After a full season of racing in Europe with the Accent.Jobs-Wanty pro contintental team, Whistler's Will Routley is weighing his options for next season. While he enjoyed the experience racing in Europe, he's getting married to his longtime girlfriend, pro rider Shoshauna Russell Laxson, this fall and there's been talk of staying closer to home next season.
"Now it's a matter of deciding what I want to do, and I've been talking to teams in North America," he confirmed this week. "The racing here is so good right now with races in Alberta, Colorado, Utah, California, Quebec... there's so much top level racing here at home, and I'm at that stage in my life where it might be good to actually have a home instead of a storage locker.
"I spent seven months living out of a suitcase travelling around Europe. It was fun, but that's a long time."
His last experiences racing in Europe were not the best. In the Tour du Limousin in France, Routley was ejected from the race on the first stage after a case of mistaken identity.
"You know how on the Tour (de France) you see guys holding onto cars a little bit, and the sticky bottles and sometimes (riders) push how long they hold onto those bottles? Well there's this Italian team we've raced against a bunch of times this year and they're notorious for it, in the mountains they hold onto the car forever," explained Routley.
"We were on the first stage of a four-stage race, and four guys from this other team got caught holding onto the car, and one member of our team held onto a car as well. And the commissionaire booted them out, and me as well — for some reason he figured he saw me, and the director we had was new to directing and arguing these things with the officials. It was a first for me, I'd never been booted from a race."
The next event went a little better. At the Chateauroux Classic he played the role of support rider, and helped a young member of the team finish in the top 10.
Routley says there's a slight chance he'll return to Europe, but will have that conversation with his future wife when she returns from her own race tour in Europe. "This year was an experience I had to have for sure, and I knew going in that it would either be really good or really tough," he said.
While he still enjoys racing, Routley also had a tough season with cold weather and snow through the spring, crashes, a schedule that had him racing almost every weekend with no chance to train or rest. Earlier in the season he said the main difference was that in North America you train and prepare for specific races, building up for major events one at a time. In Europe, where the UCI Europe Tour sanctions around 275 races each season, you were always racing.
Routley's most recent break brought him to visit his family and friends in Whistler, and he's even had an opportunity to get back on a mountain bike — something he hasn't done much of since the former junior mountain bike national champion made the switch to pavement. While he enjoys being home and riding his bike in the area, he says the region has a long way to go to be bike friendly.
"It seems that there's still a lot of resistance to bikes on the road here," he said. "I have to say that it's definitely not the best place I've ridden a road bike. I was shocked, because there seems to be a lot of negative energy towards people on the road. Maybe the riders don't know the rules or the drivers aren't accustomed to it, or nobody knows the rules or regulations. Some drivers think we're obliged to stay in the ditch and off the road altogether. In a perfect world we'd all get along and be safe out there.
"It's also amazing because this is a major part of our economy in Sea to Sky now. Before Ironman I saw hundreds of cars with Washington plates and tri bikes on top, and they weren't just coming here for the day but for months in advance."
The low point was when he was riding with his fiancé in Pemberton and they were driven off the road twice.
Routley says most vehicles seem to be fine, and that the exceptions — while dangerous — are rare, and will hopefully become more rare as time goes by.
"In Catalonia, Spain, where I go to train the attitude is completely different," he said. "People just casually drive behind bikes or tractors or horses, and will sit there for minutes until the road straightens out and then pass by and wave at you. It's just part of the culture there, where it's still kind of new here."