By Martin Cleary
COMMONWEALTH GAMES-BOUND SERIES (Part 1 of 4):
Life was rolling along rather smoothly for teenage cyclist Ngaire Barraclough this season until she confronted a course of action that has shaken her confidence.
As a track and road racer with the Ottawa-based Cyclery Racing Team, Barraclough has earned impressive results in the past two months that she’s hoping will serve her well entering her first Commonwealth Games, which are July 28 to Aug. 8 in Birmingham, England.
At the World Cup track competition in Milton, ON., in May, Barraclough helped Canada to a fourth-place result in the women’s team pursuit. That was the same placing she shared with her Canadian teammates in the same event at the 2021 world championships in Roubaix, France.
Individually at the World Cup, she was fifth among 23 riders in the Omnium event and 16th in the Scratch race.
Less than a week later, Barraclough brought out her road bikes for the Joe Martin Stage Races in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She was in the mix with the top cyclists, posting two top-10 results in four races, and was the No. 1 rider in the youth classification.
During the Canadian road racing championships in her hometown of Edmonton in late June, she won the national women’s U23 individual time trial by 61 seconds. Two days later, she was involved in a nine-rider sprint to the finish in the women’s road race and was fifth overall, but third among the U23 riders.
But then, everything started to go a little off track for Barraclough, who turns 20 tomorrow (July 20).
For four days before she returned to the United States for a scheduled race in Pennsylvania, she was tired and sick. She took a Rapid Test to screen for the COVID-19 virus and it was negative.
At the race, her condition never improved.
“I felt so tired and I tested again. It was positive and it made sense,” Barraclough said last week in an interview before heading to Milton for a week of training on the velodrome track and then flying to London, England for the Games.
“The first three to four days were rough. But after two weeks I’m OK and back to training slowly.”
Barraclough missed a full week of training at a critical time in her season, which has left her concerned about how the Commonwealth Games may play out for her.
At the Games, she is scheduled to race in the individual and team pursuits, the points race and the scratch race on the track. Almost a week later, she will focus on the women’s road race.
“I’ve recovered, but I’m slowly getting back into training. It will definitely be interesting getting back on the track. I haven’t had a lot of interval work or intensity,” she explained.
“Hopefully, it will go well. It’s a little stressful.”
Barraclough is “super excited” about racing in the Commonwealth Games.
“It’s something I’d like to do. Initially, Canada only had two spots for women and I thought it was going to be tough to make the team. Then, I found out Canada had four spots and we could form a team-pursuit team,” she added.
Relatively soon after recovering from COVID-19, Barraclough is taking a guarded approach about how she’ll feel entering the Games.
“If I had had no COVID, I would have said I was definitely ready for the Games,” she said. “But now I’m unsure how I’ll do getting back into it.”
Barraclough, who raced for InstaFund La Prima in 2021, joined the Cyclery Racing Team this season, when she reached out to sport director Chris Reid. Former Cyclery sport director Jenny Trew is Cycling Canada’s lead track endurance coach and recommended Barraclough contact Reid, who also is her husband.
Reid has more than a quarter century of experience in the cycling industry and also is the executive director of the National Cycling Institute in Milton.
Barraclough experienced many sports as a young girl, including soccer and cross-country skiing. She also rode a bike with her parents, who were familiar with cycling, and became a competitive cyclist at 15.
Some of her friends had ridden the steep-banked velodrome track in Edmonton, but she was cautious about giving it a try. When she entered a race on the encouragement of a coach, she liked it and found it a fun experience.
When her clubmates turned to road racing in the spring and summer, Barraclough joined a year later.
“It’s weird,” the University of British Columbia international relations student said. “It feels like I have been riding a lot longer than I have, but I haven’t been doing it for long.
“A lot has happened very quickly and I’ve got opportunities. I enjoy it and it keeps coming. I’m excited for what is to come.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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.
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