NORTH Vancouver Olympic mountain biker Lesley Tomlinson is hoping to help a few North Shore kids follow her trail to cycling glory with a new program aimed at introducing talented young athletes to the sport.
Tomlinson is the co-owner TaG Cycling, a bike-based training business run out of the company's studios in North Vancouver and Whistler. This winter the company, thanks to donations from local cycling-mad sponsors, began offering free training sessions to local junior athletes from various sports who are looking for an edge.
"It's free of charge but we want a commitment of you showing up at least six weeks in a row," said Tomlinson, who coaches the kids along with a talented roster of professionals and Olympians such as Andrew Pinfold and Micayla Gatto along with TaG co-owners Gina Grain (hence the name TaG, for Tomlinson and Grain) and Chrissy DeVall.
"(The program) is basically what we used for years to train for the Olympics," said Tomlinson.
The program began in November with a group of 35 cross-country skiers, runners and hockey players aged 13-19. The number has grown through word-of-mouth as the athletes have seen the benefits of the indoor training which mimics different types of cycling including road, track and mountain.
"(The kids) are just such a quick study," said Tomlinson. "They're all used to training for something and most of them are really, really fit, they have really, really good engines."
The program, however, is not there solely to provide some free cross-training for all of these young athletes so that they can go back to being high-level rowers or runners. The TaG crew is hoping to get some kids hooked on cycling and into their outdoor programs this summer.
"What we hope to do is follow up in the spring with those who are interested and create some camps and training opportunities for them outside," she said. "If we have a dozen try out some racing and actually explore the sport, that would be great. That's obviously what the sponsors are hoping for."
Interested athletes would be connected with TaG's partner dEVo, a youth cycling racing team coached by Pinfold.
For Tomlinson, the program offers a chance to set kids up on the same path that she took to a successful cycling career. Tomlinson represented
Canada in both road cycling and mountain biking, winning a Commonwealth Games silver medal on the road in 1994 before switching to the trails for the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. She has also done television commentary for Olympic bike races and done some sporadic coaching. Tomlinson was pursuing a career in marketing when cycling coaching took over her life almost by accident.
"It's certainly different from what I thought I would end up doing," she said with a laugh.
"Almost exactly three years ago there was a group of women right around my age who wanted to get help learning how to ride their bikes properly. From there we quickly grew to helping several hundred in some way, shape or form - either coming to classes or getting coaching or coming out on some of our outdoor programs or camps. I laughingly say to those girls, this is all your fault."
According to their website, TaG will offer the youth training program until April 1. For more information visit tagcycling.com.