As a first year junior, this is a process that remains fresh in my mind. It can seem daunting at first, but on the whole is relatively straightforward. The team I am riding for this year, as some of you may know, is Tofauti Everyone Active, an outfit based in Essex. In the rest of this article I will outline what to look for when finding a team, things to bear in mind and ultimately why I chose Tofauti Everyone Active.
The way that many junior teams will select their riders is by launching an application form, often through one of their various social media pages, so it is a good idea to follow many. This will also help to give you an idea of how the team works, and what kind of races they do. A team’s application form will usually consist of 4 or 5 pages, the first 1 or 2 are usually just admin, and possible questions are: Race results over the last two years, what disciplines you compete in, and your training schedule. Questions like this are designed to build up a picture of you as a bike rider, and how you will fit into the team. However, there are some potential
red flags to watch out for. Forms that have questions regarding power, weight and w/kg need to be carefully considered if this team is a good environment to be in. This is because it shows that the team manager either doesn’t pay much attention to youth cycling, so has no clue who can do what performance wise, or they have a backward knowledge f the sport, and think that the 4 best riders on Zwift will win every UCI race they enter. Regarding weight, your weight is not a problem, or an advantage over anyone, especially in the youth and junior ranks.
Another method of application is that teams may ask for CV, or palmares if you like, detailing your results, racing style and other qualities you may have. This was how Tofauti EA set about recruitment of riders for 2021. I prefer to see this style as it gives you a chance to express yourself freely, and include what they need to know about you, without putting pressure on you as a rider to answer anything you aren’t comfortable with.
Another gauge that I used to help choose a junior team was if I could see myself being friends with these people. often you will already know most riders that you end up in a team with, but it is different seeing them once a week for an hour, than to be doing 4 hour rides or lift sharing to faraway lands with them. Also, it does help if the other riders are in a similar geographic region to you, allowing you to gel as a team, which will be important during the season.
A major deciding factor was what opportunities can they give. If you are wanting to do cyclocross in Belgium, then there isn’t much point signing for a team that does Spanish road races.
Also, what financial/equipment support can they offer? Whilst it is rare anything will ever be free, receiving clothing, helmets and other things at discounted or cost price are certainly things to be grateful for. Personally, I was looking for a team that could offer a wealth of UCI invites on the road, whilst giving me the freedom to continue with track racing. I saw that TEA had received multiple invites in 2020, despite being a very new team, and saw this as a good sign. This season the team has been given invites to around 10 UCI races in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, and has over 20 sponsors on board.
Another thing to consider is how does the team coach it’s riders. Does it have a 1 on 1 fitness coach, or an older head that can offer advice? Neither type is better, but you should consider which is right for you. For me, I wasn’t really worried about having a coach to set me training every week, I more wanted people around me that I can bounce ideas off of about training, as I feel that I can learn more about myself this way. A support bubble of this kind doesn’t necessarily need to be from within the team either, like I often chat with a friend about what each of us are doing and why.
The last thing is the strength of the other riders on the team. You don’t want to be dropping everyone 20 mins into a team training, but equally you don’t want to be in a team with so many strong riders that you can’t get a look in for the big races.
If you have any questions, please ask. I can be found at @nathan44rd on all social media.
Ciao for now,