Archive for January, 2015

Here’s a good story about a junior team that’s been set-up in Melbourne, Victoria (Australia) and is going from strength-to-strength… rather than me write about it, I asked team founder and manager, Paul Parlevliet, along with a couple of the riders, to tell us all about Grupo De Compañeros:

What inspired you to form a Junior Cycling Team?  The u15/u17 junior cycling scene is quite structured – be it the National Junior Track Series or junior road tours or even club races – and provides a solid environment for kids to train and race. Looking beyond juniors we felt that there was a real gap for those riders who wanted to keep racing but were overlooked by the elite programs, with this gap we believe that a lot of good riders walk away from the sport as it also coincides with an increase in their schooling commitments.  Therefore the concept of Grupo De Compañeros was born – a team of dedicated riders willing to train and race hard whilst keeping a balance in their schooling, family and personal lives (family and schooling always come first and maintenance of schooling is a key element of being involved) and most importantly having fun.

We are working to create a team environment that fosters both cycling and personal development and keeps riders engaged in cycling.  The aim is to run an U19 VRS program as a pathway to the NRS with the top age riders in an A-Grade team, the teams program will also include all the selection races for worlds (Mersey Valley Tour, National Road Championships and Oceania Road Championships).  The program is a pathway from junior to senior racing and we are working to form relationships with NRS teams to provide mentoring and expose the squad to what is required to ride at that level.

What does Grupo De Compañeros mean – both literal translation, but also its principles and what it stands for?  In English, it means ‘Group of Companions’, but we tell everyone it’s Group of Mates as that is what they are – really it was selected because it sounded good but also was at the core of what we are trying to achieve – a group of riders training and racing together – who also enjoy each other’s company off the bike.  We are serious about our racing but we also see the squad members as kids that ride not just cyclists.  ‘ñ’ is pronounced nya as in Comp-an-yeros.

What does the team offer its riders and how are riders selected?  Riders were selected based on ability, their attitude and work ethic and how we felt they would fit into a team environment. The initial squad was selected from a group of riders that knew each other from club racing but we added to this a number of riders that we had observed over the summer criterium season. Funnily enough we also ‘interviewed’ the parents – it is also important that the parents provide the right kind of support to their children.  Another important attribute of the riders is to ‘make the race’ – we are not really concerned with results – what we want the riders to do is to push themselves to be the best that they can be and to be happy with that.  We don’t provide handouts, the team kit and a great time is what we offer.

Who sponsors the team and how is it funded?  Currently the team is self-funded through the parents, we are grateful to Vibe Cycle Design who have assisted us with the team apparel.  We are planning to engage with potential sponsors who connect with what we are trying to achieve – that is, to provide an environment for the personal and physical development of teenagers. We want our riders to have pride in the jersey and be proud to represent the team at all times before, during and after racing.

What is your vision for the team?  The vision is ultimately to provide a pathway for riders from juniors, through under-19 and into an NRS team. We are starting to engage with a number of NRS teams about how we can work together to provide young riders to their teams. Of course not all of our riders will follow this path but this is the cornerstone of what we are trying to develop.

We plan to have both a junior squad (U17) and an U19 squad in 2015 and we are currently scouting for U17 riders.  The Junior squad will contest all Victorian Junior Tours, selected club tours and the Junior Road Nationals.

How has the team gone in the short time it’s been in existence?  Beyond our expectations… We measure success a number of ways, firstly it is whether the riders are themselves happy with their ongoing development and performance and are they prepared to continue into the next year. We are very pleased all of our riders are riding again in 2015 and many have had significant improvements in personal performance and confidence. We also require grades at school to be maintained – let’s see how that goes!  Secondly, we look to how the riders race. What is most pleasing is that many of our riders are being proactive in races and trying to create opportunities. Finally as a team we also are pleased when individual riders do well at national events. We had an outstanding result at U17 Road Nationals and U17 National Hill Climb and we are very proud that one of our U15 riders made the Victorian state team.

