January is the month when I finally realise that the new season is
knocking at our front door and it
January is the month when I finally realise that the new season is
knocking at our front door and itís time to get things moving.
Itís time to start looking forward to the good races, the up- and
downfall of riders and so on. But for many people this started a long time ago.
For example Bernard Moerman, director sportif and manager of the Cycling
Center/ABC-Aitos team this started when the 2002 season was still full on.
Thatís the time of the first person to apply for being part of the
Cycling Center in 2003. We managed
to talk to Bernard now that he finally managed to make his final decision on
whoís in and whoís not.
could you tell us a bit how the selection went for 2003?
It was the hardest
selection since we started the Cycling Center. We had applications already since
may 2002 and there are still applications coming in. Until now more then 140
applications came in. That made the selection process very difficult. As always
we want to select as fair and honest possible, so we had to go over the
applications and additional questions and resumes and recommendations over and
over again. I tried to tell all the riders being selected or not selected is not
a matter of being good or not, itís a result of many criteria.
anyone apply or are there any requirements like being a cat 1 or minimum and
Letís say you need
to be between 20 and 25-26 to come here the first time. We donít look to much
at categories because over the years we learned this is not waterproof. The list
of cat 3 riders who ended up doing very well is big, but the list with cat 1
riders who hardly finished a big race is also big. The problem with lots of cat
1ís is that they think they will come over and kick ass right away.
Those guys get a mental chock when they hit reality. Lots of those cat 2
and 3ís are mentally prepared much better to suffer like a beaten dog.
us a bit more about those criteria and the selection mode
We start from the
vision that everybody who is applying should see the CC as a steppingstone in
his career. That means he wants to improve and develop.
For a lot of riders itís their first time in Europe and their first
time they race full-time so the mental part is as much key as the physical
abilities or results in the past. We look at points like age towards how many years you do road
racing. For example: a cat 2 of 24
years old racing only 2 years and done about 30 races might have more chance to
be selected then a 23 year-old cat 1 who is racing already 7 years with no major
We also check the
racing and other-sports background: meaning what was the sport before cycling:
mountain bike, cyclo-cross, track, running, skiing, swimming,Ö..
What is the support form the home-front, does he live in a very
supportive family area where they do whatever it takes to help him, or does he
have to scrape every penny together himself since he lives on his own already
for years. Did he ever live with
other people for a bit of time or will that be his first time.
What is the trainings load he does normally, is he coached, is he
following the advice of his coachÖÖ
The answers on those
type of questions result in some sort of pre-selection. In the meantime I try to
check the guys out by asking our network in the US about them.
This results in a pre-selection list and then we start asking additional
questions and start selecting.
who is selected for 2003.
As you know we have
several riders coming back: Pete
Germer and Corey Steinbrecher. Together with Eric
Keim, they will form the Ďback-boneí and race here the full-season.
Classics-program we have: Matt
Lanoue and Trevor
Collegiate-program we have: Jeff Via, Sean
Sandifer and Aaron
come you have three types of programs? Wouldn't it be better to let them
stay the whole year?
No, and there are two
reasons for this:
1. Our own experience
learned us that coming over for the first time for a full season needs a lot of
courage and mental strength. You need to know that a new rider in his first time
here needs on average about 4 to 6 weeks before he is at his full strength
(Jet-lag, sickness, race-speed etc etc).
2. Since we work more
and more with the USCF U23-team Iím asked to have more riders of about 20 and
21 years old. So that Noel can test them here and see what they have in this
Gregg and Jed getting ready for a hard race with the National team (www.cyclingcenter.com)
To explain why this
is better, I first need to explain what the general approach looks like.
We want our set-up to grow to a situation like this: we have about 18
places to stay. 6 to 8 places for guys for the full season, 6 places for
guys for the first half of the season and 6 places for rider who will be here
the second half of the season and 6 places for guys who'll come for about 8 to
10 weeks. Youíll understand that only guys who were in Europe before can be
selected for the full-season. This way young riders can really learn what it is
all about over here at their own pace. When at the time they are
here they develop well, Noel can select them to race for the National
In this set-up riders
can grow to the maximum of their potential in a few years and if good enough
they are seen by the good pro-teams in Europe and the US.
have told us a lot about the U23 team already but what
is the difference for young riders racing with the U23 team or racing with
Basically you can put
it that way: the U23 set-up selects on results and the Cycling Center selects on
potential growth and development. So for riders from who it is obvious they are
talented, the National U23 Team is a logic step to see how far they can get on
the International level. For all the others plus those who are a little older
(Collegiate riders , etc) the Cycling Center can be a perfect platform.
Since both Noel and
our goal is the same: bringing young riders to their limits we try to
co-ordinate as much as possible our international race-schedule. That way we can
test the riders and the riders can expose themselves to the international
pro-racing level. Donít forget that we both do lots of 1.5, 2.5 , 1.6, 2.6,
1.12, 2.12 UCI-races all over Europe.
is the added value for riders coming back for a second season.
Well the biggest
added value is that then they really know what to expect. Like I said before,
pretty much every time the riders are not prepared for the racing here. They are
not ready to race all the time at least for 3 hours per race. So after the
first stay here they understand the importance of a good and adequate
season-preparation. Then they are guided by our Team-doctor Dr. Dag Van Elslande
to have a good winter-program to be ready for the bigger distances. Another
advantage is that the returning riders know the races and some of the opponents.
