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UCI Juniors Conference: advice from professionals for next generation of cycling




The Junior athletes competing this week in the UCI Road World Championships, received advice from more experienced cyclists who know exactly what it is like to be in their situation.

Three neo professionals, two of cycling’s greatest stars and a rider banned for trafficking doping substances were among the speakers at the now traditional UCI Juniors Conference.

All stressed that anyone wishing to turn professional must have a real love of and passion for cycling.

Young pros emphasise the importance of having fun

“If you are not having fun, it’s the wrong thing to do,” said former Junior Time Trial World Champion Bob Jungels. At 21, the Luxembourg athlete is a new member of Team RadioShack-Leopard. “It is life changing (turning professional),” he said. “There is more responsibility, you train more and it’s more serious. But you still need to have the passion.”

He was backed by 23-year-old South African rider Songezo Jim, member of MTN-Qhuebeka, and one of his country’s cycling pioneers. The first South African to ride the UCI WorldTour event Milan-San Remo, he stresses the need to keep feet firmly on the ground: “You can’t let yourself get big headed. Always have time for your family and your friends. And enjoy what you do.”

Meanwhile France’s Warren Barguil, who made a name for himself this year by winning two stages of the Vuelta a España riding for Team Argos-Shimano, explained that he turned down his first offers from professional teams: “It was clear to me that I needed an extra year to develop with the French team.”

Advice from Vos and Sagan

Among the favourites for this weekend’s road races at the UCI Road World Championships in Tuscany, Marianne Vos (Rabo Women Cycling Team) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) took time out from their preparation to talk to cycling’s next generation.

Olympic and World Champion, Vos told the young audience: “You can all be proud to be here and representing your country. You have done your training, you are prepared, and there is nothing more you can do for your race but enjoy being here. The theme today is ‘no stress’,” she reminded them. “Never forget why you started cycling. It’s because you like it!”

Meanwhile Sagan, who has achieved a great deal at just 23, said cycling was still a hobby that he enjoyed. “If you confront a race like it’s a war, it’s not a hobby any more. Who wants a gold medal in a war?”

Former young rider, Italian rider Gianni Da Ros talked about being banned from cycling by the Italian Olympic Committee in 2009 for trafficking doping substances. A record 20 year ban was later reduced to three years. However Da Ros fell into depression and even considered taking his life: “It destroyed my life. I had always dreamed of turning pro. It (the case) was in all the media and it was hard to reintegrate into society. People stopped talking to me. But then I thought very hard about why I had made those decisions and why I made those mistakes and I think I have become a better person,” said the former athlete who now works in Real Estate.

A party called Giro d’Italia

The Director of the Giro d’Italia, Michele Acquarone, talked about the joy of organising one of the world’s major cycling events and the love of his career: “It feels like being a party organiser,” he said. “There’s a party in May and it’s going to last three weeks. That’s just amazing.”

He added that he dreamed of having a women’s Giro d’Italia raced in parallel with the men’s event, “with the same roads, and the same finish lines on the same day.” It would take time but he had a team working on it and it would be great to see something in place by 2020, he said.

The UCI organised the Juniors Conference for the third time with the aim of giving young riders the chance to learn from the experiences of others, think about their futures and contribute to the development of cycling.

Photo: Young professionals Bob Jungels and Songezo Jim address the conference

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