I think many of us can all look back and point to key individuals who made a difference in our lives. If you’ve been around the sport of cycling for a while, the list gets shorter and easier to define. For me, there were a few key cycling mentors during my career, but one person stood out – Barry Lycett. We called him “Baz”.
I grew up in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver, and was introduced to bike racing by chance in 1977 by a neighbor, Harold Bridge. Harold was a randonneur cyclist who showed me the ‘rules of the road’ that all cyclists needed to obey. Harold then suggested that I enter the weekly 10 mile Time Trial that the Vets club put on at UBC. After a few TT’s, I met some like-minded junior riders like Brian Green, Bruce Spicer & Neil Davies. They suggested that I join them at the China Creek track, a wooden outdoor velodrome built for the 1954 Empire Games (now called the Commonwealth Games). That’s where it all changed for me.
Barry “Baz” Lycett was the coach at the track. He ran the show. Baz grew up in England in the 1950’s and cycling was part of his life from early on. He ‘escaped’ from the coalmines of Yorkshire by excelling at grass track racing as part of the Yorkshire Featherstone Cycling Club. Grass track riders had to be shorter, more compact and smarter to be able to handle the tight turns compared to the longer outdoor ‘hard’ tracks. After winning four National championships, he was invited to travel with the British team to the West Indies, where they competed on cricket grounds with their single speed, fixed gear track bikes.
Racing allowed Baz to get a taste of the world outside of England and in 1969, he decided to immigrate to Vancouver. Once on the west coast, he quickly integrated into the cycling scene, starting a new club (Anglia CC) and coaching local riders like Brian Keast to the ’72 Olympic Games. Over the following 20 years, Baz continued to coach and mentor a who’s who of Canadian cycling’s elite including Ron Hayman, Pierre Harvey, Jocelyn Lovell, Stu Nichols, Hugh Walton, Adrian Prosser, Steve Bauer, Karen Strong, Kurt Harnett and many others. He was part of the team that re-built the China Creek velodrome in 1973, working tirelessly for 6 months to bring it up to spec, culminating in a demonstration race featuring High Porter, the famous British pursuiter. Later, with a business partner, he resurrected the Gastown Grand Prix and ran the event for nine years, as part of the Canadian Tire Series.
After the ’76 Montreal Olympics, he traveled back to Europe to assist Willie DeBoscher as soigneur and mechanic on the 6-day circuit, working at 50 6-days over four winters, gathering further training and racing knowledge along the way.
Fortunately for me, Baz was based in Vancouver during my formative years as a Junior. In 1977, we spent two days a week at our Vancouver track and on Friday nights Baz would load up his Volvo wagon with four track bikes and we’d all go down to Seattle’s Redmond track to race our hearts out. We learned everything we needed to know about road and track racing from Baz, including race tactics, gear selection, training, intervals, heart zones, recovery, nutrition, even the secrets of choosing the right tubular glue! I have incredible memories of going to the track nationals with the BC team and winning every event that we entered, all due to Baz’s oversight and attention to detail. I then had the privilege of having Baz assist me with my preparation for the ’86 and ’89 track worlds.
Baz was what we called a “Rider’s Coach”. Whatever he did, he did with the rider’s goals in mind. Unfortunately, other coaches who preceded and followed him at the National level were simply too political to allow the rider to take precedence. Baz retired to Victoria in 2003, where he continues to ride three times a week with his best friends, at their own pace, leaving the racing to those new riders uninitiated to the joys of simply feeling the road. Since he started his coaching and bike fitting work, he has fit over 5,500 people onto new bikes, using all the knowledge he has gained over the years. At 77 years old, he still has a memory as sharp as a tack and continues to share his passion for the sport. Chapeau to you, Baz.