Magdeleine Vallieres Mill is one of the eight members of the WCC Team competing in events across the 2021 International Calendar. The Canadian comes from the cycling-popular city of Sherbrooke, Quebec, where she developed through the junior ranks in road, cyclo-cross and mountain bike. She has competed in the junior women’s category at two World Championships before representing her nation in the elite ranks for the first time at the 2020 Worlds in Imola.
The WCC Team was formed out of the broader programme that has been supporting athletes worldwide for nearly two decades. It provides opportunities for athletes to learn and excel in the five Olympic disciplines of road, track cycling, BMX Racing, BMX Freestyle and mountain bike, while also developing cycling locally and internationally.
Starting out as a club, the women’s road team upgraded to a Continental licence in 2019 and is mostly used as a launching pad into the professional ranks. This year’s roster also includes Amha Selam (Ethiopia), Fatima Zahra el Hayani (Morocco), Akvile Gedraityte (Lithuania), Veronika Jandová (Czech Republic), Desiet Kidane (Eritrea), Anastasiya Kolesava (Belarus), and Tereza Medvedova (Slovakia).
In an Q&A feature series, Cyclingnews will introduce some of the newest and existing members of the programme as they develop in their respective disciplines – Road, Track, MTB and BMX – and pursue their Olympic dreams.
Cyclingnews: You have relocated from Quebec, Canada to Switzerland. How was that move to the World Cycling Centre headquarters?
Magdeleine Vallieres Mill: Yes, I’m living in Switzerland now at the centre. I arrived here during the winter, in February, and it was cold at that time, but a lot warmer than back home. Now, it’s warm and we’ve been able to ride in shorts, so that’s really great.
CN: Could you tell us about your home city of Sherbrooke in Quebec and how you got started in cycling?
MVM: I started cycling with my dad when I was nine years old. We did some touring trips with bags on our bikes. We did a trip of about 900km in nine days, and that’s how I fell in love with the sport. Once I got into high school, I entered a sports programme and that’s where I got the chance to try road, mountain bike, cyclo-cross and BMX.
CN: Cycling is very popular in Sherbrooke, and in Quebec, where there is a lot of enthusiasm for the sport. Did that play a factor in your participation in cycling?
MVM: Cycling is an important sport in Quebec and we have a great federation with great support and lots of races and clubs, even for young riders, which was nice. I have a good community in my city, too, with four or five mountain bike clubs for mountain biking, BMX, track and road.
CN: How many cycling disciplines do you compete in?
MVM: I only race on the road right now but when I was younger, and as a junior up until 2019, I also raced cyclo-cross and mountain bike. I did the World Championships in all three disciplines when I was a junior. Now, I focus on road racing.
CN: Is the WCC your first international team?
MVM: Yes, I joined the WCC team last year, and so this is my second year with this programme, but because of COVID-19, it’s my first season competing in Europe.
CN: How did you become connected with the WCC Team?
MVM: Cycling Canada wrote to me to see if I wanted to apply and send my resume to the WCC programme. I was chosen from the applicants to join the talent identification camp in Switzerland in November of 2019. I stayed for one week where we did a couple of tests using the Wattbike, in the time trial, and endurance riding, and hill climbing tests. I did well in the hill climbing test and they gave me a spot in the programme.
CN: What’s do they provide for you as part of the programme?
MVM: I get to live here for the whole season. We all live in the residence on the same floor, each in our own room. We race a little bit all over Europe. Last year, we didn’t race that much, just a couple of races, because of COVID-19. This year, we’re doing a lot more races. I have access to a bike, mechanic, coach, and everything I need to ride my bike.
CN: What happened last year with the programme due to COVID-19?
MVM: I arrived last year and we did a training camp and then we had three races in Belgium. COVID-19 happened and they sent us all back home. I returned in August to do a couple of more races.
CN: What did you learn in your first year in the team?
MVM: I learned a lot. It was the first time that I raced in Europe on the road with the elite women, and that was a big step. Being in the peloton was very different, and so many people in the pack, whereas back home there are very small packs. Everyone was so strong, too. I learned about living with my teammates all season and about proper training.
CN: Has the team changed this year?
MVM: It has changed a little bit, but we have five of the same riders as last year. It’s going very well this year. We have a new coach and we are all learning. It’s fun and I enjoy time with my teammates.
CN: Can you tell us more about being on such an international team?
MVM: It’s a nice team and I have learned a lot from all of my teammates who are from other nations. It makes me feel lucky to be where I am from. My teammates are very nice and I love learning about their cultures and life in their countries. We are all really happy to have the chance to be here and pursue our cycling dreams.
CN: What does the WCC Team hope to accomplish this year?
MVM: We all want to learn from the races and take the next step to sign with a professional team in the next few years. We all want to learn from each other as well, about other nations, and have fun, too. We are a good group and it’s nice to be together to train and race.
CN: Will the programme help you find a professional contract?
MVM: The goal is to teach us the most that they can about cycling, training and racing, and to help us become as strong as we can, so that we can get noticed by other teams. They help us with contacts with the professional teams.
CN: What races will you do this year?
MVM: The calendar is always changing and we are not supposed to do the WorldTour races because we are not high enough in the ranking for the invitations. I will do some of the lower level races in Europe. If I can make the selection then I also hope to compete in the World Championships.
About the World Cycling Centre programme
Home to the headquarters of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) is an elite coaching and training centre in Aigle, Switzerland. Opened in 2002, the UCI WCC welcomes more than 150 young men and women every year in cycling’s Olympic disciplines of road, track cycling, BMX Racing, BMX Freestyle and mountain bike.
These athletes arrive at the UCI WCC after a thorough talent identification process carried out in collaboration with the UCI’s five Continental Confederations. Since 2004, UCI WCC trainees have won 23 Olympic medals: three gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze either during or after their time in Aigle. Added to this are more than 70 UCI World Championship podiums including 41 titles of UCI World Champion across the different disciplines and categories.
As well as detecting, coaching and training elite athletes the UCI WCC provides training for cycling’s various occupations: coaches, sports directors, mechanics and soigneurs.