My first coach told me that everyone has a tin of beans. Some people have a big tin of beans, some people a small one. His lesson was that while you can (and should) train to increase the size of your tin, you can also train to improve your tin-opening technique.
You will know the kind of rider who has a huge tin but can only shake their beans out one at a time. Or the opposite, and my favourite to watch: a huge-tin rider who grabs that ring pull and empties out a colossal amount of beans all in one go, leaving themselves with an empty and clean tin, having somehow managed to scrape the sauce out as well.
Control of your tin opener is a super-important trait for a track endurance rider. We train the ability to rip the lid off that tin, but need to be careful we’ve got enough beans for the duration. A points race exemplifies this challenge. To win a sprint your top-end speed (read: big bean drop) must exceed that of your competitors.
But you can’t risk leaving yourself vulnerable to attacks and unable to re-fill on beans (also important to train) before you’re asked to start pouring them out again for the next sprint. It’s all about shaking out the right amount at the right time.
I raced a Madison (the European champs Madison) a couple of hours ago, which you could see as a team points race; sprints every 10 laps, points for taking a lap etc. The big difference to your bean strategy in a Madison compared to a points race is the resting rider will have definite opportunities to, well, rest, and re-fill some of their beans. This means you can really pour them out heading into a sprint because you’re only vulnerable until you can make a change with your partner.
A risk you never take into consideration is whether you will unintentionally miss that change and be stuck in as the active rider with just half a bean left to press on the pedals. It happens. You live, you learn, and aspire to increase the size of your tin so that if it happens again, I’ll be…sorry, I mean you’ll be ready.
This Katie Archibald column originally appeared in the print edition of Cycling Weekly, on sale in newsagents and supermarkets, priced £3.25.