December 15/03 4:24 am - Canadian Cyclist of the Year Awards Announcement
Posted by Editor on 12/15/03
2003 Canadian Cyclist of the Year Awards
We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2003 Canadian Cyclist of the Year Awards. This year is the seventh annual presentation of these awards, and the competition was one of the closest ever. After thousands of ballots, the voting closed on December 12th. We then tallied the ballots for the three categories - Male Canadian Cyclist, Female Canadian Cyclist, and Best Individual Performance of the Year. We have also decided upon the winners for two other categories - Roger Sumner Award (Best Newcomer) and Worst Luck Award.
And the winners are...
Canadian Cyclist of the Year - Female
Marie-Hélène Premont - Chateau Richer, QC
The 26 year old Premont graduated to the highest level of international mountain biking this year, winning the national championships in Whistler, after literally riding away from top stars Alison Sydor and Chrissy Redden (both former CC Award winners). She finished third in the World Cup Final, fourth overall in the World Cup series and fifth at the World Championships, as well as an incredible 4th at the Grouse Mountain World Cup after suffering two punctures. Three-time World Champion Alison Sydor predicts that she will be Canada's next world Champion.
However, Premont's win was not easy. She and road star Lyne Bessette were separated by only two votes with one week to go, and Sydor and Genevieve Jeanson were also close - less than 2% behind. At the end, the final tally was Premont 27.4%, Lyne Bessette 24.6%, Alison Sydor 22.7%, Genevieve Jeanson 18.9% and Sue Palmer-Komar 6.4% .
Marie-Helene sent this response to the announcement of her win:
"Je suis très contente de recevoir ce prix. J'aimerais d'abord remercier tous ceux qui ont voté pour moi. J'aimerais aussi féliciter toutes les personnes qui ont été mise en nomination. Les performances des canadiens l'été passée, autant sur la route qu'en vélo de montagne,Â prouvent que le canada fait partie des meilleurs pays au monde et c'est grâce au travail de chacun. J'ai connu une excellente saison l'été passée avec mon premier podium en coupe du monde, une quatrième place au cumulatif de la Coupe du monde et une cinquième position au Championnat du monde. J'espère que l'année 2004 sera aussi fructueuse, d'autant plus que c'est une année Olympique. Mon objectif majeure pour 2004 est de me sélectionner pour Athène alors mes efforts seront mis en ce sens. Â Passe un bel hiver et on se voit l'été prochain."
A rough translation "I am very happy to receive this award. I would initially like to thank all those which voted for me. I would also like to congratulate all those who were also nominated. The performances of Canadians this past summer, on the road and mountain, proves that Canada is one of the best countries in the world ,thanks to the work of everyone. I had an excellent season this year with my first world cup podium, a fourth place World cup overall and a fifth place at the World Championships. I hope that the year 2004 will be also profitable, especially as it is an Olympic year. My major objective for 2004 is to be selected for Athens and all my efforts will be to that end. Wishing everyone a wonderful winter and see you all next summer."
Canadian Cyclist of the Year - Male
Eric Wohlberg - Levack, Ontario
Eric Wohlberg is one of Canada's most consistent riders. In 2003 he took his eighth consecutive national time trial title, was the top Canadian in the time trial at the Road World Championships (25th), won stages at major races in the USA, Australia and New Zealand, and finished 5th overall in Canada's largest stage race, the GP Cycliste de Beauce. Eric is a previous winner of the Canadian Cyclist of the Year Award, back in 1998.
During the one month of voting, the lead swapped back and forth between Wohlberg and Michael Barry several times, but Wohlberg finished with 33.5% of ballots cast to Barry's 31.1%. Mountain bike pro Ryder Hesjedal was third with 24.4%, and Junior Max Plaxton took 11% of the votes. He responded to news of his win with the following statement:
"I'm very honoured to have received the Canadian Male Cyclist of the Year award. For me, there's no greater honor to have my efforts recognized by my peers. I really try my best to encourage everyone to ride their bikes and experience this sport at any level. I would also like to recognize the rest of the nominees (in every category). I know first-hand, that all of us who have the privilege to wear a National Team Jersey do so with honour. Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey and to those who voted for me.
My 2003 season was one of my best. I was very happy to be part of the Saturn Team for a third year. Our goal was to win the NRC, and to do so we had to take full advantage of the heavy Spring Calendar. Our 03 success was attributed to solid team riding. I was happy with my performances up to and including National Championships, however, right after Nationals, I was struck by a motorist, and incurred a wrist injury that plagued me for the rest of the season.
I was proud to be part of the World Champs team in Hamilton and really appreciated all the support we got from the crowd. I still cannot believe the ride Michael (Barry) pulled off. He really rose to the occasion, showing the heart that Canadians have. Thanks to all of those who encouraged us as we competed. While my World Championships didn't go as well as I hoped, I was able to finish off the season on a high note with good success Down Under in The Sun Tour and the Tour Of Queensland.
My plans for 2004 include a full US NRC schedule with the Chico, Ca-based Sierra Nevada Cycling Team. Sierra Nevada has always been a strong force in Northern California. As one of the new additions to the team, my role will be to bolster the horsepower and bring some more experience to the squad. We've a great mix of riders, staff and sponsors that will keep the team running on eight cylinders. Our focus is to become a force on the North American race scene.
