If Jon Watkin does his job right, one or more of the teenage cyclists of the Accent Inns/Russ Hays cycling team will one day ride in the world championships or Olympics.
Watkin is the manager of the Accent Inns/Russ Hays cycling team, a team that in the past few years has redefined itself as a youth development opportunity for South Island and Western Canadian cyclists aged 17 to their mid-20s.
Last week the team qualified to join the National Sport Trust Fund and can now accept tax-deductible donations to fund its efforts to develop amateur cycling in Western Canada.
“When we first started this team we were a bike shop team, a group of top cyclists in town getting together and racing,” Watkin said. “But then when Curtis Dearden won the 2013 national time trial, we got a lot of interest, people were asking, who is this team.”
Since that time the team has had multiple applications from interested cyclists from as far as Manitoba. In addition to Dearden’s national gold medal, in which he joined the ranks of Tour de France cyclists Ryder Hesjedal and Svein Tuft, Accent Inns/Russ Hays’ rider Cody Cannning added to that lore with multiple successes. Canning, of Saanich, won the 2014 UCI Pro Challenge Sprint in Quebec, the 2015 B.C. criterium, and was picked to race on Team Canada’s entry to the Tour of Alberta in 2014.
In 2015, Accent Inns/Russ Hays rider Danick Vandale won the Western Canada Summer Games time trial gold medal.
Dearden, who was the team’s oldest cyclist and the only one in his 30s, was an exception. But he’s stepping away to focus on family and career.
Canning will be the oldest cyclist at 26, Watkin said.
“We are not pushing the team in [the youth] direction, it’s taken its own direction. In the world of cycling development, most government money goes to track, mountain bike and BMX … As far as road, there’s no development programs for these young talented amateur racers.”
A lot of youth cyclists are left to their own devices to self fund and find sponsors or find a team to help them get to the next level, Watkin said.
The 2016 team will feature nine riders and plans to visit Washington, Oregon, California and the 2016 Canadian national championships in Ottawa and Gatineau.
For more information visit russhaysracing.com or to donate visit bit.ly/1NKfrHF.