By Martin Cleary
Their wheels are spinning at different speeds these days as former Israel-Premier Tech teammates Derek Gee of Osgoode, ON., and Alex Cataford of Ottawa are headed in opposite directions in their cycling careers.
After Gee registered an astonishing performance by a neo pro in his Grand Tour debut at the recent Giro d’Italia, Israel-Premier Tech gave him the ultimate gift – a new contract which will keep him with the team until 2028.
Gee, 25, was just getting used to his rookie season riding with and against the world’s best road cyclists in the first year of a three-year contract.
After he proved how successful he can be as a breakaway rider by scoring four second-place results and two fourth-place showings in the Giro as well as finishing second in the points, mountains, breakaway and intermediate sprint classifications, his team management ripped up his inaugural contract for one that would keep him attached to Israel-Premier Tech until 2028.
Meanwhile, Cataford, who was unable to find a new international racing team for 2023, joined forces with his former Israel-Premier Tech teammate Michael Woods of Ottawa to announce the creation of M2M Ride, which is devoted to personal coaching for cyclists. Cataford will serve as the M2M Ride head coach.
Gee’s determined and courageous attacking style not only produced unexpected results for someone just trying to survive his first Grand Tour, but also spun a high level of excitement that captivated the cycling world. His humble leadership and grit also earned him the overall combativity award.
Israel-Premier Tech owner Sylvan Adams, a billionaire Canadian businessman born in Quebec City, felt it was the perfect time to secure the cycling future of a young rider on a team with plenty of Canuck content.
“We knew Derek had a big engine, when we took a chance on him and signed him to our U23 Continental program (Israel Cycling Academy for 2022),” Adams said in a team press release on Tuesday. “But, at this year’s Giro, Derek proved that he has race smarts and the ability to perform with the best riders in the pro peloton.
“It was a real coming out party for Derek, along with the young teammates who accompanied him on our Giro squad. Accordingly, we decided to reward Derek by ripping up his neo-pro contract and signing him to a new six-year deal that will ensure his future.”
While Gee only joined Israel-Premier Tech last year, Adams has known the dynamic rider since he was a young boy competing in and winning provincial and national races. Adams also raced against Gee’s father Jon in masters’ competitions.
“IPT is Derek’s natural home as it is for the other aspiring Canadians and Israelis, that we have in our development pipeline,” Adams continued. “With Derek, we are just getting started. We expect big things from this talented rider in the near future.”
A week after completing the gruelling, 21-stage Giro, which covered 3,448 challenging kilometres and was staged with occasional horrific weather conditions and route changes, Gee proved he was the real deal by placing 10th in a 17-rider sprint finish at the Brussels Cycling Classic on Sunday.
“It was an incredibly easy decision for me to sign this new contract,” Gee said. “I know another five years is a long time, especially in the cycling world, but this team feels like home.
“The relationship I have with the riders, staff and management and the direction I can see the team going from a performance standpoint, is something I’m incredibly keen to be a part of for the long term. It also gives me the stability to take a step back and try new directions as a rider that may not have even been something I was considering before the Giro.”
When Gee wasn’t training in Milton, ON., with the Canadian men’s track team pursuit squad, which placed fifth at the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, he was still recognized as a strong road and time-trial cyclist. He won the individual time-trial gold medal at the 2022 Canadian men’s championships and was third in 2021.
“I honestly can’t say exactly which direction I want to go as a rider and what I want to achieve in that direction, but for now the biggest thing on my mind after the Giro is to just get a win,” Gee added. “So many second places made me extremely hungry to get that first win and hopefully one day get a stage win in a Grand Tour.
“I’d like to continue to develop without necessarily picking something to specialize in and just see which direction racing takes me in as a rider. I think that’s the exciting part about this contract, there’s time to do that and I can’t wait for the next five years with IPT.”
Being a first-year rider on a quality international team, Gee was filled with confidence, when he was named to the Giro roster and turned it into an amazing experience.
“The Giro was about as far from what I expected as it gets going in, but it has been sinking in the last week, the rides that I had there. I’m really happy to be able to show why the team had confidence in me with that calendar and put that on paper with those results.”
Meanwhile, Cataford would liked to have been the fifth Canadian rider on the Israel-Premier Tech team this year, but “when I was recovering from my broken collarbone (2022), I started to hear from them that they may not have space for me on the team for next season.”
He had some good talks with other teams, but was unsuccessful. Last summer was difficult for Cataford as he lost some critical racing days in June, after testing positive for COVID-19 and breaking his collarbone in a crash on the first day of the Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasika. He missed eights weeks of competition.
Early in 2023, Cataford announced his retirement as a pro cyclist, but four months later has become the head coach with M2M Ride.
In 2013, Woods and Ottawa’s Dylan Wykes created Mile2Marathon as a coaching service for runners. Adding a cycling arm to their coaching program made sense as Woods, a former international-level runner, has developed into a successful pro cyclist.
M2M Ride is designed to provide “coaching for cyclists of all abilities, for all distances, on all terrains,” according to a Mile2Marthon press release last month.
Cataford had 10 years of pro cycling experience, which saw him race in three Grand Tours – Giro d’Italia (2022 and 2020) and Vuelta a Espana (2021) – for Israel Start-Up Nation and Israel-Premier Tech.
His international resume also shows he was second overall in the 2016 Tour of Gila and third in the 2018 Tour of Taihu. Domestically, Cataford was a multiple Canadian men’s and junior champion and medallist in the individual time trial.
On the track, he was the 2011 Pan American junior gold medallist in the individual pursuit.
“Mike and I have been talking about the idea of M2M Ride for some time now and we are very excited to now officially launch,” an excited Cataford said in a press release.
“At M2M Ride, we are able to offer a unique coaching experience to our clients. With years of racing at the highest level of the sport, we have truly seen it all and can share our knowledge and love for cycling with everyone.”
GLEBE, NEPEAN REACH OFSAA GIRLS’ AAA RUGBY QUARTERFINALS
The medal dreams ended in the quarter-final round for Glebe and Nepean at the OFSAA girls’ rugby AAA championship in Bolton.
Ottawa champion Glebe fell 32-7 to Owen Sound, while Nepean lost to Uxbridge 33-10. Both schools had one extra game Tuesday as Nepean defeated Oakville Trafalgar 24-5, but Glebe lost 19-10 to Ursuline College.
At the OFSAA girls’ A rugby championship in Belleville, Cairine Wilson was eliminated in the quarterfinals 15-12 by Kingston’s Holy Cross to miss the medal round.
St. Mark won its final two games at the OFSAA boys’ A/AA field lacrosse championships in Peterborough to finish ninth overall.
The Lions concluded the preliminary round at 1-2 with an 8-7 victory over Huron Heights to advance to the game to determine the ninth and 10 places and outscored Mayfield 16-5.
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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