Sweaty Skin Suits, Stinky Tofu and the Best Juniors in Asia
Two Brunswick Juniors (and one Carnegie boy) were given the opportunity to bolster the Track Cycling WA (TCWA) team to contest the 11th Annual Pacific Youth Track Tournament held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. BCC’s Ryan Schilt and Riley Hart rounded out the under-15 quartet, while CCCC’s Jordan Stannus added some endurance depth to the four-man under-17 team. While riding for TCWA, the team were simply called ‘Australia’ with all members made to feel incredibly welcome by the organisers and all of the riders and support staff. There were teams from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Thailand as well as strong local teams from Taiwan.
TCWA had finished second twice and third a number of times, including last year, and went with a goal of trying to finish atop the medal table and take home the impressive trophy. While there was some discrepancy in the standard of riders, the boys were definitely not going to get it all their own way with some very accomplished riders and some oppressively humid conditions ensuring tough racing. This report is more about how the Victorian boys fared, keep your eyes out on Cycling WA website for a broader report.
A 5am wake-up (earlier for Jordan having to come from Mt Eliza) made the travel day a long day… we arrived in Kaohsiung just in time for dinner. The organisers provide all accommodation, transport and meals for the competitors and official entourage, and also looked after the hangers-on (Ryan’s mum Soulla, David and Kerryn Stannus and moi). The meals were a mix of Asian influenced western dishes – lots of pasta, noodles and rice dishes – and went down well with most of the crew.
A day to acclimatise to the both the track and the humidity opened proceedings and Australia could train at the velodrome from 10:30am to 12:30pm. After building up the bikes – overseen and assisted by TCWA chief mechanic Bob – all 12 riders quickly got up on the track and sweated through a 30-lap warm-up.
As there are no junior gear restrictions in Asia, the boys were nervous as to what sort of gear they could push, so the remainder of the session saw chainrings and cogs being spun on-and-off to try and get it right. After a recovery swim in the next door pool and an early dinner, it was off to a nearby might market for some local culture and to buy presents for those left at home.
Day one of competition started with the Team Pursuits. Ryan and Riley joined under-15 WA boys Jarrod Karel and Kasey Smith for 2000m of pain. It was all going swimmingly till coach called for a big closing effort – as Jarrod swung off with two-to-go, Ryan upped the pace opening a gap that Jarrod quickly chased but that saw the two first-year boys hanging-off the back for the last two-laps. The boy’s missed out on qualifying for the gold ride by less than a second because of the chaos, but pulled it together to win bronze in a time faster than either of the two teams riding for gold. An opportunity missed.
Jordan anchored the under-17 team in their TP qualifying effort, but after losing a rider after only a couple of laps and the other two riders more sprinters, even Jordan’s best efforts couldn’t get the boys over the line; they qualified fifth.
Next up, the Time Trials: 500m for the under-15 boys and the four-person girls team (a composite of under-15 and under-17 riders). Ryan smashed it, winning gold by over a second-and-a-half (37.370) with Kasey just 6/100th-of-a-second out of third (39.690). Gary Ramshaw then took bronze in the under-17 1000m TT. Meantime, the girls had IP qualifying and TCWA rider Alicia Buchanan gave herself a shot a gold later in the day, which she duly delivered.
Lastly it was sprint qualifying. Ryan, buoyed by his efforts in the TT and flourishing on the bigger gears, rode a PB (even though it was an outdoor track) recording a 11.98 – his time would have qualified him fastest of the under-17s boys! Riley put in a good ride to qualify second fastest with a 13.6 – nowhere near his PB, which just showed how good Ryan’s performance was! Gary qualified fastest for the under-17s and Suzy Antal also qualified in the top two for the girls. An early night was had by some exhausted kids (and parents).
Day two of racing was set to include: Sprint finals, boys IP qualifying and finals, team sprints and the eliminations races. Ryan eased his way through the 1/4s and semis in straight sets and was soon racing for, and winning, gold. Riley hit a hurdle in the shape of a tall Chinese boy pushing a big gear in his 1/4-finals and went out in straight heats. Suzy made it through to the bronze medal ride and won that, while Gary also advanced all the way and dominated the gold final with superior tactics.
IP qualifying and Jarrod and Ryan qualified 1-2 in the under-15 boys while Jordan qualified second in the under-17 boys. The 15 final saw Jarrod hold off Ryan, who had to back up from his gold medal sprint rides (but all credit to Jarrod, it was a super ride – 2:36.500 on the outdoor windy track to win by over 8-seconds). Meanwhile Jordan just got pipped for gold in his IP to a very impressive boy from Hong Kong. Unfortunately the threatening weather finally cracked and the TS and Elim were postponed to the final day. This didn’t stop a dance off between the Aussies and one of the local teams… got to say, the locals had our crew covered, but it was fun all round as the rain came down!
And what a final day it was! Sitting pretty atop the medal table, the team only had to keep the momentum going to ensure the trophy would be theirs. First up, the team sprints and because of the added races, they were straight out finals. For the 15 boys, it was their smaller gears that again saw them just miss out by 2/10th-of-a-second on third. The 17 boys fared better failing by just 3/10th’s to win gold but happy enough with silver. The girls also managed a medal with Suzy and Jarrod’s sister Selena taking a well deserved bronze.
Next up the delayed elimination races and Team Australia couldn’t have done much better – the girls went 1-2 courtesy Alicia and Jess Sellar; then Riley won gold in his favourite event with a gutsy effort – he was in fact second last across the line in more than half the sprints! This time his smaller gear worked for him allowing him to easily accelerate while the boys pushing big gears fatigued to go out.
Hot on the elims were the points races – and hot was the operative word, with the temperature well into the 30′s with 90% humidity. Jess backed up her elimination second with a fine third in the points; while Ryan showed he wasn’t just a sprinter with a powerful display to comfortably win the 15 points race. Jordan matched this feat taking a lap and scoring in seven of the eight sprints to win the 17s by 14 points – a massive ride!
After a seven-minute break to catch our breath, the tournament was set to finish with the scratch races. Suzy was a late replacement for Jess, who was suffering heat stroke, and rode strongly with Alicia to take another 1-2. Riley and Jarrod were always up the front in the under-15 race trying to keep the pace high and fatigue the kids riding the big gears. It paid off handsomely as Jarrod swept around the outside on the back straight to take gold, while Riley scored a close-up fifth. In the 17s, Jordan backed right up from his marathon effort in the points to win silver to his rival from Hong Kong.
After another swim and some rest it was off to the official closing function and it was all about local fare and good times with new friends. The kids swapped sweaty skin suits, badges and Facebook addresses as they lapped up some amazing food, which they cooked themselves in a steamer at their seat.
Oh, and the stinky tofu… well that came from a stand outside our motel. By the time we got back there each night the corridors smelled like a cross between wet-dog and dead rodent… other than that, it was an amazing trip and fantastic experience for all concerned; especially the Victorian boys who bought home: 5 Gold, 4 Silver and 3 Bronze!