From the overgrown jungle of brush and vegetation emerged this week a challenging new course that combined several classic tracks that had been erased from the landscape by time and lack of use. Coupled to these classics were several challenging switchback sections that will keep veterans on their toes and challenge the less experienced among us to keep themselves upright and pointing in the right direction. That said, the intention was to create a course that offered a thrilling descent to the northern section of the forest and across the creek where we have not yet ventured this season.
The amount of work required to prepare the course this week was simply staggering. Hundreds of meters of the trail were so overgrown that a bike was unable to pass through as the plants grasped at your handlebars, tangled into your cranks, and, generally, made forward progress the stuff of legend.
One of the many sections of trail that needed lots of love.
This was far from the most congested trail!
Thankfully, we had a whole team of volunteers on hand to help with trimming. Dave, Luke, and Evan Knights all committed an extraordinary amount of time towards the trail this week. Ben Dobson was also kind enough to support us with some mowing. In an even more exciting vein, David Van Schie - a woodworking wizard by profession - constructed for the community a stunning new 50ft bridge that has renewed our access to the northern section of the forest via the 400 fireroad.
David Van Schie, Nelson Papel, and Greg Rushton worked through
a crazy hot day to make this bridge happen. Thanks!
As everything when it comes to trail maintenance is a team effort, David was able to rely on Nelson Papel and Greg Rushton to help carry the pre-assembled sections of the bridge a few hundred meters from the closest trailer-accessible location. This was built from wood that David sourced himself at a cost of about $120 so we will have a collection basket at the registration table for the next few weeks while we look to recoup his hard costs. The time involved is worth far more than the wood, and I am extraordinarily thankful for the volunteers who help deliver the area's best-groomed trails for the broader cycling community.
The reward for this toil is delivered at 7pm every Wednesday as we get underway. Riders hit the line with smiles and laughter but, underneath that, lies the tension and anxiety that always accompanies impending competition - and suffering. It's a unique mix of emotions that cycling delivers yet it is enticing enough - despite all the frayed nerves - that riders come back week after week, year after year.
Chris Staniewski impressed with another strong finish - right on Clay Te Bokkel's heels!
The battle in Expert this week saw Clay Te Bokkel bring his "A-game" in an effort to turn the tables on Chris Staniewski who, over the past couple weeks, has been increasing his points lead over Clay with a couple of solid victories. Whether it was a matter of course preference or legs on this night remains to be seen (in next weeks results), but Clay built a healthy lead early and continued to build on it through the third lap.
On the fourth (and last) lap, however, Chris dropped the hammer in a big way and delivered a very strong lap - exactly as Clay faded - and clawed back 16-seconds of the deficit. Clay's early efforts paid dividends and Chris' efforts were not enough to claw him back into 2nd place but it certainly demonstrates that victory is never certain and that Chris had more pace to offer earlier in the race. A tactical change may have delivered markedly different results.
Chad Madaleno delivered a stunning last lap negative split.
Emmeline Te Bokkel is in hot pursuit on the switchbacks above.
The importance of late race power cannot be overstated - but timing is everything. Chad Madaleno has had a strong and consistent season but has struggled to make a mark against the top contenders in his very competitive Master Sport category. Last night, however, we were treated to a glimpse of Chad's true performance potential.
On his third and final lap, Chad was able to harness the phenomenal pace of Emmeline Te Bokkel and leverage his speed as the proverbial bunny in a dog race. With the luxury of having a fast rider to chase and pace, Chad delivered and incredible performance and pulled 30-seconds of his second lap. That's a staggering improvement in lap times and a fast enough pace to suggest that Chad should be making the podium regularly.
Speaking with Chad post-race, he offered the following nugget: "I never have anyone to chase - I'm all alone out there. With Emmeline to help set the pace, it was way easier to focus. It's such a head game!" Indeed it is.
Racing is equal parts fitness, technique, and headspace. The ability to dig deep and keep pushing when your competition is no longer in sight requires incredible self-discipline. These results will surely give Chad a huge boost in confidence and should give Dustin Sampson something to worry about next week as the gap between the two riders was only 29-seconds.
We all know that red is a fast colour. Trevor Peyton definitely lived up to his jersey colour this week!
Even the water had to get out of his way.
One rider who had no difficulty focussing this week was the Master Sport winner, Trevor Peyton. While this category usually features a nail-biting finish, Trevor set the bar early with the category's only sub-14 minute lap and continued to pound his opponents into submission with each successive roll past the timing tent. When the stars align and the body, bike, and course all come together it's a remarkable feeling of speed and freedom. On the occasion this happens, one must revel in the moment, let it all hang out, and treasure on the psychological damage it inflicts on your competitors. Well done, Trevor!
Not only did Aaron Wright win Junior Sport but he also just had a birthday - quite the powerhouse for only 14!
Aaron Wright just turned 14. Let that sink in for a moment. He can turn times competitive with Expert riders and is far from physical maturity. Cycling is a sport where there is simply no replacement for saddle time. Every year you return to the sport, the bar becomes higher: Your legs get stronger, your cardiovascular system evolves, your skills and tactics improve. As an event organizer and store owner, there is simply nothing more exciting than watching "little kids" develop into competitive cyclists.
To see a person's world expand before them, to witness their bodies and skills develop, to watch their confidence flourish, to see them find meaning in their lives and surround themselves with positive role models and mentors - these are gifts we enjoy regularly at the store (and our race series) and I remain steadfast in my conviction that there is no satisfaction quite like helping others live up to their potential - whatever that potential might be.
The world is your oyster and it's up to you to make of it what you will. Keep your body healthy and the rest will follow!
Weather: 24°C, 65% humidity, warm & humid
Active weather battered much on Ontario this past Wednesday but it could do nothing to dampen the enthusiasts that live to roll through the beautifully groomed trails at Coulson Hill.
While we did encounter about 30-40 minutes of rainfall at the forest around 4pm, once the clouds and moderate rainfall passed through, the trail conditions were remarkably good. On social media, we had posted the possibility of a "double points night" in anticipation of nasty weather but, as it turned out, this was not a necessary enticement as almost 40 swarthy souls made their way to the forest to battle for championship points.
