Sport: Track Cycling
Event: women’s team pursuit
Local Club: Ottawa Bicycle Club
By Kieran Heffernan
Gatineau-native Ariane Bonhomme and the rest of the Canadian women’s team pursuit track cycling team know they need to achieve some impressive times if they hope to leave Tokyo as medallists.
The 4-kilometre team pursuit event is fairly new in women’s cycling, and with that fact comes a lot of pressure for extremely high performance.
“A few teams have ridden very close to the world record in the last couple of years,” Bonhomme said. “We know that the boundaries are constantly being pushed and we anticipate very much the world record to go down by a couple of seconds [in Tokyo] — so we need to get ready for that.”
At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the women’s team pursuit was a 3K race with only three racers, but since 2016 it has been 4k and four racers. The fact that the category has only existed for a few years, combined with new training techniques and technology, means that teams are frequently recording lower and lower times. Even in the men’s category, which has raced that distance for much longer, the world record keeps getting lower.
The last time Canada’s competed together, in February 2020 at the Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin, Bonhomme was an alternate and didn’t actually race. She’s optimistic that won’t be the case in Tokyo.
“I’m really hoping that I’ll get a chance to race and I hope that I showed the coaches that I’m ready to do it,” she said. It would be an advantage over other teams, she explained, to have five rather than four racers who can confidently ride close to world records times. Teams can either use only four racers, or substitute in a fifth for different races.
Bonhomme and her four teammates (Allison Beveridge, Jasmin Duehring, Annie Foreman-Mackey and Georgia Simmerling) have only been back training together since May in Milton, Ontario.
“One of our teammates started med school, and we have another girl that is a math teacher and she lives in California, so we were quite separated for most of the year,” Bonhomme said.
Although she was unsure what it would be like to come back together after so long apart, training has been going well. “We’ve spent so much time together over the years that it really was no different.”
In fact, there might have even been an advantage to the time apart.
“It allowed every rider to train more individually and train their weaknesses and when we came back together last month, it was definitely evident that every girl was a lot stronger than they were last year at Worlds.”
There are also benefits to the unconventional schedule leading up to these Olympics. Although Bonhomme said she’s never gone that long without racing, the plus side is that the team hasn’t had to travel overseas and hasn’t had to lose training time in order to rest before races.
And last December, Bonhomme received funding from CanFund, an organization that aims to “fill a funding gap and give our Canadian athletes the financial support their need to train and compete for Canada.” The extra support has really helped her stay focussed on the upcoming games.
“It kind of allows me to put those thoughts of whether it’s a good idea to keep racing [after Tokyo], to just put them on the back burner and think about it in a few months, and not have to worry about finding a job right away after the Games,” she said.
Bonhomme hopes to be able to continue her racing career after these Olympics, despite most of her teammates’ plans to retire from competition. That would position Bonhomme as a sort of bridge between generations of the team.
“I wish that we would keep going for another three years together because I really love them, but it’s also kind of exciting to be more in like a veteran position for the upcoming (2024) Paris Games, and to pass down the knowledge and the legacy that we’ve built,” she said. “I feel like it’s a bit of the end of an era for this team that has been more or less together since London.”
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