Riders Converge on Blessington for Mid Term Girls Camp

Multi Discipline Variety and Bonding Characterise Wicklow Camp

The future of Irish women’s cycling looks bright following the latest coaching initiative from the Women’s Commission of Cycling Ireland.

Youth development officer Orla Hendron assembled 21 youth bike riders along with 12 coaches and assistants for a highly successful mid-term girls camp centred on Avon Rí Lakeshore Adventure Resort in Blessington, Co Wicklow last month.

With the twin aims of fostering an understanding of a variety of cycling disciplines and helping riders to develop bonds among their peers, the three-day get together proved highly popular.

The camp continues the tireless work undertaken by the volunteers on the Women’s Commission to maintain the flow of committed female bike racers through the Cycling Ireland system.

“The aim of the camp was to help make cycling ‘fun’,” said Hendron. “We wanted to introduce the girls to other aspects of cycling beyond their own discipline and to help them form friendships which they can take into competition.

“They acquired new skills and topped up old ones in a non-competitive atmosphere which will give them a fuller understanding of cycling.”

The girls assembled in Blessington on Monday 20th February when the focus was on road cycling. Tuesday 21st was dedicated to mountain biking followed by a popular diversion into indoor wall climbing while day three on Wednesday 22nd centred on developing track skills at the Sundrive Road velodrome.

Monday’s road skills session featured the on bike support and coaching from Gillian McDarby, Roisin Kennedy, Brendan Whelan and David Tilly while Under 23 rider Shenna McKiverigan- herself a graduate of the 2012 Talent Team programme – took the U16 group on a road spin.

The younger riders enjoyed a two-hour spin with a focus on skills such as shoulder to shoulder riding and how to get close to the wheel in front in a group situation.

The road riding concluded with a short team time trial aimed at fully extending the riders and helping them to understand how hard they can push in a competition environment.

Paddy Doran of PeakEnduranceCoaching.ie delivered a talk on Monday evening centred on helping the riders to understand how increased training volumes will be a part of their cycling as they progress from Youth to Junior cycling and how best to incorporate that into their programmes.

Doran’s discussion related times from the morning road spin and Team Time Trial to distances and times recorded at Junior and U23 level to help give the riders an understanding of the route to the top.

The evening concluded with a viewing of the medal winning exploits of the Irish elite track squad at the previous world cup which included detailed explanation of race tactics from Róisín Kennedy.

Catering was overseen by Gen Sheridan over the three days with the girls encouraged to contribute to the preparation of evening meals.

On Tuesday morning the riders were transported to Ballinastoe for a mountain bike session with bikes provided by Biking.ie The session was coached by Melanie Späth, Shenna McKiverigan and Janos Kohler with Justin May assisting.

Kohler focused on equipping the mountain biking newcomers with the fundamental skills for off road riding while the more advanced riders incorporated elements of challenging downhill trails into their session.

On Tuesday evening the group travelled the short distance to the Dublin Climbing Walls centre in Tallaght for a hugely popular session which proved particularly useful in helping the girls to bond and work as a team.

For Wednesday’s track programme, the groups were divided with Brendan Whelan and Roisín Kennedy coaching the beginners on the niceties of conducting a fixed wheel, no brakes machine in the company of other riders on a banked track.

Meanwhile Shenna McKiverigan and Orla Hendron schooled the more advanced riders in a series of drills aimed at honing their technique including standing starts and ‘snake’ weaving exercises.

The camp broke up on Wednesday afternoon with all the participants handing in feedback forms which Hendron and crew will be using as they continue their tireless work to develop women’s cycling at grassroots level.