Looks of shock and surprise marked the faces of the 80 or so adult cyclists passed by a five-year-old in a 60-kilometre race last month.
On Saturday, Aug. 17, Michael Greenway of Whistler and West Vancouver crossed the finish line in the Tour de Victoria, clocking a time of 3 hours, 27 minutes and 35 seconds on his bright green, 20-inch mountain bike.
Exuding cool, the surrounding crowd reflecting off the lenses of his sporty sunglasses, one might wonder if he even broke a sweat. How does Michael describe the race? “Easy,” he says.
With about 700 metres of elevation gain, what makes his performance even more impressive is that the kid racer had to work much harder to pedal than his competitors.
“The problem is he spins out the gears,” explained his dad, Andrew Greenway, who raced with his wife Ching Ling Ma alongside their son. “He’s got to spin at a much higher cadence to try and keep up, and to get going.”
Last year, Michael rode the 45-kilometre Victoria race at age four, and the 30-kilometre route in 2021 at age three. So far, one of the biggest challenges has been finding bikes that can keep up with him.
“We’ve tried everything, but we just have to wait,” Greenway said.
Given Michael’s history in the race, he’s gained acclaim among the other riders, including race founder and B.C. cycling legend Ryder Hesjedal. In 2012, Hesjedal won the Giro d’Italia, becoming the first Canadian to win one of cycling’s three Grand Tour events.
At the Victoria race, Hesjedal asked if Michael was looking forward to the race. “I want to win,” the five-year-old replied.
“He’s very competitive,” Greenway said. “Sometimes we think he’s a little too mature. But in the end, he’s still a five-year-old and likes to play and do kid things.
“But on the bike, he’s very focused. He switches and he’s just in that competitive mode,” Greenway continued, adding that the next-youngest person in the race was age 12.
Michael started on a pedal bike at age two, and is an avid cross-country skier in the winter months. In terms of academic pursuits, he’ll begin kindergarten at Cypress Park Primary School in September.
While he can’t always choose his competitors, Greenway said his son would love to see more kids his age speeding around on bicycles.
“He always wants to race,” Greenway said.
The Greenways are homeowners in Whistler, so of course Michael doesn’t limit himself to just one sport. The phenom has been cross-country skiing at Whistler Olympic Park since he was two.
“He really wanted to do skate skiing, so he learned figure skating and was the youngest member of the Whistler Star Academy at age three,” Andrew said, adding that Michael then returned to Olympic Park for skate skiing—but “he needs to use classic boots as his feet are too small for the skate boots.”
By the time he was two-and-a-half years old, he was riding his bike on the Valley Trail without training wheels, and at three years old he joined the Sea to Sky Nordics Jackrabbit program, where he was its youngest skier.
“He also joined the Pemberton BMX club at age three, and had a great time even completing the Sea 2 Sky BMX series,” Andrew said. “He has cycled by many bears on the Valley Trail over the years. Maybe this is what keeps him fast.”
- with files from Braden Dupuis