CALGARY, ALTA. (July 3, 2012) — Erin Mielzynski is a lot more comfortable strapping on skis than riding on two wheels, but the first Canadian to win a slalom World Cup since 1971 will be doing her best to represent the Canadian Alpine Ski Team at the second annual Gran Fondo Highwood Pass bike race this weekend.
The 22-year-old from Guelph, Ont., admits to being new to the sport of road biking, but as a member of the young and talented Canadian women’s technical ski team, she’s benefitted from a dryland program that has included weekly trips to the Glenmore Velodrome in Calgary, Alta., over the past two summers.
On Saturday, Mielzynski will join hundreds of other riders, from elite to recreational cyclists, taking part in the Italian-style 147-kilometre ride through the heart of the Rockies over the highest road pass in Canada. A portion of proceeds from the event will go towards Alpine Canada’s ski programs.
“Biking is a new thing for me,” said Mielzynski, who made history when she won gold in Ofterschwang, Germany, earlier this year. “When I made the team (in 2008) it was kind of my first time being on the bike. I had a scary experience – I fell a bit and it was not all that fun – but the next time I did a lot of biking I ended up really liking it.
“The Gran Fondo Highwood Pass is a beautiful race. I really like that it’s rolling and has a lot of hills. It’s challenging but after you finish a race like that, you can say, ‘I did that.’ ”
World Cup skiers’ off-season training programs typically involve a lot of time in the gym, lifting weights and working on plyometrics. But the Canadian women’s team, led by head conditioning coach Matt Jordan, have kept things interesting the past few summers with activities including boxing, biking and most recently, diving off a 10-metre platform at a pool in Calgary – where the team is centralized in the summer.
“We’ve been diving in order to learn how to conquer our fears and deal with stressful situations,” Mielzynski said. “We also learn body awareness, timing and spacial awareness. It keeps us excited and fresh for dryland.
“Our sessions at the velodrome (a steeply sloped oval track in Calgary) have been really good training for us. I’ve been doing a lot of intervals on the bike this summer – short time periods where you have to work really hard – kind of like skiing.”
Mielzynski took part in the 2011 Gran Fondo Highwood Pass alongside several of her teammates, including Marie-Michèle Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que.
“It was the first bike race I’d ever entered,” said Mielzynski, who plans to ride alongside her boyfriend Kevin this weekend. “It was really interesting being in the peloton. You have to be smart about it, too. I was talking to someone and kept dropping back. Once you lose the peloton, you are by yourself.”
Mielzynski is in superb shape after a few months of intense training and feels her sessions at the velodrome have prepared her well for this weekend’s ride, which starts in Longview, Alta., and finishes at the Stoney Nakoda Resort near Morley, Alta. With the first major ski camp of the year looming on the horizon, Mielzynski isn’t sure if she’ll ride the entire 147-kilometre course, which features an elevation gain of approximately 2,000 metres, but she hopes to complete most of it.
“I’m new to biking so it challenges me. It’s hard for me to stay on a bike for a long period of time,” Mielzynski said. “The velodrome is definitely challenging if you are doing sprints. There’s so much you have to pay attention to. You have to make sure you are starting in the right lane and looking at the people ahead of you. You are standing up and racing people. It’s more like skiing than other forms of dryland.”
The women’s team is due to leave for a ski camp in Zermatt, Switzerland, next week. After claiming her first career World Cup podium last season, Mielzynski wants to take another big step forward in 2012-13 – and she’s hoping a summer of hard training will set her up for more success.
“I’m looking forward to Zermatt – it will be nice to see some snow as well!” Mielzynski said. “I definitely feel strong. I think I came into this summer stronger than last summer and built on top of that, both mentally and physically.
“As a team, we are all pushing each other but there’s no rivalries. Everyone brings something to the team. Everyone’s good at something.”
Ski racing fans can register for the Gran Fondo Highwood Pass at http://granfondohighwoodpass.com/ and take advantage of a special 20 per cent registration discount by entering the promo code ACAMEMBERGF2012.
“We’re thrilled to have Erin Mielzynski and other members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team join us for the Gran Fondo Highwood Pass,” said Jonathan McLeod, manager of marketing and communications for the event organizer, TransRockies Inc. “With a fully supported course and the option to ride casually or race, the Gran Fondo format is approachable for athletes of all abilities. Simply put, the Gran Fondo is a great way to stay in shape and experience an epic ride over Canada’s highest paved pass.”
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