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…