West Vancouver teenager Cameron Fitzmaurice has ridden the sloped curves of the velodrome all the way to a pair of national junior titles and a berth in the UCI Junior World Championships.
The Sentinel secondary Grade 12 student was an aspiring cross-country skier when he was swept up by the North Vancouver-based TaG cycling program aimed at putting talented local athletes on a fast track to success in the cycling world.
Fitzmaurice won junior national titles in the points race and the scratch race at the Canadian Track Championships held earlier this month in Milton, Ont. The scratch race is a simple 10 kilometre ride on the velodrome track, winner take all. The junior championship scratch race came down to a sprint between Fitzmaurice and John Wilcox, another TaG rider from Victoria.
“It was fun,” Fitzmaurice said of racing his friend for a national title. “I was below and he was trying to come around me – and coming around is harder because you have to go a bit farther. He wasn’t quite able to come around. … It came down to a sprint in the end. It was just a dash for the line. That one was pretty close.”
The points race is a more complicated event that involves several sprints throughout one long ride with racers earning points for winning the sprints.
“I was tied for the majority of the race until the guy who was tied with me crashed out,” Fitzmaurice said about his points win. “That was sort of sad.”
Fitzmaurice also won silver in the kilo – a one-kilometre time trial on the track – and bronze in the individual pursuit. The pursuit was a bittersweet event as his qualifying time put him into the consolation final rather than the gold-medal dual, but it was also fast enough to meet the qualification standard for the world championships.
“My main goal was to just go faster than the time standard, and I went two seconds faster than it so I was happy with that,” he said. “That was exciting, but it was mixed emotions because I also knew I wasn’t going to be in the A final in that race.”
The strategy of bike racing is one of the things that drew him into the sport in the first place, said Fitzmaurice, adding that individual pursuit is not one of his favourites.
“It’s just going as hard as you can for three minutes. It’s not the most fun event.”
It did, however, earn him a trip to the world championships scheduled for July 20-24 in Switzerland. It’ll be the first time in his career that he’s competed internationally for Team Canada.
“I’m excited for the kit, the clothing,” he said with a laugh. “It’ll be interesting racing against the best juniors in the world. I’m excited to see what it’s like.”
It’s been quite a ride for the young rider who just a few years ago was focused on his cross-country ski career. The TaG program, co-founded by North Vancouver Olympian Lesley Tomlinson, was created to give athletes like Fitzmaurice a chance to try cycling as a cross-training sport or to zoom right into cycling competitions if the fit is right. Fitzmaurice and a few friends went to a TaG session and pretty soon he was hooked.
“Without TaG I probably wouldn’t be racing at all,” he said. “They helped give us these opportunities to go out to nationals and race to qualify for the big events like worlds.”
Last year he skied and biked but this year he put away the wax to focus solely on cycling. The two sports have some interesting similarities and differences, he said.
“They’re similar in that they’re both really intense training – basically all fitness without much skill,” he said with a laugh. “Skiing involves technique but you have no tactics while you’re racing, whereas biking is more tactical and less technique. … I really enjoy trying to be able to outsmart people on the bike.”
He’s not in completely new territory either – Fitzmaurice is drafting off his father Mike who was a CAT 1 level cyclist, having raced in top North American events such as the Gastown Grand Prix.
“He was my biggest training partner until recently,” said Cam, adding that he’s finally edging past his pops in the speed department. Both won their age categories at last year’s GranFondo Whistler, with Cam winning the junior title and Mike claiming the 60-69 age group – “the old men category,” Cam says with a laugh. Remarkably Cam and Mike rode completely separate races with different start times yet posted finishing times that were less than eight minutes apart for the 122-kilometre course.
Cam said his racing has hit a new gear since he hooked up with Richard Wooles, a North Vancouver-based coach who has worked with some of the best cyclists in the world.
“He’s awesome,” said Cam. “It’s crazy how much I’ve learned in the short couple of months that he’s been coaching me. His knowledge is insane about all aspects of cycling.”
TaG teammates Maggie Coles-Lyster of Maple Ridge, Tyler Davies of Vancouver and Wilcox also earned berths in the world junior championships.