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 cyclingâs 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
âIf you are not having fun, itâs the wrong thing to do,â said former Junior Time Trial World Champion Bob Jungels. At 21, the Luxembourg athlete is a new member of Team RadioShack-Leopard. âIt is life changing (turning professional),â he said. âThere is more responsibility, you train more and itâs more serious. But you still need to have the passion.â
He was backed by 23-year-old South African rider Songezo Jim, member of MTN-Qhuebeka, and one of his countryâs 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: âYou canât let yourself get big headed. Always have time for your family and your friends. And enjoy what you do.â
Meanwhile Franceâs Warren Barguil, who made a name for himself this year by winning two stages of the Vuelta a EspaÃ±a riding for Team Argos-Shimano, explained that he turned down his first offers from professional teams: âIt was clear to me that I needed an extra year to develop with the French team.â
Advice from Vos and Sagan
Among the favourites for this weekendâs 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 cyclingâs next generation.
Olympic and World Champion, Vos told the young audience: âYou 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 âno stressâ,â she reminded them. âNever forget why you started cycling. Itâs because you like it!â
Meanwhile Sagan, who has achieved a great deal at just 23, said cycling was still a hobby that he enjoyed. âIf you confront a race like itâs a war, itâs not a hobby any more. Who wants a gold medal in a war?â
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: âIt 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,â said the former athlete who now works in Real Estate.
A party called Giro dâItalia
The Director of the Giro dâItalia, Michele Acquarone, talked about the joy of organising one of the worldâs major cycling events and the love of his career: âIt feels like being a party organiser,â he said. âThereâs a party in May and itâs going to last three weeks. Thatâs just amazing.â
He added that he dreamed of having a womenâs Giro dâItalia raced in parallel with the menâs event, âwith the same roads, and the same finish lines on the same day.â 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