Posted by Editoress on 10/12/15
This Thanksgiving weekend signals that the domestic Canadian cycling season is drawing to a close. It also a time for the Canadian cycling community to reflect on and be thankful for the advances we have seen in our sport, in this country, over the past few years.
Saturday was the official induction of the first members of Canada's Cycling Hall of Fame, a long overdue development. The first nine inductees provide an indication of the depth and breadth of Canada's cycling accomplishments. The permanent installation at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre is in its first stages, but already it will act as an inspiration to the new generation of Canadian riders that will walk past it on their way to the velodrome.
Speaking of things to be thankful for ... the velodrome. It's been said before, but bears repeating: this is a game changer for the Canadian high performance programme. Already it is proving its worth, with incredible performances by Canada on the track at the Pan Am Games - ten medals, including six gold.
The national team athletes are now training in their own home, rather then travelling thousands of kilometres away for short periods. The NextGen program is fully underway, and athletes like Sean MacKinnon are already performing at the world level.
It is not just at the high performance level that the velodrome is proving its worth; the Track Nationals this past weekend had one of the highest turn outs in history and, more importantly, there was a depth of competition that has been missing in the past. Some examples include:
- The revelation of Kris Dahl in the Men's Omnium; pushing Remi Pelletier-Roy harder then he has ever been pushed, with second, third and fourth finishing within four points of each other after six events.
- Monique Sullivan 'only' winning two titles of the four in the women's sprint events, as Kate O'Brien and Lizanne Wilmot both broke through with gold medal performances, adding to the depth in our women's sprint programme.
- A four-way battle in the Women's Omnium, as Jasmin Glaesser faced attacks from Steph Roorda, Laura Brown and Kirsti Lay. If Allison Beveridge hadn't been sick, it would have been a five-way battle. Also in the Omnium, an impressive debut for Olympic skier Georgia Simmerling.
- The continued development of men's sprinter Hugo Barrette, with three gold medals, including a powerful win in the Keirin. Also in the men's sprinting program, a step up for Joel Archambault, and the introduction of former BMXer Mischa Partridge to the national podium level.
- The huge number of entries - and the competitiveness of those entries - at the U17 and Junior levels for both men and women. Full four rider teams in the Team Pursuits for U17 and Junior in both genders. Proper competitions in the Team Sprint as well. This alone was one of the highlights of the Track Nationals.
In addition, the Milton Cycling Academy that Steve Bauer runs is fully subscribed, and a winter-long program of local riding and racing will introduce more riders to the track.
The track program isn't the only discipline that Canadians should be proud of. In mountain biking, we have two women - Catherine Pendrel and Emily Batty - who are potential top-five finishers in any event they enter, and Canada is the number two country in the world for women's cross-country. In the Junior women, Canada has three riders in the top-20; with only the U.S. having more (four).
The men aren't as highly ranked, but Raphael Gagne had a breakthrough year this season, winning Pan Am gold, finishing sixth in a World Cup and is currently 13th in the world rankings. Derek Zandstra is just outside the top 50, and young riders, such as Leandre Bouchard and Cameron Jette, are moving up the standings. Canada ranks a strong eighth in the world. In the Juniors, Raphael Auclair is tenth in the world rankings.
On the Road, Canada's men had a tremendous year in the Americas Tour, with Mike Woods third overall, Rob Britton ninth, Guillaume Boivin 13th and Ryan Roth 20th. This put us second in the nation standings, giving Canada six places for the Elite men's road race at the recent Worlds. At those Worlds, Adam de Vos had a stellar ninth place in the Under-23 race. At the top level of the sport, we have six riders racing - Ryder Hesjedal, Svein Tuft, Christian Meier, Antoine Duchesne, Hugo Houle and, next year, Mike Woods.
In the women's Road field we have Joelle Numainville (11th at Worlds), Karol-Ann Canuel (member of the world champion TTT squad) and Leah Kirchmann all riding for European squads, with Canada only two points out of the top-10 nations ranking.
Canada has also had another successful year with our extremely strong Para team, both on the road and the track. Shelley Gautier dominated at the Road Worlds, and Canada had an impressive 14 medals at the Parapan Am Games, including 4 gold. One of the most impressive performances was sweeping the podium in the Tandem road time trial.
Finally, in BMX we have Tory Nyhaug breaking through to win the Pan Am gold medal, as well as the international-level BMX track in Toronto where he won that medal for the development of future stars.
That's just the athletes. We also have a long history of strong event promoters in Canada, including Mont-Ste-Anne MTB World Cup organizer Gestev, GP cycliste Quebec and Montreal organizer Serge Arsenault, the Tour de Beauce and l'Abitibi organizers, plus the many individuals and clubs that develop the grassroots level of the sport.
Looking forward, we have what promises to be another excellent Cyclo-cross championships in Winnipeg, in a couple of weeks.
All-in-all, cycling in Canada has a lot to be thankful for.
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