Sarah Van Dam starts spring training for road racing on a high with a medal haul from the recent Canadian Junior Track Championships.
The Oak Bay High student finished second at nationals last year, setting her up for a more informed competition this year.
“I got all the experience last year,” she said. “It helped learning to not always focus on the outcome but the steps to get there.”
At 14, Van Dam competes in the U17 category and came home with five gold medals as the TripleShot Cycling Club Youth Team set five Canadian records at the 2016 National Track Cycling Championships at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton, Ont.
Her foray into track cycling started with a BikeJam, the annual West Shore event to introduce youth to myriad cycling sports.
“That’s where I got started,” she said. The past three years of track cycling fulfills her need for speed, as did the recent competition of a dozen races over three days.
Van Dam earned gold in Team Sprint with a U17 women’s composite team with Quebec’s Simone Boilard; Individual Pursuit (2:35.810); Sprint; Time Trial (500m in 38.232); and Scratch.
Van Dam trains six or seven days a week, including twice-weekly strength training and bike work that includes “a lot of spin right now because our velodrome is too wet.”
The team travelled a handful of times to a Lower Mainland indoor track and took a training trip to Chico, Calif. a week before nationals
“That helped immensely. We did a lot of specific training,” she said. “We didn’t know how we were going to perform. We did all we could to be ready.”
During nationals they faced teams with the upper hand from routine training on indoor tracks, she said. For example, the track is necessary to practice starts and pursuit. “If you have a bad start it can mess up your whole race,” she said.
Now her training leaps into road racing, targeting provincials in July.
“I have to get my endurance back, it means a lot of hill climbing because it’s in Penticton,” she said.
Similar to her track circuit, she has experience from last year to help her through.
What she did miss this year, was Bike Jam, where she likes to volunteer.
“It’s something I enjoy and like bringing it to someone else so they can try it,” she said. “It’s sharing a passion.”
That passion pushes her as she aims for junior worlds “in a couple years” and ultimately to represent Canada in the Olympics.
Alongside Van Dam in the U17 category, Riley Pickrell (Claremont secondary) claimed two Canadian records and took home four gold, two silver and a bronze medal.
Erin Attwell (Maria Montessori School/Canadian Sport School Victoria) set three Canadian records, took two gold and three silver, and raced to a qualifying spot for the 2016 World Junior Track Cycling Championships. Adam Attwell (Maria Montessori) held his own in a competitive field after transferring to cycling three months ago from a successful high school rowing season, racing individual races in his first year as a U19 rider.
“This is the second national track championships in five months, due to Cycling Canada moving the national championships to the spring,” said head coach Lister Farrar. “These four riders are to be commended for their maturity in racing and commitment to training.”