A Paralympic Preview: Cycling

With the Paralympic Games rapidly approaching, Report On Rio will preview every event that has a Canadian team competing in Brazil — featuring past results, schedules, rosters, and expectations.

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Marie-Claude Molnar (left), Charles Moreau and Marie-Ève Croteau were three of the 12 athletes named to the 2016 Canadian Paralympic para-cycling team

Canada has been an elite para-cycling nation since the sport made its debut at the 1984 New York/Stoke Mandeville Games. In fact, the Canadian team has earned at least one medal in seven of the eight prior Games that this sport has been included in the Paralympic programme.

The 12-member Canadian cycling team that was named in late June are certainly approaching the Rio Paralympics with a purposeful mindset to add to their country’s rich legacy of performance in this Paralympic event.

Five members of the team possess prior experience competing at the Paralympics. Headlining the returnees are  Robbi Weldon (Ottawa, Ont.), the defending gold medalist for the women’s road race, 2012 bronze medalist Marie-Claude Molnar and 12-time world champion Shelley Gautier (Toronto, Ont.)

Tristen Chernove (Cranbrook, B.C.) and Nicole Clermont (Saint-Denis-de-Brompton, Que.) are among the exciting newcomers to the team. Chernove is the top ranked  track cyclist in the world males in the C2 sport class (athletes with a “C” classification ride standard bicycles), and Clermont won a bronze medal at the 2015 Parapan Am Games for the women’s road race.

Paralympic track cycling will be hosted at the Rio Velodrome from Sept. 8 to Sept. 11. The  road races, taking place from Sept. 14 to Sept. 17,  will begin and end at Pontal Beach.

                                                                   Road to Rio

These cyclists were selected by a selection committee formed by Cycling Canada High Performance Director and Head Coach Jacques Landry. There were a number  of criteria that this group considered including the rider’s track record of performance,  their technical and tactical cycling abilities, attitude and accountability, and their ability to commit to a team structure.

Each National Paralympic Committee (NPC) was allowed to enter a maximum of three athletes  for each of the seven individual events and one team for each of the team events.

Previous Paralympics:

tor15_CYC_RR_Weldon_Lemieux_MixedB_DG_0168
Robbi Weldon (front) won the women’s para-tandem road race in London. 

2012: London, England

  • Weldon won gold for the women’s para-tandem road race with her guide Lyn Bessette.
  • Claude-Molnar won bronze for the C4 women’s time trial.

2008: Beijing, China

  • Genevieve Ouellet and her guide Mathilde Hupin won bronze for the women’s para-tandem road race.
  • Jean Quevillon won bronze for the CP4 men’s individual pursuit.

Meet the Team:

An argument can be made that Chernove is the most likely candidate to represent Canada at the top of the medals podium multiple times.

He has established himself as a double-threat as a para-cyclist in the mere 10 months he has competed on the national and international circuit.

“I have found that I am a classic all-rounder,” Chernove said in an interview with Report on Rio. “I have a strong fast-twitch and slow-twitch, which means I am good at endurance and speed. I am able to adapt to do anything.”

In addition to being the world number one C2 track cyclist, the 41-year-old held down the

Tristen Chernove
Tristen Chernove is expected to contend for both gold on the track and on the road.

top spot amongst C2 road racers for the majority of the year. He is currently ranked 5th, with a major reason for that being the fact he has competed in less preliminary races as his international rivals this year.

What is particularly impressive about Chernove that he has been able to ascend to the elite level of para-cycling while balancing the work commitments that come with being the CEO of his own airport company.

Another story to track is if Gautier will be able to translate her world championship dominance into success at the Paralympics Games. The 47-year-0ld T1 (tricycle) racer racked up an impressive 12 consecutive gold medals in road race and individual time trial events from 2009-2015, but she finished outside the top 10 for both at London.

In addition to maintaining her streak in 2015, this year was special for Gautier as she was a nominee for the esteemed Laureus Award for the World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.

Weldon cannot be overlooked for a medal either. While the four-time Paralympian — two times of cycling and twice for para-skiing— is currently ranked fifth in the world, she did finish first at the Cologne Classic qualifying event in Germany back in May. Her prior winning experience on this stage will be a boon as well.

The athletes nominated to the Canadian Paralympic Team are as follows:

Para-cycling team
Men
*Daniel Chalifour (Ste-Thérèse, Que.)
Tristen Chernove (Cranbrook, B.C.)
Jean-Michel Lachance (Quebec City): pilot for Daniel Chalifour
Charles Moreau (Victoriaville, Que.)
Michael Sametz (Calgary)
Ross Wilson (Edmonton)

Women
Nicole Clermont (Laval, Que.)
*Marie-Ève Croteau (Quebec City)
*Shelley Gautier (Toronto)
Audrey Lemieux (Alma, Que.): pilot for Robbi Weldon
*Marie-Claude Molnar (Lemoyne, Que.)
*Robbi Weldon (Thunder Bay, Ont.)

*denotes past Paralympic Games experience

Expectations:

While Chernove, Gautier and Weldon standout stand out as candidates to earn medals, but this is a deep team. Eleven of the 12-member Canadian contingent has attained at least one  top-three finish this year.

A fair performance target for the 2016 Canadian para-cycling team is to surpass the two medals they earned at both the 2008 and 2012 Games.



Photo credit: Canadian Paralympic Committee and Cycling Canada

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