We may no longer showcase to those entering Edmonton via the QE2 that we are a “City of Champions”, but we well and truly are. And while you might assume that national and international level athletes reside in typical athlete centers like Vancouver or Toronto, you’ll be proud to know that Edmonton is home to many women who rank among the best in Canada and the World, on bikes.

Podium success of this calibre sounds reserved for those in the 10,000 training hour category, or at the very least for those who live and breathe nothing other than cycling – but that just isn’t the case. While each of these women have worked hard for their successes, they also lead very normal lives, crave all sorts of non-training-friendly calories, experience everyday challenges and frustrations, and consider themselves just as normal as you and me. Each of these normal women, with extraordinary achievements, are some of YEG’s most humble and kind citizens who simply want to encourage other women to set extraordinary goals for themselves.

While their achievements are impressive, their motivations are more so. None are known to toot their own horns, so we thought we’d do some of it for them. Here’s what makes our YEG (and honorary YEG) women so normally-awesome:

Caitlin Callaghan

Newer to racing than many of her competitors, Caitlin’s recent success demonstrates her flexibility and managing training around full-time permanent nights and on-call hours as an RN. With every medal color on her mantel, Caitlin’s accomplishments in 2017 and 2018 are impressive: Gold (2017) and Bronze (2018) in the Canadian National Cyclocross Master A Championships, silver in the 2018 Canadian National Mountain Bike Master A Championships, and 4th in the Pan American Cyclocross Master A Championships.

As a Critical Care Nurse, Caitlin doesn’t take her health for granted. She has seen physical abilities taken away from patients in a blink of an eye, or in contrast, from years of unhealthy living, and is so appreciative for her ‘healthy engine’ that she is motivated to see how high she can rev it! Training around shift work has been challenging (she worked permanent night shifts for 8 years) but cycling (and now cross-country skiing) are her outlets for the stresses of the job. Everything she has experienced (and some things she wishes she could unexperience) has made every second on the bike feel like a gift. And racing is just the icing on top of it all.

Devaney Collier

You may not think that success on the world Track stage at a young age comes to normal types, but through all of her training and accomplishments Devaney has considered herself nothing more than just a normal person who works hard. Occupying the first and third podium steps at World Cup, Pan-American Championships and Japan Cup team track events in 2017 & 2018 Devaney has tasted international racing success and is looking forward to building on these successes in the coming season.

For her, sport is a form of self expression. Some people paint, some play an instrument, some write, and she rides bikes. Fast. But what she doesn’t do is run, at all. A 200km bike ride is just another training day, but ask her to run 200m and she’s on the ground. Her advice: “just believe that every day makes a difference, even when you don’t see the results as quickly as you’d like. I promise, you’ll get there”.

Sarah Gilchrist

            If I didn’t know Sarah so well, her stellar success in just her second season of cyclocross racing might seem akin to beginner’s luck, but having witnessed her skill, hard work, and dedication I know that her achievements are anything but. Having monopolized podium spots in every Alberta race this cyclocross season, Sarah’s first place success in both the 2018 Pan American and Canadian National Cyclocross Master A Championships didn’t surprise many,  and certainly thrilled those cheering for her from home.

Motivated to work hard to achieve her goals by the pure joy of exercising, and if she’s honest also by her love of guilt-free dark beer and chocolate, Sarah is known in the YEG cycling circle for traveling with her own cheering squad – her 3 ½ year old twin girls. She’s the first to assure you that she’s a very normal person who struggles to squeeze in workouts while juggling two small children with the help of her supportive husband. She also might have to ask you to help her find her wallet/phone/keys…like many, she can’t seem to keep track of those pesky items!   

Bridget Linder

            Entering a Masters Cyclocross World Championship, as a self-titled ‘milk factory’ with a 6-month old baby sounds like a normal decision, right? Even Bridget didn’t think so, but having just moved from Alberta to Germany, only 2.5 hours from the championship race course in Switzerland, she couldn’t pass up the chance to throw her seemingly unfit hat in the ring.

            With a long list of racing endeavors and success in Canada, her World Championship win perfectly demonstrates that sometimes all you have to do to win is start! As the only one to finish in her age category, she took the top step and title of Masters World Champion. And while she doesn’t necessarily see this as a major achievement, she does feel good knowing she put in her best effort at the time. She remains motivated by her desire for her boys to know that women are strong and can have the same competitive spirit as men and she is the first to admit that the struggle of juggling an active family, work, a love of beer and sweets, and training is real.

            Even if you don’t think you are fit/strong/fast/whatever enough just show up – you never know what might happen!

Sidney McGill

If there’s someone up and coming to watch on knobby tires, it’s Sidney McGill. Barely out of high school, Sidney’s national and world cup achievements are a testament to the calibre of junior athletes that YEG develops. The top podium step is a familiar place for Sidney, standing there for the 2015 Canadian Mountain Bike Championships (U17), 2016 Canadian Cyclocross Championships and Mont Tremblant Canada Cup, and 2016 and 2017 Pro XCT – Missoula XCO. Internationally she took 4th in the Pan-Am Continental Cyclocross Championships.

Motivated simply by her love for cycling, she always looks forward to getting out on her mountain or cyclocross bikes with good company. And while her preference is for muddy and/or technical terrain, last year in the span of 4 months she broke both her wrists and dislocated both shoulders in 3 different crashes! Goes to show that even the experienced crash sometimes!

Kelsey Mitchell

Given her recent achievements it is hard to believe Kelsey is actually quite new to the sport of track cycling. With first and 2 third place finishes in different track events at the 2018 Canadian National Track Championships and first, second, and fourth place finishes in international track events in Portugal and Switzerland, Kelsey is proof of Edmonton’s continuing tradition of developing the best track cyclists.

Perceiving her newness as something of a disadvantage to her competitors, she tries to focus on things that she can control, one being primarily her worth ethic. Prior to cycling Kelsey played university soccer and her only cycling experience was a handful of spin classes she liked to attend. Through the help of RBC Training Grounds and Juventus Cycling she was able to transition from a self-termed “washed-up” soccer player to a member of Cycling Canada. Promising herself to never be outworked, it looks like she’s keeping true to that promise and has proven that it’s never too late to find and excel in a new passion.

By Tiffany Baker, ERTC Women’s Cycling Manager