Caleb Bender on the podium. PCC photo credit

Caleb Bender on the podium. PCC photo credit

Eight PCC athletes competed in the Tour de Bloom Stage Race last weekend, which resulted in a GC win for Caleb Bender, his first Tour win, and a third place for Holly Simonson in the final road race.

The race was a three-day cycling event from May 3-5, held under perfect weather in the Wenatchee Valley, WA. Stage 1 was a road race in Plain on Friday; stage 2 was a Merckx-style time trial on Saturday morning, and stage three a twilight criterium in downtown Wenatchee on Saturday afternoon. The final stage 4 road race was among the rolling wheat fields near Waterville in adjacent Douglas County on Sunday.

“Tour de Bloom was a great experience and I had so much fun competing in the race, with every course being really challenging,” Caleb said about the weekend’s racing, who races for TaG Cycling.

Competing in Category 3, he started off strong in Friday’s road race finishing fourth. “I had a really great start to the race. I followed a couple moves early on, but nothing stuck, and the race came down to the final climb,” he said. “I was happily surprised to find that I was positioned well at the base of the climb, and the legs felt good enough to stick with the three leaders up the climb until the final sprint to take fourth.”

He rode well on both the time trial and the criterium on the Saturday to maintain his GC position, but it was the final road race that was the highlight. Feeling comfortable on the course, he said it resembled the rolling hills of his native province, Saskatchewan. He had a tactic in mind: “I knew I wanted to get in a break on the day, and set out wanting to make up some time, being a few seconds off the GC podium.” He made an early break with three other riders, quickly creating a large gap. “We worked well together and managed to keep on pushing for the rest of the race growing the gap even more on the last lap. The breakaway stuck until the line, and I managed second in the final sprint! We also got a large enough gap on the pack for me to take my first GC win!”

“Overall I am really happy with how the weekend went. Huge thanks to Houshang and Pacific Cycling Centre for all of the coaching, support, and guidance. It means so much to have such a great and supportive coach, and I am happy with how much I have improved as a rider because of it!”

That same weekend Alex Amiri raced in the 2019 Tour of Gila in Silver City New Mexico with his host team “Team California”.

“These were the final races of our pre-competition phase and I am happy where each of those athletes are at this time of the year with their form and development,” said head coach Houshang Amiri.

PCC Photo

PCC Photo

PCC will host a climbing and descending camp from May 11 – 12, 2019. Based in Victoria, the camp is for cyclists of all abilities wishing to improve their climbing and descending skills on road.

The camp will also cover critical road cycling skills including basic pace line and drafting.

Each day includes a 30-45min in-class training presentation and three hours of riding.

Leading the camp will be PCC Head Coach Houshang Amiri, assisted by Alex Amiri who recently won the KOM polka dot jersey at San Dimas.

Deadline to apply is May 6, 2019.

Brenna and Holly at Walla Walla. Photo by Callie Swan

Brenna and Holly at Walla Walla. Photo by Callie Swan

PCC athletes excelled at the Tour of Walla Walla last weekend in Washington. Holly Simonson and Brenna Pauly rode the four-stage race for Team Red Truck and Holly recorded a win on the second stage.

The weekend started with the Wilson Hollow Time Trial – a 11km out and back route. Holly had a strong ride and going into stage two was fifth overall. Stage two was the Waitsburg Road Race. “Things got super exciting as the team began to bring the heat early on,” Holly recalls. “We started launching attacks, taking turns and forcing the pack to chase us down repeatedly. Eventually a few started sticking, notably we had Brenna get away and she had a solo break for around 15kms of the first lap.”

With her TRT teammates support Holly continued to push and attack. “My breakaway partner was lower in GC than I was going into the stage, so I knew that by working with her and taking it to the line, we would both move up, but I wouldn’t be in jeopardy of her beating me in the overall unless something unexpected happened.” At the final climb Holly gave it her all. “I gave my last ounce of energy to get out of the saddle and took the lead in the final 200m, taking the win for TRT. I found out that I had moved into first in the GC! The whole team was really excited to have shaken up the overall standings after working so hard and executing a plan perfectly.”

Stage three was the 60-minute criterium and with a small field Holly and her team were very optimistic. ”We raced aggressively starting about 20mins into the race, hoping to set up a break with one of us either solo or with someone a bit lower on GC. That ended up not being in the cards, and the bunch was still together going into the last couple laps.” Holly ended up third on the stage.

