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BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack. Handmade in Cape Town, South Africa.

The VeloRacing BACKPACK is here!

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The VeloRacing Backpack is here.  Based on the original and bestselling VeloRacing bag, featuring the same functionality of organization, preparation and ultimate performance on race day.

BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack

BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack

The compact and convenient 20l backpack is perfect for a lifestyle of travel; whether that be commuting to work, gym, your local race, or even international competitions.  Featuring dedicated ventilated compartments for your kit, helmet and shoes; all encased in a layer of foam to protect your valuable kit.

Handmade in Cape Town, South Africa using the highest quality rip-stop water resistant materials and YKK zips.

BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack

BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack

Available exclusively online for US$99 (ZAR950) including free worldwide tracked courier delivery (3-7 days) here:

South Africa: https://www.blsglobal.net/za/product/veloracing-backpack/

International: https://www.blsglobal.net/int/product/veloracing-backpack/

BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack

BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack

BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack

BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack

BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack

BLS Velo Racing compact cycling and mountain biking kit and gear race day backpack

Available exclusively online for US$99 (ZAR950) including free worldwide tracked courier delivery (3-7 days) here:

South Africa: https://www.blsglobal.net/za/product/veloracing-backpack/

International: https://www.blsglobal.net/int/product/veloracing-backpack/

The BLS TIWIA Leather Velo Racing cycling mtb mountain biking riding cellphone essentials pouch case

The TIWIA Leather Riding Pouch is here!

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The TIWIA collection is a premium luxury leather collection of cycling luggage and accessories, hand crafted in Cape Town, South Africa using locally and ethically sourced leather.

The latest product in the collection has just launched, the TIWIA Leather Riding Pouch.  Designed to fit your cell phone, cards and cash, and neatly fit into the back of your jersey – this is where convenience and endless style, class, quality meet.

The BLS TIWIA Leather Velo Racing cycling mtb mountain biking riding cellphone essentials pouch case

The BLS TIWIA Leather Velo Racing cycling mtb mountain biking riding cellphone essentials pouch case

Available in black/red or black/brown to match your TIWIA Leather VeloRacing Bag, it’s a combination you simply cannot go wrong with, and will elevate your cycling prestige.

“this is who i am”

It’s available exclusively online with free worldwide delivery.  To view and buy the pouch, click on the links below:

International: https://www.blsglobal.net/int/product/tiwia-leather-riding-pouch/

South Africa: : https://www.blsglobal.net/za/product/tiwia-leather-riding-pouch/

Mariske Struass by Robert Ward

Interview: Mariske Strauss

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We sat down in Cape Town with our SA champion ambassador, rider on the Silverback | OMX pro MTB team, and all round legend Mariske Strauss.

We asked her about her past, travels, future goals and how she keeps the energy so high!

We get some insight into what it takes to be a champion, and how it’s really like living the pro-life.

How would you introduce yourself to the readers in one sentence?

M: Wow, well I am Mariske Strauss, born & bread South African MTB’er racing for SILVERBACK | OMX Mountain bike team aiming to concour the world!

How and when did you get into cycling?

M: I got into cycling thanks to my dad and older brother. Seeing as I was always at the events I was like “I can do that…”, well the bug bit and I’ve loved it ever since.  I jumped right into National racing at around age 10.

What is it like to be a professional female cyclist – glamorous or not?

M: Well… a lot of hard work and quite lonely at times, but very rewarding.  To answer truthfully there is a lot of blood sweat and tears that goes on behind the scenes to get to that podium, so in short not always as glamorous as those post-race pictures.

What would you say it takes to be a successful professional cyclist?

M: I’d say this counts for anything you want to be successful in actually. Dedication, hard work and the will to succeed no matter what (this even more so in sport), with sport being so physical and demanding physically mentally and spiritually it is quite important, well for me anyway, to have a good support structure and my faith has been a major factor over the years.

Mariske Strauss by OMX pro MTB team

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

M: Mmm there has been a couple but last year’s 1st place in the ABSA cape epic penultimate day was really special.

You have represented South Africa numerous times internationally, which has been the best trip for you and why?

M: This is a hard one, I have had a couple of hard knocks and a lot of them happened while in SA kit unfortunately.  If I’d have to pick it would probably be at least years World Champs in Australia, this was the first time in a very long time that I was capable of pushing myself and racing hard again, even though it was not the best result it sparked the fire that I thought was gone.

What is it like to travel the world through cycling?  

M: Firstly, it is a massive privilege to see the world through my sport, and it has sort of become my normal.  Europe & my team that side has become like my 2nd home so it feels strange when I don’t go.  That said, as rewarding it is, it’s just as hard to live out of a suitcase for the majority of the season but I love my sport and it makes me very appreciative of my country and home when I get to stay here for off season.

Mariske Strauss by Max Fuchs

Mariske Strauss by Max Fuchs

What would you like to see change in cycling, in South Africa and Internationally?

M: I think we are on a great path so far, but I would like to see south Africa become even more cycling continues and have more dedicated cycling routes (more on the road to connect the awesome MTB trails 😉 )

Other than cycling, what other hobbies or interests do you have? We know you have a BSc in the bag!

M: Yes I do indeed.  I am a BSc Sport Scientist, Sport Massage therapist and love playing piano and drawing.  Hey I actually sound like a quite well rounded individual!

Do you make use of any sport psychology techniques?

M: Yes, definitely.  At an elite level the mental side of things play such a major role, visualization and meditating forms part of my daily rituals.

How do you stay motivated and hungry to be the best you can?

M: I think the love of the game and then just my general nature.  I am very motivated and once I set goals for myself I always see it through, and I think this plays a major role in my dedication and will to succeed.

You are known as somewhat of a personality in the MTB circuit in South Africa, how do you keep the continuous “high” going?

M: Well we are all human and to tell you the truth we all have dips. I have had my fair share of them and to say that I am ALWAYS high and happy would be a bit far fetch. The trick is to not let your past dips demoralize and obscure your vision and will to fight.

