Olympic road cyclist Coryn Labecki joins us to answer one of our burning questions: How does a road cycling peloton work? Coryn’s got answers–and why being short is a useful quality in a race.

Plus, remember that wild race at Tokyo 2020 where Dutch favorite Annemiek van Vleuten thought she had won the gold–until she realized she hadn’t? Coryn was in that second breakaway group and saw it all go down. She shares the full story with us!

Check out Coryn’s website, and follow her on Facebook, YouTube, Insta, X, and Strava!

Paris 2024 has announced yet another first for the Olympics: Team relays within the torch relay that will showcase Olympic and para sport, as well as the support systems around the Paralympic movement.

The IOC is also hoping for more gender equity at Paris, asking National Olympic Committees to have two flagbearers (male and female), as well as more women in coaching roles. How possible is that? If you haven’t listened to our episode with Dr. Michele K. Donnelly, that’ll help explain why this is a tough ask.

What’s the status of venue construction? A little behind? Or right on time?

We’ve also got a little news from TKFLASTANIs Connor Fields, Annika Malacinski, and Sean Colahan.

Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!

Photo courtesy of Coryn Labecki


TRANSCRIPT


Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the audio. Do not quote from the transcript; use the audio as the record of note.

Road Cycling with Olympian Coryn Labecki (Episode 319)

[INTRO MUSIC]

Jill: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics.

If you love the games, we are the show for you. Each week we share stories from athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the games. I am your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co host, Alison Brown. Alison, hello. How are you?

Alison: I am well. How are you doing?

Jill: Doing well. I’ve got more than 200 days to go.

Alison: No,

I, I saw that come up and I said, 200 days, 200 days is a lot of days. A lot can happen in 200 days

or not as

we’ll talk about later, but yeah, it’ll, it’s going to be a busy few months. That’s for sure. But very

Jill: exciting. Definitely. Also exciting is that we’ve got some news on the torch relay for Paris 2024.

But first, we are going to talk road cycling today and what it is like to ride in the Peloton, which has been one of my burning questions. I enjoy cycling, road cycling, but I don’t understand how they move in that mass I know there’s crashes and you wipe out part of the group, but.

I don’t understand how that doesn’t happen on a more regular basis.

Alison: Well, it would never happen to me because I’d be way in the back just trying to, you know, get my little tricycle going.

Coryn Labecki Interview

Jill: All right. So today we’re talking with Olympic road cyclist Coryn Lebecki about what it’s like to ride in the Peloton. Coryn has been racing bikes, competitively in one form or another for over 20 years and professionally. For most of that time,

she’s won over 72 U. S. national titles in four different cycling disciplines.

She’s also won gold in the 2017 world team time trial as a pro corn will be racing with EF education, Cannondale starting this year, 2024, which is exciting. , and as an Olympian corn finished seventh in the women’s road race at Tokyo 2020. And if you remember. This was a funky race because Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer broke away early and stayed so far ahead of everybody else that they forgot she was out there.

And the race favorite Anna Miechmann Vluten crossed the line thinking that she won and avenged that horrific crash that she had in Rio 2016 but then when she crossed the line and thought she won and she realized what had happened.

Huh Coryn tells us what went down with that. Take a listen.

Coryn Lebecki. Thank you so much for joining us. I have been excited to talk about road cycling and the Peloton for a while, so I’m very glad you can join us.

What is a Peloton?

Coryn Labecki: well, a Peloton is not a stationary bike. As others might want to initially think but a peloton is the group, the main group of cyclists in a race or out on the road.

Jill: So why does it exist? Why do you want to all stay together like that?

Coryn Labecki: basically I would say, I guess in a training aspect and also in racing, you save energy when you’re riding in a group.

You save at least 3%. More energy if you’re behind someone. So especially in a race scenario, being in a Peloton, you save a lot of energy and then there are people who. Their role is to kind of lead the peloton to lead a chase or whatever else. And, you know, in training in a group normally you’d spend a few minutes on the front and you’d kind of swing off and you would take your turn in training.

So I think the idea is to be one big unit. and then in a race aspect, it’s to save energy. So

Alison: is that wind resistance? Yes,

Coryn Labecki: correct. Yeah, drag.

Jill: Okay. So are there like informal rules where everybody’s got to take their turn at the front? Kind of thing with nobody holding back all

Coryn Labecki: the time, , in a training sense kind of, yeah.

You know, the weaker riders can kind of sit on and not take a pull. you could call it, they’re just having a free ride. cause they’re not hitting the front. But in a race aspect, yes and no. If you have a teammate off the front, typically that allows you to not be on the front of the Peloton.

because otherwise you’d be chasing down your own teammate. so In a strategy aspect, if you have a teammate in a breakaway that’s in front of the peloton, typically that means you don’t have to be at the front of the peloton to pull or set a pace or try to bring them back because you have a chess piece and a teammate up the road.

Jill: So how does this work because In a way, cycling is an individual sport, but you also are part of a team. who does what, and how is that decided?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, it’s very much a team sport more than you would think. Especially, it’s, I think, unfortunate that only the winner gets to stand on top of the podium when actually it was a really big team effort.

Uh, and the goal is always for the team to win. It could be anyone from the team to win. But of course everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. So, there are writers who are better to save, save, save until the very end. And then there are writers who are better suited to… leading a chase in the peloton or being off the front in front of the peloton.

typically it’s decided by your strength and also who you race against, how the course is. Uh, and if it’s a stage race, that adds another layer of complication and strategy. depending where you are on GC and what the goal is for the day. Okay, what’s GC? So GC stands for General Classification.

