Nigel Ellsay and fellow national team coaches are helping Canada’s top road and track cyclists gear up for competition at the Commonwealth Games July 28-Aug. 8 in Birmingham, England.
Early this year, Cycling Canada hired the Courtenay-raised Ellsay, 28, for the position of national team coach — road lead.
“We are very excited for the Birmingham team,” Ellsay said by email. “Both groups, men and women, have a great chance of medalling. The road course is quite short and flat. Sprint and rouleur-style (all round) riders have been targeted.”
Ellsay is a former professional road cyclist who retired in 2020 after six years of racing. He was a junior national champion in 2012, and later won several medals at national road championships. In 2020, he broke his back in a crash at a race in Portugal.
He is based out of Victoria — one of Cycling Canada’s three hubs — but has already spent 70 days on the road this year, with about the same amount of time planned for the rest of the year.
“Coaching with the national team has been very rewarding,” he said. “As coaches, we give back by helping the athletes and opening their eyes to possibilities they did not know existed. It does not feel like work when you get to work with such passionate and driven individuals.”
As a coach, Ellsay tries to ride with his athletes as much as possible. This helps to pick up on their on-bike strengths and weaknesses, and enables better conversations.
Riley Pickrell of Victoria is one of five men on the Canadian cycling team that will compete in road events at the Games. Six women will compete in road racing.
The Commonwealth Games are viewed as a stepping stone/development opportunity for athletes and coaches working towards the Olympics and Paralympics, says a Cycling Canada news release.