Lyne Bessette: Olympic Cycling

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by Faye Rapoport

Canadian cyclist Lyne Bessette is no stranger to the role of team leader. She has led her cycling teams to numerous victories, and is now the leader of the prestigious Quark Cycling Team. As she rides toward her goal of winning a medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics, Bessette isn’t resting on the laurels of competing in the last Olympics, finishing second in the prestigious Tour de L’Aude in France in 2003 or winning the Wachovia Liberty Classic two weeks later in Philadelphia. She is now the top-ranked woman cyclist in North America, and this year has won the first three NRC stage race : Pomona, the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Sea Otter Classic.

Bessette is known for her “feisty personality,” but she couldn’t be more serious when it comes to her racing. She showed early athletic prowess at age 10 as a runner. Ten years later she suffered an injury that ended that career, and cycling was prescribed as therapy. She soon won the 1998 Commonwealth Games Road Race, and the rest is history in the making.

Bessette is engaged to professional cyclist Tim Johnson, who encouraged her to try cyclo-cross. She has celebrated many victories in the mud as well as on the road. But Athens is where her mind is focused now, and was pleased to have a chance to talk to her during her busy competitive season. How did you get involved in cycling?

Bessette: I got involved in cycling by chance. I was a runner for 11 years, got injured and was sick of it. I quit university, where I was studying math and physique, and started teaching snowboarding and working at a ski shop. Summer came and I needed to do something for my energy level! So I started riding…and did my first race at the end of 95. And it all started. I always wanted to go to the Olympics, since I was a kid, and I felt like cycling suited me better than running to achieve my little girl dream. Can you tell us a little about the type of training you do to remain in top form?

Bessette: I do some snowshoeing in the winter for my endurance. Then in January I usually leave for sunny California! I’ve been working with my coach since the beginning, and his secret for me is if I’m smiling and happy, I perform! Training is secondary. What achievements in cycling are you most proud of so far?

Bessette: My first big win: Commonwealth Games in 1998. And the fact that I will be in my second Olympics. What type of socks and footwear do you use for training and competing, and why?

Bessette: I’ve been working with Louis Garneau socks for a lot of years now and the company knows what athletes need. For the shoes, I’ve been in Shimano shoes for five years and I love them. They fit my feet right. This is clearly a sport focused on the feet. What kind of training do you do to strengthen your legs and feet?

Bessette: We do plyometrics, speed and agility training, fast foot work and weight-lifting. Do soccer players have to watch out for any common foot or ankle injuries?

Bessette: Yes, many players tape their ankles prior to practice and games. Are there specific foot issues or problems that cyclists tend to deal with?

Bessette: No I guess the heat is a problem sometimes, and also the toes. Have you personally ever had a foot injury or condition that caused you pain? If so, how did you treat it?

Bessette: The only time I had foot injuries was one hot day in Idaho, in a mountain top finish. My feet were hurting so much that as soon as I crossed the finish line, I took my shoes off and put my feet in the little creek…ouch! What are your goals in cycling this year?

Bessette: My goal in cycling this year is to enjoy my whole season and work hard with my Canadian teammates to bring home a medal for Canada from Athens. Any tips, footcare or otherwise, for cyclists trying to reach your level?

Bessette: Feet are very important. Never ride in shoes that you don’t feel comfortable with…it can take a long time to come back from an injury. Thank you so much for your time during this incredibly busy year.

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