Spor­tif Stieda

The Fu­ture is Bright for Team RaceClean Canada

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - BY ALEX STIEDA

At the re­cent Cycling Canada Hall of Fame cer­e­monies, I had the op­por­tu­nity to speak with a few of the coaches and man­agers of the Na­tional team pro­gram. I also spoke with my fel­low in­ductees, all of whom had gone through the Na­tional pro­gram in the 80's and 90's.

Af­ter re­flect­ing on the con­ver­sa­tions, I've re­al­ized that a trans­for­ma­tion has taken place within the pro­gram. In the past, the Na­tional team was es­sen­tially try­ing to be ev­ery­thing to ev­ery­one. The Na­tional pro­gram was more about sup­port­ing the am­a­teur women and men for track and road at the Worlds, Pan Ams, Commonwealth and Olympic Games. It was es­sen­tially a shot­gun ap­proach, wait­ing for ath­letes who had po­ten­tial in a spe­cific dis­ci­pline and then try­ing to help them af­ter their strength was dis­cov­ered.

In the past, in or­der to be se­lected to a Na­tional pro­gram, there was no for­mal process. If you showed strength at the Na­tion­als or on a ran­dom Euro­pean race trip, then you could pos­si­bly be se­lected to the next trip or ma­jor event. It was very dif­fi­cult to build a de­vel­op­men­tal pro­gram as a young ath­lete. Con­se­quently, we were very de­pen­dent on our Pro trade team, in my case, Team 7-Eleven. For Brian Wal­ton, it was 7-Eleven, then Saturn that kept us in races and sup­ported us fi­nan­cially. Then, once we turned Professional, there was re­ally no sup­port for us at ma­jor events. It felt as if the Na­tional pro­gram did not know what to do with us.

Fast-for­ward to the cur­rent time­frame. The Na­tional pro­gram is fo­cused and its endgame is clear – de­velop young ath­letes so that they can win medals on the world stage; de­velop them with a mind­set that they can win with­out tak­ing drugs. Thus the mantra “Team RaceClean,” which I love. The pro­gram is fo­cused on dis­ci­plines where the ath­letes have the best prob­a­bil­ity of win­ning. En­durance and sprint track events are the most likely ar­eas where the en­vi­ron­ment can be con­trolled, the train­ing can be fo­cused, even through­out Canada's tough winter. Men and women have equal op­por­tu­nity to ex­cel. Since the events are on the track, it's much eas­ier to build se­lec­tion cri­te­ria at the Pro­vin­cial level, so that the path to suc­cess is eas­ier for the next crop of ju­nior ath­letes (and their par­ents!) to un­der­stand.

Pure road racing is very dif­fi­cult to con­trol and train for. Road races at the in­ter­na­tional level are con­tested by full-time Pro­fes­sion­als and are of­ten the long­est dis­tance races that th­ese rid­ers do all year. Canada's road team at the Worlds and Olympics are of­ten made up of a hand­ful of full­time Pros who race on trade teams dur­ing the rest of the year. There are so few Cana­dian Pros who are el­i­gi­ble to race at th­ese events, it is im­pos­si­ble for them to com­pete as a team.

Moun­tain-bike and BMX racing are equally dif­fi­cult to con­trol. There are so many vari­ables in a race that the even best rid­ers are al­ways at risk of fall­ing out of the top-three places. In Canada, we are for­tu­nate that many ju­nior ath­letes grow up rid­ing and racing moun­tain and BMX bikes, so we have or­gan­i­cally risen above th­ese lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges purely by em­ploy­ing our drive and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Back to track racing, the fu­ture is bright for Team RaceClean. The Mat­tamy Velo­drome in Mil­ton, Ont. has now be­come the Na­tional team train­ing cen­tre, right here in Canada. In the past, the Na­tional team had to travel to other in­door velo­dromes for con­sis­tent train­ing, the clos­est be­ing in Los An­ge­les, Calif. Con­se­quently now, there have been some amaz­ing re­cent suc­cesses that have given me hope for the fu­ture of Canada's Na­tional cycling team. For ex­am­ple, our men's Team Pur­suit squad re­cently placed top three and then won their event at the first World Cups of the 2016/2017 track sea­son in Apel­doorn, The Nether­lands. Our women's Team Pur­suit team took home bronze from the Rio Olympics. Ste­fan Rit­ter just won the Ju­nior Worlds for Kilo­me­tre, placed third in the sprint, fourth in the Keirin and then set a new world ju­nior record for Fly­ing 200 me­tre and Kilo­me­tre. Other ju­nior rid­ers, in­clud­ing De­vaney Col­lier and Mag­gie Coles-Lys­ter, also medaled at the Ju­nior Track Worlds this past sum­mer.

All of th­ese pro­grams cost money. Cur­rently, new rid­ers com­ing into the pro­gram must fund a large por­tion of the costs them­selves. Hope­fully, as the ex­po­sure value of the pro­grams in­crease, spon­sor­ship will grow and costs for in­di­vid­u­als can be mit­i­gated. Th­ese pro­grams could not func­tion with­out the sup­port of val­ued cor­po­rate part­ners – Global Re­lay, Lexus Canada, Mat­tamy Homes, Louis Garneau and Bear Moun­tain Re­sort – along with the Gov­ern­ment of Canada, Own the Podium, the Cana­dian Olympic Com­mit­tee and the Cana­dian Par­a­lympic Com­mit­tee. I be­lieve that the ap­point­ment of Cycling Canada's next CEO, Pierre La­fontaine, will now take the pro­gram to new heights. Team RaceClean is on very solid ground.

Team RaceClean Canada Canada is mak­ing solid head­way and see­ing pos­i­tive re­sults with both the road and track pro­grams.

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