With respect to weather, the race will never be canceled due to rainfall. The only conditions in which we won't proceed is when there is active lightning in the area. This has happened maybe once or twice in the last 20 years - Coulson actually has a translucent dome overhead that blocks foul weather within a 5km radius. This was upgraded in 2011 with an electrostatic force generator that repels lightning within 10km to further ensure no one misses their weekly racing fix. So far, so good. Even in this incredibly wet and rainy 2017, we have not yet had a single rain race.
That said, in the event of unpleasant weather conditions, riders are rewarded with double championship points. In a series where the championship podium can be determined by one position in a single race after pounding it out for an entire season, showing up when your sugar-coated competition fears a little water just might crown you a champion for the season. Bottom line: Never miss a race!
Chris Staniewski certainly knows that you need to show up to clean up and put forth a really solid race. While his goals undoubtedly don't extend to catching teenage superstar Brandon Wright, Chris laid down some seriously impressive lap times and passed through the timing area looking calm and composed lap after lap. It can be extremely difficult to manage your pace when there is no other rider in your sights, but Chris brought himself right to the threshold and kept it pinned over four laps dropping a consistent 20-seconds per lap as his legs and lungs fatigued. While not the negative splits often written about on these pages, these time reflect that Chris put everything he had into these four grueling laps and didn't leave anything on the table.
Kudos also to Clay Te Bokkel who pulled a stunning 40-seconds off of his last lap in a last-ditch effort to fend off the hard-charging Master Expert Matt Saunders. While these two athletes may not be competing in the same category, when you are on the course every rider is a foe and the categories don't mean squat. Meaning is found in pushing yourself to the limit and ensuring that every challenge is met with grit and determination.The beauty of this philosophy is that it also deemphasizes results. That is the spirit of racing.
The beauty of this philosophy is that it also deemphasizes results. At the end of the day, there are a few familiar faces that will always be gunning for the podium spots. But if you focus on the small victories and the small challenges, then it doesn't matter if you are first or tenth - you can finish the race knowing that you put forth the best result you could on this given occasion. That is the spirit of racing.
On the topic of results, however, we have to celebrate the sprint finish of Kelly Cullen who snatched one of those victories from the grip of Stephen Jagusch with a fantastic come-from-behind attack within the last 100m of the race. Both riders were gunning for the line and turning those cranks with fire in their bellies but Kelly came around Stephen in the last 2 meters and won the sprint. (Note to Steve's friends: Make sure you bug him about this beating for a least a few months.)
In Junior Sport Men we also had a competitive finish. Trevor Anderson had his best finish in a month and relished the challenging climbs while aboard his brand-spanking new Cannondale F-Si. He had his work cut out for him, too, as Levi Te Bokkel rocked a freshly upgraded drivetrain and was no longer battling mechanical gremlins. Now that he could focus on riding rather than equipment, Levi rode a wickedly consistent race and was just waiting for Trevor to make a mistake - one that never came. As a result, Aaron Wright took home the victory, Trevor matched a season's best 2nd place finish, and Levi took a strong third.
Next week we'll deliver a new course that will be sure to challenge and delight our riders. Be aware that as we have now passed the summer solstice, our course lengths will actually decrease with each iteration as we manage race time against available sunlight. Depending on your perspective, the (slightly) shortened courses may be just what the doctor ordered!
Weather: 23°C, 83% humidity, overcast but dry
Thrills, spills, season's best performances, and sprint finishes.
Given the time of year, we could very well be discussing the Tour de France with its myriad controversies, heated action, and over-sized personalities. But, rather than taking a $15,000 vacation to France, riders got all that and more this week at the 11th race of the 2017 season.
Having just passed summer solstice, our current course took full advantage of our extended daylight hours and delivered a new course that saw riders climb from the very depths of the creek bed at the north end back to the forest's peak in the southeast corner through Log-a-Rythm. This extended climb, that was mostly fireroad, put riders through the wringer as the lactate acid collected in their legs and made every stroke that much more of a focused effort.
Lindsay-anne Townsend puts the hammer down
But it sure didn't slow down everyone. Lindsay-anne Townsend has really come into her own over the past few races and the lengthy climb seemed to suit her strengths perfectly. Not only did Lindsay manage to score another 2nd place finish against the mighty Emmeline Te Bokkel, but Lindsay's pace through the start/finish area made it clear that she had gas in the tank and a fire in her belly to turn out the best possible lap times.In fact
In fact, both Emmeline and Lindsay-anne would be sitting pretty on the Senior Sport Men podium this week. These women are strong and fast! It's exciting to see the women's field continues to deepen and that all of these riders can compete on level footing with anyone regardless of gender. Look out, boys - these riders have your number!
Without question, the most exciting action on this night belonged to the Master Sport Men. With Mark McArthur, Trevor Peyton, and Dustin Sampson all in attendance and a challenging course laid out before them, the stage was set for an exciting battle and they were not prepared to disappoint.
The pace was set early by Mark and the trio crossed the line on the first lap running wheel-to-wheel. It was cleasr at this point that tactics, opportunity, and luck would all play a role in dictating this outcome as rider skill and fitness appeared very evenly matched.
Heading out onto lap 2, the trio maintained their current positions with Mark leading followed by Trevor. Dustin had given up about 6-seconds (and the resultant 15 meters) and looked as though his legs were fading although his face wore a mask of grim determination.
A major part of becoming an effective racer is observation. One must learn to pay incredible attention to every square inch of the race course and even more attention to their competitors. This focus allows you to identify where opportunities lie - where you may sneak in a pass, where another rider makes consistent errors, where your own strengths might best be played.
All three of these Master Sport riders were clearly doing all of the above.
Trevor Peyton leading Mark McArthur out of the last section of singletrack
As these guys hurtled toward the finish line at breakneck speed, no one gave an inch or left a shred of energy in reserve. They pounded the pedals and leveraged their bars with one thought in their minds: Victory. Unfortunately, despite the incredible scene on offer as they crossed the line, only one rider can walk away with the victory and, on this day, Trevor won the sprint in dramatic fashion.
