This fall has been a very exciting time for me and for the cycling community in Canada as a whole. I first heard of the plans that M1 Pro Cycling was working toward a professional cycling team this summer and it is truly thrilling to see it all come together for the 2015 season. It’s fantastic to see a partner like H&R Block step up to allow young Canadians a chance to compete at the next level.
For an outsider looking into the inner workings of pro cycling, it may not seem like a big deal that a new UCI Continental level team has been created. However, for Canadian riders looking to make it to the highest levels of professional cycling and compete in something like the Tour de France, this is a key step to achieving that goal.
I have raced for many teams where I was the foreign rider, be it in the US or Europe, and it makes you feel a little more at home when your team is registered in your own country. This certainly isn’t to say I felt like an outsider on other teams, but when you can reference a Rick Mercer joke or ask for maple syrup and not expect a bottle of Aunt Jemima, it helps you relate to the rest of your team.
I’ve also spent a fair amount of time racing for the Canadian National Team where of course the cultural differences don’t come into play as much. I feel it’s still important to have a professional structure, where riders can learn to race with each other throughout the year. Cycling is very much a team sport, and it’s impossible to race to a team’s full potential when riders are pulled together for select races and then sent back their respective ways. A team has to live together and become a tight knit family before riders will truly be able to reach a new level of effort for one common goal. It’s incredible how powerful a strong friendship can be within a team – riders will learn to punish their bodies well beyond what they ever thought possible when a close teammate needs them to.
Spending the 2014 season with the amateur H&R Block Cycling Team that has now joined the M1 Project, the program has achieved most of the positive factors that I noted above. On the amateur team, we had fun together, grew together and sacrificed together. Now our team is growing alongside our careers, allowing us to step to the next level while remaining in a familiar environment. Changing teams every year or so is a major stress on an athlete and I’m certain this program will allow each of us to spend more time focusing on training and less on transitioning to a new team. I can’t think of a more ideal scenario for myself and the other riders who have transitioned from last year’s squad.
2015 is a big year for us all. Most of the riders are in their first year as pros and we need to build a name for ourselves, our team and even our country. I remind myself of this every morning when I wake up and it’s a powerful motivator for me to do everything right with my training, diet and recovery. I’m chomping at the bit to get the season rolling and I know the other guys are too. So stay tuned to what H&R Block Pro Cycling Team can do this season – I have a feeling we’ll be turning some heads and getting people excited about what is going on in Canadian cycling.