Leah Kirchmann is proof that the cycle of success can begin at home.
Kirchmann, 23, is a professional cyclist who is currently racing for Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies.
And Kirchmann, who recently graduated with a degree in health sciences from Quest University in Squamish, B.C., will be helping out at an upcoming community event for female cyclists.
The Velodonnas — a recreational cycling group for women across the city, which is intended to foster camaraderie and encourage participants to challenge themselves in a supportive environment — will hold the next event in its Dirt Skirt Race Series on Wed., Aug. 7, which will focus on individual time trials.
"I will be attending and helping out with the Velodonnas’ time trial event," said Kirchmann, who will be heading to Europe at the end of August to race in France and Italy and ending her cycling season with the Team Time Trial at the World Championships in Florence, Italy.
The Vincent Massey Collegiate alumnus is more than happy to lend a hand to the cause, as she believes the Velodonnas offer a support network to local cyclists.
"Women’s cycling is really growing in popularity at the moment. It’s awesome that the Velodonnas offer a welcoming environment for female riders to come together to gain skills, form friendships and simply enjoy the sport," Kirchmann said.
Kirchmann, who grew up in Norwood Flats, began her cycling career when she joined the Kids of Mud program in Winnipeg. The program is the official youth cycling program of the Manitoba Cycling Association and is administered by a group of participating clubs. With the help of certified coaches and volunteers, riders aged 16 and younger learn the basics of off-road cycling with an opportunity to challenge their skill and fitness in a fun race series.
"Kids of Mud was what first piqued my interest in competitive cycling at age 13. I was able to gain the necessary bike skills, fitness and connections from the program to begin racing with the provincial team," Kirchmann said.
"From there, I was able to improve and race all over the world with the national team and professional teams. I wouldn’t be where I am today as a cyclist without my start in Kids of Mud.
"Grassroots programs like this are so important for getting kids outside and active, while also developing the next generation of racers."
St. Boniface resident Karin McSherry, 41, a founding member of the Velodonnas, an MCA board member and committee chair of Kids of Mud, said the program remains popular among Winnipeg youth.
"It’s super popular. There are more kids that want to get in than coaches," McSherry said, noting her seven-year-old son is involved in the program.
"It’s popular with kids that are maybe not as interested in team sports, but want to do something active and challenging. Cycling is a great sport. Of course it’s about physical fitness and having fun, but also the mental challenge, as you’ve got to build up your bike-handling skills," she said.
McSherry added Kirchmann’s involvement in the upcoming event will be a boon: "We don’t often have one of our own that goes off to become a professional. Just because it’s the prairies, Leah breaks the perception that it can’t be done."
To learn more about the Velodonnas, visit dirtskirt.ca
To learn more about Kids of Mud, visit kidsofmud.ca