Impressively, Dustin recovered the gap he conceded on lap 2 and was right there in the hunt for absolute victory. In what he described as "the best race in my life," Dustin almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and, most importantly, proved to himself that he had the legs and the will to battle back from a sizeable deficit to present himself with a chance to win. There is nothing like a boost in confidence to prepare you for the next battle.
Yves Patenaude finally takes down his son, Tyler. His celebration at the finish line was legendary.
Perhaps the ultimate battle waged in life is the battle for athletic supremacy between father and son. While there inevitably comes the time when youth trumps experience, there is in the twilight of a father's dominance, a special time when the tables have not yet turned and the scales are almost perfectly in balance. Witness, for example, the ongoing sprint finishes between young Luke Knights and his powerhouse father, Dave.
On this night, all of us parents can celebrate vicariously through the victory of Yves Patenaude over his up-and-coming superstar son Tyler. Both riders are new to our series this year and compete against one another in the Novice category. Typically, young Tyler proceeds to give dear ole dad a thorough whooping. But, thanks to power attainable only through age and experience, Yves smashed the extended climbs, ran two very consistent laps, and was able to raise his hands in victory once he crossed the finish line for his first ever win. Next week should be quite interesting to watch as Tyler looks to avenge this public shaming. ;) Watch out, Yves!
William Corry is back! This week was his best finish of the season in a tight sprint against Trevor Anderson.
Spectators were treated to another thrilling finish amongst the Junior Sport riders. While Aaron Wright remains an immovable mass atop the weekly podium, William Corry and Trevor Anderson have become engaged in a heated rivalry over the past few weeks. In an effort to keep Aaron in his sights, William went out a little too hard on his first lap and, while he turned in an amazing time, he also burned some of his proverbial matches. Trevor, by contrast, rode a very measured race and notched a notably leisurely first lap that left him 44-seconds in arrears to William.
However, on subsequent laps, Trevor clawed back more than 20-seconds per lap - a torrid pace indeed. As a result of these Herculean efforts, Trevor was right there to chase down William's rear wheel as the two riders charged towards the finish at full tilt. Fortunately for him, William left just enough in the tank to fend off Trevor's attack but barely a few inches separated these riders after more than 14km of racing. Finishes don't get any more dramatic than this.
Clay Te Bokkel refused to quit despite a leaky rear tube
A couple big shout outs for grit and determination: Kudos to Clay Te Bokkel for battling through a slow leak in his rear tire that required him to stop at the pumping station after every lap for a Formula 1 inspired pit stop. Many riders would have just packed it in for the day, but Clay was determined to finish and collect his championship points.
Also worth mentioning is little Ryder Cullen, one of our intrepid Mini-Me riders. Ryder missed a corner of his first lap of found himself astray on the adult course. Fortunately for Ryder, Darcy Anderson came upon him and offered consolation until Kelly Cullen arrived and escorted Ryder back to his proper track. What impressed me most was that, despite Ryder's first lap taking 30-minutes as a result of his misadventure, he carried on and completed the entirety of his race. Again, where many would throw their hands in the air and call it a day, Ryder found the courage to carry on and collect his points. This is exactly how Ryder has been able to hang onto his 3rd place on the Championship series: Heart.
Congrats to everyone for handling this tough course. See you next week!
Weather: 25°C, 34% humidity, summer is here!
Many people become intimidated when they hear the word "race". They assume that participants must be of a particularly competitive bent or must be at a certain fitness level or must fit whatever other fictional image that they have conjured in their mind's eye.
The reality is that racers are really just riders. Some are fast, some are slow. Some have 8% body fat, some...a little more. There is no mould you need to fit other than bringing with you a joy for pedaling your bike through the forest. Everything else - from lycra to sports nutrition to clipless pedals - is optional.
Rusty Fisher slides out on the muddy downhill. Even the Experts make mistakes!
For the experienced athletes that join us regularly, it can easily be forgotten just how hard the sport can be when you are starting out. How every hill can look like a wall of pain; how every tight corner can seem like a crash waiting to happen; how every bridge crossing can look like an inevitable trip to the abyss below. The good news for our new riders is that is all gets much easier with experience and that you are surrounding yourself with people that all started where you are now - many of whom develop into Expert-level riders.
Eli Weening always shows tremendous heart and determination - the stuff of champions!
The advice is simple: Keep the joy of cycling alive in your heart and don't become obsessed with results. A funny thing will inevitably happen as you join us week after week: People that would drop you on the climbs will suddenly be within your sights. The idea of running through Log-a-Rythm with riders on your tail will no longer intimidate. And the idea of 3 or 4 laps will no longer seem quite as daunting. The results will follow on their own. As sacrilegious as it might be for a bike shop owner to say, defocus on your equipment and refocus on riding every chance you can get. Of course, the more you ride the more demanding you will become with your gear but nice "stuff" sure doesn't make you a rider. Heart, guts, and a little bit of humour are your best friends there.
New racer Mark Shillum killed this course and had his second best result of the year.
Our Novice class is certainly where we see this philosophy played out in real time. Take Mark Shillim, for example, who joined us in the Novice category for his first ever MTB race this year. Mark has bounced around from 2nd place to 7th over the course of 8 races so far. But his consistency has improved tremendously as has his ability to tackle the increasingly difficult courses we have been sneaking in as the season rolls onward. The reward for just getting out there and doing are tremendous for new riders. Results only start to plateau after years in the saddle at which point every incremental improvement is very difficult and hard-earned.
Of course, for all of his improvement, Mark could not stop the hard-charging Tyler Patenaude from grabbing another victory and the 80 championship points that go along with the honour. Tyler currently sits in fourth place in the overall standings and looks poised to work way his onto the podium once he can notch a few more races under his belt.
Michael Deangelis fighting to hold onto his 3rd place in the Championships
The man pictured above is the one thing standing in the way of Tyler's ascension onto the podium. Michael Deangelis is another new face to the weekly series for 2017 and another rider whose skills and fitness are progressing in tandem with his enthusiasm. In Michael's first race of the year (perhaps his first MTB race ever, I'll have to ask), he nailed a victory after some navigational errors by some top contenders. Buoyed by this early success, Michael has been back every week since and can usually be found within bike lengths of the podium.
