It was the final night of the Specialized-Lululemon Team Camp in Carlsbad, California, where I was spending a few days with this professional road cycling team. The only Canadian on this team that’s made up of women from a variety of countries, including Australia, the USA, Germany and Sweden, is Clara Hughes. There’s no official captain, but it was clear to me that Clara is the team’s inspiration and mentor. I heard her fellow team members say so in those words, and I also watched their expressions as she engaged them in a presentation about a charity she’s passionate about, Right To Play.
Clearly, her leadership impacts them all. She also doesn’t back down when challenged. Of course, Canadians are familiar with this attitude from Clara’s past Olympic appearances as both a speed skater and a cyclist. But it also applied to the daily yoga sessions at the camp (she told me yoga isn’t normally her thing but she was embracing it and enjoying it at the camp)’and it applied to an impromptu arm wrestling session.
Which brings me back to the final night I mentioned at the start of this blog post. The team and attending media (including myself) were all out for a fun dinner at an Italian restaurant. Luckily, we had an entire section to ourselves; this was one boisterous group! At some point, for apparently no reason, Clara shouted to her team, "Let’s have an arm-wrestling competition!" Pairs of them jumped right into this and began an informal knockout session. Clara watched it all, loving it. Then a champion began to emerge: an American cyclist named Allie. That’s when Clara put herself into the competition. Allie was next to me, and Clara was sitting across from her. I got a front row look at this intense fight, and wow, I could see the sheer will in Clara’s eyes as she stared down her opponent. At one point, Allie was beating her. Then Clara slowly brought herself back to centre. They stayed like that probably a good minute, both of them pushing with all they had. Then, with Clara’s eyes still intensely fixed on Allie’s, she began to break her. Clara won.
I’ll be watching closely along with many other fellow Canadians to see if Clara Hughes qualifies for cycling in the Olympics this summer. I don’t doubt she will. You can follow along as well by visiting Clara’s online journal.
To read my Q&A with Clara Hughes, click here.
To see a video on YouTube of Clara Hughes during the team camp in California [recoreded by Sandra Walter for Pedal Magazine], click here. There’s a fantastic section where she talks about a classic crash that she and her fellow veteran team member, Ina Yoko Teutenberg, experienced together. Luckily, they were okay, but it’s interesting to hear Clara tell of it. That part of the video is from minute 2:38 to minute 4:30.