A Canadian Olympian has helped Yukon cyclists reach the next gear.
Through the program Northern Lytes, established by Yukon Olympians Zach Bell and Emily Nishikawa, cyclists with the U Kon Echelon club received instruction from champion cyclist Denise Ramsden over the weekend.
“We’re working on technique,” said Ramsden. “Lots of people ride a bike and it’s great to get out and enjoy it, but when you’re trying to race there’s a lot of technique to it. I’m trying to pass on that part and the experience of racing as well.
“At the end of the day it would just be great if there are more people riding.”
Ramsden, 24, competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics, placing 27th in the road race and 19th in the time trial.
She also has a bundle of national road titles under her belt, from junior to U23 to senior.
She finds the program Northern Lytes (Linking Youth To Elite Sport), which aims to deliver expertise from Olympic athletes and coaches to rural Yukon youth, unique since it was founded by athletes – Bell, an Olympic cyclist, and Nishikawa, an Olympic cross-country skier.
“I think it’s a pretty cool program. Zach got in touch with me a couple months ago about it saying they were getting things going this year,” said Ramsden. “After the Olympics I went up to Yellowknife to do some work with speedskating and cross-country skiing, so it’s pretty cool to come up and do something specific to cycling, my sport, than winter sports.”
Both youth and adult cyclists received pointers from Ramsden on Friday in Whitehorse and then over the weekend during the Tour de Haines Junction, which was attended by 19 cyclists.
The fact that Ramsden is herself a northerner, born in Hay River, N.W.T., makes her visit all the more inspirational, said U Kon Echelon Club and Team Yukon coach Trena Irving.
“It’s super inspiring to younger female riders – and male riders for that matter,” said Irving. “But because she is female, it shows that you can make it to the top even if you come from Whitehorse, Yellowknife or Nunavut. It doesn’t matter, you can go places.
“The other thing is she’s been to the Olympics and she rides for a living … That’s pretty inspiring for the kids.”
As if tips from an Olympian wasn’t enough, club cyclists also received instruction from visiting coach Houshang Amiri, the head coach of the Pacific Cycling Centre – formerly the National Cycling Centre – in Victoria, B.C.
Amiri was brought up by U Kon Echelon using the Arctic Winter Games legacy fund, accessed through the Cycling Association of Yukon.
“This is a great program going on and Trena is doing a great job,” said Amiri. “It’s great to see, as Denise said, these young kids at this age getting into the cycling scene. They are our future.
“We are working on safe riding techniques, bike efficiency techniques and racing techniques.”
Ramsden’s visit wasn’t the first by an Olympian since Bell announced the creation of the Lytes program in November.
Yukon cross-country skiers recently attended a camp led by national team coach and three-time Olympian Justin Wadsworth.
“We’re still looking for programs who want to do some stuff through the winter,” said Bell. “Our original deadline was June 30, but we’re extending that because we’re trying to get some stuff off the ground. We still have some funding and opportunities for programs in the fall. So if they get (applications) into Sport Yukon, we’re still going to be accepting them.”
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Tour de Haines Junction’s GC results
1st Mike Setterington
2nd Rodney D’Albramo
1st Rod Savoie
2nd Shea Hoffman
1st Lucas Taggart-Cox
2nd Cauis Taggart-Cox
1st Johna Staley
1st Micah Taggart-Cox
1st Mollie Fraser
2nd Ava Irving-Staley
1st Simi Morrison