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SIMON VAN VELTHOOVEN Wrapping up in Japan

Firstly I’ll apologise for my lack of updates the last few months as it’s been hectic as always and every time I planned to sit down and put pen to paper to finish it off something else becomes a priority.

Since the last update I have had some good battles and results in the Japanese Keirin League racing in the cities of Omiya, Chiba, and Maebashi. It was great travelling to these tracks with the German Stefan Botticher as he is a true East German where everything has to be absolutely perfect and to the point. Living in Japan and sharing a room with Stefan has definitely made me even more OCD, which I hope is a good thing, because to be the best you really do need to make sure you account for all those 1% gains.

Unfortunately even though I make sure I control all the controllables as much as I can, there is no way you can avoid being targeted in a Japanese Keirin. I was “zeroed in” and taken out in Chiba racing the semi-final. Bloody 30m before the finish line too.  It isn’t nice crashing in Japan as your bike gets totalled being a flimsy old design and expensive to rebuild.

However, in this crash my pedal straps did not loosen on impact and let my foot out of the pedal.  As a result you can just imagine how twisted my ankle got after doing a few somersaults with the bike flying around above me, still connected. I couldn’t walk for a week or so, but fortunately with a fair bit of strapping tape and a Buck Shellford mind-set I could still race and train like normal.  The following race was great where I collected two wins.  So I left Japan mid-June happy to begin the final Commonwealth Games build up with the rest of the Sprint team in the USA who had been there since early June.

As you probably know already we have to do a number of UCI classed races throughout the off season to quality for the World Cup season and then onto the World Champs. Olympic qualification begins two years out from the competition so realistically our Olympic campaign begun this off season with all the qualification races in a sleepy town on the east coast of the USA.
In the 1970s an aspiring race organiser decided to dig up his paddock and design a track cycling velodrome. Bob Rodale was his name and his theory was ‘Build it, and they will come’.
Since then riders from all over the world have flocked to train and race in Trexlartown in the summer months to further their strengths and gain international experience. For me when I was 18 years old and along with hundreds of other NZ riders this is where it all began on the international stage. So it was great returning for my 5th season of racing there and able to catch up with a lot of people that have helped me throughout the years.

Trexlartown, Pennsylvania, USA

My results were great for the amount of jetlag I had after arriving the day before the first night of racing. After making the Keirin final with Eddie and Sam we worked against the Yanks and the Dutch to get first and third in the final. That week we had some of the hardest training days I’ve had in my career, mainly because of the 35 degree heat we were training in and the intensity and length of the efforts. You can imagine by breathing in through soup after doing an absolute maximal standing start 60 second effort racing your team mates… The following weekend we had the big finale of sprint events with two night of racing beginning with a Match Sprint tournament on theFriday night followed by a Keirin series on the Saturday night.
On Friday morning I qualified 4th behind 3 of my team mates with Eddie setting a new track record.   We were all within  0.01 of a second so we all had great form. I back myself to be a good racer with that belief and mild arrogance to put myself in a position to win. After winning all my heats and the quarter finals to riders from Canada, Trinidad and Holland I came up against the top qualifier and team mate Eddie. I drew position one and lead off but did not want the front so after doing a track stand on the back straight (which Eddie was able to match me with) I had to lead out and just absolutely drill it going into one lap to go and then again down the back straight and was fortunately able to hold him off to the finish and beat the top qualifier and therefore into the big final.  Matt Archbold also had good legs and we met in the final. It was a great race with both of us racing to our strengths, a photo finish was needed to decide the winner and Matt came away with it. Very happy to have raced my way up to second place let alone qualify 4th.
The next night we had the Keirin with a lot of good riders meaning many heats of up to 7 riders. It was good to win my heat, then again with my semi from the front, full gas to avoid trouble and crashes with the other riders. The final saw Sam and I together against a Canadian, Dutchie and some local Americans. It was a good race with myself just leading Sam out for the win and staying out of trouble.  So over all it was a great weekend with good results considering I had to arrive late, race jetlagged, bloody weak ankles and a massive haematoma on my hip from crashing at 70kph in Japan!

Bordeaux, France

Since arriving into Bordeaux in the south of France, we have met up with the rest of the NZ track team which consists of the Men’s and Women’s Endurance squads. We have been doing our final prep here for the last major competitions such as Beijing, Delhi, London and Glasgow.

You may think it is nice here but what we see is totally different to what a tourist may experience. I mean for sure it’s rumoured that there are some pretty awesome wineries and Chateaus around here let alone the fine dining in the city centre that everyone should enjoy at some stage in their life but because our diets are tightened up pre competition with can’t really experience it let alone drink alcohol. To be honest I wouldn’t even be able to stand up for more than 10 minutes or even walk anywhere for that matter. All we have is a short road ride to the track, do a few hours of intense mental balls out, frothed up training, then cruise home shower and relax for 3 weeks straight…

For now I’ll keep on keeping on and hopefully next time I type up a newsletter it will have some good news from Glasgow!

Simon van Velthooven
New Zealand Sprint Cyclist
World, Commonwealth, Olympic Medalist
Proud Volkswagen Ambassador