USA Cycling set to conduct Women's Regional Development Camps

By: Kathie Reid

Colorado Springs, Colo. (April 3, 2008)--USA Cycling has offered Regional Development Camps for junior and collegiate cyclists for a number of years, and with 14 camps on the 2008 calendar, the program is thriving. Open to both male and female cyclists from 14 to 22 years of age, the number of women enrolling in the camps has traditionally been small.
Claire House, a West Coast camp manager since 2006, was thrilled when six girls attended one recent camp. She thought, “If I can get six girls at this one camp, I know these girls exist all over the country.” She figured their needs would be better served through a women-specific camp, assuming they could have “a better experience if they weren’t stacked up against 21-year-old male cat 2 and collegiate riders.”
Jim Miller, Director of Endurance Programs, agreed. In 2004, he had even gone so far as to include plans to develop two bi-coastal Women’s Regional Development Camps in his 2005-2008 High Performance Plan, a formal document detailing directions and goals for USA Cycling’s Women’s Endurance Programs.
Though House and Miller thought about these camps for a couple years, it was just recently when things finally fell into place. After the rousing success of USA Cycling’s Enhancing Leadership in Women’s Cycling Conference at the USOC in January, Miller said House approached him and offered to coordinate “a women’s camp as part of our Regional Development Camp infrastructure.” He was all for it, and not only assigned her as Camp Manager for a Women’s Regional Development Camp to be held June 22-27 at Sonoma State University in California, but also recruited Kristen Dieffenbach and Ray Ignosh, two of his “top camp managers on the east coast” to simultaneously coordinate a camp in their region, acting as Co-Camp Managers. Ignosh is working on confirming a date and location, but does know it will be in the first two weeks of August in Lehigh County in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Female racers between the ages of 17 and 25 will be invited to the camps, and while Miller said age and eligibility requirements will be somewhat flexible, they are looking for women with some racing experience; Collegiate A/B and Cat 3/4 cyclists, for instance. Recognizing that many women successfully cross over to cycling from other sports, Benjamin Sharp, USA Cycling’s Junior Programs Manager who oversees all Regional Development Camps, said that they will also “be very likely to take” women with elite level or NCAA Division I experience in another sport.
House, Dieffenbach, and Ignosh have been working together to plan the camps. Both camps will follow similar daily schedules that include morning on-the-road skills practice and afternoon and early evening off-the-bike skills and informational clinics. House said that skills practice will include cornering, descending, sprinting, riding in echelon, moving through a pack of riders safely and tactically, moving through a caravan, and how to take a feed. Skills and knowledge clinics will include topics like proper bike fit, basic mechanics, how to build up and break down bikes for air travel, as well as proper nutrition, basic training principles, and sports psychology.
House has confirmed Miller and professional racer and Proman team director, Giana Roberge, to act as coaches at the West Coast camp. She also intends to invite a number of women with professional and European racing experience for question-and-answer panel sessions.
Camp participants will be treated as professionals. From getting up in the morning and checking the day’s schedule posted on the director sportif’s door, to using follow-vehicles, a full-time mechanic, and taking feeds from cars, House said they will “really try to expose them to what it’s like to be a professional.”
While one of the short term goals of the camps is to simply increase the development of female racers in the U.S., ultimately it is hoped that Women’s Regional Development Camps become a more foundational way for women to make their way toward the upper levels of U.S. and European racing. “The idea of the camps really came from Jim’s [Miller’s] experience and his noticing the gaps in the development of the skills and abilities of the women riders,” Ignosh explained. “Women come into the pipeline [of USA Cycling’s Talent Identification Programs and the National Team] with great engines, but not always good techniques or tactics.”
Dieffenbach agreed. “Often women get fast-tracked because they are generally fit, but not yet cycling-smart-fit,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Women who come to cycling fit from other things like soccer or cross country running can really move up quickly due to their fitness. But they don’t get a chance to develop knowledge of the skills, tactical, and technical aspects of racing safety and etiquette, and then, boom! All of the sudden, they are in the top levels and don’t know these things. This leads to a very bumpy ride at a very stressful, high level of competition, particularly when we send women over to Europe to race. Our goal is to work to set our women up for a successful rise, and to empower them to be successful as they move up in levels. And a nice side benefit would be to improve the safety and quality of U.S. racing.”
Invitations for the Women’s Regional Development Camps will go out shortly to licensed racers within the target age range, and will include registration information that will also be found on the USA Cycling website. The week-long camp will cost $700, and includes room and board and a cycling jersey. Ed Burke Travel and Training Grants are available through the USA Cycling Development Foundation for those who need monetary assistance.
The organizers of the camps are optimistic that participants will become more competent and confident racers. Miller said, “I really want these athletes to come away from the camp with the feeling that they have been jumpstarted with knowledge, and are a year ahead of where they would have been on their own.”  

This Article Published April 3, 2008 For more information contact: