What a year 2015 has been for 18-year-old Courtenay cyclist Gillian Ellsay.
It began with an early graduation from Mark Isfeld High School in January followed in February by cycling camps in California with Cycling BC and the NextGen program.
Ellsay joined the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific NextGen program in 2014. It is a Victoria-based training program to develop cyclists to compete for Olympic and World Championship medals. The program emphasizes both road and track cycling.
Ellsay made the Junior National Track Cycling team in early April after trials in the new velodrome in Milton, Ont. that was built for the 2016 Pan American games. That goal was achieved with help from Jeff Ain, her NextGen coach.
In addition to racing on the track, Ellsay was invited to join the Trek Red Truck Cycling Team. Trek Red Truck is a Vancouver team with a long history of developing cyclists. They had taken notice of the progress Ellsay had made over the previous few years racing in the local Comox Valley Cycle Club events and then riding well in races in British Columbia, Washington and nationally.
The youngest member of Trek Red Truck, Gillian honed her skills learning from the more experienced women on the team racing and training in California and B.C. throughout the spring.
It all paid off in June as she rode to a provincial championship in Penticton. The win there earned her a spot on the B.C. team going to Quebec for the Junior National Road Cycling Championship. At Nationals Ellsay won the Individual Time Trial and placed second in the Road Race. Taking gold in the Time Trial at Nationals gave her a full suite of medals in the event following a silver in 2013 and a bronze in 2014.
The week after Nationals, Ellsay raced to a fourth overall in Junior Women’s at the five-day Tour de la Releve in Rimouski, Quebec. It was a very busy July, next competing at BC Superweek with Trek Red Truck following her return from Quebec. The highlight of her four races at Superweek was assisting her teammate, 2012 Olympian Denise Ramsden, win the prestigious Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix before thousands of spectators.
After finishing at BC Superweek it was time to switch back to track cycling to get ready for the World Junior Track Cycling Championships. To prepare, Ellsay spent the first two weeks of August on the velodrome in Apeldoorn, Netherlands with the National Junior Track team. Following the camp she headed to Astana, Kazakhstan where she had a 10th place in the Points race and a 14th in the Individual Pursuit at the World Championships.
The next big day came just last week when Ellsay was selected to the Canadian National Road Cycling Team for the World Road Championships coming in mid-September in Richmond, Virginia. The team will be racing a three-day stage race at Green Mountain, Vermont and then the National Criterium race, part of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal before heading to Richmond.
At the World Championships Gillian will be testing her skills against the best Junior women in the world in both the Individual Time Trial and the Road Race. All her friends in the Comox Valley Cycle Club and past sponsor Trail Bicycles wish her the best of luck.