This is the 20th in our series of stories celebrating the outstanding accomplishments of youth in our community. These inspirational young adults are enriching our lives with their passion and commitment to the betterment of society.
In 1929 the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy put forth the notion that each and every person is only six degrees of separation from one another. But anyone who has lived in Victoria for a few years knows that it’s more like one degree of separation, or two degrees at most, within our community. And in the case of Erin, it is no different.
I first met Erin when she was three years old. She was a year younger than my son and both were attending Lambrick Park Preschool. Twenty years earlier, her father and I played rugby together at UVic and I was a TA for his Calculus class. While I periodically saw her father on the Tyndall turf coaching his son’s (and Erin’s twin brother’s) soccer team, I had no idea what Erin had been up to since preschool. So you can imagine my surprise when I learned on social media that the Erin Attwell recently won the overall General Classification cycling Yellow Jersey and Gold Medal at the Tour de la Rèleve de Rimouski.
Erin was born in Victoria and attended Frank Hobbs Elementary School from kindergarten to Grade 5. In Grade six she enrolled in Maria Montessori Academy where she is currently entering Grade 11. Maria Montessori Academy is a small school with 300 students from kindergarten to Grade 12. Erin loves the small school and sense of community there. She describes it as a supportive learning environment with self-directed learning and a focus on independence. Students in grades 9 through 12 work together on projects in a common area. Her grade 10 class had 10 students and there were 7 students in the grad class of 2015. The Montessori philosophy teaches students to manage their own community and teachers facilitate learning through coaching and mentoring. Erin notes that there is no bullying at the school and learning is a very positive experience where students learn self-discipline and how to work together.
From a very young age, Erin learned to ride a bike. Her Dad, a competitive cycling racer himself, got her on a bike “as soon as I could walk” and it was the beginning of her passion for cycling. She remembers having so much fun on rides with her Dad and many great times mountain biking at Hartland, a popular riding area at Mount Work Regional Park in Victoria.
Less than a year ago, Erin began cycling competitively when she joined the youth program of Tripleshot Cycling Club. She has done remarkably well in competition. As a rookie cyclist and member of the Tripleshot development team, Erin recently attended the Canadian National Junior (racing “up” in the age category U19 as a U17) Championship followed by the Tour de la Rèleve de Rimouski. At the Global Relay Canadian National Junior Cycling Championships, Erin won bronze in the individual time trial over a very difficult hilly course. Erin then went on to win 4th place in both the Road Race and the Criterium (a criterium is a bike race held on a short course, often run on closed-off city streets). This was not Erin’s first national experience as she won silver in the omnium at the Canadian Cycling’s national junior track championship in November 2014 in Burnaby, BC.
After the excitement of nationals, Erin went on to Rimouski, Quebec for the 5 stage Rimouski Internationale Tour de la Releve, where she was a guest rider with ‘Team NCCH p/b DEC Express’ coached by Rick Lee. Erin was on the Cadet team of four young ladies who won silver in the Team Time Trial. Erin went on to win the first long 78 km race, the 15 km Individual Time Trial, the 35 km Criterium and a brutally hilly and windy 76 km Road Race – these impressive wins gave Erin the overall General Classification Yellow Jersey and Gold Medal.
Next on Erin’s agenda is racing against adult women at BC Superweek, followed by the Rapha Pacific Northwest Juniors Classic Stage Race in Elma Washington, then onto the Western Canada Summer Games in Wood Buffalo, Alberta as a member of Team BC. Her season will continue with Track Provincials in Victoria in August and then Nationals in October at the newly-built Pan-Am velodrome in Milton, Ontario.
All this achievement has required a high dedication to training and considerable sacrifice. As Erin says, “doing something you love, you make sacrifices”. Her goal is to represent Canada at the World Championships and the Olympics. She says that her determination as a competitor has been inspired by her father. Others who have inspired and supported Erin are her personal coach Lister Farrar who has taught her to “never give up” and Peter Lawless, an accomplished lawyer and coach, who has been appointed Team Canada’s Ombudsperson for the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Erin has also received inspiration from Pro Rider Mical Dyck, who likes to ride with and mentor junior riders. Mical has been a role model for many and champions equity for girls and women in sport. Erin has recognized that the sport of cycling does not provide equal opportunities for males and females – and she believes (as do we) that needs to change. There are fewer opportunities for women and the prize money for winning a race is substantially less (sometimes 50% less than prizes for male winners). Erin will champion and support the Ride Like a Girl initiative to get more women and girls into mountain biking so they can experience the joy of the sport.
Starting in September, Erin is very excited to be entering the prestigious and highly competitive Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE) program. PISE’s mission is to ‘enhance the development of sport and physical activity excellence through a partnership approach delivering world class programs, education, innovation and facilities’. She will spend half-days at PISE four days a week, including 2.5 hours daily in the gym. The program at PISE is for athletes in all range of sports, where cross training and nutrition are emphasized. PISE has a teacher on site to assist students with their academic studies. Speaking of academics, Erin loves science and wants to enter the medical field to become a physician (like her father).
Erin is an incredibly impressive young woman with a brilliant future ahead of her. She has the determination and drive necessary to succeed at the highest level. Her enthusiasm for the sport and dedication to ensure that girls and women are provided with equal opportunities bode well for the future of women’s cycling in Canada. Erin will make a terrific mentor herself someday and young girls will look up to her as an exceptional role model. She is mature beyond her years and we wish her every success on her journey.
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