Behind the scenes at the search for the cycling stars of tomorrow

Everyone knows that the Netherlands is a hotbed of cycling. The incredible infrastructure and history of commuting by bike has spilled over into the sport of cycling too. From Grand Tour, monument winners and Olympic medalists in men’s road and track cycling to an almost complete domination of women’s cycling, the small country has had a huge impact where two-wheel sport is concerned.

CyclingClassNL hopes to keep it that way. 

The organization is a combined initiative between the Dutch Olympic Committee, the Dutch Cycling Union and reigning Tour de France-winning team, Team Visma Lease a Bike. Their stated goal is to identify and develop the most promising cycling talent of tomorrow.

It’s a mission we at TrueKinetix also believe in and so, when CyclingClassNL was searching for the best and most realistic indoor cycling experience to test and train athletes on, we were delighted to get involved.

Looking for stars

But how exactly do they go about searching for the tour winners and Olympic medalists of tomorrow?

Each year, CyclingClassNL runs a talent identification test day in five locations throughout the country for around 70 young riders between the ages of 13 and 18. Most have been invited due to their results in races or standing out for a reason; however, riders can also apply to take part. 

We attended the test day at Sportpark Sloten in Amsterdam where thirty-two young athletes were being tested. The day was split into three groups of eight, with 10 girls and 22 boys being put through their paces.

Martin Truijens and Marco Postma, the coaches and sport scientists from CyclingClassNL run the day and they start each session by explaining to each group what the day will involve. It’s impressive how much time and attention to detail Martin and Marco spend in making the riders feel relaxed and comfortable. They explain to the riders (and their parents!) that it’s ok to make mistakes and that they should just accept the mistake and go again, if they do.

The main message, repeated often, is: leave here having given your absolute everything and let us worry about the numbers.

So what about the tests? 

  1. The first test is a 100m all-out sprint performed outside on the track. These are performed from a standing start and the riders have three attempts in a gear that is selected by the CyclingClassNL team. 
  2. Next comes a bike handling test – riders are asked to ride quickly and smoothly through a figure-8 course. Well, that’s usually the case anyway. This particular Saturday is wet, even by Dutch standards, so the handling test is canceled as the safety of the riders is always the main concern, which is great to hear.  
  3. Finally, there’s the indoor tests, which is where we come in. Eight TrueBikes are set up in the test room, with athletes going through a 45 minute protocol which incorporates a number of tests. First, after the warm-up, 10 seconds at the highest possible cadence riders can manage. After some easy riding, they then do max power efforts of 6 seconds, 30 seconds and 5 minutes.

The TrueBike is the perfect tool for these tests. “Previously, it was difficult to simulate real-life situations during indoor testing,” explains Martin. “The TrueBike has provided a solution to this. It feels very natural and helps the athlete to achieve their best performance.”

The next steps

The tests are also just the first part of this process. Afterwards, Martin, Marco and the other CyclingClassNL experts will download and analyze all the data generated today, so it’s essential they use indoor bikes that are extremely accurate and reliable.

Are the coaches purely looking at data or do they consider other attributes when deciding which riders should join the CyclingClassNL program?

Marco says that riders’ personalities, their resilience, their ability to never give up or to cope with mistakes are all really important but, the numbers have to be there first. If a young rider has the numbers, then all the rest comes into consideration.

The Amsterdam test day is over and 32 young athletes have been pushed to their max. The team won’t know anything til they’ve examined the data and compared it with riders from other test locations too but we may well have seen future cycling stars take important steps in their careers. If selected, riders will get access to some of the best training, guidance and expertise in the sport to help them one day make the jump to the pro peloton. 

Our involvement doesn’t end with the test day either. There are TrueBikes in the four CyclingClassNL test centers spread across the country, so riders will have the chance to make the TrueBike, with its realistic road-like feel and accurate data capturing, a foundational part of their training and development going forward.