MILTON, Ont.– It is hard not to notice Sebastien Travers when his athletes are racing.
As Saskatoon native Keely Shaw zoomed along the track at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre, Travers exclaimed words of encouragement.
The positive attitude, combined with his deep knowledge of cycling, is what Shaw admires in Canada’s National Para-Cycling Head Coach.
“We are so blessed to have Sebastien leading our team,” said Shaw, during the weekend competition at the World UCI Para-cycling Track Championships. “He is brutally honest in the kindest way possible. I always know with his training and guidance I am as prepped as I can be.”
Travers’ athletes joined 30 other nations this week here in Milton for an event that brings together the best para-cyclists in a competition that is an important step in qualifying for the upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
It carried extra expectations for the Canadian squad. Not only did they want to perform at a world-class level on home soil but also increase their qualification points for the Paralympics.
Coach Travers believes his team checked off those boxes.
“All of our athletes achieved personal records,” said Travers. “This is a very good rehearsal for us in preparation for the games.
“It is a hometown world championships so the pressure is a bit up. It allows us to train well for the pressure that Tokyo will represent for us.”
Travers occupied the role of national team coach in 2009. And has been the leader of the Canadian Para-cycling program since 2016.
The 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio was Canada’s breaking point onto the international Para-Cycling scene. The team collected one gold, three silver, and five bronze medals, totaling nine podium appearances.
The global success of Canada’s para-cyclists meant higher pressure for Travers’ team at the World Championships. For many athletes, getting on the podium is a monumental achievement.
Not for Cranbrook, B.C. native Tristen Chernove, who came into this week’s competition as the defending world champion in the C2 Scratch Race. Despite setting two world record times on Day 2 and getting a silver medal in the C2 Scratch Race, Chernove was unsatisfied.
“Having been beaten a few times it’s put some new fire in me for sure,” said Chernove. “It is probably just what I need to push me to make that step back on top.”
Working alongside NextGen coaches Phil Abbott and Guillaume Plourde has allowed Travers to transform his Canadian Para-cycling program into a breeding ground for the future generation. Lethbridge, Alta. resident Lowell Taylor is one of the many beneficiaries of the organization.
Taylor spent two years as a member of Cycling Canada’s NextGen Squad. The tandem cyclist jumped to the High-Performance Cycling program, where he hopes to be on Canada’s Paralympic Team.
Alongside his partner Ed Veal, the pair set a new Canadian record on Saturday in the Tandem Time Trial, with a time of 1:04.722. For Taylor, Saturday’s result was the affirmation that those years in NextGen paid off.
“I got pulled into the sport and I realized I have a mentality to push myself harder,” said Taylor. “The Canadian development team pulled me in, giving me the right coaching and supports to make dreams happen and to now take down a national record.”
There is an ambassadorship component that comes with Travers’ role as head coach. This week’s championships provided the chance to not only show off his athletes but the country of Canada to the world.
It is the first time that the Mattamy National Cycling Centre hosted a world cycling championship since it was built for the 2015 Pan-Am Games.
And given the upward trajectory of Canada’s cycling team, Travers believes it won’t be the last time the worlds will be held on Canadian soil.
“Our main mandate is to win medals but second to that is to recruit more people,” he said. “By all of the media attention we have been getting the past four days, we are trying to draw more people to para-sports in general, but specifically cycling.”