November 15, 2018 (Toronto, Ont) – Canadian para-cyclist Shelley Gautier has had a year for the record books. Not only did she win every UCI cycling race she entered in 2018, ending up with a perfect season, she capped it off with a Para-cycling Award at the 2018 UCI Cycling Gala in Guilin, China. But, far from resting on her laurels, she already has her sights set on her next goal – the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
On Nov. 18, Gautier will celebrate her achievement at a special event in Toronto, where she will be presented with her UCI award as well as Cycling Canada’s inaugural Perfect Season of the Year Award. In addition, there will be a screening of an episode of the new TV show Highway to Health, featuring Gautier – celebration details here.
“I mean, it’s just amazing that I did it,” she says. “I had a lot of help and worked really hard. I am always nervous for the World Cups and at the World Championships last year in Italy I fell, so I was nervous.”
In August, the Toronto native won her 14th world championship title at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Maniago, Italy. Gautier is undefeated at the world championships since 2010, and once again the talented athlete was successful in defending her title. Yet despite her perfect season being on the line, Gautier tried not to think too far ahead.
“I just take one race at a time and just go out and try to do my best and that’s what I did,” she says. “It wasn’t until afterwards when I sat down and realized I had a perfect season.”
Back in 2001, Gautier suffered a severe head injury while mountain biking in Vermont and fell into a coma subsequently developing hemiparesis on the right side of her body. As a lifelong athlete, she continue to put sport at the centre of her life and her recovery competing in disabled sailing and taking up rock climbing before moving on to para-cycling.
She first returned to cycling via a recumbent bike that she would ride around Toronto before watching a para-cyclist race at an event in Quebec alongside Louis Barbeau, the Director General of the Quebec Cycling Federation, who later became the president of UCI’s Para-Cycling Commission.
“He thought that because a guy racing ended up wiping out in the rain that I’d never come back,” recalls Gautier. “But it ended up that he loaned me a trike, and I got into para-cycling that way.”
In 2009 she became the the first female T-1 rider on the Canadian Para-Cycling Team and hasn’t looked back. In addition to her many UCI world championships, Gautier has also won a silver at the 2011 Parapan American Games and 2015 Parapan American Games in the mixed time trial events.
She competed at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, England but failed to win a medal, but she returned and won a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
We met up with Gautier at Duke’s Cycle on Queen St. West in Toronto, one of her long-standing sponsors, for a photo opp with her medals, UCI World Cup season overall trophy, and rainbow jersey as well.
“I’m so grateful to all of my sponsors as I couldn’t have done it without them. They really make the world of difference at every competition. Special thanks to Lorne Anderson, head technician and bike fitter at Dukes Cycle, who tunes my bike,” she commented.
Along the way, she started the Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation that aims to purchase recreational equipment for persons living with disabilities. The foundation, run by Alan Greer, operates through contracts with community organizations in existing recreational facilities, so people with disabilities can be more integrated into their communities. To date it has loaned over $150,000.00 of para-cycling equipment.
And she’s not done yet. “Starting Dec. 1, I’m going to be back to work on getting a different colour metal in Tokyo,” she quipped. “I won a bronze medal in Rio, and I want a different colour.”