Ten years ago, Walter Pérez earned Olympic gold for Argentina when he rode to victory in Beijing (China) with his Madison partner Juan Curuchet. That same year the pair, which had been crowned UCI World Champions four years earlier, was awarded the Gold Olimpia Award as best Argentinian athletes of the year.
Now retired from competition, Pérez has turned to coaching and is currently based at the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland, where a group of young track athletes are preparing for the UCI Junior Track World Championships in Aigle, Switzerland, and others for the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Transition from athlete to coach
Failing to qualify for his 6th Olympic Games (Rio 2016), was a catalyst for Walter Pérez’ decision to retire from competition after a career which – on top of his Olympic and World titles – included World podiums in the Omnium and Scratch Race as well as a host of Continental titles and podiums. The Argentinian withdrew from top-level competition in October 2015, having just claimed the team pursuit silver medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada.
But it wasn’t long before he was back on the track in the role of coach.
“For the first year after my retirement I didn’t want anything to do with the track,” explained the Olympian. “But in my last year of competition I had seen that some of the younger riders did not have the motivation to train that I had. I realised I had a lot of things to teach them.”
In 2016, he completed a UCI coaching course organised in Mar del Plata, in the Argentinian province of Buenos Aires, and received the UCI Diploma. And now, for several months, he is based at the UCI WCC, working alongside another Olympian and former UCI World Champion Craig Maclean, of Scotland.
The two know each other from their competitive days, although never raced against each other as Maclean was a sprinter and Pérez an endurance athlete.
“I want to learn about coaching from Craig, and as we come from different sides of the sport, we can help each other with different aspects of endurance and sprint training,” explains Pérez, who had numerous coaches throughout his career.
“Coaching has changed since I was young, when I would sometimes be sent a training programme for a month. Today, there is a lot more monitoring and communication. It is important to have a good relationship with the athletes and be able to guide them, help them set goals and achieve those goals.”
For the 17 Junior track athletes from 10 countries who are currently training at the UCI WCC, the next big goal is the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships which will be held at the centre in Aigle, Switzerland, from August 15 to 19.
The latest group to arrive in Switzerland are four young track cyclists from Argentina, hopefuls for the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October.
Pérez relishes the chance to help his country’s talent reach for the stars and believes the UCI World Cycling Centre provides the ideal training ground: “I knew about the UCI WCC but had never been here before. It’s wonderful to be here and to coach alongside Craig. I want to learn, and I want to teach our athletes.”