Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) President Brian Cookson has underlined the importance of youth development after watching the stars of tomorrow compete at the Junior/U23 European Track Championships in Portugal.

Cookson, who spent two days watching the competition, believes that supporting National Federations and providing more opportunities for aspiring young cyclists is fundamental for the sport’s future prosperity. 

UCI President Brian Cookson commented: “Since I became UCI President in 2013, I have made sure that we have dedicated more funding than ever to the UCI World Cycling Centre.

“I want us to aim even higher and provide even more support to help National Federations so that we can see more athletes from all nations achieve their full potential.  I also want to see more coaches from around the world coming to Aigle to improve their knowledge and skills. 

“Young cyclists are the future of our sport, and I have seen some tremendous performances here in Portugal which I am sure will inspire future generations. It is up to the UCI to provide all the support we can to young cyclists, their coaches and National Federations, so that our sport continues to thrive.”

Cookson praised the organisation of the event in Portugal and added: “I was really impressed with the excellent Anadia Velodrome and the Academy. The Portuguese Cycling Federation is doing a very good job and we are beginning to see many talented young riders emerging, thanks to their hard work. The future is bright for our sport in Portugal.” 

Portuguese Cycling Federation President Delmino Pereira thanks Cookson for his visit and said: “It has been good to have UCI President Brian Cookson visiting Portugal this week.

“He not only saw our Anadia Velodrome where we have been holding the European Junior and U-23 Track Championships, he also paid a visit to our Academy where we are developing our talented young riders, and was very impressed. It is important that National Federations invest in youth, as we have done in Portugal. The future success of our sport relies upon a new generation of riders coming through and the opportunities they can now enjoy.” 

Cookson, who presented medals during the event, also underlined the strength of the UCI’s relationship with the International Olympic Committee and the greater opportunities now available to the elite cyclists of tomorrow.

He added: “We have seen our sport grow at Olympic level, with the integration of BMX Freestyle now in the Olympic Games and the Youth Olympic Games and that is a tremendous experience for young cyclists now.

“But there are other ways we have opened up our sport to young people as well. We introduced the Women’s Under-23 category for the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships for the first time in 2016; we have Junior Track Worlds held every two years at the UCI HQ in Aigle; as well as the addition of a separate DHI Women’s Junior event at MTB World Cup.”

Cookson, who became President of the world governing body for the sport of cycling in 2013, is standing for a second term to build on the significant progress that has been made during the first four years of his Presidency.

He aims to drive growth across all cycling’s disciplines, accelerate international development, champion cycling for transport and leisure, ensure there is equal opportunity for men and women to participate and compete, build on cycling’s restored credibility and ensure the UCI continues to drive excellence in its operations. 

The UCI election will take place in Bergen, Norway, in late September.