Posted by Editoress on 03/28/18
We published a profile of Michael Foley prior to the 2018 Track World Championships, so this is an updated version to include the Worlds and Games preparation.
The newest and youngest member of Canada's elite track team is Michael Foley at 18 years old. He also happens to be from Milton, the location of the Mattamy National Cycling Centre and the base for the Canadian track program. Foley has already won a World Cup medal with the men's Team Pursuit squad (in Milton, no less) and was part of the world championships team the finished in the top-8 earlier in the year. He will be part of the Commonwealth Games team for both track and road.
"I got involved [in cycling] through my best friend from school; his dad was really involved in cycling so I was always around it from when I was at their house. They started racing and I'm a super competitive person, so I wanted to race as well and did a few mountain bike races. Then the track was opening up in Milton and that was a big opportunity. I went to the NCIM [National Cycling Institute Milton] high performance program and that's where I met Steve [Bauer], and that jump started my cycling career."
At the time, Bauer, the legendary Tour de France pro, was running the NCIM; he has since left to work with the BMC WorldTour team. But, Foley recognizes how valuable Bauer's knowledge and experience was in getting him started in cycling.
"I was super lucky. He was coaching me for a couple of years and I think the reason was because he wanted to start a team in Milton at the NCIM and I was sort of the first wave. The Academy has started now, and I was there for the early stages but I missed it [with moving on to the NextGen program and the national team]. I'm always excited to see Steve; he always has constructive things to say to me. It's always nice to be able to chat with Steve."
Foley also points to the opportunities the Ontario provincial program offered him when he was starting out.
"I did a bit of road riding as a first year Cadet , including one Youth Cup in Ontario, and the next year I started track as a second year Cadet. I was lucky; Teams of Ontario, the Ontario Cycling program, let me in even though I wasn't quite making the time standards. That was really important and I moved up through the training camps until I was on the second team at [Junior] Nationals in the Team Pursuit as a Cadet. So it was really important for me that they took me [for the provincial team] even though I wasn't hitting the standards, because that's what allowed me to develop. They throw a lot of resources into you. So I think it started when I was a first year Cadet and had a bit of success, and I wanted more."
He admits that having the track in his home town made a big difference to his continued involvement in cycling.
"My parents were never really that big into traveling for sport, since sport was mainly just for fun and not competitive. So, if the velodrome wasn't in Milton I might not have been so involved in cycling. So it was a huge advantage for me, for the velodrome to be in Milton."
"Sometimes my friends come out and watch because it's just a hop and skip over to the velodrome. I've got one teacher at school, Mr Wilson, he was the mountain bike coach, so he's super supportive and gets the other teachers to come out. It's really great, it makes a difference."
2017 Road Nationals ITT
2017 Road Worlds
Winner Omnium Elimination race, 2017 Track Nationals
Leading Men's Team Pursuit squad, Milton World Cup
While he has raced on the road, including the 2017 world championships and the Tour de l'Abitibi, Foley has focussed primarily on the track.
"After my first year as a Cadet, Steve was interested in both road and track for me, but by the time I came into track season as a first year Junior, I wanted to do the time standards so I could go to Worlds. I did the time standard in January, but I went on an educational exchange in France and missed the [Junior] Nationals that year , so I couldn't go to Worlds. But I think I gained a lot of experience through the racing I did in France, and it made me even more hungry for the next year, so I don't necessarily think it was a bad thing to miss Junior Worlds in my first year. In terms of my development as a whole, it wasn't terrible."
"At 2017 [Junior Track] Worlds I did a few races [Team Pursuit, Individual Pursuit, Omnium and Madison]. While I kind of expected it, I didn't really understand mentally that everyone would be super strong. My race tactics weren't up to par; they relied on me being stronger than everyone, which I wasn't. So I had a bit of a rough go at it, but I've reviewed the races a lot since then and I picked up a lot from that, so it has benefitted me."
"In my first year as a Junior I think I was physically pretty fit, but I had a lot to learn about racing itself. After that it was a steady build into [the NextGen program], as the opportunities came along."
After the Junior Track Worlds last August, he moved to the senior ranks, and began racing almost immediately, starting with the Elite Track Nationals and the Milton World Cup. He has also joined the NextGen endurance track program, racing with Team RaceClean.
"On the road I'm a first year Under-23; on the track there isn't really a U23 category. I'll meet the [NextGen] team in Spain for a training camp; I know most of them because it is a fairly small community, but it will be cool to be on the same team and we don't have to be competitive with each other so much. Most, if not all of the NextGen guys are on the RaceClean team; it'll be fun, I'm excited."
Foley points to his early base work with Steve Bauer as being a strength to his development.
"I'm still just getting into it, so I'm not really sure where my strengths lie, but I think in my early days, working with Steve, we spent a lot of time working on technique as opposed to times, so now when we are doing video reviews of starts and form, and high torque stuff, I have fairly decent form for the technical aspect of riding, which I think is going to benefit me a lot. The foundation was laid and I don't have to change as many habits as some other riders."
"I think I will be on a track push, at least for the next few years. Steve was on the track team until his early 20s, and then he switched over more, so I don't think I really have to pick one right now. So I will focus on the track right now, but could switch over to the road or to my education later."
Leading Men's Team Pursuit squad, 2018 Track World Championships
In Apeldoorn, Netherlands, the Canadian team made it through to the second round of racing, finishing eighth overall.
"For sure, the goal was to make the Top-8 and we are really happy to achieve it. There are still lots of things we can work on, but it's nice to see that we are up there, even with all the little tweaks we can make."
"Worlds was definitely another big learning experience for me. I think I learned some stuff the hard way; like making an exchange in the straight to call '3' [dropping off the back, leaving three riders to finish] without realizing there was already a rider off .... it made it an extremely difficult ride for me, more difficult than it needed to be."
With the focus beginning to turn towards qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Foley does admit he thinks about it.
"It's definitely in the back of my mind, but I think it is a bad idea to focus too much on a singular goal. Because, if you don't get there it's really disappointing. And, if you do get there, there is so much pressure on that one competition, which can make it way harder than it needs to be. Tokyo 2020 is there, but it's part of the journey, not the end goal."
However, before Tokyo, there is the Commonwealth Games to think of.
"It's exciting for sure, but I'm trying to treat it like any other race, because I think if there isn't extra pressure it will run smoother than if I was stressed because I was thinking about how it was major Games. So, I'm treating it like any other race and we'll go into it as prepared as we can."
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