BAIE-COMEAU, Que. – Marie-Claude Molnar, one of Canada’s most successful Para cyclists, announced Wednesday her two races at this week’s 2022 Para Cycling Road World Championships will be the last of her career.
Molnar, 38, made the announcement at the press conference for the event on Wednesday afternoon. She is the reigning world champion in the C4 time trial and road race, earned last year in Portugal.
“It’s special to finish in my home province before friends, family and all the people from Baie-Comeau who’ll be cheering us along,” said Molnar, from Longueuil, Que. ‘’I’m sure it’ll be moments I will never forget.”
Canada is fielding a 15-member team for its 40-country, 550-rider home worlds, which includes two pilots for visually impaired athletes along with seven athletes with Paralympic Games experience, with five from last summer’s Games in Tokyo.
Molnar, struck by a car in 2005 which left her with head injuries, started to compete at World Championships and World Cups in 2009. That year she was crowned the road race and time trial winner in her Canadian national championships debut. She is also a World Cup champion, a bronze medallist in the time trial at the 2012 Paralympic Games, and she posted two top-10 finishes at the Rio Games in 2016.
“I’m very proud of all my accomplishments,” said Molnar, who’ll continue a career in communications. “The time has come where I have to pursue other projects. I don’t like the word retire. It’s a transition and the continuity of a journey in which so far, I have learned so much about myself and sport.”
She will compete this week in the time trial on Friday and the road race on Sunday.
Canada is led at the world championships by Keely Shaw of Midale, Sask. in the C4 category. Shaw won a bronze medal on the track at the Paralympics last year and is six for six in World Cup podiums this summer on the road.
“It’s just been exciting to have a regular race season,” said Shaw, 28. “The ultimate goal here is to come home with a medal. But there’s so much more we look for than the outcome, so much to be found in the process. Ultimately the goal is Paris 2024.”
With all the uncertainty over the past three years, due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s Para cycling head coach Sébastien Travers doesn’t want to set goals for these worlds.
“It’s an opportunity to assess our entire performance plan,” he said. “Then use these performances as a base towards the 2024 Paralympics.
“It’s ideal for us to have a worlds at home in terms of getting around and some independence for the athletes. But in the middle of a Paralympic cycle there is some pressure so it’s kind of a fine balance. So to have the World Cup in Quebec last week, our athletes kind of lived through that already.”
Others to watch for Canada include:
Shelley Gautier of Toronto is a multiple world champion and Paralympic medallist in the women’s T1 classification.
Charles Moreau of Victoriaville, Que., a double bronze medallist in handcycling from Rio 2016, has maintained himself among the top riders in the men’s H3 category, one of the deepest in the sport.
In the same category, Alex Hyndman looks to crack the top-three as he did in 2018.
Two newcomers have also burst onto the scene. Developed first in other sports, the pair has unexpectedly grabbed the attention as well this summer.
One is Nathan Clement of West Vancouver, a 2016 Paralympian in swimming, who grabbed silver medals in the T1 (tricycle) time trial and road race last week in his international debut on the World Cup circuit 400 kilometres down the road in Quebec City.
The other is Alexandre Hayward of Quispamsis, N.B., a former member of the national junior wheelchair basketball team, who was the C2 time trial champion in Quebec City in his stunning debut.
On Thursday, the first half of the time trial races, all 18.89 kilometres in distance, take place for the tricyclists and hand cyclists. The riders on bicycles, including the tandem racers, have their time trials on Friday. The road races are on the weekend.
The road race events on August 13 and 14 will be livestreamed as part of the Paralympic Super Series. Viewers can watch the action on Paralympic.ca as well as CBC Sports and Radio-Canada digital platforms, including: the free CBC Gem streaming service, cbcsports.ca, the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices, radio-canada.ca/sports and the Radio-Canada Info app for iOS and Android devices. Two separate two-hour shows featuring both live coverage and top highlights will also air on the CPC’s Facebook page on both days, and be mixed into the livestream. CPC will also share highlight packages for the time trial events on August 11 and 12.