Sport Directors in training at UCI World Cycling Centre
Forty-nine Sport Directors were in Aigle, Switzerland, last week to train and study for the UCI Sport Directors Diploma
Introduced in 2010, the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) training programme is available to Sport Directors (in French Directeur Sportif or DS) across all divisions as well as those aiming to join the profession. Participants who pass the written exam are awarded the UCI Sport Directors Diploma.
Sessions delivered by UCI staff and external experts covered topics such as team management and administration, UCI governance and judicial bodies, media, equipment and technical regulations as well as anti-doping regulations and obligations. Regarding actual race situations, the course covered race regulations and officiating, race organisation, the conduct of riders and race security.
Even the most experienced course participants appreciated the chance to get up to scratch with the latest regulations and DS techniques.
Belgium’s Axel Merckx, bronze medallist in the road race at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, quickly turned to a DS role after retiring from racing in 2007. The son of five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx is at the head of US development team Hagens Berman Axeon, which has been awarded UCI Professional Continental status for 2018.
“I certainly don’t know everything,” says the Belgian despite his nine years in the DS car. “The rules and regulations have evolved a lot and it’s good to have a reminder of the changes to refresh your memory and make sure you don’t get sloppy over the years!
“I wish I had had the opportunity to do this course when I started out. I learnt as I went, and I remember sitting in the car the first time and thinking ‘oh….’
“As a rider everything starts when you go to the car and get your bike. A DS must oversee the logistics, preparation, and mechanics beforehand.
“It has also been good to see how the UCI works,” he added. “There are so many things that as an athlete you don’t learn.”
Italian rider Valentina Scandolara agrees. Former medallist on the track and road at European and UCI World Championship level, Scandolara applied for the DS course while taking a break from riding to recover from a physical problem. She is one of six women who benefitted from a scholarship offered by the UCI to attend the course.
Now back in training and envisaging a return to competition, she says the course has been invaluable.
“I am learning many things that as a rider I didn’t know. As an athlete you’re in your bubble and you don’t appreciate other people’s jobs, the responsibilities they have and all they do for us.”
A psychology student, Scandolara particularly enjoyed the sessions dealing with team management and team meetings. She says men and women didn’t necessarily have the same approach, and in an ideal world there would be a male and a female DS for each team.
The Italian cyclist said she could envisage a career as DS when she retires from competition, and believes riders have the necessary baggage to take on the role.
“I think to be a DS you need to understand what the riders are going through, what it feels like when your legs are burning or you’re getting dropped on the last hill.”