AKA: Elle Piranha
I am Maggie Coles-Lyster, professional cyclist from Maple Ridge, BC. Canada who has earned the nickname Elle Piranha because of my aggressive and resilient racing style along with my love for marine life.
To date, my career has been filled with lots of highs that includes being a World Champion, one of the most coveted races that every rider dreams of winning. On the flipside, I have also had lots of lows to work through, having to deal with some tough crashes over the years that have each time tested my physical and mental stamina to continue in the sport.
My story begins with my upbringing, where my sisters and I were exposed to outdoor adventures and grew up in a very active, sporty household. My parents owned and operated an adventure tour business and later a bike shop where my father started a race team called Local Ride Racing. Being exposed to many different sports early on and a direct link to cycling was a big influence that has contributed to my success to date.
Elmo is the name of the horse that I still ride to this day. Due to a busy race schedule I tend to only get to go on rides with him in the off season, but I also try to get out during the race season when I am home for a few days between events. Switching saddles and heading out on the trails with Elmo allows me to forget about cycling for even a short period of time providing a fun and relaxing balance to the insane speeds I experience on the bike.
As a junior cyclist, I represented Canada at five UCI World Championships across three disciplines: Cyclo-Cross, Track and Road. I am a 3-time Junior World Championship medallist, including the 2017 Junior Points Race World Champion, and as an elite rider, 2-time silver medallist on the track at the 2019 Pan-American Games that were held in Lima, Peru.
BC Superweek is one of my favourite weeks of racing as it’s held in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, BC. Canada where tens of thousands of spectators come out each evening to watch some of the fastest racing in North America. This series is dear to me because I entered it the first time when I was fourteen – I did not finish any races that first year! The next year I finished all the races and had to miss the following year because I was at the UCI Junior Track and UCI Road World Championships. The next year I had three podiums with some of my top results to date, not to mention a solid pay week! This restored my #PrimeQueen status with winning the crowd prime at Ladner, 5th in the historic Global Relay Gastown GP – unfortunately got stuck in an elevator with eighteen people for an hour on my way to get the prize money afterwards… was probably sweatier than during the race. Then came my podium streak- 2nd at the Giro di Burnaby, 3rd at PoCo GP and 3rd at Tour de White Rock – hardest I’ve pushed myself to date, gloriously came across the line, puked all over myself and my bike then had to go straight to the podium – definitely one of my finer moments.
If you talk to any cyclist that has “lived the dream” you will realize very quickly that their stories all have a common theme, one of multiple challenges when traveling and the dangers we face in every race we enter due to the high probability of crashing. I could write a book about my adventures as every international trip could be its own chapter. As an athlete you have to stay mentally strong because people are quick to judge you based on your last race, and more likely than not, there is more to what has happened going into a race, and between the races, than what one just sees on a results sheet. One of these stories is my experience at the GP of Moscow, Russia. After finishing one of North America’s most recognized races, Redlands Stage Race in California, I was off to France for 2 weeks of training and racing at 2 UCI road races. Finally, it was time for me to get back on the track. After France I boarded a plane to Moscow, Russia. Unfortunately, there were crazy storms, delayed flights, and I missed my connecting flight through Paris. I spent most of the night in the airport, slept for 2hrs in a sketchy hotel, and caught my flight to Moscow the next morning (a day before the GP of Moscow, UCI C1 track race, was supposed to start). None of my luggage nor my road bike made it to Moscow. Frustrated, exhausted and overwhelmed from searching for my ride among chaotic (potentially not legit) taxi drivers, I finally found the race shuttle and ended up falling asleep on the way to the track… oops! Anyways, I made it to the hotel and there was my Dad (who doubles as my coach) waiting for me with my track bike, track shoes and an extra skinsuit I’d sent with him… I may or may not have broken down in tears. The racing progressively got better as I worked through some mental stuff, got used to my brand-new Naked Titanium Bike “Elle Piranha” and aced in huge fields of 35 riders on the 333m speedy Moscow track! Oh, I also lost my brand-new phone (luckily found by a police officer), never got my missing road bike from my flight (finally found and sent home 2-weeks later) and made some amazing Belgian and Danish friends who shared their equipment for my stuff that never arrived. A 4-day crazy adventure in beautiful Moscow, then it was on to the next one!
However, this was all nothing compared to what I experienced earlier in 2018, just 3 months prior to the Russia trip. In February at the Six Days of Copenhagen I had one of my worst falls that I have ever experienced. Going into the final sprint of the final race I somehow hit the deck (no memory of it) and it resulted in me sustaining a punctured lung, broken ribs and three fractures in my cheekbone. I was very grateful for the professional medical attention that I received and that I was able to recover fully. This also resulted in the first of 3 serious concussions that I sustained that year. After my recovery my next race back was in April attending the Joe Martin Stage Race, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. I was out on a training ride 2-days before the start of the race when a couple of us crashed over some rumble strips. I don’t remember too much of it as I lost consciousness (again). Upon recovering from this my third fall and concussion that season came at the Canadian Track National Championships.
It was after these multiple setbacks that I found peace in Yoga. This was the start of my passion for Yoga as it allowed me to take time to heal my mind and body before returning to racing. My passion has grown so much that over the past two years I am a Certified Yoga Fitness Leader and have almost completed my 200hr Yoga Teacher Certification. I am offering offseason classes that are specifically focused towards benefiting cyclists.
My focus moving forward is to continue to progress to the highest level in the sport. I currently race for the UCI Women’s Team, DNA Pro Cycling. In the coming years I will continue to look to progress on the road and gain a spot on the track as a member of Team Canada to the 2024 Olympic Games.
To achieve these goals, I have made a cognitive decision to align myself with people who can help me achieve them. The sport is progressing rapidly and technological advancements are making a big difference in how efficient a rider can be. With that in mind I need to be looking towards every aspect of how I can save energy. I will not only be focused on my diet and training, but also my equipment selection from my bike frame, helmet, clothing, wheels, etc.. is all critical. Power meters have played an important role in providing athletes with great training and racing analytics and over the last few year there has been a lot of talk around how much focus teams are placing on understanding how important aerodynamics affects our sport. Manufacturers are beginning to invest a lot of energy to ensure that their product(s) have been evaluated with the understanding of how aerodynamic it is and promoting this in their marketing material. Understanding this outside of a wind tunnel, through real-time aerodynamic sensor technology, is the next evolution in the sport. This will be a big priority over the years for me to really understand how it will allow me to become a better sprinter, both on the track and road.
Maybe one day our paths will cross, when it does please say hi. Happy riding!
Words by Maggie Coles-Lyster, Cover Photo by Tlbvelo Photography, Photos as attributed and courtesy of Ttlbvelo Photography, SWpix, and DNA Pro Cycling Team