The best physical fitness in the world is not going to help a rider who does not have the necessary bike handling skills to deal with the sometimes unpredictable movement within the peloton.
The Junior Women who have just completed four weeks’ training at the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland, will leave for the UCI Road World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain over the next few days with more confidence thanks to the skills taught by the centre’s professional coaches.
“There is great disparity among the young women when it comes to technical skills,” explains Belinda Tarling, WCC Education and Training Coordinator. “Some of these girls have only been on bikes for a year. They haven’t come from places that have a good club structure where they spend years playing chase, weaving games, balance box and generally messing around on their bikes. There are gaps in their education.
“If you come from somewhere where you are the only cyclist, you don’t learn to go downhill fast, to ride close up to others.”
In their first races when arriving at the WCC some of the Juniors were dropped in the descents after moving to the back of the bunch, where they felt safest. Their four weeks at the WCC have helped build their confidence. During the technical sessions they have been learning to shoulder each other, pick up small objects while in the saddle, move up through the middle of a tight bunch and much more.
At a post-race debriefing, the young women watch videos of their cornering over and over again: “Look you can stay closer on the wheel of the person in front here,” coach Jean-Jacques Henry tells one of his riders. “”If you have to sprint to catch up after every corner, you won’t be fresh at the end of the race.”
It is logical advice that until now many have never been given. The technical training at the WWC helps them put that advice into practice.
Belinda Tarling continues: “It’s all about helping their confidence, riding better in the peloton, reading the race, making the right decisions and giving them the chance to be up there. They are already looking far more pro than when they arrived and are handling their bikes better.”
Getting used to physical contact
Seventeen-year-old Yumi Kajihara took up cycling one year ago after giving up competitive swimming. Until arriving on the WCC training camp the young Japanese rider had never dared touch anyone while on her bike. Although finishing an impressive second at the Asian Continental Championships in Astana (Kazakhstan) in June, she realised that she lacked necessary technical skills.
“I had raced in Japan but we were never more than 30 in the race and we left each other plenty of room. At the Asian Championships I was very scared,” she recalls.
Yumi was delighted when, for the first time during a technical session at the WCC, she dared to shoulder her way through the middle of a line of paired riders to reach the front of the group.
“Now I will definitely not be afraid at the World Championships,” she said.