Ottawa Olympian making leap from blades to wheels

When Ottawa Olympian Vincent De Haître began pondering trading his skates for a bike, there was really only one person to ask for advice: Clara Hughes, the Canadian cyclist and speed skater who won multiple Olympic medals in both sports.

Cumberland native Vincent De Haître leaned on multi-medal winner Clara Hughes for advice

Ottawa's Vincent De Haître competed in the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, and in 2014 in Sochi. (Kevin Light/CBC Sports)

When Ottawa Olympian Vincent De Haître began thinking about trading his skates for a bike, there was really only one person to ask for advice.

De Haître called Clara Hughes, the Canadian cyclist and speed skater who won multiple Olympic medals in both sports.

"The biggest piece of advice was to not do both sports at the same time," De Haître said of his conversation with Hughes.

After competing as a long-track speed skater in the last two Winter Games, the Cumberland native has decided to make the leap to track cycling, which takes place on a banked oval inside a velodrome.

"I figured I might as well show people I can actually ride a bike," De Haître told CBC's Ottawa Morning.

He had previously used track cycling to cross-train for skating, and  competed in the sport at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

But until now, skating always came first.

Adapting to new sport

He's had to get used to the idea of leaving his equipment in someone else's hands.

"In skating I usually sharpen my own skates, bring them to competitions and I travel with them," De Haître said.

Now he leaves his bike with the team mechanic, who transports it to competitions.

"I've never travelled this light in the last four years," he said.

His body is starting to adapt to the new sport, too.

While skating and cycling are both endurance sports, skating requires a slower movement, which tends to build more muscle. Cyclists tend to shed that mass.

De Haître will comete in the team pursuit event at the Pan American Track Cycling Championships in Mexico City this week. (Greg Baker/Getty Images)

De Haître said he's lost nearly five kilograms in a month of training on the bike.

"It's just adapting to what the sport demands," he said.

De Haître has his sights set on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but his first international competition is coming up this week at the Pan American Track Cycling Championships in Mexico City, where he'll be racing in the team pursuit. 

He said he'll be calling on his experience in skating to help him prepare mentally for the competition.

"It's the things you learn from sport … being a high performance athlete, and those are things you can apply to anything you do."