Thomas Hums’ start in cycling might not have been initiated close to home, but his return to the sport certainly was.
Regardless of the underlying motivation, the 31 year-old local teacher is looking to give sprint cycling one last crack after coming painfully close to reaching the highest of pinnacles nearly a decade ago.
This story starts many years ago.
Though quite athletic as a youth, Hums did not initially take to the obvious choice.
“My dad was a bike racer, but oddly enough, he never got me into bike racing,” recalled the graduate of Lockerby Composite. “It was actually a teacher/coach, Kerry Abols. He had approached me about cross-country skiing and talked to me about cycling as a form of cross-training during the summer.”
“I fell in love with the sport - and progressed pretty quickly.”
During the summer of 2005, Hums proved to be a dominant force on the Ontario road racing circuit, capturing almost all of the U17 events and proving himself more than competitive at the junior level. It was only after subsequently making the jump to the senior ranks, dealing with race distances that doubled or tripled the distance of his prior outings, that the local product was forced to re-examine his modus operandi on the bike.
“That’s when I kind of realized that I was winning races because of my sprinting ability,” he said. “I discussed it with (Sudbury Cycling Club coach) Battista (Muredda) and we decided to switch over to track cycling and the sprint discipline.”
Though entering far more of a niche market, one in which meets are hosted typically at a velodrome - there are but two indoor velodromes in all of Ontario - Hums would manage to quickly make a name for himself. The fit with cycling was one which tapped into not only an alignment with the athlete that he was, but also the mental approach that he craved as a determined competitor.
“Growing up, I was always very motivated, intrinsically,” he said. “I liked solo sports. I didn’t like having to rely on other people. I was focused on improving my performance as an individual and really working hard towards achieving my goals. Cycling allowed me to train as hard as I wanted, knowing that my performance was ultimately going to be reflective of the effort that I put in.”
Yet for as much as Hums shunned team sports as a priority, it was ironically the team sprint track cycling event that would thrust the northern Ontario racer into a more internationally relevant stratosphere.
“I was able to partake in a lot of national team projects, which at the time, were based out of California,” he stated. “I was staying there for five to six months at a time, training down there full time, so I had to take a leave from school (Laurentian). In 2011, we were racing at the World Championships (held in Apeldoorn, Netherlands) and they needed a sprint team starter.”
“As a country, we were aiming to try and qualify in the team sprint for the 2012 (Olympic) Games in London,” Hums continued. “That ultimately did not happen.” The missed goal combined with an untimely injury would eventually force Hums to the sidelines. And when he did return to sport, at least in any kind of big way, it would be in a far different setting.
Because the physical demands of sprint cycling called for the creation of explosiveness and power, Hums would be no stranger to the land of the barbells and the bench press. “When I was training in Sudbury, I would train with Dr Doug Marr (who sadly passed away last summer),” said Hums.
“He really motivated me to get into weightlifting more seriously. Through Doug, I met Bob Leclair and started some tutelage under his wing. I was able to successfully pick up on some more advanced stuff.”
Though not nearly as gifted a lifter as a cyclist, Hums still maintained the approach that had been galvanized in him from his youth. “The mindset that I had, not just training to train but ultimately training with the purpose of a goal helped me to rise up at least as far as I did,” he said. “I had some success on a general level, reaching provincial standards.”
His foray into Olympic weightlifting, however, would evolve beyond solely his role as a competitor. “We discussed starting a weightlifting club at Laurentian, not with the idea of me coaching at the time, but more just to get more bodies around, more like-minded people interested in the same thing,” explained Hums.
“But ultimately, our vision required someone to take charge of the training. My background in education and the go getter kind of mindset led me to step into that role.”
He continues to fulfill that role, at least to an extent, most notably with high-schooler Arijana Tuttle, “one of the best young weightlifters in the province”, in his words.
Four years ago, Hums world would shift on its axis, yet again. And this time around, the catalyst to change was not his own. “I was basically content with where I was and what I was doing,” he recalled.
“My return to cycling really had nothing to do with me. I was in a relationship at that time with a woman who is now my wife (Alicia Dalanyi. I would reminisce about the good old days in cycling, and she felt that I had some unfinished business. She was the one who prompted me to get back into it.”
While age may not be completely on his side (Hums did note that many international track sprint cyclists excel well into their thirties), the 5’9” powderkeg of an athlete still very much looks the part.
“Road racers look more like distance runners, able to sustain a longer output for several hours,” said Hums. “In sprint, they look for powerful athletes that are able to produce a large wattage. The one advantage that I have is that for my size - and I am small by comparison - my power to weight ratio is quite high.”
Pandemic or no pandemic, Thomas Hums has maintained his training.
“I was able to go to the track (in Milton) before the pandemic,” he said. “Now, I am using the ergometer, with my bikes set-up on stationary machines. From there, I can modulate the resistance significantly.”
“That is the majority of my training, as it stands, right now, in Sudbury.”
It’s a training regimen aimed to give Hums one more shot at glory, one more chance to turn back the clock, one last opportunity to get back to the starting line, just like before.