PCC athlete Holly Henry competed in the Burnt Bridge Gravel Fondo last weekend in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. This annual cycling classic had to adapt its format because of the COVID-19 restrictions with wave starts and a time trial format. Here is Holly’s account of her race.

Photo by Jay Wallace

Burnt Bridge Classic Gravel Fondo took on a totally new format this year. The course was the same as last year with some modifications and was turned into a 76 km gravel TT.  After six months of no racing (aside from a few Tuesday night TTs) I was so excited to sign up to race!

As expected with typical Vancouver Island weather, it was pouring rain and cold at the start. I had the fifth start spot in the expert women’s category and went out pretty hard: hard enough to see my heart rate go up from 120 to 170 bpm within the first 20 seconds of starting. At 5.5 km into the ride there was a race KOM/QOM that went to the 13km marker. After doing a course recon earlier in the week and racing last year, I knew not to go out too hard into the long climb but with being able to see my competitors up the road I had a hard time holding myself back. By the end of the climb I caught and passed all the expert women who had started ahead of me and ended up with the fastest hill climb of the day for the women.

After a hard push to the top of the hill it started to get chilly and the rain was still coming down hard. I took about a minute of easier pedalling to try and recover a bit, took a gel, and then picked up the pace again to try and stay as warm as possible. I got into a good rhythm and don’t remember much except for going hard up to the checkpoint at 34 km. The checkpoint allowed me to stop for a few seconds, refocus, and then get back on with the race. There was a lot of short climbs and descents between the checkpoint and the long descent back down. I focused on staying controlled up the climbs and descending quickly but safely by carefully choosing my lines, and not taking any big risks.

Photo by Jay Wallace

At about 50 km I started onto the long descent. I was feeling really motivated to get down the hill quickly but then unfortunately hit a rock the wrong way and got a flat in my back tire. I made a quick decision to not put in a tube but pulled out a CO2 instead. Thankfully I was running tubeless tires and was able to get the tired sealed in record time. While fixing the flat I didn’t see any expert woman go by me. Motivated by thinking I still had a chance at the win, and with a lot of adrenaline I got back onto the bike and into my groove right away. I took the rest of the descent extra cautiously and luckily the tire held up to the bottom. At the end of the descent I started onto the Cowichan Valley Trail. This part was an almost 10km false flat section. By this point the rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. Sounds great, but it wasn’t. This was by far the hardest point of the race for me. My legs were starting to feel the fatigue, the trail seemed to go on forever and worst of all was that some of the expert men were starting to catch up and pass me. Finally, the course turned off the trail and started a long steep climb. My legs were hurting a lot by this point but I just kept reminding myself that this was the last bit of the race before the final descent.

The last part of the climb was the hardest. It was a steep and technical section and I was tired but got through a tight technical corner at the top before but descending. During the recon the descent was my favourite part of the course because it was fast and technical, two of my favourite things. In the race though, after already getting one flat I didn’t want to risk another so I went down a lot slower than in recon to be cautious. I didn’t want to end up running it in. The cautious descending paid off because I heard that a few other people got flats on that section. By the end of the race I had completely emptied the tank and ended up with the fastest time out of the women.

This race was definitely a highlight of my year and I am so thankful to Jon Watkin and all of the volunteers for putting this race on. I will be back next year and am crossing my fingers that it won’t have to be another TT.

About Pacific Cycling Centre: PCC brings four decades of experience, providing coaching and training services for Elite, Masters, and Junior athletes in road, mountain bike, track, and cyclo-cross. PCC’s goal is to create a training environment for athletes at the development level, and to maintain a permanent, high-performance training group of national team and pre-national team athletes at the Centre with the appropriate coaching and support system. This will be achieved through expert one-on-one coaching, focused training camps, and competing in many local, provincial and national races.

Photos by Lori Swanstrom

PCC athlete Caleb Bender competed in the 2020 Time Trial Challenge at Westshore Velodrome in Victoria last month coming away with a gold medal. Here is his account of the competition.

