When Oliver Evans was young, riding his bike brought him freedom and the chance to explore the fields and forests in Manitoba.
The then 10-year-old and his family lived in a house outside of Portage la Prairie, a small city in the Central Plains Region of Manitoba. With few neighbours in the area, Evans was often left to entertain himself.
He would take his Super Cycle bike and ride it through the fields and forests surrounding the city. He would even ride back and forth on a stretch of road to see if he could finish it faster than he had done previously.
It was a sense of freedom he quickly grew to love.
“I could do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted, see new places,” Evans said.
“Now I can see new places as in new countries and new continents. It’s gone from seeing a new field or a new part of the forest to that. That’s always been the best interest for me.”
Over the last seven years, the now 17-year-old, soon-to-be-high-school grad has gone from riding through fields to cycling competitively.
For a second year, Evans, who focuses on road cycling, will be riding alongside members of the Russ Hays Accent Inns Cycling team, a team of high-level amateur cyclists from around Canada with an emphasis on road, track and cyclocross that train in Victoria.
Last June, Evans was selected to the team, but suffered a concussion after he collided head-on with a fellow cyclist on a training ride in Victoria.
The injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season, but this year, Evans is itching to get back on the bike. He is even graduating early and moving to Fernwood with his dad in March to continue his training.
“That way I can get out of the deep freezes of Manitoba and ride outside and just really sit down and focus on training and really give it a go this season,” Evans said. “I’d like to make up for last season and try and move up.”
Jon Watkin, general manager of the Russ Hays Accent Inn Cycling team, said Evans has the potential to compete in the big leagues.
“In the sport of cycling, a lot of the barriers to success are just that you have to learn how to suffer. You don’t get immediate gratification like you would in hockey,” said Watkin, noting they’re looking at putting Evans on a long-term growth plan.
“He’s very tenacious, he’s remarkably mature and disciplined for his age. The ultimate goal is he’ll move upward in terms of a professional team or he gets selected to the Canadian national team to go to the Olympics.”
Evans is no stranger to competition. In the past, he has raced in the Trek Cyclocross Collective Cup in Wisconsin and the World Championships for Cyclocross in the Czech Republic. Most recently, he came in third at the national cyclocross race in the U19 category in 2015.
But this year, he set his sights even higher. Evans hopes to compete in B.C. Superweek, Tour de White Rock and Delta, the Gastown Grand Prix, and the Canadian national championships in July.
Other riders on the 2016 team roster include Isaac Leblanc, 26, Cody Canning, 27, and Dylan Cunningham, 24, from Victoria.