By Dan Proulx, Head Coach for Cycling Canada’s National Mountain Bike Team

Given the rapidly changing landscape in every area of life, it’s hard to know if the words here will seem wise in a week, a month or a year’s time. For now, all we can do is control the controllable – so I’ll write to you with ideas about cycling based on where we are today.

The pandemic crisis gives everyone reason to pause and reflect on what truly matters in life. For many of you, there might be a sudden affirmation that cycling is one of the things that makes your life wonderful. It keeps you fit, allows you to reduce stress and maintains physical and mental wellness. It may even help strengthen your immune system. Beyond those benefits, you may have suddenly realized how much freedom and joy cycling gives you – even on your hardest days.

The current pandemic is a chance to reflect on all the good that cycling does for the mind, body and spirit. A friend of mine who is a very good cyclist and works as a nurse in an intensive care unit said, “Things are ramping up, but manageable at the moment…not sure what lays ahead. Trying to keep a training routine up for some stability and an outlet outside of the chaos of work.”

A National Team athlete shared, “Cycling has always been my way of coping with stress. I don’t know what I would do without it.”

In my work with Dr. David J. Smith (“Doc”) at the Canadian Sport Institute in Calgary, we’ve talked about the current situation creating a natural element of grief for some athletes; the events they had been aiming for are cancelled or postponed and the routine of daily training has been altered. It’s normal for athletes to experience some low energy right now. It’s normal to feel a little uninspired. The most important thing is to be okay with that – knowing that in a couple of weeks you’ll likely feel better and will want to get back to dreaming and planning for future cycling success. Don’t force things at the moment – if you need to take a break, do it now because we might have a jam-packed calendar when cycling eventually resumes.

At the end of the day cycling, for most of us, is so much more than racing and training. Cycling is in our blood and it’s a part of who we are. Cycling is something that brings us joy and creates positive energy that we share with others. The bike is an expression of hope – it’s our paint brush – a way to express ourselves on an endless canvas of roads and trails. Even in a self-isolation situation, indoor cycling is our mental escape and a connection to our dreams. It elevates our physical and mental well-being. It simply makes us feel good.

If you’re stuck indoors, use this time to gain fitness with some great trainer workouts. As our Mental Performance Coach at the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, Sharleen Hoar expressed: “Revisit your goals. Maintain a schedule. Check in with teammates and members of your cycling community. Build belief in yourself by reviewing all the work you’ve done to get here. Look for positives in this situation. Control the controllables and let go of the rest.”

If there is anything that sport and cycling has taught us, it’s that we can get through anything. The lessons on resilience that we’ve learned in sport will carry us through life’s tough moments. Cycling has taught us to be strong, to believe in ourselves, to believe in others and to trust that everything always works out as it should.

Whenever the pandemic ends, I’m confident that cycling will be more popular than ever. The current situation shows us that life is precious and that it should be enjoyed to the fullest extent possible. When it’s safe to do so, there will be nothing better or more important than taking the time to go play on your bike.

My friend who works in ICU added, “I don’t think I took racing or training for granted before, but when this is over, it’s all going to be savoured more than ever before.”

With optimism things will get better. We’ll get there together!

Thoughts on Tokyo Olympic Course

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To be honest, we felt a little uneasy after the track walk. The course seemed to be extremely difficult. The second we rode it, however, we realized that this track is great. It is very challenging but there is also a lot of flow to it. It’s going to be a great Olympic course.

Our goal was to simply get a feel for the track and the environment here. We put most of our energy into training laps rather than the race. At the end of a long and successful season, we felt that a relaxed approach was needed – focused on learning.

We empowered the athletes to decide whether to race hard or easier on this one. We let them know that it was even okay not to finish the full distance. We simply wanted them to experiment out there. I think this recon mission was successful for our team. It’s about process rather than results at a Test Event. It’s a test of track and venue – not the athletes. The lessons learned here will help Canada perform better at the Olympics.

Full article:

Canada Sends Team of 5 to Tokyo MTB Test Event

“The Test Event is a great opportunity to learn about the Olympic course and the Olympic environment in Tokyo. The focus is on learning rather than results. We’re investing most of our time and energy into the training days on [the] course this week. The race on Sunday is simply a fun opportunity to see how the course rides at speed. We’re certainly not expecting results from our riders here. This event is about planning for success in 2020.”

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Team Canada Announced for Mountain Bike Worlds

img_7613.jpgThe 2019 team was one of the largest World Championship teams in Canadian History.

“Racing at a home at the World Championships is always a special honour,” said Head Coach Dan Proulx. “We’re excited to race on a track that we know well – one of the most technical and demanding tracks in the world.”

“Obviously we hope to see Canadians on the podium here, but more importantly we’re looking for athletes to improve on their personal best and come away with even greater ambition to compete with the best riders in the world. This competition will provide an incredible incentive for our development riders, providing dividends to our system for many years to come.”

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You never know…

IMG_7625Without a doubt, two of the best [and most challenging :-)] training partners I’ve ever coached! Haley Smith and Andreane Lanthier-Nadeau were the best of friends and the best of training partners in Victoria. They were among the very first athletes to embrace the training centre concept we created at Bear Mountain Resort.

In terms of skills and abilities, they were “ying and yang” which made for a very powerful combination. I can remember saying to them “this is difficult because you’re both good….you never know….you might be training with someone who eventually becomes the best in the World. You never know.” I’m happy to report that both riders found their niche at the top of the World.

“Riding a lap with ALN at Mont Sainte Anne was really cool. It felt like returning to my beginnings. My first ever World Cup (as a junior in 2011) was at Mont-Sainte-Anne, and that was also around the time that I met ALN. So yeah, riding a lap with her was really cool. She had some real wisdom-nuggets to share, and I think that lap helped me to really chill-out and get the most of my (surprisingly squirrelly) self on race day.”

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IMG-20140306-00387Andreane Lanthier Nadeau, Haley Smith and Laura Bietola in the first year of training together in Victoria. They just picked up everything and moved to the island – not knowing if it would lead to anything. I’m happy to report that all 3 are successful in sport and life. Great people doing what they love!

Haley Smith Takes First World Cup Podium in Nove Mesto

“I’ve always liked this course,” said Smith, “it’s been good to me.  It really feels like mountain biking, it’s got flow and is about being a bike rider, and that’s what I did; I just found the flow and I went for it.  I think I was 15 seconds out [of top-5] heading out on the last lap, and [national coach] Dan [Proulx] yelled seven seconds, and I thought ‘I can do seven seconds’.  I knew I just had to give it everything I had, because I would regret it if I didn’t.”

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Photo credit: Rob Jones

Interview with Dan Proulx

Dan Proulx has been the Mountain Bike Head Coach for the Canadian team for almost a decade, and over that time period it has been one of Canada’s most successful high performance programs, with athletes winning world titles, World Cups, Olympic, Pan Am and Commonwealth Games medals. We sat down with Dan prior to the start of the World Cup season to talk about the mountain bike program as it prepares for the season at the start of this important Olympic qualification period.

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Canada’s National Mountain Bikers Find Home at Bear Mountain

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Canadian Mountain Bike Head Coach and Victoria resident Dan Proulx sees great opportunities for the National Mountain Bike Team going forward with the new Training Centre at Bear Mountain. “Bear Mountain will provide the National Team with a great opportunity to build a year-round high-performance centre that supports Canada’s future champions.” Proulx added “the weather, technical terrain and daily training environment in this region will help our riders fully prepare for international competition. The National Mountain Bike team has a strong history here. Many of the best Canadian mountain bikers have perfected their skills and fitness on these trails.”

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