The last few seasons have seen few youths or juniors names grace the start sheets in Scotland, but 2006 saw a few of those ‘green shoots of recovery’ the politicians tell us about. The man charged with nurturing the crop is Gary Willis, so VeloVeritas decided we should ask him some questions.
First off, we spoke a little about the job itself.
What’s your job title and remit, Gary?
“Well, I’m the ‘National Development Coach’, and my remit is to work with riders aged between 13 and 17, specifically towards getting them onto the GB programmes, World Class plan, and the like. I started in the role in June of this year.”
Sounds quite a challenge. What’s your background?
“I came into road racing from mountain biking, and went to university where I did a Sports degree.”
Things have been a bit fallow young rider-wise for the last year or two in Scotland, there’s been the odd flash of promise or better, but not quite the steady flow which we all want to see.
“Yes, but I think this year is much better. It’s a sign of the times that of the nine riders on the programme, only one came from a road background – most riders come in through track racing or mountain biking”.
Where does your funding come from?
“It comes from Sports Scotland, a percentage is lottery money and the rest comes from the Government.” It’s a fantastic situation, where our young riders are actually getting more help than the odd tyre, jersey, or life to the race (here at VeloVeritas we all remember those times).”
What sort of help do the riders actually get then?
“We give them training programmes and hold a couple of training camps each month for them. We provide kit too (VeloVeritas has spotted the young squad out hammering around the lanes of East Lothian, and look the part they certainly do), but probably the most important thing we provide is a programme of races at British and International level.”
The SCU Junior squad tackles Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh
“We already have a programme for next year mapped-out. This year we took a Scottish junior squad down to the British team pursuit championship for example, that was a good experience, which we’ll be repeating.”
Do you have anyone at WCPP level yet?
“No, not yet, but that’s what we are working towards.”
How then do you plan to get young riders into the sport?
“Well, through the clubs and development teams, like for example the ‘Edinburgh Racers’ at Meadowbank.”
Just like any serious plan, and in order to secure the funding and commitment required, Gary has set out short-, mid-, and long-term goals:
“The three targets we are working towards are 2010, the Commonwealth Games in Delhi; 2012, The London Olympics and 2014 when the Commonwealth Games will hopefully be in Glasgow. We are working towards having riders in all these events.”
Thanks very much for your time Gary. VeloVeritas hopes to be reporting on the successes of your young charges for a long time to come.