Veloce pedals his way to Olympic Games.
Joseph Veloce of Fonthill
Photo courtesy of Joseph Veloce
In much the same way as a waitress at a cocktail party with a serving tray, a track official walks down a line of seated cyclists with a plate full of hidden numbers.
Each rider appears to be devoid of emotion under swooping helmets with reflective visors like sci-fi movie gladiators about to battle it out in a futuristic arena as they select their spot in the race.
When the official reaches Fonthill’s Joseph Veloce, he turns over a card to reveal his position in the keirin, an all-out sprint cycling event which pits as many as nine riders against each other in a small stadium called a velodrome.
This happened last August as Veloce sped his way to a first-place finish at the Canadian Track Championships with a time of 11.64.
It was the beginning of when Veloce would record some of the fastest times he would reach over the next season that would ultimately land him on the track team that will represent Canada at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London next month.
Earlier this month, the team was announced in Los Angeles as Veloce, 23, was sitting through his convocation ceremony to receive a degree in electrical engineering from McMaster University.
“I started yelling on the inside,” said Veloce about containing his excitement during the quiet ceremony.
Canada qualified for an all-time high six cycling events at the upcoming Olympic Games, including the men’s omnium, women’s omnium, women’s team pursuit, women’s sprint, women’s keirin and men’s keirin.
“There’s not a whole lot of time to think in the keirin. If you have any time to think about making a maneuver, it’s too late,” said Veloce. “There’s a lot of split-second decisions in the keirin, which is a little more chaotic than the other sprint events.”
Cycling Canada has three elite sprinters on the national team, but only one could have the honour of representing Canada in the Olympics for the men’s keirin event, so they held two time trial events to help the coaches make their decision on which rider would wear red and white in London.
It’s no surprise that his Italian surname, Veloce, translates into ‘fast’, as he registered the fastest times in both events. Over the last year, Veloce has been recording some of the best numbers of his career.
“I wouldn’t say I was crazy about cycling in the beginning,” said Veloce, who is an alumni of St. Alexander Elementary and Notre Dame College School. “I had a mountain bike but never took it seriously.”
Veloce fell in love with cycling at the age of 15 after he watched Canadian Lori-Ann Muenzer pedal to a gold medal on television during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
He started biking around the rural greens of Fonthill with the idea of becoming a road racer before he learned of track cycling, working with a coach and suiting up for Team Ontario.
The story his mother, Lucia, likes to tell is how her soccer-loving son wrangled through their garage to dust off a 10-speed bike from the 1970s which belongs to his dad, William.
“I used that bike in my first provincial road race,” said Veloce. “It was held in Fonthill actually.”
In 2006, Veloce snagged a total of four gold medals at the Ontario Provincial Track Championships and the Quebec championships. It was the
beginning of countless gold, silver and bronze medals to arrive in his trophy case.
In April, Veloce competed at the World Championships in Melbourne, Australia and finished just outside of the top 10 in the team sprint event. Veloce holds several Canadian Championship titles including two gold medals in the keirin, three gold medals in the team sprint and a gold medal in the individual sprint.
Eight years after watching Muenzer compete for her country, Veloce will soon be in the saddle for Canada.
“I look forward to the challenge of making my country proud,” said Veloce.
He will join six other track cyclists to suit up for Canada. The team consists of Veloce, Zach Bell, Laura Brown, Tara Whitten, Gillian Carleton, Jasmin Glaesser and Monique Sullivan.
“I am proud to welcome these new members of the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team,” Canadian chef de mission Mark Tewksbury said in a statement. “Their hard work and dedication will inspire Canadians when they hit the track in London.”
--Torstar News Servcies