How do you deal with avoiding looking like team members are ‘colluding’ when racing junior races?  The instructions given to every rider is simple, you don’t ride against a team mate and you don’t ride for him, all club mates and friends ride to this ethos and we are no different.  One minute you’re working with someone and the next you’re attacking them, as team mates the attacking only happens in training not in the races.

Team Manager, Paul Parlevliet, with a bit of pre-race chat at the 2014 Junior Road Champs in Toowoomba (l-r: Hamish Weber, Paul Parlevliet, C-J, Kallum Parlevliet (NB: Kallum would go on to win silver in the road race.)

Team Manager, Paul Parlevliet, with a bit of pre-race chat at the 2014 Junior Road Champs in Toowoomba (l-r: Hamish Webber, Paul Parlevliet, C-J, Kallum Parlevliet (NB: Kallum would go on to win silver in the road race.)

Team member, Carter Turnball, answers some questions (NB. Carter won the Time Trial at every  Victorian Junior Tours this year and was selected for the state team):

What does being a part of a team mean to you?  It makes me feel good and I like the recognition of being part of the team. I feel proud to wear the kit and like it when I’m riding with others wearing the same kit.  I like it when I’m racing and I have teammates with me.

What are the benefits of being part of the team?  It’s more fun at races, which means I have a more enjoyable time. There are people to ride with when you are not racing. On weekends away for Junior Tours you have a lot of fun when you are not riding as well as when you are. You always have teammates cheering for you while racing.

What responsibilities do being part of a team bring with it?  Not giving the team a bad name. You can’t be selfish when riding. You need to show support for fellow teammates.

How do you deal with avoiding looking like you’re ‘colluding’ when racing junior races?  Just making sure I’m not riding with the others for the entire race.

The Compañeros won the VICS senior TTT held at Sandown late in 2014.  (l-r: Kallum Parlevliet,  Hamish Weber, Carter Turnball)

The Compañeros won the VICS senior TTT held at Sandown late in 2014. (l-r: Kallum Parlevliet, Ross Gordon, Hamish Webber and Carter Turnball).

Team member, Alistair (C-J) Christie-Johnston’s responses (C-J placed 7th at the National Hill Climb, 3rd at Metros and 14th in the ITT at the National Road Titles):

What does being a part of a team mean to you?  Being part of a team for me means that there are always others there for you. You form a close bond with the other members and through some of the harder moments your team members are always there supporting you, especially in the Compañeros as everyone is so positive, you aren’t down for long.

What are the benefits of being part of the team?

  • Definitely the team training indoor ergos, they almost become fun with the boys.
  • The long group rides turn into races and the k’s seem to fly by with attack after attack.
  • Everyone looks out for each other, like when I broke my collarbone and one of the team members finished the race and rode cross country to see if I was alright, the coach took me to hospital and the team and assistant DS packed up my gear and bike.
  • Another benefit is the involvement of parents and the friendly environment where they get to meet other parents and feel included as part of the team.
  • Also the good kit where we are all seen wearing matching kit riding along looking the part!
  • Most of all it’s the joy and fun that comes being part of a team

What responsibilities do being part of a team bring with it?  Whenever you wear the kit you are representing not just yourself but everyone else in the team and the sponsors, so you need to keep in line in the view of the public.

How do you deal with avoiding looking like you’re ‘colluding’ when racing junior races?  I think in junior races it’s important to ride as an individual but as a team to help with the little things, like when you’re rolling through with a headwind and one of your team mates is out in the wind you’ll drop back and make room for him to slot in. It’s also important to discuss a plan at the start so you know what each rider is aiming for or planning to do, and to look out for your team mates. You may be able to help them by just going on the front and slowing down the pace for a bit while they eat.

It’s great to see additional pathways come to the fore for emerging junior riders who might miss out on the established elite pathways, such as the state institutes.  Thanks to Paul, Carter and C-J for their candid responses and good luck to this Group of Mates in 2015 and beyond.