By Kieran Heffernan
Track cyclist Ariane Bonhomme was waiting to hear whether she would be chosen for Canada’s Olympic team when she was rocked by a worse revelation on social media – no Canadian team would be going to Tokyo.
For Bonhomme, 25, the news was disappointing, but with what followed just days later – the Olympic Committee’s decision to postpone the Games until next summer – she discovered a bright side.
“Waiting another year is hard but also I think our team will definitely benefit from having another year of preparation. We were on a very big upward trend since January, and I think having a whole other year to keep building on that is huge for us,” said Bonhomme, who races in the team pursuit discipline.
Though she was part of a national team that secured Canada’s spot in the sport where they’ve won back-to-back Olympic bronze medals, Bonhomme’s unsure if she’ll crack the roster for the Games.
Until Cycling Canada releases its list on July 29, there’s little she can do besides wait. Bonhomme was supposed to find out if she had made it sometime after the World Championships in late February, but the national sports organization held off announcing its selections because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bonhomme was finally able to resume practising with her teammates again in early July, but she’s struggled with the uncertainty about the competitions that are ahead of her.
“It’s weird, for sure, and I think I’m someone that is really driven by racing. I can’t just train to train,” said the Ottawa Bicycle Club product from Gatineau. “But it’s definitely changing habits and I think it’s good to work on that because you don’t always get to race. I think enjoying being on my bike and just training for fun and not training always for the next result or something, it’s been good.”
In a statement on their website, Cycling Canada said it “will not be conducting any national team projects outside Canada before Jan. 1, 2021”, so the only event Bonhomme has to train for in the near future will likely be the National Championships at the end of September.
The past season, according to Bonhomme, “didn’t go as we wanted.”
Though Canada sustained its qualifying ranking for the Olympics, Bonhomme’s team finished no higher than 3rd in World Cup races and 4th at the World Championships. Bonhomme was disappointed as well with falling into a regular role as the team’s alternate, meaning she didn’t have a chance to actually race at the World Championships.
“It was for sure disappointing. Our coach made a decision that I think he did regret, not racing all five of us. And so I think we know now that we need to race all five of us to have the best chance at it,” she said. Teams can either use only four racers, or switch in a fifth one during the three different rounds.
Bonhomme says that since this season her team has also adapted other parts of their strategies as well.
“We had to figure something out,” said the former Cyclery racing team athlete.
Some of those changes include changing their lap distribution during races, doing longer pulls, and using new, bigger gears on their bikes.
Bonhomme explained the purpose of the gears: “It takes a lot more strength, but once you get up to speed, your legs are not spinning at a million miles an hour, which is really good for the back end of the race, like the last minute. But you need to be able to get it going and sustain it as well, which is what we’re working on really.”
The team hasn’t gotten to train on the track yet, but according to Bonhomme, they wouldn’t normally be on the track during this time of the year anyways (except, of course, during Olympic years). Instead, the team has been riding on the road and “in the hills, getting strong through our pedal stroke to be able to sustain that big gear that we’re going to put on our track bikes once we get back on the track.”
With the shortcomings of the previous season in the past, Bonhomme is looking forward to the year ahead.
“If we have another year to eliminate all those mistakes that we did at Worlds… it’s going to be great.”