Road Cycling squad mixes youth, experience

LAC MÉGANTIC, QUE. Cycling Canada Cyclisme, in collaboration with the Canadian Olympic Committee, is pleased to announce the four road cycling nominees to the Canadian Olympic Team. Canada’s road cycling team will be comprised of Ryder Hesjedal, Clara Hughes, Joëlle Numainville and Denise Ramsden.

Canada qualified one athlete in the men’s road race, and three athletes in the women’s road cycling events for the 2012 Olympic Games this summer.

“These incredible nominees are all inspiring individuals who have each cycled thousands of miles for the chance to be part of the 2012 Canadian Olympic family,” said Mark Tewksbury, Canadian Olympic Team Chef de Mission for the London 2012 Olympic Games. “What a great feeling for them to know they’re now on the the last stretch of road before London and that Canadians will be rooting for them one hundred percent.”

“A mix of Canadian cycling royalty and rising young stars, these four nominees are exciting additions to the Canadian Olympic Team roster for 2012,” said Marcel Aubut, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “We look forward to watching them compete this summer and know they will join their Canadian Olympic Teammates in doing themselves and our country proud.”

The men’s team will be managed by Gord Fraser, while Denise Kelly will lead the women’s team. Fraser, who joined the Canadian road program last fall, is a current directeur sportif for an American-based continental cycling team Competitive Cyclist Racing Team, while Kelly has been dedicated to growing the Canadian women’s road program for the last three seasons with Cycling Canada.

Ryder Hesjedal, Canada’s road cycling star and recent winner of the famed Giro d’Italia, will represent Canada in the time trial and road race at the Olympic Games. Canada qualified only one spot in the men road events, and Hesjedal will have to take on double duties. Hesjedal is a former Canadian Mountain Bike Champion, and competed for Canada in the road events at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Hesjedal turned professional with Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team in 2005. Since then, he achieved a position as General classification leader for professional cycling team Garmin-Barracuda, In 2010, Hesjedal emerged as a true contender for major cycling races, finishing sixth at the Tour de France.

In the women’s road cycling, Canadian multiple Olympic medallist Clara Hughes, member of Team Specialized-Lululemon, will race for Canada in both the road race and time trial. At the most recent UCI World Championships, Hughes finished fifth in the individual time trial.

Hughes, who returned to cycling after a successful career in long-track speedskating, has had previous success in cycling at the Olympic Games. The versatile athlete won two medals at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, both bronze medals coming in road events.

“It will be my sixth Olympic Games and yet I still feel the same pride and joy to represent my country. After twelve years, I am excited to compete again at the summer Olympic Games. I am heading to London with the confidence that I could not be better prepared to perform at my best in London,” commented Hughes.

Last season, Hughes won both the road race and the time trial at the 2011 UCI Pan-American Championships, as well as other prestigious women races such as the Tour of the Gila. In addition to winning these races, Hughes climbed on the podium in other major races in 2011, such as the Cascade Classic and the Mount Hood Classic. Since making her return to cycling two seasons ago, Hughes won back-to-back Canadian Championships in the time trial, as well as twice winning the Chrono Gatineau.She stepped on the podium in every major international time trial this season and assisted her teammates to win World Cups and international stage races.

At the 2012 Olympic Games, Hughes will be attempting to re-write the history books with the opportunity to become Canada’s most decorated Olympian of all-time. Currently, Hughes is tied with former teammate and long-track speedskater Cindy Klassen with six Olympic medals.

Arguably Canada’s best sprinter in a road race, Joëlle Numainville of Montreal, QC will also be to the start line in London. Numainville has had a successful career to date, winning in 2010 the Canadian Road Championships. This season, she has risen to the occasion riding with continental team Optum-Kelly Benefits, stepping on the podium of the Redland Bicycle Classic, the San Dimas stage race as well as the Merco Classic. Sporting the maple leaf, she took third place at the famed World Cup, Tour of Flanders.

In addition to racing with her professional cycling team, Numainville has always accepted invitations to represent Canada at major international events. She was the top Canadian rider at last season’s UCI World Championships, taking the 12th position, and represented Canada at the Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. In 2010, she attended the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, and took the sixth spot of the road race.

Numainville and Hughes will be joined by Denise Ramsden, who also races with Team Optum-Kelly Benefit. Ramsden will race both the road race and time trial in London. In addition to showing potential for a great time trial result, Ramsden will be an integral component for Canada in the road race, serving as a sound and respected teammate for Numainville and Hughes. Over the years, she has demonstrated strong bike handling capabilities in large pelotons, as well as consistent results.

“Going to the Olympic Games has been a dream of mine since I was four years old,” said Ramsden. “I’m very proud and excited to be nominated to the Canadian Olympic Team. I have had the opportunity to represent Canada at World championships and the Pan American Games, but the chance to represent Canada at the Olympic Games is on another level entirely. I hope to be able to help our team win a medal in the road race for Canada.”

Earlier this season, Ramsden took the sixth position in the time trial at the Pan-American Championships, and finished seventh in the same discipline at the 2011 Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Ramsden raced for Canada in the last two World Championships as an elite.

Canada has won three medals in the road events at Olympic Games. Steve Bauer, current owner of Canada’s only professional cycling squad Team SpiderTech powered by C10, won the silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California. In the women’s race, current nominee Clara Hughes won two Olympic medals at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.