Leena Robinson is always pushing it and always smiling - even when axle deep in mud!
While beginner women's rider attendance is down this season as most of our women have progressed up the ranks into our busy Sport Women category, it is always a pleasure to come across Leena Robinson and her partner Don Kemp ripping through the course. This power couple, both of whom will be in their 60s by year's end, ride hard year after year and are the very embodiment of the mountain biking spirit. They are smooth, steady, and consistent and always finish their race. Even more importantly, their ability to live in the moment and become fully engaged in their activity is visible by the joy they carry on their faces at the start line, onto the course, and, especially, after the finish.
While this is a somewhat atypical race report, it is important to disassemble the stereotype of what it means to be a "racer". From the most hardened veteran to the newest of the newbies, we all face the same hills to climb and the same obstacles to overcome. There is nothing stopping you, or your neighbour, or your nephew, or your parents from getting out there to relish the purity of physical exertion and the beauty of nature. So get out there and spread the word!
Be it in life or on the course, the important thing is that we come together to recognize our shared experience and our interconnected nature. Pass everyone with a smile on your face and a kind word on your lips. Encourage those around you to be the best they can be and to put forth their best effort. Never give up. You can climb that hill however tall it may appear. That, my friends, is the #bikelife.
Weather: 21°C, 49% humidity, dry trails with a few muddy sections
Sandwiched, once again, between days of overcast skies and precipitation, riders were treated to gorgeous temperatures and pleasantly dry course conditions. Not only was the weather cooperative but the course itself was a brand, spanking new creation that nipped and tucked through almost every bit of singletrack in the forest.
Sitting at about 4.5km in length and offering a mix of killer high-speed descents, fast sweeping corners, ripping chicanes that pushed the tires to the edge of traction, and a whole bunch of new terrain closer to the north end of the forest, the course was a mountain bikers dream. No one element took priority over another. The fastest riders on this day needed to be able to descend as fast as they could climb; to chug the twisties with the same speed and grace as they could fly through a massive g-out. Regardless of your trail preference, this course delivered.
On top of it all, it was a fresh course. Several sections of trail were put together in a completely original way - no small feat given that I have been marking race courses at Coulson for over 15 years. Grooming this week was, while not 100% complete, simply amazing given that we opened up more than 2.5km of trail that has been unused for almost a year. Huge debts of gratitude are owed to Spoke O'Motion Cycling Club members Dave Knights and Steve Ley. Between Dave's meticulous mowing and Steve's gargantuan efforts with the weed whacker, the course was truly in stunning shape for a "week 1" course. And it'll only get better!
Now on to the race news:
There was quite an upset in the Novice category where Devlin McDaniel has been stealing the show for much of the season so far. With four wins out of seven starts - and most of them very clear victories - whenever Devlin takes to the starting line his competitors know they have their work cut out for them. Apparently, Tyler Patenaude is not a man who is easily intimidated. Tyler blasted off of the starting line like a man possessed and stormed away to a category-destroying 18.5-minute lap. While this torrid pace was not sustainable for his second trip around the challenging course, the effort was enough to take the wind out of the Devlin's sails and secure Tyler his second career victory.
The Mini-Me category also saw a bit of a restructuring after Seamus Cullen returned to their ranks after 5-weeks in Novice. With the course difficulty increasing at a faster rate than Seamus was growing, Seamus decided that his "joy level" was best served by a return to the shorter and more approachable courses. Needless to say, James Bernier was probably less pleased about this change in course. James had been enjoying a series of solid victories until Alex Sampson and Seamus both returned to Mini-Me. Now these three powerhouses stand poised to battle wheel-to-wheel every week in their pursuit of podium glory.
On the first lap, James was trailing Alex by about 15-seconds once all three riders passed through the finish area. Never satisfied with anything less than a 100% effort, James lit the afterburners on lap #2 and produced a 20-second negative split. This increased tempo proved more than a match for Alex who fell to third but rode very consistently through the entire race. By this point, Seamus had eeked himself out an almost 30-second lead and was not expecting to be challenged for the top spot.
To his amazement, when Seamus did a shoulder check only a couple of minutes from the finish there was James! He was focussed, flying, and intent on taking Seamus down. This glimpse of a competitor did what it always does: Allows a rider to dig deeper, push harder, and find the motivation to hammer where it had, perhaps, already evaporated. When all was said and done, Seamus maintained his lead and took the victory but James and cut the lead in half in a tremendous show of will that will surely keep Seamus and Alex on their toes in the future.
The race up front among the Experts and Master Experts was exciting and involved several lead swaps, a few minor crashes and a clinic in experience trumping youth. From the outset, Luke Knights set the tempo of the race as Brandon Wright was unable to start the race due to his exam schedule. With opportunity in the air, Luke rode a smooth and efficient first lap until Myles Cullen made a move to increase the temperature and put a little extra lactate into Luke's young legs.
Traction, however, proved a little fickle last night as, while the conditions were only slightly moist, the cornering limits caught all three top finishers by surprise on a few occasions. As a result of Myles doing some trailside vegetation sampling on one such occasion, Luke whipped by and created an appreciable gap. Dave Knights was unable to capitalize on this unforced error with a pass but he did find himself right on Myles' tail - and hot in pursuit of his son.
Myles eventually passed Luke after some exciting attacks and counter-attacks through both singletrack and fireroad climbs. The course created lots of opportunity for intense battles. Soon thereafter, Dave decided that it was time to show his boy that he was still boss (for now!) and to try and reel in Myles for a crack at the victory. His efforts almost came to fruition as Dave turned in a blistering fourth lap and gained 25-seconds on Myles but it was not enough on this night.
Join us next week for a continuation of all the battles, all of the action, and all of the amazing stories that come out of our life-altering racing action.
Good luck to everyone competing in the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice this weekend. May the sun be shining and the bikes be rolling.
