Paving the Road for Young Cyclists
In 2017, team manager Natascha den Ouden and team leader Servais Knaven embarked on a mission: to pave the way for young cyclists. This dedicated duo founded the Pavé 76 foundation, which is entirely devoted to organizing youth cycling events that are more challenging than the usual laps around the track. Their focus is on young cyclists aged 8 to 14.
"Our adventure began with a unique youth classic race where all categories started at different locations simultaneously, each covering varying distances within a 1.5-hour time frame. This event, known as the Bavelse Berg Classic, drew international participants and grew steadily. Unfortunately, it had to be discontinued due to a lack of police escort from the Netherlands, but we didn't give up. We expanded the event to include newcomers and juniors, both boys and girls. It quickly gained recognition as the 'race of the year' and added a criterium linked to the oldest criterium in the Netherlands: the Acht van Chaam, which follows the Tour de France. Winners of the youth categories even had the chance to ride during the neutralization of the real Acht van Chaam, side by side with the pros."
"Dwars door 't Zand, held annually at the 't Zand recreational area on the border with Belgium in Alphen, has been a great success for the past five years. We continually create a challenging course on a recreational lake where the Dutch national team usually trains. The course features sand, technical sections, long straightaways, and mud, providing a beautiful challenge for young riders. Each year, the number of participants grows, with more than 400 young cycling enthusiasts from both the Netherlands and abroad. This year, we even had participants from Finland, Germany, and the United States, underscoring the international appeal of the event."
"Notably, more and more Belgian riders are participating in these events, demonstrating that the allure of this event extends beyond Dutch borders. The Pavé 76 team, including the elite and development teams of AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step, has emerged from these youth competitions. This sets them apart in the world of cycling as they support both young talents and experienced professionals while also organizing their own events."
"NXTG, where the development and elite women of AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step are involved, and under which CC Pavé76 falls, including our juniors from AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step, is dedicated to inspiring young cyclists by organizing challenging events. They take pride in the increasing number of young riders joining and believe this organization plays a pivotal role in paving the way for the future of cycling. Our entire pyramid structure has essentially evolved from organizing grassroots events. The 'next generation' rides here, and we aim to inspire more young individuals to embrace cycling. The construction of our teams is based on this foundation. Grassroots sports are the foundation for elite sports, and without a solid foundation, there can be no sturdy house."
"The success story has not gone unnoticed, and their unique approach has gained international recognition. Natascha den Ouden and Servais Knaven's dedication to creating opportunities for young cyclists has not only attracted young talents but also drawn the attention of enthusiastic Belgian riders and even international recognition. The Pavé 76 team continues to grow and innovate, paving the path for young cyclists in the Netherlands and beyond."
" Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that we once again organized it this year in October, and, as before, it attracted a large number of participants, including national champions who participated in the race. Fee performed excellently and came in second, although she was primarily riding for 'fun.' Roos secured the third position and will be riding with us starting from January 1st. The total number of participants exceeded 400 once more, with many Belgian riders in attendance. They all expressed their intent to participate again next year."
"Finally, Servais plays an essential role in designing the course. He is assisted by two cyclocross specialists who help test it with experienced riders providing valuable feedback. The national coach and scout were also present to support us. Together, we form a close-knit team and remain committed to the future of cycling," said Natascha den Ouden.