Sand, hills, stairs, forest trails and a pump track… the terrain around the UCI World Cycling Centre has provided a perfect playground for young cyclo-cross talents training in Aigle, Switzerland, this week.
Eight athletes from Estonia, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Luxemburg and Sweden are on the UCI WCC’s annual cyclo-cross training camp. Aged from 16 to 20, they are benefitting from the vast experience and expertise of Belgians Rudy De Bie and Sven Vanthourenhout.
De Bie was Belgium’s national coach for 15 years and is now in charge of the youth movement for Cycling Vlaanderen. Vanthourenhout, who used to be coached by De Bie, is a former U23 cyclo-cross UCI World Champion who went on to win two bronze medals at Elite level. He is currently cyclo-cross coach at Belgian Cycling (Royale Ligue Velocipédique Belge).
The two have paired up this week to lead the UCI WCC training camp. De Bie explains: “We’re concentrating on the technical part of the sport, for example going through sand, jumping, finding the pedals quickly. That is where you can lose time in a race when you’re panicking.”
He said that even after a short time, the athletes were all a lot more confident. As well as the technical sessions, they are doing endurance rides on the road and some theory, but in an informal setting.
“We don’t go into the classroom,” says De Bie, who places huge emphasis on the fun side of the sport: “It isn’t just hard work,” he says. “They are learning but having fun at the same time.”
Vanthourenhout, who won a round of the 2005 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in the grounds of the UCI WCC, added: “Of course it reminds me of when I was their age. In Belgium we already had good training structures but now there are more and more possibilities internationally.
“The three girls this week are doing particularly well and that is very important as racing for women is growing every year.”
Six of the eight athletes on this week’s training camp will put their new-found skills to the test on Sunday at the second round of the EKZ CrossTour being held on the grounds of the UCI World Cycling Centre.