HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Gatineau’s Karol-Ann Canuel will remain in her happy place for the 2021 women’s pro cycling season. After 5 rewarding years with Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team, she returns for another season, but with a slight change.
The world’s No. 1 women’s cycling team has undergone a name change for next year as Team SD Worx will replace Boels-Dolmans, which was sponsored by the Dutch equipment company Boels Rental and Dolmans Landscaping, a Dutch civil engineering firm.
SD Worx is a human resources, payroll services and software company located in Antwerp, Belgium. The 75-year-old firm serves more than 70,000 companies in 130 countries.
“I’ve been part of the team ever since it became number one in the world,” Canuel, 32, said in a Nov. 13 press release. “The members of the team have really become my friends over the past few years.
“I find that rough terrain shows me off to the greatest advantage. I have no problem leaving the limelight to such champions as Anna van der Breggen and Chantal Blaak,” added Canuel, who is a strong time trialist but serves mainly as a team domestique, who works for the good of the team and designated leader.
Since winning the 2016 Olympic women’s road-race gold medal, van der Breggen has been a world leader, winning nine of her 12 world championship medals in the past four years. She won road-race and individual time-trial gold this season.
Blaak has scored 22 women’s pro cycling wins in her distinguished career, including 14 one-day victories. The 2017 world road-race champion also has four gold and two silver in the team time trial. She was ranked No. 7 in 2016.
“It’s a special thing to be part of the team with so many wins and know you played a part. The team already had an international feeling to it, but with SD Worx… the mix will include more nationalities. I welcome that.” Canuel said.
The 2021 Team SD Worx will have 14 riders from 10 countries, featuring 5 from The Netherlands and one each from Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, France, United Kingdom, South Africa, Czech Republic, New Zealand and Canada.
Canuel, who has been racing at the world level since 2005 when she was 21st at the world junior championships, has six career wins, numerous individual podium finishes and was ranked a career-high No. 25 after the 2015 season.
She was the first Canadian rider to win gold at the world championships, when she helped Specialized-lululemon win the 2014 team time trial. Two days later, she was sixth in the individual time trial.
Perhaps her best-ever world championships came in 2018, when she registered three top-10 results in three races and earned one medal. She was second in the team time trial, eighth in the individual time trial and sixth in the road race for Boels-Dolmans.
Here are some interesting stats about Canuel’s career. In the past 11 years, she has raced for 4 teams, had 411 race days, covered 38,344 kilometres. To put it in perspective, that would be almost 5 trips along the 7,821-km Trans Canada Highway.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.