British Cycling’s BMX Olympic Development Coach Jeremy Hayes has said nothing can prepare members of the Olympic Talent Team for the feeling they will experience when on the gate at the world championships this weekend.
For some of British Cycling’s youngest athletes this will be their first ever world championships and for all of them it will be their biggest ever race. But Hayes is confident that preparations at the European series two weeks previous has set the team in good stead.
“The European series was a good learning experience for the Talent Team – all of them are so used to competing at domestic events that they don’t feel the nerves often any more. But two weeks ago they felt those nerves again and the fact they had to deal with that so close to the World Championships is good.
“The world championships will phase them a little bit. I can say that from experience myself having raced at that level, I remember being absolutely overwhelmed by the roar of the crowd – and there’s no way you can prepare for that other than experience. It’s going to be something they have to deal with on the day. How they deal with that – we’ll see, but going to the Europeans beforehand has taken them through that process, the race was a big deal, probably the biggest they have ever been to and that process will be repeated in Birmingham at the Worlds.”
Hayes is also cautious about placing expectations of results on the young team and will go to the world championships with another process in place, one which focuses on performance over results.
“It was their first experience of travelling and competing as a team and we learned a lot from that trip. Some of these riders have only been on the Talent Team since October and I was very impressed with how they handled the experience acting professionally. The biggest credit to the Programme was when riders compared the experience to being on a regular Talent Team camp.
“On the track we had some bad luck and what some might say were bad results – but we look at the performances in combination with a plan that will deliver these riders as Olympic and World Champions in the future - not the results when they are 14-15 years old.
“The riders have expectations of themselves, the BMX community have expectations of them also; but how realistic are those expectations? At British Cycling we are not looking for podium performances at this stage and the European series was a perfect example of this.
“If we based our trip to the Europeans on the results every rider and coach would have been disappointed and fed up. But we returned from the track, reviewed the performance and took this in our stride without panicking.
“Quillan was probably the fastest rider in his class all weekend, but he made a mistake in the first turn being too cautious. The positives are that we know physically he is one of the fastest riders there. Paddy Sharrock has been focussing a lot on his gates and the first ten metres of the race which he has been struggling with, but in the race were really good. However, he was missing a bit of top end speed because of that training change. And at the start of the year Valerie Zebrakova was timid in the corners. At the Europeans she crashed because she was too aggressive in the corners. I’d rather that happen than she was cautious because you have to be aggressive in BMX racing.
“In their own way they all showed what we are doing in training is working well and that’s why we will take the same attitude to the World Championships.”