Former Courtenay pro cyclist Nigel Ellsay never thought his coaching career would start at the age of 27. But a scary fall at the Tour of Portugal in September 2020 resulted in two bars and eight bolts in his spine and the end of his road racing career.
“Those are the risks of cycling and we all know that,” he said.
But another door opened when Ellsay was named the new Canada national team road cycling coach this week. He will be based in Victoria.
“We have great depth in our junior and under-23 groups and I want to help those groups develop as we try to produce the next one [Tokyo Olympics fifth-place] Mike Woods,’ Ellsay said.
“I hope that my own experience can help these young drivers. I did a bit of coaching privately, even while driving professionally, and it was really fun.”
Ellsay grew up in the Comox Valley, which because of Mount Washington is known for producing mountain bikers like Geoff Kabush and Kiara Bisaro for the Summer Olympics and gold medalist freestyle skier Cassie Sharpe for the Winter Olympics.
“I stayed on the road and focused on that,” said Ellsay, who competed with the Silver then Rally professional teams for a total of six years.
The islander, a graduate of Mark Isfeld Secondary, said he takes a holistic approach to the sport. “You’re going to be an athlete for a little moment in your life,” he said. “That’s why it’s just as important to develop our young riders into great people who will do great things in so many areas and professions beyond cycling.”
Ellsay described his coaching style as “collaborative”.
It’s this enlightened approach, along with his experience, that caught Cycling Canada’s attention.
“Nigel has ridden throughout North America and Europe and has represented Canada on numerous occasions,” Cycling Canada head coach Dan Proulx said in a statement.
“We are very excited that he will build on that experience in this new role and help us bring the next generation of champions onto the world stage.”
The big events this year are the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 and the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, Australia.