July 10, 2015 – It’s always exciting when a Canadian enjoys the kind of success in the United States that roadie, Ryan Aitcheson, has had this season. Aitcheson, a gritty 23-year-old from Kitchener, Ontario, racing for Astellas Pro Cycling, has been absolutely killing it on the US pro criterium circuit.
He is currently ranked 2nd in points overall on the US National Criterium Calendar (NCC) and to put things in perspective, the NCC is the considered the toughest racing around. It’s super-fast, relentless, and ultra-competitive. US pro cycling’s “Heads of State” are all represented including, two-time US Olympian Bobby Lea, United Health Care sprinter Hilton Clarke, and dozens of other talented riders.
Yet Aitcheson is humble telling us, “Those are worthy wheels to follow. You give them ultimate respect and you still fight for their wheels, but I’ve been taking it to them so now they are fighting for mine and it feels great.” When asked why he’s being successful, Aitcheson is quick to acknowledge his team and his sponsors. “The team is working really well together and that’s why we are getting results. We’ve earned our spot at the front of the pack and now we are getting respect. We are so well supported by our sponsors and we want to showcase them in winning form. We want to be really aggressive by going off the front, battle for position, help each other, and go for the win.” When pressed he concedes that, “I’ve been really good this year at getting into the moves that stick and lapping the field.”
Aitcheson talks about team roles as well. “You have workers (called welders) that bring back the breakaways, you have breakaway specialists (that’s me), and you have sprinters. Everybody has a job to help the team win. And those jobs can change depending on the race.”
From the sidewalks of Shorewood Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, I watched Aitcheson gun down one breakaway after another while setting up his Astellas team mate Brandon Feehery for the sprint and wondered what it was like. “Definitely hard, you want to make the bridge,” he replied. “You can’t screw it up. You need to time it and gauge the amount of energy required.”
So how did Aitcheson get here? “Seven years ago I got into racing through the Waterloo Cycling Club. They took me under their wing, showed me the local racing scene, how to handle my bike, and how to get to the next level.”
Aitcheson proved to be a quick study. He represented Canada at the Junior Worlds in both road and track in 2008 (South Africa) and 2009 (Russia), and raced the Zurich 6-Day Madison Race in 2010. In 2011, Aitcheson earned a spot on the Canadian U23 team and competed in the Liege-Bastion-Liege and Tour of Flanders races – among the toughest of pro cycling’s fabled European spring classics.
After a brief stint with well-known Ontario-based Jet Fuel Coffee cycling team, Aitcheson transitioned to USA Elite Team Panther p/b Competitive Cyclist beginning his racing campaign touring across the USA. In 2013 Aitcheson returned to Europe posting an impressive top 10 on stage 6 of the An Post Ras – a grueling 8-day UCI stage race and Ireland’s top cycling event. At home, Aitcheson has plenty of podiums to his credit including multiple wins at the Niagara Classic of the Ontario Cup road racing series.
When asked about his influences, Aitcheson doesn’t hesitate to pay tribute. “Rob Good (Team Ontario/Rising Stars) is my coach and mentor. Rob provides me with specific training plans, mentally relaxes me, keeps me calm in stressful situations, and prepares me for high level races.”
What’s next for Aitcheson? “It is pretty surreal….hasn’t fully kicked in yet. I’ve got three podiums and a lot of top-10s so, I’m feeling pretty marked. I want to finish the season strong and help the team the best I can.”
US National Criterium Men’s Standings here.