Know your athlete: Nick Kleban

Anyone looking for an expert on Montreal’s cycling paths needs to look no further than Nick Kleban, U3 Science and the president of McGill Cycling. Kleban has been making the most of lockdown, riding his bike as frequently as he can while rocking out to 2000s music.

“I’ve been fortunate enough that [with] biking, you can still train outside,” Kleban said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “I pretty much rode my bike all summer.”

As he keeps up with his own training, Kleban is also ensuring that McGill Cycling remains a place for its members to connect, if only digitally. Members keep in touch through the club’s forum, update their activity on Strava, a running and cycling app, and coordinate via Zwift, a virtual running and cycling training program. The opportunity to ride together is one of Kleban’s favourite things about the team, even if they are meeting online for the time being. While many of its members are experienced cyclists, the club is open to all levels.

“There’s always been an amazing sense of community,” Kleban said. “[There are] a lot of the advanced riders on the team [and] they’re not opposed to riding with the beginners. So we do have a lot of big group rides, slow pace [rides], and we stop and just have a good time.”

Kleban’s own cycling journey started when he moved to Squamish, British Columbia, at five years old.

“The town is basically shaped around mountain biking,” Kleban said. “The locals live, breathe, and sweat it.”

Kleban’s father taught him how to ride a bike when he was five years old, and he began mountain bike lessons soon after. He began racing in his early teens, and is now undoubtedly skilled—but he still had plenty of cycling misadventures as a child.

“I was six years old, [and] it was one of my first times on a black [diamond] run for mountain bikes,” Kleban said. “I was going down the trail, and the guy who was coaching me was just saying, ‘Okay, come slowly, come slowly.’ But of course, I let go of the brakes and went as fast as I could and flipped like Superman in the air, and he caught me Lion King-style like I was Simba [and] my bike went hurtling down the hill.”

Kleban switched from mountain biking to road riding when he came to McGill, but he still loves the trails in his hometown.

“Here, I’m all about road [biking], and then I go back home and I want to be on my mountain bike,” Kleban said. “In the city, I favour going on the mountain. Outside of the city, I like to ride down on the South Shore. It’s got an actual climb, which is a rarity around here.”

Kleban has certainly found success with road riding. During the 2019 Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) Championships, he finished fifth in the Men’s A Mt. Philo Road Race, third in the Milton Circuit Race, and was the runner-up in the series overall. His consistent results have attracted attention in the cycling world. He recently signed with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Continental Team Skyline for the 2021 season.

“The hope is that we could go over to Europe and race on a six-week Italian project and then do some of the bigger races in North America,” Kleban said. “Of course, this is all barring [COVID-19]. But best case, that happens.”

His ultimate dream is to represent Canada at the U23 World Championships and eventually the Grand-Prix Montreal World Tour.

“It would be amazing to compete in a race that big on roads I’ve spent so much time training [on], in front of my friends and family,” Kleban said.

Even while looking ahead to those goals for himself, Kleban encourages beginners not to be intimidated by advanced cyclists.  

“Have fun,” Kleban said. “We’re all just riding bikes at the end of the day.”

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