Another ‘graduate’ of the program, Negasi Haylu Abreha (Team Q36.5) of Ethiopia, recently featured prominently when he was part of a long breakaway at Milan-San Remo on Saturday that Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Mathieu van der Poel caught in spectacular fashion way won .
UCI World Cycling Center Performance Manager Liam Phillips said via email that the center has supported 2,156 athletes since its inception in 2002 and this year is training athletes from Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Thailand, Ethiopia, South Africa, Colombia and Ukraine.
“The athletes stay at the UCI WCC in Aigle for around 12 weeks, some stay longer depending on the discipline and individual plan,” he explained. “All Olympic – and soon Paralympic – cycling disciplines are supported at the UCI WCC, from traditional disciplines like road and track to the newer Olympic disciplines like BMX Racing and BMX Freestyle.”
Most of the funding for the training comes from the UCI WCC, Phillips said. And depending on the athlete, the cyclist’s national federation also makes a contribution, as does the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Solidarity Scholarship, a fund that provides financial support to facilitate training and sporting development.
Identifying cyclists with potential and training needs is obviously vital to the development programme, and Phillips said the UCI’s ability to spot talent has evolved since its inception. “We continue to rely heavily on a global network of coaches to provide feedback to the UCI WCC on athletes with potential,” he added.
The center “Field of Dreams”, built by @IsraelPremTech was inaugurated in Rwanda in the presence of the UCI WCC director, @JacquesLandry2
A project that will boost the development of cycling throughout the region ahead of the 2025 UCI Road World Championships in Rwanda! 👏 pic.twitter.com/tUJbejy35l
— World Cycling Center (@WCC_cycling) February 20, 2023
In addition, cyclists are often referred through the UCI’s Continental development satellites, a global network providing entry points for cycling education and development and other national cycling programs. There are currently seven Continental development satellites around the world, with two more due to be launched in Canada and Trinidad and Tobago in 2023.
“More recently,” Phillips noted, “the use of smart trainers has enabled the UCI WCC to create a high-end testing protocol with their smart trainer partner, Wahoo Fitness, to identify future talent based on test data. “
As well as developing successful cyclists like Girmay – who also won one of the five races of the Tour of Mallorca last year (other winners included Alejandro Valverde and Brandon McNulty) and a stage of the Giro d’Italia – the program has helped improve cycling on around the world and, just as important, its geographical spread.
As an example, Phillips pointed out that the 2025 UCI Road World Championships will be held in Kigali, Rwanda, “representing a significant milestone in the globalization of cycling”. To support African cyclists in this event, the UCI WCC has initiated two programs focused on Rwanda and the African continent more broadly. “The aim of these programs is to develop better and more sustainable systems that can unleash the sporting potential that is often seen in cyclists from the African continent,” he said.
However, the primary goal of the program is to help individual athletes develop their talents and enjoy a successful career on the WorldTour circuit. As Phillips put it, “Our overall and most important goal is for the road and mountain bike programs to identify and develop athletes with potential and encourage them to sign up for a WorldTour team or professional mountain bike team. It is extremely gratifying to see former UCI WCC athletes continue their careers with teams in Europe and around the world.