Lyster signs with Belgian race team
After an impressive 2016 racing season, Maple Ridge cyclist Maggie Coles-Lyster has been recruited by a European professional team.
The coming year will be the last in the junior category for the Grade 12 student at Maple Ridge secondary. After graduating, she plans to head to Belgium, with an eye to soon becoming a pro.
While racing in Belgium back in September, as she prepared for the Junior Road World Championships, Coles-Lyster was approached by the team director for the Belgian-based UCI women’s team Lares-Waowdeals. She was offered a contract to ride with the newly formed development team for 2017. She’d never met them before.
“I was shocked. It was pretty surreal,” she said.
There are only six juniors on the development team, and nobody else from Canada, so it is a rare opportunity.
Lares-Waowdeals is a young but growing pro racing team, most of the women aged 19-30, and Coles-Lyster said it appears to have a close-knit, family atmosphere.
She expects racing in Europe to enhance her own skill level.
“That’s really where you need to go, to get the good competition.”
Coles-Lyster will compete in B.C. and Canada while she finishes school, and in July will move to Belgium and race in Europe this summer.
She doesn’t know what the schedule will be like, but there are rules for juniors, like no more than three races per week.
She is expecting to gain a lot of racing experience. It should serve her well as preparation for this year’s road world championships in Norway.
European cyclists are faster, she said, but that’s not the biggest difference. She said in North America, her typical race will put her up against some 20 riders. In Europe, there will be 70 to 100.
She finds racing in a tight, competitive pack is challenging and exhilarating.
“You’re elbowing and pushing against each other – constantly bumping elbows and shoulders and bars,” she explained, adding that is the style of racing she likes.
“There are those little battles within a race.”
Last season, she competed in three different world championships, and won a bronze medal in the omnium at the World Junior Track Championships in Aigle, Switzerland.
She also battled hard for a 14th-place finish at the Junior World Road Championships in Doha, Qatar, and set three new Canadian junior records on the track.
In 2017, she looks forward to returning to two world championship events. In August, she plans to head to China for the Junior Track World Championships, with her sights set on moving up the podium to a gold medal in the Omnium. Then she will compete in Bergen, Norway in September in search of a podium finish in the road race worlds.
Coles-Lyster will start the season with TaG Cycling Race Team, which she will represent at North American races until she can make the full-time transition to Belgium.
“TaG Cycling Race Team was an important part of providing me the support I needed for a successful 2016 season,” she said.
Coles-Lyster is going to take university courses through Thompson Rivers University online and her long-term goal is to become a veterinarian, specializing in marine animals.
“But cycling is my priority – and the Olympics.”
It’s going to be a big venture for the teen, but Coles-Lyster is eager to take this next step.
“I’m just excited to get over there at this point. The racing is so addictive.”