Riley Pickrell, left, competing in the Junior Track Nationals in Milton on April 13. Pickrell won four gold and two silver medals. (Rob Jones Photo)

Victoria teens medal big at track nationals

Riley Pickrell, Sarah van Dam hit track cycling podium

Saanich’s Riley Pickrell and Oak Bay’s Sarah van Dam led a group of locals to another successful Junior Track Nationals in Milton, Ont., April 12 to 14.

The crafty Pickrell, 17, won four gold medals and two silvers. Van Dam, also 17, won a gold, two silvers, and three bronze.

Pickrell won individual gold medals in the keirin, points race and elimination, and won gold with Team B.C. in the pursuit final. He also won silver in the team sprint and the madison (with Ethan Ogrodniczuk). Van Dam won gold with Team B.C. in the team pursuit (Elizabeth Gin, Annabella Stoll-Dansereau, Caitlin Wallin), two silvers in the keirin and elimination finals, and three bronze, two in the scratch and points races, and one with Victoria’s Casey Garrison in the two-person team madison.

READ MORE: Teen cyclists ready to take on the world

“This year’s national championships were a lot more competitive than years before,” Pickrell said. “Winning four gold medals was a really good result for me.”

Pickrell qualified for the national team selection camp to race at the 2019 Junior World Track Championships, Aug. 14 to 18 in Frankfurt, Germany, while van Dam has already confirmed a spot on the junior national team. Last year Pickrell attended worlds and came close to the podium with a fourth place scratch race finish. This year he’ll be one year older, and stronger, as it’s the final year of junior for Pickrell who will turn 18 later this year.

“I love track racing,” said Pickrell, who was just as successful as a 14-year-old at the U17 national championships. “It’s faster and more intense than road racing. Even without the different courses road racing offers, the many different races on the track always produces fun and exciting racing.”

Racing for Team Canada’s road team in 2018 he embraced the sprinter role and won three stages of the Tour de l’Abitibi (a seven stage junior race in Quebec) in bunch sprints. He also finished second twice.

READ ALSO: Cycling teens tearing up the track

In late January van Dam joined Canada’s Next Gen U23 women’s cycling team including Saanich’s Erin Attwell (20) at the final round of the Track Cycling World Cup event in January. The experience was immensely beneficial, said van Dam, who is finishing Grade 12 at Oak Bay High.

“Competing against the best in the world, it was the most amazing experience and the most fun I’ve ever had on the bike,” van Dam said. “I enjoyed being pushed at that level. And I was able to [share] what I learned in Hong Kong with others in Milton.”

Both Pickrell and van Dam started in Tripleshot Cycling Club’s youth program and the FastTrack program at the Greater Victoria Velodrome and credit them for their development. They’re now the youngest two riders on the Trek Red Truck cycling team and will compete in the Cat. 1-2 elite races this spring and summer. Both will also compete for Team B.C. in all three categories – the criterium, road race and time trial – at the Junior Road Nationals held June 28 to July 1 in Beauce, Que.

“I love track and road equally, I don’t want to make a decision between them yet,” van Dam said. “I think it’s something that, if you do it right, you can balance both.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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