. We had a good start into the race. Kate finished 14th which put her in the lead of the best amateur classification.

We headed home to our host house in between the races so the girls could rest up and get ready for the criterium in the evening.

The criterium in the evening was on a new course. Things got a bit out of control because of 2 big crashes. The race got neutralized and then nullified- meaning there was no winner and the criterium wouldn’t count towards the general classification. One of my riders went down in a crash; I spent half of the race in the medical tent with her. It was a good decision to stop the race.

Race day 2: the Cannon Falls road race; at 85 miles the longest stage of the 5 days. The race started at 4pm and it was very hot. We prepared plenty of bottles to make sure the girls will be well hydrated before, during and after the race. The start got delayed by 1 hour because the race circuit was blocked due to a big crash in the men’s race. The race director decided to shorten the race by 12 miles to make sure we would finish before dark. All my girls made with the main bunch to the short and challenging finishing circuits. Unfortunately one of my riders went down in a crash with 1 lap to go….that meant another visit in the medical tent. The good news was that Kate kept her green leader jersey for the amateur classification.

Race day 3: was a criterium day again. The start was late (6:20pm) that gave us time to relax a bit in the morning. I joined the girls for an easy spin around the lake near our host house. We headed early to the criterium. I pre rode the circuit with the girls to give them tips and advice. The sky looked very dark right around the start of the criterium but luckily the thunderstorm stayed away. The race was fast- my girls raced well and Kate defended the green jersey.

Race day 4: the North Mankato road race. The 78 mile stage was a new stage. I was glad that I pre rode the circuit the week before, so could teach my team everything about the 3 big loops and 5 small finishing laps. It was another very hot day and that took toll on many riders. The bunch got smaller and smaller in every of the 5 finishing laps. Three of my riders were able to stay in the first group and showed a good leadout. We came away with a 5th and 9th place in this stage. The surprise of the day was that we won the team classification for the stage. We were thrilled about the results!

One of my favorite pics of the week, showing real teamwork!

One of my favorite pics of the week, showing real teamwork!

Race day 5: last day! The famous Stillwater criterium was the last stage of the North Star GP. This criterium course is super hard as the finish is on top of a very steep climb. Plus there is no chance to recover or hide on this circuit. A lot of riders won’t finish the whole 14 laps of the race because it is such a hard race. Janelle finished 13th on this stage- she had to fight so hard for this result especially with her injuries from the 2 crashes earlier in the week.

The final results: we finished 6th in the team classification. Kate won the best amateur classification (green jersey) with Janelle coming 2nd. Janelle was 3rd in the best young rider classification. This was a huge success. Of course I kept my promise to buy ice cream for all the riders after the race. 

The race was in the books but the work wasn’t done yet. Packing bikes, cleaning and packing up equipment, airport runs etc. had to be done.

  Taking care of my riders after the race!

  Taking care of my riders after the race!

I am very proud how the girls raced the whole week. We reached some great results. But the results only show one side. To me it was almost more important how the girls worked together as a team in the races. They also helped each other off the bike with cooking together etc. Of course they got tired towards the end of the week but the team spirit was always high and everyone gave their very best.

It was a great experience for me and I really liked my DS job. Yes it was a lot of work during the 2 weeks and I didn’t sleep much more than 6hrs per night. It was a lot of driving and helping out with random tasks, preparing day by day, having meetings before and after the stages and just making sure everything is running smoothly. But it was a real pleasure to work with a motivated team- thank you Kate, Katherine, Janelle, Amy, Monica and Jennifer!

A big thank you goes also to the team staff: Jill, John, Tom, Bill and Jamie. We worked very well together which I super important in order to get all the work done. It takes a team behind the team to make it happen!

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Director Sportif Experience at North Star GP- part 1 team building camp

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Director Sportif Experience at North Star GP- part 1 team building camp

By ALP Coach Patricia Schwager

This blog is about my experience with directing the All Stars Collegiate Team at the North Star GP. It was my first DS job and I was super excited for the opportunity.

About the All Stars Collegiate Team: riders get selected at Collegiate Nationals. Racing for the Collegiate All Stars Team is a unique chance for the girls as they get top support for 2 weeks (at camp and during North Star GP) - all they have to do is race their bike. They get to race against the top women racers in the country- plus they compete in front of the team managers of the top women teams in the nation. Showing a good performance can give them the chance to get a contract with a team.

 I flew to Minneapolis a few days early to meet up with team manager, and ALP athelte, Jill. Together we pre rode the 2 road race stages and made sure everything was ready when the girls arrive.

Notes about one of the stages, making sure I can teach the girls everything about this stage

Notes about one of the stages, making sure I can teach the girls everything about this stage

 Day 1: arrival day. I did airport runs, helped the girls to build their bikes together, packed the van/ car and then drove out to our camp in Amery WI. An easy spin to shake out the legs rounded the day off.

Day 2: was a hot day so we started our training ride early in the morning. 3 hours Endurance including some blocks with rotating pace lines. I was very happy with the improvement- the pace line in the end of the training looked nice and smooth and the girls were riding closely together.

Day 3: 2 hour ride with skills, drills and tactics. We practiced: leadouts, TT-starts, closing gaps, riding up the middle and slalom around teammates, feeding from the car and handing up bottles from the road side. We ended the session with some skills like touching elbows, shoulders etc. In the afternoon I cleaned all the bikes for the girls.

Day 4: was our travel day back to Minneapolis. We stopped in Stillwater for coffee and to pre drive the famous Stillwater criterium course. Buying groceries, settling in in our nice host house and a very easy recovery spin were the other tasks on our program.

Day 5: the day before the race. We got up early to pre ride and do openers on the TT course. I rode with the girls and gave them advice for the TT (which line to take, how to ride the turnaround etc.) Around noon we had a sponsor function at the Medica headquarters (Medica was our team sponsor).  After that the girls all got a massage and had time to relax while I attended the DS meeting.

The whole idea of the camp before the North Star GP was to create a team out of 6 individual riders. My goal was to find the right balance between working hard and having fun. I tried to teach them as much as possible in the 5 days- without over doing it or putting pressure on them. I joined every training ride on my bike- so I could see or teach things 1:1. In my opinion a coach on the bike can teach better than a coach sitting in the car.

I made them work together on and off the bike. We had meetings every day to talk about different topics and the girls asked me a lot of questions. We had nice campfire chats (of course with eating S’mores) and played games or just sat together after dinner to talk about random stuff. A big thank you to Sue and Jay Kakuk for hosting us on their farm- they provided us with delicious food and they also make the best cookies called: Kakookies!

I was very impressed and pleased how everything worked out at camp. The girls were willing to learn and showed great team spirit. We were ready for 5 days of racing!

Part 2 of this blog will follow, to share the experience about racing at NSGP.

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