ODA Alec Pasqualina MTB Nationals

The Olympic Development Academy Sets Its Sights on a Successful 2022 Season

By: Julie Goldsticker  March 07, 2022

ODA Director Alec Pasqualina gives us more details on the program he has developed over the past year.

USA Cycling launched the Olympic Development Academy (ODA) in 2021 to create a new and consistent development model across all cycling disciplines. The ODA gives athletes access to world class coaching, an elite level curriculum and valuable international and domestic competition experience.

“The primary goal and mission of the Olympic Development Academy is to give more athletes the right set of resources and education to get to the national team. We saw a big gap in the level of our national team athletes versus our athletes that we were seeing in domestic fields across multiple disciplines of cycling,” said Alec Pasqualina, Director of the Olympic Development Academy. “We are trying to make some of these national team resources accessible to a broader base, a wider range of athletes so they can use the education, knowledge and resources to improve and get to that level.”

While the ODA exists to elevate young riders across all cycling disciplines, the opening year focused on competition in cyclocross and mountain bike with plans to grow the program to all cycling disciplines in the future.

“The program was developed to raise the level of cycling in the United States overall. We are trying to make cycling more competitive so that a rising tide will lift all our boats,” Pasqualina added.

Through the ODA program and its resources, participants are able to access coaching, tools and competitions that may have been out of their reach previously. “We think that competition will ultimately help everybody. It will help our top trade teams in the U.S. and if we are helping develop talent alongside of trade teams, then everyone gets better. Fields are deeper and more competitive. That competition will ultimately make those athletes who want to stand out and have the drive to stand out, stand out even higher. It’s Olympic development truly because we are able to take education, access, and materials and bring them to the people in that development tier that we are working with,” he said.

The first year of the program is already showing positive results and the Olympic Development Academy team is identifying clear goals. “We had a few cyclocross athletes qualify for and race at the recent home World Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas. That was really massive. Then, we’ve also had a couple mountain bikers sign professional contracts following their year. Success for me looks like an athlete takes a step of growth. For athletes who are at the cusp of ‘national team level’ of ability then making the Worlds team is a massive success. If an athlete simply goes from placing mid-pack to placing top third of the pack, that’s the same type of significant growth,” said Pasqualina.

Seeing an athlete improve and learn in their own unique way are key markers for the Olympic Development Academy and the 2021 participants showed significant growth from the resources they were able to access. “In running a review of what happened last year, we were able to track growth with every single one of our athletes in terms of placements - their placing at nationals was better than they were placing proportionally to races at the beginning of the season. We saw them upgrade categories or even make a Worlds team. We were lucky enough to have success in a wide variety of things, but ultimately when it comes down to defining success - where is this athlete at in their career, what are their goals, and how can we help them take that next step and prepare them not be part of our program anymore,” he said.

The addition of a road program is part of the Olympic Development Academy’s plans in 2022 as well as growing their existing curriculum in cyclocross and mountain bike. “We weren’t able to run a road program in 2021, we just ran cyclocross and mountain but our goals for 2022 are to run programs in all three. With mountain and cyclocross already happening in 2021, we are going to be expanding those programs quite a bit,” Pasqualina said of their 2022 plans.

The ODA also has plans to increase participation in the European racing scene across multiple disciplines as well. “We want to run more European race programs. We think European racing is something unique that USA Cycling has the access to provide and it is key in many disciplines, especially cyclocross, mountain and road. The European racing is at such an elite level. We can give athletes more exposure earlier on and give them those experiences they can learn from without their first time racing in Europe being a world championship,” he added.

The Olympic Development Academy has two types of applications. One is for acceptance into the program and it heavily weights race experience. The second application is for scholarships, and it focuses primarily on financial need. The scholarship program supports athletes who have the same talent but not necessarily the financial access. The scholarship component is funded by donors and partners.

For more information on the Olympic Development Academy or to apply, go to: https://usacycling.org/team-us....

The applications are currently open for the Road program, learn more at: https://usacycling.org/team-us...