Posted by Editor on 04/7/02
2002 Canadian Team Review - A Study of Contrasts
by Matthias Schmidt
The 2002 Canadian racing scene is certainly a study of contrasts! In one part of the sport - cross-country mountain bike racing - Canada boasts a reigning World Champion, Roland Green, on the men's side, the reigning World Champion relay team, as well as the continued amazing results and development of the Canadian women with Chrissy Redden and Alison Sydor leading the way. Couple this success that generates major publicity and interest in the sport with a solid support structure, a national calendar and several North American World Cups, and the basis for on-going growth and development are in place. This certainly bodes well for the future, as having an established support structure is critical for long-term growth.
The road scene suffers in comparison to mountain biking, and is again without a comprehensive national calendar. Elite road riders from Canada are forced to follow the more organized and lucrative US circuit to ply their trade. All is not lost, however, with well organized and attended provincial midweek series in Quebec, BC, and Ontario that provide riders with regular races to hone their skills. An infrastructure is gradually being put in place, with tracks in many parts of the country (much to the chagrin of Ontario racers who are still without high quality facility). It should be noted that the imminent closing of the Burnaby, B.C. track (the only covered track in North America), is a black mark, as is the continued difficulty of finding a location for the Road Nationals.
There are also some very bright spots, such as, Michael Barry joining Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong's US Postal team for 2002, Lyne Bessette leading Saturn, Svein Tuft on Prime Alliance and the Canadian-based Rona squad of Genevieve Jeanson. In general terms, the sport is very healthy, with lots of participation. But without a national series in place there is not a lot to offer after the provincial level in Canada. Elite riders, like many other Canadians, have had to look south of the border to further their sporting careers.
MTB Team Review
The MTB racing calendar and team structure in Canada is strong. Even with the well-documented struggles of several manufacturers and distributors, several strong teams exist within Canada and many international stars call Canada home. The foundation element is the Canada Cup series that allows up and coming riders to have a stepping-stone before jumping onto the World Cup circuit. Having 2 World Cups in Canada, another in the US (DH/4-Cross), and a strong NORBA series within reach means that there is ample opportunity for rider development and the international results prove it! Teams are able to take advantage of this level of competition and are well organized and structured. It should be noted that this is primarily for the cross-country aspect of the sport. In Downhill, the pickings are much slimmer, and Canada appears to be losing ground to other countries such as Australia and South Africa.
Here are some of the Canadian-based off road teams to watch out for in 2002:
The Gears Racing Institute (GRI) has again fielded an amazing MTB team that looks to repeat its fantastic results of 2002. In forming the team, management took the objective of attracting seasoned and experienced athletes to act as professional spokespeople for the team, while at the same time filling a role as mentor to the younger, up-and-coming racers. The star-studded line-up includes Trish Sinclair, Kiara Bisaro (2001 Pro-Elite Women Canada Cup Champion, 10th at the Worlds), Claire Hall-Patch, Sue Trimble (Canada Summer Games champion), and Danelle Kabush are on the woman's side of the team. On the men's side Mathieu Toulouse (2001 Pro-Elite Men Canada Cup Champion), Julian Hine, and Greg Reain will work with rising superstars Ricky Federau, Adam Coates (2001 Gold Medal, Team Relay, World Championships), Ryan Savoy, Frederic Bussieres, and Michael Dennis.
Team Oryx will again be a major challenger and a team to watch in 2002. Team Oryx will mainly focus on XC events held in North America. The return of Marie-Helene Premont, Claire Townsend, Eric Tourville and Pierre Harvey represent a lot of talent and experience. In addition to the existing team, 4 young and coming racers will join the team: Anne-Marie Jobin, Jean-Philippe Provost, Julie Sander and Mathieu Darveau.
Rocky Mountain returns with husband and wife team leaders Andreas Hestler and Lesley Tomlinson, both of whom are internationally recognized former Olympians who have had exceptional careers to date. The development team will look to the senior riders on the team to lead the way and pass down the years of knowledge they both have. Look for Rocky Mountain at the Canada Cup series as well as the North American World Cup stops.
