Gee keeps cruisin’ at world championships

Derek Gee (File photo)

By Jake Romphf

Derek Gee is riding high after he and the rest of the Canadian men’s track cycling team capped off their best world championships performance ever in early March. With a strong 2018 campaign behind him, the Osgoode cyclist is heading into the off-season knowing Team Canada is on track to compete at the 2020 Olympics.

Gee cycled in the omnium – an individual multi-race competition – and helped Canada place 4th in the four-man team pursuit race at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Pruszkow, Poland.

Gee took up track cycling at the Ottawa Bicycle Club in his early teens but transitioned into road cycling just before his first year of studying at Queen’s University. A year later he was watching track cycling during the 2016 Rio Olympics and he decided it was time to make his return to his original event.

Back to track

Gee said he occasionally thinks back on his decision to leave track cycling, but it doesn’t concern him. “I’m really happy with where I am in the sport now,” he said.

Ever since he returned to track competitions in September 2016, Gee’s main focus has been on making the Olympics. Now that Olympic qualifications have begun, his international competition have stepped up their game as well, he says.

In the last two Olympic Games, Canada’s female track cyclists have had more success than the men. The women have won medals in each of the last two summer Olympics. Gee says Canada’s men’s side is rapidly improving and that 2018 has been their best year yet.

“The men’s endurance program is at a place its never been before,” he said.

The men’s best team pursuit finish at the world championships was 8th place in 2018. Before that, they had never made it to the second round of qualifying. “We’re on a really, really good trajectory and it’s looking good heading towards Tokyo,” Gee added.

The Canadians lost to Denmark’s more established team in the bronze medal race at the Poland championships. Prior to the competition, Gee said they had set a goal of placing within the top five.

“There was no pressure because our expectations have already been exceeded, but at the same time it’s like, well, we got to give it all we got,” he said.

Personally, Gee also had a strong 2018 racing season. The cyclist placed 1st in all four of his races at the 2018 Canadian Track Championships.

At the world championships, Gee crossed the finish line in the middle of the pack in most of his individual omnium races. He said his training was more focused on the team pursuit and that he hasn’t had much experience racing in the omnium.

“I was happier with my preparation for the team pursuit,” he said. “The omnium is definitely something I can see getting better and better with time.”

Going into the off-season, Gee said he’s looking forward to a short rest period before training and the summer competition series ramps up.

Olympic ambitions

With the Olympics less than two years away, if Canada’s team pursuit squad maintains their ranking, they’ll qualify for the Games. Gee’s Canadian team is 4th in the Union Cycliste Internationale nation rankings. Teams ranked in the top eight qualify for the Games. Gee says from here on out, it all depends on doing the little things right, such as perfecting team chemistry and fine tuning their training.

“It’s a fine balance. You have to be in a place where you’re fit, but not fatigued,” he said.

Gee said he thinks the Canadian men are improving faster than any other international teams, but they’ll have to keep it up in order to be a force in 2020.

“No one’s stopping to wait for us,” he said. “It’s hugely motivating having that end goal and having something to strive towards.”

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