Sports

Milton velodrome changes future of Cycling Canada

Just three months after the Pan Am Games, Canadian cyclists say the Mattamy National Cycling Centre has already changed the landscape of their sport.

Cyclists say Pan Am legacy facility will propel sport to new heights

Cyclist Hugo Barrette won three medals at the 2015 Pan Am Games, which took place at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre. Barrette credits the legacy facility as a turning point in Canadian cycling. (Geoff Robins/Getty Images)

The Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton, Ont., has already lived up to its reputation as a Pan Am legacy facility, according to Canadian cyclists.

"I still can't get over the fact that I'm actually in a facility such as this in Canada," cyclist Hugo Barrette told CBC Sports on Wednesday, the first day of the Canadian track cycling championships. 

"At one point I gave up the idea of having an internationally recognized velodrome like this in my career," he said. "But it's a real game changer."

Since the opening of the high-performance facility, the Pan Am triple medallist was able to move back to Canada from California, where he had spent four years training. 

Canadians can now train at home

Before the Milton velodrome opened in January, there was no Olympic-sized covered cycling track in the country.

Canada has two other covered velodromes, in Burnaby B.C., and London, Ont., and an Olympic-sized velodrome in Bromont, Que. However, neither of the former, at 250 metres, are Olympic sized, and the latter is uncovered, leaving athletes subject to bad weather in only two to three months of prime training season.

Instead, Canadian cyclists travelled to the United States or Europe to find sufficient weather and facilities. 

"I've been living in Los Angeles ... for four years so that I could train," Barrette said. "So that's a lot of sacrifice. A lot mentally."

The 24-year-old sprinter now lives in Quebec, but will spend the Olympic year training in Milton. Barrette says having all the resources and training staff at his fingertips has made the biggest impact on his career.

"We couldn't provide a structure like we have right now because that would have required all our staff to move to California," said Barrette. 

"It's possible to do it by yourself, but when you have that support, not only physically through therapy, but psychologically knowing all these people are there to back you up, it eases up the pressure."

Furthermore, Canadian cyclists are no longer guests having to pay for track time. In Milton, Cycling Canada is the priority and creates its own training schedule. 

Facility changed future of Cycling Canada

Paralympic cyclist Jaye Milley echoes Barrette's statements, saying the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games changed the face of cycling in Canada, with the new facility being a mecca for the sport.

"Let's put it this way: we have a very successful Paralympic and able-bodied track cycling team," Milley said. "And up until last year, that has been without a high level, high performance track on our home turf. 

"Now that we have this track on home soil, I think this is going to astronomically increase the success we're already having. I think it's almost like throwing gasoline into an almost already raging fire."

In addition to changing the landscape for current cyclists, Milley says the Mattamy National Cycling Centre will increase the opportunities for future cyclists.

"Now we can have some really solid grassroots programs."

Barrette agrees the facility has inspired an infrastructure that can teach Canadian youth how to immediately cycle the right way.

"I think the biggest change in Canada is going to be the development side of it," he said.

"It's going to grow so much."

Barrette and Milley are among the record-high 222 athletes competing at the Canadian national track championships being held at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre Oct. 7-11.

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