Jessica Reynolds tests equipment in the Kirsten Wind Tunnel at the University of Washington.

Jessica Reynolds tests equipment in the Kirsten Wind Tunnel at the University of Washington.

Jessica Reynolds on track to success

Comox Valley road and track cyclist racing at high level of competition

Have bike, will travel. And travel. And travel.

That’s the demanding schedule of Comox Valley road and track racing cyclist Jessica Reynolds, whose busy itinerary includes training in Victoria and competing throughout the Pacific Northwest.

It’s demanding, it’s expensive and it requires a delicate balancing act between school and cycling. All of which the 16-year-old athlete has been handling with finesse – and success.

“I train 10-12 hours every week,” she says. “There’s usually a race every couple of weekends, plus training races once every week.”

Her winter schedule is only slightly less demanding, as she dedicates four or five days a week to cross-country skiing with the Strathcona Nordics.

But at least that is done locally. Jessica’s dad Larry notes that attending a race in Washington costs from $750 to $1,000 for the weekend.

Helping to defray that cost is a pair of $500 bursaries (Pacific Sport Athletic and Woodgrove Pines Clinic) that Reynolds’ talents have earned her for the past two years.

“It’s nice to get the bursaries. They help with travel expenses. When I won last year I bought a new bike. I think I’m just going to save it this year,” Reynolds said.

While Larry notes there is not much funding available for Canadian athletes, he says Jessica’s selection to the Dr. Walker Sports Chiropractor Cycling Team in Victoria has been a big help.

“It’s semi-professional, not community based,” Larry said. “They cover her race costs and kit costs, clothing and everything.”

Jessica is one of 10 elite youth cyclists (ages 15 to 21) from B.C. selected to the team.

The regular trips to Victoria also roll up the kilometres on the family vehicle’s odometer, but the high-calibre coaching makes it worthwhile.

A member of the Cycling BC High Performance Provincial Road and Track Cycling Teams, Reynolds is a Grade 10 honour roll student at Navigate powered by NIDES, and Larry says the school has made it possible for his daughter to maintain a balance between high-performance schooling and high-performance training.

As an example, Larry notes on a recent Friday Jessica had to go to Vancouver for a Cycling BC High Performance team photo.

“We had to jump on a ferry and got back around 12:30 Saturday morning. Jess was reading Romeo and Juliet the whole way there and back.

“(Navigate) is a great program. It makes it possible for Jessica to do the two sports while going to school. Jess is now concentrating on track more than road, and that means a lot of travel (to Victoria), leaving here in the afternoons. She could never do it if she was in school.”

Neither he nor Jessica’s mother, Shannon, were competitive cyclists, so their daughter is not following in their footsteps. But feet do play a big (or is it small?) role in her success.

“The family myth is that Jess’ interest in cycle racing has something to do with a ‘magical’ pair of size 37 (5) red leather Sidi clip-in cycling shoes. I saw them on sale at a cycling shop in Edmonton … discounted by 75 per cent … no doubt due to their extremely small size.

“Jess was only 10 years old and had just started in the sport. We didn’t want to spend a lot on the sport at that time, but being an indulgent father I bought them anyway, thinking it was a small investment,” Larry recalls. “Well, clip-in shoes take a while to master, so Jess practised getting in, and more importantly out, of them in a soft grassy field, which made the crash landings a bit softer. Eventually she mastered the skill and went on to wear the shoes for years.”

e could trace our ever-increasing cycling bill to its roots in a pair of ‘inexpensive’ red shoes! Incidentally, the shoes were recently retired when it was discovered that they were actually too large for Jess –  she now wears size 36,” Larry recounted.

Reynolds began racing when her family moved to the Comox Valley, first with the C.V. Cycle Club then the Vancouver Island Performance Youth Road Cycling (VIPYRS) Team.

When she was 14 she won both the B.C. track and road championships. Her 2014 road racing accomplishments included winning the U17 Female category of the Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race (largest stage race in the Pacific Northwest) and sweeping all U17 events at the Robert Cameron Law Series Race in Victoria.

On the track, she finished first in the U17 Washington State Track Championship, second in the BC Premiere Series and third at the BC Provincial Championships.

She also had an exciting season in team track cycling, winning the BC Provincial Team Sprint Championship and the Washington State Team Sprint Championship, and ending her season by finishing third in Team Pursuit and fourth in Team Sprint at the Canadian National Track Cycling Championships.

Reynolds’ travels have led to meeting interesting people and taking part in interesting activities.

Among the people are her coaches, the first being Wayne Mackenzie in Edmonton who was reunited with Jessica when he moved to Black Creek and opened his Designer Goldsmith business in Courtenay.

Also in Edmonton was Lori-Ann Muenzer, who won Canada’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in cycling at the 2004 Games in Athens.

In Victoria, Kurt Innes (who now coaches Jessica’s 10-year-old sister Lauren) mentored Jessica. Innes is a former Olympian (Barcelona) and past Olympic coach who is now Director of Talent Development for the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific.

Her current coach is Houshang Amiri of the Pacific Cycling Centre in Victoria, who has a 37-year career as international competitor and coach.

Another valuable resource is Gillian Carleton, a member of the Canadian bronze medal pursuit team at the 2012 London Olympics, who Jessica met in Victoria a few years ago and who keeps in touch.

One memorable experience came last February when one of her sponsors invited her to test some equipment at the Kirsten Wind Tunnel at the University of Washington.

The tunnel has two sets of 14’,9” diameter, seven-bladed propellers that can move air up to 320 km/h. Unfortunately, the propellers were sucking frigid February air into the tunnel. “It was cold,” Reynolds recalls with a laugh.

Making her training more comfortable – and high-tech – are the “power pedals” she has on her bike that collects data (heart rate, cadence, etc.) and sends it to Amiri in Victoria.

“He puts it in a program so he can tell if I’m doing the right amount of training … or not. I do that every Sunday,” Reynolds says.

Looking ahead, the young athlete wants “to take (cycling) as high as I can while maintaining school.”

That will no doubt mean reading more Shakespeare in the family vehicle while travelling to train and race. And, undoubtedly, no more wind tunnel testing in February.