Team Roskilde Jr. | Frustration Time
The young talents on the perhaps world's best junior team, Team Roskilde Jr., have been impatiently waiting for the spring classics. They have been training hard all winter. In rain, cold, wind, and darkness. Prepared meticulously. Lived ascetically and said no to the temptations of the past many months. Because of one thing: they want to win on the big, international scene. In the spring classics Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, which should have taken place in April, but which have now been cancelled.
Two important junior races, which have historically been won by riders who are now, as senior riders, prominent names in the World Tour peloton; Mads Pedersen, Jasper Stuyven, Florian Sénéchal, Tom Pidcock, and Pavel Sivakov just to name a few. These are races that give the young, aspiring talents an opportunity to stand out and test themselves against the international talent mass. To get noticed by the sports directors of the big Pro and World Tour teams.
The time as a junior rider is an absolutely crucial period in the young riders' careers. Many important decisions need to be made. It is a breaking time where the riders have to decide whether cycling should be their way of life, or whether they should instead go to the university or go straight into the world of work.
The opportunities to test oneself against the best riders from around the world mean that dreams can either come true or be shattered. For some riders, it may be a confirmation that they have what it takes, for others it may be a realization that they probably won't ever reach the top of the sport.
But now the races have been canceled. So how should riders test themselves? How should they get noticed? What does this mean for their motivation? And the dream of becoming a professional cyclist?
"It is without a doubt a difficult time for many of the riders. The riders are typically two seasons on the team before moving on to the larger teams. For our second-year riders, it is extra difficult, as they have not been able to run the full program in 2020 and now neither in 2021. It is a shame”, says Team Manager at Team Roskilde Jr. Thomas Wandahl.
A frustration, that is also felt by one of the team's second-year riders, Albert Holm:
"It will be really difficult to show what you can do, as there are only a few races to start in. It puts extra pressure on us riders because our performance at the races must be good, every time. There are not so many races right now, so there is no room for a bad day ”.
We went with Team Roskilde Jr. on the road for a 130km long training session on a rainy, cold and windy Saturday in the middle of nowhere on Zealand, Denmark, to have a chat with Tobias Svarre and Albert Holm. We were met by a bunch of frustrated riders with shattered hopes. For race simulation training in the good old-fashioned way.
Optimism in the rain
Becoming a good cyclist requires more than just talent. It requires that you are targeted and an immeasurable training load, every single day. It requires many hours on the road in all kinds of weather. An almost impossible task if the purpose may seem meaningless. For what is the purpose if one cannot get out and racing and pursue one’s dream?
"It is clear that I would rather ride around in Spain and train towards a goal such as the Tour of Flanders, in a whole normal world without Corona, where I know exactly when the race is and, in that way, can train specifically towards it. That's just not the way the world is right now. So, when I’m sitting in 5 degrees, completely soaked, on a road in Mørkøv, I can feel that it is all a bit tuff and unfair, when many of my competitors train on dry roads and in +15 degrees in Southern Europe. But I give myself a pat on the back and think about how strong I get. Although there is not a goal to focus on right now, it is not a waste of work at all - on the contrary, I get even stronger for the start of the season when it comes.” says Tobias with a smile on his face after a good 3 cold hours on the rain-soaked roads.
Albert is also longing for more normal conditions:
"Of course, I think it is very unfortunate not to be able to race and show what I’m made of. I miss the whole race setup, the atmosphere, and the excitement before the start. And just being able to ride as a team. We were not able to do that last year either”.
Despite bad weather and unfulfilled dreams, Tobias Svarre manages to turn the situation into something positive.
“I have to admit that I'm damn tired of seeing how one's race calendar gets smaller and smaller almost every day. I try to keep the motivation up and take each race as a surprise instead of being disappointed every time a race is cancelled. So I turn it around that there are more ups and downs. That these rainy rides come back as victories in the sun”.
For the young riders, it is hard to hold on to their dreams, believing that it is all worth the pain and effort when the goal is constantly shifting and the path to it changes from week to week. It requires a lot of motivation and more short-term goals, which can bring success in a difficult time.
"It's about looking forward and trying to find some things that motivate you to keep on training. The training camp in Spain lifted my motivation. And now there is a smaller, Danish race next weekend. It's not the same as the Tour of Flanders, but it motivates me. It is important to remind myself that I do it because I love cycling. And then a ride with my friends, with a small coffee stop, can help and give new motivation,” says Tobias as he looks at Albert, who smiles appreciatively back. There is no doubt that team spirit is important to the young riders.
"I actually do not think it is a problem to keep the motivation up right now. I think it's fun to go out and train with my teammates,” Albert follows up.
Tobias and Albert an admirable optimists who know how to see the light in the dark and turn the situation to their own advantages. A trait that will no doubt benefit them in the future as professional cyclists. In a life that is definitely not just glamor and fast cars. Closer to the opposite.
“My goal this year is to gain a lot of experience and learn what it means to ride on a team. To help Team Roskilde Jr. to also next year be referred to as the world's best junior team. And then I to be able to do well in the big international, mountainous stage races, which are my terrain. If they are being held …” says Tobias. Albert is a second-year rider on the team, so this is the year, where Albert must perform.
"My goal is to ride for the victory 6-7 times in 2021, without compromising the team's tactics. The goal is to win a road race and take at least a top-10 at the Danish Championships in time trial. Of course, I would also really like to test myself in Belgium. But it looks a bit difficult right now, but I hope and cross my fingers that we will be able to ride abroad in 2021."
The dream is alive.