Former professional cyclist Nigel Ellsay of Courtenay never thought his coaching career would begin at age 27. But a frightening crash in the Tour of Portugal in September of 2020 resulted in two rods and eight screws in his spine and the end of his racing career on the road.
“Those are the risks of cycling and we all go in knowing that,” he said.
But another door opened with Ellsay named this week as the new Canadian national team road cycling coach. He will be based in Victoria.
“We have great depth in our junior and Under-23 groups and I want to help those groups develop as we look to produce the next [Tokyo Olympics fifth-place] Mike Woods,” said Ellsay.
“I hope my own experience can help these young riders. I did some coaching privately even while I was riding professionally and really enjoyed it.”
Ellsay grew up in the Comox Valley, which because of Mount Washington, is known for producing mountain bikers such as Geoff Kabush and Kiara Bisaro for the Summer Olympics and gold-medallist freestyle skier Cassie Sharpe for the Winter Olympics.
“I stuck to the roads and focused on that,” said Ellsay, who competed for a combined six years with the Silber and then Rally pro teams.
The Islander, a graduate of Mark Isfeld Secondary, said he takes a holistic approach to sport. “You will be an athlete for a small point in time in your life,” he said. “So it is as important to develop our young riders into great people who will go on to do great things in so many fields and professions beyond cycling.”
Ellsay described his coaching style as “collaborative.”
It is that enlightened approach, along with his experience, that caught the attention of Cycling Canada.
“Nigel has raced throughout North America and Europe and represented Canada on numerous occasions,” Cycling Canada head coach Dan Proulx of Victoria said in a statement.
“We’re incredibly excited to see him build on these experiences in this new role and help us deliver the next generation of champions to the world stage.”
The big events this year are the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games and UCI world road championships in Wollongong, Australia.