Qualifying for the world championships in men's track cycling is tough enough. Paying for it is sometimes just as challenging.
Ask Canada's men's endurance team, which on Wednesday competed at its first world championships since 1977. It's shown promise this season, but without podium finishes funding is scarce, according to team member Ed Veal.
"We've come a long way but we haven't won medals," Veal told CBC Sports. "We're not in that position yet to be a contender at the Olympics. So the whole program is lacking funds."
The team received $140,000 from Cycling Canada at the start of the season, part of Own the Podium funding contributions.
That sum covered the team's program, which includes training, camps and competitions (including World Cups.) But the remaining cost of the season, about $60,000, was covered by sponsors or the athletes themselves. That portion includes equipment, coaching, event track rental costs and sport science and medicine staff support.
By the time the team qualified for worlds, in London, England, all the money for their season was spent.
Cost of competing
While on the one hand the team celebrated qualifying, Veal and teammates Adam Jamieson, Sean Mackinnon, Remi Pelletier-Roy and Aiden Caves found the $15,000 needed to get there somewhat daunting.
"It was a dream for the season," said Veal, of Queensville, Ont. "I think we exceeded everyone's expectations. But then we were told there was going to be a levee of $2,700 per athlete and that's tough because all of us are amateurs" — they get no salary for competing.
"Once we got here and we did well in all those World Cups, we were saying, ''How are we going to pay for all of this?'"
Veal, 39, works full-time as a personal trainer and coach for his own business, Real Deal Racing, and has found ways to fund many of his cycling opportunities. He had done successful crowd-funding projects before, but worried about asking too much from his friends and family.
"I had a pretty successful GoFundMe campaign last year," said Veal. "I was a little bit hesitant to go back to all the same people who had been so generous in the past.
"But I thought if we did it as a team we could touch all our friends and family. Get 25 dollars here, 50 dollars there, and see if we can make it happen."
The response was overwhelming. The team had well over 124 individual donors and their campaign was shared 500 times. They were less than $2,000 away from their goal when Mountain Equipment Co-op, the Canadian outdoor retailer, contacted them saying they'd like to bridge the gap. Goal met: $15,000.
Canada surges forward
Making the world championships is proof the men's team has made strides.
"What we've been doing in practice has all of us extremely excited about what's going to happen," Veal said before the team raced on Wednesday morning. "It is unbelievable[how far men's cycling in Canada has come.]
"I think even the people here, the staff and everything, our program heads, exceeded all expectations. We're a year ahead of where they targeted. So it's very cool."
Ultimately, the team finished 12th in the team pursuit event on Wednesday, just two spots away from their goal of a top 10 finish. Whether or not Rio is in the cards for the men's endurance team is still up in the air. But Veal is confident Canadian men's endurance cycling will get to the Games soon.
"As far as making it to Tokyo, the way the progression's been going, I think that's a lock," said Veal.
"But you want to be competitive. So the idea for the next Games won't be just getting there, it will be being in contention for a medal."