Team Barloworld captain Robert Hunter, the first South African to win a stage in the Tour de France and winner of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour in 2008, spent time at the recent Toyota Supercycling Academy training camp in the eastern Free State, South Africa, with the squad of Junior and Under-23 riders training at high altitude.
Hunter's team sponsor, Barloworld, is a co-sponsor of the Academy, which identifies and nurtures young road cycling talent within Cycle Lab Supercycling club, South Africa's largest cycling club, right from Under-14 through to Under-23 level. Hunter is the patron of the Academy and his presence at the camp made a significant impact on the 15 riders.
"Robbie was great," said Ian Wilson, a camp manager. "He told it like it is and made the Academy guys realize in his uncompromising way that hard work and commitment aren't negotiable in professional road cycling and that if they want to achieve their goals, they need to be prepared for a lot of suffering and hardship in order to achieve success.
"Robbie told them to use their youth to their advantage and painted them a picture of what life is really like as a pro, making them understand that it is not as rosy as it appears," continued Wilson. "He was both honest and inspirational and each of the riders really appreciated that."
The riders each had a turn to ride next to Hunter during a five-hour training ride and to chat one-on-one. During the five-day camp, the riders learned the values of teamwork with both on- and off-the-bike drills.
"Most of the riders in the Academy are at a very impressionable age and we include life skills training, not only at the camps but at every race we participate in," said Wilson. "Whether it's about showing respect to rivals, showing loyalty to sponsors, or simply personal cleanliness and appreciation for equipment. It's our way of preparing them to eventually graduate into big-time professional racing, or, as is sometimes the case, into the corporate world where basic sport principles are just as applicable."
For more information, visit www.cyclelab.com.