Mid August last year I was wrapping up a long season of racing with the track provincial championships, slowly shifting from a race every other weekend to off-season base miles. Of course 2020 is far from a typical year. August 22 marked my first race weekend since February, with a day of safely run and social distanced individual timed events courtesy of the Greater Victoria Velodrome Association. With a few weeks of Dr. Walker/PCC track time in the legs and a bike themed mask for between races, it was time to get back to racing.

The day consisted of three timed events, with different age groups running at different times throughout the day to minimize athletes on track at one time. A flying 200m kicked things off, followed by the Kilo and the Individual Pursuit. With minimal wind it was set to be a good day against the clock, and I was looking forward to testing the legs at race pace for the first time in quite a while. The weekend also presented an opportunity for me to do my first 4km IP in a race.

Despite being a day of solo efforts under the conditions of the new normal we all know so well now, the time trial challenge still felt like any other race day. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d miss all the planning and prep involved pre and post race, but the warm-up, recovery, and nutrition between events oddly provided the atmosphere I’d missed in this “training year.” Even a bit of the pre-race nerves kicked in!

Overall, I was satisfied with the efforts I had on the weekend, setting a new PB in the 200m and pushing myself for my first 4km IP. Another plus from the weekend was the chance to identify what needed a little bit of fine tuning in my efforts. Finding the little things that I could work on gave the chance to set some motivating short-term goals: something that is always tricky to do in the necessary absence of competition.

My thanks go out to the GVVA for hosting a safe and responsibly run day of racing. I’d also like to thank Houshang and Pacific Cycling Centre for the training, direction, and support over the past few months (and years). Looking forward to what comes next, whatever that may be!

TT Challenge results

Just under two weeks ago Alex Amiri and Caleb Bender successfully completed their Everesting for MS. Alex reflects back on the day and how the idea originated.

A few weeks ago I reached out to a friend of mine, Caleb Bender and pitched the idea of Everesting instead of just doing the Virtual MS Bike. He was all over the idea and luckily, Caleb has a ton of experience with MS Bike. We were also fortunate that our coach Houshang Amiri has an endless amount of experience in training athletes to perform and recover at their best.

First off Caleb and I set up a donation page through MS Bike deciding on a team goal of $2,000, ($1,000 each). At the time of writing this we upped the team goal to $4,000, $2,000 each and we are happy to say we have PASSED this goal. The feedback has been incredibly humbling. The involvement of the local and the cycling community was the real motivator when things got tough during the ride.

Alex near the top. Photo by Jay Wallace.

So to the ride. We planned on a time just over two weeks from our decision date, which landed us on August 1. Neither of us really knew just how hard it would be, or just how important it was to pace our effort. Two weeks before our August 1. effort we agreed it would be smart to see what kind of pace we could maintain.

First, we talked to Houshang, and he told us what sort of pace would be realistic. We both did 10-15 efforts, once a week for two weeks. We hit the climb on the first week and we felt the pace was manageable. We agreed to do this again the second week. But this time we had a bit more riding in the legs. The pace still felt fine by the 11th effort. Once we got off the climb that time we started thinking about nutrition as that was going to be even more important on an effort like this, compared to the Zone 2 riding we had been doing.

After a nice slow ride to get to Goldstream Heights, south of the Cowichan Valley, where we were going to do the climb, we were ready to start at 7:30 am. We set our own respective performance goal of what sort of time we want to finish in. I was aiming for 8:30. Starting out, we were a bit ahead of pace so we quickly adjusted and carried on. For the first five hours I was feeling comfortable with the pace I was holding, and the speed I was targeting on the climb. As the fifth hour carried on the wind started, first it was a cross-headwind, then by the sixth hour it was a headwind, and it only got worse. While the pace waivered it became more and more difficult.


The support helped moral. Photo by Jay Wallace.

