Before winning the GP of Zurich last August, the Namibian Raul Costa had been discovered by the World Cycling Centre (WCC) during a training camp at its South African base. This sort of camp, open to numerous African countries, had already led to other discoveries, such as Tanzaniaâs Richard Laizer, now a member of the reserve team attached to Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung.
To keep up the momentum, new athletes are currently (October 1st â 15th) on a camp in Potchesfroom (South Africa), the WCCâs African base.
"The common objective for our riders is to increase their level", explains Andrew Smith, coach with the WCC in Africa. âThey will get experience at some local races and prepare the African Continental Championships."
The participants, aged 18 to 26, number sixteen and represent ten countries: South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Sierra Leone, the Seychelles, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Some of them had already taken part in the detection camp in Babati (Tanzania) from May 25th to June 2nd. âWe will see how they have progressed since then under their national coaches, who also learned from the training camp in Tanzania,â says Smith.
The coach will test the traineesâ power measures at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of their stay in Potchesfroom in order to evaluate their physiological progress.
âThis is the first time we have been able to afford such a scientific testing programme,â says the Centreâs Director Jean-Pierre Van Zyl.
The young athletes will not only improve physically, but also technically and tactically, as the WCC in Africa teaches the athletes âall the basics of cycling.â The best of them can then travel to the WCC in Aigle (Switzerland) for a more advanced training course.
In the meantime, the 16 young talents will test their progress at local competitions such as the Jakaranda Satellite Classic on October 19th. Van Zyl doesnât expect his riders to be at the forefront for that, but is working hard to ensure that it will soon be the case. âSome trainees are beginners, some are at a level that is OK, and some will be able to follow the main peloton at the next race. But at the end of the training camp we expect all our riders be part of the first group.â
Young Africans in the lead of the race: it is not just a concrete sporting goal, but a metaphor symbolising the rise of African cycling over the last few years.