Weather: 19°C, 64% humidity, gorgeous
This week our community suffered a deep blow as Nigel Read sadly passed on after a hard-fought battle with cancer. On and off the bike, Nigel was a man who touched many with his kindness, gentle demeanour, and willingness to give back to the community that brought him so much joy.
In honour of Nigel, and in lieu of our traditional race recap, I am reposting a section of our report from June 1, 2016:
Well there is absolutely no question as to our lead story this week. This honour - and the word is not used lightly in this context - belongs to Nigel Read. It is an absolute joy to report on Nigel's return to the cycling fold after the enormous mountain he climbed over the past several months.
Nigel - known as Bubby to his grandkids - getting some post race love. He earned that hug!
For the past few years, Nigel has been a key partner in trail marking and maintenance. His course designs are always interesting and his contributions really temper my workload. Needless to say, Nigel's assistance is always welcome and appreciated. Beyond his help with the series, Nigel has also been a tremendous ambassador for the sport of cycling. Eager to introduce new riders to the thrill of high-speed shenanigans, Nigel is always willing to take time from his schedule to attend our events and lend a hand wherever it is needed. From Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day to our participation in the Newmarket Santa Claus parade, Nigel is there and ready to spread the love.
Nigel Read is back on track - literally and figuratively. What a joy!
So when Nigel was diagnosed last fall with an aggressive form of cancer, our collective hearts skipped a beat. Like all of our riders, Nigel is family. What befalls him, befalls us all and the fear of losing Nigel to that monster called cancer shook us all to the core.
Only a handful of weeks ago, Nigel's family hosted a party to celebrate the completion of cancer treatment. The road to a full recovery had finally begun. Of course, Nigel being Nigel, fast is never fast enough. Whether that is on the bike or related to his recovery, Nigel is never content to follow the norm. He pushes ahead, unrelenting, with his eyes firmly set on the end game: To get back on the bike.
From heading out for a few gentle kilometres a couple of weeks back, Nigel surprised us all last night by coming to the line fully kitted out aboard his sexy Norco race machine. Not only did Nigel come to the race prepared to start - he came prepared to finish. Crossing the finish line hands raised in victory alongside Chris Reid, Nigel taught us all a number of lessons these past few months: Never give up, remember what brings you joy, and never lose sight of how many people you touch every day - they all love you!
Congrats Nigel from the whole, big, extended Spoke O'Motion family. We couldn't be happier to see you back in the fold doing what you love.
Remember to hug those you love every day; to follow the passions that bring meaning and joy to your life; and to never lose sight of the fragility of life. You'll be missed, Nigel.
For those unable to attend Nigel's service on Thursday, here is a link to my contribution.
Weather: 22°C, 43% humidity, stunning weather
It's quite incredible that we are already seven weeks into our race season at Coulson Hill - time sure flies when you're having fun! But time is not the only thing around here that is flying. Course conditions were quite excellent despite some moderate rain on Tuesday and we continued our trademark grooming excellence with extended mowing on the fireroads (thanks to Dave Knights) and widened singletrack approaching the finish to facilitate any necessary last minute passes.
This weeks course treated riders to some ripping extended downhills that test the limits of riders' traction, bravery, and bike handling skill. We ran the course northward from the highest point in the forest all the way to the bottom of the valley in one long, sweeping, apex-packed series of switchbacks and rolling turns.
The effects of last years logging is still felt on every ride as these descents are no longer the smooth magic carpet rides of years past, but instead deliver knuckle-whitening divots, stumps, and log-overs that can easily catch the inattentive rider by surprise and make their presence felt in the most undesireable of ways. Of course, this doesn't make the trails "worse" it just changes their flavour a little bit and ensures even the veterans must be ever vigilant and focussed for fear of eating a not-so-tasty dirt sandwich.
Tuesday's precipitation was most directly felt on the fireroad climbs that were made that much more challenging by the mud found on the steepest sections that somehow managed to be both glue-like and very slippery. The terrain seemed intent on sucking your wheels into the ground, making forward progress very difficult, while simulataneously requiring a smooth, consistent pedal stroke for fear of breaking traction - also making progress difficult. It was certainly a challenging course.
Lindsay Anne Townsend eats tough courses for breakfast!
But that could do nothing to stop our Sport Women from putting on quite a clinic. Emmeline Te Bokkel rode off to another convincing victory and seemed nonplussed by the climbs but her margin of victory shrank considerably as Lindsay Anne Townsend rode, by far, her best race of the season to finish within 1-minute of the ever dominant Emmeline.
In the photo above, also note Tessa Brinklow chasing Lindsay's rear wheel. Another rider who has made tremendous strides over the past couple of years, Tessa rode an impressive pace this week and managed to come within 10-seconds of Team Spokes resident rocket, Carys Reid. This represents the most competitive finish of the season for Tessa and leaves her poised to hit that podium in the weeks to come.
Ryder is always working hard and always ready to crack his cheeky little smile.
On the "small victory" front, little Ryder Cullen continues to make his mark week after week demonstrating that will and consistency can sometimes be as important as being the fastest rider on any given night. In the absence of Holden Allen, Ryder's 6th place finish was enough to launch him into second place in the championship standings and he was forced to earn those points by fending oiff an ongoing challenge from school-mate and fellow bike shop hier Chloe Davies. Chloe made impressive progress on Ryder after a significant first lap deficit and was pulling herself closer and closer to Ryder's rear wheel as the race wore on. By the time these two future stars crossed the finish line, they were only 2 seconds apart.
James Bernier (#202) continues to dominate the Mini-Me field
While James Bernier continues to lay the hammer down on his Mini-Me peers, he faces intense competition from Alex and Kaiden Sampson who are hungry to claw back Andrew's margin of victory. Given Andrew's young age, this young man is certainly one to keep your eyes on for future greatness. And, at the end of the day, regardless of any of these rider's future prospects, they are out there right now pushing their bodies and minds to the absolute limits. The values these experiences instill in these children will shape them for a lifetime.
