This week Furman University is housing 25 young riders that are part of the USA Cycling Development camps being conducted in various locations across the country. The purpose of these camps is to teach the riders skills, but also to help identify candidates for national team selection. To be invited a rider must submit a résumé and already have racing experience. While there are some fundamentals being taught, the training is rigorous. Carolina Cycling News sat down with the head coach of the Greenville camp, Richard Dunn, who with his coaches had just conducted some interval testing on one of the few flat roads in the Upstate. The training ride then headed into the surrounding hills of Saluda, North Carolina and the day’s total ride hovered around the 80 mile mark.
The week is filled with valuable training. Sunday was the first day of camp and a ride to shake out the legs from travel. Monday was two power tests: a five and 20 minute effort up Caesars Head. Tuesday skills and drills session followed that night by racing at the Donaldson Center. Wednesday more drills and a light ride. Thursday flat road repeats with a ride in the mountains. Friday morning the riders check out for home. Each night the riders have a lecture regarding training. It’s a full week.
“This is something we like to call the pathway rather than the pipeline,” says Dunn, “because it’s harder to stay on the path than shot through a pipe, so they need to work harder to stay on the path.”
The results from the campers’ power testing is evaluated by USA Cycling in Colorado Springs and from there other invites are given to riders showing potential.
The camps have been conducted for 12 years and their most recent accomplishment is Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Cervelo who participated in the Greenville camp several years ago. He has made the jump into the big leagues and seen action in Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and the Amgen Tour of California. Past USA Development camp riders include Saul Raisin (Credit-Agricole retired), Chris Butler (BMC), Craig Lewis (HTC-Highroad), and Strad Helms (Team Type 1).
One rider who has shown plenty of early success is Philip O’Donnell. The Specialized sponsored 15-year old hails from Suwanee, Georgia and with the season almost halfway completed, has raced in California at the San Dimas stage race (winning the overall 15-16 category) and Sea Otter (1st and 3rd) as well as Valley of the Sun in Arizona (1st overall). Of course he’s been racing in many Pro/1 races on the East coast, quickly gaining a reputation as a rider to watch for the future. As he was warming up for the Hincapie Sportswear Spring series George Hincapie himself came up to O’Donnell and asked, “Are you that 14 year old kid?”
While his strength is undeniable O’Donnell speaks with maturity.
“I want to take it step by step. I don’t want to say I have big plans because you never know what is going to happen. But I definitely want to work to get as high up as I can in this sport, but do it in a way people will respect me.”
“If I keep doing what I’m doing I can take it to the next level and make a career of it.”
His next big objective is nationals being contested in Augusta, Georgia. One factor at nationals will be the scorching hot weather, something the native Georgia rider is accustomed to.
As expected the majority of the young riders are guys, but a group of four young women also made up the camp. Guided by coach Lesli Meadows she describes the young women riders as strong. Their ages are quite the spread, from 14 to 20 years old.
“These girls are here to train just like the guys are. They learn the same skills and ride at the same pace as the guys,” said Meadows.
Seventeen year old Aloyson Julia Beach from Alabama comes to the camp for the same reason as the others.
“I came to this camp for the development side and thought I could learn a lot. Also my team is here (Frazier Cycling) and I thought it would be a fun way to bond with them over the summer.”
With nationals just weeks away the ladies are looking to get in a solid block of training, recover and then build for the nationals in Augusta.
With so much talent being produced in the Southeast it shouldn’t be a surprise to see many of these campers on the national championship podium.