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Teen cyclists ready to take on the world

Saanich duo to compete at Junior Track World Championships
Saanich cyclists John Willcox (Team TAG) and Erin Attwell (Tripleshot/Bear Mountain Resort) are headed to the Junior Track World Championships

There’s a saying among cyclists that you never enter a race you don’t plan to win.

It’s a mantra 17-year-old Saanich cyclists John Willcox and Erin Attwell swear by, as they’re currently racing weeknights in the Victoria Cycling League and weekends around the West Coast. They’ll continue the heavy race regime throughout the summer, with a focus on the Junior Track World Championships, July 20 to 24 in Aigle, Switzerland. Their summer schedule includes the junior Canadian Road Championships, June 25 to 29 in Ottawa.

“Generally, the most important thing for us is to get as many races in as we can,” said Willcox, who’s graduating from Reynolds secondary next month.

“We go right from the national road championships to a team prep camp for the world track nationals,” Attwell said. “It’s busy.”

Each are currently putting in about one session a week at the Westshore Velodrome, while the rest of their training (and racing) is on the road.

“At this point our coaches emphasize diversity of both track and road cycling,” Attwell said. “We wouldn’t specialize yet.”

It’s the second trip to the junior track worlds for Willcox, who turns 18 in October. But it’s the first for Attwell, who is a year younger and will return to the Maria Montessori School in her neighbourhood of Gordon Head next year.

Both were 2015 provincial track champions in the six-race omnium event in September and have enjoyed national success at the junior (U19) track level, having met the world qualifying standards in the individual pursuit at the indoor 2016 National Track Cycling Championships in Milton, Ont. earlier this year.

And both are in the Canadian Sports School program based out of the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence and are part of a group of elite cyclists coming up in Saanich and Greater Victoria.

It includes 15-year-old Saanich track and road phenom Riley Pickrell, 14-year-old Sarah Van Dam (Oak Bay), Adam Attwell (Erin’s twin brother) and Angus Brown (Victoria), among others.

In Ottawa, Attwell and Willcox will compete in the road race (120 kilometres for junior men, 80 km for women), an individual time trial and a criterium circuit race (such as Bastion Square).

If they can hit the podium in one or more events, they’ll likely secure a spot on the national team for the World Junior Road Cycling Championships, hosted in Qatar in October.

Attwell was third in the time trial last year as an underage junior, at just 16. Willcox is also hoping that an extra year will help him take on the 18-year-olds.

As soon as the road nationals are over, the focus shifts back to Switzerland and the track worlds.

This year’s junior national track team is sending a group of ‘pure sprinters’ which will give it a different look than in recent years, Attwell said.

“It’s a big deal that so many women are going, and that we can put a junior team pursuit together.”

“Eventually you could say there is two types of cyclists, the track sprinters, and everyone else,” said Willcox.

The junior national track team is made up of a total of 13 athletes, three for the men’s team sprint, five for the men’s team pursuit and five for women’s team pursuit. Exactly which races Atwell and Willcox will compete in will be determined during the national track team camp in early July.