Question: My 13-year-old daughter has been racing since age 10 and is a two-time U.S. time trial champion. This year she also competed in women’s cat 4 races and has done extremely well. She goes to school full time, does homework and other school sports.
The problem is, I can’t find information about training for a girl her age. And I’ve read that weight training for juniors is discouraged, although it seems to help her compete in longer cat 4 races. Any advice? — Bob J.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: First, congratulations on your daughter’s success and your support of her interest in racing. The U.S. needs upcoming stars. It sounds like you have one living in your house!
There is very little information on coaching young juniors because there are so few of them racing. It could be a chicken/egg situation. Generally, youngsters are mentored by parents or club coaches. Check with local clubs and bike shops to see if an experienced coach is in your area.
One of the most important concerns with junior racers is the high risk of burnout. U.S. cycling is replete with cases of young riders who won national and even world titles, then dropped out of the sport in their late teens. They felt they were missing their adolescence.
Not every young rider responds negatively, of course, but it’s something you need to monitor closely. You know your daughter better than anyone, so be aware of her fluctuating interest in the discipline of training and competition.
As for weight training, it’s generally discouraged for young riders if done at an intense level. The strength produced by bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, pushups, step-ups and lunges is certainly worthwhile. But a program of heavy squats or leg presses isn’t necessary or recommended.
The most important things are that your daughter have fun with her racing and feel a sense of accomplishment. And she needs to feel your support whether she does well or not. I sense from your letter that you’re doing these things well.