Thankfully around this time is when people started to show up in support. We had friends on the side of the road, and fellow cyclists riding up with us. This helped the morale. Around this time my mind was blank, and the effort along with the 31 degree heat and the headwind took its toll. The pace dropped but this was okay because until this point I had been ahead of schedule. After 45 minutes, I slowly rebuilt the pace back to what was comfortable. For the last hour of the ride, I was doing okay mentally. The legs hit a point where I couldn’t go much slower, but I couldn’t go any harder either. You start to think about everyone who supported you along the way, and each person you think of makes you feel a little bit stronger. This is what really drove the final hour home for me (the two cokes I had during this hour might have helped to). I ended with a time of 8:40, completing the first section of Goldstream Heights Drive 73 times.

It has been 12 days since the effort now and its given me time to collect my thoughts and get the body properly recovered. That effort sucked but now it’s probably one of the things I’m personally most proud of. Beside the effort, the fundraiser went incredibly well. Our donation pages are both still active, I urge you to check it out and read the donor list, as all those who supported us there are listed and deserve recognition beyond what I can provide.

Alex’s fundraising page

Caleb’s fundraising page

Team fundraising page

If any of you out there want to try Everesting, talk to Houshang, He’ll set you up for success no matter the effort. Photo by Jay Wallace


PCC Athletes Caleb Bender and Alex Amiri successfully everested for MS on Saturday – raising much needed funds for the MS Society of Canada. Choosing the gruelling hill of Goldstream Heights, south of the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island here is Caleb’s account of the training and the day. 

Wow, what a crazy couple of weeks it’s been. From when Alex and I decided to Everest for the MS Society of Canada to now, three weeks later having raised a combined $3,800 (and counting) the community support for the cause and the effort has been absolutely insane. I’d like to start by thanking everyone who read about our connections with MS, to everyone who donated, and to everyone who came out and supported us on the day. I feel so lucky to be a part of such a close-knit cycling community, and your support of the MS Society of Canada the past few weeks has been beyond belief.

Caleb on the climb. Photo by Jay Wallace

When Alex and I decided we would Everest for the MS Society of Canada, we were hoping to raise a bit of money and to raise some awareness to a cause close to both of us. This year, MS Bike had to cancel all of their in-person bike tours in exchange for the “Virtual MS Bike.” The idea was for riders to challenge themselves on the bike as a means of fundraising over the summer months in leu of an in-person event. An Everesting qualified as a challenge, so when Alex pitched the idea, I was 100% on board.

This was my 10th year fundraising for the MS Society and participating in MS Bike, and I’m happy to report that despite funds being raised entirely online (rather than my usual door to door approach in my small home town) this was shockingly also one of my most successful years of fundraising, having to up my standard fundraising goal of $1,000 after just over one week. The support from friends, family, and fellow cyclists far exceeded expectations, and for that I am extremely thankful. The donations and awareness make all the difference for those in my family and my hometown who live with MS, and so the support means the world to me.

After two weeks of adapted training and pacing work thanks to coach Houshang Amiri and Pacific Cycling Centre, Alex and I were ready to take on the Everest Challenge last Saturday. Knowing full well from the experiences of those who had done an Everesting before I knew the challenge was going to be a big one, but I don’t think I fully realized the challenge until that morning. The 70+ efforts up our chosen climb on Goldstream Heights was bound to be a challenge, but the repetitive nature of the effort really did take its toll. Thankfully, we had Houshang at the top of the climb giving bottles, food, ice, and words of encouragement throughout.

Coach Houshang Amiri providing support at the top. Photo by Jay Wallace.

The support on the day was incredible, with friends and fellow cyclists joining us for the climb and cheering from the roadside. The cheers and the faces were amazing, and at times were the only thing to keep me sane (sort of) through every rep.

Albeit by far the hardest day I’ve had on the bike, I kept motivated knowing what we were working so hard to do. At the end of the day we’d end up sore and exhausted for a few days and then be right back up and training as usual. However, we both knew that climbing a hill all day doesn’t compare to the daily challenges those living with MS deal with every day. There are no rest days from MS, and so as hard as the effort was, stopping was not an option. Rep after rep I encouraged myself with the strength and courage I’ve seen from those in my family and community facing MS. And rep after rep I was reminded of an old joke between Dad and I at my first MS Bike Tour 10 years ago; “just one more climb”. Year after year Dad and I would ride the MS Bike at Riding Mountain National Park (which was surprisingly hilly for the prairies) and would repeat this joke after every hill knowing full well there were more on the horizon. The joke was oddly fitting considering the effort, and brought back good memories from the 10 years at MS Bike and the stories that kept me motivated during those early years when a 75 km day on the bike was just as much of a challenge as an Everesting.