Sunday, and the final stage, came and went with more than a little excitement, Holly recalls. “We went into the day with hopes to hold the GC lead, and also to take another stage win. Neither of these ended up happening, but not for lack of a fight! the whole team gave it their all in the super windy and tough 100km race.”

Holly, Brenna and the other strong racers, rotated for lead for the entire race with Holly coming third on the stage with her team moving into second and third overall to finish off the weekend.

“Part of bike racing is dealing with unexpected scenarios and doing everything in the team’s power to come out with the wanted results,” Holly said. “We certainly did that on the day and came up just a little bit short of the win but smiling all the same. The experience of holding a jersey at a stage race for my first time was super fun, and I was so lucky to be there with a team who put everything out on the road to defend it. A big thanks to my coach, Houshang Amiri, whose advice and expertise keep me in check and who always supports me racing with my heart and with an open mind, gaining experience and strength in any way I can.”

Alex on the podium. Photo by Steven Hewick

Alex on the podium. Photo by Steven Hewick

Last weekend was a busy one for PCC riders in California with Alex Amiri competing in the San Dimas Stage Race and Amiel Flett-Brown and Ryan Olson racing at the Chico Stage Race. Alex successfully took the KOM polka dot jersey at San Dimas.

It was the first time that Alex had competed in the iconic San Dimas Stage Race. The three-day race consists of a 6.8 km time trial, a 146 km road race and an 80-minute criterium. Stage two’s road race was Amiri’s focus with a goal of taking the KOM jersey. “I had been asking other riders who had done the race before how the race would typically play out, and all of them told me it would be a race of attrition, with the rider count slowly declining over the course of the race,” he recalls. “That is not how it played out. in the first five minutes of the race people were furiously attacking the group, trying to make a move get away. Even the riders in the general classification were attacking each other.”

Alex knew he had to make his mark so within seven minutes of the start he initiated a breakaway with Ulises Castillo Soto, of Elevate KHS, and Cory Williams, from the Legion of LA. “The three of us worked well together, at one point opening a gap of three minutes on the peloton. We knew that once we had this gap, with less than a quarter of the race to go, that it was going to be the breakaway of the day.”

During the stage there were four KOM sprints, on laps 2,4,6, and 8. “With both Ulises, and Cory targeting the sprint points, I felt pretty good about leading our trio across the KOM, gaining maximum points on all but one sprint,” said Amiri.  With 25km to go Castillo Soto surged forward to take the stage win.

Alex had the criterium the following day to secure the polka dot jersey. With Hewdog team mate Chris Ernst they rode a strong race breaking away with four laps to go. “With 80 meters remaining we were caught, but we managed to stay safe, finish the stage, and secure the KOM jersey for good.”

Alex attributes his success to training in Tucson and the support of his team and coach. “I am so humbled by the outreach of my local cycling community back in Vancouver, as well as the hospitality of those around me in Tucson, not to mention the unconditional support I receive from my dad and coach, Houshang Amiri.”

Chico Stage Race is Northern California’s premier stage race. The event consists of the Thunder Hill Circuit Race, Paskenta Hills Road Race, River Road Time Trial, and Downtown Criterium in Chico, CA. Both Amiel and Ryan had a strong race but had some challenging issues with other riders causing some minor incidences.

Amiel was able to attain some Green Jersey points in the Thunderhill Circuit Race. “On lap six, I was third in the sprint and safely on the wheels; lap 12, third again with minimal energy expended. After having a good understanding of the finish line and the final 90-degree corner with 200m to go, I decided to sit out lap 18 sprint and conserve for the final sprint where there would be bonus Green Jersey points and the win would be up for grabs,” he said. However, another rider collided with Amiel forcing him off course. He was able to get back in the race and finished mid-pack.

Amiel had another unfortunate incident in the road race when a rider steered into his front wheel causing him to stop and having to find help to adjust his handlebar. The third stage – the time trial – Amiel finished 25th leaving the final criterium for him to rack up more Green Jersey points.

“My early stint in stage 1 for Green Jersey points still had me in the top ten with a fighting chance, despite bad luck the day before. I knew there was only one way I would feel good about ending this weekend of racing – and that would require doing everything I could to break-away, go for jersey points and sprint with anything I had left over.”

