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(SNO) – The Junior Track World Championships are getting underway this weekend, and among the scores of young riders at the Aigle World Cycling Center will be a pair of Saint Lucians, Jessie Mentor and Kluivert Mitchell.
The latter, who just turned 18, was recently featured in Le Temps magazine.
The World Cycling Center is home to 40 to 50 talents from countries around the world. A dozen of them participate until Sunday at the Junior World Championships. Kluivert, tall and lithe, will on Monday fly home to Saint Lucia, a small English-speaking Caribbean island just south of Martinique, but by then, the young man of 18 years intends to show what he is capable of. He has never worked as hard as in recent weeks. Since the beginning of June, he has been one of the world’s talents invited by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to an intensive course at the foot of the Alps.
Since its inauguration in 2002, the World Cycling Center serves both as a headquarters for the International Federation, as a training base for many Swiss and foreign athletes, and as a performance centre for the most promising young people from countries that can not compete.
“We bring riders from all over the world, but especially from developing cycling nations,” explains Frédéric Magné, WCC director, in his office overlooking the mountains. In France, Italy or Spain, riders have the necessary resources to develop. We try to help riders from Africa, Asia, Central and South America. ”
In fifteen years, the World Cycling Center has welcomed some 1500 young people aged 17 to 24 from 140 countries. There are constantly between 40 and 50 in Aigle, all disciplines combined (road, track, BMX, mountain bike), and they remain between one month and two years. Experience seems to pay: former trainees cumulate more than 50 world titles, ensures Frédéric Magné.
Kluivert is anxious. Amongst the chunky South Koreans with huge thighs and the tiny South Americans, his 196-centimeter stands out. His name, derived from a famous Dutch fooballers, marked him for the beautiful game, his height for the basketball courts. But in Saint Lucia, the young giant has never really dreamed of either the Champions League or the NBA. “I tried basketball, of course,” he drawls. But you know, with these balls you keep twisting your fingers. Naaah, it was not for me. ”
His thing was always the bike. He started with BMX and mountain biking before, one day, trying his luck on road cycling. Like that. Alone. Certainly not pushed by his parents, strangers to this sport, even less inspired by local heroes who do not exist. “Actually, my mother was even opposed to me riding a bike, because she was worried about me,” he slips, repressing a smile. And in Saint Lucia, we have to be 20 to compete … If there ever was a great rider at home, we never spoke to them.”
So Kluivert Mitchel thinks it could be him. On the track or on the road, which latter is his preference. Like his idols Peter Sagan and Tom Dumoulin, he sees himself shine on the Tour de France. “I’ll probably be there someday,” he says distractedly as he looks at his cell phone.
For many, they are not so much at home. Of all the participants at the World Junior Track Championships, which run until Sunday, there are more than a dozen from eight countries far from being major cycling nations (Thailand, Malaysia, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Chile, South Africa, Algeria) who have come to live on Vaud soil for a few months. Before landing at Aigle, Kluivert Mitchel had never rode on a wooden velodrome, and he is not the only one.
“In South Africa, we do not have a real culture of track cycling,” says Ricardo Broxham, restoring the wick that falls on his eyes. I come from a club that is trying to develop it, but we do not have a wooden velodrome either, and what I’m looking for here are the exceptional training conditions. ”
All cohabit with athletes from other specialties on the My Stay property, a former 90-bed girls boarding school converted into a talent nursery. “It’s a nice place to have a good time together, but where there is a lot of respect for each other’s privacy,” says Catalina Soto. “There is sometimes time to play a board game,” says Kluivert Mitchel.
“The cultural mix is exceptional because of the diversity of trainees’ origins,” says Frédéric Magné. Our work is very rewarding, because we train, we develop, but we also educate. “From the prevention against doping to the requirements of the high level and the specificities of the road in Switzerland, all topics are spent. But sometimes cultural shock leads to incongruous situations, as when a few trainees are arrested as they prepare to jump on the highway. They did not have the experience of lanes prohibited to cyclists.”
All of the young interns we met with assure us that they will not be the same athletes after they come to Aigle, as they have discovered about themselves, about training methods and a lot more.