By Martin Cleary
For the past five years, Ottawa’s Carson Miles would make the trip to downtown Montreal to watch the Montreal Cycling Grand Prix, the second of two major pro races in Canada every non-COVID-19 year.
A developing cyclist in the second half of his teen years, Miles would enthusiastically move around the course to see some of the world’s best men on sleek, expensive bikes handle the corners, ride as a peloton and climb those torturous hills.
“I’d move around and walk a lot. I’d go up Mount Royal to watch the climbers and see the expressions on the riders’ faces as they suffer,” Miles said in a phone interview this week.
Well, get ready Carson, it’s almost your time to suffer on those painful slopes, where you’ll ascend Mount Royal 18 times on the 12.3-kilometre circuit. But more importantly, that pain will be cancelled by the joy of racing for Canada not once, but twice this weekend.
The teen spectator is about to become the young racer, wearing Canadian colours in the Quebec Cycling Grand Prix on Friday and the Montreal Cycling Grand Prix on Sunday.
“It hasn’t sunk in that I’ll do it,” Miles said before heading to Quebec City to ride for Canada instead of his pro team, the Premier Tech U23 Cycling Project.
“I’ve done bigger races, but they (Grand Prixs) should feel like any other race. But once I’m there, I’ll be shocked (to be a racer and not a spectator) and super excited.”
The two Quebec-based Grand Prix races will be the longest back-to-back races of Miles’ pro-racing career. The Montreal race will cover 221.4 kilometres and the Quebec City endurance test will span 201.6 kilometres.
While Miles hasn’t seen the Quebec City race course live, he certainly knows the Montreal course well enough that it could pump up the confidence of the 22-year-old rider and serve as an advantage.
“I understand its demands and I know what I need to do,” he added.
Unlike a pro team where one rider will be pinpointed as the leader for a stage tour, the eight-rider Canadian team will see how the races evolve and let the best rider of the day go for a quality result.
“We haven’t got together yet to talk, but I’d like to get in the break and race for it all,” he said confidently. “I’d like to be up there.”
The races are on the World Tour calendar and will attract top-notch cyclists for the 18 pro teams on the circuit. Riders will be chasing podium finishes and some lower teams will be racing to remain on the world’s top circuit in 2023 and not face relegation.
“We’ll try to get as many guys as we can up front,” Miles continued. “We’ll make the call on the road as to who goes for it. This will take the pressure off having one leader. This year, some teams are facing relegation and there could be excitement at the highest level.”
Miles also will be racing for Canada with Ottawa cycling veteran Matteo Dal-Cin, who indirectly brought him into the sport.
Dal-Cin’s uncle is a friend of Miles’ mother Leslie, which partly contributed to his entry into cycling. He also received his first racing bike from Dal-Cin’s father.
Miles started cycling at age 15 for the West Quebec Wheelers before joining the Ottawa Bicycle Club junior program, while also being a shooting guard for the Woodroffe High School basketball team. He had some success locally over the years in the Preston Street Criterium, winning the Junior Men/Masters 2/Elite 3 category race in 2018.
In 2019, he was named to Floyd’s Pro Cycling team, which developed out of the defunct Silber Pro Cycling Team and lasted only one season at the Continental level. Named after former racer Floyd Landis, the team received $1.1 million as part of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. The team was sponsored by Floyd’s of Leadville, which was Landis’ cannabis shop.
“Floyd’s was an amazing, talented team. I took a lot of lessons from it and it showed in my racing,” said Miles, who was one of six Canadians on the 12-rider team.
In 2020, Miles rode for TaG Cycling, which was a Canadian trade team supporting developing stars of the future and was based in British Columbia. The team did a lot of European racing.
“It helped me grow into being a rider. I learned how to race and ride in a bunch,” added Miles, whose best international stage results have been in the 20s and 30s this season and in 2021.
But when it comes to the Canadian road championships, Miles knows how to find the medal podium. For the past two years, he has placed first in the men’s U23 road race, while finishing fourth in the overall men’s field this year in Edmonton.
“I still definitely have a lot to improve on. I’m not calling myself great yet,” he said with a slight laugh. “I’m good tactically, I focus on the process and my position in the bunch is getting better. It takes a lot to get there.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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