Mariske Strauss by Robert Ward

What has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome to achieve your goals?

M: This would be my injuries… and all the mental and physical challenges that this accompanied for years after the pain subsided.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or things that help you prepare?

M: Of course, as I believe any athlete does.  I think as an elite athlete you need to find your own routines and after a while these become rituals to get you mentally in the right headspace and to ensure you are physically ready to push yourself to the max.  Mine usually start off with some stretching and foam rolling to wake the body up and tend to past battle scars that still remain ;).

What do you feel is your best characteristic that has enabled you to be successful?

M: My ability to keep pushing on, to keep fighting when the odds are not looking so geared towards my favour.  That combined with being able to see the positive/good in almost any situation and doing it with a thankful heart.  God is good and believe He works with a plan.

How do you cope with pre-race stress/pressure?

M: This has been a bit of a challenge for me, especially the last couple of years where I have had to deal with a lot of mishaps and injuries.  What I have found lately, besides my groove again, is my ”WHY”. Why I do what I do, and a main factor is joy.  I’ve made my “why” list and if I have that in mind the rest seems to fall into place.

What are your goals for the future?

M: Olympics and Worlds Cup podium!

What are your plans for life after cycling?

M: Well, I have my BSc Sport Science degree and I am currently working for Science2Sport and a coach and do some lab work for them as well.  I would like to take that further and I will possibly still to my Honours (and maybe even PhD!) in Exercise Physiology ;).  Who knows where the road will lead me after my cycling career, hopefully with by the grace of the Man upstairs I still have many years ahead cranking my pedals.

Mariske Strauss by Zoon Cronje

Mariske Strauss by Zoon Cronje

Is there anyone you’d like to thank who has helped you achieve your success?

M: Oh wow, this is a massive list… definitely my family, who have played such an instrumental part of my athletic career (veral Mamma & Pappa, ek kan regtig nie genoeg dankie sê nie!).  My coach Jeroen, we have been through quite a lot of storms, thanks for helping me keep the boat afloat!  The guys at SSISA for pushing me on and off the bike; my friends, Eugene for helping me iron out my mind the last couple of months and lastly my amazing sponsors, without whom I literally would not be able to race my bike.

If you could leave the readers with one thought, what would it be?

M: If there’s one thing I have learned over the years it’s that you are capable of literally anything if you truly believe it in your heart.  What you say to yourself and believe at your core is usually true, so decide to be the superhero you are destined to be!

 

Interview by Matthew de Freitas

 

 

The evolution of the TIWIA Leather VeloRacing Bag is here!

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After much R&D to develop and launch he first TIWIA Leather VeloRacing Bag earlier this year, we are pleased to announce the evolution of that bag in a brand new colour scheme!

 

BLS TIWIA Leather Velo Racing cycling kit bag.

BLS TIWIA Leather Velo Racing cycling kit bag.

The new colour scheme features the same black leather base, but now with whiskey leather trimmings, and pearl white focal point stitching.

The bag forms part of the new TIWIA collection, which is a premium luxury leather collection of cycling luggage and accessories, hand crafted in Cape Town, South Africa using locally and ethically sourced leather.

BLS TIWIA Leather Velo Racing cycling kit bag.

BLS TIWIA Leather Velo Racing cycling kit bag.

This is a premium luxury leather cycling specific bag for training and race days based on the popular VeloRacing bag, which is still available here

Designed to be a practical solution to aid your organisation and preparation, this bag will form part of your routine, and will become an heirloom to be passed on to generations to follow in your footsteps.

This may be the best cycling bag ever made.

“this is who i am”

There will be more exciting products coming to the collection in the coming months and in 2019.

View the bag now:

South Africa Customers

International Customers

 

BLS TIWIA Leather Velo Racing cycling kit bag.

BLS TIWIA Leather Velo Racing cycling kit bag.

BLS TIWIA Leather Velo Racing cycling kit bag.

 

BLS at the 2018 European Track Championships

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BLS athletes had another successful European track cycling champs at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow, Scotland this past week.  The venue of the 2014 Commonwealth games, and named after the British legend, it was a fitting venue.

They won a total of 13 medals, with 4 of them being gold!!

The woman dominated the competition, with Daria Schmeleva from Russia winning 3 gold medals in the sprint, 500m TT and team sprint.  She is showing her class and someone to be feared leading up to Tokyo 2020. Her team mate Anastasia Voinova won the team sprint gold, and silver in the sprint.

Nicky Degrendele by Drew Kaplan

Nicky Degrendele by Drew Kaplan

Young French star Mathilde Gross won the keirin and a bronze in the sprint.  At only 18, she’s showing that she could be the future of woman sprinting, and forming part of a new crop of French talent building up to Paris 2024.

Miriam Welte won a bronze in the team sprint with her team mate Emma Hinzee, and also a bronze in the 500m TT, wearing her rainbow stripes. She’s a legend and showing she’s still at the forefront of woman’s track sprinting.

Mirriam Welte by Drew Kaplan

Mirriam Welte by Drew Kaplan

World champion in the keirin, Nicky Degrendele, came close to win a silver in that event and doing the rainbow stripes justice.

In the men’s category, some of the big BLS names were missing like Max Levy, but we were well represented by the likes of Denis Dmitriv, Tomas Babek and Max Dornbach.  Young French rider, and new to join BLS, Sebastien Vignier won a silver in the keirin, and teamed up with Quentin Lafargue to win silver in the team sprint.  Young Timo Bichler won a bronze with his German team in the same event.

We also had many young riders competing, and to look out for in the future like Robyn Stewart and Migle Marozaite.

Most notably was not having Olympic champion Kristina Vogel competing.  She was in the hearts of the riders, with her team mates wearing custom BLS straps in her honour as she fights her way back.

The riders are looking in great shape for the upcoming season, and we’ll be keeping an eye on their results leading up to world championships next year!