Attaining points on laps 10, 20 and 25 Amiel rode hard staying with the lead bikes for most of the race. On tired legs and with two laps remaining he was sitting on the fourth and fifth wheel. “I stepped on the gas but made no headway. I knew then that I would be doing my best to hold my position till the final 100m. I finished sixth, but happy to have made it through all of that in one piece.”

“Both Amiel and Ryan showed they are able to race against the bigger teams. Looking at their race power tap data, it shows a good improvement in their fitness and form,” said Coach Amiri.

Photo credit: Curtis Bender

Photo credit: Curtis Bender

PCC Athletes have been on the road and this past weekend achieved some notable results. Caleb Bender competed in the Bare Bones Track Race in the Burnaby Velodrome and on Saturday won the Men B-Omnium race.  Hailing from Saskatchewan, Caleb moved to Victoria to join the programs at PCC and to take advantage of the vast coaching skills that Houshang Amiri offered.  This was after teammate Micaiah Besler moved from Saskatchewan in the fall of 2018.

Caleb was pleased with his performance. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to take part in the Bare Bones racing against some strong competition. I’m really happy with how the weekend went and was glad to see the legs getting used to the track as the weekend went on. With this additional preparation, I’m excited to take on track nationals in a few weeks.”

Caleb then competed in the BC Cup series in Abbotsford on the Sunday. PCC athlete Amiel Flett-Brown, competing in his first BC Cup, finished third in the Cat 1/2 road race. “The spring series race at Abbotsford was a great way to cap off the weekend, and it was great to get in some more early season road racing. Huge thanks to Houshang for running this project for us, and for making the trip so successful,” added Caleb.

Prior to the weekend, coach Amiri attended a Cycling BC track selection camp from March 14-15 in preparation for the Junior Track Nationals to be held in April in Milton, Ontario.

Alex at the front of the peloton. Photo: M. Higginson

Alex at the front of the peloton. Photo: M. Higginson

PCC riders took part in the Redlands Classic from March 13-17. It was the 35th Annual event for this popular racing festival held in Southern California. Alex Amiri, Chris MacLeod, and Holly Simonson participated, however Chris crashed in stage 3 (he was unhurt), and Holly had the flu forcing her to withdraw after the second stage.

Alex, who has been training in Tucson since February with Re-Cycle Tucson, had a good race. This year’s race started much earlier than last year’s in May, so it was the first real test of the legs for most of the Pro’s and amateur racers. “I was coming into the race with very little certainty of actually racing until just a few days prior to the start, when a guest spot on a team, Support Clean Sport, opened up for me,” Alex said.

The first stage was the time trial – an out and back on a hill. “Given I raced it on a road bike, my time of 17 minutes on the 11km course faired quite well. The legs felt quite good, I didn’t expect much of a result, and was happy with the outcome,” he commented.

Stage two was the Highland Circuit Race featuring one, steep climb, taking 2-2:30 minutes to complete. “We did this 20-times, and it took its toll as the race lingered on,” Alex said. “There were a few crashes through the lower technical section after the descent, so the goal was to stay safe and save the legs for the following stage.”

The second stage was the Oak Glen stage, finishing at the top of Oak Glen Road after six laps of a circuit which included a 10-minute climb. Alex recalled: “The legs today were great, up until the base of the final climb. A combination of heat and potential lack of nutrition throughout the stage may have played a role, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t meant to be. I did my best to save the legs for my next opportunity in the following two stages.”

Next up was the Criterium, which was the first crit of the season for many of the riders, and Alex said the nerves were quite high. “A lot of riders with nothing to lose were taking quite a lot of risks, resulting in unnecessary crashes. My experience on the track came to be of value, as I did well to avoid crashes and other incidents, staying safe and upright.”

The final stage was the Sunset Loop Circuit race, arguably one of the most difficult stages of a race to complete. With the GC wide open, nobody was holding back, Alex recalled. “My goal for this stage was to ride in the early breakaway as it allowed for steadier riding until later in the stage when we would inevitably get caught by the lead group. On lap two at the top of the climb a group of four including myself managed to break away and gain a minute on the field pretty quickly. Once we got caught I was able to stay with the reduced group to the finish.”

