Speed, mud and mountains are what you get on a Wiggle Project 2018 Mountain Bike camp with Welsh Cycling!
Over Easter, Welsh youth mountain bikers enjoyed two mid-week camps at Margam Country Park, developing their skills, benefitting from structured training sessions and competing against their rivals. Welsh Cycling’s Assistant Coach Anthony O’Boyle, leads on mountain bike activities in Wales, preparing youth riders to compete in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and beyond.
“The camp environment allows the riders to concentrate on their cycling. There are no distractions; it’s just them and their bikes. We also have regular led rides in North and South Wales, as well as all-Wales rides where the riders come together every few weeks for skills sessions and trail rides. But a camp lets us coaches see who has been practicing their skills at home!”
The action begins with a morning ride to open up the legs, on the trails around Margam Park allowing the coaches to gage where the riders are at, and who’s been practicing. This Easter, there was also an opportunity from Neath Port Talbot Council for the youth riders to ride the newly built racing circuit in Margam Country Park, not yet open to the public.
“The young riders aspire to be world class athletes, competing on the best trails in the world and standing on the top step of the podium. It’s our job to give them all the opportunities we can to help them achieve their goals. Riding the new race course, which has been built to a world class standard, shows the riders what to expect and they can start working towards it.
We looked at riding the A lines, and the riders were coached down the drops and along the technical sections. They can see what is required to get round the course safely, but also use their skills to do it quickly.”
But the learning doesn’t stop on the trails, back at the Discovery Centre accommodation there are skills sessions in the car park with tasks at different levels of difficulty. The riders not only test themselves, but find the limits of their bike snaking between cones and crouching down to pick up water bottles; even unscrewing dust caps whilst still on their bikes. And there’s the all-important bike clean before bed, no-one wants to ride a bike caked in mud!
There’s an abundance of mountains in Wales, sprinkled with trail centres and facilities waiting for riders to explore. The Wiggle Project 2018 Camp moved on to Afan for a trail ride on W2, getting a good ride in their legs and putting their newly learnt skills into practice.
There was also an opportunity between rain showers to head into the Bike Park after lunch to hone in on balancing skills. Rock gardens and log runs get the riders practicing on different terrain, but develop their bike balance with the challenge of not putting your feet on the ground.
“It’s important the riders get as many chances as possible to practice their skills, they are evident in all good mountain bikers. Balancing on logs, cornering sessions and technical hill climbs challenge the riders but give them the skills to cope in race situations. Hopping over rocks, keeping momentum through corners could be crucial in securing a podium spot in a competition.”
As the camp draws to a close, the skills are put to the test in Dirt Crits on sections of the World Cup circuit within Margam Country Park. The twisting technical course and steep hill climb create an interesting course and to add to the challenge race scenarios are thrown at riders; puncture, change the wheel, return to the group. It makes the rider think, and change the race tactics.
“Racing is what all training culminates in. Closing the camp with Dirt Crits and time trials lets the riders put everything they have learnt into practice. It’s also a bit of fun, competing against their peers, they all want to be the best it’s good to see some friendly rivalry.”
Wiggle Project 2018 aims to develop young athletes in road, track and mountain bike in preparation for competition at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and beyond. To get involved as an athlete, volunteer or coach, contact Ian Jenkins Wiggle Project 2018 Development Officer firstname.lastname@example.org
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