“Dreams are going to happen a little bit later, but that doesn’t mean they are not going to happen!”
Chilean Catalina Soto Campos is remaining positive despite suddenly finding herself on the other side of the world from most of her teammates on the WCC Team due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2020, for the second consecutive year, the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland, has registered a women’s team with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). It is made up essentially of the UCI WCC’s trainee riders who come from the world over to benefit from the centre’s professional coaching staff and gain race experience throughout Europe and further afield.
However, with the temporary closure of the UCI WCC due to the pandemic, and in the interests of the athletes’ health and security, the team members have returned home: respectively to Canada, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belarus, Ethiopia, Slovakia, Australia and England.
After a successful training camp together in Portugal in February (at the UCI WCC satellite centre in Anadia), the young women are now coping as best they can with the split.
From Switzerland to Australia
Catalina Soto Campos, whose family is established in Melbourne, Australia, is taking the good – “I get to be with my mum” – with the bad: “Apart from the fact that people’s safety is at risk 24/7, I trained all last summer and I prepared mentally for the long season ahead of me. I had planned most of the races and had mentally practiced all different scenarios that could happen in a race. Now I can’t put any of these things into practice.
“Also I can’t be with my teammates, who always have something to teach me, nor with the other WCC riders who are always fun to be around.”
Coming from the UCI WCC’s Junior track and road programmes, Catalina distinguished herself last year at the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships (silver in the Scratch Race) and the UCI Road World Championships, where she was a key member of the day’s breakaway.
She was motivated for her first year with the WCC Team where – just turned 19 this month - she is one of the youngest members of the team. She is trying to learn from the experience of the two races she completed with the team at the beginning of the year and is working on her weaknesses.
“In both races I finished 2m30s behind the winner so I’m training to get those 2m30s back. I want to be stronger and competitive next time I pin a number on my jersey.”
She realises she is fortunate to still be able to train outside, but in many ways is finding it a lonely experience: “There’s less talking, that’s for sure and the riding can get lonely. Sometimes I imagine I am riding with my teammates to make myself push harder.”
After her daily morning rides, afternoons are dedicated to yoga or gym, occasional naps and French study. Then it’s dinner and bed to “sleep and dream big”.
Tereza Medvedova’s ‘normal life’ in Slovakia
After two weeks in quarantine, Catalina’s teammate Tereza Medvedova is also back with her family - in central Slovakia - and adjusting: “At first it was really hard to see something positive about this situation… but at least I’m home with my family and we are all healthy and safe.
“The worst thing was leaving Aigle. Right now, we are all locked down in our countries and we cannot meet each other and race together. And we don’t really know when this season will restart so this is kind of stressful for all of us.”
Like Catalina, Tereza can ride outside. It’s a far cry from training with her teammates but she makes the most of it: “I really love cycling and I enjoy every time I ride my bike so this keeps me focused. This situation will be finished and I want to be ready to race again.”
Off the bike, she joins in her team’s online physio sessions, works out in a makeshift gym and joins in with family activities and chores such as gardening: “Over here I have to live a ‘normal life’,” she smiles.
Despite the distance between them all, Tereza still feels very much part of a team: “It’s important for me to keep the team spirit alive and stay in touch.”
Daily contact with the coach
She is also in daily contact with the WCC Team coach Adam Szabó, who remains based in Switzerland. As the team uses software for their training all year round, their coach can continue to observe and analyse their training wherever they are in the world.
“During the period of quarantine, it was quite challenging, but very important, to find a good balance and avoid boredom,” explains Szabó. I have tried to make the turbo sessions as much fun as possible, and we also did double sessions (bike and gym) to keep them occupied.”
Most of the team members are young – aged between 18 and 21 – so can use this period to work on their individual weaknesses. Their coach adds: “Most of them are lacking the miles and hours required for Elite racing. Building a solid base will make them strong, not for this season but also for the upcoming years.”
In the meantime, Catalina Soto puts out a reminder for “everyone to stay safe. We are all in this together.”