As a cross-country mountain bike racer in Canada, I’m used to everything being hard. Of course the training is expected and supposed to be challenging and often extremely painful, and most of us know by now that life as an amateur athlete is far from glamorous, so when I pulled up to the Westin at Bear Mountain Resort for the Canadian Cycling Team’s first ever training camp at the squad’s new official HQ, I felt like maybe I was in the wrong place. I was greeted with a welcoming smile at the front entrance, but the hapless fellow hadn’t seen all of my bikes and gear yet. Normally when I check in at a hotel, I try to keep the bikes on the down-low, just because of the “dirty mountain biker” stigma that goes along with my whole kit and caboodle.
I soon learned that I was, indeed, in the correct location, and they wanted me to be there. In fact, they were stoked to host a bunch of “dirty” mountain bikers at their classy resort. They had even set aside a special bike room for our equipment and I received the weekly resort newsletter announcing our training camp to all of the guests. The fact that, in the estimation of the folks at Bear Mountain Resort, the Canadian MTB Team is a source of great pride immediately boosted my feeling of self-worth, which is a pretty valuable thing.
Bear Mountain made everyday life stuff easy for us so we could put all of our effort into training, which is what an ideal training environment should be. We were comfortable, well-fed, and we had world-class training facilities at our doorstep, from the fully equipped gym and strength training facilities only steps away, to some of the most amazing and challenging cycling roads and trails only minutes away. I can’t wait to get a taste of the new trail network that is being built right on the resort grounds and will hopefully host a Canada Cup event next year!
As a senior athlete, I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to train with a group of dedicated, and talented young riders last week. They all brought their “A-games,” even the Quebeckers, despite the harsh winter they’ve had! I know as a veteran racer, I’m supposed to impart my vast experience on the younger ranks, and I love having that role. However, I wonder if the younger “kids” realize how much I’m constantly learning from them. Being surrounded by competitive, hardworking, and likeminded athletes motivates me to step up as well and bring my best and that’s the other invaluable piece of the puzzle that group training contributes to the team as a whole. Training together makes everyone faster and I have faith that the future of mountain bike racing in Canada is bright.
Despite some lung- and- leg-busting team interval sessions led by Coaches Dan and Ian, I really enjoyed the uniquely technical trails in Victoria. The terrain challenges every aspect of riding and is truly a fantastic place to hone world-class skills. The relentless rocks, slippery roots, steep chutes and ups force improvement – but they are very fun lessons to learn, albeit sometimes a little hairy. I also loved revisiting some of my old haunts from back in my university days and cruised my favourite Victoria road cycling routes.
I’m looking forward to a successful 2015 season and I can tell it’s going to be a fantastic one for the whole squad. Go Canada Go!