Clara Hughes primed for a soup-er Olympic cycling season



If you’ve read any of Clara Hughes’ recent blog entries, you can tell the Canadian Olympic legend is in a good place as she embarks on the road to the London Olympics.



She’s even started posting soup recipes. She’s the self-proclaimed ‘Master of the Soups.’ Those lucky enough to sample the results of her kitchen labours would not begrudge her that title.



But the main course is her preparation for the London Games and, according to the man who should know, her cycling coach Chris Rozdilsky, everything is right on target.



Hughes chose Rozdilsky as the architect of her cycling comeback last year after a decade away from the sport after shopping around extensively. He doesn’t sugarcoat things and said from the start “If it wasn’t Clara Hughes, I would say it’s pretty much impossible.”



Well, he thinks it’s very possible right now.



What has Rozdilsky enthused among other things is they’ve been able to streamline her program and tap into a lot of support after trying to do everything themselves in her first season back.



Where Hughes raced as an independent last year and could not get into the big European races against the best cyclists, she’s now with one of the world’s top teams in Specialized-Lululemon. They’ve been racing this week in San Dimas, Calif and she’ll soon be off for a bit European swing.



“Ever since that (signing with Specialized-Lululemon), it’s really kind of cleared her head, because now she doesn’t have to worry,” said Rozdilsky. “When she goes to a race, she’s going to be fully supported and she’s going to have teammates who are trying to do the same thing she’s doing at the highest level of sport. It’s a very motivating environment.



“Whenever they go into a race, they’re trying to win the race. It doesn’t matter who wins the race, but they’re trying to win the race for sure. That’s her. That’s what she wants to do. She’s not going into anything to participate. She’s going in to try to win whatever she’s entering.”



Rozdilsky, who works out of the PowerWatts studio in Montreal, said their setup last year “was this crazy matrix of planning and training and travelling and media.”



“That’s what kind of took the edge off her at worlds,” he said. “It was too many external things that at the end of the day it affected her performance — and we can’t let that happen again.”



Hughes was fifth in the time trials at the world championships in Belgium and finished way back in the road race after a brave attack that provided the big excitement in what was mostly a dull affair.



“After the race, we said ‘Okay, performance was mediocre. Why was it mediocre?’ We went through the exercise of saying we’re going to change this, this, this and this.”



One of the changes is aligning with B2ten, which backed by independent Canadian businessmen helps this country’s athletes with goods and services to aid them in the climb to the Olympic podium. The group is handling a lot of the logistics, planning and management for Hughes, as well as media requests.



“We decided let’s go full speed forward, we need help, we found the people who can help us,” said Rozdilsky, adding it’s enabled him to focus more on coaching.



“We were really able to refine what she needs to do. Her body really responded well. She’s starting the season in really good shape, physically strong, physically lean, mentally ready to do battle. All systems are go.”

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