If you’d like to use what champions use, check out the products they were using during the event:

Velcro Toe Straps – axle
Velcro Toe Straps – Cable tie
TIWIA Leather straps
VelodromeRacing Gloves
Track Gear Bag
Exclusive Track Gear Bag
Velodrome Bag
Exclusive Velodrome Bag

The Psychology of Fearless Technique, and how to Perform at Your Best

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Often we see cyclists; road, track and mountain bikers alike (I’m not talking about DH’s because they’re just nuts!) flying down a mountain pass, attacking a 200m line at close to 80kph with absolutely no fear, or going through a rock garden like it’s tarmac! I’ve even seen guys doing track stands in the middle of a 250m track! How do they do this so fearfully, with so much confidence?

In this article, I’ll look at the psychology of technique, and why some riders can go down hills and over obstacles fearlessly, while others cannot get over the fear attached to it; and how to get over the fear associated with it and perform at your best.  It’s a crucial element to cycling, and one that every rider who wishes to be successful, to perform at their best, or just for the sake of safety – needs to master.

Mariske Strauss by Owen Lloyd

The obvious thought it that this ability comes from experience, and with that experience comes confidence and self-belief. They are self-assured of their ability, and therefore have no fear of confronting it throughout a training session or a race. And that’s 100% correct! Through hours (probably 100’s if not 1000’s!) of training, they have mastered this skill. However, on the other hand, some riders who have been riding just as long still have the same problem of not being able to do so.

Other riders are absolutely petrified of these obstacles, and it’s what’s holding them back from riding at their best. Often these riders are physically strong enough to compete with the best in their league; however this simple lack of technique is preventing them from doing so. It’s the missing piece to their puzzle.

So how do we fix it?

Before I answer that, it’s Important to remember: sometimes it goes wrong, we miss-judge and go down. But here’s the thing, the best riders are able to bounce back, put fear behind them and carry on with the same confidence and self-belief they had before. That’s where mental toughness comes in.

The best riders (like Formula 1 drivers or alpine skiers) know the danger involved, but are able to put it into perspective, think rationally about it and block this out to focus on the task at hand. They are able to still perform under the pressure, and if something goes wrong, to get back up and carry on, they believe more in their ability to complete the task, than that they might make a mistake and fail.

Focused Mariske Strauss by OMX Pro Team

The key element in overcoming this fear and confronting the obstacle is to focus; and to focus we must be calm – so there we have what we need to work on getting under our control: remaining calm under pressure and fear, and from there focused. We need to focus on our ability to complete the task, and think rationally about it. This means, if we have done the preparation, there is no reason to doubt ourselves. We have the ability, so all we need to do is focus on completing the task as best possible; the thought of failure doesn’t even cross the mind.

It’s a debateable topic in sport psychology, but I am a firm believer in this through personal experience. If you think the right thoughts, those of confidence in your abilities and the preparation you’ve done, and even to think you are better than you really are (within reason of course), then you will have a much better chance at completing the task than if you think of your actual abilities, or start to doubt yourself. It’s simple, what you think matters!

Remember, this is a controllable factor of preparation! Which means we have 100% control of it and can work on improving it. Preparation is the foundation of confidence, so the better you are prepared, the more confident you will be, and more often than not, the better you will ride. Rather focus on improving this controllable, than worry about things we have no control over.

Preparing with the Exclusive VeloRacing Bag

Here are some techniques to try:

Visualisation: is to imagine yourself completing a task successfully. Close your eyes, wherever you are, and imagine yourself completing the task you are so fearful of. Imagine going through it with confidence and as smooth as Nino Schurter! Try visualizing it as realistic as possible, with the most possible detail. Think of the feelings, sounds, etc. It can be in the first or 3rd person, there is no evidence of either being better. Go through it as many times as possible, until you are visualizing it perfectly.

Self-talk: is simply to talk to yourself. It’s about saying what your coach, friend or whoever can make you calm would say. It’s a personal thing, so try think of things that’ll actually impact you. If you can find and practice some key words and phrases, you can use them to help calm yourself, and focus on the task. It can also be used to control your arousal.

Pre-race rituals: are something to try if you know what will make you stay calm and focused. If you are used to a certain routine, it will feel normal, and not out of the ordinary. This will hopefully reduce some of the pressure/stress associated with race day and the obstacles involved. Try not to get too obsessive about it; otherwise this also can become a problem.

Arousal regulation: is simply to control how aroused you are in a given situation, either to psyche up if you’re feeling too calm (not focused enough); or calm down if you’re feeling too anxious or fearful.   There are many techniques to control this like deep breathing, screaming, changing thoughts, etc., and is something you will need to practice to find your own peak arousal zone. I stay clear of saying relaxed (which is not the same as being calm, as to be calm is more related to your thoughts), as some riders perform better when tense and psyched up, while other perform better while completely relaxed, it’s a very individual thing.

Some would say goal setting, and this is true, but I would stay clear of outcome or performance (measurable) based goals, and focus on process goals for this scenario, which means to set goals for improving a specific technique, like a corner or standing start.

Don’t think about it! Clear your mind to think positive, confident and calming thoughts. Think the right thoughts, and think rationally!

It’s important to remember this won’t change or improve over night, like anything worthwhile, it takes time and consistent practice. Each time after a ride, go through your technique and assess where you did well, and where you had trouble. Re-live the parts you rode well (Visualisation), and then apply the techniques to the parts you struggled with. This self-assessment is crucial to improvement.

Over time, and with practise, you will improve your technical skills, and perform better. Applying the techniques of sport psychology can definitely help you, so if you’re wanting to go to the next level or just conquer your fear, and are willing to put in the work, then give it a go!

 

Matthew de Freitas

Interview: Josiah Ng

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As the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast of Australia approaches, we chatted with the 2010 CWG keirin gold medallist; Josiah Ng.

Josiah Ng is a retired Malaysian track sprinter, a keirin legend who raced the Japanese keirin circuit, and a serial entrepreneur.

We caught up with him to get some insightful info on his racing career and life story.

 

How did get into track cycling, and specifically sprinting?

