LESLEY TOMLINSON- CANADIAN OLYMPIAN (MOUNTAIN BIKE)
I was born in England where I lived until I was 10 years old. I’m a Canadian now but still have dual citizenship. I always stayed a bit British I guess, drinking Tea a lot and use a few odd words.
My family moved twice to Boston whilst my father did graduate studies at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). One of my 3 sisters was born in the states. We drove and camped in 38 states of America whilst he was gathering info for his thesis. Grandma came with us, cruising in the ’59 Chevy and camping along the way.
Back to England for a few years, and finally landed in Vancouver, BC, Canada. A place I still think is one of the most beautiful spots in the World.
I graduated from Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC in 1983 with a degree in Business and Economics and a minor in Kinesiology.
Over the next 12 years I pursued my marketing career. Before University my activities had always revolved around horses and not much else. Once in university I no longer had a horse to occupy every spare minute so I got swept up in other sports for the first time. First came distance running, which later (thankfully) transitioned to cycling.
My business career began in sales and promotions, which later became a marketing job with a large brewery and then a soft drink company. My last “corporate” or “real life” position, before becoming a professional cyclist, was with a chain of 63 Restaurants (Earls) as Director of Marketing.
During the 12 year progression to a senior level position in marketing, in a real job, I compiled a solid record as an athlete. As a runner, I won Victoria International Marathon in 1982 finished regularly on the podium at National road running events.
I won 2 Provincial titles in 20 km road and 6 All-American titles in Track and Cross Country in the N.A.I.A. Conference at University.
I discovered my true love in cycling during a brief year as a triathlete in 1988. My love was definitely not in the water…I am an anchor! I spent the next 6 years racing as a road cyclist with the National Team in Europe which I loved, but coming from Vancouver, we spent a lot of time on our Mountain Bikes – so I soon added serious MTB Racing in 1993.
Highlights of my road racing career included being part of consecutive 2nd and 3rd place Canadian team finishes at the Women’s Tour de France. I won a silver medal on the road at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, 2 National Titles and 3 National Silvers on the road, and was selected as first alternate for the 1996 Road Team at the Olympic Games as well as being one of the two selected riders for the Mountain Bike competition at the Atlanta Games.
In 1995, after juggling career and sport for so long, I chose to give up my “real job” and took an offer with the Evian Professional Women’s Mountain Bike Team. I wanted to focus on my cycling “career.” Not something my boss thought made any sense at all! Later on when I made the Olympic Team, he did send flowers and said “now I understand.” I thought that was very cool.
In 1996 and 2000 I represented Canada at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games in the Mountain Bike Cross Country Event. I rode for Kona Bikes and the RLX Team during those years. With RLX we got to learn what Ralph Lauren style photo shoots were all about…LONG! But what a fun experience. After 2000, I rode for, and directed the Pro Team for Rocky Mountain Bicycles until I got over the start and finish lines of things in 2007.
At the Athens 2004 Olympics, I was the CBC TV colour commentator for all the Mountain Bike Events for both live and highlight packages. Yup..media do have more privileges than athletes at the Olympic venues!
It took me a while to stop finding things I thought were good challenges, even though I had retired from World Cup competition. I tackled a few new and exciting race experiences such as Epic MTB Stage racing and 24 Hr Solo. Mostly because I wasn’t sure I could win, so thought I should see what they were about. I will say,they were Hard! In a different way than World Cup racing, but still incredibly challenging.
My competition highlights for 2002/04 were 2 wins of “the Worlds Toughest Mountain Bike Stage Race,” (their claim but I tend to agree) the Trans Alp Challenge, which is 650km and 22000 meters of climbing in 8 days from Germany to Italy. An additional mission was winning the 2002 & 2004 24 Hr Solo World Championship Titles in which I covered 375 km of single track racing in 24 hrs to take the World Title. Ok, that I didn’t want to do again.
Since retiring from competition in 2007, I still have maintained sponsor relationships with the bike industry as an athlete, team director, media representative and coach.
From 1997 to 2005, I was a founding director of a youth mountain bike development program called,Kids on the Shore and the Sprockids Program Development Society. This was based on a concept created and implemented by a Canadian school teacher called” Sprockids 2 Wheeled Approach to Self Esteem.” This program was adopted by the National Cycling Association in Canada, and has taken a major role in the development of cycling youths in the Province of British Columbia. I still bump into riders from the early days of that program who have told me that biking became the one constant in their lives throughout many other trials in life. Feels good to have been a part of that.
