British Cycling has set up its second mainland European training base for the 2017 season, with a house in Belgium to complement the one in northern Italy.
The national governing body’s men’s Senior Academy spent the majority of the 2016 season based in the small Italian town of Montichiari, and BC had been actively looking for a second location on the continent.
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They were reluctant to set up another base near to the current one, as all disciplines and squads utilise it.
The option of acquiring a set-up in northern Europe was influenced by the fact that there is a greater number of races accessible from there, particularly for the women’s team where they can race more often against quality riders.
As a result, the women’s senior academy – of which there will be eight riders, including Megan Barker, sister of Olympic team pursuit gold medal winner Elinor – will be based in Belgium the most often.
Ian Yates, BC’s performance pathway manager, said: “While the women’s Senior Academy squad will spend a lot of time there, the base will also serve to benefit other programmes and disciplines.
“The base in Italy has been a success for the men’s senior academy and the progress of the riders, both in terms of their cycling performance, but also their personal development has been encouraging to see and is something we are aiming to build on in Belgium.”
The eight riders on the women’s senior academy have already enjoyed success prior to next season’s calendar, with the opening two rounds of this winter’s Track World Cups seeing GB top the medal table. Success has come largely from the younger riders, and members of the aforementioned programme.
“The women’s endurance squad has made real progress over the last 12 months. We have identified the importance of continuing to expose the riders to a world class standard of road racing and this base in Belgium gives us the opportunity to do that,” Chris Newton, the women’s endurance coach, commented.
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Despite greater accessibility to U23 European races and the fact that a similar, previous Italian base helped in the development of Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas, the first year of the current Italian camp wasn’t without its problems.
Only two of eight riders on the 2016 men’s endurance squad – Matt Rostock and Joe Holt – will continue through to 2017. The pair of Ollie Wood and Mark Stewart have progressed to the Podium Programme, but Gabriel Cullaigh, Nathan Draper, Joey Walker and Matt Gibson have all left.
Yates told Cycling Weekly magazine in October that the base did have its “teething problems”. He said: “It’s a combination of factors; some of them have decided to pursue other things, some of it is maybe they didn’t feel like the programme was best suited to them, and I think some of it, in fairness, is that it’s a bloody hard programme. It isn’t going to suit everyone.”
The Italian house – which is close to a velodrome that BC have almost unlimited access to – wasn’t equipped with WiFi, something that will change for 2017. “We’ll be in a really good place next year. That first year was always going to have teething problems,” Yates added.