They are aged 17 and 18, and they hail from Lithuania, Japan, Ireland, Spain, Brazil and Serbia. In one week these young women will leave for Ponferrada, Spain, venue of the 2014 UCI Road World Championships.
In order to prepare for this major event in the best possible conditions, they have been training for the last three weeks at the World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland. Under the watchful eye of the WCC’s professional coaches, they have worked to improve their bike handling skills, their strength and their fitness.
For some the Junior race at Ponferrada will be a first experience of high-level competition, while others competed in Florence, Italy, last year. All are on a steep learning curve.
“The focus of this camp is to identify and improve their strengths and also identify and work on their weaknesses,” explains WCC Education and Training Coordinator Belinda Tarling. “This will improve their chances at the Worlds and also help them going into next year’s season.”
A first-year Junior, Brazil’s Renata Da Silva Lopes is one of the youngest of the group. Like a number of the others, the 17-year-old arrived in Switzerland directly from Nanjing, China, where she had been competing in the Youth Olympic Games. In Switzerland she has been working in particular on her climbing.
“There are some hills in Paraná (her home in the south of Brazil) but compared to here they are flat! And short! It is very difficult here but it is a better preparation than I could have back home. In Ponferrada I want to finish in the first peloton. I will still be a Junior next year so I will use this year’s experience to be even better next year.”
Serbia’s Jelena Eric, 18, finished 31st in the Juniors race in Florence last year after crashing and suffering from cramps. This year she is aiming higher.
“I had a lot of problems last year. If all goes OK in Ponferrada I would like to be in the top 10. But I know I can do even better than that.”
Her best result to date is 12th place in the Junior Women’s Olympic cross-country at the 2013 Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships. This year she made the difficult decision to concentrate on the road worlds at the expense of mountain bike: “I am better on the road.”
At the World Cycling Centre she and her fellow athletes are covering all aspects of training: basic technical skills, gym work, road riding and intervals… plus racing at weekends.
On Saturday the young athletes will race at the Prix de la Municipalité de Bleterans, in France. Find out how they get on after their race debriefing at the beginning of next week.