August 6-21, 2022
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Ella Myers on a bike race course heading downhill.


by: Bernie Puchalski, BP Sports Niagara

N22 Pelham road race course takes centre stage during first-ever Canadian Cycling eSports Championships

Ella Myers got a sneak peek at the road cycling course for the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games recently.

The 17-year-old Calgary native competed March 12-13 in the first-ever Canadian Cycling eSports Championships and won her division in a race contested virtually on a rolling 14-kilometre loop through the Town of Pelham, which will serve as the road course for the Games.

“I actually really enjoyed the course. It had frequent climbs that weren’t too long or too short,” said the third-place finisher at the 2021 XCO MTB (cross-country mountain biking) Junior National Championships in 2021. “Personally it suited me very well coming from a mountain bike and cyclocross background where I have the endurance to get over the punchy climbs time after time, every single lap.”

Myers gained some knowledge competing in the virtual event.

“I learned that it was key to stay with another rider or within a group of riders,” she said. “Racing it on RGT [virtual cycling platform] it was very hard to pull away from someone on the flat stretches and so I think the climbs will play a key component of selection into a breakaway. It will be interesting to see how real world dynamics have a play in the race. If it’s quite windy there will be another layer of tactics added to the peloton.”

Alberta’s qualifying process for the Niagara 2022 is based on this year’s results and Myers is most focused on cross-country mountain.

“I will also be paying attention to the road side and seeing if I can put my name in for a spot there as well.”

Among her most recent accomplishments are placing 29th at the XCO MTB World Championships in 2021 and 17th at the Cyclocross Worlds in 2022.

She would love to qualify for and compete in the 2022 Games.

“Competing in the Canada Summer Games would be super exciting as it’s an event that only happens every four years and unlike most other cycling events, Canada Summer Games bring athletes from multiple, different disciplines and sports together to compete for a two-week period,” she said. “Events like these are super cool to be a part of as there is so much more diversity amongst athletes and it’s an amazing opportunity to learn from one another.”

Myers speaks from past experience.

“In 2018, I had the opportunity to go to the Western Canada Summer Games and it was an incredible experience as we were able to interact with other athletes from a variety of sports and learn more about what they do differently and what we both have in common.”

She is looking forward to seeing Niagara and what the Games’ road and mountain bike courses look like in person.

“That’s one of my favourite things about travelling to race bikes is seeing the different landscapes and natural features that each place brings to the courses.”

While many athletes have struggled training through the pandemic, Myers believes it had a positive impact on her.

“Because school went online, I was able to train and study much more efficiently. This also led to me having the opportunity to finish high school a year sooner than normal in order to focus more on racing,” she said. “COVID has also brought me some super cool opportunities like learning to race virtually. Being able to do that kept me very engaged in my training as I was able to learn sort of a new sport within the sport I already love and it helped me push limits in training at home.”

Myers wasn’t the only one willing to share her thoughts on the Canada Games course after competing in the Canadian eSports Championships. Also chiming in were: Thom Thrall, who placed eighth and was Canada’s top finisher at the eSports world championships; and, Evelyne Gagnon, a former Parapan athlete and past member of the Canadian national para cycling team.

Thrall, who ended up second in the elite men’s division at the Canadian eSports Championships, enjoyed the Canada Games course.

“I would probably prefer something a little more hilly. It was a rolling course [going] up and down the whole time,” he said. “I had a lot of fun with it and I like that Canada Cycling put this event on.”

Thrall has a few tips for Canada Games competitors, including the suggestion riders test out the course virtually first to get a feel for it.

“You can study the course first which is a great opportunity,” he said. “If you are going to the Canada Summer Games, I would use this opportunity now. Take the time to understand it and find that point on the course where you are going to make your decisive move and commit to it. If you are going to succeed on the flats or small climbs, then understand the course and what aspect will help you do the best you possibly can.”

Gagnon was in a group of three women that decided to push the pace early and she ended up third in the elite women’s event. The Canada Games course was to her liking.

“It was good for me because there weren’t super-long climbs. They were bunchy climbs with lots of rest between the climbs and it was a good course,” she said. “But the start and finish are the most difficult things about the course because you need to be warmed up. It starts in a climb. If you screw your warmup up, you are not going to be able to hang on and ride fast. And the finish is the same thing. If you start too early, you won’t be able to get away to the end. You need to be patient for that kind of finish, depending on your skills, of course.”

She feels riders will need to adjust to the course, depending on wind conditions.

“If you are a sprinter, you will need to wait until as close to the line as you can. If you are a climber, you need to start early if you want to win,” she said. “It will favour someone who takes chances, picks the right time and just goes.”

This report was filed by BP Sports Niagara, which is owned and operated by Bernie Puchalski and Bill Potrecz.

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