KHS is once again fielding a strong team consisting of Elite racers, Masters and some talented young riders. Josh Hall (when racing off road) will lead the team, with strong performances expected from Rob Mann and Marc Cousineau.
The Kona factory team will field a small team in 2002 but their riders will certainly get a great deal of attention! The team includes versatile, multi-time Canadian cyclo-cross Champion Peter Wedge along with Geoff Kabush who placed a fine 9th place at the 2000 Olympic games and looks to make a jump onto the World Cup podium after an early start to the season on the road at the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia. The team may be small in numbers but will be one to watch.
Intense Canada will focus on the downhill events of the Canada Cup as well as North American legs of the World Cup. The team boasts strong up and comers like Matthew Neilson (9th Overall 2001 Pro Downhill Canada Cup Series) and Vincent Marcotte who is looking for a major break out season.
The Speed Queens are a talented group of racers from BC coached by Steve Lund. This versatile team races MTB, road, and track. Key riders include Erica Drew (6th Junior Women's XC, 2000 World Championships), Lisa Sweeney, Sandra Walter, Tanya Berg, and Dawn Berg.
Fly Gurlz will be riding and racing the Canadian trails again in 2002 with "expansion" being the key goal for 2002. The race team has 14 riders with representation in four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. The team organizes an excellent development program of "Womens-only learn to mountain bike clinics" that were a huge hit in 2001. The clinics are expanding to include BMX, Downhill, Dual Slalom. The team is led by Karley Cunningham, Stephanie Martinek, and Tracey Temple, but has riders in all categories.
Giant Canada sponsors a strong group of Canada's top downhill racers who will be attending the Canadian National series, National Championships, NORBA races, Canadian World Cups and the World Championships. Team riders include Leon May (National Team Member, 3rd Overall 2001 Canada Cup), Rob Hewitt (National Team, 6th Overall 2001 Canada Cup), and Brant Lyon (BC Cup Champion, 5th Overall 2001 Canada Cup).
Now for the Canadians who are racing 'abroad': Alison Sydor and Roland Green return to lead the VW-Trek squad, as do Ryder Hesjedal and Chrissy Redden for the Subaru-Gary Fisher team. These four are all world champions and Olympians, and are at the top rank of professional mountain bikers.
Road Team Review
Not much has changed over the last few years on the Canadian road scene, with a non-existent national calendar, difficulty finalizing a date and location for the national championships, and few major teams. Like snow birds, our top riders such as Michael Barry (US Postal), Lynne Bessette (Saturn), Gord Fraser (Mercury), national champ Mark Walters (Navigators), Eric Wholberg (Saturn), and recent Redlands stage winner Charles Dionne (7Up) are looking to the US and world circuits to ply their trade. Barring the GP Cycliste de Beauce, the Montreal Women's World Cup, the Quebec-Montreal classic, and other major 'regional' races like the Tour de White Rock (which are well attended and popular, but fail to attract riders from across the country) the national calendar is a disaster.
In addition to the aforementioned pros, there are a number of other top Canadian road talents who will be riding outside of Canada. Kim Davidge returns to Saturn, Sue Palmer-Komar (10th at the Worlds) leads the new Talgos America squad (joined by Anne Samplonius), Allyson Fox and Kirsten Robbins are on the new Amoros's/HH Racing team and Cybil DiGuistini has returned from Europe to race with the Diet Rite team. Nicole DeMars, Gina Grain and Mandy Poitras are members of the Bianchi USA squad which replaces the defunct 800.com team. Svein Tuft joined the Prime Alliance squad, after holding discussion with almost every major US team following his stellar 2001 season. Dominique Perras is with the Australian/European iTeamNova.com team, and a number of espoir men (Cory Lange, Cory Jay and Murray Carter) are racing with French development teams.
The only UCI registered men's trade team in Canada, Division III registered Sympatico/Jet Fuel, will race almost all of 2002 outside of Canada. The team is building on its success at the 2002 Milk Ras in Ireland by expanding a European campaign to include races in Switzerland, Germany and possibly other countries (see Daily News April 4 / 8:30 pm for the team's itinerary). The First Union Series in the US and Beauce will follow this. Team leaders include seasoned campaigner Joe Giuliano, Andrew Randall (returning from 7-Up), and Josh Hall. Technically, Sympatico/Jet Fuel will be the only Canadian squad (besides the national team) to qualify for the UCI 2.3-ranked Beauce stage race.
