Some young Yukoners recently received pointers from some of the finest cyclists and coaches Canada (and Belgium) has ever produced.
They then had a chance to try some of those pointers out and hardware followed.
Nine members of the U Kon Echelon cycling club took part in the Axel Merckx Youth Series camp in Kelowna, B.C., over the Labour Day long weekend.
“Everybody had a really good time and really good races in each event,” said U Kon coach Trena Irving. “Having Olympians coach you is pretty darn special.”
The camp was hosted by Belgian Axel Merckx, an Olympic bronze medalist and eight-time Tour de France cyclist. He is also the son of legendary five-time Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx.
The line-up also included Olympic cyclist Ron Hayman, Olympic bronze medalist Laura Brown, national team mountain biker Leslie Tomlinson and Canadian Olympic cycling coach Richard Wooles, who coached Watson Lake cyclist Zach Bell at his two Olympic appearances.
Perhaps most exciting for the U Kon team was a surprise visit by Bell, who happened to be in the area on his way to the Tour de Alberta.
Bell saw that his former coach, Wooles, had posted his location in Kelowna to a cycling website.
“So I sent him a message and said ‘Are you in town?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m doing a camp and you should come down because there are kids from the Yukon,’” said Bell. “I was just up the road so I jumped in the car and was down there.
“I got to say hi and chat with some of the Yukon kids. They were actually racing, so I got to watch the races and give them some encouragement from the sidelines. It was the opposite situation than normal, I guess.”
“A huge highlight for us was getting to see Zach Bell, which was wonderful,” said Irving. “Having him show up and surprise us was just great.”
The camp wrapped up with a series of races. U Kon’s Hudson Lucier, 16, raced to bronze in a six-kilometre time trial for under-19 riders. He also placed fifth in a 24-kilometre road race.
“It was really cool,” said Lucier. “Axel Merckx said at the beginning, ‘We have some really high-end coaches working with you guys and I encourage you to look them up when you get home.’ One of the coaches I got along with really well, I looked him up and he was the Canadian national track coach, which is Zach Bell’s coach. That was really cool.”
U Kon’s Tristan Muir, 12, was another medal winner with a bronze in the road race for under-13. He also pegged 10th in the time trial.
“I enjoyed them,” said Muir of the races. “They were fun and really fast. It didn’t feel like a long time to do it.”
“I had lots of fun at the camp, the coaches were great, they were really nice,” he added.
Other U Kon cyclists to take part in the camp were David Jackson, Cayla Jackson, Lucas Taggart-Cox, Cauis Taggart-Cox, Micah Taggart-Cox, Ava Irving-Staley and Shea Hoffman, who recently won the sport men division in the Tour de Juneau in Alaska.
“We’re looking for athletes for the Western Canada Summer Games next summer, so if there any athletes between the ages of 14 and 20 with some bike experience, they should get a hold of me,” said Irving. “It’s road and mountain bike … I actually do both. Right now all we’re doing is mountain bike.”
Irving can be reached at email@example.com. U Kon Echelon is a developmental cycling club based in Whitehorse that was founded in 2012. Two members of the club, including Hoffman, competed at the Canada Summer Games last year in Quebec.
“If I didn’t get into the club, I probably wouldn’t have even cycling today,” said Muir. “We do a lot of good training with the U Kon club. It’s fun, it’s a nice crowd, and we just have a great time riding.”
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