A Conversation with AB Provincial Coach – Jay Gillespie

Bike Alberta caught up with Alberta Provincial Coach Jay Gillespie at a bike
race in Marquette, Michigan on his way to Road Nationals in St George, Quebec. We had the opportunity to sit down and chat with him about cyclingin Alberta, where it’s at and where it’s going.

BikeAlberta: So Jay, several months into the 2008 race season and there has been lots of progress, can you tell us about it?

Jay Gillespie: Ya, we had some staff turnover in the fall, hired on some young blood and really got to work with what we thought needed improvement in the Alberta race scene. The first on the agenda was the race calendar. I draw lot of comparisons between Alberta and this race here in Marquette. Marquette is somewhat geographically isolated, but the cycling community here puts on an awesome race with a wicked twilight crit course and because of their enthusiasm, they attract quality riders. That’s what we needed to do in Alberta and thus far have succeeded in doing. Work with organizers to help them put on high quality, professional, fun events and the scene and the numbers will take care of themselves.

BA: Any Highlights from the first couple months?

JG: The new handbook was definitely needed, so that was the first highlight. The new youth category in Road has been awesome. Seeing those kids fight it out amongst each other is great and providing a category with age appropriate distances was something that was definitely needed. The return of mountain bike races to the province in a big way is another thing that jumps out at me. We’ve had quite a few quality events thus far this season and I see it building from here. And of course Banff Bike Fest has to jump out as a highlight. A stage race in Banff National Park that was able to go off so well and have such a quality field. It just proves that Alberta is here to stay on the racing scene. I can’t wait until next year.

BA: How about the provincial team, there have also been some changes there as well?

JG: We’ve made some changes to focus the team more on the junior and Espoir aged athletes, aiming particularly at the Canada Summer Games in 2009. We added both road and mountain projects, as well as some Provincial Team racing in Alberta this year. Really what it does is fall in line with just about every other province. In the old system once athletes would move out of the junior age group and into the Espoir ages, there was really nothing for them. What the provincial team should be doing is developing athletes
and giving them the experience that when the time comes to move up to the Senior Ranks, they are ready to take the next step. I want these riders to have as many opportunities as possible to gain experience in different situations. When teams look for new riders, they look at the Alberta Provincial team cause they know that they’re getting a quality experienced rider who is going to be a great asset to their team.

BA: What’s with these new time standards?

JG: What we’ve done is made pursuit time standards mandatory on the track for all the athletes attending provincial projects. This was implemented by the CCA starting last year for Junior World’s selections and we are following their direction. This insures that our riders are ready for meeting the criteria set forth by the CCA, but also increases the minimum fitness level of Alberta riders so that they are capable of finishing in the front 50% of the field. It also helps create multi discipline athletes; we have two tracks in Alberta that are underused and getting the youth onto the track is only going to make create better riders in Alberta. You can be an awesome rider without ever riding the track, but riding the track definitely helps.

BA: More events, great provincial team. So far so good. So where are you off to now?

JG: I’ll be in Bromont for several days with Brayden Macdougall for Paracyling Track Nationals (June 21-25). There is a good possibility he could go to the Para-Olympics this year so i’m very excited about him having
that opportunity. Then I’m off to Junior & Paracycling Road Nationals in St George de Beauce (June 25 – July 1). We have three promising junior athletes (Jessica Kisell, Dustin Andrews and David Larson) so that should be good as well. Then Back to Bromont for a pre-junior world’s camp (July 1-5), where I will be helping select the National Track team for Junior Worlds in Cape Town, South Africa. Along with Ontario Provincial Coaching Director Denise Kelly, Former ABA Sport Coordinator Scott Kelly, and Masseuse Nick Cowan,
i’ll be one of the staff on the CCA Junior Worlds project in Cape Town South Africa (July 6-22). We then come right back to Quebec and it’s instantly off to the Tour de l’Abitibi (July 23-30) with what potentially could be our strongest team in the last few years.

BA: First CCA Project, Are you excited?

JG: Definitely. We have some awesome athletes and great staff, so there’s the opportunity to get great results and gain experience which I’ll be able to put back into my coaching work in Alberta. I’m honoured that my peers respect my abilities and have entrusted me to attend this project.

BA: Congrats and Good luck over the next couple months. We’ll catch up with you along way at some point and see how things are going. Watch out for that Scott Kelly. He’s not to be messed with before he gets a couple cups of coffee in him in the morning.

JG: I’ll keep that in mind. Let me know what he takes in his coffee.

BA: Thanks for doing this and Good luck again.

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