JN: I started off racing criteriums when I was 14. I found that I excelled in the shorter courses and lagged behind my peers in hillier courses and road races. When I was around 16 or 17, a good friend of mine, US Olympic sprinter Johnny Barrios, took me to my first track session at the LA 1984 Olympic velodrome (Now torn down and replaced with the ADT Event Centre Velodrome). I was hooked on the first try and kept coming back every week.

 

It must’ve been tough coming from Malaysia and trying to penetrate the international circuit dominated by GB, Australia and the Europeans?

JN: It was very tough! Back in 1999, I was 19. I flew back to Malaysia to try out for the National Team. Back then they had nothing even resembling a high performance program. I had to build it from scratch.

 

You had a stint at the WCC in Aigle, how was that and would you recommend it to young cyclists?

JN: It was an incredible opportunity to close the gap to the world class sprinters and I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to train under the direction of one of my childhood sprinting hero’s. I received a full scholarship by the Olympic Solidarity program to train there for two years. I really thrived under that program and owe a lot of my success to it.

You made the move early on in your career to Australia, how did that impact your career? And do you think you’d have ended up on the same level if you had stayed in Malaysia?

JN: After departing from the WCC in 2004, I decided to go back to the States where I grew up and work with my former coach Mark Whitehead. Unfortunately things didn’t work out and I found an opportunity to work with former Australian National Team Sprint coach, John Beasley. I called him and after one conversation, he agreed to take me under his direction. I booked my plane tickets and within two weeks left my life in California and never looked back. I left Malaysia at the tender age of 6 as my family migrated to the States for my parents to pursue their education. My youth was spent in the states and is where I started competitive cycling. I doubt I would have gone down the pathway I did had I been raised in Malaysia.

 

Malaysian cyclists like yourself and Awang have had great success, what does the future look like for the young up and coming riders from Malaysia and South East Asia?

JN: We have developed a strong talent ID program and have some really strong up and coming riders. The future for Malaysian cycling looks very promising and I really can’t wait to see what the next few years has in store for us.

 

You were known as one of the best keirin riders out there, a tactical genius, how did you learn the craft of keirin racing?

JN: I was never the strongest rider from early on which made me focus on my race craft. If I wanted to win, I had to learn how to be the smartest racer on the start line.

 

You are a gutsy keirin rider, how did you learn to leave fear of falling behind and take on the big guns?

JN: There were a lot of situations where I found myself in the final of a big keirin such as the World Cup or Olympics where I was the only rider on the start line who hadn’t won a World Championship jersey. That always gave me extra incentive to prove myself. I loved being the underdog!

You also spent some time racing the Japanese keirin circuit, how was that and what did you learn while there?

JN: Racing in Japan was the best experience of my career, hands down! For me, it even topped racing at the Olympics. At the big games, there was always big pressure from my country, family and friends; but in Japan I raced for me! Even if I got last, I still made a lot of money. And if I won, I made a ton of money! I loved the Japanese culture and even the sub-culture in keirin. I made a lot of friends and got to race keirin the way it’s supposed to be raced (not in a straight line LOL). One of my favourite memories was my first time racing in the rain. I remember not being able to see as it was raining that hard. I ended up winning and celebrated not only the win but to have stayed up right!

 

Being part of the commonwealth, how big of a deal is the CWG to you?

JN: The CWG was a very big deal for me. It took me 3 tries until I finally won a medal (in 2010 in Delhi). I felt I was the luckiest guy on the planet that week as I wasn’t the favourite going into it. Two of the favourites (in the keirin where I won gold) were disqualified (Shane Perkins and my teammate Azizul Awang) and I was the best of the rest. It’s a perfect example of resilience – keep trying until you get lucky as they say. To top things off, I won a bronze in the TS and the prize money from my work that week was enough to pay for 2 containers full of Ford Mustangs which I acquired for one of my businesses!

 

Do you think athletes still take the CWG as seriously considering the shift to a more serious 4 year Olympic campaign?

JN: I believe that a majority of athletes that participate value the Commonwealth Games judging from recent FB and Instagram posts. A lot of them have been recently named to their squads and post photos of that accomplishment. It’s a very prestigious event and only happens every 4 years. It is also highly competitive. I’m willing to bet that every event will have multiple former and/or current world champions on the start list.

How have things like training, gearing, tactics, etc. changed since you started to how they are now?

JN: I’m glad I raced during the years I raced and not now. The speeds that the current generation hold are insane. It is mostly due to the gigantic gears everyone pushes. When I first started racing on the international circuit back in 2000, I was pushing a 93-95 inch gear! It would be closer to a warm up gear these days! Tactics have had to evolve due to the larger gears. It’s more of a drag race now and small mistakes are amplified.

 

What was your most successful approach to training?

JN: I treated every effort as if it was a race. It made training a lot of fun and benefited our whole training group.

 

You also had a great relationship with your coach, how important was that?

JN: An athlete/coach relationship is comparable to a family. Trust and alignment are paramount to success. I had 3 coaches in my professional career. I worked with American Mark Whitehead at the beginning of my career. He taught me most of my race craft and made training fun. Frenchman Frederic Magne coached me towards the middle of my career (at the WCC). He helped refine my discipline and professionalism. Australian John Beasley coached me for over half of my career. He took a more laidback approach which really helped me step up my game towards the last 3rd of my career. Why would I step up with a laid back approach? Because I got too caught up in all the hype of getting to the top which caused my passion for the sport to diminish. John is a very well rounded coach who prioritised a balanced life. The Malaysian team are very fortunate to have him lead them.

How did you get into entrepreneurship and business?

JN: I have been entrepreneurial since a very young age. My parents did me the favour of not spoiling me with an allowance. If I wanted something, I had to find a way of acquiring it on my own. What that did was equip me with a set of skills to hustle; teaching the violin, tuning pianos, teaching spin classes, buying and selling on ebay, etc. is what I did to survive during my teenage years. I bought my first bike at the age of 14. I remember enlisting my grandmother to help me bake 250 chocolate chip cookies which I sold door to door for $1 a piece. I saved the $250 USD to buy my first 2nd hand racing bicycle in less than a month.