I am also hoping to represent Canada in Athens. I have already met the Olympic Qualification Criteria. However, the battle is far from over. Us Canadian riders will have to keep Canada ranked within the top 30 Countries on UCI points. Such an ranking will allow us to send 3 riders to the Games. I hope to contribute to our tally early on in 2004, as I will be part of a strong Canadian team for The Wellington Tour (New Zealand), and The Tour De Langkawi (Malaysia).
Canadians have raced very well at UCI sanctioned events here in North America, but the bulk of the races we do (regardless of the difficulty) do not receive recognition. Due to this circumstance, our World Championship and Olympic quota suffers. Canada's UCI ranking does not truly represent Canadian talent. Gone is the Olympic spirit where a country can send it's best, regardless of where they compete.
As for further down the road, I can't say. Cycling is a pretty volatile sport, and can be difficult for all involved. I have always dreamed of being a full time athlete, and am glad that cycling has provided me this opportunity. Few are as fortunate as myself to have a profession that they really enjoy. As long as I look forward to the training, racing ,travel and am competitive, I intend to compete. When I no longer can satisfy those requirements, I'll back out of elite level competition. I do wish to stay involved in sport and try to provide others with the same opportunities and experiences I have enjoyed.
Thanks again to everyone who has supports Canadian Cycling, and has wished
Canadian Cyclist of the Year - Best Individual Performance
Michael Barry - Toronto, Ontario
Michael Barry was the runaway victor in this category, for his remarkable seventh place finish in the Elite Men's Road race at the Road World Championships in Hamilton, Ontario, on October 12th. Barry's seventh place, against the top professionals in the world, is the best Canadian result since Steve Bauer finished third in 1984. His result vaulted him into the top 200 riders in World rankings.
Barry took 42.3% of ballots cast, well ahead of second place Marie-Helene Premont with 13.9% of the vote for her fourth place at the Grouse Mountain World Cup in Vancouver. Alison Sydor finished third, with 12.9% of voters choosing her silver medal finish at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Lugano, Switzerland.
Michael Barry sent the following statement from his home in Colorado:
"I would like to thank the Canadian cycling community for the support they have given me since I started racing as a child. In Hamilton the World saw how strong and solid this community is and it was truly inspiring to race in front of such a crowd on home soil, in one of the best organized races I have competed in.
The Worlds also left me extremely motivated for next season. I will begin the year with stage races in Spain and Portugal and then move north as the season progresses. I would like to give a few of the classics a good run. After having raced for two years in the European peloton I am begining to figure out what my strengths are and what races suit my abilities. We have a very solid team next year, an expanded team, that can be competitive throughout the racing calendar.
The Olympics and Worlds are two big goals for the season. It is always good to get back with the Canadians again as I have grown racing with many of them and not only are they teammates but good friends."
Canadian Cyclist of the Year - Roger Sumner Award
Kevin Lacombe - Amos, Quebec
The Roger Sumner Award, for the Best Newcomer, is named after long time cycling coach, manager and supporter of Canadian cycling Roger Sumner, who passed away in December of 2000, after being hit by a car while cycling.
This year the Roger Sumner Award goes to Junior road racer Kevin Lacombe, who exploded onto the cycling scene, coming from hockey, where he plays Junior A for Drummondville. He wore the leader's jersey at the Tour de l'Abitibi until the final stage, when a crash put him out of contention. He also took the Bronze medal at the Track Nationals in the Sprint, was a member of the Quebec gold medal Team Pursuit and Team Sprint squads, won the gold in the Individual Pursuit, and represented Canada at the Junior Track Worlds. On the road, he won the National time trial championship, and finished second in the road race. At the Road Worlds, he finished 50th in the time trial, and crashed badly in the road race, requiring hospitalization for a few days.
Canadian Cyclist of the Year - Worst Luck Award
Roland Green - Victoria, BC
This is a new award, prompted by the bad luck suffered by a number of Canadian Riders this year. This is the award, that no one wants to win...
Our nominees are:
Roland Green - after an excellent start to the year, with the Climber's Jersey at the Tour de Langkawi and the overall win at Sea Otter, Green appeared to be well on his way to a third consecutive world title. Unfortunately, at the Tour of Georgia, his front wheel caught in a crack in the road and he suffered a fairly serious shoulder injury, which hindered him through the early rounds of the World Cup. He seemed to be coming back for the Mountain Bike Worlds, when he came down an infection after being exposed to shingles! This put paid to his chances of winning the world title in Lugano, Switzerland, and also resulted in his withdrawal from the Road Worlds, where he was scheduled to represent Canada in the time trial.
Kevin Lacombe - Lacombe is a newcomer to cyclist, who actually had a strong enough season to win our Roger Sumner Award (see above). However, he also fell down a number of times, in the Tour de l'Abitibi, which he was leading until a last stage crash, at a training project in Italy prior to the Road Worlds, and at the Road Worlds in the Road Race - a serious first lap crash that put him in hospital with a serious concussion and a broken orbital bone.