The experience on Saturday was incredible, and largely made possible thanks to the help of Pacific Cycling Centre and the support from the entire cycling community. Without this support the funds raised and the ride itself wouldn’t be possible, so I want to thank everyone who made the day great and our fundraising a huge success. This experience sure won’t be one that I will soon forget.

You can still donate to the Everest team by going to:

Caleb’s fundraising page

After winning a bronze medal at the Track Cycling World Cup early in the year PCC Athlete Amiel Flett-Brown had big plans for road and track racing in 2020, but COVID-19 put a stop to all that.

It’s taken me a little longer to put together a few thoughts on how things have changed since the pandemic hit, and the unprecedented changes that we’re all experiencing. I feel grateful to be working with coach Houshang and Cycling Canada as we make changes and manage through these challenging times.

Amiel – far right – with his Team Pursuit bronze medal team at the Track Cycling World Cup. Photo by Canadian Cyclist.

I arrived back from the Track World Cup in Milton at the end of January and was about to start my first season with Cycling Canada on the track development program when the coronavirus was starting to make news. As it was things were changing in my program and we weren’t sure initially how this would impact the programming.

We’d been planning a trip to Peru for the Pan American Championships and travel to the US and Europe for track and road racing. It wasn’t long before we realized that these plans would be put on hold and we had to adapt our training. Houshang took it in stride and shifted the program organically to meet these new challenges.

Because I’d been training and racing around Team Pursuit, which had been new to me and an incredible experience training during this period had been all about speed and power so I had lost a lot of endurance. When I arrived back the plan was to work on endurance to prepare for the Pan American races as well as getting ready for the road season. With the pandemic, it shifted from race preparation to building on a level of fitness that we might not have otherwise been able to string together. Racing has a more stochastic nature: it’s harder to predict the outcome in terms of gaining fitness but with this window of time, we’ve been able to adjust to what has become an extended training camp. There is no question at times that keeping motivated is hard and racing keeps you on your feet, but training can be a slog so I’ve had to adjust things, including my perspective and expectations.

I’m also listening to my physiology in a different way and learning things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. For example learning about perseverance without the motivation of racing with others. There are no race results or employing a race strategy (one of the things I love the most about racing) so it’s up to me to respond to the training plan without that external motivation. In a way, it brings me back to my roots and my love of riding by the water, through the mountains, alongside a trotting coyote and hopefully not bears! And yet I’m pushing myself in ways that I haven’t had the opportunity to in past, because the racing schedules have been so tight.

It’s not been without stress. I get anxious about being out on the road, about what might happen if I crashed and not wanting to over burden the healthcare system during these unprecedented times, about riding in and through a busy city, over bridges where we’re all panting and most are not using masks, or someone spitting a little too close for comfort. There is a lot to navigate but overall we’re making the best of it and to my surprise I’ve had a number of PB’s. I am incredibly appreciative of my cycling community, Cycling Canada workshops, and Houshang’s support and years of wisdom, getting us through this time.


Two PCC athletes have announced they will be taking on an incredible challenge. Alex Amiri and Caleb Bender will be Everesting for MS on August 1 as part of the Virtual MS Bike.

What is Everesting? Alex and Caleb will ride a hill multiple times until they reach an elevation gain of 8,848 metres which is the height of Mount Everest. They will climb a 1.3 km portion of road (average of 9%) on Vancouver Island, south of the Cowichan Valley on Goldstream Heights Drive 73 times in order to reach the target elevation.