 

You started off doing business while still pursuing your Olympic hopes, how did you manage/balance that?

JN: Athletes have a lot of free time. We train +/- 20 hours per week. That leaves a lot of time to be able to pursue education, work or business. I know a lot of athletes who fritter their time away with video games and social media. I chose to hustle instead.

 

How did you manage the transition from a pro athlete to businessman?

JN: When I made the decision to retire, I had 6 months left of competition. In between my training sessions, I job shadowed several people. I got started by approaching a few experts in fields I was interested in and asked them to lunch. I got to learn about network marketing from a top tier salesman, another guy acquired gyms going into bankruptcy. He turned the businesses around to sell for tidy profit. What really drew me was technology start-ups and venture capital. I met a very switched on gentleman by chance, who is extremely knowledgeable in hospitality, private equity, commercial operations, corporate structure, and business trends. He made even the dullest subjects seem interesting. We connected and co-founded a platform for private dining: www.intertain.com.au Together we built a strategy, business processes, raised investor capital, and built a great team.

I’ve recently transitioned back to cycling as I felt a calling back to my number 1 passion in life. You could say I’m still transitioning. It’s a process that takes years. It’s been a very challenging journey but one that makes me appreciate my former career even more.

 

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

JN: I always had an affinity for building things and making money.

 

Tell us more about some of your business ventures?

JN: 5bling gloves was started at the 2004 Olympics out of a conversation with my good friends Theo Bos and Teun Mulder. From that convo, I developed a specific aero glove for track cycling which is widely used in our sport.

Automobile Import/Export: I imported rare cars to Australia to be sold for sizable profit when I found out how much more sports cars cost down under. It worked well when the Aussie and US dollar hit parity. I purchased a few rare Mustangs with money made from winning Comm games. With money made in Japan keirin I went to car auctions in Japan to do the same.

Private Finance: I started a company that helps businesses with short term financing. It was very lucrative and one of my favourite businesses.

Intertain.com.au: Sending world class chefs to your home to cook for you and your guests in the comfort and convenience of your own home. I was the CEO (Chief Eating Officer LOL) and co-founded with 2 experienced businessmen. We expanded the businesses to all of Australia’s largest cities and attracted Michelin Star chefs on our platform.

 

Some would call you a serial entrepreneur, what would you say?

JN: The hustle never ends. LOL

 

Other than coaching and business, what else keeps you occupied?

JN: Exploring cafes and restaurants. Spending quality time with my partner. Watching Netflix. Fast cars! And of course collecting bicycles.

 

Do you still race?

JN: I still pin a number on for the odd race. I did a hilly 4 day stage race a few months ago which was a big shocker. I managed one podium result which was fun.

Where to now for Josiah Ng? Are you still as goal driven as always?

JN: I’m coaching the Thailand National Sprint team and helping them develop their high performance program. It’s a challenge as I feel like I’m starting from scratch but the goal is to repeat what we did with Malaysia; to go from nothing to a world class producing country in less than a decade. I’ve got a 5 year strategic plan. It’s aggressive but I’m optimistic.

 

Tell us something interesting or lesser known about yourself?

JN: I am a concert violinist and come from a family of talented string musicians. Everyone from my grandmother, father, aunties, to brother and sister all play multiple instruments at a high level.

 

If you could leave the audience with one piece of information about yourself, what would it be?

JN: I’m working on a book which is part of a series of books targeting elementary and Jr. high school kids called “Make it Happen”. Each book in the series presents a personal up close look into the lives of extraordinary people who have overcome great challenges and learned the skills necessary to realise their goals. Instead of publishing an auto biography, I preferred to use my unique story and perspective to inspire youth and young adults. It should be published in September/October later this year. Stay tuned!

I love to share about my experiences in life. Feel free to connect with me on my social media networks:

www.facebook.com/josiahcyclist

Instagram: @josiahcyclist

Linkedin: https://au.linkedin.com/in/josiahng

 

What advise do you have for young riders and entrepreneurs a like?

  1. Have a vision.
  2. Surround yourself with a team.
  3. Align that team to work towards your vision.
  4. Execute!

 

Thanks to Josiah Ng for taking the time to share these insights into his life with our readers.

By: Matthew de Freitas

Interview: Matt Rotherham

By | All articles, Interviews, Sport Psychology | No Comments

Matt Rotherham is a GB track cycling sprinter, para-tandem word champion pilot, 6 day rider, and all round nice guy!

I remember when I first met Matt in T-town, PA back in 2015, one Saturday afternoon after a Saturday afternoon GP had finished he bought me a hot dog and chips, and we had a great chat.

He was one of the first riders to test BLS straps, and his initial feedback helped develop the products we have available today.

We asked him about his path to track cycling, his big gear antics, sport psychology and the rainbow stripes.

 
How did you get into cycling, and more specifically track cycling?
Matt: I never really got into sport until I was nine years old. I enjoyed bits of cross country running and (badly) attempted football, but when I was nine my dad took me to watch some track league racing at the Manchester Velodrome. He was hoping that I would ask if I could have a go so that he would have an excuse to have a go himself. I said I wanted a go so I started at my current club, Eastlands and Sportcity Velo on the Monday night beginner’s session, and it went from there.

Did you do any other sports before taking on the track?
Like I said before, I enjoyed cross country running, maybe got top 100 in the town but that was about it really!

You made the GB team fairly young, and then got booted before coming back, tell us about that journey?
It was a fairly easy journey to start off with to be honest. I got into the GB development system at 14 and progressed from there. I was lucky that there was only really myself and one other track sprinter my age at that time and we made it through the U/16 team up to the junior team pretty easily. Once on the junior team, I had some good success. In my first year I made the Junior World Championship Keirin final and the semi-finals of the Junior European Sprint Champs. I also won both Junior and Senior 1km TT national titles in the same year.
After junior, I made it on to the GB U/23 academy squad and went onto full-time training. During this period, there were various factors which affected my performances. Thus, my performances were never that great as a U/23.
It got to the point where I had hit a massive plateau and stopped progressing, so had to leave the U/23 squad.
I had a tough 6 months following this. However, my parents, thankfully, encouraged me to continue my cycling – so I did. I hit the gym and did a bit of track training, but not much else.

