Two brothers from Pitt Meadows have been named to national BMX racing teams.
Alex Tougas, 19, is a national team member, and his younger brother Ryan, 15, was selected by Cycling Canada to be on the NextGen team, which is intended as the next generation of Team Canada riders.
If they were hockey players, their accomplishments would make Tougas a household name in the Fraser Valley, but within the sport of BMX the brothers have their share of notoriety.
Alex is in his fifth season with the national team, and has won world championships in 2013 in Auckland, New Zealand; and in 2014 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In 2016, as a junior elite rider, he made the final at the world championships in Colombia, and finished fourth. He is an eight-time Canadian champion in his age class.
Ryan is a six-time national champ, and last year finished third at the world championships in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He was the heavy favourite, and was leading doing into the first corner, but got bumped out in the turn, and had to settle for third.
“Going into the final I had won every lap that day, but that’s BMX,” he said.
So he was third in the world, which is still not so bad – even in the Tougas household.
Alex graduated from Pitt Meadows secondary, and Ryan is in Grade 10 there. Alex is now studying sports sciences at Douglas College – when he isn’t travelling to some exotic location for a BMX race. He’s got a month of training and racing in Australia next on the itinerary. Add it to places like Argentina, Brazil and the New Zeland, and he’s literally going places in BMX.
“I’m excited to see where next year is going to take us,” said Alex.
The 2018 world championships will take place in June in Baku, Azerbaijan, and there are World Cup events in France and Belgium.
The brothers have both been riding bikes since they were old enough to pump a pedal, and say all of their race experience is invaluable.
Alex has blazed a path for Ryan, and big brother emphasizes the what goes on inside a racer’s helmet. A race is over in 30 or 40 seconds, so there is no time for doubts or indecision.
“You’ve got to be mentally strong,” said Ryan. “You can lose a race before you even start it.”
They have also benefited from the Ridge Meadows BMX club, which is located in their hometown, and offers Monday night practices and Tuesday night racing.
“It’s a great club,” said Alex. “It’s a great sport, and people should come out and give it a shot.”
If you like it, you can race almost any night of the week in Abbotsford, Surrey, Langley or North Vancouver.
“Those are tracks we still train at all the time,” said Alex.
With all those tracks less than an hour’s drive of each other or less, it makes the Lower Mainland a BMX hotbed, said their national team coach, Adam Muys. He is also from Maple Ridge, having lived here about five years.
He is impressed by the Tougas brothers.
“There is a lot of natural talent, and a lot of focus toward sport,” he said. “And little brother has always been chasing big brother.”
He said Canada has assembled a solid BMX team, led by Coquitlam’s Tory Nyhaug who is one of the best in the world. It features four out of seven riders who are from the Lower Mainland.
“2017 was a year of refining and delivering the new structure we developed in early 2017.”
“At the high performance level it was our most successful year with Tory Nyhaug and James Palmer both making World Cup main events and both finishing the year ranked in the top 25 in the world,” said Muys.
“With Olympic qualifying starting in 2018 we are confident we have the right group of athletes in the program to contend for Olympic spots.”
There will be just one or two men from Canada going to 2020 Summer Games – there was only one at the last Olympics, so it is incredibly competitive.
He hopes Canada will send two this time, because ” in our sport, if you get in a final, you’ve got a shot at a podium.”
Alex has just one year as an elite rider, but Muys said “he is progressing really well.”
“He could definitely be one of the guys in Tokyo, battling in the final.”
For Ryan, it could be Paris in 2024.