It’s not often that new, relatively small teams launch with two national champions on their roster. But that’s exactly what Pittstop Racing is doing. The new Bromont, Que.-based team boasts both Laurie Arseneault and Zorak Paillé as it rolls into the 2023 race season.
Behind the new team is another Bromont, Que. mountain biker, Rebecca Beaumont. When Arseneault was left without a team at the end of 2023, Beaumont realized it was time to act on a dream of creating her own team.
“I immediately said I was going to do everything I could to make it work. I always wanted to have my own team one day, but I didn’t think it would be in 2023,” Beaumont says. “It started from a desire to help. I think it’s sad that there’s not enough support in the industry that athletes can continue their careers.”
Pittstop Racing: a small team with big dreams
Pittstop racing is new, but Arseneault and Paillé roll into the 2023 season with experience, Arseneault is the Canadian elite women’s XCC national champion and Paillé earned the maple leaf jersey in junior men’s XCC and XCO, and ambition. As part of a smaller program, they will be turning to each other for support.
“I really enjoy the belonging feeling you get when you’re part of smaller program. This one is a special one for sure. We are all very passionate people and highly motivated to lift each other up,” Arseneault says of her new team. “Rebecca is doing such a wonderful job as a manager. She really inspires me. It’s easy to talk with her and bring ideas to the table. It’s also extremely motivating to have Zorak as a teammate, he has a beautiful energy and he’s very talented.”
For Paillé, the opportunity to team up with Arseneault is a bonus as he graduates from the junior ranks to take on the under-23 World Cup events.
“It’s a big bonus having Laurie by my side for my first year on the World Cup circuit. She has been on the circuit for a couple of years so it’s going to be nice to have someone who’s already got experience travelling around the world for racing,” Paille says, adding that Beaumont’s bringing her own history to the table, as well. “Rebecca also has a lot of experience racing at a high level to so it’s going to be nice having her knowledge.”
The step from junior to under-23 can be a big one. Paillé’s debut in u23 comes with some added pressure after winning Canadian junior XCO and XCC championships in 2022.
“For sure it’s scary stepping in the U23 ranks, especially after a successful year. You still want to be the best but you know the level is higher and it’s going to be harder,” Paillé admits. “I’m still well-prepared and have high ambitions for this year. I haven’t exactly set fixed goals for this year, but I’ll be for sure going for a good result at a World Cup and Canadian championships.”
Individual goals backed by community support
Unlike many teams, which are backed by bike brands, Pittstop Racing aims to be an extension of the Bromont mountain bike scene.
“We really want to have a sense of community around the bike shop,” says Beaumont. “So the goal was to build a community around a team that everyone could be proud of.”
Pittstop Velo Cafe is already a hub of local mountain bike culture. Bromont’s hosted World Cup racing in the past and Pittstop gets a crowd to watch races together all summer. Now, the shop is bringing that tradition back to the races with the new team. Beaumont also sees it as a big support that will help the team riders perform to their potential.
“It’s difficult to always have to fly to race. To be away from home, away from your family all season long and all winter long for training. When you’re in Europe and you have five World Cups near your house, within five hours drive, it’s so much easier.” Beaumont says. She knows from experience. While away racing, she missed a grandparent’s funeral, along with friend’s birthdays and other social events every racer gives up.
“I think that, besides the lack of funding, that’s the biggest challenge. There’s the feeling that you’re missing out on something,” says Beaumont. “This is why we want to be a close team, to build a great relationship together and have that community feeling. It can fill the gap that athletes feel when they’re away for so long. When they come back home, they know they’re not alone and they have a lot of people that are cheering for them.”
For Arseneault, Pittstop Velo Cafe was already filling that role, even before the team launched, back when she first moved to Bromont.
“The Pittstop squad welcomed me with open arms when I moved there and I felt right at home. I found such an amazing and generous community within all of them,” Arseneault says. “They also let me pour some coffee to the customers for a few hours during the winter, that was pretty cool. I’m already very excited to come back home and go ride bikes with them.”
And, while the team supports Arseneault’s racing, she sees the community-centered team as a way to give back, too.
“The goal of the team is to bring it to the international scene by racing all over the world, but I also feel we have a wonderful opportunity to make our sport shine brighter by inspiring more people to ride bikes,” says Arseneault. “For myself, I want to be the best athlete version of myself by chasing all the dreams I have in my mind, and it’s great to do it knowing I have the best community support behind me.”
Fast starts and the long game
Beaumont doesn’t see that community focus changing any time soon.
“We want the team to last, not just be here for a year,” Pittstop’s manager says. “We want to aim for stability so we can support athletes in upcoming years, and show the junior and upcoming athletes that there is support available.
For now, the team is focusing on what it can do within its budget. While Beaumont emphasizes they’re greatful to have the support of a strong roster of sponsors, currently including Pittstop Velo-Cafe, Full Speed Ahead, Shimano, Lazer Sports, Fox Suspension, Oakley, DHR Marketing and Santa Cruz Bicycles, Castelli Canada, Pro Components and Flaz, World Cup racing is expensive. Arseneault and Paillé will target the first two World Cup XCO events, in Nove Mesto and Leogang, and then look to North American stops. Due to travel costs, they’ll skip a few of the more isolated World Cup stops that would require separate trips to and from Europe.
While the season is just getting started, the former racer is already enjoying running her own team.
“I’ve always liked to help others. even when I was a racer I was helping teammates to find resources and sponsors to be able to travel to racing. So for me it’s great. I like the PR side of racing, I like to be at the venues, and I like to share my experience,” says Beaumont. “When I started, I was the first in my town and region to go to the national level so I didn’t have that mentor guiding me through my career as a cyclist and all the politics that goes with it. I always wished I had someone that was there before me telling me what to do and what not to do.”
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