So in a stage race, it’s racing over multiple days, and the winner is the person who has the least cumulative time, at the end of the stage race. And usually there are time bonuses. They go, usually top three get 10 seconds, six and four, and some races will have intermediate time bonuses, which are usually five, three, and two.

so that’s how you can, get extra time to win the general classification at the end of a stage race. Although that is not an Olympic event, but it’s another form of cycling.

Alison: I was just going to ask that because in the Olympics, you have many fewer fellow teammates than you would in say, Flandres, those bigger professional tours.

So how does And they’re not necessarily your teammates from the professional tour because it’ll be just American riders and professional tour doesn’t go by country. So how does that transition work?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, that’s correct. So that’s what adds another complication to the whole road cycling thing and especially for Olympics and World Championships.

Throughout the season you race on trade teams which have sponsors. And usually. You’re all from different nations. You represent your team, not your country more so. And then for world championships and Olympics, you obviously represent your country, which sometimes they’re not your teammate for the rest of the year.

So. You have to like learn your new teammates, so to speak, and yeah, that’s like a whole nother thing that we can go into. and then there’s Olympic qualifications and the maximum spots that you can have in the Olympic road race is four. And you typically have to qualify for those the year before the Olympic year.

and the top five countries will get four spots, two of which will do the time trial. And then the countries that rank from six to ten, they get three spots. And then from eleven to twenty, I believe, is two spots. Or I’m sorry, one spot, and then it goes down. so yeah, there’s a whole other set of complications there, but yeah, the maximum you can have in an Olympic road race is four spots.

Whereas, throughout the year, Grand Tours, you can have seven spots. Typical one day races will be six spots. And then… occasionally in world championships, you can even have up to eight spots because the previous year’s world champion is an extra spot. And if you are European champion is an extra spot.

And if you’re Pan American champion, it’s also an extra spot. So there are times where we’re racing worlds and the Dutchies have eight, eight riders.

Alison: Ah, yes. Dutch and cycling.

Coryn Labecki: They are a powerhouse.

Jill: So how does it work when you’re thrown together with. Like for Tokyo, you were in Tokyo, you’re thrown together with other teammates who you haven’t been working with. How do you get to know each other and how much time do you have to get to know each other?

Coryn Labecki: In a sense, you kind of know each other by racing against each other all year.

And for some of the girls I’ve known since I was a junior, like, uh, Ruth Winder and I are about the same age, so we’ve been racing together since we were 16 or 17, so, and we were teammates previously. But yeah, there’s a, there’s definitely a sense of professionalism, you know, you always race for your team, at the Olympics and everything.

yeah, sometimes we’ll have camps beforehand to really try to get to know each other, and also we usually get to races. A little bit earlier for Olympics and world championships. So we get together the week before and do some training together. but mainly it comes down to professionalism and your understanding of, of race tactics and strategy and how you execute your job for a team to really come together on race day.

Jill: if you are from a country that has like two quota spots or less, how much more difficult is it for you to? Be out there and compete against somebody who’s got a team of four people that are kind of working together.

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, I think it, it can get really difficult. It really diminishes what kind of cards you can play, what kind of strategy you can play how much power you have as a team, you know, what you can and can’t do within a race.

So it really changes the dynamic within a race. And I think especially for Olympics where. You don’t really have a full team of six and usually you send your best riders if you have a team of four. So then usually they’re all leaders and race finishers, and then it comes down to, well, who’s going to do the work if we need to do work and then.

You can also approach it, well, let’s put in two leaders and two more like workhorses, and then approach the race that way. So there’s different ways that you can, play the race, especially at Olympics. But typically, it kind of ends up feeling like a junior race because there are so many teams of one, so many teams of two, a handful of teams of three, and only five teams of four.

There’s only so much that can actually really happen. For a team. So I think typically you have your gamblers and you can see how in Tokyo, how that paid off for them. But usually it’s kind of a waiting game to let the race. kill a few legs and then you kind of see who’s the strongest left standing and then you play the game from there.

How does

Alison: personality slash seniority play into who becomes the race finisher, especially when it’s an Olympic situation when basically anybody could possibly medal?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, that’s tough. There’s so many factors in road racing, which is why I love it so much. There’s so much that can happen. if you have multiple leaders and somebody crashes or is having a bad day it usually unfolds within the race, you know, who should be your best rider to go for.

And, usually, everyone has a set of strengths that they really play to, and it should work off of each other. But as far as seniority goes, I mean, there is a lot of experience involved about, how much energy you put out or when you should make a big move. the race usually unfolds kind of the way that it should usually.

So I think there is a lot of experience involved, but at the same time, also the strongest. End up surviving towards the end too.

Jill: With so many teams of one or two, how does that affect the Peloton during the Olympics? Does that act differently as well?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, absolutely. I think when you’re on a team of one or two, there’s only so much you can do.

And especially if you’re a team of one, you kind of want to. Save yourself for the end. So it ends up being, you know, you just kind of sit around and you hope to survive and you hope you can keep making the selections when the race gets harder and you keep making the front group and the front peloton or you gamble.

And for example, at Tokyo the Austrian rider attacked. At kilometer zero right at the beginning and then she ended up staying away and winning. so there’s a strategy and tactic that you can do that way when you’re a team of one where you say, Hey, well, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m not going to wait until the big teams of four and three start laying down big attacks.

So I might as well get ahead of it. And see what happens, but it’s also a very big risk because typically an early break like that would come back.

Alison: So the other big risk, of course, is crashing in that peloton. And how does the, how do the dynamics and the communication with the other riders work in that

Coryn Labecki: situation?

That’s another really great point. Also touching on communication throughout the whole season when we’re racing with our trade teams. We have race radios, uh, we can communicate to each other from afar we have directors in the cars that are behind the peloton, and they can also tell us information, what’s the time gap who’s in the race, who’s crashed, who’s feeling good, who’s not.

