Two thousand fourteen produced the best season for the three-year-old Accent Inns/Russ Hay’s Cycling Team, which celebrated the the national sprint challenge champion and the B.C. criterium champion at its annual wrap up party on Saturday.
“It just goes to show you there we’re filling a gap that is needed,” said team director Jon Watkin of Saanich, a former elite cyclist. Watkin and Marty Clermont of Russ Hays instigated the team four years ago.
“There have been small teams before but we have unprecedented community sport for a team. It’s a delicate balance getting the right sponsors. You can’t see cycling as a billboard on wheels, we have the right support for our athletes.”
While Saanich’s Cody Canning wasn’t at the team’s wrap up party – he was named the team’s breakout rider of the year on speakerphone from Saskatchewan – Vancouver’s Dylan Davies was, and he had a breakout season of his own.
Davies, 29, won the Bastion Square Grand Prix in June, making him the B.C. Criterium champ in just his third season of competitive cycling. Davies is the elder to Canning, 24, but concedes to Canning, saying the Saanich youngster has more racing experience.
“Four years ago I was doing alley cat races with other bike messengers in Vancouver. I won some, I liked it, and I made my way down to the velodrome in Burnaby,” said Davies, who carries a list of goals despite his late start.
“I’m a bit older to be getting into the sport but I still just want to see where I can progress, you can do that with this team. I got into the road race at the national championships and it was an eye-opener for what it takes to get to the next level,” Davis added.
“Davies is hungry,” Watkin said. “He knows how to suffer and what it takes to win, to get back on the bike after a full day’s effort that didn’t produce the results and start all over again.”
The AI/RH 2014 season highlight was Canning winning the challenge sprint event at Cycling Canada Road Championships in Lac Megantic, Que. on June 28. Canning has since competed in the Tour of Alberta (for Team Canada) and on Sept. 12 he won his second sprint challenge race of the season, beating out top North American and European pros at the Grand Prix Cycliste in Quebec.
The challenge sprint event is a competition over a one-kilometre course, organized into heats of four racers each. The top two finishers in each knockout heat move on to the next round until the winner is determined in the final showdown.
“It’s only our third year doing it and it takes a lot of work, but we want to see how far we can go. We want to see our cyclists move on and turn pro,” Watkin said. “Victoria is already recognized as a cycling and athletic hotspot and now we’re proof of that.”
The team plans to expand its 2015 racing program by registering as a trade team, eligible for the Tour de Beauce and some major U.S.A. events.
Did you know?
The Accent Inns/Russ Hays Cycling Team earned prominent recognition in 2013 when Victoria’s Curtis Dearden won the individual time trial gold medal at the national cycling championships.
During the 2013-14 offseason Dearden suffered a traffic accident that left him unconscious along Gorge Road beside his bicycle. He managed to rehabilitate and finish ninth at the 2014 individual time trial of the Cycling Canada Road Championships.