Four Island riders named to Cycling Canada's NextGen team

They haven’t even happened yet, but the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics are already ancient history when it comes to long-term planning. In terms of development, national teams are looking ahead to Paris 2024 and even Los Angeles 2028.

Four Island riders have been selected among the 47 athletes to the Cycling Canada NextGen team announced this week. Erin Attwell and Sarah Van Dam, both of Victoria, were named to the women’s track endurance program, and Emilly Johnston of Comox and Carter Woods of Cumberland to the mountain biking program.

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“I am excited by the depth of talent we have across all cycling disciplines looking to the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond,” Cycling Canada NextGen lead coach Jenny Trew said in a statement.

Only time will tell if Team Tomorrow will be Team Terrific.

“As we start this quad, with enhanced NextGen programs, we are already setting considerable goals with the aim of achieving medal success in Paris,” said Trew. “Our athletes, coaches and staff are excited and motivated for the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Attwell, 21, is already on track on the track, winning the silver medal with the Canadian team pursuit squad at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

“Being a development team athlete, it’s pretty incredible,” said Attwell, at the time.

There’s more where that came from.

“My goal is the Olympics in track cycling,” said Attwell, upon graduating from Canadian Sports School-Victoria in 2017.

Van Dam, 19, is also out of the Canadian Sports School-Victoria, operated by Canadian Sports ­Institute-Pacific at its PISE campus on Interurban Road, under the auspices of School District 62.

Attwell and Van Dam, both versatile with national results also on the road, are following a tradition of track cyclists to come out of the 1994 Commonwealth Games velodrome in Colwood.

It is now known as the Westshore Velodrome and was saved from destruction after the Island cycling community rallied to keep it functioning. Other Island cyclists who got their starts on the ­facility include 2012 London Olympic bronze ­medallist ­Gillian Carleton, 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games gold medallist Evan Carey and 2018 Gold Coast ­Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and Tokyo Olympics-bound Jay Lamoureux.

Johnston and Woods, meanwhile, are following another Island cycling tradition. While Mount Washington has gained a reputation in the Winter Olympics, highlighted by Cassie Sharpe’s gold medal in the ski halfpipe at Pyeongchang in 2018, the Comox Valley has also long been a haven for mountain bikers who take over the trails in ­summer. Geoff Kabush came out of Courtenay to race in the 2000 Sydney, 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics with the UVic mechanical engineering graduate recording two top-10 finishes in his three Summer Games appearances. Kiara Bisaro also came out of the Comox Valley to pedal in the 2004 Athens Olympics and win bronze at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

The mountain-biking tradition extends down-Island to the Hartland trails ridden by Alison Sydor to three world titles and the silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Catharine Pendrel to the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and Andreas Hestler to the Atlanta Games.

Johnston, a UVic student, rides for Pendrel Racing, which is coached by the Canadian great. Pendrel was a UVic student and average triathlete when she switched sports and took to the Hartland trails and won two world championships, Olympic bronze and Commonwealth Games and Pan Am Games gold medals in mountain biking.

Woods and Johnston, both 18, will be spending a lot of time at the national team mountain-biking training centre, based on Bear Mountain.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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