Canada’s Olympic Cycling Team – Behind the Scenes w. Dan Proulx


Canada is sending what is probably its strongest Olympic cycling team to London since the 1996 Games in Atlanta, when Canadian cyclists won five medals.  Pretty much every member of the Canadian cycling community knows about riders such as Catharine Pendrel, Tara Whitten, Zach Bell and Ryder Hesjedal, and the broader community are getting to know them also, through the increased media attention as the Games draw closer.

But Team Canada is not just athletes; it is made up of the support staff that work before, during and after each competition to make sure that the athletes can focus fully on their races, confident that everything is in place for what is likely the biggest races of their careers.

Over the past few months, we have interviewed some of the people who will also be at the Games, out of the limelight, making sure that everything possible is done to help those athletes shine.

Dan Proulx – National Mountain Bike Coach

Dan Proulx, based out of Victoria, BC, is Canada’s national mountain bike coach.  In addition to overseeing the High Performance program, he is involved in scouting for the next generation of Canadian riders who will perform on the world stage, and working with administrative staff to coordinate national team projects such as the world championships.  He also coaches some athletes himself, including current cross-country world champion and Olympic medal favourite Catharine Pendrel.


Catharine Pendrel gets an update from national coach Dan Proulx at Mont-Ste-Anne World Cup

This is Dan’s second Olympics; at the first – in Beijing – he had the position of Team Leader, where he was the manager for all cycling disciplines (Jacques Landry, High Performance Director, has that role in London).

By the time the Games start, most of Dan’s normal duties, such as working on selection criteria, helping to choose athletes for projects and overseeing training programs, are done – the athletes have been selected, they are (hopefully) in top form, and there is just a countdown to the racing.  So what does a national coach like Dan Proulx do at this point?  Especially since the mountain bike events are on the final two days of the Games.

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Plaxton, Batty, Pendrel, Kabush and Proulx

“Well, in addition to coaching Catharine and Max [Plaxton, one of Canada’s male mountain bike riders for London], I’ve got a management role for the program overall, which includes making all the final travel and program plans.  It’s sort of a funny question, because the role has been two years in the making.  Actually, if I was being truly honest, there isn’t much left to do between now and the Games, because it’s already done.”

“We’re in good shape.  We’ve had our individual meetings with the athletes and staff.  Done.  As I said, we’ve been working on this for two years, and we’ve had training camps with all the potential athletes, as many as ten athletes at a time, but they’ve all been involved in the process, so now we’re just having these short meetings, because everybody already knows what’s going on.  They know the whole plan in detail.”


Dan Proulx checking out the Olympic course in 2011

“So, basically, my job now is to implement the plan we’ve been creating over the last two years, so every athlete has the best staging possible, so that we can look at, in the best sense of the word, the best performance possible on the day.  So the CCA and my role is to make sure that the stage is set, so the athletes don’t even notice it, it’s in the background.  There’s no drama, they just focus on riding.”photo

So what are the sorts of things you have to do to set that stage?

“We’ve done quite a few things.  For example, we’ve brought in their pro team mechanics, they’re part of our team, and I don’t know the last time that happened.  So, the riders are working with their normal mechanics, and that took a lot to engineer, to make sure that we had accommodations for all these guys, and that they fit in with the Team Canada structure.”

“The planning document I wrote for this is 100 pages, and it covers everything from the detailed plans during the Games to life after the Games, to friends and family – how they can be prepared to best support the athletes at the Games.  If I look at what we did before the Beijing Games compared to what we did this time, it’s a quantum leap.”

Rt:  Proulx heads to Tech zone with team provisions

“I don’t know how else to say it, but this is actually the easiest time, leading into the Games, because we did all the heavy lifting earlier.”

So after the Windham World Cup, with roughly five weeks to the Olympic races, how does the schedule break down for the team?

