In April, the PROMAN Women’s Professional Cycling Team formally established a new and very exciting junior development program. “We’re hoping to boost junior cycling at the national level by supporting young women who have already distinguished themselves at the regional and state levels,” stated founder and General Manager, Nicola Cranmer.
The members of PROMAN’s inaugural junior program are:
- Claire Jensen, age 13, 2008 National Track Champion and NCNCA State TT Champion
- Nikka van den Dries, age 14, 2008 NCNCA State Champion in RR, TT, Crit and Track
- Ruth Winder, age 15, 2008 NCNCA State TT Champion
- Christina Yglesias, age 16, 2008 NCNCA State Champion in RR, Crit and Track
- Coryn Rivera, age 17, 21 Junior National titles in Road, Track and Cyclocross
The idea of creating a junior development program began at a national cycling camp last year. “Shelley (Olds) and I were mentoring at a US Cycling camp in Santa Rosa last summer,” said Cranmer. “We had so much fun and the young girls were very enthusiastic. We just decided that training young riders was a necessary component and critical for the growth of women cycling which is always struggling. The US women road team is on par with the rest of Europe and the US women track team is a little behind. The women on our team are multifaceted, they race road, cross, track. It’s important to let the girls ride all aspects so that you can see where they flourish. This is breathing new life into the elite riders. They have this influx of super positive and enthusiastic energy.”
“A lot of the European teams have a stable of young riders that we do not know even know about yet. They are developing their riders early. I think we need to keep up with them. They have raised the bar, but I think the US team can go even higher. I am excited about working with USAC athletic director, Jim Miller, and getting our girls going here in the US.”
“It’s working really well,” continued Cranmer. “The older riders like Coryn who is 17 and Ruth who is 15 can ride the pro women 1/2/3 races. The synergy is really awesome. We are going to keep working on the junior development program for sure. It is such a pleasure working with the juniors. This is something important for me. We are not just teaching them bike skills. We are helping them develop their self-esteem and self-confidence. It’s really apparent that this has a positive effect on them. We are pretty excited about having the young girls with us. We want to get them to Europe….don’t wait….and have them race.”
“It’s almost too easy to do,” stated Shelley Olds. “There is nothing you can do for them that they haven’t already seen. Anything you do for them they are grateful. They take advice real well and they want your feedback. That’s so much fun. ”
“They are motivating us as much as we are motivating them. As juniors they are doing great which is putting pressure on the elite team to perform. We know that they are watching us. We are constantly accountable for our actions. The watch us race hard. I love the girls so much. They make me smile. It has been very cool working with them. ”
The juniors must be inspiring Olds. Since her first road win of the season at the Cat’s Hill Criterium in Los Gatos, CA, Olds has been posting win after win. Last weekend Olds cleaned up at the Tulsa Tough, winning the day 2 Bradley Village Criterium and the day 3 Riverside Criterium to finish on the top step of the Tulsa Tough Omnium.
“Coaching and racing at the same time is great because it’s making me go back to basics and make sure I am on top of my game,” stated Olds.
With the increasing amount of young women racing, Cranmer and Olds are overwhelmed with the amount of interest in their development program. “The riders come to us. We have so many resumes, it’s quite amazing. We are definitely working out the kinks as we go along but it’s working out. Some of the girls at the US cycling camp are on our team now. Shelley and I actually do scout for early talent. Our program is growing very fast and I hope to get even more funding next year because there is certainly talent out there that is going unnoticed. We want to make sure that these girls have the opportunities they deserve.”
“It’s really exciting and it seems like the right thing to do. We could have hired more elite riders because many of the riders were without teams and could have built a powerhouse NRC team but honestly that felt a little shallow for me personally and for our team. It’s not helping the development of the sport and it’s not looking into the future. Cycling is our life and for me and my team this adds depth.”
The new Junior team continues to exceed expectations.
Winder won the California Junior State Championship last month.
Racing in Belgium at the Lotto Ridley Tour-Kessel Lo, as a member of the USA developmental team, young phenom Rivera easily sprinted to her first European road win. Rivera also participated at the Omnisport Future Track Event in the Netherlands where she won the Derney 8km race and this past weekend Rivera qualified to represent the USA at the Junior World Championships in Moscow.
The professional men’s cycling teams have a history of developing their young riders through their professional U23 squads. Cranmer, Olds and the PROMAN Women’s Professional Cycling Team are taking this concept to the young women racing in the US.
Cranmer stated, “Helping these young women is a no brainer.”
The PROMAN Women’s Professional Cycling Team (elite squad) is comprised of eight professional riders, including Track Worlds veteran Olds (2008 Elite National Scratch Race Champion and US National Team member), Rachel Lloyd (2008 PRO Super D National Champion and US National Team member) and Cari Higgins (2008 Elite 4x National Track Champion).