Global Relay Bridge the Gap Fund
Making a Positive Difference for Cycling in Canada
In 2012, the Global Relay Bridge the Gap Fund was launched with the aim of helping Canadian amateur Elite road racers make the leap to the Professional ranks through financial support and mentorship. Over the past four years, the fund has aided 23 athletes in finding spots on Pro teams, three of whom were named to the Canadian Olympic team for Rio 2016. More recently, the focus of the Global Relay Bridge the Gap Fund has broadened to include youth-cycling initiatives.
“The future of the project looks really good,” said Andrew Pinfold, former Pro cyclist and managing director of the fund. “Global Relay has just stepped in and renewed us for another four years, which is fantastic.”
Global Relay is a Vancouver, B.C.-based technology services company with customers worldwide, boasting additional locations in Halifax, New York City, Chicago, Raleigh, London and Singapore.
The company's involvement in Canadian cycling is a story of being in the right place at the right time.
In 2012, two of Global Relay's founders, Warren Roy and Shannon Rogers, struck up a conversation with a couple of riders after the Gastown Grand Prix – a high-profile Criterium held in the same Vancouver neighbourhood as the company's headquarters. The riders turned out to be none other than top Canadian Pros Will Routley and Ryan Anderson, who made such a good impression that the Global Relay bigwigs expressed an interest in supporting the sport.
Routley and Anderson, who are now members of the Global Relay Bridge the Gap Fund board, sat down a while later over coffee with Pinfold and discussed their chat with Roy and Rogers. They singled out the lack of opportunities for Elite amateur cyclists in Canada who were trying to make the next step to the Pro ranks – something they had experienced firsthand in their athletic development.
“We decided we should pitch a fund that helps riders get onto Professional teams . . . [that supports] them through the lean days when they're not earning income, [when] they might not be carded and they need to make the jump . . . `bridge' funding,” explained Pinfold.
In a meeting in the fall of 2012 with the leadership team at Global Relay, they pitched their idea and the company agreed to support the project for four years.From that fortuitous encounter, Global Relay has quickly emerged as a champion of cycling in Canada, becoming a title sponsor of Cycling Canada's National teams and championship events in 2014 as part of a four-year $500,000 deal.
“I think we've made some significant contributions to cycling in Canada; I think we've advanced the sport a great deal,” said Pinfold of the Global Relay Bridge the Gap Fund's impact.
The fund's list of achievements includes Adam de Vos's top-10 result at the 2015 U23 World Championships, Leah Kirchmann's thirdplace finish at La Course at the Tour de France in 2015 and Canada fielding its largest U23 men's squad at a World Championship – also in 2015 – due directly to support through the Global Relay Bridge the Gap program. De Vos and Kirchmann have since both signed with Pro teams – Rally Pro Cycling and Liv-Plantur respectively.
Since Pinfold's retirement from Professional racing in 2011, he has remained passionately involved in the sport, taking on the position of head coach and program director for the DEVO youth-racing program in Vancouver. It's no surprise that his roles with Global Relay Bridge the Gap and DEVO should overlap, as he became more aware of the importance of a strong youth-cycling community in order to improve as a nation in the higher ranks.
Global Relay youth initiatives helped create BC Youth Superweek, one of the highest profile series of youth races in North America, where racers compete on the same courses as Pros, receive media attention and perform in front of big crowds at such events as the Gastown Grand Prix. “It's just unheard of anywhere else in North America to have Under-15 and Under-17 kids racing at those events,” said Pinfold.
With the Global Relay Youth Club Seeding Program and the Youth Club Cycling Network Initiative, Pinfold said, “What we wanted to do is try to grow the pool of riders who are getting exposed to competitive cycling when they're in their youth, and along with that, lifting the level of coaching and organization as well.”
The Youth Club Cycling Network is a forum for youth-cycling leaders across the country to share knowledge and information, while the Youth Club Seeding Program offers direct support to selected clubs.
“I think for Canada to be truly a world-class cycling nation, which is I think everybody's goal in the country – certainly the stated goal of Cycling Canada – we really need world-class youth programs and participation numbers.”
The support of a corporation such as Global Relay in just four years has already greatly impacted cycling in Canada in a positive way, not only in terms of results, but also the landscape of the sport. With another four years of funding, the potential further impact is
(above) Historic La Course by Le Tour 2015 inaugural podium (l-r): Leah Kirchmann 3rd, Marianne
Vos 1st, Kirsten Wild 2nd
(left) Canada’s Adam de Vos took home a stellar 9th in the U23 Men's race at the 2015 Road
Worlds in Richmond, Va.