Credit: UCI

It is 20 years since the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) first opened its doors in Aigle, Switzerland.

Situated on the banks of the Rhone river, the international education and training centre, which also houses the headquarters of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has been training athletes from the world over since 2002 as well as running courses for people working in cycling’s different professions. A vision of former UCI President Hein Verbruggen and Director General Jean-Pierre Strebel in the 1990s, the UCI World Cycling Centre became a reality a few years later and was quickly renowned worldwide.

The 20th anniversary celebrations this Thursday 14 April will unite some of the centre’s former and current athletes, Olympians, partners, key people in the centre’s history, as well as the local population which benefits from the top-class facilities on a daily basis.

With the Canton of Vaud – where Aigle is situated – celebrating the Year of the Bike, and the town of Aigle preparing to host stages of the 2022 Tour de Romandie and Tour de France, the UCI WCC is more than ever in the heart of local and international cycling.

Over the years, the centre has hosted major international cycling events including the 2006 UCI Para-cycling World Championships for road and track, two editions of the UCI Junior Track World Championships, several rounds of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup, stages of the Tour de Romandie and Matthias Brändle’s successful attempt on the UCI Hour Record timed by Tissot in 2014 (the Austrian’s record of 51.852 km has since been broken).

Among athletes from all over the world who have trained at the UCI WCC, are:

  • Chinese track cyclist Guo Shuang, four-time Olympic medallist and six-time UCI World Champion
  • Venezuela’s Stefany Hernandez, UCI World Champion for BMX Racing in 2015 and Olympic bronze medallist at Rio 2016
  • Mongolia’s Tegshbayar Batsaikhan, 2016 Junior UCI World Champion in the points race
  • Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot, who in 2015 became the first sub-Saharan African to wear the polka dot mountain classification jersey at the Tour de France
  • Biniam Girmay, also from Eritrea, who recently stamped his name on world cycling with his victory in the UCI WorldTour Classic Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields.
  • Current UCI WCC athletes include BMX Racing Olympian and European Champion Zoé Claessens (SUI) and Trinidad and Tobago’s Nicholas Paul, silver medallist in the kilometre time trial at last year’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships and world record holder for the 200m flying start.

However, the UCI World Cycling Centre is not solely about Elite performance.

One of the beauties of the UCI World Cycling Centre is it accessibility to the local population and visitors to the area, who share many of the facilities with world stars. The pump track is constantly in use by children and adults alike, while track cycling enthusiasts can book an initiation session or take out a season pass. The cycling-related displays and restaurant are open to the public, who on any given day may be able to witness our trainee athletes at work on the velodrome or the BMX Racing track.

The latest addition to the UCI WCC’s wide range of cycling facilities is the BMX Freestyle park: ensuring a top-class international training ground for cycling’s fifth and youngest Olympic discipline.

UCI President David Lappartient said: “In its 20 years of existence the UCI WCC has helped hundreds of talented young athletes work towards achieving their dreams, trained some 600 people in cycling professions such as mechanics, coaches and Sport Directors, and enabled many thousands more to reach the highest possible level in their own countries and continents via our satellite centres worldwide. This is a source of great pride.

“Sadly, our celebrations this week are overshadowed by the recent passing of the UCI WCC Director Vincent Jacquet, who had been looking forward to marking this occasion with us. He is very much in our thoughts on this occasion, and he will remain so as we carry our activities into the future.

“Indeed, the UCI WCC and the UCI will continue to work hand in hand to develop cycling across its many and varied disciplines and make our sport even more accessible to people in all regions of the world. From talent detection, to athlete training, to educating coaches, mechanics and Sport Directors worldwide, the UCI World Cycling Centre is a true hub of international cycling while also keeping its doors open to the local population.”