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Island cyclists Van Dam and Atwell earn key qualifying points for Paris Olympics

Canadian team placed fourth in the women’s team pursuit of the UCI Track Nations Cup

Victoria cyclists Sara Van Dam and Erin Attwell just missed the podium at their home-nation UCI event Saturday but in doing so proved they will be within striking distance of the Olympic podium this summer in Paris.

The Canadian team of Van Dam, Attwell, Ariane Bonhomme and Maggie Coles-Lyster, the latter from Maple Ridge and the winner of many Island road races over the years, placed fourth in the women’s team pursuit of the UCI Track Nations Cup at the Pan Am Games Velodrome in Milton, Ont.

The Canadian foursome was edged by France in the bronze-medal final. Great Britain beat Italy in the gold-medal final. The event featured the top teams in the world, so the Canadians know they will at least be in the conversation when it comes to potential Olympic medallists.

Van Dam also staked her projected claim to Paris in another event in placing fourth in the elimination race behind gold medallist Jennifer Valente of the U.S., silver medallist Letizia Paternoster of Italy and bronze medallist Anita Yvonne Senberg of Norway.

Van Dam and Attwell, both Pan Am medallists, are the latest home-grown internationals out of the aging but enduring 1994 Commonwealth Games velodrome in Colwood, which has previously produced 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist Gillian Carleton, 2020 Tokyo Olympian and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Jay Lamoureux and 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games gold medallist Evan Carey.

The highlight of the day for Canada was Dylan Bibic’s gold medal in the men’s elimination race. “I’ve never celebrated with such enthusiasm,” Bibic said in a statement. “But I really did my best in this race, with some of the best Olympic riders, and winning in front of my home crowd was an amazing feeling.”

The Canadian men’s team sprint won the bronze medal while the women’s team sprint, featuring 2020 Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Kelsey Mitchell, placed fourth.

The event in Ontario is the last chance to accumulate points for Olympic qualification.

“It’s an honour to race in the Maple Leaf in front of a home crowd. With Paris 2024 in sight, it’s important for us to do well,” said Canadian head coach Dan Proulx of Victoria.

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