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Happy To Do The Job

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Canadian Karol-Ann Canuel isn’t often the first member of Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team to cross the finish line, but her strength has been a crucial part of their success. Canuel’s TT and climbing prowess has brought her two TT national championships, and she has been a part of three World Champion team time trial squads. She’s frequently patrolling the front of the peloton, dictating pace and chasing down breakaways for her leader. We caught up with the super domestique at the Boels-Dolmans training camp in Javéa, Spain to talk about her life in cycling and her plans for 2018. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

 Karol-Ann with Chantal Blaak at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Photo © Getty Images


When and how did you start road cycling?

I started when I was 11. I was camping with my parents and I was able to follow them on the bike while my brother and sister couldn’t. The year they got me involved with the club that we have in my hometown, Club Cyclist Amos. It’s one of the oldest clubs in Quebec, with many good riders riding internationally. When I go home I always go to the club to say hi.

You’re well known as a powerful time-trialist. How have you been able to use this ability to assist your team in both the team time trials and working in road races?

Time trial is one of the best disciplines. When I joined Boels-Dolmans, one of the goals was to be part of the [Worlds TTT] team and win the World title like we did in Qatar [in 2016]. That was one of our biggest wins as a team. If I can also use that strength on the road to help my teammates, for example in lead-outs, that’s great.

What’s it like to be a member of the top-ranked women’s team?

I’m really proud to be part of this team! We have so much success, but we also have fun, on and off the bike. I know it’s our job, but I’m really happy doing what I’m doing.

In action at Strade Bianche, won by teammate Anna van der Breggen ©Velofocus


What teammates do you typically spend time with during the limited downtime you have together?

I get along with everyone! I guess being from Canada, I get along a little bit more with Americans because we are a bit the same. But I always share things with everybody. You know with this person, you talk about one thing, and with the others, other things. That’s why it’s cool to be part of an international team like this. You have so many differences and that’s really interesting, and somehow we all get along. 

What’s the most cherished memory of your career so far?

I think I would go back to 2014. I was riding for Specialized-Lululemon at the time. It was my first year as professional and I had a bit of a roller coaster year with a lot of ups and downs. In the middle of the year I broke my neck and the same day I heard that the team wasn’t continuing the year after, so everything was going down at the same time. From that low point, I recovered from my injury, came back to Europe, and then I was able to do, and win, the team-time-trial at Worlds. A lot of emotions in one year. 

What inspires you to compete at this level?

I started so young, so I grew step by step with the sport, and I just never stopped. Now I’m at the highest level. Now I can achieve pretty much anything. It’s pretty cool to travel the world and ride your bike every day… What a way to live! 

What are your goals for 2018? As a good climber, are the World Championships in Innsbruck on your mind?

2018 will be my third year with the team. I will continue working for my teammates, but I would like to have results sometime in the year. I guess that would be my goal. Innsbruck, on paper, it looks really, really hard. For sure, if I can get a good result for Canada, that would be awesome. I’ll have Worlds in the back of my mind all year. 

What are you passionate about outside of cycling?

Usually, when I’m at home I like trying new recipes. I’m newly vegetarian for a few months now. So I’m trying new things to see what I like, exploring new tastes. I did this kind of Mexican casserole the other day. It was vegan and it tasted delicious. I’m also a big Netflix fan, so I like to watch movies.


You’ve been racing on SRAM RED eTap for several years now. How has the group performed?

I love it. It’s always super precise and sharp. The shift logic also makes a lot of sense to me, and it always works. I would never go back to what I was riding before. I love it! 

What about the disc-brake version?

I like it so far. The first day I tried it, it was raining, so it was a perfect way to test it. It works well, and it’s not too powerful. I feel confident in the descents. It makes us safer. The hoods are perfect for my hands, as you can adjust the reach.

What’s your favorite Zipp wheel?

For climbing, the 303s are great. Actually you can use them everywhere. They are kind of all-around wheels. Going up, going down, on the flat parts too. They’re my No. 1 choice.


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Tired but happy after helping Anna van der Breggen win the 2017 Women's Tour of California. © Wil Matthews


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