Alex Amiri – photo by Jay Wallace

Both have been personally affected by MS. Alex’s mom has had the disease for over 20 years, and Caleb, who has ridden for MS Bike before, had a family member diagnosed 10 years ago.

“This year I haven’t been able to spend real quality time with my mom, and have been limited to window visits,” said Alex. “It’s difficult to see her some days, and now I feel I can really make a difference, no matter how small or how large.”

“I quickly realized how heavily my local community was impacted by MS when raising funds for my first tour,” said Caleb. “This disease can have a profound impact on families and communities, with Canadian MS rates being one of the highest in the world.”

They are asking for donations to help continue to fight this debilitating disease and assist in funding leading-edge research and support programs. They are encouraging anyone in the area on August 1 to cheer them on in this challenge. They are hoping to start between 6 – 7 am depending on the temperature.

Caleb Bender

“Our team will take the spirit of the Virtual MS Bike and strength of those we know living with MS with us, as we push our limits for a hard day in the saddle,” they said.

To donate:

Alex’s personal page

Caleb’s personal page

Everesting for MS team page



A forced winter training schedule allowed PCC Athlete Caleb Bender to do time on his indoor trainer. But now back in Victoria he is getting back into a routine and planning a mammoth challenge.

The past four months have been eventful to say the least. From quarantine to race cancellations it’s been quite a crazy few months on the bike. The first race cancellations happened midway through a month and a half training block down south in Tucson AZ while preparing for my first year of U23 racing. From there plans quickly changed from preparing for a busy year with my TaG Cycling teammates to getting home as quickly as possible while talk of border closures was still up in the air. After a quick rebooking of flights, I was back at my home in Saskatchewan a week later.

For me, having a sense of consistency and routine was an important step to adapting to an ever-changing situation. Spending some time at home was an important step to this, although there were some challenges. The biggest of these involved the two feet of snow that greeted me when I got home. Being mid-March I’d came home with a month of winter weather remaining, meaning a month of trainer miles. On the bright side, being winter in small town Saskatchewan the following two weeks of quarantine didn’t feel like much of a change from my usual winter training routine at home.

After the snow melted, things slowly started to pick up again, with longer rides and some intervals training. Unfortunately, in typical Saskatchewan fashion there was also wind, and lots of it. Over the next couple of months there were weeks where I would be stuck on the trainer over half the week just because it was unsafe to ride outside from the wind. Thankfully with coach Houshang’s guidance I was able to adapt my training in a way that made the best use of the weather (and single paved road) I had to work with on most days, while still maintaining fitness under the less than ideal conditions. Despite the weather, I was still able to get in some 200km days in the legs. I also kept motivated with weekly trips out to my “local climb,” a valley an hour and a half drive from my house for a few 4-5 hour “climbing days” (with a few KOM attempts thrown in).

Now midway through July I’ve been back in Victoria for about three weeks, and slowly things are back on schedule. With Tuesday TT’s, Wednesday training time on the track, and lots of long rides in the mix there’s a lot to keep me motivated. Now that I’m back on schedule I find the long endurance rides to be the most motivating part of my training and enjoy pushing to reach a set distance or elevation gain target each day.

What’s keeping me especially motivated these upcoming weeks is an Everesting that Alex Amiri and I have planned on August 1st, in support of the MS Society of Canada. This will be a huge challenge, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to push myself for an incredible cause. Watch this space to find out how you can support us!

Although racing is still on hold, I’m looking forward to finding new challenges to push myself in the meantime. Although far from ideal, I’m learning to enjoy some of the opportunities I have this year that I wouldn’t normally have in a full race season, while of course waiting for the time we can all race again safely. In the meantime, I’m looking forwards to more big days in the saddle to come!

PCC athlete Holly Simonson had some major goals for the 2020 season. Instead the 2019 U23 Provincial Road Champion took advantage of the down time to ride with friends and take on a few challenges.

