Ariane Bonhomme. Photo: Steve Kingsman
By Phi Trinh
On the heels of a breakout 2016 season, Ariane Bonhomme of The Cyclery-4iiii women’s cycling team is primed for more in 2017, with a pair of major events locally on tap for this year, and the biggest success of her career yet already in her back pocket.
Competing on the velodrome in February, the 22-year-old teamed up with Laura Brown, Steph Roorda and Kinley Gibson to win a bronze medal for Canada in the team pursuit competition at her first senior track cycling World Cup event in California.
“It was awesome,” recounts Bonhomme, who helped Canada match its Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal result in the team pursuit discipline. “We were all looking forward to race for Canada as our country is very dominant in the sport.”
What made the experience even better was getting to race alongside her best friend and teammate from the Ottawa-based Cyclery-4iiii team, fellow 22-year-old Gibson of Edmonton.
“We’ve been racing together on the track for five years,” Bonhomme notes. “We often laughed that we’re the same person.”
Back in October, the pair won gold together at the Pan American Championships in Mexico, with Bonhomme adding a bronze in the points race.
For the World Cup, the Canadian NextGen team members were joined by a pair of veterans in Brown and Roorda. Bonhomme says it was a bit difficult for the new quartet to work together perfectly at first, though they’d sit down after every ride and discuss their tactic to improve upon the next. By the time their final came, they’d nailed it and came away with bronze ahead of France.
"It was a big day but very exciting," Bonhomme reflects.
Building blocks in place
For Bonhomme, speed is in her blood. The Ottawa Bicycle Club product from Gatineau started out in 2007 as a speed skater, but her coach introduced her to cycling based on her skinny physique.
Soon, training became competitive and normal rides turned to races. As an 11-year-old, she didn’t love it at first, partially because her first bike was not very good.
“The shifter wasn’t working well, which made it a very heavy bike,” recounts Bonhomme, whose mom came to the rescue with a brand new ride. “After that, I started really liking it. It was a lot smoother, more like a race bike and I could actually enjoy myself.”
Five years later, she won her first major title at the road cycling junior nationals. Bonhomme added further national crowns in 2013 and 2014, and competed in both the track and road cycling World Championships in her final year of junior.
The transition to the senior ranks was rough however, as she struggled with excessive ambition, injuries and anxiety.
“It’s make-it-or-break-it for the riders,” details Bonhomme, who suffered several injuries in 2015. “I was overly motivated and my coach usually said my mind was stronger than my body.”
While the transition for men can be a bit easier as they get to race more in smaller competitions, female cyclists have fewer developmental opportunities to bridge the gap to the top international level, she notes.
The elite race and veteran athletes impressed Bonhomme so much that it made her impatient in training.
“My body was not ready for that,” she recalls.
Her fortunes changed last year with The Cyclery, an amateur team focused on providing the missing springboard to the top ranks.
Bonhomme learned “to be friends with my body” and posted a number of impressive results, including under-23 crowns in both the road race and individual time trial competitions at the Global Relay Canadian Road Championships in Ottawa/Gatineau.
Along with The Cyclery teammate Annie Foreman-Mackey’s victory in the senior road race, plus future teammate Gee’s win in the criterium, the nationals results were “more than we could ever imagine,” Bonhomme reflects.
Fresh off a Cyclery-4iiii training camp in South Carolina, Bonhomme is eager to replicate the success as her focus shifts from the track to the road with the snow melting.
A couple big highlights on her schedule will again come in town, with the Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau (part of the women’s elite international tour) May 19-20 and the nationals June 24-28.
“I’m so excited for these events,” Bonhomme underlines. “I have been in Gatineau for a couple of years now and it is awesome because you don’t have to travel, you can stay in your bed.
“The organizer is doing such a great job for both events.”
Silvers for 2 Ottawa cyclists
Competing at the Gran Premio Miguel Indurain on Apr. 1 in Estella, Spain, Ottawa native Mike Woods equalled his best career WorldTour result with a runner-up performance with his Cannondale-Drapac team.
Ottawa’s Kevin Frost earned a pair of silver medals at the Mar. 31-Apr. 2 para track cycling nationals in Milton, Ont. Frost was 2nd in both the 4 km pursuit and 1 km time trial, missing gold by just half a second in the kilo.
Competing in visually-impaired categories, the double-Ontario champion finished with times that measure up comparably with those posted at the Mar. 2-5 UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships outdoors in Los Angeles.