In the opposite of "small victories", lies the impressive race of big man Gary Briggs. One of those lifers to cycling who is always fast and always a threat no matter when or where your wheels cross, Gary sat in second place overall for a good chunk of the race before Steve Prosser took the reigns and pulled a moderate gap. Riding behing Gary and Steve is always entertaining as they both jump, whip, slide through every undulation and corner of the track. I shot a GoPro video (link coming) of the entire race and you have got to see Gary's tail whip where his rear wheel tags an arrow on a stick that's almost three feet in the air. This guy can ride!
Gary Briggs can ride with the best of them and do it with unbelievable grace and style - watch the video!
Two more riders have earned some praise this week for their career best performances. The Senior Sport category has thinned a little bit lately as some riders have taken the plunge into the vaunted hallows of a very deep Expert field. That has left the door wide open for the next generation of talent to lay down some sweat and gears in search of smoking lap times and podium glory.
Steve Jagusch flying towards his first career victory
If kicking butt and taking names is the name of the game, then Steven Jagusch proved this week that he has read the rule book from cover to cover. Not only did he fly over the log piles with grace and speed, he also rode consistent lap times, kept his key competitor (David Van Schie) at bay, and secured himself a category win for the first time. Sounds like a pretty successful day by any measure!
In a similar profile, the aforementioned David Van Schie also rode a career best place with his solid second place finish and rode even more consistent lap times than Steven. Next week, if David can dig deep enough to find even another 2% more speed the tables could be turned completely. These two men are standing at the precipice of a pretty tasty rivalry and we get the priviledge of watching it all unfold.
Untold adventures lay ahead in next week's race and it is always thrilling to watch the dynamics churn and shift as different riders on different days take the helm and look to make their mark. Until then, friends!
Weather: 21°C, 33% humidity, finally looking like summer!
Things are really in full swing now as the competition heats up, the smiles per mile are cranked to 11, and the conditions remain nothing short of stellar. Despite dour forecasts promising ikely rain, the forest was spared the slightest hint of precipitation this week as we prepped the race course for the impending action.
Another kilometer or so of weed whacking and contrsuction of a small bridge crossing the muddiest stream and we were ready for game time. Kudos to Steve Prosser for spending his valuable time helping me prepare the course this week. A ridiculous amount of labour and love go into preparing these courses and the volunteer help goes a long way to helping us deliver the finest groomed courses on the Ontario racing circuit. Thanks!
Back from some extended work sessions that kept him out of town, Kyle Rae hit the line in his typical low-key style that hides the fierce competitor lurking within. Kyle's casual approach always leaves you wondering as to his current state of fitness, but experience should teaches you not to underestimate your competition.
From the starting gun, Paul Cooney made it clear that he was not there to praise Kyle, but to bury him. Like a cannonball explodig from the barrel, Paul laid down a blistering pace from the outset. This left Brandon Wright, Steve Prosser and Myles Cullen hanging on for dear life and trying to suck every morsel of oxygen out of the cool spring air. Anticipating a relatively muddy race, Steve elected to bring his fat bike out to the course and, as a result of the added rollig resistance and lessened handling, found himself the first to fall off of the pace after being passed by Myles and Kyle 2/3 of the way through the first lap.
By this time, Paul had also shaken off the pack and was rolling away to a solid victory. But the battle behind him was anything but over. On lap 2, Brandon had a small crash as his front end lost traction and he dumped the bike into the bushes. This gave Myles and Kyle a moment to catch their breath as forward progress was halted by the body and bike sprawled across the trail in front of them. Once Brandon remounted and the gang was all underway, Myles attacked and made a move on Brandon before re-entering the next patch of single track.
Less than half a lap later, however, Brandon and Kyle counter-attacked and road away from Myles who had, apparently, dug a little too deep in his effort to put the hurt on Brandon. Kyle and Brandon then continued to battle hard for the remaining lap and a half and delight everyone with a crazy sprint finish where - hammering bar-to-bar - Kyle was able to beat Brandon to the line by a hair. It was a tremendous finish to a ridiculously tight race for the Experts.
In rounding out our discussion of the Experts here, it behooves us to mention Clay Te Bokkel who continues to progress his fitness and tactics year after year. This week he managed to finish within 25 seconds of Steve Prosser - the winningest rider in Coulson history. This is an impressive accomplishment and, as young as Clay is, the best is surely yet to come. This strong performance also allowed Clay to overtake key rival Matt Deangelis in the season championship points standings where Clay now holds 3rd by a slim 3-point margin.
The second Wright brother to meet his match on this day was Aaron Wright. In last week's race report, mention was made of the exceptional performance of Luke Valenti who posted comparable times to several in the Expert field but seemed to implode as the race wore on. Judging by his results this week, he was merely resting during his second lap this week. Faced with a much stronger field in the Junior Sport category, Luke didn't merely compete - he set the bar for others to follow. While Aaron turned the faster first lap, Luke nailed his pass on lap two and worked hard to build a little cushion for his third and final outing. While both riders turned identical third laps (12:09), Aaron's strong third lap effort was not enough to erase the 12-second gap Luke had secured earlier.
The addition of another strong Junior rider adds a new and exciting fibre to the fabric of this group and the races to come are sure to be filled with tension, excitement, and drama. The stuff that legendary racing is made from!
In Senior Sport Men, two performances deserve special recognition. Both the race winner, Chris R. Graham and Steven Jagusch managed the impressive feat of solid negative splits on their last laps. The hallmark of an effective racer is managing output to deliver consistent lap times. The holy grail of a well-executed race is to cross the line absolutely and completely spent, but to have your final lap also be your quickest. Congrats to both riders for delivering just that. Impressive stuff.
In the Novice category, newcomer Tyler Patenaude continues to impact the landscape as he pushes series leader Devlin McDaniel to dig deeper and push harder than ever. These two young rippers finished within 20-seconds of one another and Tyler actually turned the faster final lap so there is definitely some interesting racing to come. This is a great time for these rookie racers to start honing their race craft and looking for opportunities to bring tactics to the table. When skill and fitness are close, tactics define champions.
One final shoutout to a rider joining us for the first time this season: Young Maizy Morton battled the tough Mini-Me course in her first race of the year and walked with a podium finish for her tremendous effort. Congrats Maizy! Riders like you are the future of our sport and we love you see you out there ripping it up along with your whole family.
