Juliana Bicycles

The Year of Chuck

Sarah Leishman reflects on the year past and explores her roots in preparation for the year to come.

Gary Perkin

Robin O'neill

2016 was a big year. I trained hard to get through dedicated enduro racing; it was intense and, while I appreciate what I learned through the process of endless hard work, I also realized that I had kind of lost my way. Maybe I could have trained harder in the 2016 offseason, or maybe I trained just hard enough to understand that there’s more to life than hours and days spent on the stationary bike, in the gym, and repeatedly going up and down the hill behind my house for fear of being left in my competitor’s dust months down the road.

"Earning my place as an athlete in the cycling world hasn’t come without sacrifice and a huge amount of dedication."

The second my sisters and I could walk, Chuck Leishman (my dad) had us on skis. We grew up in a crappy little town in Alberta and the local ski hill was an escape from the drudgery of the oil industry and the brown prairies around Edmonton. The culture of skiing, ski hills and winter are rooted in the foundation of the person I am today, thanks to my dad. Before my life as a mountain bike athlete, I was a snowboard coach and I traveled the world for nearly a decade chasing winter with other athletes. When I moved to Whistler, I got a job as a ski patroller here and earned a solid appreciation for backbreaking hard work and camaraderie between coworkers that will remain unrivalled for the rest of my life. Skiing has made me, ME.

Robin O'neill

Earning my place as an athlete in the cycling world hasn’t come without sacrifice and a huge amount of dedication. As I chose riding and racing over all things I’ve had relationships build and fail along the way, and my solid share of heartbreaking results to challenge my motivation to stay in the game. I missed the entire ski season last year as I recovered from shoulder surgery—which is really strange for someone who lives in a town like Whistler. My return to winter this year reminded me of the person I am, what the best life really looks like for me, and it has impacted my vision for the riding season for 2017.

"I channel his energy always: the time I’ve been spending on skis this winter puts me in a moment and place that reminds me I’m lucky to be alive."

These days, Chuck focuses his daily efforts on battling cancer, hanging out with my sister’s amazing kids and getting out on his skis just outside of Fernie, BC. My family has been wrought with the stress and fear of what life might be like if we were to lose him. He’s an amazing skier – one of the first instructors back in the day at a couple of ski resorts here in Canada – and being in the mountains grounds him and reminds him of why he should keep fighting to stay alive every day. Lately he’s made a habit of visiting the local ski hill for a run or two after his chemo sessions. Even though his health and vitality are in constant question, I can see his interest in fighting every day, and it’s largely based on his interest in having just one more simple day on his skis with his family.I channel his energy always: the time I’ve been spending on skis this winter puts me in a moment and place that reminds me I’m lucky to be alive.

As far as the 2017 riding season; it’s already full of change. I plan to shift my focus away from the intensity of racing and battling on the Enduro World Series, and instead focus on bringing energy back into local events, media projects that are meaningful to me, and living my days like Chuck does. Thanks to Juliana and SRAM for giving Kelli, Anka, and me a chance to do things differently. I really can’t wait.

Robin O'neill


Posted on: February 19 — 2017 | All News