After a stellar year, Winnipeg cyclist 'can't wait' for Rio

Winnipeg road cyclist Leah Kirchmann is excited to be heading to the 2016 Rio Olympics after nearly qualifying for the 2012 London Games.

Leah Kirchmann narrowly missed making it to 2012 London Games, now headed to Rio Olympics

Winnipeg road cyclist Leah Kirchmann is headed to the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Cor Vos)

Winnipeg road cyclist Leah Kirchmann is more than excited for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Kirchmann said it was a major blow in 2012 when she narrowly missed qualifying for the London Summer Games but since then, she's used it as a motivator to get better and better.

Ever since, her performance on the race track has improved.

"I worked really hard on becoming better at climbing … and now I'm a very versatile rider," said Kirchmann.

"I definitely took it as an opportunity to step back and really look at where were the gaps in my performance."

The 26-year-old is bound for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil following what was a career-best season. Already this year she finished third in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau.

"I really can't wait," Kirchmann said about the upcoming Summer Games.

"My first Olympics experience so I'm really looking forward to it."

Kirchmann started cycling at 13 after her parents enrolled her in a Winnipeg youth mountain bike program called Kids of Mud.

The program gave her a taste of bike racing in a fun (and muddy) environment, she said.

"That's really where I first got hooked on cycling," said Kirchmann.

Road cycling continues to be an exciting sport for Kirchmann because it offers both a physical and psychological challenge, she said.

"It's not always the strongest rider that wins. You have to be really smart as well and move using your strengths," Kirchmann said.

She leaves for Rio on Sunday and said she's happy to know her biggest supporters — her parents — will be there with her.

"They're the reason that I'm here where I am today," she said. "It's so special to know that they'll be there cheering on the sidelines."