Dozens of community members came together Wednesday night to celebrate the world-class accomplishments of two local cyclists.
Isabella Holmgren and Ian Ackert, both 18, recently returned from Glasgow, Scotland, where they represented Canada in the UCI Cycling World Championships.
Holmgren came out on top as champion in the women's Junior Cross-Country Olympic Race, while also placing 8th in the women's Junior Road Race – the top spot in that event amongst Canadians.
Ackert managed to cycle his way onto the podium, as well, bringing home a third-place finish in the men's Junior Cross-Country Olympic Race. (See our story about their feats, here).
In celebration of their accomplishments, Ackert and Holmgren gathered with their peers, coaches, families and community members at Hardwood Ski and Bike Wednesday evening.
Neither athlete is new to competing in world championships, but for Ackert, it’s his first podium finish in four attempts at the junior world championships.
“Last year, I didn't even finish the race, so this year, getting on the podium was huge,” said the Severn Township cyclist. “It's unreal. During the race … I was just focused on the finish line and wasn't looking back, and then it started to set in, once I was at home, what I accomplished.”
From here, Ackert plans on racing through the fall and preparing for a full season of mountain biking in Europe next year.
For Holmgren, August’s victory marks her second time – in under a year – finishing first in a junior world championship event. Back in February, the Orillia native became the first Canadian to win the Junior Cyclocross World Championship.
“It's very nice,” Holmgren said of her recent accomplishment. “I wouldn't have been able to do it without the help from everybody, though.”
Holmgren and her twin sister, Ava, recently signed multi-year deals with Lidl-Trek, an elite team of cyclists that competes on the UCI Women’s World Tour.
Their mother, Lisa, says the opportunity is a rare one for younger women – particularly Canadians.
“At the age of 18, it's pretty unusual because many of the women are performing well into their 30s. It's a huge opportunity,” she said. “As a mom, I couldn't be more happy that they'll be able to travel together and race together.”
Ava did not compete in the recent world championships due to injury.
For coach – and father – Rob Holmgren, watching local athletes achieve big things on the world stage is special to see.
“It's amazing. (It’s) been a coaching dream of mine to develop athletes to that level, so a very nice reward for many years of hard work,” he said. “All the athletes that have come up through Cycling Canada have a lot to owe to Hardwood: the Wednesday Night (Race) Series, the trail network, just the community around Hardwood in general is huge part of the success.”