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Canadian Sport Institute Calgary – Fixed gear.  Banked turns.  No brakes.  High speed.  Sound crazy?  For two-time World Track Cycling Championship medalist, Allison Beveridge, the rush of the track is hard to beat.  Her favourite part is going fast.  “The thrill of riding the track never really wears off no matter how many times you’re on it or how old you get.”   Young, fledgling cyclist, Ryder Knoll, 11, shares the same thrill.  Of the first occasion he tried the track, he says, “It was really fun and a little scary because I had never tried it before.  I was scared that I might crash.”

Both Beveridge and Knoll have had the opportunity to hone their skills at the Calgary Velodrome.  Beveridge says, “Local tracks allow individuals to start training and gain racing experience from a young age. The tactical and technical skills I learned when I was younger have proved to be a big asset to me over the years.”

Recently however, the Calgary Bicycle Track League (CBTL) has struggled to find qualified staff to run its programs.  To help fill this void, CSI Calgary cycling coach Phil Abbott spearheaded a unique and innovative collaboration between the CSI Calgary and the CBTL. 

Today, the CSI Calgary provides a pool of staff to run the track and CBTL programming.  The goal is to put high quality coaches in place to ensure effective program delivery and athlete development, and to increase participation in the sport.  Adds Abbott, “One of the key things necessary to effectively develop track cyclists is for the velodrome to be functioning to its capacity and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Program manager, former national team speed skater, Phil Riopel, wears many hats around the track – equal parts coach, race director and maintenance crew.  He describes the experience of a young girl who came to try the track last summer, “At first, she was scared and intimidated.  She started on the apron (flat infield), then very slowly went up onto the track.  After half an hour or so I looked away for maybe two minutes, and next thing I see is this girl up on the rail at the top of the track, coming down the bank.  She had a huge smile on her face and yelled, ‘This is awesome!'” 

The next step is encouraging new riders to return and learn the sport.  For Knoll, the hardest part is stopping as there are no brakes on a track bike.  But he’s working hard on that and other things like, “strategy, getting fitter and learning a lot of new skills”, precisely the kinds of things Abbott is looking for. “We can’t assume that talented 19 year-old cyclists will just show up on our doorstep.  We said, let’s look deep down at the athlete development model and see what we can do.  We don’t want to leave anything to chance.”

Knoll’s father, Mark, himself a former speed skater and Olympian, is enthusiastic about his son’s new sport.  “We thought it would be a great thing to try and for him to develop his skills on a bike.  He has really taken a shine to the sport, and likes the chance to meet new friends and race his awesome bike when he can.”

Thanks to this new and symbiotic relationship between the CSI Calgary and CBTL, there is now a place and opportunity for young riders like Ryder to develop alongside some of the best track cyclists in the world, like Allison Beveridge.  And what advice does he have for new riders?  “I would tell them to try it the first chance they get because it is really, really fun.”

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary

Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover

Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto 

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary, Room 125 Olympic Oval, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4 Canada