Eight coaches are currently undergoing four weeks of intensive training at the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland, to arm themselves with the necessary tools to develop the sport in their own countries.
Hailing from South Africa, Australia, Poland, Israel, Syria, Hungary, Hong Kong and Malaysia, the coaches are on the UCI WCC Coach Diploma course which includes a mixture of theory and practical sessions led by UCI Experts.
With 65 young athletes currently training at the UCI World Cycling Centre across the Olympic disciplines of road, track, mountain bike and BMX, the coaches have plenty of opportunity to gain practical experience alongside the UCI WCC’s own professional coaches.
All eight come from vastly differing backgrounds and coaching cultures, also providing them with a precious opportunity to exchange ideas, problems and best practices both within and outside the classroom.
Brett Aitken: Olympian-turned-coach
Australian Brett Aitken has three Olympic medals (including Madison gold at Sydney 2000) and a UCI World Champion title (team pursuit in 1993) to his name. But the athlete-turned-coach is drinking up all he can on the UCI WCC course: “You never stop learning,” he says. “Nobody has the secret recipe and I am trying to learn different ways of coaching.”
Aitken is Head Cycling Coach at the South Australian Sport Institute (SASI), which underpins the national programme. As well as talent identification and overseeing the cycling programmes for all disciplines, his mission is to develop Junior riders aiming to feed into the national team.
Already a holder of Cycling Australia’s Level 2 coaching accreditation and having completed the Australian Institute of Sport Performance Coaching and Leadership Course, Aitken is determined to arm himself with the highest qualification.
“Level 3 accreditation is quite rare in Australia and I want that experience under my belt. To get that here, at the UCI itself, means getting a qualification that is recognised worldwide,” says the Olympian who took a long time after his retirement from Elite competition to take the step into coaching. Finally, it was a health problem that forced him to hang up his bike – albeit temporarily – and try helping the next generation of cyclists.
“I never realised how much I’d enjoy it… unleashing everything I knew to help other athletes and see them win for the first time. It’s really something!”
He said coaching was constantly evolving and every detail was important, including scientific data, physiology, biomechanics, nutrition and recovery.
Aikten will stay on in Aigle after the course to help with the Junior track group training for the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany, on 14-18 August.
Ka Ming Shiu: committed to developing Hong Kong’s talent
Hong Kong’s Ka Ming Shiu was a professional track sprinter before retiring in 2014 and turning to coaching. Currently Training and Development Manager for the Cycling Association of Hong Kong, he coaches the National Junior Squad and is in charge of the local development programme. He completed the UCI Level 1 and 2 coaching certificates in his own country and jumped at the chance to undertake the highest qualification at the UCI WCC.
“As a former athlete I know how important it is to have a good coach,” he said. “Science is good but so is communication and creativity, making sure the athletes have fun when training,” says the coach who spent most of his competitive career training in mainland China.
Currently completing a Masters degree in sports coaching and writing a thesis on sport business management, Ka Ming Shiu’s major motivation is to build a pool of young athletes coming through the ranks to international level.
“We don’t have the young riders coming through in Hong Kong and I hope to fix this. At the UCI WCC I want to upgrade my knowledge.”