So, there’s just a great way to communicate and, and know what’s going on. Whereas in World Championships and Olympics, there’s no race radios. so riding together is very important so that you can communicate with each other. And then, when something happens and you’re not able to communicate, you really have to…

Go by your instincts and, what’s going on within the race. So it’s another level of complexity and in championship races and Olympics that you really have to stay aware on what’s going on. You can’t really fall asleep. And I think that’s kind of what happened at Tokyo, for example, where everyone kind of fell asleep and all of a sudden the breakaway has got 10 minutes, and you’ve only got five teams of four.

Who can really put in an extra rider to help chase them back. But nobody wants to help the Dutchies because they’re the favorites. So then we’re just floating at around 10 minutes and nothing’s happening. and then the race kind of slips away and you forget what’s going on. So that’s a great example of how that communication pieces is so key.

Jill: Yeah. That’s one of the things they kept saying on the commentary of the Olympic race is that people just forgot that. Kiesenhofer, I think they forgot she was out there and yeah, is that easy to do? Because one of my other questions is as you cycle farther and farther and your body is using up energy, how do you think at the end of the race?

is your mental, what’s your mental game

Coryn Labecki: like? Yeah, I mean, that’s a big part of it and so a big part of one day races. And especially with that communication part and not having radios you really have to be in tune and stay focused. And I think, a lot of the Peloton forgot who was up the road and how far they were.

And a lot of countries have staff on the side of the road with white boards and they can put the time split and how many riders, but it’s usually not enough information to know. And typically the race commissars should show the time gap and the numbers of the riders who are off the front on a whiteboard on the motorcycle.

But typically the people who see that are only at the front of the Peloton. They’re not going to float all the way to the back to make sure everybody knows this information. So you really only see it if you’re in the front and if you’re paying attention, if you, and if you can read it because it’s just.

A little whiteboard with numbers on it. So it adds another complexity to it. And I think in the end, when the race was getting hard and we were slowly kind of catching them back, some of the breakaway had fallen apart and we caught a few of them. But not all of them. And there was still one off the front that we didn’t know about.

very clearly. and then you start racing with the people around you and you’re thinking you’re winning. You don’t see who’s in front of you and there’s not enough communication. No one’s in your ear on your radio earpiece to tell you, keep going, there’s another person or not.

You’re just in your zone. What’s what you know around you. And I think a lot of the writers kind of forgot about the overall view of, of the race.

Jill: What was the reaction at the end of that? Especially from Annemiek Van Vleuten. Yeah. Because she was very excited at the end and then

Coryn Labecki: got the news. Yeah, and at least from my perspective I was in that front group. Going into the race circuit and just before we went into the final circuit, there was a Polish guy, you know, yelling at us, one minute or something.

That’s all what I can kind of put together and I was saying like, okay, like there’s still kind of out there. that’s a lot to bring back in a short amount of time. I think the loop was less than 10 kilometers. And the rule of thumb in cycling is that typically For every minute, it takes about 10 K to bring someone back.

So I was like, Ooh, this is, this is going to be tight. and as we entered the circuit, the race got really hard and I kind of started To get dropped a little bit. And I knew there was still three riders off the front and we were going up this climb and we only caught two of them. And I was like a little bit confused, like wondering like, huh, like where’s this last person.

But you know, we’re all on our limit. It’s at the end of four hours. It’s. so you don’t really know exactly what’s going on, but I had an inkling, like something just seems a little bit off, but I was also a little bit in the back of the Peloton at this time. And then we get around to the finish and, I was like third in the sprint of the Peloton that I was left in ended up seventh overall.

And then I saw an Amik celebrating really happy. And then I kept riding towards the end. Where they kind of corral us and we go through media and then I saw the Austrian on the floor completely gassed out of breath and I was like, huh? I was like, where did she come from? Like, she, she was not in our group and then, then it all clicked.

I was like, oh my gosh, I think she won. I think, and all the cameras were on her and everything. So I was like, huh, I’m gonna, I’m gonna stand back and just kind of watch this unfold. So I laid down on the grass, and just kind of. gather myself after a really hard race and was like watching everything go down and I was like, huh, enemy thinks she won.

So at some point she’s going to realize she didn’t and, uh, that’d be pretty dramatic. So, uh, I think it was definitely tougher. I mean, to have all those emotions, I think, and thinking that you had one Olympic road race and actually somebody else did who had been off the front the whole day. I think that had to be quite a 180 of emotions.

Jill: How was the track to ride on at the end, the whole circuit thing at the Speedway?

Coryn Labecki: I think it was really cool. I love racing on a circuit like that. I think it would be cool to, be in the stands and be able to watch the finish right there. it was great to use those pits for the teams. to like kind of have their home base before and after or actually after the race.

but I think it’s a cool way to integrate, a race course that’s normally for cars, but it’s also, pretty famous in the racing world as well. And then, you have Mount Fuji in the background. It was pretty neat.

Jill: Do you actually see Mount Fuji as you ride by it or are you just focused?

Coryn Labecki: in the race, probably not. I don’t think I really remember that, but luckily our hotel had a nice view of it and we had a couple of clear days and get a nice photo, but it is a very large, volcano, I guess.

Jill: Okay. Back to the Peloton. How do you move around in the Peloton going forward, going backward, changing up

Coryn Labecki: places?

Jill: Without crashing into each other. Cause that’s, you’re so

Coryn Labecki: close. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely a lot of risk involved in our sport and, yeah, moving throughout a peloton. I mean, you know, one wrong move, you can take everybody down.

