PEZ At the Movies: A Week with the UCI World Cycling Centre
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), cycling’s official governing body, is often derided for its conservative approach to new technology and arcane and complex rules, notably on sock height and handlebar position. However, there is much more to the UCI than this and Wahoo recently partnered with the organization to present the activities of the UCI’s World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland.
To celebrate its centenary in 2002, the UCI opened the World Cycling Centre (or Centre Mondial du Cyclisme in the official French), a coaching and training facility adjacent to the UCI’s headquarters near the Rhone River. Every year, the WCC hosts athletes from around the world to experience its innovative capabilities, including an indoor velodrome and a BMX racing track, to help them further develop their athletic abilities. Around 100 athletes attend each year across four Olympic disciplines (road, track, mountain biking, and BMX) and more than a few participants have gone on to notable cycling careers, including Chris Froome, Daniel Teklehaimnot and Victoria Pendleton. With Wahoo’s dedication to building better athletes and the establishment of its own Sports Science Center in Boulder, Colorado in 2022, it was felt that this insight into the UCI’s training program would be complementary and enlightening.
The Wahoo X application has dedicated training sections in its SYSTM component, along with virtual racing in RGT. Included in SYSTM is the series “A Week With…”, which allows users to spend a virtual week with some noted cycling celebrities (Phil Gaimon, Ian Boswell, Neal Henderson) while doing a matched training sequence. “A Week with the UCI World Cycling Centre” is not focused on an individual but on the different cycling disciplines covered.
After opening with a brief introduction, the series begins with a tour of the Centre’s quite impressive facilities, hosted by the Director of the Centre, Canadian Jacques Landry. Included is a tour of the UCI’s offices, where management of international cycling in all its forms (eight disciplines in all) takes place. One of the functions of the International Affairs section is to respond to requests from national federations for equipment, often a real challenge for racers in developing nations. There are around 150 UCI employees, with 35-40 directly involved with the World Cycling Centre. In addition to the training of athletes, there are programs for mechanics, coaches and commissaires as well.
The tour continues past a attractive exhibition on the Tour de France on the edges of the velodrome and continues past the restaurant where the athletes spend mealtimes but which is also open to the public (and M. Landry highly recommends the risotto). Then on past the gym to the mechanics’ room, which is very well-equipped. Athletes are expected to participate in maintenance of their bicycles as part of their training, and even help out with washing the eight vehicles, including three big equipment vans, used to support the racers.
Using the app for training you will have had an easy time so far but the third episode of the series takes one to the velodrome for a training session. At the time it was built, the UCI’s budget did not allow for a longer track so this one is 200 m in length (versus the typical 250 m found at Olympic and World Championship venues). The velodrome is open to the public at specific times and the UCI offers “introduction to track racing” days.
The velodrome episode is typical of the remainder as there are comments by the coach or performance director and then the various young athletes discuss their own histories and goals for the program. The aim of of WCC is not to be a “medal factory,” although high-level performance is welcome, but rather to see a progress by the athletes from their arrival in the first quarter to the end of the program in September/October each year. Athletes are selected both on the recommendation of national federations but also through the UCI’s own consideration of athletes at national championships.
Episode 4, at nearly 90 minutes is a real legbreaker/lungbuster, as it is about a day out training with the UCI Women’s Cycling Team, a Continental-level squad. The video really illustrates the multi-national nature of the UCI’s activities as the Spanish coach shepherds her charges—riders from Japan, Belarus, Colombia, South Africa, Argentina and Eritrea—up a great big climb from Vionnaz to Torgon at a team time trial pace followed by a race simulation up to the Torgon ski resort.
The fifth episode of the series covers BMX training on the dedicated facility at the WCC. Anyone unfamiliar with BMX racing will be impressed by the difficulty of this sport and the power the athletes need to develop at launch. The video is filled with flying riders and violent starts and stops. Entertaining but makes you a bit breathless.
Even more of a breath-taker is the final episode, which covers a brutally technical mountain bike course in Italy. It covers two laps of the La Tuile course, with both the men and women in action. As the coach points out there is a big difference between riding a course and racing one. La Thuile is at a level higher than most of the participants have ridden in their time at the WCC and this video is probably as close as one can get to an MTB race without actually signing up.
The framework of “A Week with the UCI World Cycling Centre” is that you are a prospective training candidate getting to know the place and all this is on offer. Not only does it cover the different disciplines on offer but it is a surprisingly comprehensive view of all the UCI does in the training sphere, with not only the athletes and coaches spotlighted but many of the vital support people—the Mexican chief mechanic; the Swiss soigneur; the restaturant chef; and the person running the guesthouse where the riders are accommodated. Sure, there is plenty of good training here through Wahoo SYSTM (4 hours and 40 minutes in all over the six episodes) but kudos should be given to the UCI for finding a nice way to promote the WCC.
- “A Week with the UCI World Cycling Centre” is available only through the Wahoo SYSTM app. For more information and a 14 day free trial, go to: wahoofitness.com/systm
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