Rob Britton races up world cycling ladder, the long way

Rob Britton quips that he has “Mr. Magooed his way through” his cycling career.

But like the near-sighted cartoon character, Britton seems to find his destination no matter how circuitous the route.

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It has taken Britton, 32, until now to represent Canada for the first time at the world championships. Britton will contest the individual time trial Wednesday in the 2017 UCI world road cycling championships in Bergen, Norway.

“Tokyo [2020 Summer Olympics] is very much on the mind,” he said.

This from a guy who came from Regina to Victoria in 2006 to work in construction on cruise ships and also sold vacuums to make ends meet. Becoming a pro cyclist was the farthest thing from his mind.

Britton, however, met the husband and wife tandem of coach Tony Zarsadias and Olympic cyclist Erinne Willock and fell into the orbit of Victoria’s bustling cycle-racing scene.

“They have three children now, but it felt like I was Tony’s and Erinne’s first kid,” quipped Britton.

And a long-term project at that.

“I sucked at even riding a bike in high school,” said Britton.

Yet, he began having good results, especially in the individual time trial along Dallas Road, in the annual Robert Cameron Law Cycling Series and was overall series champion in 2012. The year before, he beat Ryder Hesjedal by four seconds in the time trial, to stun those who had gathered at Clover Point.

“I didn’t turn pro until I was 26. That is damn old,” said Britton.

Better late than never. Even then, his rise has been anything but meteoric.

“Four years ago, I had no job [with a pro cycling team], and now I am turning in the best rides of my career,” said Britton.

That includes winning the Tour of Utah this year. He has been hinting at this breakthrough for the last few years, with a top-10 finish in the 2015 Tour of California and the overall title in the 2015 Tour of the Gila.

“I like to prove people wrong. Some riders reach their physical, mental and strength peaks when they are older. I will see where I am after 36 [post-Tokyo],” said Britton, now a pro with the Rally team, who splits his time between Victoria and Calgary.

“Rally has signed a three-year deal to race in Europe so maybe I will be competing more over there in pro races.”

Meanwhile, Wednesday at the worlds will be only Britton’s second chance to sport the Maple Leaf jersey internationally after placing fifth with the Canadian pursuit team on the track with a national record at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

He rides with a singular purpose: “You might not be great at anything else. But be successful at what you do.”

That’s good advice for all the Mr. Magoos out there finding their path.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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