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ICYMI: Team Squamish Cycling overcomes challenges to reach new heights

Team fundraiser, including documentaries, a gear sale, silent auction and local racer panellists, to be held  March 1. 

It is the team that won't quit. 

Mountain biking development nonprofit organization, Team Squamish Cycling, almost folded in 2022, but a group of former members— like local enduro racer Rhys Verner—and parents, banded together to keep it going. 

The possible closure of the team was due to various challenges, including finding coaches.

The team, which develops mountain bikers between 12 to 18 years old, and coaches, revamped and had its best season ever last year, according to its president, Grace MacLeod. 

"We wanted to create this group where we were always there for them essentially," said MacLeod, whose son Jack had been on the team, and then earned his coaching certification and started coaching for the team.

"Number one, for me, [Team Squamish] has taken so many athletes that could not afford private programming—it's taken so many of those athletes to the world stage."

The team prides itself on having a foundation of equity inclusion and diversity.

There’s a nobody-is-excluded approach.

"It creates community," said MacLeod, adding that while some riders may finish higher in a race, they are all equal on the team. 

"They all have each other's backs."

The focus disciplines of Team Squamish are enduro, and downhill. 

Members include racers and non-racers.

Another reason MacLeod pointed to for wanting to maintain the organization, was the ability for riders to level up to coach. 

"The kids can level up to coach and because they're racing, and racing is so expensive, those kids need the money from being coaches in order to help pay for travel fees, all of that," she added.

"So it's kind of an evolution from being a junior racer to doing well to then being able to work for the club and then being able to pay for the racing."

The coaching crew last year included Ryder Bulfone and Elly Hoskin as co-head coaches. There were female stream coaches: Heidi Schenk, Emily Good, Spencer Pascual, and Marin Lowe; and male stream coaches: Jacob Quist, Ethan Spittel, Gabriel Riopel, James Laurie, and MacLeod’s son, Jack

Most of that coaching staff is coming back for 2024, MacLeod said.

"Our senior coaches are very close to being club coach certified and anticipate a few of them will co-head coach this year," she added.

The team, founded in 2005, had previously had a cap on the number of riders it took on, but in 2023, it lifted that cap. Thus, it saw 40 riders in its ranks, up from 20 to 25 youth.

Registration is currently open for the upcoming season. 

Fundraising and celebration

With the foundation of the revamped organization now in place,  MacLeod said the team is looking to celebrate, and also fundraise. 

On Friday, March 1,  Team Squamish Youth Cycling will host the Squamish premiere of the Anthill Films' production, The Engine Inside and Indigenous Youth Mountain Bike Program's Dirt Relations Documentary at the Eagle Eye Community Theatre.

The documentary The Engine Inside, "tells the stories of six everyday people from all over the globe, who reveal the unique power of the bicycle to change lives and build a better world," reads the film's description.

The Dirt Relations Documentary, “delves into the connection between mountain biking, reconciliation, and healing inter-generational trauma," according to its website.

Some of Squamish's—and the world's—best riders will be on hand for autographs and a panel, including Miranda Miller, Verner, Bulfone, and more.

The event also includes a gear garage sale that MacLeod said the team members are very excited about, which will include mountain biking gear—of course—but other items as well.

Luz Tacos will be serving hungry attendees.

There will also be a silent auction. AlpX Expeditions, the tourism division of Blackcomb Helicopters, has already stepped up with an item. MacLeod said they welcome more businesses who may want to add a prize item. 

Proceeds go to Team Squamish. 

The event runs from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. 

Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

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