They come from Russia, Indonesia, Venezuela, Japan and Zimbabwe but for the next few months their home is Switzerland. More precisely the World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, where they have embarked on a long-term training camp.
âIt is already a very united group,â comments WCC Coach Thomas Allier. âThey are at different levels but the stronger riders can push the others higher.â
The stronger riders include Venezuelaâs Stefany Fernandez and Japanâs Yoshi Nagasako. Already familiar with the WCC, they have considerable international experience.
Coaching from a distance
The two Indonesians Elga Kharisma and Toni Syarifudin, have been coming to the WCC for the last two years for short periods only. In between Allier coached from a distance, sending training programmes and correcting them by watching their videos.
âIt wasnât as effective as if they were here but they have still progressed. They canât get to the track every day where they live but now they can train more intensely with us.â
And above all, race.
For regardless of their objectives, which range from National Championships to Rio 2016, the athletes will benefit from the high level of competition in Europe to sharpen their skills, strength and speed.
âThe level at the European Championships is very high,â explains Allier, who took all but two of his trainees to the first two rounds near Dijon (France) at the weekend. Toni Syarifudin and Zimbabweâs Penias Tenthani stayed behind to get in some more training before affronting such tough competition.
Racing for experience
Up against the likes of double Olympic Champion Maris Strombergs and former World Champion and Olympic finalist Shanaze Reade, the young WCC trainees were there above all for the experience.
The best result came from Stefany Hernandez, who made the semi-finals on both days. After competing in the London Olympics, she took a break and should be very pleased with her return to competition, according to Allier.
Meanwhile Yoshi, who was already strong last year but broke his wrist in the run-up to the London Olympics, has set Rio 2016 as his long-term goal. This year he will compete in the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, the Japanese National Championships at the beginning of July and the World Championships in New Zealand a few weeks later.
He made the quarter-finals both days in France. âYoshi improved race after race,â observes Allier. âRacing in Europe helps him a lot but one bad gate and one mistake on the second day stopped him in the quarter-finals both times. But it was a very encouraging performance and he has a true potential to do well in the near future.â
Russian athlete a revelation
For Allier, the revelation of the weekend was Evgeny Kleshcenko. One of two Russian athletes spotted at a development camp last September, his big goal of the season is the World Cup round in Papendal, the Netherlands, mid-June.
Finishing in the 1/8 finals both days, âEvgeny showed us his determination and capacity to race at the highest level.â
It is high praise indeed from his coach, himself a former World Champion. But, in true competitive spirit, the young Russian is not entirely satisfied.
âI would have liked to go through to the semi-finals. I felt good in training and I know Iâm getting better but I want to race better. I will have to work on the mental side too. I think that is a weak point.â
Allier sums up the weekendâs competition: âWe have a very young group of riders with great potential but most lack experience. They will be racing as often as possible to gain that experience for the rest of the season.â
Next stop: the BMX Swiss Cup in Geneva this weekend.
Photo: Training on the BMX Supercross track at the World Cycling Centre