“This camp is a part of our investment in the young riders,” Sport Director Tom Steels said. “Because it’s always good to try to keep in touch with the base of cycling. This project is part of our larger investment in young riders that pass through the Etixx-Ihned Continental Team. We also have a strong commitment with youth teams such as EFC – Omega Pharma – Quick-Step under-23 Team and the Avia junior team. We did this project the last two years and the feedback of the riders was really positive, so we want to do it again. The riders have the possibility of a sneak peak of our team and an understanding of how we are organized. They also have the opportunity to learn about each other. They come from different countries and it’s the first time they can really ride with people from other parts of the world. We have Belgian, Spanish, South African, Croatian, Italian, and even Danish riders at our training camp.”
“Today we did two and a half hours of training,” Steels continued. “Tomorrow we will go to the Flemish hills because a few training camp participants, such as the Spanish guys, have never seen cobblestones and the roads of Belgium. Even Gianni Meersman and Carlos Verona trained with them today. The story of Carlos was really interesting. He was one of the guys who participated in the youth camp two years ago. Now he is one of our professional riders. The camp will also be a chance to get in touch with services provided by Bakala Academy, which is an important part of our structure. On Wednesday the staff will come to the hotel to make some tests with our riders. Bakala Academy will put its expertise to use with our young guys for sure. On Wednesday we will do these things in the morning, and then we will bring them to the Gullegem Koerse course to see all the things we showed them at the camp put together during a race, along with the OPQS guys out there racing. Wednesday evening they will fly out and return to their homes.”
The athletes were selected based on their results, but also on the advice from the team’s sports coaches and Sport Directors. However, due to various competitive commitments, not all of the invited athletes will be able to attend the camp. Those athletes who do attend will pedal side-by-side with some of the team’s professional athletes during daily training regimens before joining individual and group meetings to determine the team’s working methods.
“We believe that it is important to stay in touch and learn from these riders,” Steels said. “It’s important we don’t lose these connected feelings with them, and we understand the needs of the young generation of riders who represent the future world of cycling.”