Lydia Stack-Michasiw

Lydia Stack-Michasiw takes national cyclocross title

Lydia Stack-Michasiw only started racing cyclocross this fall — so she was as surprised as anyone when she landed on top of the podium at last month’s Canadian championships.

“It was a very unexpected win,” 15-year-old Stack-Michasiw said just days after taking the U17 title at the Nov. 25 race in Layritz Park, just outside Victoria, B.C. “The course was very slippery so, as I was racing, girls were crashing all around me — and I fell a few times — but I kept battling against two other girls and stayed at the front of the pack the whole time. And then, right at the end, one girl crashed in front of me, and I just went for it.”

Stack-Michasiw runs for Saskatoon Track and Field Club and works part time at Brainsport (her dad, Brian Michasiw, owns the store), but she admits her first love is cycling. She has always enjoyed riding her bike and started racing road bikes three years ago. “I really liked road racing so I thought: why not do as many forms of racing as I can?” she says. Over the past two years that has involved mountain bike racing, criterium racing and, most recently, cyclocross racing.

Cyclocross is to cycling as cross country is to running; it’s an end-of-season discipline contested on grassy, muddy terrain. There are often steep hills and barriers that force riders to dismount and run with their bikes. The bike tires seem ridiculously thin for the type of terrain they have to cover, which makes it a technically challenging sport.

Lydia Stack-Michasiw takes gold in the 2023 Canadian cyclocross championships U17 division.
Lydia Stack-Michasiw takes gold in the 2023 Canadian cyclocross championships U17 division.

Stack-Michasiw has mastered those technical skills largely on her own. While she is part of the Saskatchewan Cycling Association, she predominantly trains on her own and with a friend. “We watch a lot of YouTube videos and we ask our parents for help when we need it. And there’s just a lot of trial and error,” she says. “We basically just practice everything we can think of.”

Stack-Michasiw’s win at nationals was all the more surprising given challenges she had just three weeks earlier at the Pan American Cyclocross Championships in Missoula, Mont. at the beginning of November. Stack-Michasiw says things started going wrong as soon as she rode the course the day before her race.

“There were quite a few things that sort of scared me and made me very nervous for the actual race,” she recalls. “The day of the race the course was even muddier than it had been when I was pre riding it and I just got freaked out and I slowed down on all the technical parts. I just wasn’t very prepared for what it was going to be like.”

Stack-Michasiw, a self-professed cautious rider, says she overcomes her fears by practicing skills over and over again — “that way, even though I’m scared, I know I’ve done it so many times that, whatever it is, I’ll be able to do it,” she says.

Lydia Stack-Michasiw takes gold in the 2023 Canadian cyclocross championships U17 division.
Lydia Stack-Michasiw (centre) on the podium after winning the 2023 Canadian cyclocross championships U17 division.

Rather than dwelling on her disappointing finish in Missoula, Stack-Michasiw reflected on the race and looked ahead to nationals. In the end, she didn’t need to ride more aggressively to take the win; the icy conditions on the course favoured a more cautious approach and Stack-Michasiw kept at the front of the pack by slowing around the corners to (mostly) stay upright. She crossed the finish in 42 minutes and 21 seconds, just two seconds ahead of the second-place racer.

With her 2023 season wrapped up, Stack-Michasiw is looking forward to riding over the winter indoors on a bike trainer and outdoors on a fat bike — in addition to training and racing on the track. She has her eyes on some snow-free bike races in the United States and plans to attend a warm-weather cycling training camp in Spain in February. She’s looking forward to lining up at the Canadian Road Championships in Quebec in June and wants to improve her bike handling skills so she can feel confident competing in one or more of the Canada Cup mountain bike races this coming summer. She doesn’t yet know which cycling discipline she wants to focus on so she’s happy to keep doing them all.

“It’s hard to say which one is my favourite,” she says. “I love everything.”