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Saanich teens tearing up the track

Saanich junior cyclists dominate B.C. Track Provincial Championships
David Attwell photo
Gordon Head’s Erin Attwell continued her success at the U17 level

A group of Saanich teenagers dominated the recent B.C. Track cycling championships at the Greater Victoria Velodrome in Colwood.

Gordon Head resident Erin Attwell, 16, and Claremont student Riley Pickrell, 14, each finished first in all six of the races that make up the omnium category.

Both competed in the U17 category which means moving up from the U15 category that Pickrell is eligible for. It’s becoming quite the norm for the young phenom, said his coach from Tripleshot Cycling’s junior team, Lister Farrar.

“It’s quite impressive that [Pickrell’s] doing so well against the U17s, he just turned 14 in August,” Farrar said. “Earlier this summer he beat the top U19 rider at a race during Super Week in the Mainland. His dedication shows, I don’t think he’s missed a practise at the track in the last two years.”

Pickrell and Attwell are both coming through the Tripleshot Cycling club junior program and the youth Fast Track program at the velodrome. Farrar is involved in both.  Another phenom, Sarah Van Dam of Fernwood in Victoria, won’t turn 14 until December, but is already keeping up with Attwell on the track, Farrar said. Van Dam finished second only to Attwell in the girls U17 omnium.

Tripleshot is sending five athletes to the Canadian Track Championships in Milton, Ont., Oct. 7 to 11. Attwell, Pickrell, Van Dam, Angus Brown (Victoria) and Erin’s twin brother, Adam Attwell, a rower who is now earning strong results in cycling.

“It’s a huge year for us,” Farrar said. “Last year we sent Erin to nationals. Now we have five.”

Farrar has been part of the Victoria cycling scene for decades. Despite the current success of local teen cyclists it is not the result of a cycling renaissance in terms of numbers. He does have a couple of theories, though he’s yet to firm them up.

“I think, if anything, the reason we’re seeing five kids go to nationals from Tripleshot is largely just because we have someone willing to provide the coaching. What we see with the School Bike League is once a parent or teacher commits to running a school program, that school will gain a lot of members, we just need the volunteers.”

This year’s B.C. Track cycling championships were actually delayed from the originally scheduled Labour Day weekend to Sept. 12 and 13. Erin Attwell believed the cooler temperatures may have kept riders from hitting personal bests but it ended up getting pretty hot on the Sunday afternoon, regardless.

“The hardest might have been the individual pursuit, it was really cold, all our times were reasonably slow, she said.

Attwell also noted that her top rival in B.C., Maple Ridge’s Maggie Coles Lister was not there to compete. Attwell expects Coles Lister to be among the challengers at the U17 nationals in two weeks.

“She’s been doing a lot of work on the track lately so I don’t know how we would have done [at provincials]. I was looking forward to the chance to race against her because earlier in the summer we were only a second apart.”

The velodrome’s youth Fast Track program starts in May and runs through to August for just $200, which includes the use of a bike, coaching and track time twice a week for all five months. Youth can also sign up for half at $100. Visit for more information.

John Willcox of Saanich, a Reynolds secondary student, took first place in the U19 omnium. Willcox, 16, was happy with the result. But the national junior team member would have liked a deeper field.

Last month Willcox finished 15th in the one kilometre at the world U19 Track championships in Kazakhstan.

“It’s unfortunate there isn’t more juniors [at provincials], there was only three of us. You [end up] having a bit of fun and practice, getting in people’s heads, whereas with a big field you need to pay more attention.”

Willcox is focused on the team pursuit and the kilometre once again for Milton. Willcox raced in a combined field of U19 riders and elite men, and likely would have finished second in the provincial elite men’s category, but for one race.

Former Tripleshot junior Jay Lamoreaux won the elite men’s provincials, though Willcox did better him in the elimination.