January 29, 2016 (Zolder, Belgium) – We caught up with Scott Kelly, manager of the Cyclocross Canada team that is currently in Belgium preparing for this weekend’s UCI CX World Championships in Zolder. Kelly is also a professional mechanic and has loads of experience wrenching for national and pro teams – he’s the head mechanic for Scott-3Rox Racing. He has helped spearhead the Cyclocross Canada program that has given the sport a boost in Canada, helping riders get to big races in Europe to gain important experience at the highest level. He spoke to us on the eve of the CX World Championships about how the team is doing and what’s in store.
What are the conditions like in Zolder, Belgium coming into the 2016 UCI Cyclo-Cross Worlds? Is it the same course that was used for the World Cup earlier this season?
Scott Kelly: At present, the weather is quite nice, about 10 degrees and sunny. However, the forecast for Saturday is 100% chance rain and quite windy. Proper cross weather and it should make for some great racing. The course is very similar to the one used in December with the addition of one flyover, which makes an existing difficult climb, even more difficult.
Who’s here representing Canada and is everyone healthy?
SK: We have 13 Canadians over here racing. Everyone is healthy, has prepared well and are ready to take on the world – see list below.
Can you give us a brief review of the inaugural Canadian Christmas Cyclo-Cross Project and its success?
SK: Over Christmas, we brought a group of seven riders to Belgium to contest six races over 10 days. Our focus was on developing young riders and exposing them to world class racing in larger fields than they would encounter at home. We also wanted to provide additional support to professionals like Mical Dyck, Aaron Schooler and Jeremy Martin who might not have the support they need to race in Europe. I think we had some great results and some really positive development take place.
Did you expect to see such success in the first year?
SK: Thus far the Cyclo-cross program has achieved many of its goals, but to be frank, the bar was set quite low. The national program was in dire need of some consistent attention (not just for a few weeks a year leading into ‘cross Worlds). Kudos to Kris Westwood at Cycling Canada – he played a large part in bringing the group together and giving us the ability to affect a positive change. With a little hard work on the part of the [Canadian] Cyclo-cross Working Group, we can now offer support and development opportunities to Canadian riders at a reasonable price. The key is to now capitalize and build on this momentum going into year two.
What’s on tap for this weekend and what are the team’s goals?
SK: They’re expecting 80,000 fans this weekend and there is a 100% chance of rain on Saturday, so “epic” is the word that pops to mind. It should be a great weekend for both the fans and the athletes. We have riders racing in every category, which is something I’m really proud of. Our two U23 women are both only 16 years old, so I’m excited that they’re here so early in their racing careers. As a team, we’re really at the beginning of the development cycle with many of our riders, they are young, eager and they’re here to learn. In the Elite category, I’m really excited to see what Mical Dyck can do. She had a great result last year [12th] and I think if everything clicks, she could be in the top 15 again.
What will be the Canadian racers’ biggest challenge? What will be the mechanics’ biggest challenge?
SK: “Forward at all costs,” has been a bit of a mantra we’ve been repeating. As Canadians we tend to be technically proficient to a fault, always trying to stay on the bike and ride a section when sometimes running might be the faster option. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but our racers have to remind themselves that there are seconds to be gained all over the course and sometimes that requires checking style at the door. In terms of mechanical challenges, logistics are always the biggest challenge, with 80,000 fans, even getting to the pit can be a challenge. Scheduling and planning is something we’re really going to have to stay on top of.
Team Canada’s staff have graciously donated their time – how has the funding been going and how can people donate?
SK: It cost $54,000 to run our Cyclo-Cross program this fall. We received $5,000 from donations, $1,500 from Sport Manitoba and $2,000 in travel subsidies from the World Cups we attended. $20,000 was offset by the athletes in the form of project fees; $899 for Christmas Cross and $899 for Worlds. What this means is that the staff donated $25,500 of their time this year. Some of these mechanics are fortunate enough to have full time contracts with their teams, so while they’re not making any money, they’re not losing any money either. However, some don’t have that luxury and are actually forgoing making money at home in order to be here and volunteer.
We have had a few great discussions with some potential sponsors, and going forward we’ll need to secure a title sponsor in order to continue the growth of the program. I am a huge advocate of Cycling Canada working hand in hand with Canada’s professional teams and this program is an example of that working out great. Norco Factory Racing, Naked Factory Racing, Scott-3 Rox, Red Truck-Garneau p/b Easton and Shimano Canada all stepped up in a big way to provide their expertise and encouragement as well as support in the form of donated equipment. We’ve also had some existing sponsors of cycling — CRCS-DKI, Peloton Contracting and Paris to Ancaster all step forward to support the program and we owe them a huge thanks! People are able to donate to the program and receive a tax receipt by visiting this link HERE. If there are any individuals or business who are interested in sponsoring the program, we have several options and I would encourage them to get in touch with me directly.
Are you able to give us a sneak on plans for next year?
SK: We’d like to continue growing the program, we’re still waiting for the exact schedule for Fall 2016, but sending a group to an earlier World Cup would be a goal. I think the Christmas cross period is great in terms of development and I’d like to see more Canadian riders toeing to the line. At the moment we have capacity for about 16 riders at the base and I’d like to see 16 riders here at Christmas and at Worlds. In terms of development at home, Professional teams and Regional Clubs are the best equipped to get their riders to the North American UCI races. If we can help them in any way in terms of logistics or planning, then that will allow us get more Canadians the most exposure possible to high-quality racing.
All the best this weekend.
Canadian Team Roster at 2016 UCI CX World Championships
- Jeremy MARTIN (Boischatel, QC)
- Cameron JETTE (Toronto, ON)
- Mark MCCONNELL (Calgary, AB)
- Michael VAN DEN HAM (Edmonton, AB)
- Aaron SCHOOLER (Edmonton, AB)
- Ruby WEST* (Dundas, ON)
- Maggie COLES-LYSTER (Maple Ridge, BC)
- Isaac NILES (Calgary, AB)
- Trevor O’DONNELL (Barrie, ON)
- Gunnar HOLMGREN (Orillia, ON)
- Brody SANDERSON (Orillia, ON)
- Quinton DISERA* (Horseshoe Valley, ON)
*denotes current Canadian champion