Some of Cycling Canada’s best have found a new home on the West Shore.
A partnership announced Wednesday at the Westin Bear Mountain Resort will see the resort serve as the High Performance Training Centre for Cycling Canada’s mountain biking program. The agreement runs from 2015 to 2020, and will see the Canadian national team host a two-week training camp at Bear Mountain each spring, access the training facilities at Bear Mountain and Sante Spa and maintain a year-round office at the resort.
“There has been a long history and culture of elite cyclists living and training on this Island because of the natural beauty and the year-round ability to train here,” said Rob Fawcett, director of mountain bike development for Ecoasis, the resort’s owner. “What we realized was (the athletes) are here, the national team coach (is here), but they never really had a home. What we have really done is say ‘here, here is your home.’”
Fawcett said dividends from the partnership may manifest themselves as early as the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan would be the real litmus test, after five years of development.
The agreement between Langford, Highlands, Cycling Canada, Ecoasis and Westin Bear Mountain Resort will see more of the best riders from around Canada make their way to the West Shore to live and train.
The five kilometres of mountain biking trails are also expected to be linked together, forming a 10K loop around the property for use by athletes and the community at large.
“It is a really big step towards great things to come for the athletes that will be able to train year round here,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young.
“It’s great for the West Shore and it’s great for our residents to be able to come out and interact with the athletes. This is … really going to put the West Shore on the map nationally to have all these great athletes here.”
Haley Smith, a member of the national under-23 team, has been coming here from Toronto for the past two years to train for two to three months. She said the move is a positive step in streamlining her lifestyle and training to maximize her athletic potential.
“Having a place that is centralized, where I can come and train with other athletes, it’s a way for me to be in an exceptionally high-performance environment every day,” Smith said.
“It completely removes the stress of logistics and trying to figure everything out and plan your trips. It just makes our training environment much more consistent, much more reliable and much more success oriented.”
Originally from Oxbridge, Ont., Smith said the training here replaces training elsewhere during the colder months where outdoor training isn’t possible.
She said she enjoys the area so much she could see herself living on the West Shore.
“I think it’s such an important step for the national team to take, in order to get us to where we want to be as the No. 1 nation in the world,” she said. “I think the terrain out here is absolutely world class; I have never raced a World Cup where I have encountered an obstacle (course) tougher than what we get out here.
Smith said she’s excited to return here to train in years to come and expects fellow riders who may otherwise head south for the winter to do the same.
“This makes it such an easy decision. We will see other athletes following suit.”