Toronto-based Atlas Cold/Ital Pasta is back again in 2002 with more sponsorship than ever. The team has decided to use its extra sponsorship money to expand its racing program in the US and Canada, and will remain a domestic Elite team instead of choosing to register as a UCI trade team for the 2002 season. Antoine Varghese, Simon Small, and Andrew Pinfold will lead the team, with Jeff Hansen and Pat Shea providing strong support.
The Gears Racing Institute (GRI) will be a team to watch. GRI is supporting a full team and is planning to compete in US races like Tour of SE Ohio, Fitchburg, and Four Bridges of Elgin (espoir) as well as the Canadian Nationals. The team is a mix of experienced riders like Jeff Weber, Piers Davidge, and Michael Moore, who will combine with developing talents like Chris Isaac, Peter Sanowar, and Warren Tillbrook. If the success of the mountain program is any indication, GRI will be a major factor.
Ontario's Midweek Club founder Peter McCaffery (organizer of the hugely successful La Bicicletta Midweek Racing Series) has formed a Senior Elite road team for 2002. The team will be led by team captain Peter Morse, and will contest races primarily in Ontario, Quebec and the Northern USA.
Since last year, Espoirs Laval has been quiet with the loss of Czeslaw Lukasewicz & Yannick Cojan, but for 2002 the elite squad will be back with Christophe Cheseaux, Mathieu Beliveau, Frederic Millette, Mathieu Panéroya, who will join Alain Guimond. Espoirs Laval, a stalwart on the Canadian scene will be aiming at the Quebec Cup series and select races in the Northeastern US.
Team Volkswagen is back for a 3rd year and is based in Quebec. The team will be competing in races in Quebec, and plans to attend several races in the Northeast USA. Alexandre Cloutier will lead the team along with Martin Gilbert, Martin St-Laurent, and Martin Nuckle.
The London Centennial Wheelers will race in 2002 as a sponsored club as the L.C.W. Racer Sportif London Racing Team. The team has current National Masters A road champion Charlie Squires and Provincial Masters A Crit Champion and Nationals Crit Silver Medalist Hans Loeffelholz. There will be representation on the team in almost every category as the Wheelers Racing Program continues to grow.
The Trek/Volkswagen team was the dominant force in all the races it attended throughout the year in 2001, winning 18 of 23 races in British Columbia. The team hopes to have the same level of success in 2002 with riders like James Neil, Daniel Goncalves, Darnelle Moore, and Marnie Prazsky leading the way.
A new team in BC is the Campione Racing Team - a group of elite level cyclists who will compete both nationally and internationally. Led by former Masters World Champion Larry Zimich, the team will kick off the year with a pre-season training camp, followed by a schedule that will see members compete in approximately 80 events, leading up to the Masters World Championships in St. Johan, Austria, August 28th. Other key members of the team include Michael Ryan, and Canada Summer Games double champion Jessica Hannah.
The women's scene was hit badly by the loss of the Intersports squad. Riders such as Sue Palmer-Komar and Anne Samplonius have hooked up with Talgo, but , sadly, at this point Sandy Espeseth is still without a team. Two development squads hold promise for the future - Kappa previously Speed Queens (see the Mountain Bike review) and Calgary-based Opus. Rona remains the bright spot for Canadian-based women, expanding its program to a full squad that will support superstar Genevieve Jeanson. Manon Jutras and Amy Jarvis have returned as Jeanson's lieutenants, as has New Zealander Melissa Holt. The latest additions are Karen Bockel of Germany and U.S. Criterium champion Nicole Freedman, who have already proven to be strong riders at Redlands and Sea Otter. Canadian Andrea Hannos is also part of the Rona squad.
The team review was certainly a challenge and trying to judge the health of the competitive side of the sport was not easy. Hopefully this review will give you an idea of who to watch out for on the trails and road in 2002! Good luck and keep the rubber side down!
Note: We apologize if we have missed anyone. Teams were asked to submit information a number of times to assist us with the report. You can still submit updates to email@example.com
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