Cycling is pretty much the only sport where kids and parents can come and participate together. There's no lugging your munchkins to a field to then sit on the sidelines twiddling your thumbs - you get to participate too! This is but one more reason why everyone you know with even a passing interest in riding should come and join us next week to engage their bodies, stimulate their minds, and improve the quality of your life. Where else can you get all that for $14?
Come and join the party!
GUEST REPORT BY CLUB COACH PAUL COONEY:
Weather: 14°C, 67% humidity, overcast and cool but dry
This week, we thrilled riders with a brand-spanking new course that brought a little more elevation gain to the table to allow riders to stretch their legs and lungs. Almost 1km of fresh trail was reopened this week - and we hope everyone enjoyed them because it was a back-breaking 20 hours of work that went into preparing the new course. A huge shoutout to Steve Ley for dedicatig an entire workday to helping out with grooming.
One particular section of trail weas recovered after two years of neglect thanks to the Great Thinning of 2016 that saw most of our trail network erased by careless loggers. It's always a rewarding and exciting moment to ride trails that were carved from gnarly bush by your own two hands (and some fun power tools) - trails that were merely raw, overgrown forest in the hours before.
Our new course is a little shorter and faster than what came earlier this season but that by no meansd makes it easier. The addition of some moderately extended climbs gave different riders an edge and levelled the playing field between bike handlers and fitness fiends.
Within 30 minutes of completion of our trail grooming efforts, the race was ready to get underway and the Junior Sport Men christened it with some wickedly competitive racing. Aaron Wright continued to show his dominance in the field and made his move early by building a massive 40 second gap on his first lap. Strategically, this proved sound as the field was content (or resigned) to let Aaron go and settle into the battle to determine the balance of the top four.
Aaron Wright has his eyes on the prize. Rocket power!
Levi Te Bokkel followed Trevor Anderson around for the first lap and then decided to make his move on lap two. Coming through the start/finish area these two were running wheel to wheel. In an unexpectedly heroic effort, Matt Jenkins managed to catch Levi and Trevor and then two became three. Any one of these accomplished young men could have taken the win at the line and, on any given day, the results may have looked different. But, on this occasion, Trevor was not going to leave another sprint finish on the table against the mighty Mr. Te Bokkel, so he attacked early and built a good lead heading to the finish.
Levi (left) and Trevor taking it right to the line. The intensity is palpable.
The effort afforded Trevor a 3-second margin of victory but even more impressive was the fact that Matt was hot on the heels of Levi. While Levi may have been solely focussed on trying to reel in Trevor, Matt was doing a splendid job of putting himself into a great position to reach for the last podium spot. While it did not quite come to fruition this time, the field has been put on notice that Matt is ready for the fights to come.
In Novice Men, we had a greatly broadened field as the improved weather brought out a pile of new faces to our series - and returned attendance to typical historical levels. Of note here was the blistering first lap pace set by newcomer Luke Valenti who tore up the course in 12:17 - this is faster even than several experts. He was unable to sustain this torrid pace on his second lap but it certainly speaks to his performance potential and his readiness for a tougher class of riders in the Sport field. But if you are looking for a debut performance to emulate, it doesn't get much better than that.
It was also a tremendous pleasure to welcome back some Novice Women riders. Both Leena Robinson and Julia Smith joined us for their first races of the season this week and, while it is always hard work, there is nothing like the feeling of pushing your mind and body to the breaking point to help your appreciate your body, appreciate your health, and relish the opportunity to test and improve yourself in both realms.
It was an especially heart-warming occasion to see Julia back out and racing as her mentor and grandfather, Nigel Read, the man responsible for Julia's exposure to cycling, is in dire health and unable to continue riding at this time. Nigel helped me design new courses over the past couple of years and his efforts were always appreciated and his absence is certainly felt. Nigel's daughter has set up a GoFundMe page to help the family with expenses for those interested.
See you all next Wednesday!
Weather: 20°C, 37% humidity, doesn't get better than this.
For the first time this year, riders at our weekly series basked in summer heat and glorious sunshine. But the air wasn't the hottest thing going last night - that honour falls to the Sport Women racing their hearts out.
Without question, the Sport Women's group is the most contested category this season and this week's race delivered the best action yet. While Emmeline Te Bokkel put on another clinic in pacing and emerged with a strong 80-second victory, the balance of the category all finished within 24-seconds of one another.
While Carys Reid rode a smoking first lap and stuck to Emmeline like sap on your shoulder after a crash some trail maintenance, the heat took it's toll on Carys' breathing and she was forced to reduce her pace a little on lap two. Unfortunately for Carys, this slow down not only allowed Emmeline to slip away but also meant she was facing considerable pressure from behind as Abby Weening, Tessa Brinklow, and Lindsay-anne Townsend were all bearing down on her and eating away precious time. By the time this trio crossed the finish line, there were no more than 8-seconds seperating the whole group. This is racing at it's finest where one good move - or one mistake - can dictate the outcome.
Huge kudos in particular to Abby and Tessa for delivering extraordinarily consistent laps times even as the race wore on.
The second most exciting battle of the day was forged between Elijah Weening and Seamus Cullen who were both gunning for podium spots in the Novice category. This marked Seamus' second ever race in the category having just moved up from the Mini-Me ranks last week. In his first race, Seamus did not manage his exertion as well as required and paid the price with a tortuous second lap. This time round, however, Seamus metered his output more effectively and was hot on the heels of Eli lap after lap. Eli has emerged as a real little powerhouse with impressive handling capabilities and a heart that just won't quit. Congrats to both riders for the smooth, smart race they rode - that's a difficult knack for adults to master let alone these very young men.
In Junior Sport, Matthew Deangelis set the course on fire and pounded away to a very convincing 1st place finish. With his 3+ minute margin of victory, Matt has made a formal request to move to Expert and we are happy to accomodate his ambitious goal-setting. Congragts to our newest Expert! All riders: Please bear in mind that in order to maintain your sttus as an Expert, you must maintain a completion time within 10% of the race winner. Failure to maintain this level of performance will result in a downgrade back to Sport. We'll see how Aaron Wright responds to this move...
