Carson Miles is a first year elite racer on Floyd’s Pro Cycling hailing from Ottawa. As a Junior, he won a few significant races, crashed in a few big races and represented Canada at both the Tour de l’Abitibi and the World Championships in Innsbruck… yadda yadda yadda.
So yes, he can ride a bike, but what makes Carson interesting at this moment in history is that he represents a growing trend amongst young North American racers that achieve their goals through a combination of DIY entrepreneurial spirit, social media engagement and old-fashioned community support. This trend points to the return of more interesting characters to the sport, and a movement away from team-based uniformity… and it might add a lot of excitement to bike racing in general.
North American road racing – as a brand – suffers from the tint of elitism. Who but the wealthy can afford a top notch bike? Who can afford the time from school or work to train? Who can afford the travel? Yes, we all know amazing cyclists who reached the highest levels of the sport while having to deal with personal and familial financial stress. Their success is a testament to both their individual resolve and the immense generosity of the cycling community. But I want to be very specific about a growing phenomenon that might be happening right now. I say this phenomenon “might be happening” because I’m not sure and my window on the sport is not huge… but I find it very refreshing, hopeful and I want it to be part of the culture of our team.
Last year Canadian cyclists–including Juniors–had to subsidize the costs to represent Canada at the World Road Championships. I think that’s shameful, but don’t be quick to simplify. Right now Cycling Canada–and USA Cycling for that matter–are undergoing fundamental political and economic restructuring. In fact I would argue that it’s incredible how many athletes and stakeholders these National Federations have supported during times of sweeping change. Point fingers all you want, just don’t do it here. I’ll fight for constructive change alongside Cycling Canada’s new Executive Director, Matt Jeffries, anytime but that’s another discussion. The point here is that Carson Miles and other riders were confronted with a situation where they had to either decline the invitation to go to Worlds, or pony-up a portion of the costs.
Carson sold self-branded coffee, his friends in the incredible Ottawa cycling community baked and sold pies, he worked part-time and he made sure he went to Worlds. I agree with you: this situation shouldn’t have to happen but it did and Carson dealt with it–while going to school and training 20h+ a week. Why? He just wants to get out and ride and he’ll make it happen. He gets tremendous support from his family and community but he’s not entitled to anything just because he’s a promising racer–and he knows it.
Maybe it’s a sign of the austere times that road racing is experiencing or maybe it’s because social media makes it more visible but young riders seem to be doing more to participate in cycling and to help the sport grow. I find it inspiring that many are not waiting for handouts or a great bike because they won the local crit. They’re just riding whatever’s in front of them on any terrain and they’re having a blast. Plus social media lets us see some of the cycling-related stuff they do in their downtime, which gives us a window into their characters, or at least their online personas.
Last year I directed the Canadian juniors at Abitibi and had a great time. Most of the bikes were a mess. Sprinting phenom Riley Pickrell showed up without a bike. A loaner got lost in transit so he ended up borrowing another last minute onsite… and he won three stages. Riley is hyper, hilarious, races on the road and track, and he paints frames with an 80s aesthetic in his spare time. Carson also paints–in his case it’s galactic shoes, and he rides a bike that fell apart just as he received his Van Dessel from us. Another national team rider, Tom Schellenberg, was notably quiet but after a few stages I realized all the things he did just to haul his aluminum bike to races throughout BC. He made his own clip-ons for a TT and killed it. He was in breaks with pros at BC Superweek on junior gears (120+ rpm) then made it to Worlds. All these guys just want to race bikes and they live for it.
Over the next few years we’ll get to know these young racers as characters because they’re doing more than just taking pictures of themselves riding their bikes. I like this increased visibility of the DIY aspect of the sport because its culture is very different than the rigid uniformity and systemic racing style of US Postal Service and Team Sky. I’m tired of watching a bike race and focusing on the uniform operations of a dominant team. I want to see the return of intriguing personalities in competition – and intrigue doesn’t exclude great teamwork! Love ’em or hate ’em, we need the striking difference of actors in history; not the grease of turning cogs in a machine.
Years ago Mario Cipollini bemoaned the fact that there were no more great personalities in cycling–and I think he called himself one of the last (!). And now there’s Peter Sagan. Cyclocross is producing its personalities and gravel will do the same. Cycling is becoming fun again and at Floyd’s, we’re all in. Love ’em or hate ’em, we think strikingly different characters such as Travis McCabe, Serghei Tvetcov, Jonathan Clarke and Keegan Swirbul will all have different roles to play as the season unfolds… and we think you’ll love ’em. You’ll also get to know Floyd’s Pro Cycling–the team. In the meantime, we’re proud to welcome young guys like Carson Miles onto the stage.