BELGIUM – Life of an elite Canadian athlete during the pandemic is a game of wait and see.
Canmore road cycling star Sara Poidevin’s season starts next week in Europe with back-to-back UCI Women’s World Tour races, but up until a few weeks ago, the Olympic non-travelling alternate and her team were "figuring out what races we get as we go."
“Sometimes trips [overseas] come down to the last minute,” said the soon-to-be 25-year-old Rally Cycling athlete. “The trickiest thing for racing is, especially for a team like ours who’s in a funny middle ground where we’re not fully based in Europe, but we do have the capacity to do those trips, is it’s just securing race invitations.”
Across the board, high-level Canadians competing during the COVID-19 era have been hard pressed with races nonexistent domestically and getting to participate overseas being easier said than done. In fact, Poidevin's team is starting a little late into the season, just over a month behind schedule.
Competitions during COVID has been a bitterly tough reality, but Poidevin feels fortunate for the chance to race in 2021 starting at the famous La Flèche Wallonne Feminine on April 21 in Belgium.
In the kick-off to her first block of the season, the 130-km Belgium race is part of the UCI Women’s World Tour, the elite female road cycling series, which is a level the Canmore road warrior has been accustomed to since she was a teenager.
Starting out as a mountain biker in Canmore, Poidevin switched to road cycling in 2013 and quickly rose in the sport to become one of the top young riders in the world by her early 20s.
The five-week stint overseas will see Poidevin competing in two other world tours – once more in Belgium at the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, a 141-km route, on April 25, and then at the Vuelta Asturias Julio Alvarez Mendo, a 185-km course in the mountainous part of northern Spain from April 30 to May 2.
The team is still working out last minute details for additional competitions in May.
Last year, Poidevin was selected as a Cycling Canada's non-travelling alternate for the 2021 Summer Olympics, tentatively scheduled to start in July in Tokyo, Japan, but the odds of her representing Canada this year are low.
Instead, when she can race, Poidevin is focusing on what she can control, which is development and becoming a better, more confident racer.
Overall, major goals of the rising star this season are to become more competitive at a higher level. Part of that, she said, will be exercising her strategic game plans on the UCI circuit.
"You can tell the experienced riders who have raced it 10 times [and] know every inch of the course versus someone who's new [and] is trying to wrap their brain around 150-kilometres of the course, while also being at a high physical exertion," said Poidevin.
"Obviously, you need a lot of physical fitness and strength, but so much of it is learning how to be a smart racer, learning the tactics, learning the race course, learning more about our competitors, and it all comes through practice."