The XC Bragg Creek Performance Program grooms young mountain bikers for competition
By Tara Nolan
Anyone who has mountain biked at Bragg Creek over the last few years has witnessed the evolution of the trail network—the parking lot itself has room for about 600 cars. That evolution also extends to the youth who live in the area and the efforts being made to introduce them to mountain biking. Many have been nurtured into skilled riders by the XC Bragg Creek (http://www.xcbraggcreek.ca/) recreational mountain biking program, which aims to get kids from ages six through 11 on bikes. Or, it’s possible the pint-sized MTBer who is smoking you on the trails is part of the XC Bragg Creek Performance Team, which was formed a couple of years ago by Dustin Leclerc and Dwayne Ellis.
Both Leclerc and Ellis had been coaching the XC Bragg Creek ski club in the winter, but realized they both wanted to focus on extra training for some of the young mountain bikers who showed exceptional promise in the rec program.
Ellis admits his motivation for being a coach is a bit selfish as he wanted to train his own kids, twin boys and a daughter. He and Leclerc had the same idea to scale up and create a fitness-focused cycling program. They bumped the weekly meet-ups from the one-day-a-week rec program format to three days a week.
In 2018, the second year of the performance program, each lead coach took 15 kids into their group, with Leclerc leading the members most in need of developing skills out of the rec program, and Ellis focusing on extra training for the young mountain bikers to gain fitness for racing. “I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved in two seasons,” says Ellis.
“The main focus is to make sure the kids are challenged and having fun, and growing their abilities and having great adventures with this,“ he explains. “We have a lot of fun and it’s been a really great success in two short years.”
The team attended eight Alberta Cup races this past year, as well as a couple of the larger endurance races in B.C. The club has a strong presence at many of these races—Ellis says that when you look at the start line, their organization is usually represented by a bulk of the kids in the junior categories.
At the 2018 XCO MTB Championships in Canmore, Emily Batty visited the members of the performance team who were there to compete. Ellis met Batty last year after she won national championships and discovered she was very interested in what Ellis and Leclerc were doing with the program.
Going into the season, the two coaches reached out knowing Batty would likely be back to defend her national title, and the arrangement was made to meet the team. “It’s awesome what she’s doing with the Durham Shredders,” says Ellis. “When I talked to her I understood that she has a real desire to see kids in the sport. “
Batty spent several hours with the team on the Sunday after the race. The group had watched videos of Batty competing, so they were familiar with her career track. “The girls went ballistic,” says Ellis, who says that the boys on the team were excited to meet her, too. “Young women in sport need to believe they can compete on the world stage,” he says, adding that such opportunities are vital to the young athletes’ confidence and self-worth. “We really appreciate everything she and Adam have done.”
Meeting any international athlete inspires the kids, motivates them and validates what they’re doing, says Ellis, who emphasizes the positive impact of mentorship programs in a young athlete’s development.
As for the future of the program, Ellis says he sees the performance team growing again in 2019 and is proud that the 140 kilometres of local trails provide an ideal training ground for mountain bikers. “We believe Olympic athletes will be coming from our area in the future because we have the facilities,” he says. Ellis also hopes that the positive scrutiny on their program can be leveraged to help shape the Alberta Bicycle Association and the provincial programs to better speak to younger kids.
Emily Batty is a 2x Canadian Olympic cyclist.
Her career highlights include Bronze at the Mountain Bike World Championships, Gold at the Pan American Games, Silver at the Commonwealth Games, Fourth at the Rio Olympic Games.
Emily’s longtime supporters and the ones that make chasing dreams possible include Trek Bikes, Red Bull, Kindred Financial, Oakley, Lululemon, Pfaff Porsche.