During my career, I was personal coach to a group of young development athletes under 20 yrs old who aspired to elite level cycling careers. Amongst those athletes, there were 3 kids who I lead successfully from introduction to the bike in Sprockids, through to securing National Titles and positions representing Canada at the World Championships. One of my riders, Micayla Gatto, has had great success and still competes for the World Cup podium at 22.
I even did suffer through a 5 year stint as a Director on the Canadian Cycling Association Board, something worthwhile for any high performance athlete to experience. The back rooms of sport are very interesting to say the least.
Since leaving serious competition in 2007, I have worked on contract in sponsorship sales of sports event properties, Whistler Crankworx Festival and BC Bike Race being two notables. I also manage a Gravity Mountain Bike Squad of 4 riders, all under 23 years old.
In 2010 I began coaching, training and instructing a growing group of Age Group Cycling enthusiasts. I’ve really enjoyed seeing relative Newcomers to the sport become inspired and competent on the bike. I offer personalized camps and clinics for private groups of corporate and recreational clients, in both road and mountain bike cycling. I have partnered up in a company we call TaG Cycling, with another Canadian Olympian, Gina Grain who brings skill from the track to our teaching. Gina has some of the fastest legs in the World, no joke! We are having a great time sharing our experiences and passion for the sport.
I still spend some time each year as a colour commentating Host for the Canadian National TV Network, CBC TV. I am hoping to have the opportunity to commentate in London at the 2012 Olympics. Fingers crossed on getting that front row seat for the Games!
Highlights from Lesley’s career:
- 2004 & 2002 24Hr Solo World Champion MTB
- 2003 & 2002 Trans Alp Challenge Champion
- 2000/1996 Canadian Olympic Team MTB
- 1999 PanAmerican Championships Silver Medalist MTB
- 1994 Commonwealth Games Silver Medalist Road
- 1998 UCI World XC MTB – Ranked 3rd
- 1997 XTerra Off Road Triathlon World Championships 2nd
- 2001 XTerra Off Road Triathlon World Championships 5th
- 23 World Cup MTB Top 10 Finishes
- 5 World Cup MTB Podiums
- Represented Canada at 13 World Championships Road and MTB
- 13 US National MTB Podiums
- 1997 World Cup MTB Overall 6th
- 1997 US National MTB Series Overall 2nd
- 2 Canadian National Championship Titles Road
- 7 Canadian National Silver Medals Road and MTB
Lesley’s television and webcast assignments:
CBC Television Analyst Commentary
- 2010 Mountain Bike World Championships 3 hr live show XC
- 2010 Mountain Bike World Championships 1 hr show DH and 4X
- 2009 Mountain Bike World Championships XC, DH and BX Colour Commentary 1x 1 hour show
- 2009 Mountain Bike World Cup Racing XC, DH and BX Colour Commentary 3x 1 hour shows
- 2004 Olympic Games Mountain Bike 2x 2 Hr Live Shows
- 2004/2005 Madrid, Willingen and Calgary World Cup Shows
- 2002 World Championships XC Commentary 2x 1 hour shows
- 2003 World Championships XC Commentary 1x 1 hour show
Webcast Whistler Crankworx
- 2010 Whistler Crankworx 4x 2 hr live Webcast Shows
Live Announcing and Interviews
- 2010 Whistler Crankworx 5 Days
Eurovision Highlights Analyst Commentary
- 2005 English Highlights Package – XC, DH, 4X and Trials
Outdoor Life Network (USA) Expert Commentary
- 2001 Sea Otter Classic Mountain Bike Race – 4x 1 hour shows
- 1999 Mercury Tour Mountain Bike Race interviews
Outdoor Life Network (USA) Celebrity Equipment Testing
- 2001 Gear Guide 1 ½ hour show
Model for National Ralph Lauren RLX AD Campaigns 1998,1999,2000,2001
- Runners World, Triathlete, Shape, Outside, Sports Illustrated, Mountain Bike Magazine, Mountain Bike Action, Bicycling, Women’s Sport & Fitness, RLX spring and Fall Catalogues, RLX In-Store Point of Sale Materials