But definitely, yeah. it takes a lot of experience. It’s a lot of getting used to, getting comfortable being that close or getting comfortable, you know, occasionally, like, bumping into each other. And lucky for me, I’m kind of smaller, so I can fit through some gaps that most people can’t. You know, you can move up the sides that are safer, but usually takes a bit more energy because you have to go out into the wind.

when the race gets narrow, it’s obviously harder to move, move around because there’s less space to move around and everyone kind of funnels up. So. Yeah, there’s a lot of experience involved to learn how to ride in a peloton. Definitely. I think it’s hard for me to explain how to do it because I think it’s so second nature for me.

but yeah, when there’s space, you take it and if you really have to get to the front ASAP, it’s going to take energy, but you can go up the sides. And, when it’s windy, if wind is coming from one direction, usually like from the side, usually everyone will hide to the other side. so that usually creates space where.

If the wind is coming, hitting you from the right, there will usually be more space on the right because it’s harder to ride on that side. so that’s also a way to think about moving around in the peloton. Uh, when there’s a wind factor, there’s gonna be more space, to the right, or wherever the wind’s coming.

Alison: How much yapping is going on between riders?

Coryn Labecki: I think in a stage race, there’s a little, tends to be more relaxed moments. Usually not so much talking if it’s a very important high level and a lot of things are going on within the race at that moment, so it’s harder to chat. but sometimes when we’re talking about strategy captains or other riders we’ll talk to other countries or teams and say.

Hey, you know, do you want to put someone in to chase or, you know, what’s your plan? I think you should put someone in, you know, there’s a lot of games that you can play with other teams to either like help them with your strategy or work together if you’ve both missed the breakaway and things like that.

So not often, but when it’s necessary. Typically should happen

Jill: if a crash happens and some of your teammates get taken out or they have to fall way back to get back on the race. How does that affect your strategy?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, it depends. But the underlying thing with that when things happen is communication.

So, like I said, like, hopefully you’re near your teammates and you can say or you can at least even see that your teammate has crashed. And typically it’s. Determined beforehand, depending on who crashed, whether you’re a leader, if someone should wait for them, help them get back up, and into the race.

So, typically it’s predetermined if, you had someone waiting for you or not. And then usually, your team car will kind of help you chase back on. So if you crash and the cars catch you, they should know that you crash. typically the race commissars who are behind the Peloton will say on the race radio.

these riders crash from this country and whatever else and then that’s communicated out to the race caravan. So that’s another set of radio that, that is at every single race. So that’s a radio that the commissars are on and all the directors in the team cars have. And they basically throughout the race say, so and so is off the front with this much time, these people crashed, whatever else.

So the directors have an overview of that through the race radio. but since we don’t have a radio, we don’t know that. So another way for us also to communicate is to go back to the team car and have a chat, get up to speed on things, talk about strategy, whatever else, or also if you need, Water bottles or food from the car. You can also get that too. so that’s also another way to communicate, with your team, at Olympics and World Championships races without radios.

Alison: So you mentioned food and water. What are the rules around that? What you’re allowed to eat, not allowed to eat, allowed to do with the team car?

Coryn Labecki: the UCI rules state that I think feeding is closed until 50k into the race. And then it’s open until the last 20K of the race, and they can change that depending on whether they can open up from the start and keep it open until the very end, but that’s the typical rule. I believe the UCI rule on feeding.

You can still go back to the car to communicate and talk, but you can’t take any bottles or feed during those times. And then also you have staff on the side of the road at different points. Within the race who feed and those are typically called feed zones and that’s on the right hand side of the road and they’ll have bottles or musette bags and sometimes the bottles have a gel attached with like a rubber band around it.

So you grab, you ride by, you grab a bottle and there’s a gel on it. So you have a little bit extra food that way. Usually the musette bags are filled, it’s like a, like a little bag filled with two bottles, usually some food in the bag, and those are typically given out early on in the race, since it’s, it’s a lot of food, or if you have one person who’s going to pick up all the food for the other riders as well, so.

That’s another way that you can, refuel when you’re out on the road. What, what kind

Jill: of food

Coryn Labecki: are you eating? typically we have mix in our water bottles, or sometimes water too when it’s really hot. It’s just nice to have a plain bottle of water. And then we have gels, uh, rice cakes, bars, anything you can think of, race fuel, that’ll help you keep going and keep the energy levels up, for the end of the race.

What

Jill: else can you do? On your bike and in terms of, I’m thinking like, can you do minor repairs and still ride? what other kinds of things can you do, but still stay going?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah. What’s funny in a, in a race such a scenario is the race is constantly moving, it’s never stopping and waiting for you.

So whenever you have to stop, you also have to count like, okay, I somehow I have to get back into the race, or if I go back to the cars, I also have to use it. An effort and use energy to get back into the race. So yeah, something you have to take into consideration, when you want to go back to the car and talk to.

Your team director or if you have a flat tire that, I have to chase back on now. So that’s another thing that you can do where that can happen within a race. sometimes if you need to make a small adjustment to your bike that you can do yourself. You want to try and do it while you’re moving, so that you don’t have to chase back on.

But if the race, for example, is really slow and nothing’s happening, then it’s okay to stop. And I mean, sometimes. You can do a P stop too, and then you stop and you go P, and then you have to chase back on to get back into the race. So, that’s another thing you can do, but you just also have to realize that I have to chase back into the race.

The race doesn’t ever wait for you.

