For the second time, after 2016, the UCI Juniors Track World Championships will take place at the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland.
For a group of 17 athletes from 10 countries, the boards of the centre’s velodrome will hold no secrets during the competition which takes place from August 15 to 19. The young hopefuls are training at the UCI WCC for the most important event of their young careers under the watchful eyes of two former Olympians, Craig MacLean (GBR) and Walter Pérez (ARG).
Since June, they have been devoting their lives to their chosen sport, with sessions in the gym, on the track and on the road. Despite their vastly differing experience upon arrival in Aigle, they have coped well and are making commendable progress, according to MacLean, former team sprint UCI World Champion (2002) and Olympic silver medallist (Sydney 2000).
“They have adapted well,” says their Switzerland-based coach. “It was tough at the beginning. The first week was very exciting, the next week the jet lag caught up with some of them, and by week three there was homesickness and some tears.”
Racing, benchmarking and specialisation
Now they have settled in and are 100% focussed on the upcoming Worlds. At the beginning of their stay, they had the chance to compete in the time trial at the Swiss Championships which were hosted by the UCI WCC. This enabled the coaches to benchmark the new trainees’ performances and see how they coped with stress.
The athletes have since been separated into an endurance group and a sprint group, with training specific to their different specialities.
MacLean observes: “It’s a question of getting the best out of them.They are massively out of their comfort zone and for some of them it’s the first time they’ve had any coaching structure. At their age I wouldn’t have had the discipline or the tolerance to be told what to do all the time! They are admirable.”
He said there was a fine line between ensuring they did not get bored, and not letting them get too tired. The aim was to favour quality training over quantity.
“A lot of them are very tall and athletic, and you forget how young they are!"
Some have competed at continental level, while others had never ridden on an indoor, wooden track before arriving in Aigle. The group has been competing in local mid-week events on the UCI WCC track, with the endurance riders adding in some road racing.
MacLean and Pérez will be setting the trainees goals for the Junior Worlds, although for most these will be process goals and not outcome goals: “I want them to enjoy it. I want them to do their best and achieve what they are capable of. They all have potential, but some show it earlier than others,” says Maclean.
In the lead-up to the Worlds, the coaches will replicate races in training, pitting their athletes against some of the older, more experienced road cycling trainees: “That will make their thighs really hurt and stop them getting complacent,” smiles MacLean.