I’m looking out on Meech Lake and the view across the glassy water is gorgeous–if not iconic. It’s dusk and the fish are jumping. Pines, cedars and rose-tinted clouds are reflected on the water’s surface. I can hear a loon at the far end of the lake. Seriously. It’s a beautiful evening.
Gatineau Park is an incredible recreational resource for the people of Chelsea, Pontiac, La Pêche, Gatineau and Ottawa. Cyclists of all types use the park day and night. I just saw a training file from Silber Pro Cycling’s Alex Cataford from a workout he did on the climb up to Camp Fortune. Derrick St-John has written hilarious blogs and Facebook accounts of calorie-draining training rides or encounters of black ice under the bridges traversing the park’s smooth roads and bike paths. And who can forget the incredible races in the park organized by the historically important Ottawa Bike Club that featured the Camp Fortune climb and always started exactly on time!!
Without multiple degrees in freakonomics, it’s hard to measure the value to Canadian cycling of Gatineau Park. Maybe I should interview those who have raced or worked for Silber and who are from the Gatineau and Ottawa-area: Matteo, Alex, Derrick, Delphine and Gord; or I should email the organizers of the Gatineau GP; or phone the Ottawa-based staff at Cycling Canada; or have a coffee with the guys from the OBC; or stop by The Cyclery; or FB message Fred Gates or… I’m actually embarrassed this list is so short but I’m trying to make a point: the impact of Gatineau Park on cycling in Canada–racers and recreational riders–is historic, multi-vectored and wonderful.
I’m thinking these expansive thoughts while looking out on Meech Lake because as I drove here, the sightings began–multiple texts and facebook messages asking who was driving the Silber team car through Westboro and into the park. Is Gord in town? What’s Silber doing in Gatineau? Matteo saw the car and texted me too. As I drove through the park, many cyclists were doing balancing acts as they turned 180 degrees to watch the car go by.
This year we have got a lot of attention as our riders just kept on succeeding, race after race. As the season starts to wind down, Canadian Cycling Magazine and CyclingTips have asked me what Silber will do going forward. The answer is simple: Silber Pro Cycling wants to be a resource for racers and recreational riders that is historically conscious, multi-vectored and wonderful. Our mission is to help young Canadian racers become world-class athletes and to be ambassadors for cycling in Canada. I recently hired 18-year old Nick Zukowsky because he is a phenomenal talent. But I also wanted to send a message to cadets, juniors and young people who love riding their bikes: we want to support the sport! We want to be a focal point for young riders to help give a sense of context and value to the activity of riding bikes with friends and family. A focal point: only one of the sightings mentioned above was from a racer.
Thanks to Silber Investments, Toguri Training Systems, Mandevco Properties, J. Hamelin Industries and The 11 inc, we have been able to provide our riders with considerable support and have a basic mandate for the next 3 years. We need, however, more financial support to be the resource that we ultimately envision–a program fully capable of developing and retaining riders over a two to three year period–but we don’t need millions. We need to partner with those that believe that Canadian cyclists can, with moderate support, become world class and that this will have a valuable impact on the growth of the sport in general.
We’ve already accomplished a lot. Six of the eight cyclists named to represent Canada at the World Tour races in Quebec and Montreal are from Silber Pro Cycling. The visibility of a program that wants to be a focal point for cycling in the country is on the rise. One of the many sightings of the Silber car includes our neighbours at the lake. One of them knew Gord and the other described how they had followed our results throughout the year. I was impressed because he was warm-heartedly talking to me while his dog was wagging around trying to balance on the back of his kayak! That was early in the sun-soaked afternoon. As dusk turns to dark within Gatineau’s incredible resource for cyclists, I can only anticipate our next race–the Tour of Alberta–and wonder what tomorrow will bring. I’ll leave you with a few of the sights from this year: