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Saturday, Jun. 23, 2018
Forty years of cycling success
by Randy Pascal

There was no forty year plan in place when the Sudbury Cycling Club (SCC) was launched back in 1974. The driving force that would bring together Battista Muredda and a handful of riding companions was much more pragmatic.

Born in Italy, Muredda had moved to Canada at the age of 18, initially located in Red Lake before finding work in Sudbury in the early 1970's. While Red Lake had no semblance of a cycling community, Sudbury, at least, provided a starting point.

"When I started to go out, I met other riders, Italian people who used to race in the old country, and that's really how the club got started," said Muredda. Joining forces with the likes of Carlo Valduga, Gianfranco Roncino and Leo Fantasia, the original brainthrust shared their hopes of growth for the SCC as the Nickel City prepared to host the Ontario Summer Games for the first time in 1974.

"We thought that it was a shame that the Games are in Sudbury and we have nobody from Sudbury entered in the cycling competition," Muredda recalled. "So we asked some of the kids from the neighbourhood, gathered about eight or nine of them, trained for two months and cleaned up at the Ontario Summer Games," Muredda added with a smile.

That initial grouping, which included a few who went on to success on a provincial and national scale, also introduced future Olympian Gary Trevisiol to the sport. In fact, from 1980 through until 2000, the Sudbury club could lay claim to continually being in the mix when it came to the national cycling team and the Olympic dreams of young riders.

Both David Spears (1992) and Eric Wohlberg (1996/2000) would follow in Trevisiol's footsteps, in what was surely the heyday of the SCC in terms of producing elite talent. "You could tell all three of them were special right away," acknowledged Muredda, who has remained as the coaching constant through four decades of rich cycling history locally.

"Gary because of his natural ability. That guy was an animal. He was strong in every aspect of the game, and feared nobody," stated Muredda. "Spears was all about pure dedication. He maybe did not have the pure ability that Gary had, but he was in love with the sport."

"He was smart and listend to all of the details," added Muredda. "Eric only started with us at 21 years old - he was already an athlete. I remember the first time I saw him race in Gatchell. He came out with our riders and I'm seeing this kid that is hanging on with my riders."

"I told my guys to attack him, one at a time, to get rid of this guy," recalled Muredda. "They couldn't lose him." Fast forward to 2014, and while SCC membership remains solid, with more than 40 active cyclists, the environment has changed, with only three current riders under the age of 25.

"It is much better when there's a lot of youth involved," said Muredda. "For me, I'm dedicated to the sport and I will do it even now, writing training plans for them even if they're 40, 45, 50 years old. But when we had the youth, to me, that was better. As a club, we are a feeder to the provincial team, to the national team."

"When you see a kid who comes in with a Canadian Tire bicycle and he finally gets to where he wins a provincial championship, or a national, that's an honour for the coach, that's an honour for the club."

With cycling acknowledged as one of those sports where a certain amount of discomfort is inherant with the rigerous training programs that are needed to rise to the level of the elite, Muredda ponders the lack of up and coming young riders.

"Maybe the kids are not willing to suffer as much," he said. "Maybe they want the easy way now, I'm not sure. Cycling is a lot of hard work, a lot of commitment, a lot of travelling."

Through it all, however, the recipe that produces the end product has not changed drastically. Forty years later, the driving force behind the Sudbury Cycling Club still begins with initial bike handling skills.

"You have to be able to corner properly, to be able to ride in a group, to know how to change gears and have the proper cadence," said Muredda. "And, of course, the positioning on the bike is key."

Greater involvement recently from triathlon enthusiasts, most of whom come from either swimming or running backgrounds, has provided another core of athletes that Muredda can groom, providing a more stable base to the SCC, in terms of overall numbers, than has sometimes been seen.

"There are always peaks and valleys," noted Muredda. "There were times when there were maybe only four to five riders in the club. The next year, we would build up again. Honestly, I didn't think it would last this long."

Forty years, to be precise. And a tradition of excellence that the Sudbury sporting community can be quite proud of. All from a rather inocuous starting point.

Well done!

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