The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are less than a year away, but many young athletes are already eyeing up the 2024 Games in Paris (France).
In October, coaches at the UCI World Cycling Centre took more than 40 teenagers through their paces in different Olympic disciplines as part of a wide-ranging talent identification process.
The aim is to select a core group of BMX, mountain bike, road and track cyclists to train at the UCI WCC in Aigle, Switzerland, and accompany them through to the 2024 Olympics in the French capital.
All the athletes underwent Wattbike protocol testing, scientific assessment in the UCI WCC testing laboratory as well as sessions specific to their particular discipline.
Seven athletes from six countries
For UCI WCC mountain bike coach Charlie Evans, it was important to test a range of traits necessary for a potentially successful athlete: “I wanted to see their qualities of organisation, their assertiveness, their technical and physical capabilities, and importantly how brave they were.”
Evans tested their bravery on a range of technical trails in the surrounding countryside, and also took the athletes to a climbing wall “to see their behaviour, confidence and approach in a new environment”.
On top of a threshold test on the road, and trail riding, they underwent gym and core skills sessions to assess their technical skills such as manuals, wheelies and hopping. The training camp finished with a gravel race in Bern against some of Switzerland’s top riders.
Four athletes from three countries
Attitude was a major factor taken into account for the track athletes who spent a week at the UCI WCC in October. Aged between 18 and 21, the young cyclists had already been spotted at international competitions or were nominated by their National Federation.
For a week they were integrated into the UCI WCC’s current group of track trainees and were exposed to a typical training schedule of a full-time athlete: three track sessions, two gym sessions, wattbike testing and road riding.
“It was an opportunity for them to see if they could actually cope with this environment,” explains UCI WCC track coach Craig McLean. “It would be great to have a group that can work towards Paris 2024, although my aim is always to get the best performance from an athlete.”
McLean underlined the necessity for athlete development work – an important role of the UCI WCC satellite centres – alongside high-performance programmes.
October 28 – November 3
26 athletes from 20 countries:
From flat time trialling to threshold testing up a mountain and power testing on stationary Wattbikes, the 12 women and 14 men athletes on the road cycling talent identification camp had their work cut out for them.
Aged 17 to 23, they had to deal with difficult weather conditions as they trained under the watchful eye of the UCI WCC road coaches Richard Wooles and Adam Szabó.
Richard Wooles said the coaches were looking for riders who could benefit from the facilities and expertise available at the UCI WCC. The most promising will be invited back as early as January 2020 to join the long-term group of trainees.
“They need to be at a good level of fitness and mentally ready to move to full time training and racing,” he said. “The ultimate aim is Paris 2024 but also to move up the levels of cycling so they can make cycling their life and inspire others in their respective countries.”
October 28 – November 3
Five athletes from five countries
With technical aspects of BMX Racing being so critical, the athletes on the discipline’s talent identification camp spent as much time as possible on the UCI WCC’s Supercross track.
BMX Coach Liam Phillips pointed out that technical aspects of the sport are learnt at a young age and most athletes will already have spent a number of years working on this. However, most are 16 and 17 years old and had only competed on a traditional BMX track. At the UCI WCC they confronted the Supercross track with an 8m high start hill, bigger jumps and consequently higher speed.
“That is what they will have to tackle at the Olympics, UCI World Championships and UCI World Cups,” says Phillips. “The athletes spent time in the gym, but my primary focus is on the track.”
What are the principal traits he is looking for in potential long-term trainees?
“There are a multitude of things from their physical and technical potential to how they are as people. BMX athletes need to be extremely resilient too.”
Opened in 2002, the UCI World Cycling Centre offers training and development for around 100 athletes every year. Since opening its doors, trainees in the different disciplines have enjoyed success at national, continental, world and Olympic level.