Canadian Olympian and Canadian National Ski Team veteran Gord Jewett is still racing – but on his bike, rather than a pair of skis.
Earlier this month Jewett became Alberta Provincial Road Cycling Champion, taking top honors in the 130 k race in Lethbridge, Alberta.
The 33 year old Jewett, who lives in Calgary, Alberta, retired from ski racing following the 2010 season, where he competed in the Vancouver Olympics.
Jewett races for the Rundel Mountain Cycling Club – a non-professional team drawing most of their racers from the Canmore and Banff region. The team features a few other former elite skiers – ex-Canadian National Ski Team member Sean Crooks is also on the team as well as Eric Jenson, a top biathlete in the late 1990’s.
While Jewett had been riding hard all summer, racing pretty much every weekend either on his road or mountain bike, he didn’t come into the event with much in the way of expectations.
“I was sick for two weeks straight coming into the race,” said Jewett. “I did a mid-week local race in Calgary the week before and I could barely pull through.”
Even at the start line, he was thinking of helping the team effort, rather than going for the win himself – he told teammate Sean Crooks that he was going to work for him.
“I was riding into the wind to keep Sean out of the crosswind, he crashed, I waited for him and paced him back to the group – basically I did what I could to take care of him.”
With 40 k left, the pack hit high cross winds, and the group shattered. Initially, Jewett stayed with Crooks, but after realizing that his team mate was struggling, Jewett jumped across the gap to the two leading riders, and decided to race for the win.
But he was faced with a tough task – both of the other riders were racing for a single squad, and employed the full range of team tactics in an attempt to get rid of the tough skier-turned-cyclist.
“I had to respond to a bunch of attacks, and they guttered me [when a rider is forced to continuously ride in the cross-wind, never getting a draft], but I was feeling pretty strong,” Jewett said.
Jewett also knew that he had a good chance if it came down to a sprint, and was focused on getting close to the line in contact with the other riders. With 200 meters left, he jumped into his sprint, and rode across the line as Alberta Champion.
Despite his success, Jewett isn’t looking for a second athletic career – his goals for cycling are modest.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “I’m just trying to be strong on the bike.”
And he isn’t turning his back on the ski world. He does a little bit of work with the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA), the development center based in Canmore. His wife, Rhonda Jewett, also a former World Cup level cross country skier, is on the Cross Country Canada (CCC) board of directors.
His brother-in-law Kevin Sandau, is currently on the Canadian National Ski Team’s Senior Development Team, and a member of the AWCA.
In terms of ski training, he doesn’t get too involved. “I think I rollerskied twice last fall,” he said, “but I ski every weekend during the winter.” At the grassroots level, he and his wife coach a group of young skiers at the Foothills Nordic Ski Club based in Calgary.
In the mean time, Jewett is focusing on school, attending University of Calgary pursuing a degree in software engineering, with the ultimate goal of being an entrepreneur in the field of biomedical software technology.
Jewett isn’t the only cross country skier to have success riding a bike; as a junior Alex Harvey went to World Junior Mountain Bike Championships, and more recently, ex-National Team member Tara Whitten has become a track racing star, collecting medals at Track Cycling World Championships in 2009 and 2010.
Full results from Alberta Provincial Road Cycling Championships here