The Oaklands Wolves Cycling Academy aims to bring together talented and aspiring race cyclists aged 16-18 in order to progress their skills, fitness and the capacity to become elite category senior riders.
It’s the first of its kind in the UK and as such, has some of the country’s very best junior riders coming through its programmes which aims to expose all riders to as wide a range of cycling disciplines as possible throughout the two years, whilst still allowing riders to specialise as individuals.
Alongside the considerable volume that the riders are able to do every morning free to train while still studying, riders undergo strength and conditioning programmes run by a team of dedicated cycling-specific physiotherapists and coaches.
Having formed a partnership with Wattbike right at the inception of the academy five years ago (2017), the Wattbike remains the official Test Bike and Test Protocol Provider of the academy, used to benchmark test every single rider through the programme.
Jez Cox, Oaklands Wolves Cycling Academy Director and Head Coach, explains: “The Wattbikes are gold dust for us. We use them to benchmark every single rider. Most of our training is out on the roads but the bikes provide us with a reliable, accurate way to benchmark each rider and test their progress throughout the programme.”
“The repeatability of these tests is essential to us, the ability to run tests consistently in an identical format is vital. We tend to focus on 6-second sprints, 30-second sprints and 4-minute pushes.”
Jez has used the Wattbikes for many years. When he retired from racing, he was chosen to design and implement the cycling legacy plan for the London 2012 Olympic Games where he utilised the bikes regularly, often for engagement and outreach campaigns, and having completed that, went on to design and manage all the cycling programmes at Lee Valley VeloPark that are still in place today, with Wattbikes on-site alongside the track and within studios spaces.
At the academy, the Wattbikes also play their role within rehabilitation programmes. The off-feet nature of the bikes means that the riders can recover from lower limb injuries and regain strength and power before heading back out on the road.
One of the academy's mountain biking cyclists, Jack Jee, had already undergone two knee operations in retaliation to the intensity of the sport. The Wattbike formed a large part of his rehabilitation programme.
“Jack was an athlete frustrated by rehabilitation. He wanted to get stuck into training at his normal intensities straight away which just wasn’t possible.” Jez comments. “The Wattbike was key to his programme, and his personality, as we were able to control the intensity of the work he was doing. We controlled the max cadence and the watts, so that despite him wanting to push himself, we were able to make sure he wasn’t overdoing it before his body was ready.”
The nature of the academy is that you can get some riders through the programme that are complete cycling novices but showing raw potential. This was the case with Rihanna Parris-Smith who joined the academy at age 16 as an injured track runner but with power potential.
Rihanna was previously a track sprinter, but as a novice cyclist, the academy was able to cater a programme to suit her. This involved a lot of time training on the Wattbike as she had the power, but no refinement.
“Rihanna pretty much lived on the Wattbike.” Jez adds. “Even in the lockdown year, we sent her home with a Wattbike and she kept up her training that way. She loves the bike, and it took her from a cyclist with potential to being at the top of her game as an elite cyclist in just a few years. She had the natural talent but the Wattbike was key in refining her technique, especially using the pedalling profile and pedalling effectiveness score (PES) of the Wattbike Polar View.”
The Oaklands Wolves Cycling Academy has had another brilliant year, growing to 35 riders from September and with success on the national and World stage continuing to grow, including two riders progressing into the British Cycling Great Britain Team.
From September, four riders will be placed into the academy by British Cycling as the first intake on the first ever Cycling Diploma in Sporting Excellence. In addition to this, September will see the launch of the Freeride Academy, the first of its kind, to incorporate other disciplines such as Extreme Mountain Biking, Dirt Jumps, BMX, Gravity and Enduro.