Velodrome is first step in making Canada a cycling powerhouse
Winning at Le Mans after 24 hours and more than 5,000 kilometers of epic sports car racing is a formidable accomplishment.
When you think about it, the winning car often averages almost 215 km/h around the Circuit de la Sarthe, including more than 30 pit stops.
Wearing the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France after 21 stages and 3,479 kilometers is no less spectacular.
Beyond the fact that those two events bring back special memories, I was reminded lately that they have a lot in common.
Someone told me that both are about luck. I thoroughly disagreed and, while realizing that luck is part of everything we do, I suggested there is a lot more to it.
As great as the race distances might sound, they pale in comparison to the kilometers that are logged in order to get to the starting line in the first place. Winning is not a one-day thing, or even a 21-day thing. It is a journey that is years in the making — decades in some instances.
Taking part in an endurance race is testament to personal talent and a commitment to relentless effort. But winning is about a long-term vision and the ability to execute and make it happen.
Leadership, infrastructure, long-term investments, teamwork and strategic preparation are all part of the mix.
If you are wondering whether Audi was just plain lucky to have won Le Mans for 12 of the past 14 races, no way!
Let me put it a different way. Did you know that Great Britain won eight gold medals in cycling events at the 2012 Olympic Games? That represents 45 per cent of the gold medal count for those events, and about eight times more than any other nation.
With a total of 12 cycling medals, Britain won twice as many as the second country in the rankings, Germany — a formidable feat and undoubtedly the result of many years of working on the make-it-happen recipe.
As we all know, making delicious pastries takes the right ingredients, knowledge and experience. But it also takes the right tools. For example, how can you bake without a proper oven?
I often use this analogy to describe the way forward when it comes to engineering success, and it is no different for automotive or bicycle racing.
Great Britain and Australia have shown the world that, for cycling, the oven is called a velodrome. It is an indoor cycling track. When the oven is built and proper programs are put in place, things happen. The sporting results of those two nations speak for themselves.
If 2012 was about the Great Britain cycling team, I have no doubt that 2022 will be about the Canadian one, featuring a formidable team of cycling superstars.
A few weeks ago, about 180 people got to see one of the building blocks of this success. Actually, it is the foundation of that success: figuratively and literally.
On June 7, we gathered for the official groundbreaking ceremony of the Mattamy National Cycling Centre. Located along the Niagara Escarpment in Milton, the $54-million project is what it takes to turn the dream of Canadian yellow jerseys and Olympic medals into reality: a world-class velodrome.
Beyond the accomplishment of raising this enormous amount of money (the campaign is still looking for about $4 million), there is an overwhelming sense of success. Here’s why.
Cycling is trending up in our country, for a variety of reasons — not the least being the obvious health benefits of the sport.
But what I experienced first-hand in Milton a few weeks back is bigger than that: it is a coordinated strategic effort to make something great happen.
All three levels of government have been involved in funding and supporting the project and they were all present to praise and reinforce their commitment to the long-term plan.
Many corporate and individual donors were also present — in fact, the fundraising campaign is run by a group of volunteers, private citizens and cycling enthusiasts.
Just as importantly, the grass-root movement is very powerful and many community members were on hand for the groundbreaking: a great number of supporters who believe Canada is about to take the world cycling stage by storm.
Beyond being a catalyst for medals, the velodrome groundbreaking marked the birth of Canada as a cycling nation.
So get on a bike and become part of that movement.