De Haître facing uphill climb to Olympics after chosen track erased

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Vincent De Haître in action for Team Canada in the Men’s team sprint at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, Glasgow during the 20th Commonwealth Games in Scotland. Photo: Icon SMI.

By Brandi Awad

A typical morning for Vincent De Haître starts with breakfast and a coffee and then he’s off to the cycling track. There, he’ll ride with teammates, or solo, doing interval training or hitting the road for a longer ride. After that, he’ll head home, eat again, nap, head back to the gym for a few hours, then back home for dinner and then bed. Cycle that back the next day and that’s life nowadays for De Haître.

He’s working towards his goal of making his third Olympic Games in 2020 in Tokyo.
Less than a year ago, De Haître was at the Winter Olympics, chasing a medal on skates in Pyeongchang.

Four years before that he was doing the same thing in Sochi, flying around a speed skating track. That’s the routine he’s been familiar with since he was five years old.

“[Speed skating] is just something that I’ve always done… I’ve always been in it,” he said.

“Cycling is something that I’ve always had on the back burner and something that I’ve always loved to do, but speed skating was the thing that got in the way.”

The Ottawa native is swapping his skates for tires and following in the footsteps of Canadian Olympic legend Clara Hughes, in hopes of competing in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Hughes hopped off her bike and into skates, winning Olympic medals on land and ice.

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Vincent De Haître. Photo: Speed Skating Canada.

With the support of both Speed Skating and Cycling Canada, De Haître’s aiming in the same direction.

“It’s interesting because I was never able to see what I could’ve done if I went down that route [cycling],” the three-time Ottawa Sports Awards Male Athlete of the Year explained.

“Now it’s my chance to prove it to myself that I actually know how to ride a bike.”

Over the summer the 24-year-old De Haître competed at the Pan American Championships in both the team pursuit and one kilometre time trial. In both events, De Haître placed 4th. He set a Canadian record in the individual time trial.

“That was the cherry on top for me,” De Haître said.

At September’s Canadian Track Championships, De Haître won three silver medals.
Despite his early success in cycling, his transition hasn’t been without its bumps in the road.

The first hill he had to conquer was the fundamental differences between the sports. Cycling requires more endurance, stamina and aerobics, whereas speed skating is centered around power and strength.

“What I’ve needed to work on in cycling is the more aerobic component based on sustainable, higher power for longer periods of time… So there’s definitely a gap I need to fill in terms of aerobic components and being able to recover at high speeds,” De Haître explained.

“There also has to be a very high concentration component which needs to be developed over lots and lots of practice.”

Another obstacle he’s faced was Cycling Canada’s decision to forgo its pursuit of an Olympic berth in the team sprint, the category De Haître initially planned to transition to. He’s now pursuing the endurance race.

“I was just trying to figure out what I could bring to the team and based on my background in skating, I thought I had more to bring or add if I chose to pursue track endurance,” he said.

Fresh out of one Olympic cycle into another, De Haître says he feels more motivated than ever.

Though he opted to race in Pyeongchang, his medal hopes were erased by nagging injuries. This time around, he plans to “get it right.”

“Just knowing there was something there that wasn’t used or performed and knowing that I have a lot more in me, it’s something that drives me,” he said.

While he doesn’t plan on hanging his skates up for good any time soon, De Haître says at the moment he’s “100 per cent” focused on cycling.

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