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Small Northern Town Excels in Cycling
At the 2014 UCI Road Worlds, Canada’s Karol-Ann Canuel (now with Boels-Dolmans) shared the women’s team time trial victory, becoming Canada’s first-ever world champion road cyclist. This remarkable rider was later part of the winning squad in 2015 and 2016, giving her three gold medals.
She began her cycling career riding with the Club Cycliste d’Amos based 600km north of Montreal. MarcAntoine Soucy (Silber Pro), who finished second in the road race at the 2017 Canadian nationals, is another club alumni, as is his brother, Jean-François Soucy (Garneau-Quebecor). Pierrick Naud (Rally Cycling) also hails from Amos as does Keven Lacombe (formerly SpiderTech), along with U23 riders Felix Boutin and newly crowned junior men’s road race champ, CharlesÉtienne Chretien. This is quite a crop of talented riders for one small cycling club!
Most surprisingly, the town of Amos only boasts a population of 12,000, and is about six hours north of the nearest big urban centre where cycling tends to be popular in Canada. Summers are also short here.
“The Club Cycliste d’Amos was founded in 1966,” notes president Christine Meunier. “We currently have some 40 members from age eight to 16. Our mission is to develop youths into adults who are involved in their community.” Meunier is the stepmother of Jean-Samuel Deshaies, a lesser-known cyclist from Amos who nonetheless won the 2009 Canadian national criterium championship.
Not only is road cycling popular in Amos, but mountain biking is also big with its own club; the two clubs co-exist fairly well. Hockey is another big sport in Amos.
“In the youngest age categories, we see essentially parity between boys and girls,” says Meunier. “But it is hard to keep our girls once they become cadets.”
Meunier recounts how a “sports-étude” cycling program was set up with the local high school around 2005. Some 22 students from grades six through 11 are currently enrolled, practising their sport between six and eight periods every nine days. A big challenge for students is the long travel time – often14 hours return – to get to most races, which are often scheduled before the end of the school year in late June. The local school tries to be flexible, however.
CCA hired a head coach, David Bernard, who has a degree in physical education, to supervise the sports-étude program. In the summer they hire a second coach and the town of Amos hires a third.
The cold climate and local terrain offer additional challenges, and Meunier remembers years when road cycling was not possible before the month of May, giving little lead time before the provincial race calendar that starts in mid-May.
“The Abitibi region is known for its flat
terrain with few hills for training. So for hill-climbing practice, we tend to go up and down the same hills many times,” quips Meunier. Nonetheless, Amos has a well earned reputation as a cycling town.
“We’ve always had at least a few passionate riders locally,” she continued, “even when cycling was less popular. Many people of all ages practise the sport at different levels. Former cyclists are always present to support the younger ones, riding with them many times each year. Recently, Keven Lacombe helped us to open a highperformance training centre with equipment that you would find in bigger centres.”
Community support for cycling is strong from local businesses. Meunier also mentions the junior IAMGOLD team (the title sponsor is a gold mining company), which is well-integrated into the club. She also mentions time trials sponsored by the local credit union, and support from the school commission and from a local Hyundai dealership. Local newspapers are also good at covering cycling events.
Another factor in the club’s favour is the renowned UCI Tour de l’Abitibi junior men’s race, now in its 49th year, attracting many international riders. “Being able to race at the Tour is the ultimate objective of many of our riders,” says Meunier. “The race alternates from year to year between different towns, being held this year in Amos; it always draws many spectators and few locals complain about blocked roads.”
Asked how other small towns can replicate the cycling success story of Amos, Meunier says “it is important to develop a cycling culture in the community with older cyclists helping younger ones. And you have to talk up success stories.”
Pedal first reached Meunier on the sidelines of the Canadian nationals in Ottawa, almost six hours from Amos. Naturally, she was there supporting local riders.
Just the Facts
Club cycliste d’Amos 819-727-6480 Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org www.clubcyclisteamos.com
Club Cycliste d’Amos has produced quite a crop of talented riders for one small cycling club.
Community support is strong
The UCI Tour de l’Abitibi, a sports-étude cycling program, and support from former stars help fuel the Amos success story.