Devon Kershaw speaks with an unbridled passion, an optimism and enthusiasm that is unmistakable, the pride of what he has accomplished ringing with every word.
Unfortunately, this is far more true as the local Olympian chats about the status of the Canadian Nordic ski team than it is when the discussion turns to the pace of change within the local cycling community.
The Onaping Falls native was in town Aug. 9, acting as a spokesperson for the Share the Road program, an initiative designed to help communities become more bicycle-friendly.
Kershaw joined residents of Greater Sudbury for the annual five and 15-km community rides, raising awareness of bicycle safety, the benefits of bicycling in terms of healthy lifestyles and the importance of sharing the road. The Sudbury ride is one of many held across the province this summer.
“A lot of our main work is related to awareness, educating both drivers and cyclists,” Kershaw said.
It's well-documented that this volunteer undertaking is near and dear to the ultra-talented skier, whose girlfriend, Sofie Manarin, lost her life in 2001 when struck by a transport truck while she was out training on her bicycle.
Kershaw said he tries hard not to become too frustrated with the painfully slow progression that is being shown on a local front.
“Even seeing small bits of progress is something,” he said. “There are little things here and there, but obviously we can do more. It's not haphazard paths, a kilometre here and another stretch, 10 kilometres away, with no way to connect them — that's not making your community bicycle-friendly."
While the issue is a global one given the long-term concern with carbon-based fuels, Kershaw said he believes that positive examples can be found close to home.
“You look at the Soo with the (John Rowswell) Hub Trail there, and the paths in North Bay, along the shores of Lake Nipissing,” Kershaw said. “I'm not saying Portland. I'm not saying Vancouver. I'm not saying Copenhagen. I'm saying Sault Ste, Marie — it's right up the road. That's where it feels like you're beating your head a little bit.”
If Kershaw is not an optimist by nature, he clearly hides it well when talk turns to his athletic endeavours, and those of his national teammates.
“The racing season exceeded all my expectations for the year,” Kershaw said.
Constantly breaking ground where no male Canadian Nordic skier has gone before, the pride of northern Ontario finished second in the World Cup last year, posting a point total that would have captured the coveted Crystal Globe in some seasons.
“It was just a lot of fun to be with my teammates that were all stepping up,” Kershaw said. “It was very inspiring, such a positive environment. The last three years have just been a whole lot of fun and I can't believe how fast the time has gone.”
With the World Championships playing a major role on the calendar for 2012-2013, Kershaw acknowledged that the priority on World Cup races might be lessened, with an eye on the big prize.
“World Cups might not be as dominant,” Kershaw said. “This is a great dry run for Sochi (site of the 2014 Winter Olympics).”
Preparing to celebrate his 30th birthday in December, the Lockerby Composite graduate has mixed feelings attempting to put a finger on exactly when it will be time to move on from his days of elite level athleticism.
“I used to think 2015 would be the end of the line, but I'm having fun and racing well,” Kershaw said. “The last time I would race, with pretty good certainty, would be 2018.”