Cycling a team effort for the Emsleys
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | June 8, 2017|
A friendly mountain bike race at Sir Sam’s Ski and Bike hooked its teeth into Minden’s Nick Emsley seven years ago.
Now at the age of 18, his passion for mountain biking hasn’t waned; it’s intensified.
“It’s about dedication. It can get challenging at times, but at the end of the day, you feel satisfied with what you’ve accomplished,” Emsley explained, pointing to his daily schedule that starts with a two-and-a-half-hour workout at 4:30 a.m.
That’s then followed by school, work, and additional cardio training in the evening.
Emsley’s work ethic pays off in various ways.
For the fifth year in a row, he placed first in the 44 km single track challenge at the Hardwood Ski and Bike, just north of Toronto, May 27.
His competitors ranged from 15 to 18 years old.
He’s raced against some of the world’s top mountain bikers including three-time Canadian Olympian Geoff Kabush, former Canadian and United States champion Derek Zandstra and former Canadian marathon champion Cory Wallace.
And, physically, Emsley is at the top of his game.
“That’s really one of my biggest goals with all this, maintaining and improving my overall health and longevity of the sport,” Emsley said.
But that grind isn’t done alone.
His parents, Dan and Angela, are heavily invested in Emsley’s progress towards the top of the mountain bike scene.
They not only travel with him to all of his events, but train with him, and in Angela’s case, even participate in most of his races.
Entering her fourth year of racing, Angela finished third in the women’s 19-39 division at the Hardwood single track event.
Dan , a former road cyclist, is the trio’s primary mechanic, and he’s passed some of that knowledge to his son.
Emsley now works as a bike mechanic at Sir Sam’s.
“Nick’s work ethic is very high,” Dan explained. “You almost have to reel him in.”
A recent 100 km marathon filled with treacherous winds and wet conditions almost got to Emsley, who was suffering from flu-like conditions during the race.
“I was thinking for a moment, ‘why am I doing this?’” he laughed.
But those frustrations quickly vanished after he finished the race. He didn’t make the podium, but still felt satisfied with his performance.
“We’ve had bad races, yeah, but the goal is to finish them,” Dan said, adding his son’s coach Andrew Watson, a four-time Canadian champion, has emphasized that point throughout Emsley’s training.
“He’s been great to work with,” Dan said.
With a strong base fitness level, Watson says Emsley’s training has changed a bit this year.
“It’s ramping up a little … we’re getting into very race specific training,” he explained.
Emsley will continue to race in marathons, but Watson says his focus has shifted to shorter races.
“I look at those demands, analyze upcoming races and design a training program based on that,” he said.
Emsley is looking forward to his Ontario Cup races June 11 and June 18, which will include some of the best riders from across Canada.
It’s going to be a great test midway through his season, and perhaps a stepping stone that will propel him into the upper echelon of international racing, Watson says.
“He’s getting to that age where he can upgrade to a trade team,” he said. “That’s kind of where I’d like to see him go.”
No matter what direction Emsley takes, or when, his mother and father are clear on where they stand.
“We’re behind him 100 per cent,” Dan said.
Visit nickemsley.ca to track his progress throughout the season.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.