Alex was very pleased with his performance. “Racing these events against all the pros, for me, is a good test of where I stand in the domestic pro peloton. After a bit of a rocky start to the race, and some minor disappointments, the legs came around and I had a great ride on the last stage.”

“I would like to thank Trevor Connor, The Paleo Diet for sponsoring me as well as the freedom provided by my Vancouver based-team, Glotman Simpson Cycling, and Pacific Cycling Centre Coaching for enabling me to race.”

Alex will stay in Tucson until early April for more training and racing with Re-Cycle Tucson before coming back to Victoria.

Photo credit: PCC

Photo credit: PCC

Pacific Cycling Centre held their annual February road camp from February 20-24 in Greater Victoria.  The five-day camp took place during university reading break allowing most PCC-trained athletes to take part. The camp provided on excellent training environment and mentorship opportunities for PCC younger riders.

Day one of the camp was allocated for testing and evaluation, followed by four days of training with specific targets in mind for each day and each ride. The daily rides of five-six hours were spent on some iconic Greater Victoria roads, including Lands End, Willis Point, the Observatory hill and the scenic waterfront.

The Camp included an in-class information session with a review of some of the latest research and talked about the fundamentals of endurance training, adaptation and monitoring. Each rider’s power tap files were analyzed and reviewed in a group setting with PCC head coach, Houshang Amiri providing feedback.

“This was an inclusive camp for PCC coached riders and I was happy to see how each rider rode during this camp,” said Amiri. “I was monitoring each rider’s physical response to the endurance rides and we also spent time on nutrition instruction on and off the bike. This was a good boost and loading week for the group of young athletes going to Redlands next month with their teams. This was a successful camp and we accomplished the camp objectives.”

For Brenna Pauly this was her first PCC camp. “I knew the camp would be a great opportunity to get in some quality kilometers for the upcoming race season, but it went beyond my expectations and offered an excellent training environment that pushed me to achieve my largest mileage in four days to date. Despite adverse weather conditions the group cheerily assembled every morning to hit some big miles with some intensity in the form of TT’s and hill climbs. From my perspective the group clicked really well, which allowed us all to get the most out of every ride. Personally, I found that was able to optimize my recovery each night by rolling, stretching and preparing homemade bars for the rides. This allowed me to consistently be able to sustain the big mileage throughout the weekend. Thanks again to Houshang for assembling such a great group and always being so supportive on these rides. I’m looking forward now to starting the race season!”

Coming off a very successful Western Track Challenge in January, Amiel Flett-Brown saw the camp as valuable preparation for the upcoming season. “The camp provided valuable insights into the progress we made over the winter and what the road ahead will look like. For me the most important part of PCC’s pre-season camp was getting a chance to work through my zones on every ride and get in some hard yards in before the season gets underway. After a long season of base miles and strength training it’s good to run through the paces and test out some hard efforts up the local climbs in Victoria. Head coach Houshang Amiri provided valuable insights into training data, periodized nutrition planning, annual race program plotting and a chance to brush up on some tactics and race awareness. With the camp in the books I am feeling prepared for what is ahead and ready for the first races of the upcoming season.”

Parker Swanstrom was happy to get out on the road after some enforced training indoors. “These camps also help keep me motivated on the trainer because I know that even though at the moment, I may be in my garage doing efforts and not having the most fun, I can look forward to the camps like these where I can get outside and ride with like-minded people and have fun. The support from Houshang and the group helped keep me motivated and wanting to do more. Every one of these camps that I attend I always learn valuable skills and lessons. From everything from gearing to nutrition I feel I have gotten both stronger and smarter as a rider during these camps.”

Camp Nutrition was provided by Infinit Nutrition Canada.

Amiel on the podium (centre). Photo: Flett-Brown.

Amiel on the podium (centre). Photo: Flett-Brown.

Congratulations to Amiel Flett-Brown for winning all of his races at the Western Track Challenge in Burnaby. His achievements included the Men’s Pursuit, Scratch Race Omni I, Tempo Race Omni II and the Elimination Race. He also came third on the Cycling BC team in the Team Sprint.

Also, kudos to Aeden Crocker in his first year in U19. He was on the winning Tag team in the Junior Team Pursuit and he came second place in the Keirin.

The Western Challenge took place from January 18 – 20.