In the summer of 2015, I ventured out to T-town in the USA for some training and racing. I struggled in the UCI races as I was nowhere near my fastest, but afterwards I started picking up a few results and getting a little prize money; and really found the love for cycling again. I had such a great time out there and really came home with the best form I had ever really had!
I started to become a little more successful after that trip, picking up national medals in sprint, keirin and team sprint and had some success abroad.

In late 2016 I was speaking with my ex-coach, Jon Norfolk, who at the time was head coach for the GB Para-cycling Team. I suggested that I would make a great sprint tandem pilot and he agreed to give me a go at it. Luckily for me, a World Championships was announced in early 2017 and I got selected with James Ball to go to Los Angeles, USA to race. We came away with two World Championships and that meant I had gone full circle and was given a place back on the GB team, but now as a tandem pilot.

Matt Rotherham by Robyn Stewart

You’re famous for your big gear antics, like 64/12 (check out Matt’s website www.60×12.com), how did you get to putting on and being so successful with such big gears?
I’ve found in my recent career, that strength is one of my, well, strengths! When I tried using a 60+ chainrings I found I could hit more peak speed.
When I was towards the end of my time on the academy, I was using gears like 53×12, the biggest gear I could make at the time. I started to go pretty well on gears like that (although that was clearly too little too late!) but when I started racing again I thought I’d give the bigger gears a go. I’d seen the mighty Ed Dawkins from New Zealand using gears like 60×12 so I thought it could also be for me.
Besides going faster on those gears, I also think the combo with a big ring looks great!

Tell us some of your stats?
Squat: 215kg
Trap bar deadlift: 260kg (working towards a new PB at the moment 😉 )
Peak power: 2200W
Flying 200m: 9.99
Tandem Flying 200m (with Neil Fachie): 9.85
1km TT: 1:01.9
Tandem 1km TT (with James Ball): 1:00.7

Matt Rotherham by Drew Kaplan

Do you think tandems need to race more on the track like the old days?
I love tandem racing! I’ve won the National Tandem Sprint Championship a couple of times and hold the track record for the flying lap at T-town. However, for these races, I have always been the stoker (the guy at the back) – and I love it!
It’s a whole new ball game being a pilot but I love doing it too.
I think tandem racing would be an awesome event to bring back, but there’s no denying how unsafe it became when it was raced at World Champ and Olympic level.
On the para-cycling side, we mostly compete in time trials and we have a bit of unwritten law to keep the sprint racing safe, because we can’t go back to how it used to be!

Do you think para sport gets the recognition it deserves?
I think in the UK it does. As a rider on the para-cycling team, I feel equal to any other rider on the squad, and sports in the UK have worked hard to make sure that culture is developed. If you win a Paralympic gold medal, you definitely get good recognition!

How does it feel to have every cyclists dream, the coveted world champion stripes?
It was special to pull on the stripes! Albeit in a different field, it felt just as special and I will treasure those moments forever.

You also race 6 days quite often, how do you find that?
I love the side of cycling that the 6 days showcases. It’s different to world cup or world championship type cycling and people can clearly see that us sprinters try to put on a bit of a show and entertain people, and I hope I do that well! I sometimes don’t go my fastest at the 6 days but for sure I have fun!

Are you racing CWG, and how big of an event is that to you?
I am hoping to be selected to ride as a pilot for Neil Fachie (since this article, Matt’s selection has been confirmed) at the Commonwealth Games, so therefore I would end up representing Scotland. As an Englishman it will be an interesting event in that respect, but I really cannot wait to go there. We probably would fly straight from the Para-cycling World Champs in Rio, Brazil to Brisbane, Australia for the games. We expect to go to to the Worlds in our best form and would hope to carry that form to the games so we would expect some solid performances!

What would you like to see change or happen in track cycling?
I would love to see a resurgence in 6 day racing. Recently, some of the six days have had to end because people stopped supporting them. The pro men’s racing is amazing and the six day riders are some of the best athletes in the world. I think it’s an exciting form of cycling that, if advertised well, could be also exciting to the masses. I would love to see a six day back at Madison Square Gardens in the USA – that would be the dream!

Matt Rotherham by Drew Kaplan

Do you use any sport psychology techniques?
I sometimes use a “thought stopping” technique in high pressure situations.
If I start thinking about the outcome of the event too much or overthinking the tactics for a race I have a set routine which stops me thinking too much about it, and gets me back on track with the race.

What makes you “tick”? What motivates you to be the best; and keep you going in tough times?
I love racing! I always try and make sure that there is a race on the horizon. Then I’ve always got something to look forward to which helps to keep me motivated when the going gets a little tough.

How do you handle race day pressure?
I feel like I have a “need-to-achieve” mentality. So when I get to a race, I don’t tend to get fearful of losing. Instead, I look forward to potentially winning!

What would you say is your best mental strength/characteristic?
I love my sport and I love competing in it!
I’ve learnt to try and enjoy every aspect of training and racing. I even enjoy the 1km TT and the pain that comes with it as well as the process of building up to the race.
As long as I keep that mentality then I feel pretty mentally strong on race day!

What are your goals for the future?
My focus at the moment is directed towards the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games where I would love to take gold there in the tandem 1km TT. I would love to see where my career takes me after that. I would hope to be in the form of my life and who knows, I could start picking up results on my own again…

Matt Rotherham by Drew Kaplan

What are your interests outside of cycling?
I love coffee, maybe too much! Manchester has a great speciality coffee scene so I can often be found in a coffee shop, but I also love making it at home. I enjoy the process and methodology of producing a cup of coffee. I would like to get in to roasting coffee a bit as well.

