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BC’s Best Youth Talent at Cycling Road Nationals

James Grant, BC Road Provincial Champion

James Grant, BC Road Provincial Champion

© Copyright - 2016 - Victoria Sports News

Some of Vancouver Island’s best youth cyclists will be competing this weekend in the Canadian National Road Championships in Ottawa and in Gatineau, Quebec. Ten cyclists trained by Pacific Cycling Centre’s Head Coach, Houshang Amiri, will be riding in U19 and U23 categories, hoping to gain valuable experience and possible podium finishes.

Brothers James and Mark Grant from the Comox Valley, coming off first place podium finishes in the BC Youth Championships in Penticton two weeks ago, have high expectations. “After placing 16th in the TT last year, I have set my sights on a podium performance in both the road race and the time trial this year,” says James, who is the BC Road Provincial Champion. Calling himself an all-round cyclist he proved that by also placing second in the criterium and third in the time trial. The brothers compete in the U19 category and share some friendly rivalry. Mark won the BC Criterium Provincial title in Penticton and came second in the time trial and third in the road race. “My goals would be to podium in the TT, and to help my teammates out in the road race and criterium, and get a top 10 finish for myself in the road race.” Both race for TaG Cycling Club.

Three of Amiri’s cyclists ride for Giant Langley / Smart Savvy+ Cycling Team, including his son Alex, Chris MacLeod and Josh Kropf. All three recently rode in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay and the Tour de Beauce, the first time they had experienced a pro peloton. As a U19 Alex came second in both the Cameron Law Cycling Series and the Criterium in 2014. The winner in both of those races was Chris, who also that year won Gold in the Junior Men’s Team Pursuit, National Track Championships.

Micaiah Besler is one of Amiri’s newest athletes, coming from a diving and gymnastics background. From Saskatchewan and cycling for Sask Cycling, Amiri sees a lot of potential in Micaiah after finishing second in the road race and second overall in U17 Girls at the BC Championships. “The experience Micaiah gained was very valuable, and this will prepare her for the road nationals where she will race as a U19.”

“My hopes for the weekend is to have fun and gain experience by riding in a larger field of athletes my age,” she says, and she admits she is still learning. “I have learned to be more aggressive on the bike, that hydration and nutrition is very important prior and during a race. These past few months have been a big learning curve.”

Holly Simonson at the Cameron Cycling Series criterium. Photo by Jonathan Foweraker.

Holly Simonson at the Cameron Cycling Series criterium. Photo by Jonathan Foweraker.

Erik Diertens, Holly Simonson and Callie Swan will be in the U19 category and Mariana Aspen U23. All four race for Victoria-based Dr. Walker Sport Chiropractic Cycling team. Erik was fourth in the Cameron Cycling Series Road Race and Holly placed third, as well as third in the time trial. “This year I am hoping to improve all of my performances from 2015 road nationals. I would love to achieve a top 10 result in the road race,” she says. She is keen to learn how to be a better racer and takes tips on how to improve. “I have been learning about the importance of positioning, particularly in criteriums. I've had a few this year with elite women and they showed me that your position in the bunch can really make or break the race for you.”

Callie is having an impressive year with podium finishes in ‘Race the Ridge’ in Maple Ride in April, including a first in the criterium, and at the Escape Velocity Spring Series, placing third in one of the road races. Last year she had a clean sweep at the NW Juniors Classic Race winning the road race, criterium and the time trial. A speed skater for 12 years, Callie is following in her hero's footsteps, Clara Hughes, by taking up cycling last year. “My expectations for my first road nationals is to continue to develop my racing skills and finish with a top ten placement,” she says. And just like many of Amiri’s young riders she is learning on her feet. “Every race I enter is an opportunity to work with coach Houshang on understanding the complexity of road cycle racing. At my last road race in Victoria I learned the importance of nutrition when after 70km without any supplementation my legs stopped working.”

Houshang Amiri at the 2015 Track Nationals

Houshang Amiri at the 2015 Track Nationals

With over 35 years’ experience in coaching at an elite and Olympic level, including mentoring Canadian icons such as Roland Green, Ryder Hesjedal, Svein Tuft and Erinne Willock, Amiri sees potential a mile away, and he knows how to nurture talent. “For me it is all about progress and commitment to the task in hand.  If we can coach and teach athletes at an early age they will win, but we mustn’t forget it takes a long time to develop an elite athlete after years as a junior.” He gives each rider specific objectives for each race. “My expectation from them is to be able to give their best in any situation they may find themselves. A podium performance is an outcome of progress, and this is becoming even more of a reality as riders move in to the elite level from the junior status.”

The Canadian National Road Championships Schedule:

Saturday, June 25: Road Race
8:00am: Junior Men
11:15am : Para-cycling
1:35pm Junior Women
4:00pm: Elite Women

Sunday, June 26: Road Race
1:00pm: U23 Men/Elite Men

Tuesday, June 28: Time Trial, all categories
8:00am: Para-cycling
9:20am: Junior Women
10:30am: Para-cycling
10:40am: Junior Men
11:30am: Elite/U23 Women
1:30pm: Elite/U23 Men

Wednesday June 29: Criterium, all categories,
12:00pm: Junior Women
1:00pm: Junior Men
2:00pm : Rio 2016 Team Announcement
6:00pm: Elite Women
7:45pm:  Elite Men

Detailed daily results will appear on www.canadiancyclist.com

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