Jill: Thank you for mentioning P STOPS because that’s also one of our burning questions. Do you just stop by the side of the road? Are there designated areas? how do you

manage this?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah,

I like to think that there is no designated area, but there are areas that are better.

obviously you don’t want to do it in public. you can get a fine from the UCI for that, but I, I really try not to because like I said, like it’s, it’s something that you have to chase back from in a stage race, it’s a little more relaxed and there are moments that are better for P stops. But, and it’s a little bit of an unwritten rule that, Nothing can happen within the race what if there’s a big group that are stopping for a pee but at the end of the day, the race is still moving, you know, it doesn’t wait for you, but it is. An unwritten rule that the race shouldn’t go on while a group stops to pee. but typically it happens in the beginning of the race where, nothing crazy is going on.

It’s, okay to stop and to chase back on isn’t too difficult. So that’s kind of the unwritten rule around, around pee stops. And you obviously want to stop when a big group is going because… you know, you have more people to chase back with and because of the unwritten rule of the race not going on, if you’re with a big group, hopefully you have the race favorites there.

So, you kind of have them in your pocket, like, you know, if they’re peeing, I’m going to pee because they’re going to be the race.

Okay,

Alison: not to belabor the point, but how are the suits one piece or is it? A bottoms up, like how does it physically work

Jill: with your suit?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a tricky one. there are different methods and tactics to peeing within a race and also people wear different things. So you can. Race in a race suit, which is usually like a one piece and then some people race in bibs and shorts so two separate pieces shorts with some straps on them to keep them up and then a jersey over it and Usually when it comes down to a p stop, you kind of want to be prepared You want to know where you’re gonna stop you’re already unzipped And then if it’s a one piece you got to take Take it all off.

Because there’s just no other way. and then with a jersey, you can have your jersey off beforehand and then you can take your bibs off really quickly and then put everything back on. and then another method that some people use. is if their shorts are really stretchy enough. Um, you can pull one leg up and over, and then you don’t have to take anything, any clothes off.

So then it’s a little bit simpler, doesn’t expose as much, but you just hope that your shorts are stretchy enough to do that and you don’t pee yourself. Because then you have to sit on it for the, for the rest of the day. so logistically that’s kind of how that works. And then if, you’re skilled enough, you can zip up while you’re riding on the way back, to chase back on, or, you have to take a, a few seconds to zip everything back up and hope it goes smoothly and your zipper doesn’t break and you can chase back on.

Sounds

Jill: like a zipper is broken in your lifetime.

Coryn Labecki: Yes, it has.

Uh, luckily just for a race suit. So, it’s still somewhat closed on the bottom. and then I just went back to the car and I got a vest to put over it so that I, the top of my jersey or my race suit wasn’t just flapping in the wind.

It happens.

Jill: With the Olympics, your race was 137 kilometers long, but that’s 107 shorter than the men. Why is there a disparity in the distances? Should there be a disparity in the distances?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, that’s a good, good question. I think there are some writers who prefer it to be longer and You may want more similar distances to the men.

And I think some who don’t, and I, I are to the side of that. It shouldn’t be as long as the men. I don’t think we are the same kind of human with the same kind of capabilities. And it also changes the way that we train and how we’re able to train. I think the distances we do are, are long enough. Um, I think the lot, typically the longer the distance, the more boring the races, because then everybody kind of waits until.

Slowly, everyone is tired and then the race breaks out. And so with a longer distance, you want to save more energy. So then the race typically ends up being a little bit more boring until the point that, You know, more people are tired and then the strongest kind of survive. So, from my perspective, I think it’s great where it’s at.

the shorter races are much far more exciting. and yeah, we’re just a different species of human. So I don’t think we have to do exactly the same of what the guys do.

Jill: It’s interesting that you say we just got to tire them out and in a way that does make the whole sport sound a little like. Just survival of the fittest or from a viewer’s perspective, yeah, that’s not fun to watch after a while because it’s just the same thing and maybe somebody goes back to get a sandwich.

How much of the race course do, you know, ahead of time, like for Tokyo, were you able to ride it ahead of time? What, what do you know about the course before you go into

it?

Coryn Labecki: Typically, knowledge is power. So, the more that we can study the course, study our opponents, study the weather, the more you know, and, in Tokyo’s case, we were able to ride.

I think once you get out of the city all the way to the finish, I think it was the last 80 kilometers or so, but the first part’s all through the city and it was harder to ride beforehand because of traffic and, and logistically it was further away. but typically nothing crazy happens at that point.

So, that was a risk we were willing to gamble, but definitely seeing, the very difficult parts of the race, the ends of the race. we’re typically where it’s going to be a really critical moment. those are parts of the course that. Is good to know so that you are aware of what it’s going to be like, what it’s going to feel, how it’s going to go, go down in the race.

So that’s something, we call them recon, you know, do a recon course recon. that’s something that’s pretty important. at our level of the sport,

Alison: you’re racing on roads. Roads are unpredictable. What kind of things? I mean, are there potholes? Do you hit? Ordinary things like that, or, are they taking care with those things?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, that’s another thing with road cycling, like, that’s part of the, a lot of the variables that are kind of uncontrolled and unknown. It’s not like the velodrome where typically 250 meters of the track is just impeccable. And, you know that. There’s not going to be a gap or a pothole that you’re going to hit.

So, that’s something that I love, you know, you got to stay on your toes. You got to, try to know them beforehand. And that’s part of reconning too, is trying to see if there are dangerous parts of the road that you need to be aware of and, and. Throughout the year in the normal race calendar, there are specific races like Flanders and Roubaix where recons are probably the best thing that you can do to prepare yourself for a race so that you know what’s coming up, how do you get to those points, you know, are there dangerous sections where you need to avoid and those are things like the more you know, the more you’re prepared for, for your event, so it’s definitely a factor that it is there and you hope it’s not, and typically race organizers will We’ll repair things that are, are really dangerous, and also we’ll make note of them if they’re really dangerous, something like railroad crossings are always in the road book, and they’ll tell you ahead of time that they’re coming, but, to do well at it, you, you should know them ahead of time, definitely.

