The Giro d’Italia is a great occasion for everybody. It is like a magnet attracting the curiosity of many passionate adults and a mass of television spectators who remain hypnotized by the heroic feats of the athletes. The Giro d’Italia is also a great occasion for the young. It provides an opportunity for them to be captured by an intuition, to be conquered by this sport and start their journey.
Davide Cassani is the Manager of the national Italian cycling team and Technical Director of a professional team. Over the past years, he has chosen to focus on initiatives that contribute to the development of youth cycling and encourage children to take up this sport.
At 23 years of age, the Gran Fondo Davide Cassani is by now recognized to be one of the “classics” that open the season of amateur cycling. It is an event many amateur cyclists look forward to, also and above all for its mission: to enable and develop the passion for cycling among junior athletes, those of the category “very young”. The Gran Fondo of Faenza is a perfect example of this and an interesting experience. It demonstrates a policy that considers youth and sport to be a winning combination.
“My attention for the youth category” says Davide “comes from the awareness that sports, such as cycling, can form the basis of a good education in health and safety on the streets. Some diseases are spreading in an exponential manner, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. These are more effectively prevented if children are encouraged to take on a sport and they are educated in training, proper nutrition and paying attention to the signals the body sends”.
How do you encourage children to take up?
“Children familiarize themselves with cycling by seeing the great races such as the stages of the Giro d’Italia, in person. It is by seeing the professionals so close to home that a child can become passionate about cycling, as happened to me and so many great names in the history of cycling. I became passionate about cycling because I went to see the races with my father. The presence of youth clubs and the spreading of knowledge of cycling in schools can also make a big difference.
Why do you think that cycling can be a sport particularly educational for children?
“Cyling is an educational sport because, even though it is an individual sport in which a young athlete is only measured with himself, it is also a team sport that teaches what it means to be part of a group. It is a formative sport because it is a discipline built through effort and shows clearly that if you want to obtain something you need to work for it and follow certain rules. It helps to get to know and understand your limits and abilities and to develop resistance. But above anything else, it teaches resilience: the capacity to overcome difficulties and to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. I believe these are fundamental lessons for anybody, not just for an athlete.
What do you think is the right approach to this sport for a child?
“Cycling needs to start as a game and needs to stay that way at least until 13 years old. Until this age there is no talk about training, but only of playfulness, fun and learning. In any case, attention should be paid to the billgical age of each athlete. Often this does not correspond with the anagraphic age. Training should be built up gradually to not compromise the future. It is also good to practice various disciplines, from track, street and also mountain bike. Cycling is an andurance sport and therefore during the pahses of development the load should not be too much. Instead, an investment should me made in ensuring technical quality which will be of benefit in the future. A thing I see too often is the obsessive search for leanness by many young atheltes. This is a mistake. Leanness should not be sought until at least twenty years old, to allow for a normal physical development that can allow for training building in intensity and focus. “