So the racing gets familiar for them.
this the reason why you call them Ďthe Backboneí?
Yes, they are my
experienced riders who know how to fight the wars. And in the peloton they can
guide the new CC-members, so then it becomes a little more easy for those
youngsters. They are also the living proof for the youngsters that our program
works. Because in the beginning we do not let the young riders race to often. We
first let them train hard so that we are sure they can finish the races. For us
it is not important how many races you started it is important how races you
finished and then later what place you finished. Those
backbone riders also are
experienced in how life is in Europe, they have travelled and raced already in
that mean that the ĎBackboneí-riders do all the nice big races?
No, nobody is
automatically selected for any kind of race. The selection for every race is
made by the staff considering the type of race, the actual fitness for the
riders and those type of things. I think lots of people in the US do not
understand that in our program we do about 15 races of the level of Housatonic
and about 35 of the level of Univest. So the guys need to be prepare and ready
to go otherwise they die in those races.
of Univest, how come if your riders do about 35 races like Univest that they
didnít finish at the top-places
You mean the result
of our riders wasnít good. I understand that point of view when you look
in the results of the race. The way I see it is this: at that time I only had 3
backbone riders there, because two got sick and one had travel-problems . So the
3 backbone riders did in the 20 days prior to Univest between 4 and 8 UCI 1.5
races in France, Belgium and Germany that means almost every other day a race of
level Housatonic and travelling lots of miles and flying back to the US and
travel again to Univest. At that time the riders were pretty tired, but the
team-doctor, the team-caoch and I knew that so that was no problem. But what was
very good for us is that 3 weeks later when those guys were medically tested
again they all showed to be very good recuperated already.
So we never look at
one result at its own, I always look for the overall picture. And
allow me to say, far to much young American riders only look for the one
result. Far to much times I hear or
read from rider applying for a place at the CC, in race so and so I beat Danny
Pate or I finished in the pack next to Chris Baldwin or in the TT of stage race
so and so I was 10th where Mike Creed was 13th. As long as
I donít know what you did the days and weeks before and after that specific
results and I donít know what those named riders did, that place or result
doesnít mean much to me. For the same reason, the general picture.
Another example, Tom
Boonen, everybody knows him now because of his 3th place in Paris-Roubaix. Does
this mean that he is seen as a top-rider, no. He now is considered as a prospect
to become one. Why is this, well we need more time to have a good general
picture. I have a saying for this situation:
need luck to get to a certain level,
you need to be good and work
hard to stay at that level.
you cannot build a career on luck.
always talk about development, improvement and general picture,
does that mean
that results are not important?
Not at all, but you
need to see everything in the right perspective. There are several levels:
First, you need to be
able to finish a Kermis of 3 hours, then you need to be able to finish a UCI
race of about 150-160 km (4 hours), then you need to race a Kermis and finish
top-20, then finish a UCI-race of about 200 km (5 hours) and then race the UCI
Ėraces and so on.
So after a while
results become important but always related to the general picture.
Thatís also the way
the pro-scouts scan all the riders. They relate the results of the riders.
To give you an
example, last season Pete Barlin finished in France twice top 5 in two UCI
pro-am races where he was the only amateur in that top-5. That is seen for sure,
if he can improve these results this year, well that is stuff for his resume
that will be seen by the real scouts. Donít forget that lots of those proís
have done races like the Giro or the Dauphinť or even the Tour de Lance the
years before. So we are racing between the big dogs.
you afraid that those Ďbackboneí-riders only ride for themselves and
just think about their results?
No, since the level
is so high they know they can use any help from the team-mates.
They know what I mean
when I say Ďcycling is a team-sport till 50 meters from the finishí. Look at Lance, by far
one the best riders in the world. But it would be way harder to win the tour if
he didnít have such a top-level team.
Looking at your selection, there are a lot of unknown riders.
Donít they need
to have a certain level before they come over, even for the first time?
We do not
necessarily end up with the Ďbestí guys result-wise, or the most known-guys
Not at all. I donít want a rider who thinks he knows it all because he
won some races in the US. We want to work hard with guys who are ready to find
out if they can still improve and develop. So for us it is way more important to
find the guys that still can and want to grow instead of finding guys who may
have already some successes but who are about 5 to 10% from their max.
Could that be the reason why some riders donít come over, being afraid to find
out that they are close to their limits?
Might be, or maybe
they just think short-term. Some of those young guys make some money and are
pleased with that situation. So maybe they donít want to take the risk to get
beaten over here. And itís not
because you are a good rider that you are ready to live a certain time far away
from your familiar environment.
I can think that this
is a waste of talent, but after all itís the rider who needs to know what he
wants to achieve short-term and long-term, not me.
Another reason is
that some riders want to come but are not allowed from their US-team.
I cannot say anything
about that, a contract is a contract. When you sign that contract that means you
agree with all the proís and conís. Again it all comes down to what the
rider wants to achieve in cycling. We say you cannot eat out of two spoons.
The Daily Peloton will be following the Cycling Center
closeby as already mentioned before and so every month you will find a special
feature besides the normal diaries. A little peek on what's to come in a
few weeks: winter preperations!
And here are the links to the previous features on the
it all began - 22nd May 2002
A day at the
races: Antwerpen-Tielen - 25th August 2002
Bernard Moerman - 6th September 2002 (FAQ's from the chat session)
also the first Cycling Center diary of the year: Pete
Barlin - 5th January 2003