Jill: So they give you a book ahead of time that tells… Basically describes the course as well, correct?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, all all races will have a road book. a technical guide race Bible. There’s so many different terms for it. and it will basically have turn by turn. They will show. Um, sometimes, you know, dangerous spots, cobbled sections, climbs, how long the neutral is, but it’s, it’s turn for turn.

So it’s the entire race course, on paper. How is it to ride over cobblestones? They’re easier when it’s faster. So the faster you go, the easier they are. they’re not easy, definitely not. And the more you do them, then the more your hand strength is involved, the way that you pedal over them.

but typically the faster you hit them, the easier they are.

Alison: How easy is it to make a mistake on the course, as in make a wrong turn?

Coryn Labecki: it happens. I mean, there’s a lot of instances where, people follow the motorcycle who’s leading the race. And sometimes they don’t even know where they’re going, but you’re just following the motorcycle because it’s their job to, to lead the course.

And it’s happened. A few times before where someone will take the wrong turn because the motorcycle took the wrong turn and you’re just following him, but it’s it’s still part of your job to understand the race course and know where you have to go. And nowadays you can race with a GPX file of the race course on your head unit.

and then, you know, you can see the course on your on your map on your head unit knowing where you can go. So that’s one way to be prepared for that. But also, you still have to be aware of what’s going on. Going on around you. Maybe, maybe they made a last minute change or the GPX file that you downloaded is a little bit old.

and they made an update that you forgot about. So there are things like that, that you just have to be aware about and know that, yeah, it can change. At any moment, but you, you just have to be, be awake and aware. What is this head unit? So a head unit is a computer that will tell you, you know, your heart rate, your power, time, and it’ll start a file, of your ride or your race.

It’ll basically tell you all the metrics that you need to know. Or that you can know, uh, while you’re riding, uh, your cadence, things like that. And the newest models will have maps as well. And then you can download a GPX file. And then, you know, when you’re training, you can make a lap that you can follow, or you can follow the course or whatever else, you know, where other roads are.

So, it’s a really cool tool to have. Nowadays, you know, they didn’t have it before I think before everyone’s just racing on instinct and however you’re feeling and and whatever you see in front of you and if you know the course study the course have done course recons. So, it’s basically a little computer that’s on your bike that gives you information.

That’s very cool.

Jill: You’ve done just tons of different types of cycling. How did you narrow it down to focusing on road?

Coryn Labecki: When I was a junior, I was really lucky to be able to race so many. Different disciplines of cycling. I started with road. I got into track cycling. I did cyclocross. I did a bit of mountain biking. I actually started more on the mountain bike side when I was really, really young. Before I started racing.

And that’s kind of how I got into cycling a little bit. But yeah, I think it’s really great to try all the different ones. Especially when you’re young and just try to get an understanding of the different kinds of cycling and how they help each other. And then you just, you learn what you prefer, as you do it more and more and coming out of college, I really, realized, like, how I just love being out on the road.

Like I like being outside, track cycling is maybe more suited to my physiology, but I hate being indoors. and especially growing up in California, we have, you know, the best indoor track in the country. but you’re in California, so it’s like so nice outside. So it was hard for me to just keep going around in circles indoors, uh, when I could be outside and enjoying the weather, enjoying, uh, a new.

New route, new road. And that’s also what I like about road cycling too is. You don’t have to do the same loop twice, whereas on the velodrome, you have to do the same loop over and over again, or also for mountain biking, you know, there’s only so many trails that you could do, but there’s, you know, pros and cons to all kinds of cycling where, you know, road cycling, you have to deal with cars on the road, and roads that are not super nice to ride on.

Mountain bike, you know, there’s, there’s no cars, but you’re out in the middle of nowhere usually, and you’re just stuck to the trails that you’re on, and then cyclocross is so specific, you hope that there’s like a good community around you, or there’s a race course around that you can practice, or you have to make your own set of barriers to use, and then a velodrome is probably even harder than cyclocross, because then you need a velodrome near you to, to train for that, so.

That’s another complexity to that is if you don’t have one near you, then, you know, you don’t get to ride it as often. So, I just love road because it’s just easy. You put your shoes on, you head out the door and you just, you can go wherever you want to go.

Alison: You’ve had a couple crashes. Talk us through kind of the mental aspect of you crash and then you have to keep going.

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, it’s tough. It’s a tough sport. And like I said before, the race continues with or without you. so typically when you crash you get, you know, right away whether you’re okay to keep going or you’re like not okay to keep going. So that’s usually kind of the first thing that kind of comes to mind after you hit the ground is like, you know, am I okay or can I.

Can I keep going or do I actually really need help? and then the next thing you do is you check your bike, make sure everything’s okay. Can you continue riding it or do you need to get on the radio or put your hand up or call for your team to bring your spare bike? and usually in that sense, when you crash and your team knows they just bring a bike anyways, cause that’s, the staff and the mechanics job to, to make sure that you have your, a bike ready to go for you.

Yeah, and then typically you have to chase back on. So not only did you just hurt yourself and you have to chase back on and get back into the race. So, it’s definitely a tough part of the sport. And I think, It would be better if you had a little bit more time to know whether you’re okay or not and, and not have to put yourself at more risk chasing back on, but that’s just how it, how it goes, you know, the race keeps going and, and you have to make the call whether, you can keep going or, or you can’t and, you know, how the team approaches that too.

If you’re, if you’re fine to keep going and, and you’re a race leader, then a few of your teammates can wait for you at the back of the Peloton and then help you chase back on too.