What advice do you have to young riders?
Everybody says it. Just enjoy cycling. I know how my performances suffered when I stopped enjoying the sport and I can see throughout my career that when I performed the best was when I was enjoying it the most.
Even if that means entering small races that no one else is turning up to, having that chance to put your hands in the air is special. Enjoy every victory, whether that be in the first round of a sprint tournament or after winning the Olympics, I think it’s important to celebrate.

If you could leave us with one though, what would it be?
I was speaking to my dad about this the other day; we were talking about how I celebrate my results quite often and quite outwardly. I think that it’s a really important thing to me. I don’t win every sprint tournament I enter, so that’s why I think at whatever stage of a tournament I’m in, or if I’m in a small race somewhere, I show that I’m happy to win. I dread going through a tournament and not celebrating only to be knocked out, or loose in the final, and have never celebrated. I might look silly at times, but I’m just showing that I’m loving what I’m doing!

By: Matthew de Freitas

 

Motivation or Character?

By | All articles, Sport Psychology | 2 Comments

Throughout my riding life, I’ve always found motivation to probably be one of the trickiest aspects of sport psychology, and one that not many fully grasp.  It’s a direct influencer of performance, but for most it comes and goes with no understanding as to why and how. Many look hard for it but simply cannot find enough of it, and others without trying have too much of it! But what if it wasn’t as complicated as we think, and what if I told you, you can influence it and control it like any other controllable factor of preparation. What makes some get up at 5am in the winter and go for a ride in the rain, and others sleep in as soon as they hear the drops on the roof? What makes some persist for years until they reach success, while others stop just before reaching the top?

In this article we will explore more of what motivation is, where it comes from and how to get it, and crucially to keep it! We will also look at how it relates to confidence and character.

Motivation is the foundation of all human behaviour, whether that be in sport, or life in general. It’s the ability to initiate and persist in a given task. Motivation is to want something; and then start and persist in the process of getting it.

Motivation is a crucial factor in performance, as it’s one of the factors in preparation that we have absolute control of (like training, diet, rest, etc.), and therefore something we can actually train and improve on.

Roy van den Berg

There are 2 basic types of motivation, namely: Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation, simply put is the motivation that comes from within. It’s related to the self-efficiency belief, which is the perceived ability to perform at a certain level, it’s a person orientated view, and it also has strong genetic ties, as some are naturally more motivated to perform certain tasks and others not. Extrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from outside of the person and is based on the result of the action or effort alone, the expectations or pressure of others like parents, coaches, or even the crowed; or the money and status the victory may result in.

As we can see from the above, motivation is either from internal or external influence. Now which is better?

Well, at first glance we can say that the extrinsic is obvious as it’s more direct, but for long term sustainable motivation which leads to confidence, we need to find intrinsic motivation. Because as soon as the result is not the desired, we have no foundation on which to build our motivation and confidence on; however, if it’s built on a deep conviction to be the best we can be, and even more so on personal character, then it’s a strong foundation that is to a certain degree resilient to failure.

Do you see how this also relates to the fear of failure? If we are intrinsically motivated, we have no fear of failure, as failure doesn’t define us, rather our character and conviction defines us and guards us against negative thoughts.

Another key point to raise on why intrinsic motivation is better, specific to a sport like cycling, is that it’s often a very lonely sport of suffering with very little reward. We chase PB’s and KOM’s rather than gold medals and recognition, the difference is paramount when looking at the types of motivation. No one can train and race in a sport like this with only extrinsic motivation! A deep desire from within is needed.

Do you also see how confidence and motivation are almost one in the same? If you are confident, you are motivated to perform at the level you believe you are on (whether this is accurate to your actual level you are on is irrelevant at this point), and if you are motivated, you are often more confident in your abilities.

These 2 in turn also equate to a high expectancy level, which may be good or bad depending on the situation; a high expectancy level can be good if the athlete has a good chance at winning, and it’ll therefore improve preparation and engagement, and even give more satisfaction in the result. However, if they do not have a good chance, a high expectancy may lean too much on this extrinsic motivation factor or expectation, and therefore cause a negative reaction if they don’t perform at the level of the expectation.

Kristina Vogel by Drew Kaplan

Now we also need to ask the question, what causes a lack of motivation, and what does this lack of motivation cause?

Well it depends on where your motivation comes from, if you are intrinsically motivated, then your motivation levels will be relatively stable, and a decline will usually be gradual. So the cause, whether that be stress from personal life, gradual decline in performance or enjoyment, etc., it’ll be easy to pin point and address. If it’s extrinsic, then it’s more often than not poor performance, or any sudden negative factor.

This lack of motivation usually causes withdrawal or lack of engagement, lack of commitment, and a tendency to give up in a high pressure situation. The last point shows how motivation, or lack thereof, is clearly related to, and a crucial ingredient to mental toughness. So a small obstacle might appear bigger to someone who is not highly motivated and confident in their ability to overcome it.

The results of good intrinsic motivation are clear form the above: higher levels of confidence and self-belief, mental toughness, and engagement in both training and racing; all which equal higher levels of performance! It’ll even improve your technical skills on the road or MTB, as you’ll have more confidence to take risks, and be more engaged to react to the outcome.

It’s also got to do with the expected outcome of your efforts, a balancing act in a way – will the effort I put into training be worth it at the end?

Then subsequently, will it cause victory? Now this is not necessarily the correct attitude to have, as the question should rather be, will this effort cause me to improve? Regardless of the outcome of the race, victory or failure, the 2nd question allows an athlete to see the benefit of putting in the effort in training, as they will be better than before; whereas in the first question, any little doubt, which is inevitable in high performance, will cause motivation levels to drop, and therefore engagement levels too; and too much of that will cause lack of confidence, and an eventual total withdrawal.

Now what all athletes want to know: Where do we find motivation?

Well, it’s an active and not a passive, which means it’s not a constant, but it’s dynamic and something we need to constantly work on and remind ourselves why we do what we do. It’s honest, and only you know the details of it, so you need to ask yourself the hard questions and go find it!

What makes you tick?

What makes you enjoy it, the training, the racing, the suffering?

