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Preparing Young Racers for Success in Oregon

By Katherine Moncure

Some of the nation’s most promising young athletes will gather at Oregon’s Pacific University from July 28 to August 2, 2013, as the USA Cycling Talent ID Camp returns to the Northwest for the fourth year. One of 13 camps on the national agenda, it will provide riders with the opportunity to travel on some of the beautiful roads in Washington County during their stay.

Riders attempt to ride shoulder to shoulder across the grass field. Photo courtesy of USA Cycling Talent ID Camps Photo courtesy of USA Cycling Talent ID Camps

Riders attempt to ride shoulder to shoulder across the grass field.

The main goal of these regional camps, as stated by USA Cycling, is “to recognize athletes who, at an early age, show signs of potential future success in cycling.” The camp puts participants in a community of other serious young cyclists and allows them to foster their skills with the help of some of the country’s best coaches. Riders improve their bike-handling abilities, attend lectures, and learn about cycling fitness and nutrition. These experiences are all built into the USA Cycling Development Program, which puts young racers on the path to becoming successful professional cyclists.

Camp participants must meet eligibility requirements in order to apply; the rider, either male or female, must be between ages 14 and 22 and fulfill one of the performance racing qualifications outlined on the USA Cycling website, although cyclists can also petition the camp manager if they don’t meet the outlined standards for special exemptions.

Jim Anderson, the manager of the Forest Grove Talent ID Camp, explains, “USA Cycling’s entire development process is structured to raise the bar for competitive cycling in America. I have been lucky enough to be able to see this process work from start to finish with many riders through the years.”

Yet, this great experience for young athletes does come with a price: specifically, $750 to $900, depending on when one registers. To lessen the burden, several scholarships are available. Riders can apply for aid through the USA Cycling Development Foundation Travel and Training Grant Program, and this year the Washington State Bicycle Association (WSBA) provided seven $400 scholarships to those who applied from Washington. WSBA runs the aid program annually because it recognizes the value that the Talent ID Camp provides to its young members.

As Carrie Eller, WSBA Junior Development Director/Coordinator notes, “A lot of it is just the experience of going to camp and being coached by different people.” The diversity of coaches allows all cyclists to gather expansive knowledge and increase their exposure to different teaching methods. Moreover, an average coach to camper ratio of two to five keeps instruction individualized and focused. Eller adds that all of the regional camps also open the door for further development opportunities, since coaches select a few outstanding riders for the National Talent ID Camp presented at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. A few may even be chosen for international competitions.

One such rider who attended the July 2012 regional camp in Forest Grove and then progressed to the National Talent ID Camp last October, is 15-year-old Sam Rosenberg. As he explains, he caught the attention of the attending coaches after performing well on two separate hill climb time trials and had a first place result in a criterium event. He went on to finish in the top ten at the Junior Cyclocross National Championships earlier this year after which he received an invitation to participate in the USA Cycling European Race Development Camp in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

Feed zone practice. 
 Photo courtesy of USA Cycling Talent ID Camps Photo courtesy of USA Cycling Talent ID Camps

Feed zone practice.

Other cyclists who followed a similar path as Rosenberg is 15-year-old Michael Hocking from Boise, Idaho, who went to the USAC Spring European Race Camp in the Netherlands after moving on to the National Talent ID Camp last October. Additionally, 19-year-old Colby Wait-Molyneux from Vancouver, Wash., landed a spot at the National Camp, made trips to Europe, and represented the United States in the 2011 World Championships in Denmark.

Wait-Molyneux recognizes how significant the camp has been in his cycling development and notes that one of the most valuable lessons he took away from it was a presentation about racing in Europe that helped him prepare for competing and training overseas. Like Rosenberg, he also did well in the time trials testing, which calculates how many watts each rider produced. “It was cool to be able to do that in a controlled setting where you could see your results as far as lactic threshold and power output,” he notes.

Rosenberg also acknowledges how instrumental the development camp was in his burgeoning cycling career, but what he reflects on most fondly was not the prestige associated with his training, but rather the relationships formed with other riders.

“I think my favorite part of the camp was the time I got to spend riding and living with old cycling friends, deepening our relationships, as well as making new friends. Also, I enjoyed the competitive atmosphere of everybody trying to do their best on testing days,” he says.

The college campus setting fosters this combination of competition and social life between campers, who have the opportunity to live at Pacific University for a week. Room assignments are created to group participants from different areas. Not only that, but many of the coaches who oversee riders also specialize in working with younger athletes and help build their confidence.

Camps are run on a tight daily schedule where coaches maximize every minute. After a morning ride and lunch, afternoons are spent focusing on specific skills and hands-on learning. “The luxury of having these camps at college campuses is the space and fantastic facilities,” explains Anderson. The cyclists definitely put them to good use. Grass fields present the perfect settings for enhancing riders’ technical abilities and “a wide variety of skills are thrown at them, which include grabbing a bottle and putting it in a cage, wheel touching, small group riding, and bumping techniques. We go over important fundamentals of bike handling which are balancing, closing the circle, slow race, no-hands riding, and track stands,” he continues. Parking lots are used for obstacles and cornering courses, which can be easily adjusted to make the challenge more difficult. For Anderson, seeing the riders improve and learn through these exercises is one of the most rewarding aspects of being the camp manager.

“I am continually amazed at how young riders pick up and apply new skills. The Juniors at these camps pick up skills faster than the adults! Throughout the week the coaches and myself have moments that you just can’t recreate; seeing these new skills being put in action is one of those.”

Paceline practice! Reshuffling the group based on wind direction. Photo courtesy of USA Cycling Talent ID Camps Photo courtesy of USA Cycling Talent ID Camps

Paceline practice! Reshuffling the group based on wind direction.

The daytime hands-on trainings are followed by evenings filled with activities and presentations from guest lecturers, including information about a wide range of subjects ranging from racing internationally, to nutrition and other tools these racers will need as they move along their cycling careers.

The busy and energized environment is tiring but extremely stimulating for all. From their 7 a.m. wake-up call until the time they go to bed, young cyclists are learning consistently with little idle time. Nevertheless, the packed days set them up for the future, making the week go by quickly. For Anderson and the rest of the staff, “this energy fuels our enthusiasm year-round and motivates us to make a better camp each year.”

For additional information on the Oregon camp, visit usacycling.org.

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