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Cyclist Evan Russell is one to watch as he leaves Canada to compete in Europe

Cyclist Evan Russell is one to watch as he leaves Canada to compete in Europe
Courtesy: Evan and Charles Russell

VICTORIA, British Columbia — Evan Russell, 20, is a road cyclist to watch. At the 2021 Provincial Road Race Championships in Mission, British Columbia, he placed third overall in the Elite Men’s race, and first under 23 (U23). A month later, at the Canadian Road Championships in Beauce, Québec, he placed 17th in the Elite Men’s race, and sixth U23.

These excellent results followed two turbulent years. Evan competed in one of 2020’s only races—the Ronde de l’Isard, in France. “I ended up crashing and breaking my bike on the first stage,” Evan said, and was unable to continue. Disheartened, he stopped training. But he got back on his bike and “fell in love with it again,” training for only a few months to compete with, and place well against, Canada’s top cyclists.

Courtesy: Evan and Charles Russell

This February, Evan is heading to Germany to join Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Continental Team SKS Sauerland NRW. This is “a large step,” and “very exciting,” Evan said, and brings him within sprinting distance of turning pro. He looks forward to competing around Europe, and in the Tour of Japan.

Charles, Evan’s dad, introduced him to cycling. “I raced when I was a kid, and I didn’t have nearly Evan’s ability,” Charles said, but he turned his passion into a career in the manufacturing side of the industry. Family bike rides led Evan to fall in love with the sport. He joined DEVO (the cycling team, not the band) at age 12, and moved to TaG Race Team six years ago.

Despite his talents, Evan faced a steeper climb than most: “I was under five feet tall for a long time,” Evan said, “I would always finish at the back of the bunch.” But his dad’s friend and former teammate, John Van der Vliet, encouraged him to, “go for the holeshot,” (or get ahead of competitors where a track narrows, making it difficult for others to pass). Afterwards, “I had a great race, and I finished in the bunch.” It even became a signature move: “Evan’s holeshot.”

Though he has grown, Evan’s success still lies in strategy: “He has this intuition in a race—when to go and when not to go,” Charles said, “For him to win a race, it was more than just power or strength—he had to win it by outsmarting everybody.”

Evan credits his development to renowned coach Richard Wooles. Through structured training, Richard helped Evan become a stronger rider, to back up his aggressive racing style. Richard’s faith in Evan also encouraged Evan to believe in himself.

While not on his bike, Evan studies computer science at UVic, and has many hobbies—including solving Rubik’s cubes, making coffee, and growing gourmet mushrooms. He also enjoys “being in nature,” while participating in several sports, including Alpine and Nordic skiing, mountain biking and ‘cross cycling.

Evan’s advice to young athletes is to enjoy the experience. “I’m always a big believer in just having fun, and not being too serious,” Evan said, adding, “Just go for it—take the holeshot.”

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