Ketler claims victory at PoCo Grand Prix
When South St. Vital’s Mitchell Ketler captured the PoCo Grand Prix in Port Coquitlam, B.C. July 13, the 20-year-old cyclist thought he was dreaming at first.
After all, it’s rare for an amateur to overtake a field of mostly professionals.
“I sprinted and I was the underdog of the race. I put my hands up in the air and then I’m like, ‘Oh no, I might be dreaming!’” Ketler said. “So I put my hands down and when I put them down, I pinched both of my legs real hard and then I’m like ‘Oh, this is actually happening right now.’ So I put them back up and that’s when the emotions came.”
The victory was the biggest of Ketler’s career and the highlight of a successful 2018 season riding for top-level under-23 trade team Applewood Garneau. During BC Superweek in July, Ketler had seven other top-12 finishes to go with his win in Port Coquitlam. Exactly one week after his victory, Ketler finished fourth at the Beverly Hills Cycling Classic in Illinois, part of the Intelligentsia Cup, where he had five other top-15 results.
Ketler also rode in events in Washington and California, as well as in nationals last June in Saguenay, Que., where he placed in 23rd in the time trial, but failed to finish the road race. He also completed the Tour de Beauce in Quebec despite a broken wrist and stomach issues. Ketler said he was happy with his results in 2018 and he feels he is progressing well.
“Even though some of the results I’ve had this year were surprising to myself and to my coach, that’s part of cycling,” Ketler said. “I’m doing well and better than expected. I’m more than happy with that.”
After having no offers from any professional teams before the 2018 season, Ketler decided to re-sign with Applewood Garneau and it turned out to be a good decision for the up-and-coming cyclist.
“(Applewood Garneau) gives almost the same amount of opportunities as a professional team. Even from last year to this year, they’ve still given me even more opportunities,” he said. “They are a fun group of guys.”
Ketler also thanked the team and the cycling community for helping him handle both his career and his studies as an electrical engineering student at Camosun College in Victoria, B.C.
“It all comes down to good friends who motivate you. I have a pretty big friend group across several disciplines of cycling,” he said. “The team helps me out tremendously with travel. They cover almost all of my travel to races and also my race fees. If the team wasn’t covering that, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
At last year’s Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg, Ketler finished fifth in the boys individual time trial event, as well as 18th in the criterium and 41st in the road race. He appreciated the experience of not only racing in front of his family and the home crowd, but also showing Manitobans what competitive road cycling can be.
“We haven’t had a real fast race in forever (in Manitoba). All of the races go on in B.C., a few in Alberta, and in Ontario and Quebec. We’re kind of left out of the fast, exciting, bar-to-bar, pushing-and-shoving racing that goes on in B.C.” Ketler explained. “It was awesome seeing (my family) and getting them so hyped up on a sport that I love.”
For next season, he expressed his desire to focus more on racing criteriums. As for his aspirations towards going pro, Ketler had received offers from teams after BC Superweek.
“I haven’t decided yet (on a team), but the plan is definitely to go pro,” he said.