CYCLING: Train a young female cyclist

I previously wrote the evolution of competiting demands is often bad for the girls. Today, the coaching problematic in France is how to prepare the girls to move into the top category very (too) quickly. And above all, how to avoid the massive loss of female competitors in the transition to U18.

During an exchange with athletes on the choice of races during a training camp, we had detailed the different events accessible according to age.

It appears that a U14 cyclist has a huge panel of competitions compared to other categories:

  • The regional challenge to go in an inter-region final and maybe in a national final (not the French championship),
  • Local races,
  • French Cups,
  • National road cycling championship,
  • And of course, the opportunity to race during the cx or track season.

In the U16 category, the possibilities to race in France are :

  • Local U16 female races (very rare),
  • Mixt races with U16 boys,
  • French Cups,
  • National road cycling championship,
  • And of course, the opportunity to race during the cx or track season. So, a lower number of races.

In U18 :

  • Local U18 races (1 or 2 in the French Alps region),
  • Mixt races with adults,
  • National road cycling championship,
  • And for the most competitive, the Elite French Cups.

We can quickly notice the inadequacy of the number of races according to the age category, especially in U14 in comparison with the U18. A U14 is not really training from March to October. It should be noted in parallel that the physical demand is completely oversized.

Only the U16 category seems to benefit from a quantity and distances of races corresponding to the physiological characteristics of the age, but they race frequently with the U14 during the French Cups or the National.

All the young U14 are not ready for races of 25 to 30 miles and ride at high intensities because the Regional Challenge is on distances of 12-15 miles. There is little interest for the U14 who already have many races at their disposal to go with the U16.

I have in memory a U14 girl qualified on all the French Cups: she was the best U14 with great abilities and all goes well (no injury, no loss of motivation, no over-training) but this is a chance. Unfortunately, we do not train an athlete using the lucky factor.

For the U16 going to U18, we have the same problem with race distances 2 to 2.5 higher than that they usually raced (60-70 miles according to the elevation). If the new U18 is not prepared from the youngest categories, she will not end a race: what about her motivation? We observe a big loss of cyclists between the categories U16 tp U18.

The FFC should imagine races reserved for female juniors from 45 to 50 miles in order to create an additional step. Thus, we will keep the interest of racing in U18 with a larger pack (less defection) and elite races will be real elite races with the progressive professionalization of women's cycling.

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