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North Van teen races her way to cyclo-cross world junior championships

Madeleine Pollock will race for Team Canada at the Cyclo-cross Junior World Championships Feb. 4 in the Netherlands

A North Vancouver teen with deep ties to the North Shore cycling community has pedalled her way to the junior world championships for cyclo-cross.

You may know Madeleine Pollock as an employee at Obsession: Bikes, the popular shop on Lonsdale Avenue. But she doesn’t just sell bikes, she races them too. Fast.

On Feb. 4, Pollock will pull on a Maple Leaf jersey to represent Canada at the 2023 UCI Cyclo-cross Junior World Championships in the Netherlands. It’ll be her first time racing at a world championships, an impressive feat for the 17-year-old for many reasons, including the fact that she suffered a serious concussion less than a year ago that knocked her off her bike for months.

Pollock doesn’t remember exactly what happened in the fall she took while training on the North Shore’s famous mountain biking trails, she just knows how long it took to recover from the crash.

“I didn’t really get back to normal for four or five months,” she said. “It took me a really long time to recover. So to be here [preparing for worlds], less than a year later, it’s been incredible. I learned a lot of resilience, and what hard work does for you. I had to work hard to actually get better and to be able to train again and go to school again. That was definitely my biggest challenge this year. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before – I wouldn’t recommend it.”

She’s made it all the way back, though, and she wants to thank the many members of the North Shore cycling community who helped her get here.

Pollock got into cyclo-cross at age 12 through a loaner bike program run by the Developmental Escape Velocity Organization (DEVO) team, racing her loaner bike on the Lower Mainland Cyclo-cross Series. She is also supported by Ride Like A Girl, a program with strong North Shore ties that pairs up-and-coming female cyclists with experienced mentors.

Her co-workers at Obsession help keep her bikes in top condition, and she also races with the mountain bike team at Ecole Handsworth Secondary.

“DEVO and the bike community and the race scene has been super supportive,” Pollock said. “I have a super long list of people I could thank. It’s just that the North Shore community, even though it is a big community, it still feels like a small little world where everyone can support each other.”

Pollock thrived in multiple cycling disciplines, winning provincial championships in mountain biking and cyclo-cross, and finishing first in the U19 female category, third overall female, in the Whistler Gran Fondo road race.

Cyclo-cross, however, is the event she’s hit the hardest lately, spending time in Europe over the Christmas break to compete against some of the world’s best racers. For those not familiar with cyclo-cross, it’s a discipline that combines mountain biking and road racing, with a bit of cross-country running thrown in. Racers compete on dirt courses using bikes similar to road bikes but with bigger tires. Courses include portions that are unrideable, forcing racers to go on foot while carrying their bikes.

“It’s kind of a crazy sport,” said Pollock, adding that huge crowds came out to watch some of the races she competed in over in Europe, where the sport has a huge following.

“There were like 50,000 fans on the side of the course,” she said. “I really love the atmosphere of cyclo-cross…. It’s fun all the time. It’s really a spectator sport.”

Whatever happens at worlds, Pollock said she is focused on continuing on in cycling to achieve her “dream goal” of competing for Canada in the Olympics, although that would need to be in road cycling or mountain biking as cyclo-cross is not yet an Olympic event. She’s also working towards a career as a professional cyclist.

“It would be really cool to be paid to ride bikes, which definitely takes some time and a certain calibre of racing,” she said. “But I’m slowly working my way up there.”

The world championship races will be live-streamed on FloBikes and Global Cycling Network+.

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