Toronto Hustle devo program rebrands as Ignite Junior Cycling for 2023
Michael Barry and Chris Reid join support teamPhoto by: Ignite/Instagram
Kevin Simms has been involved with Canadian junior cycling for two decades and has coached several riders you’ve probably heard about. He worked with the Toronto Hustle squad to develop junior athletes, and that he did, with riders like Gavin Hadfield and Luke Valenti, who now ride with the u-23 team, Premier Tech. Simms coached current national XCO champ, Pete Disera. He also worked with Michael Leonard, who signed with the WorldTour powerhouse, Ineos Grenadiers. He’s been the driving force behind developing several Canadian athletes, and in 2023, that momentum continues.
Canada’s Michael Leonard debuts for Ineos at Etoile de Bessèges
In 2023, he is launching Ignite Junior Cycling, and he’s getting support from some familiar names. Joining Simms will be National Cycling Institute Milton executive director, Chris Reid, former WorldTour rider Michael Barry, as well as board members John Monette and Liam Philley, who have been involved with youth cycling and the NCIM.
Support staff strengthened
Reid and Barry have been active in cycling both as cyclists themselves, and now as mentors and advisors.
“Ignite Junior Development is the latest evolution in what is happening around the Mattamy National Cycling Centre,” Reid explains. “It is going to help catalyze and foster a cycling culture in the region. The last two seasons we really saw a great collaboration with the Toronto Hustle junior program in which several of the NCIM athletes benefited greatly by being able to layer a robust road calendar on top of their track racing and training. Ignite is allowing us to build on this by design.
Reid also believes that racing on the track as well as road can only help the development process.
“There is a common misconception or a false dichotomy drawn in some circles between endurance track and road,” he says “The truth is good bike racers are good bike racers, and if we want to develop good bike racers we need to be giving them diverse racing opportunities across various disciplines consistently and in a systemic thought out manner.”
Developing potential by creating chances
Canada has seen several great results in the junior ranks as of late–Dylan Bibic, Carson Mattern, and Isabella Holmgren have all claimed rainbow jerseys. It shows that if riders are given the chance, they can deliver.
Bella and Ava Holmgren, Maghalie Rochette on an historic day of cyclocross
Canada has always had the potential, Reid says. “We just need to give that talent an opportunity, and this is an exciting step in that direction.
Michael Barry grew up racing and training in Ontario as a junior himself, so he has seen the changes at home. He would go on to race as an amateur in France before returning back to North America, before ultimately signing for a WorldTour team primarily based in Europe. He knows all about the challenges young riders face.
“Providing opportunities for young cyclists to train and race is essential to building the sport. The youth are the foundation. The Mattamy National Cycling Centre has provided the environment and opportunity for kids to develop in a safe and nurturing structure and as a result junior cycling in Canada is now the best it has ever been. Young riders from the MNCC/NCIM have become World Champions and have moved on to professional teams, Barry says. “Kevin Simms, has had one of the best junior programs in Canada over the last few years and several of his riders have graduated to Premier Tech. Combining the strengths of both programs made sense.”
The importance of developing juniors for the pro ranks in 2023
Although Barry hasn’t raced in the pro ranks for over ten years, he still follows the sport and has seen the changes. The current world champion, Remco Evenepoel, just turned 23 in January. Double Tour de France Champ, Tadej Pogačar is 24.
“Professional cycling has shifted over the last few years as young riders are now winning at the highest level and professional teams are now recruiting riders straight out of the junior ranks—a shift from ten years ago. Ignite will provide a clear pathway for young Canadian riders to develop into internationally competitive cyclists,” Barry, who was also a junior national champion on the track, says. “Junior racing in North America is quickly becoming the most interesting and exciting aspect of bike racing as the kids are not only fast but also smart, astute bike racers. The kids are lighting up and winning at the elite level on the track and that will continue onto the road as the season begins. “
2023 Ignite Junior Cycling roster