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Lyne Bessette: A New Year

February 11, 2005 – Knowlton, Québec’s Lyne Bessette made headlines this week when she announced that she will be doing things a little differently this year – resigning with Quark, and trying out a few new things like riding with a smaller club, refocusing on cyclo-cross in the fall, and even trying some mountain-biking! Pedal caught up with the 29-year-old multi-national champion and Olympian…

Lyne, times are a’changin. No Quark, mountain biking… what’s up?

LB: Well, I decided after the games to try different year this season. When I began renegotiating my contract with Quark, I was looking at the season, the plans – and it was looking the way it always does – the same races, Merced, Redlands, and so on. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. The finalizations for the team were taking a bit longer—the women’s teams usually do – and I wasn’t really worried. I have a good relationship with the director Tom Schuler so I wasn’t nervous. But ultimately, Tom and I agreed on most things – but on other things we just weren’t on the same page. I’m actually glad it took a while because it gave me some time to thing.

So what’s the plan for 2005? Still racing road?

LB: Oh yes. People need to know that I am still doing mostly road this year. I have some great sponsors – Louis Garneau, Mavic, Oakley, Equibar, Energy Cardio – and they are completely behind me. I am just in the middle of finalizing with a little club I will ride for this year – just so I have a jersey and shorts at the races – and that will be announced soon. I’ve also talked to Sean O’Donnell at the CCA and I plan to race some events with the National Team this year.

What about other CCA races or programs?

LB: Sean told to me that they have a lot of great young women that they want to develop for certain races and they need a mature leader to help them along the way. Not necessarily to win the races, but someone to offer guidance and advice. So, I am more than happy to help out with the next generation of female riders in Canada. Once in a while I will participate in some of the bigger races with the CCA but I definitely don’t want to take anyone’s spot either. I’ll try to ride with mixed teams as much as I can or with my new club. I definitely want to do Tour de l’Aude again, as well as the Tour Feminine – and of course the Montreal World Cup.

How about ‘cross? Got the bug again?

LB: I really love ‘cross. I am going to start the season a bit slower this year – but people do need to understand I am not putting road racing aside. As I said, I would still like to do Philly, the Road Worlds, and the Montreal World Cup. But I also want to use this year to do different things – to mix up my schedule and have more freedom to take it month by month.

Is that where the mountain biking comes in?

LB: Yes, exactly. I really want to try mountain biking. I never really got a chance before as every year the bigger events – such as the Olympics, Pan Ams and Commonwealth – get in the way. So this year is definitely the one to do that, then focus on the next Olympics, which will be my last.

I read somewhere that you’ve done some MTB’ing already?

LB: Well, yes I did do the Sea Otter final XC before. They let me do it and I really liked it. I got the holeshot but at the top I let all the women go by as I didn’t want to interfere. I ended up eighth and really liked it. But I plan to do the first NORBA in Waco, Texas – in fact, that’s my first race this year!

Wow, am I talking to Lyne Bessette?

LB: Yes, it’s still me. And I just wanted to try doing the opposite this year. I will do some small scale MTB races and see how it goes.

I wonder if some of Canada’s female MTB’ers are quaking in their boots.

LB: I hope not. I mean, the more women in the sport means that everyone will get stronger. I am really excited but at the same time I’m not planning the entire season like I normally do. I mean, what if I go to Waco and I absolutely hate it!

Are you targetting certain MTB races? Ones that aren’t so… roadie unfriendly?

LB: Yes! I’ve talked to a lot of MTB’ers around here – I definitely don’t want to do the ones that are crazy as I don’t have the skills like the other girls. So I will do Waco, maybe Arizona, and I might even try Mont Ste. Anne. But I will have to play that by ear. After last season I just realized I needed to refresh, so this change will definitely help with my mind.

Is Tim [Johnson, her husband] helping out? How’s he doing? Say hi for me.

LB: Yeah, he’s helping me out with the technical stuff. We are really enjoying our time together. Last year was so tough as we were so far apart [Johnson was based in Spain] so this year is great. We live in a little apartment here in North Carolina. REM’s Michael Stipe owns the place so it’s pretty cool.

I repeat: Is this Lyne Bessette I’m talking to? Mountain biking and rock stars?

LB: You know, I just needed a change. I feel so invigorated this year and I’m just soaking it all in. I do two mountain bike rides a week and the weather has been so-so here – some rain here and there – but warm enough to get some great rides in.

Any regrets on leaving Quark?

LB: Quark is a great team. It was really the whole start of my career with that team – first with Saturn, then Quark. Tom Schuler always supported me and he understands my decision. It’s a bit sad leaving the team but I will see them throughout the season, and Audrey Lemieux is still with them, so that’s great. I wish I could have continued racing with Quark to help her more.

Well, B7, I wish you the best of luck, and take care.

LB: Thanks Matt–see you at the races!

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