One of the most important founding principles of The Cyclists' Alliance is rider development. We strongly believe that if we invest in our members as athletes and professionals, we can build a better sport together: stronger and more capable riders, better professionalism at all levels of the sport, and athletes who are prepared to succeed on their bikes and in their lives outside of cycling.
The Cyclists' Alliance Mentoring Program (TCAMP) matches experienced professionals with other riders who are looking for guidance in advancing their careers. Participants might race for different teams, but they do not share information about how those teams operate, or any confidential team secrets. Instead, the program focuses on sharing important life lessons and personal knowledge about how to be a professional cyclist: critical insights into training, new understandings of race tactics and mental preparation, and gaining essential skills to balance a personal life with the challenges of succeeding on the bike.
The first pairing of mentor and mentee for the 2018 season is Annemiek Van Vleuten, who will be working with Claire Rose. These two riders represent the best aspects of the Alliance and its membership. Annemiek is a proven professional and a World Champion, and is one of the peloton's most respected peers. Claire is a rider with proven capabilities, but looking for the key insights which may help her discover her true potential and achieve her career goals.
Like many women in our sport, Claire has already completed her education for a professional career outside of cycling, but has reached an important crossroads: she can start practicing as a physician any time now, but she only has a certain amount of time where she is physically capable of being a world-class cyclist.
"I was lucky to be on a team with Sharon Laws. She was a huge help and guide for me," says Claire of the difficult start to her road career. "It’s physically tough, but the tactics are really hard to pick up. When you come from a small team into a bigger team, your understanding of tactics have to change as well and it's not an easy transition."
Also, she says, "There is no blueprint for women on how to progress in pro cycling and build our careers. There is no one to help you learn how to negotiate, to network, and to move forward in the sport. Mentoring is a good opportunity to speak to others for advice who are on a different team, outside your own team environment. The TCA brings together the true depth of talent from across women's cycling and can help share these important lessons."
Claire has a clear understanding of what she wants to learn from a mentor and why. She is unfortunately resting after an illness, but her goal is to build up her physical and mental fitness to win World and Olympic time trial medals. “Part of it is proving something to yourself, but the science of the challenge also appeals to me," says Claire of her aspirations. "But the most important part of that challenge is to overcome the psychology, to discover the focus and confidence to become a champion. That’s something I want to learn from Annemiek. I have had teammates leave the sport because a lack of self-belief, and I don't want that to happen to me, too."
Annemiek is the current World Time Trial champion, and has accumulated a lifetime of experience racing the world's best races. "I was one of the first riders to join the Alliance. The Board asked if I would like to be a mentor, and I think this is a good way to give something back to my sport," says Van Vleuten of her participation in the mentoring program. "I am especially interested in sharing my experiences with the young riders, and to help them deal with the challenges which I had to overcome when I first started."
Annemiek adds, "Not all teams have a good developmental program, especially for the rider as a person, not just as an athlete. Mentoring is a way we can encourage riders to stay in the sport, and to learn what they need to know to improve after they experience disappointment. I want to encourage them to continue forward. I don't want them to stop, because it is so important that we hold onto our talent and build a better sport."
Claire and Annemiek both agree that The Cyclists' Alliance is the right organization to help women succeed as professional cyclists. Says Annemiek of her early experiences, "I became a professional in 2008, and the women then had no support system. I didn't know anything about contracts, and I was only offered €100 per month. I've had to learn everything the hard way, and I want to help change that."
"I think some women who already have a contract today might ask, 'Why do I need to be a member of the TCA?' But not everyone has the resources to have their contracts reviewed, or understands their rights as an athlete," says Annemiek. "Now I think it is in the right hands of the right people, and it is a step in the right direction for the sport. Iris and her Board know what they are doing, and I encourage more women cyclists to join the Alliance," adds Annemiek.
If you are a member of the Alliance and wish to offer your time as a mentor, or to participate as a mentee and learn important professional skills, contact a Board member today. And if you aren't a member, please join today!