Jill: Do you ever get in a crash and go on and then find out? Like adrenaline took over and at the end of the race, you’re just like, wow, I wasn’t as good as I thought it

Coryn Labecki: was. Oh, absolutely. I think adrenaline definitely takes over. usually, you know, you try to get a gel in, especially you’re chasing back on.

So you’re expending energy. and then you realize like, Oh, I actually finished the stage today with a broken wrist, you know, so, so things like that happen and we’re athletes, you know, we’re competitive and, I think at high levels you ignore the pain too. So there are times where you’re like, oh, man, any normal person would not continue.

But because this is what I do, and this is what I love. You like have this extra sense to just keep going and you put it aside.

Jill: You’ve been, recently getting over a concussion. How has that been? Because you never know how long it takes your brain to heal. what are the realizations when you figure out you’re having symptoms and what are the kind of frustrations as you don’t know how long the healing process

Coryn Labecki: will be.

Yeah, concussions are very tricky. I think the main thing about them is just to understand yourself and like being very honest and true to yourself. And I think typically as athletes, we have a very, very in tune to what’s normal for us, what feels normal. And you just have to really be honest with yourself and not think about, you know, the next race or the future or your goals or whatever else.

Just really have to think about how you’re feeling in a moment and know, like, Hey, I’m not okay. And I think with my recent concussion, I can really tell, you know, I was like, Oh, I’m sleeping a lot. I’m really sensitive to light. I get dizzy, having some headaches, and I normally am never like that. So for me, that was a red flag to know like, hey, I need some time.

I need to really take care of myself recover from this and get myself better and back to how I normally feel. And that those are just the big things for me during this recovery period to understand. Now I’m sleeping normal. Not wanting to just sleep all day. I’m not super sensitive to light.

I can be outside without sunglasses. Less headaches, things like that. And I’m a person who like never gets headaches. So, really just knowing yourself and that you’re not normal. If you need some time to recover and feel normal again.

Alison: How are you training while that’s going on?

Coryn Labecki: Yeah, that’s tough. I definitely took time off the bike. I probably took almost two months off the bike and then, I did a really long rest period just to really Give myself time and space to recover from it and not constantly have a stimulus and then slowly add a little more stimulus, doing some walks, doing some eye tracking exercises, some, some balance exercises and get some progress going and see how that Gets better over time.

And that’s what I was kind of doing this last round to get back to full health.

Alison: What does your road to Paris look

Coryn Labecki: like? Road to Paris is looking a little grim for the Americans. This round we had until October 17th to qualify points. And we were in 12th. So we were outside of four and three spots.

So right now there’s only two spots. For the Americans and both spots have to do the time trial. And I’m typically not the best time trialist. That’s not really my strong suit. I’m a one day racer. Um, I love the strategy. I love racing with other people. I like that the tactics part of racing. that’s more what I’m suited to.

And so we’ll see, I think I’m going to need a miracle. I need a really good spring this year. Or this upcoming year and hopefully, uh, I’ll try to go, maybe try to go for the time trial and see, uh, if I can have a pretty decent ride there but the chances are slim, unfortunately, but I will not, not give up until the end.

Okay, you,

Alison: like me, are a pocket princess. So I want to know what size bike you’re

Coryn Labecki: riding. I ride a 48. So what this, the smallest I got, that’s, that’s what I got to ride. Excellent.

Jill: Thank you so much Coryn. You can follow Coryn on social at Coryn Rivera, and she’s got a website corynrivera.Com. We’ll have links to those in the show notes.

Beautiful.

Paris 2024 News

Jill: Yes, so, the IOC is trying. They’re really going to be pushing this gender equality, gender equity. storyline that they’ve got going on for this year because it’s going to be the first Olympics where there are an equal number of men and women. That doesn’t necessarily mean full equality. Let’s go back to our conversation with Dr.

Michelle Donnelly for that. We’ll put a link to that in the show notes if you haven’t heard it because it, it was really good and very enlightening. But they want more gender equality, the IOC does. So they want to see joint flag bearers. Which we have seen before, and that was actually quite lovely. Yes.

But not all countries did that at Tokyo. So they kind of called them out and said, uh, hey, let’s do two flag bearers, one man, one woman. Let’s have some equality here. They’d also like to see more females on staff, particularly in coaching. Not a great time to bring that one up.

Alison: It’s a problem, and in also in the, upper ranks of Olympic committees.

Yes. It’s very male heavy, so you don’t, you see it on the field and then you don’t see it expanding throughout , the ranks all the way to the top.

Jill: Right. , and we talked with Dr. Donnelly about this and how, look, you can’t just make this edict from the top down and expect in 200 days to see just a wealth of female coaches show up at the games and be able to coach well and have that kind of support to do so.

you’ve got to build it from the bottom up and female coaches have had troubles getting roles , it’s a. whole circle of, we don’t have enough women in coaching, but they’re, but women aren’t being put into coaching roles kind of thing that just kind of perpetuates itself.

Alison: And there’s a big thing in the United States where women are starting to work in men’s sports, but there is so much resistance. And there is this constant idea that no male athlete would listen to a female coach. And that’s just simply not true. I mean, that’s an outdated. myth, but that’s perpetuated. So men can coach women, but women can’t coach men.

So right off the bat, you have the even opportunities for women limited.

Jill: Right, right. So to say with 200 days to go, Hey, we’d like to see more female coaches. It’ll be interesting to see how that actually plays out. But I don’t expect that. Needle to move very far this year compared

Alison: to last I expect it to be tokenism that if they have a female coach on staff, they’ll send that person.

But that person won’t actually be doing the coaching

Jill: could be. We will keep an eye on that . Exciting news from the torch relay.

