Why Should You Attend a USA Cycling Regional Talent ID Camp?


by Andrea W. Doray
What three things do USA Cycling coaches, cyclists, and staff say young racers should do to develop their skills?
  1. Participate in USA Cycling Regional Talent ID Camps
  2. Participate in USA Cycling Regional Talent IDCamps
  3. Participate in USA Cycling Regional Talent IDCamps
Looks like it’s unanimous! USA Cycling Regional Talent ID Camps are a great way for young athletes racing age 14 to 19 years to develop their skills.

“The primary goal of the Talent ID Camps is to improve the skill sets of athletes to make them better racers,” says Jim Miller, vice president of athletics for USA Cycling.

Larry Nolan, manager of the USA Cycling West Coast Regional Talent ID Camp — held at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA (near San Jose) — agrees with Miller. “Athletes participate in Regional Talent ID Camps to take their racing to the next level,” says Nolan, a USA Cycling-certified coach.

According to Miller, USA Cycling sponsors an average of 14 Regional Talent ID Camps in the U.S. annually, each camp with an individual manager. “USA Cycling provides the course materials and the same curriculum for all of the Talent ID Camps,” says Miller, “so that the instruction at the camps is consistent across the country. Our camps provide racers with education on and off the bike, and instruct racers in proper techniques so that in real race situations, they have these skills to fall back on.”

Who can attend a USA Cycling Regional Talent ID Camp?

There are eligibility requirements other than age to determine who can attend a camp, including race results and participation in other USA Cycling activities. However, racers who don’t meet these automatic qualification standards can petition the camp manager to be admitted.

“I’ve already approved petitions for our upcoming west coast camp,” says Nolan, “because these riders didn’t have access to some of races needed to automatically qualify.”

Also, Nolan says, he gets participants from all over the country for his west coast camp. “We get inquiries from out of state every year,” says Nolan, “and we have a registrant from Pennsylvania already this year. Kids are still signing up.”

USA Cycling Regional Talent ID Camps include both male and female racers, although Nolan has more boys that girls in his camps, which he says reflects the population of USA Cycling racers. “We’d love to see young women join college or club teams and come to a camp. Female riders at this age can progress quickly to become world class in two to three years and race successfully as under-23 riders.”

In fact, both Nolan and Miller stress that not enough 19- to 22-year-old riders take advantage of the talent ID camps. “Athletes who played other sports in school can continue to develop cycling skills and race as under-23 riders,” says Nolan.

Why are these Talent ID Camps important to young USA Cycling racers?

Another reason eligible young cyclists flock to the Regional Talent ID Camps is because these camps are one step along USA Cycling’s National Development Pathway, which provides a structured step-by-step pathway to the top tier of the sport through athlete development.

“These young riders are jazzed when they come to camp,” says Nolan. “They are filled with the possibilities of their own development pathways.”

USA Cycling’s talent identification protocol is part of the camp process. Along with classroom instruction and on-the-bike skill training, campers participate in two field tests — a short course that helps coaches estimate VO2 maximums, and a long-course that helps establish the riders’ thresholds. This data helps both camp coaches and USA Cycling national coaches compare riders across the camps using similar information.

The best riders as determined through this process, usually about 25 to 30 racers, may then qualify for USA Cycling’s National Talent ID Camp held in Colorado Springs or San Diego, be selected to represent the U.S. in an international competition, or attend one of the USA Cycling European Race Camps.

USA Cycling’s Jim Miller stresses that, at this level, all the racers are on a level playing field again. “A rider may have been the best racer from his or her Regional Talent ID Camp, but not be among the best of the 25 at the National Talent ID Camp,” says Miller.

What’s encouraging, though, says Larry Nolan, is that USA Cycling keeps the individual rider data and tracks his or her progress as they mature and continue on their development pathways.

So, what is a day in the life of a camper really like?

Larry Nolan laughs when asked that question. “Racers will look at the schedule and think there are no fun things to do…just work!” says Nolan. However, campers do have fun as they get to know each other and participate in the relays and other activities. “During our camp,” Nolan says, “we’ll be streaming the Tour de France live which is great for these riders. Sometimes we take a field trip to the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame. Mike McCarthy, from the 1996 Olympic team, spoke to the group about how ‘trying harder’ got him there…kids love that.”

Nolan says that he and his other coaches tell camp participants that they use the skills they came in with and take those skills up a notch. “In 2012, our theme was to raise skill levels to increase safety,” says Nolan. “Our young riders need to understand and practice three essential skill levels to race safely: basic, intermediate, and advanced.”

Basic skills, says Nolan, include those for racers riding alone such as bike handling and cornering. Intermediate skills include those for racing with another rider, and advanced skills are “basic skills with speed and other people!” says Nolan.

“European riders have already raced on their roads,” adds Nolan, “and are extremely skilled athletes. When we sent our cyclists to our European race camps, we want them to have the advanced skills to hold their positions, maneuver, and advance safely and successfully.”

How do the participants view their Talent ID Camp experiences?

Jack Maddux, who attended Larry Nolan’s west coast camp in 2011, says the most important things he wanted to get out his participation there were “a good performance so I could go to national camp, and to meet new friends and become better acquainted with the coaches.”

Maddux seems to have succeeded in both of his goals. Because of his performance and the field tests, he was selected to attend the USA Cycling National Talent ID Camp. And, as Maddux says, “I believe my hard efforts at camp put me in a better place to go to Europe [USA Cycling European Race Camps] and puts me on the USA Cycling radar.”

Maddux says his favorite part of his camp experience was the field testing. “I love the pain and suffering of training and competing; my least favorite part would be the long classes!”

Marcus Smith started at the West Coast Talent ID Camp and progressed so quickly that he was selected to attend a more advanced Southwest camp after only two years. There, Smith says, “I did really well in the tests and some of the coaches saw my skills. I was invited to the 15-16 European Race Camp in Belgium two months later. If I hadn’t participated in these camps, I would not have been selected for the Belgium trip; besides, camp is a fun time and it really motivates me to train. I have made friends at these camps from different states. It’s really encouraging to have these friends and competitors push me in training even though they are far away.”

Smith’s goals for his camp experience were similar to Jack Maddux’s: Perform well in field tests, make connections with coaches, and learn from “real pros” who help out as assistants at the camps. “I find I make progress with assistant coaches who critique us on skills and tactics,” says Smith.

What can all participants in USA Cycling Regional Talent ID Camps expect?

“Education, first and foremost,” says Jim Miller. “Going to national competitions or to a European racing camp are not the only reasons to participant in a Regional Talent ID Camp, because not everyone is going to go. Education is the primary component. No matter what level of skills you have, you will leave Regional Development Camp a better bike racer with knowledge you didn’t have before.”

Marcus Smith also offered a fourth favorite piece of his USA Cycling Regional Talent ID Camp experiences: “Having FUN!”
NOTE: Regional Talent ID Camps are registering now!

Stay up-to-date on camp activity by following the Regional Talent ID Camps on Facebook!

About the author: Andrea W. Doray is a writing rider/riding writer based in Denver. The last time she attended camp, she carved animals out of bars of soap, a suggestion the Regional Development Camp managers have not grabbed onto yet. Doray may be reached at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

This Article Updated May 5, 2016 @ 03:10 PM For more information contact: