He’s 19 years old. He is a national champion. He has represented Canada at the World Championships. He hunts. He fishes. He is bilingual and plays guitar in a band. The young Charles-Étienne Chrétien might just be the North American peloton’s most interesting man…
In 2017, Charles won the Canadian National Championships with a patient, singular, well-timed attack. As he crossed the finish line, he celebrated by calmly shooting an arrow into the sky. We sat down with Charles to find out why:
In your first year Elite, you’ve been a huge contributor all year in a support role while nonetheless getting 3 top 8-15 results–the kind of finishes that fly under the radar but show promise if your 18-19 years old. Of all your races so far–including Junior–which was your most memorable performance?
“For sure my best result was winning [Canadian] road nationals as a Junior. But to be honest, I think my most memorable performance was at the World Championships in Bergen, Norway 2017. It might not be my best result on paper, but it is in my mind. I was rubbing shoulders with the top 10 in the final sprint when I crashed in the last corner, so I finished in 45th place.”
You were recently 12th on Stage 1 of the 2018 Tour of Utah, which had 5 of the best teams in the world. Not bad for one of the youngest riders in the race.
“The Tour of Utah was really tough, but my goal was to learn the race for next year and to gain fitness to prepare for the WT races in Quebec and Montreal, so I’m happy with how I rode.”
When you won Junior Nationals, you did it with a lot of panache and then crossed the line posting up as if shooting a bow and arrow. What was the significance of that victory salute?
“That salute means a lot to me and my family. Bow hunting is a tradition for North American Aboriginals. That salute was a kind of connection and gesture of appreciation to aboriginal communities.”
[Note: Charles is a member of the Montagnais du Lac St-Jean Innu band.]
Is it true you actually hunt by bow and arrow while riding? I saw some pictures on your FB page but… ?
“Let’s just say Marc [Soucy] and I had fun that day, and we did shoot two partridges. But for sure I often put my tent and bow into a knapsack, hop on my gravel bike and camp in the woods. It’s so calm in the winter.”
Name 5 key items stuffed in your knapsack for camping?
“My Downhill Racr sweater by Kühl. It’s merino so I wear it all the time, plus the sleeves don’t bunch up under a shell. I also always carry a compass, flint, a knife and my Black Diamond Spot Headlamp… and maybe a little whiskey.”
Who’s a better fisherman? You or our mechanic, Yohan Patry?
“Haha. I bring my fishing gear to camps and we went when we were at altitude camp before the Tour of Utah. Yohan caught a fish that was at least 2 inches long… Maybe 3.”
Your from Amos, Quebec. It’s a place that has produced many of Quebec’s professional cyclists. Who are some of the key people who have helped you succeed?
“The person who helped me establish a good work ethic in general was my first coach, Remi Lessard. Then Keven Lacombe coached me as a Junior. Also many people from Amos helped me with some personal sponsorship before getting to the pro field with Silber. Bruno Langois is my current coach and he has helped me a lot.”
If you’re not camping, what do you do to relax?
”I play guitar and sometimes jump on stage with my friends. I’m not sure if we’re any good, but we have a good time.”
In sum, yes, Charles races his Jamis Bikes (road and TT), but he also uses a gravel bike, a mountain bike, a skidoo… and a guitar. It’s the adventurous outdoor life of a cyclist, and the bikes are the vehicles that get him there. Bike racing is a multi-vectored lifestyle and that’s what we point to when we use the hashtag #cyclinglife. That said, there’s something special about Charles, and he’s a real talent. Look for him to be posting up and sending more arrows in the future.