Over the past four months, athletes (and everyone else around the globe) have had to adapt to new protocols and challenges. It is hard to reflect upon this experience concisely because of the significant ups and downs the past months of training have brought. Pre-pandemic, I was extremely motivated for the 2020 season. Being my last year in the U23 ranks, I had my eye on the maple leaf jersey at the Canadian Road Championships as well as goals for podiums at BC Super Week and Track Nationals. Needless to say, I was itching to get back out there with my teammates.

When the event cancellations began, I was just a couple weeks out from my team’s training camp in California. The camp would have been followed by the start of our season, including the Redlands Bicycle Classic where I was all set to race with a composite team. In the beginning, it was disbelief that swept over me, followed by the disappointment. We all felt this. Anyone with a goal centred around an event this year felt it. The Olympic athletes set to head to Tokyo certainly felt it more than I did.

Once I accepted that the season was really fading into nothing, I had to adjust my outlook. My coach, Houshang Amiri really helped me with this. He reminded me that this time can be used to improve upon things we would not usually get the chance to work on in-season. So, even though I haven’t been able to line up with my teammates and get those results I was hoping for, I have still grown stronger this year than I have ever been. Seeing that progression has been motivating for me.

One thing that has helped motivate me along the way is doing semi-regular 20min TT tests up at Goldstream Heights, a climb near Shawnigan Lake with about 300m elevation gain. It is fun to try and beat your previous time and power numbers. Admittedly, there were times where the motivation to ride has been much lower than it usually is. I really love racing my bike. Normally, I love the training too, but half of that is because it lets me perform at races. There were days where heading out for a long endurance ride on my own just didn’t feel fun or worth it. There were days when the weight of other stresses took my energy, and I had to learn how to be gracious with myself about missing a ride. Something I am still working on is not overthinking about what others are up to. Yes, it can be motivating to see those around you doing all this training, but if you get too much in the mode of comparing, it won’t do you any good.

During the past couple of months, I took part in a mentorship program put together by the Athlete’s Council. In one of the Zoom meetings, we heard from and ask questions to Tara Whitten. Something that really struck me from our talk was how her training only worked when she was in tune with her body. To be able to listen to your body and do right by it is super hard, but I think it is something I have got better at this year. Part of this requires not comparing how much riding you are doing with how much others are doing. Not everyone reacts the same to the same training. I think knowing this will help me as I continue working towards my goals; having Houshang be such a trusting coach has also been a big part of this learning development. Of course, he knows when to push you, but he also listens and trusts when you need it.

Now, back to the fun stuff. It has been great to get to ride with some teammates and friends again recently as things started to open up in BC. I really love long rides with good company, especially if the day includes exploring new roads and a top-notch snack stop along the way. When things were really tightened up, and no group riding was allowed, I was super fortunate to have my partner Colin and my family in my COVID bubble (built-in riding buddies). Having a few more people to ride with now is something I won’t take for granted ever again. Getting to soak in all the beautiful riding that the lower island has to offer has been really special, and getting to do it in the spring and summer months is unusual for me.

Another thing that was really fun was taking part in Rob Britton/The Last Ride BC’s weekly coffee hunt. At the start of each of the six weeks, a Strava segment was posted and somewhere along the segment (of mostly trail) a bag of Eleven Speed Coffee was hidden. The final challenge was a one-day ride where you had to connect all of the segments together. This was a really fun adventure, and it was cool to see all the people in the Victoria bike community who took part, as well as the local businesses who provided support.

This time away from racing has made me feel lost, has made me question my identity outside of sport, and has brought on all sorts of other emotions. But it has also made me sure of how much I want to keep racing my bike and how cycling can be a part of regular life, used as a tool for fun, for adventure, for mental and physical health, and to push your limits. I am so excited to push my limits this summer, notably when I set out for “the big loop” ride (a 260km loop of the lower island) along with some other PCC athletes and Red Truck Racing teammates.

In another post in our Training during a Pandemic series PCC athlete Brenna Pauly, found the time to explore trails and rack up mega miles on her bike.

While the last few months have redefined the meaning of “normal”, it has been easy to mourn the loss of so many events and races that usually define the summer racing calendar. For me things started to change when I was on my way home from two months of warm weather training in Arizona. I got an email saying that our team camp that was scheduled to happen in a couple weeks in California was cancelled. At this time, it seemed like a premature decision, but in hindsight it was the best call that the team could have made.


No one could have predicted what would follow in the coming days, as one race after the next got cancelled and the rules surrounding our day to day lives shifted. While at first the thought of not having a race season after spending the winter preparing for one was very disappointing, my bike became the only constant in the ever-changing world during the pandemic.

I fell into a “COVID routine” which entailed packing my bar bag full of snacks and pointing my bike in the direction of the road the least travelled. I realized quickly that all of my winter training was not going to be lost, just shifted to using it to adventure. I got to explore the roads less travelled around southern Vancouver Island during a time that I usually am far away from home. Having that mental shift made me able to push the limits of my endurance training all while having fun.



I always knew that I loved riding my bike, but these last few months have solidified that for me. With no races on the horizon I shifted back into building that endurance base. I have now ridden almost as much in six months as I would in a year and have done my three longest rides ever over the last four months culminating in the craziest and hardest bike ride I have ever done – 290 km of gravel logging roads from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni and back in one day. I knew that I was physically prepared, but three flats and two hike-a-bike sections in the first 80 km of a route with limited bail out options left me testing my mental strength on the bike. It is definitely a ride that I would have never even thought possible last year, and one that I will not forget for a long time. I am already planning the next one.

So, while 2020 has been more different than anyone could have ever predicted, I have also had many opportunities come up that were not possible in other years. I think I am more excited now to get back to racing when it is safe and in whatever capacity possible. With time trials starting again I look forward to putting all that riding into going fast on the bike!

Another PCC athlete shares her experience on training during the pandemic. For Keisha Besler it was also having to adapt to a different training regime – switching from triathlon to cycling. 

This year has been a big year of change. For me change started in January when I made a big and difficult decision to switch from triathlon, a sport I loved, and had been competing in for nine years, to cycling. I love triathlon, but I wasn’t happy competing anymore. The first few weeks were the hardest mentally as I was questioning if I had made the right decision and figuring out how to define myself as an athlete.  I was afraid that I had in some way just “given up” on my dreams and goals as a triathlete.  Thankfully, I was surrounded by amazing people who helped me look at it differently.  I was reminded that my path as an athlete, or in life, isn’t going to be a straight line and this was just one of the many zig zags towards where I would end up.

January and February were spent learning all things cycling and getting used to the training. I had also dropped my job working at a grocery store and started a new job at a boarding kennel which I was loving. Early March I was getting ready to do my first race as a cyclist but unfortunately, that’s when COVID-19 become a major concern and races were being canceled. I ended up going back to the grocery store and getting used too all the new protocols and changes. Slowly the new rules such as staying six feet apart, extra cleaning, and training on your own became more normal.

Although disappointed at not being able to compete in my first race season as a cyclist I was able to put more focus on my training as I wasn’t working as much as I was before. I took this as an opportunity to get stronger and build up my tolerance of being on a bike for hours at a time. Three hours used to feel long for me and now it seems very normal. Not only that but many other things that coach Houshang Amiri has been working on have improved. I have slowly been getting better and that’s been one of my biggest motivators throughout this crazy experience.

I have been incredibly lucky to have my sister, Micaiah, as a training partner throughout the pandemic. Though we don’t ride together all the time, she’s helped make more then a few rides feel a bit better than if I had been alone, especially for those cold, wet, and gross ones in the early months.

The past few warmer months I have really been able to explore Victoria and more of the island by bike than ever before. I am having a blast riding my bike for hours on end exploring new, beautiful routes. With restrictions relaxing I have been able to go on a couple of rides with other people which is something I had missed. My biggest ride was with a friend just recently. We started from home, rode through Jordan River, Port Renfrew, Cowichan Lake, and finally ended in Duncan. It was a seven hour ride and we were both proud about completing it as it was the longest ride for both of us. I am happy to say that I no longer feel weird calling myself a cyclist and I am so looking forward to all the new experiences of just racing my bike.