The Rise of Canadian Cycling – Part 1

Fotoreporter Sirotti

 

If you’ve been trolling our Comments section over the past few months, you might have noticed a distinctly Canadian voice flying the maple leaf flag for his favorite compatriots. Sensing an opportunity to shed some well-deserved light on the topic of Canada’s recent cycling history, I reached out to the author and asked if he would be willing to share his thoughts. Here’s Canadian Mike’s first installment:

Damn that Steve Bauer.  It all started with him.  The history of modern Canadian cycling is inexorably tied to Steve. Not to diminish the international accomplishments of previous generations of crazy Canucks (I’m looking at you, Joclyn Lovell), but Los Angeles ’84 is where it all began.

That silver medalist behind Alexei Grewal, Bauer spent first years as a pro with La Vie Claire, before moving to the legendary 7-Eleven/Motorola.  His 2nd-place finish at Roubaix in 1990 inspired a generation of Canadian youth to throw a leg over the top tube (it certainly inspired me!).

But who else can we consider the forefathers of Canada’s European professional contingent?  Alex Steida was the first North American to wear the yellow jersey—and boy does he ever hang on to that!  Brian Walton won the Milk Race back when it really meant something and a silver medal in the Olympic points race. Gord Fraser deserves mention as well, although he largely made his fortune riding domestically after spending a few hard luck years trying to make it in Europe.  But aside from those three, Canadian cycling—while vibrant regionally and with many racers making a solid living domestically—was not widely represented in the European pro peloton.

Then in 1996, the torch was passed as Michael Barry entered his rookie campaign at the same time Bauer was retiring. Simultaneously, the hockey-mad country began to develop a network of talent scouting that gave rise to many of today’s professionals—many of whom used to be hockey players who used cycling for summer training!

To be continued…

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8 Responses to The Rise of Canadian Cycling – Part 1

  1. Matt Rose says:

    Thanks for this! It's an exciting time to be a canadian Cycling fan. Our first real Cycling team is getting it's start, we have our first TdF contender (even if he's a long-shot) in Ryder Hesjedal. Dom Rollin is performing amazingly.

    And Gord Fraser is maybe not as hard luck as you think. He's from my hometown of Ottawa (Nepean at the time), and I followed his career with great interest. I read an interesting comment in the Landis-Kimmage interviews where Landis recalls a conversation with Fraser, where Fraser explains why he was racing on the domestic circuit.

    "Gordon Fraser was a close friend of mine and a good bike racer. He had been on (the) Motorola (team) and said that he didn’t like needles and didn’t want to be part of it so he came back to race here (the U.S)."

    It made me even more proud of Fraser.

  2. Touriste-Routier says:

    Perhaps best to be mentioned in the same vein as Lovell, but lest not forget Gordon Singleton, multiple world champion on the track. Canada has also been home to some fabulous international races. For an example, see: http://www.flandriacafe.com/2011/02/lost-races-of-northeast-le-tour-de-la.html

  3. BikeRog says:

    If Canada's cyclists can match the accomplishments of their singer-songwriters (Neil Young, Ian Tyson, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen … the list just goes on and on) they will be a major force.

  4. Richard says:

    Steve Bauer… what a Canadian pioneer. I watched him take charge and win the Canadian national road race back in 1982 Edmonton and since cheered him on. Jocelyn Lovell & Gord Singleton were also guys I followed. They certainly made me hyper interested in cycling. And the strong Canadian cycling presence continues with SpiderTech in Europe with Barry, Hesjedal, Rollin and Veilluex right up there with them. Canadian cycling has never been stronger. We're proud of that! Enjoyed the post!

  5. Pappy says:

    Dominique Rollin keeps improving: 16th at San Remo, 10th at Dwors… David Boilly grabbed that climbers jersey at Sardinia (not that anyone else was going for it, but still) and Veilleux took a win last week in a French race. A good spring for Canuck racers is shaping up to get better.

  6. hamncheeze says:

    There were others in the mid-late 90s who also shone in Europe, albeit at a level slightly below the top. Steve Rover of Quebec finished 3rd in the 1996 Tour de l'Avenir (I think Barry was top-10 at U23 worlds that year as well), behind notables like David Etxebarria and Sergei Ivanov. He turned pro with Mutuelle de Seine et Marne in 1997 (Fraser was there too) but had a lot of physical problems and was forced to retire relatively early. Out west, there was 2-time national road champ Matt Anand of Calgary who in 1996 was winning races in France and nearly ended up signing with Festina (probably good he did not). He raced professionally in North America with Mercury and Saturn. Michael Barry was not pro in 1996, he raced amateur in France for VC Annemasse. He lost most of 1997 to injury and signed with Saturn mid-1998 where he stayed until moving to USPS in 2002.

    Ron Hayman also deserves some mention as perhaps the pioneer of Canadians in Euro road racing. He raced pro in the 80s, but until I did a little wiki search I had no idea how long his career was:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Hayman

    Beating Phil Anderson, Robert Millar, and Stehpen Roche to win Tour of Ireland is not too shabby. I would say for road racing in Europe it was really Hayman, Bauer and Stieda, followed by Walton, Fraser and to a lesser extent Rover, before Michael Barry.

    Yes Dom Rollin is riding superb this spring, I think he can win a decent 1-day race in April if luck swings his way. And Svein Tuft is also riding very well and getting his chance to show, albeit with a relatively weak team (at least in races like Dwars Doors Vlaanderen and the upcoming GP E3).

    Go Canada!

  7. michael says:

    thanks for the kinds words everyone, I am happy to see that a feature on canuck cycling resonates with so many. Many of the themes some of you have touched on in your comments will be touched on in-depth in the follow-up pieces that Whit has so graciously extended an offer to complete for your reading pleasure.

    Part 1 was really meant as a quick intro for non-Canadian readers to understand some of the more well-known riders they may have heard.

    I hope you all enjoy part 2 equally as much.

    For those with some personal connections please feel free to email me with your thoughts and stories – they will make for additional historical context to the greater pieces to follow. I purposely chose not to mention any of the track riders and focus exclusively on the men's pro road peleton. Certainly Messieurs singleton, Hartnett, and all the fantastically talented women who have worn the maple leaf in international competition would merit their own articles as well!

    for all you fans of the history of Canadian cycling in the late 70's/early 80's (which I will not go into in the pieces), go ahead and search for info on Danny "Moose" Deslongchamps – who happens to be in the Quebec Cycling Federation hall of fame and was lighting it up in France in the early 80's. Truly a complete rider who had a very promising career cut short by multiple injuries. He was one of my very early cycling heroes when I was in grade school.

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