“Well, riders are doing some different things right after Windham, and then we assemble for the Val d’Isere World Cup (in France, this coming weekend), where they are with their pro teams.  Then the next day, we assemble for a pre-Games staging camp at the bottom of Alpe d’Huez.  We’re training, but it’s a pretty open schedule, the mechanics are there and even some of the significant others, like Catharine’s bringing [husband] Keith, and Emily’s got Adam [fiance and coach], so we create a good atmosphere for the week going in.”

“We leave France a week before the races [August 5th], flying from Lyon to London.  Then all but Geoff will go to the Olympic Village for a night; Geoff’s going straight to [the accommodation the Canadian team has sourced within five kilometres of the race site in Hadleigh].  The next day the rest of the riders will head out to Hadleigh as well.  Our first day of training on the course will be Tuesday [August 7th], the first day the course is open.  And then train until we race Saturday and Sunday.”

So when you get to the venue, and the riders are training in the final run up to the races, what is your role?

“We have some phrases we’ve been working with all year; one of them is ‘Know Your Normal’ – it comes from the Canadian diver Alexandre Despatie, but we’ve stolen it (laughs).  So, what that means is that whatever is normal for you [the rider] we try to maintain that as much as possible.  Another one is ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. ”

“But, in all reality, this is not a race like any other and no matter what anybody says, it’s an incredibly special day, and the most important competition on our calendar.  But, at the same time, the best approach for a special event like this is to be as normal as possible, and then bring something extra special to the race.”

“I’ve told the athletes that this will be the fastest race you have ever encountered, because the person who is ranked 30th has nothing to lose and everything to gain if they can stick their nose at the front of the race for even 30 seconds.  So nobody will be holding back in any way.  So getting them prepared for that will be key.”

“It’s a pretty cool team, and over the past few years I think they’ve developed a fair amount of respect for each other.  I went for dinner with them in Windham, with just the four athletes, and you can tell they are proud of each other, and are proud to sit at the table with these other athletes.  That’s a pretty cool thing.”

“I’d say our Olympic team hasn’t been built overnight, it’s been a couple of years in the making.”

On the day, since it is different from other events, the staging is earlier, entry to the venue is more complicated … so I assume you’ve been working on that as well?

“Yeah, the Olympics are the greatest competition we have this year, but also the hardest to perform at, because there’s all these obstacles.  It’s almost like everything around the Games is designed to be counterproductive.  You’ve got [different] clothing, you’ve got extra responsibilities with media, race times are scheduled for television, not the normal World Cup times, and you’ve just got all this extra hoopla to deal with.”

“So part of it has been acknowledging that we are going to have to be prepared for that, and we’ve been working on that for two years.  We have a list generated by the athletes of 47 odd things that might happen, and what is the strategy around them.  We got that from women’s hockey; they did the list, and all of the weird ones were the ones that actually happened … so we’ve tried to nail everything we actually can, but we’re preparing for it by relying on our routines, and those routines will allow us to have extra energy for the race itself.”

Canada, especially on the women’s side, comes in with a lot of focus on it, because they’ve been identified as one of the medal favourites.  So there’s the media attention before because of being favourites, and then the media attention after either because you did win a medal, or because you didn’t, and why didn’t you…

“Yeah, exactly.  We can only control the things that we can, so we’ve tried to anticipate the possible situations and control the pressure as best we can.  So our sports psychologist has been working with all of the athletes, preparing them to expect it.  And we’re lucky that we have a mix of old and new – two experienced Olympians [Pendrel and Kabush] and two beginners [Batty and Plaxton].  One of the things that has been stressed is that just because you are at the Olympics for the first time doesn’t mean you’re a rookie.  When you do this week in and week out as a pro, there’s a lot of essential learning that has already gone on.  The Olympics is structurally different, but the racing is the same.  The race is the race.”

Dan Proulx hired as CCA MTB Head Coach


The Canadian Cycling Association announced this week that BC-based Dan Proulx has been appointed the new national mountain bike coach for the Canadian team.  Proulx is a Level 4 NCCP coach with a Diploma in High Performance Sport from the National Coaching Institute in Calgary, where he founded the Olympic Oval National Cycling Center Junior Program.

For the past six years, Dan has worked with mountain bike pro Catharine Pendrel, who recently won the 2009 Pan American Mountain Bike Championships, as well as finishing fourth at the Beijing Games and second overall in the 2008 World Cup.

Proulx was also the Canadian Team Manager for all cycling disciplines at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and was the personal coach to two athletes (Pendrel and road rider Alex Wrubleski) on the Olympic team.  In 2009, he was the Team Manager for the Cyclocross World Championships in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.  Recently, Dan was awarded a GM Making Dreams Possible High Performance Coaching Grant for his work with Pendrel.

We spoke with Dan yesterday from his home, where he is preparing to make the transition to national team coach.

Canadian Cyclist:  First of all, congratulations!  When do you actually start the new job?

Dan Proulx:  Thanks.  Over the next two weeks I will gradually be transitioning from my position here at Cycling BC, making sure that the programs I am involved in are handed off to the right people.  The first actual thing I will be doing [as national coach] will be going to Sea Otter, and then Offenburg [Germany, April 25-26 for the World Cup].

CC:  So not South Africa for the World Cup opener?

DP:  No.  We offered it to the athletes, but the riders who would have used our support are not going.  Geoff [Kabush] will be there, but he has his pro team support.  So, instead, we will be focussing on providing a good support system for the World Cup campaign in Europe.

CC:  What are some of the first things you will be doing when you take on this role; what do you want to accomplish?

DP:  Basically, I will be doing a lot of talking to key stakeholders in mountain biking.  I want to open the lines of communication with the athletes and the teams so that we can build a collaborative environment.  We want to pursue excellence by empowering the athletes and the teams.

The CCA’s role is to support the athletes, and to make sure that the next generation of riders below the current [top level] are ready to step up when we need them.  The race program for the year has been pretty much mapped out before I started, but after the Nationals we will be running a camp [at Mont Ste Anne] to train on the 2010 [Worlds] course, to start to prepare the riders.

I am also going to try and take a number of the up and comers to the last World Cup [in Europe] so that they can get an idea of what to expect at that level.  I also want to work with the provinces on talent identification, so there will be some development as well as high performance.

CC:  What do you see as your role, as National Team Coach?

DP:  Traditionally, people thought that national team coaches coached the entire team.  But that has changed; our personal coaches are one of our greatest resources.  So, I want an open channel to the national team program, to make sure that the athletes have the best environment possible, and support the coaches that are already doing a fantastic job.

There is a huge management role in this position; I don’t just focus on a small group of athletes, but think of the system globally.  If everyone pools their talents, we could have the best program in the world.


Dan Proulx Selected as National Team Manager for 2009 CX Worlds

November 14, 2008 – The Canadian Cycling Association is pleased to announce the selection of Dan Proulx as the National Team Manager for the 2009 Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Hoogerheide Netherlands on January 31 and February 1, 2009.

Dan is a NCCP level 4 cycling coach. Dan was the cycling manager at the 2008 Beijing Olympics he was also the manager for the National team at the 2008 Road and Track Pan Am games. Dan also managed the BC provincial Cyclo-Cross team at the 2008 Canadian National Championships.

If you are interested in this project please see the selection criteria at English or French. If you are interested being a member of the team (and you meet the selection criteria) please send a note stating your interest to Nicholas at the CCA.

The final selection for the team will take place following the posting of the UCI ranking after the Igorre World Cup on December 9 and selected riders will be notified before December 12.

Any questions regarding the project should be directed to Nicholas Vipond the CCA Cyclo-Cross Coordinator at or to Dan at

Tuft Wins Gold at Pan Am Track Championships

by Dan Proulx, Coach for Team Canada at Pan Am Track Champs

Svein Tuft raced consistently and strongly to take the Pan American Championships in the Pursuit today in Montevideo, Uruguay. Svein rode 4:46 in the qualifier and headed into the final (less than 45 minutes after the qualifier was held) with a time that was nearly six seconds faster than his closest rival from Argentina. In the final, Svein rode another 4:46 to take the Gold Medal.  Canada’s first of the championship. Svein rode smoothly and powerfully in the event ˆ finally breaking his opponent in the final kilometre of the race.

It was incredible to see how much honour Svein’s win commanded. The Pan American Championship win is very prestigious. Svein was congratulated over and over again by fellow riders and coaches from many different countries. The podium presentation was held in front of filled to capacity spectator stands. The race was also televised live on National television. Svein’s win was a great start for Canada’s Pan American competition.

The track in Montevideo is an outdoor 333m with a steep banking and a very rough surface. Times in all events were slowed by the windy conditions this evening. Svein rode a very good time tonight.

Zach Bell and Svein Tuft were both set to ride the scratch race this evening which was set to begin after the Pursuit, Team Sprint, 500m and Opening Ceremonies. The race was scheduled for 7pm on the official program (confirmed at the managers meeting held in the morning). Suddenly, the scratch race was moved to immediately follow the medal presentations for the pursuit, team sprint and 500m (over one hour earlier than officially scheduled). Svein was in doping control (and prohibited from leaving for his event) when the riders went up to the rail. Zach was just arriving at the track with over an hour to prepare for the published start time of the race. Many teams were caught off guard by the sudden change and had to scramble to get riders to the start. Unfortunately for both Zach and Svein it wasn’t possible to get to the start in time. No official protest was possible. I spoke with the Chief Commissaire who simply stated “schedule change”. I showed him the official schedule that had been given to managers in the morning (showing Pursuit, Opening Ceremonies – then Scratch Race at 7pm). Again, the only reply was “schedule change”. It was a very frustrating situation to say the least. No official Communiqué was ever released regarding the schedule change (despite all changes for Monday’s program being done with standard Communiqués.)

The Opening Ceremonies were to feature over 50 performers who were to be the entertainment at the ceremony. They had arrived before 5pm to prepare for the scheduled 6pm start. They were moved because of the “schedule change” to the end of the night’s program ˆ performing after most of the riders and staff had already left for dinner. The schedule change had obviously come as a huge surprise to more than just the riders!

The frustration from this event will be put to good use in the remainder of the championships where Svein and Zach will be solid medal threats in every event they ride. The circumstances surrounding the scratch race has further strengthened their resolve to do well in the Championships.

Despite today’s difficulties, Svein’s win sets the tone for how Canada expects to do at these championships. Svein is coming off some very tough racing at the Tour of Georgia and his form will only improve as the competition progresses. Zach continues to improve each day as he recovers from a shoulder injury suffered prior to the World Championships.

Zach Bell’s chiropractor, Jenn Turner of Vancouver, has volunteered her expertise at the Championships here in Uruguay ˆ looking after Svein and helping Zach with daily therapy on his shoulder. According to Turner, “Zach is healing at a remarkable rate”. This bodes well for Zach’s continued success on the track this summer.

Monday is a rest day for the Canadian endurance riders at the Pan American Track Championships. They will compete again in the Men’s Madison on Tuesday.

1. Svein Tuft (Canada) 4.46.775
2. Fernando Antogna (Argentina) 4.56.920
3. Jaime Suaza (Colombia) 4.52.200
4. Weimar Roldan (Colombia) 4.53.201
5. Jorge Soto (Uruguay) 4.53.972
6. Jorge Contreras (Chile) 4.55.420
7. Jhnony Morales (Guatemala) 5.02.255
8. José Medina (Chile) 5.02.495
9. Mariano De Fino (Uruguay) 5.07.196
10. Edgardo Lugo (Mexico) 5.08.716
11. Rodolfo Avila (Mexico) 5.10.561
12. Manuel Rodas (Guatemala) 5.15.580
13. Hersson Jimenez (Costa Rica) 5.25.370

Svein and Zach Bell were scheduled to race the Scratch Race later in the evening.