Hilary Wille is a young cyclist with big expectations.
The 19-year-old from Saanich is a rookie on the expanded Accent Inns-Russ Hay’s Cycling Team for the 2013 season. Well, she’s mostly a rookie.
Wille is transitioning from being a junior athlete with the National Triathlon Centre and a gold medal winner at the 2011 Kamloops Western Canada Summer Games. The reason is shin splints.
“I’ve been cycling as a triathlete for years but my career as a cyclist has only just begun,” Wille said.
As a triathlete, one of Wille’s biggest goals was to have the fastest bike split. To do so she trained with the boys. Then shin splints kept her from running, and competing, though she could continue training on the bike and in the pool. And though Wille was also an accomplished swimmer with Island Swimming for nine years, cycling won out.
“To make a pro (cycling) team is part of the dream but the big goal has always been the Olympics,” Wille said. “First swimming, then tri, and now this.”
“Her results in triathlon speak to her horsepower and fitness endurance,” said team co-founder Jon Watkin, who also helps organize the annual Bastion Criterium.
This year’s Accent Inns-Russ Hay’s Cycling Team has 17 riders, three of them women, up from 10 riders in the team’s first official season of 2012.
“We had great results last year and with more sponsors we’re entering more races and with more travel covered,” Watkin said.
Leading the way as a junior last year was Jordan Duncan, 17, who returns as the defending provincial time trial and cyclocross champion.
Wille is classified as a member of both the development and elite rosters for the Accent Inns-Russ Hays Team, as she’ll be up against under-23 women and pros in her rookie season. But it won’t be too much for the former Claremont secondary student, she insists.
“On the one hand I’m used to cycling, as the bike portion of triathlons would make or break my race,” Wille said. “But the cycling leg of my races were also limited to 20 kilometres.”
Wille’s entry to the world of the peloton came last year when her NTC teammates jumped into a pair of Victoria Cycling League races in the Highlands district, Newton Heights and Caleb Pike. She admits a learning curve awaits her and is listening intently to what coach Houshang Amiri has to offer.
“This couldn’t be a better fit for me right now,” Wille said. “I’m completely healthy and lucky to walk into a development team out of triathlon.”
Wille’s story echoes that of Shailie Sanbrooks, a Victoria-based cyclist and former triathlete, who was sponsored by Russ Hay’s two years ago, before Wille’s team existed. With Russ Hay’s help, Sanbrooks rode on the elite roster of U.S.-based Team Kenda (presented by Geargrinder) for 2012.
The South Island is also the home to premier national under-23 cyclists Annie Ewart (Brentwood Bay) and Adam De Vos (Oak Bay), both of whom ride for competitor teams.
“(Accent Inn-Russ Hay’s) is one of just five or six like it in the province. We’re just getting established,” Watkin said.
New to the Accent Inn-Russ Hay’s 2013 men’s elite roster are Victoria’s Lucas Koolman, Vancouverites Jeff Werner and Mike Rothengatter, and the Yukon’s David Gonda. Returning are Cid Martinez, Raph Lalumiere, Curtis Dearden, Emile de Rosnay, Steven Grandy and David Strasser. Wille is on the development roster with locals Alex Amiri and Evan Carey, as well as Comox’s Jordan Duncan and Courtenay’s Andrew Grant. Victoria’s Nik Vogler and Manitoba’s Haley Warkentin make up the elite women’s team, on which Wille will also compete.