October 27, 2016 – Following the Pan Am Track Championships in early October in Aguascalientes, Mexico where Canada was on the podium multiple times and set personal bests, we caught up with Ian Melvin, NextGen Men’s Track Endurance Coach at Cycling Canada. With the recent announcement of the 2017 NextGenMTE Team RaceClean Roster and the team’s bright future here’s what Melvin had to say about the team’s evolution and performance the Pan Am Championships.
“What’s the secret? There is no secret; I don’t think there are many secrets in this game. It’s hard work!” So says Canadian national men’s endurance coach Ian Melvin.
After his riders posted a series of medal-winning and national-record breaking times at the 2016 Pan American Track Championships in Aguascalientes in Mexico, Melvin and his (mostly) young endurance squad riders have a right to be pleased with their progress.
Progress took on an even brighter shine given the men’s team pursuit squad’s silver medal on the PanAm track. Their 3:59.931 ride, was the first time the Canadian quartet had dipped under the four \-minute mark for the 4,000 metre event, a key psychological barrier in team pursuit racing.
Their time was fast enough for second behind Colombia but does not represent an end point for Melvin or the quartet of Aidan Caves (Vancouver), Adam Jamieson (Ontario), Jay Lamoureux (BC) and veteran Ed Veal (Ontario).
“I was confident that we could do that,” said Melvin, adding, “Actually I thought we could have gone a little quicker than we showed, but even if everything had gone right, we couldn’t have gone 3:55 so the Colombians would still have won. But it was important that we went sub-four, it’s a massive psychological barrier, like a sub-four minute mile. But we had to prove to ourselves and other people that we could do it.”
In the almost three years since the three new coaches – Melvin, American Erin Hartwell and Kiwi Craig Griffin – joined Cycling Canada, progress has been made across the board and Melvin is quick to credit and thank those around him who have been complicit in raising the national squad’s collective game.
“We all came in from different backgrounds, but we had similar needs in terms of sports science support, nutritionist, a strength and conditioning coach, a full-time physio and performance analyst. These are all crucial people within the bigger performance picture,” he continued.
Melvin, with his previous coaching experience of Australian training methods and philosophy, insists that “great team pursuit performances don’t happen overnight. When I came in I said this was a six to eight-year project, and each year we’ve had a target to reach and, so far, we’ve ticked all those boxes – and we’ve reached them within the time and finances available. It’s not about taking these five or six guys to a certain performance level, it’s about building a pathway for riders that will last long after I’m gone, it’s for Canada, really.”
Melvin admits that there were trepidations about the heavy track focus of the plan when he set out the program, but steady success is building recognition the pathway for Canadian riders is working well and heading in the right direction.
“Our goal in 2016 was to achieve a top-10 team pursuit result in a World Cup – which we did in New Zealand – and anything beyond that was a bonus, and the bonus this year was qualification for the Track World championships. Next year, our goal, collectively, will be top-eight at the Track Worlds. It’s a big goal – even if it doesn’t sound like a big step – but from my perspective this is the season 2016-17, where a lot of countries are taking a step back after the Rio Games and going into developmental mode. For me, this is the year we need to make that jump into the top eight teams at world level. In 12 months’ time, I want people to be chasing us rather than us to be chasing them,” said Melvin.
“It’s started off well – though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for gold in Aguascalientes. For now though the momentum is with us, it’s like a big snowball rolling downhill and we’re taking big steps. At some point in the next 12 months though, that snowball is going to reach the bottom of the hill and we are going to have to start pushing it back up again – then progress will be slower,” laughed Melvin, yet clearly confident his young squad has the horsepower to get the job done.