Micaiah Besler and Houshang Amiri. Photo courtesy Pacific Cycling Centre

Victoria will be represented at the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships in Switzerland by three talented riders, although technically one hails from Saskatchewan. Sarah Van Dam, who won six women’s national titles at this year’s Junior Track Championships, Riley Pickrell, who won three stages plus the Points Jersey at the recent Tour de l’Abitibi in Quebec, as well as six titles at the Juniors, and Micaiah Besler, the 2017 Junior National Track Champion are in the nine-person squad.

Both Pickrell and Van Dam have been impressive this year so their inclusion in the team is well deserved. Pickrell is as comfortable on the road as on the track, as was proof in Quebec. “The race was far more than I expected,” he said in a statement after the Tour de l’Abitibi. “The strength of the international field is shocking and to come away with three stage wins is surreal. Abitibi was amazing. It is by far the favourite stage race I’ve competed in, due to the sportsmanship and fellowship created by hard international racing.” His talent has been noticed and he will soon be enrolled in the Canadian Sports School Victoria.

Of her six national titles at the Junior Track Nationals, Van Dam, was very modest. “I came into the competition thinking that there were so many good riders here, so I was just taking it race by race,” she said in a statement. ”I just worked on good positioning for every race and it turned out well. I knew I came here near the top, but I didn’t know I was going to be at the very top; there’s so many strong riders here.”

It is Besler who is the honorary Victorian as she is coached by Houshang Amiri, owner and head coach of Victoria’s Pacific Cycling Centre. Amiri, who has coached cycling legends, such as Roland Green, Alison Sydor, Svein Tuft and Erinne Willock, has a knack of spotting future champions. He saw the talent in the Saskatoon rider in 2016, “She enrolled into the Saskatchewan Cycling Association HP program I was running with Sask Cycling in 2016,” Amiri says. Frrom then on she won five medals, including two national titles, at the Nationals in 2017.

Amiri explained that the 2018 U18 Track World Championship selection was different than past year’s. “The long list was selected at the track nationals in early April. then selection camp in early June and the final camp in July.”

For Besler this required a lot of travel between Saskatoon and Milton, where all the selection was made, and Victoria where she did most of her training and preparations.

“Micaiah worked very hard over the winter months doing wind trainer workouts while finishing school in Saskatoon. She traveled to Victoria every opportunity she could to train with PCC Victoria-based athletes,” added Amiri.

The athletes are currently at a pre-Worlds camp at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton, Ontario, until August 10th, before leaving for Switzerland. The competition runs from August 15-19 in Aigle.

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