Alison: They’re really trying to push this. This Olympics is going to be like no other. Because every time Paris 2024 puts out a press release, it’s the opening ceremonies like no other parade of nations like no other.

And this torch relay, again, the press release was a torch relay. Like no other. I’m like, you’re moving the torch across the country. That’s

Jill: the basics here. And, and, and across the world. so they’re going to have this new concept of a team relay. And this seems to be a relay within the torch relay because there’s still like 10 or 11, 000 torch bearers, but 3000 of them are going to be specifically tied to these team relays and team relays will focus on a particular sport.

So Most days of the torch relay, the calendar does have some blank days, is going to have a different sport featured. Some days we’ll have two sports featured. And these teams will do something involving their sport to showcase the sport as they move the flame along. And

Alison: some sports this makes a lot of sense.

Rowing, you can row the torch, skateboarding is involved, equestrian, and some of that would be really lovely. I mean, how beautiful is it going to be? To have the torch or the torchbearer on the back of a horse just sort of galloping along. I mean, that feels very French, doesn’t it? But how are we going to move it along, say, when it’s fencing’s day?

Are they going to like stab each other with the torch? I don’t, I don’t see how that’s going to move. But on the flip side, this will give a lot of exposure to smaller sports, sports that people may not watch except every four years. And I love the idea that teams are going to have Olympic champions and medalists and then everyday participants.

And the whole idea of sport is for everyone. So I like the concept. Like no other.

Jill: Well, it’ll be interesting to see how the execution is because the concept is good and they really are keeping in mind that this is an Olympics for all and trying to integrate. The idea that sports and exercise should be a part of your everyday life and there are ways to do it even when you are no longer a youth and youth sports is a big thing, but even as an adult, there are many, many ways you can participate in sports.

So that’ll be interesting. I’m very curious. Rock climbing will be going up a rock. So that will be, that’ll be interesting to see.

Alison: The other portion of this that I’m very excited about is they’re doing the same thing for the Paralympics. And I think this is brilliant because Paralympic sport needs more exposure.

So to see more Paralympians and. Para athletes of all levels participate and show off their sport, I think is brilliant.

Jill: Right. And the Paralympic Torch Relay will have six team relays. Those are going to be based more on themes than every day is a different sport. There’s going to be in the Olympic Torch Relay, there will be days dedicated to Disabled sports, so they will have a place in that as well to showcase sports and that of themselves, but, , the Paralympic relays are going to include themes like young para athletes, volunteers, associations and caregivers, which I think is really important to show the resources that are out there and then also Paralympians as well.

So. It’s going to be an interesting concept. We will, we have the schedule of what’s on what day. So as the torch relay goes along, we will, , remind you what to look for in terms of the teams and the sports that are being showcased. And it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Alison: Checking in on the construction work. Inside the Games reports that Paris is 84 percent done.

Jill: What does that mean? What’s left besides the village?

Alison: They’re supposed to be at 89%.

Jill: Oh, well, that’s not great.

Alison: But not bad. They’re actually saying, Oh, because anyone who’s done a home improvement project knows it always takes longer and costs more.

So the fact that they’re 84 percent is really good. So, there’s some temporary venues that still need to be finished. There are some venues that are still being used for their current purpose that won’t be transitioned until the spring. Taylor Swift has to come through Paris

Jill: first. Oh, well, that’s not

Alison: bad.

We can get some swimming venue, , approved. So they’re in really good shape. I don’t think we’re going to have the issue of wallpaper stuck up with tape. This time around? I

Jill: hope. We shall see. But I think stuff will be done. And I think exactly what you said. A lot of times you need things to clear out in order to build.

And I’m, I would not be surprised if some of the temporary venues are quick to build. And can be done very, very quickly. So, that is good news. Also, 84 percent complete. My reading of our book for book club that’s coming up if gold is our destiny how I’m team of Mavericks came together for Olympic glory.

If we want to talk about anniversaries, this book is about the U. S. men’s 1984 volleyball team. So it is the 40th anniversary of 1984. Oh boy. which is exciting, but it’s also a reminder of just how long ago LA 84 was. So we are excited to read that book, a book club clear. We’ll be here soon. If you’ve read it, let us know what you think about it.

You can drop us a line at flamealivepod. com or hit us up on social or our Facebook group. Keep the flame alive podcast.

TKFLASTAN (Team Keep the Flame Alive) News

Alison: Welcome to

Jill: Shookflastan. It is the time of the show where we check in with our team, Keep the Flame Alive. These are past guests and listeners of the show who make up the citizenship of our very own country, Shookflastan. First up, this is exciting.

Alison: Yeah. Connor Fields is the new host of Outdoor Nevada.

Season six will premiere on January 17th on Vegas

Jill: PBS. Anika Malasinski will be competing at the Women’s Nordic Combined World Cup in Obertsdorf, Germany this weekend.

Alison: Sean Colahan, who’s been covering political races for years, is getting ready for the 2024 primary season, and he will be in Iowa to cover the caucuses for NBC Boston.

Jill: And that is going to do it for this episode. Let us know what you think of road cycling.

Alison: You can connect with us on X and Instagram at flamealivepod. Email us at flamealivepod at gmail.

com. Call or text us at 208 352 6348. That’s 2 0 8 flame it. Be sure to join the keep the flame alive podcast group on Facebook and don’t forget to get our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories about this week’s episode. You can sign up for that at flamealivepod. com

Next week. We welcome back Terrence Burns to talk about the Olympic brand, how people perceive it and what Paris 2024 can do to change that. And always with Terrence go off on a tangent or 2, the best tangents. I know. So you will want to tune in to listen to that. Thank you so much for listening.

Jill: And until next time, keep the flame alive.