What makes you want to seek improvement and be the best you can be?

Kobus Cronje and Mariske Strauss by Rober Ward

As the old saying goes: the hard part isn’t getting to the top, it’s staying there. So how do we keep it?

It’s a process of reminding ourselves of the answers to the above questions to build the foundation, setting measurable goals, and like any other controllable factor, keep working on it. Look into yourself to find intrinsic motivation. You require discipline to keep it, and that’s why not everyone does.

A key point I’d like to raise, and draw this article to a close, is that an athletes internal motivation should be built on a sound personal character (your inner network of values, morals and beliefs), and a deep inner conviction for continuous improvement and to be not only the best athlete, but best person you can be – in sport, and in life. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, success isn’t measured by one static individual result, but rather by how much an athlete improves over a given period of time. Therefore that should be the main aim in developing an athlete, in early stages of competition, right through to the highest level – creating a person of character first, and then an athlete. This will create a sustainable motivation built on a solid foundation that will last longer than only a sporting career, and create a holistic human being, regardless of the results of any competition.

“Sport doesn’t build character, it reveals it” – Heywood Broun

To end of, here are some quick tips to build and maintain sound motivation:

  • Ask the right questions and build the right foundation of character
  • Set goals for continuous improvement
  • Most importantly, enjoy it! A happy athlete is a successful one, regardless of the result

 

Written by:

Matthew de Freitas

 

The Importance of Toe Straps

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The history of the toe strap dates back to the dawn of bicycle racing, with the original pedal for racing cyclists being a strap over the shoe with a steel cage as reinforcement. As sprinters, especially on the track, got stronger and stronger, the need for much more durable double leather straps came in and has been the go-to ever since. Even since the invention and rise of clipless pedals from Look, Time, Shimano and the likes, powerful track sprinters have sought more safety and opted for the extra support of the double leather toe straps over and above the standard clipless pedal and cleat.

Why? Simple: the standard clipless pedal alone is simply not enough to support the power these riders produce. With watts close to and above the 2500 marker, a pedal designed for road riding is not enough.   When these riders need every single watt to go through the pedal and into the drive chain to get maximum speed, and when the torque and acceleration they produce being so high it’s comparable with a family sedan, they cannot afford to waste any power!

The BLS toe straps by Photo: Drew Kaplan

Horizontal and diagonal movements by millimetres can waste valuable watts! Pedal strokes that aren’t 100% smooth and efficient aren’t good enough. Cycling shoe manufacturers make big carbon fibre shoes covering the entire foot to minimize wasted watts; and straps only enforce that! What’s the use you have the rider and bike, but no way of making them stick together? Riders need a zero friction connection of shoe to pedal and an efficient transfer of power.

It’s as much as a mental issue than a pure mechanical issue. A rider must have confidence that they’ll be secure enough to put maximal force through the pedals and not have to worry about pulling their foot out! In the space of 5-6 seconds, where a rider goes from 0-60kph and produces the power they do, they cannot afford their mind to wander around other issues like: “will my foot come out?” – They need to feel safe and secure so they can focus solely on the task at hand.

Daria Schmeleva using the much broader BLS Velcro straps, with a larger surface area.

As much as there is a stigma attached to straps, like “you aren’t a real sprinter unless you use straps”, it is an incredibly important piece of equipment, and vital to any sprinter, from part time rider trying to crack the 12 sec barrier, to Olympic champion!

Over the years, the focus has shifted from traditional leather to more aerodynamic options such as the Velcro versions. These are much more aerodynamic as there is no big bulging leather clips and loose hanging leather straps flapping in the wind.   I always wondered how riders can be okay with that – spending thousands of dollars on aero helmets, skinsuits and bikes, but having these leather straps flapping in the wind! It baffled me!

The Velcro straps also offer a larger surface area of up to 50mm in width, which allows a more secure position. They are also at times a lot easier to clip in and out of, and also don’t damage expensive shoes as much a traditional leather.

The difference between traditional leather and Velcro

We’ve seen that in recent years with many of the top riders making the switch from traditional leather to the Velcro options. Riders such as Matthew Glaetzer from Australia trusted Velcro to ride the first ever sub 1 min kilo in at sea level Manchester last week! Olympic champions Kristina Vogel and Elis Ligtlee; and the Russian duo of Daria Schmeleva and Anastasia Voinova trust Velcro over leather. Not to mention the likes of Stephanie Morton, Harrie Lavreysen, Max Levy, Miriam Welte, and Denis Dmitriv all have made the switch!

Although the switch to Velcro has been increasing, especially in recent years, some sprinters still prefer leather for various reasons. Philip Hindes told me that strapping in with leather is so engraved into his mental regime before dong a start he simply cannot get his head around changing to anything else. This seems to be the case with a few of the top start lap riders such as Rene Enders and Robert Forstermann. As anything, it’s always an individual preference, and one that the rider must feel 100% comfortable and confident with.

I have always never quite trusted a product until the world’s best riders have used and put it through its paces and it’s survived, so if all these riders are using Velcro, I can with confidence say Velcro is the way to go!

Kristina Vogel strapping in, by Arne Mill

So if you’re an aspiring sprinter, or an experienced power house, you should seriously consider the importance of straps! Whether that’s old school traditional leather, or newer Velcro, it’ll definitely improve your sprinting and give you the confidence to push harder than ever before!

To emphasize the importance of toe straps in performance, and the importance of proper skills training and coaching – BLS alongside Track Cycling Academy are having a competition this festive season! Simply by entering the competition you’ll stand a chance to win:

  • 1 x BLS Velodrome bag valued at US$175
  • 1 x BLS Velcro Toe Straps valued at US$60
  • TCA Skills Product – Lifetime Access (AU$59.00 once off)
  • 1 Month of Free Coaching and Support from a TCA Physiologist (Value: AU$399)

That’s an unbelievable $693 (over AU$1000) prize!

Also check out a recent blog post by TCA about the importance of toe straps.

To ENTER, simply click HERE and follow the link!

 

 

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