Easy rider

Since being given a bicycle as payment, Derek de Gannes has become a world-class bike racer.

Competitive road racing cyclist Derek de Gannes, 55, tackles challenges on an international scale. “I’ve always been a team sport competitor,” says the Toronto-based tax partner at CW Partners LLP. From playing soccer in his native Trinidad and Tobago at age seven to running in cross-country races at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, de Gannes enjoyed competing.

That came to a stop, however. After suffering from nagging hip pain and with a young family to take care of, de Gannes took a break from racing in his early 40s. But when a tax client who was moving out of the country offered him a touring bike in lieu of payment, “it did not take long for the competitive flame, which was never quite extinguished, to roar again,” he says. “One thing led to another and before long I was training and racing bikes locally and in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Today, de Gannes competes at the Ontario Road Racing Circuit Series Master Level and races in the M1 category, for which only the most accomplished athletes qualify. From 2012 to 2014, he won six national championship titles in Trinidad and Tobago in the 50-to-59 age group. He also represented Canada in the 2015 Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) World Championship Tour in Aalborg, Denmark, a demanding race. “The area is noted for its short, steep climbs and wind. The time trial race against the clock, in which riders start at one-minute intervals and are timed to the finish, was 18 km, and the road race, which is a mass start, was 165 km,” de Gannes says. But the challenges just fuelled his love for the sport. “The experience was beyond my expectations. The organizers delivered a flawless event, from registration right down to the live footage that my family was able to view online in Toronto from start to finish.”

Being a part of a team of riders is also something he values. “The camaraderie is what I enjoy most. We have a common goal, and a win for one is a win for all,” says de Gannes. This year, the team (named WASPcam for its title sponsor) consists of 12 racers with different strengths to form a powerful group. He has the flexibility, however, to enter into both team and individual races.

What’s next for this driven enthusiast? De Gannes plans to focus on training for the UCI Gran Fondo World Series Championship scheduled for August 2017 in Albé, France. “I train between seven and nine hours on and off the bike during the week — 13 hours when riding outside is more accessible,” he says. “In the interim I will seek out local terrain with similar features to both train and race between now and the event.”