It doesn’t seem like 37 years ago but as I look back, time has certainly flown by. I started cycling seriously as a fledgling junior by joining the masters 10 mile time trial at UBC. Soon, I was asked to join a crew of like minded riders at the China Creek outdoor velodrome in Vancouver. Little did I realize the impact of the track on my life.
There happened to be a coach at the track who knew a thing or two about racing on a banked oval. Our coach just happened to be Barry “Baz” Lycett. He was a cycling genius who could spot talent and could train them in a specific way in order to get the most out of them. He had come over from England where he had raced on grass tracks and every other type of two wheeled ‘push bike”. Whenever I went to the track to train or race, he was there, offering strategic advice for that evening’s session or for next year’s goals. I had no idea how fortunate we were to have Baz there as our guiding light, opening our eyes to the world of bike racing. Baz continues to share his knowledge out of his home base in Victoria.
I was also very fortunate to have a mentor in Ron Hayman. Ron had grown up with us in the Vancouver Lower Mainland and we saw how hard he trained each Winter as he prepared for the pro season in Europe during the late 70’s. The offer to join the 7-Eleven team came to him in 1980 and in the Fall of 1981, Ron suggested that the team take me on as a Stagiare (that’s what they call it now – coming from hockey, I thought it was just a ‘try-out’). It was an opportunity that came about again, by being in the right place and persevering through many cold, nasty races, holding onto Ron’s wheel! All of this help was provided at no charge, simply volunteers who loved the sport and wanted to help.
Fast forward to 2015. Living in Edmonton has provided me with the opportunity to become involved with the Juventus Cycling Club. Juventus has built an incredible network of volunteers who work tirelessly to promote the sport and help young cycling athletes reach their goals. A structured system has been put in place starting with 8-10 year olds and introducing them to mountain bike skills and the culture of our world. Next, the LAMP program takes 11-14 year olds through a series of skill development sessions on the track, road and mountain bike much like the Nancy Greene program does for downhill skiing (we are fortunate to have an outdoor velodrome in Edmonton, a legacy from the 1978 Commonwealth Games). Next, we have coaches programming Junior racing for track, road and mountain, allowing the young adults to find their strength and focus on being their best. In 2015, 3 juniors from Juventus qualified for the Junior World Track Championships in Kazakhstan. $9,000 was privately raised by the club to assist these juniors with their expenses as the National program only covers ‘on the ground’ expenses.
In recent years, other clubs and teams have blossomed, allowing club level riders to spread their wings to the next level. U23 club team Trek Red Truck in Vancouver is a great example. They take promising juniors to the regional U23 races, only if they continue their post-secondary education. The Norco H&R Block race team grown by moving to the Continental level giving their riders the opportunity to race against the big pros in events such as Tour of Alberta. Axel Merckx, based in Kelowna has started a Youth Development Foundation which hosts youth cycling races, one of which is run by my good friend, Ron Hayman. In short, many people are doing good things for the sport and the list is growing.
I’ve been privileged to have so many people help me over the years, in so many different ways. I know that I would never have become a cyclist (and stayed a cyclist) if it had not been for this assistance, especially at crucial points when I was not sure about what was coming next. For this reason, I decided to double down on my efforts as a volunteer coach with the LAMP program at Juventus this last season. Sharing the tips and tricks that I learned from mentors like Baz and Ron has providing me with a sense of accomplishment that I’d have to say has probably been one of the most memorable periods of my cycling career. The Juventus club is full of parents giving back in any way that they can. Web sites need to be built and maintained, accounting needs to be done, money raised, kids coached, first aiders trained, bikes repaired, the list goes on. That family atmosphere has simply raised the bar and built an incredible sense of momentum that will only grow stronger over the years.
In every Canadian community, there are cycling clubs working tirelessly to build a legacy for the next generation. All it will take is for you to seek one out and lend your expertise, in one way or another. Who knows, maybe one day someone you know from your community will stand on a podium, raised by their cycling family back home.