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Rising Victoria cyclist Riley Pickrell named to Games team

This spring/summer for the most part provided gloomy and wet cycling weather, but it has been bright enough for emerging Victoria star Riley Pickrell.
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Riley Pickrell is tipped by many to have an exciting future in professional cycling. VIA TWITTER

This spring/summer for the most part provided gloomy and wet cycling weather, but it has been bright enough for emerging Victoria star Riley Pickrell.

The 20-year-old pro with the Israel Cycling Academy team won the fourth stage last month of the Under-23 Giro d’Italia, nicknamed the Baby Giro, and closely followed by Euro cycling experts and fans looking for the sport’s next generation of pro standouts. The Islander has followed up by being named to Canada’s cycling team for the 2022 Commonwealth Games this month in Birmingham, England.

Pickrell powers through the curved banks of the Juan de Fuca Velodrome, venue for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, as powerfully as he does the often-twisty road circlular route from Victoria to Port Renfrew to Duncan and back down.

As a mark of that versatility, and for being as comfortable in a velodrome as on the road, Pickrell was named to both the Canadian track and road teams for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and will contest the former in the team pursuit at the 2012 Olympics Lee Valley Velodrome near London and the latter on the roads from Birmingham to Wolverhampton.

“With the track cycling events in London and the road events in Birmingham, our cycling team is presented with some logistical challenges,” Scott Stevenson, executive director of Team Canada 2022, said in a statement.

“With the benefit of some late quota additions from Birmingham 2022, we will be strongly represented on both the track and in the Birmingham road events. We anticipate numerous medals from this group.”

The established end of the 18-rider Canadian team will be represented by Tokyo Olympics sprint gold medallist Kelsey Mitchell of Edmonton, Tokyo Olympics keirin bronze-medallist Lauriane Genest of Lévis, Que., and World Cup medallist Sarah Orban of Calgary.

The future of the team is embodied by the promise shown by Pickrell, among two B.C. cyclists named to the Games team, along with Maggie Coles-Lyster of Maple Ridge.

“Our team showcases both the progress our athletes have made on the world stage and the passing of the torch to a new generation of Canadian cyclists,” Cycling Canada high performance director Kris Westwood said in a statement.

“Four years ago, at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Lauriane Genest was a surprise newcomer who finished fourth in the sprint tournament and Kelsey Mitchell wasn’t even part of our team. Now they are both Olympic medalists. At the same time, we have a wave of young athletes stepping up in track and road and it’s going to be exciting to see how they do.”

Seeing a ceiling on his hockey career, Pickrell turned to speedskating, then was alerted that those powerful leg thrusts could also move a bike. He joined the hometown Victoria Tripleshot Club at U-15 and the rest could become cycling history, local, national and international.

Pickrell’s impact was almost immediate in winning five age-group Canadian championships and three of the seven stages to capture the Points Jersey in the 2018 Tour de l’Abitibi in Quebec. Pickrell then became top Canadian with fourth place in the men’s scratch race at the 2018 UCI world junior track cycling championships in Aigle, Switzerland. He turned pro with Trek Red Truck and is now with Israel Academy.

Pickrell graduated from Claremont Secondary and the Canadian Sports School-Victoria, the latter operated by Canadian Sports Institute-Pacific at its PISE campus on Interurban Road, where student-athletes spend their afternoons in both academics and athletic training after attending their regular high schools in the morning. It is operated by School District 62.

Canadian cycling head coach at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games will be Dan Proulx of Victoria, with Nigel Ellsay of Courtenay the road coach, Jenny Trew of Calgary the track endurance coach and Franck Durivaux of Nancy, France, the track sprint coach.

The 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games run July 28 to Aug. 8 with the velodrome cycling scheduled July 29 to Aug. 1 at the Lee Valley Velo Park and the road races and individual time trials Aug. 4-7 in and around Wolverhampton and Warwick. Mountain biking will take place Aug. 3 at Cannock Chase Forest north of Birmingham with the Canadian team, whose home base is Bear Mountain, to be named.

Pickrell will be among the nearly 50 Island or Island-based athletes competing on the Canadian teams at the Birmingham Games.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com