Always In Motion

OC Blog | From Team Ontario to the Olympic Games

August 29, 2022

by molly hurford

As a young—very young—cyclist, before he was dreaming of going to the Olympics, before he considered turning pro, Peter Disera was just one of many young kids in Horseshoe Valley riding around the single track in the area. Occasionally, the family would venture to Hardwood Hills, where dozens of kids would line up in the weekly race program. And from there… well, things escalated quickly. But if it hadn’t been for programs put on by Ontario Cycling (OC), Disera may not have been able to achieve his Olympic potential. Here, we chatted with him about how those junior development years shaped him as an athlete.

Do you remember your first rides when you were a kid?

We definitely spent a lot of time just riding around the county trails near us. I was on just a youth bike from Canadian Tire, and so was my brother Quinton—I think he was on training wheels when we first started riding around exploring. He’d get stuck in the single track because the training wheels would get caught! After that, we started in the Hardwood racing program and got involved in their development program. We were lucky we lived near there.

When did you start training with OC’s projects?

I actually had quite extensive stint with the OC stuff. I’d actually consider what I did with them to be honestly one of the best time periods to be part of the projects. Back then, we would take this huge van of kids down to South Carolina for training, and we learned so much on those trips. We did a lot of riding, but really, the life skills that we learned were the most helpful later on. 

After that, I was lucky that I got to be part of some of the projects out in California, when I was U23, and that was really eye-opening, stepping up into that category and training with some really fast people. It really pushed me to improve my performance. And for the road guys on those projects, I think it was eye-opening for them to see how hard us mountain bikers trained, and we were able to learn a lot from each other.

What about actual racing?

I don’t know where I would have gone without some of OC projects that I did early on, getting out to some of the Canada Cups that wouldn’t have been accessible otherwise. I think Canmore in 2012 was my first National Championships I raced [Ed. Note: he later won Nationals in Canmore as an elite racer in 2017], 

and that was with an Ontario Cycling project. At that point, there were still junior World Cups, so I basically had to establish that I was one of the top three juniors in the nation, and then I was able to cross into racing with the national team. It would have been hard to get there without Ontario Cycling, honestly.

Do you think it still is essential for racer development in Canada to have provincial-level programs?

Absolutely. There are a lot of clubs that are doing great work with development programs and bringing athletes up in the sport, but those are often really location dependent and obviously, they cost money. Some of the large clubs do the more local races like Ontario Cups and maybe some Canada Cups, and then there are some programs like the Stimulus Orbea Racing Team that are even travelling to the World Cups, and that’s all pretty wicked. But at the same time, those aren’t programs that have access to funding for athletes who need it. They’ve got to run their own balance sheet. I think in a perfect world, you’d have a balance between OC’s programs and these private programs, where there’s a significant development strategy that anyone can fit into. I think having access to provincial development programs is so important for athletes who aren’t necessarily able to access private programming.

So there’s room for everyone in athlete development?

Definitely—and there’s a need for it. Even when I became part of the Norco team initially, I still did training camps with OC—even in 2020, I was with an Ontario Cycling project in Spain to do a lot of my base building ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. I was never able to participate in any of the national team projects because they were always scheduled during exams or other essential school periods for me. But Ontario Cycling camps were designed more on student-friendly schedules. And that was important for me. 

About the Writer

Molly Hurford is a journalist in love with all things cycling, running, nutrition and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside and healthy habits of athletes and interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete podcast and website, and most recently launched the book ‘Becoming A Consummate Athlete.‘ She’s the author of multiple books including the Shred Girls, a young adult fiction series and online community focused on getting girls excited about bikes.

Molly is a little obsessed with getting people psyched on adventure and being outside, and she regularly hosts talks and runs clinics for cyclists and teaches yoga online and IRL… And in her spare time, the former Ironman triathlete now spends time tackling long runs and rides on trails or can be found out hiking with her mini-dachshund DW and husband, cycling coach and kinesiologist Peter Glassford.