The sprint of the day came down to Trevor Anderson and Levi Te Bokkel hammering to the line in a blur of dust and crank strokes. Levi had the early lead and looked well poised to take the victory, but Trevor attacked with incredible vigour and slowly ate away at Levi's lead - inch by inch. When the two riders crossed the line in front of the timing tent, only inches seperated them and Trevor was clearly thrilled with the come-from-behind victory as he fist-bumped the air enthusiastically once he realized victory was his to savour.
Tactics were also on full display this week where, in the Master Sport category, Dustin Sampson was gracious enough to pull his arch-rival Mark McArthur around the course for two and a half laps. While Mark enjoyed the quiet draft off of Dustin's wheel, he was conserving piles of energy in preparation for his masterful attack. Over the course of the first two laps, Dustin tested Mark's fitness with some uphill attacks but was unable to shake his opponent. On the third lap, Mark made a daring move that stuck and then created a gap on an extended downhill section that Dustin proved unable to close. Mark smashed the final fire road climb to the finish area and rode off with a solid victory that demonstrated the fact that power is nothing with good strategy. Lesson of the day: Don't pull a fast rider around the race course!
In a little bit of housekeeping news, we have folded the Grand Master Open category into other groups as it has not attracted the increased ridership we had anticipated. All riders from the category have been moved to Master Sport.
Next week we will deliver a brand new course that will feature a very different personality than our current version, so join us for some more heated action next Wednesday.
Weather: 27°C, 42% humidity, summer is here!
With another week in the books, it is a great pleasure to once again regale you with stories of remarkable accomplishments and personal bests. The tales begin in the Mini-Me category where James Bernier was marking his second career start with a fire in his belly and podium visions his mind's eye.
James Bernier weaving his way through the legendary Log-a-Rhythm singletrack
With a thundering burst of acceleration from the word "Go!", James quickly moved to the front of the pack where he remained for the duration of the race. With equal measures of solid bike handling and hard work, he put together two very solid and consistent laps that were only 7-seconds apart.
Consistency is a theme we harp on in both our race reports and at the event. For those learning to race - a much different animal than going and tearing up the singletrack with your buddies on the weekend - consistency can be a tough thing to tame. Go out too hard and you'll blow yourself to smithereens one third of the way through the race and be unable to fend off attacks from competitors.
Go out too easy and the lead riders may make a gap that you can't erase as the laps add up. Finding the right balance is a skill that can only be mastered through experience and learning to read your body. And then there's James who just nailed if effortlessly with any analysis whatsoever. Awesome work on your first victory, James!
Kaiden Sampson also posted his finish ever with an impressive 2nd place!
But James wasn't the only Mini-Me rider blasting his way into the history books this week. Young Kaiden Sampson, pictured above completing an assertive pass on Max Dodson through the twisties, rode the race of his young life and eclipsed all of his previous racing benchmarks. Kaiden did one better than lap consistency by delivering a negative split between his lap times. (This means his second lap was actually faster than his first.)
Motivation was not a problem for Kaiden as he had to work exceptionally hard on his second lap to fend off a hard-charging Holden Allen who was not going down without a fight. These two rippers rode wheel-to-wheel for most of lap 2 and Kaiden won with only a few meters (and 2-seconds!) to spare. There is certainly more action to come between these two.
The narrow gap theme continued right into the Sport Women category where Carys Reid looked to be playing the better strategic game by hanging tightly onto Emmeline Te Bokkel's rear wheel through the first two laps of their three lap race. The racing was so tight that these two riders posted identical lap times through laps two and three. That said, from the limited vantage point iof the timing tent, it appeared that Carys was playing the waiting game and preparing to launch an attack at any moment.
Emmeline brought her "A-game" to the race this week. Her second win in a row!
But, alas, the attack was not to come. Emmeline brought enough pace and power to her ride that, despite the aerodynamic advantage of second wheel, Carys was ubable to launch a sustained attack and overtake the 2016 Sport Women champion. But, knowing Carys, she is no doubt looking towards week 4 and planning her race strategy to capitalize on her many strengths and make another run at the top podium spot. Emmeline had certainly better not take winning for granted in this field of strong riders.
Another rider who is refusing to relent his tight grasp on the podium is young Aaron Wright. Following in the winning footsteps of his older brother Brandon, Aaron is making his mark on the Junior Sport category with his second win in three races and shows no signs of letting up. This week his biggest challenge came from the constantly-improving Matthew DeAngelis who led the race through the first lap.
Aaron fought super hard and made a last lap charge for victory - what an effort!
Heading out on the second lap, Aaron had erased his early 6-second deficit and, hot on the heels of his key competitor, had ignited the afterburners in an effort to keep Matthew in his sights. Prepared to put in any amount of sheer effort required, Aaron exploded on his last lap and not only managed to pass Matthew but also amass a 36-second margin of victory in the process.
Luke Knights, similarly, rode like a man possessed this week and had the best outing of his life. While Luke's father, Dave, is a perennial podium contender in every race he attends, 2017 is the first season for Luke racing in the Expert category. The game in Expert is, truly, next level stuff. The riders are all so incredibly fast that even a single mistake can cost you the entire race. One little bobble, one little slide, one missed attack and it's all over.
But on the night, the young Mr. Knights could not take a misstep. When the lead group came through the start/finish area on their first lap of four, I was slack-jawed to see Luke riding wheel-to-wheel with some of Ontario's finest all the while looking very composed.
Dave and Luke (in FRONT) tearing towards the finish line
While Brandon Wright was eventually able to create a gap on the other Expert riders in the field, a cluster consisting of Luke, Dave, and Steve Prosser railed lap after lap within inches of each other - rubbing elbows in the corners and eating dust flung from each other's tires. The racing just couldn't get any tighter or more exciting.
In the ultimate sprint finish, Luke took the edge over Steve and his dad Dave. The big question hanging over this result: Is this the official passing of the torch from father to son? Or a one-off result that Dave can continue fending off for another couple of seasons to come? The next few races are sure to be beyond exciting and tension-filled for these two.
We also have to extend a warm, if albeit short, "welcome back" to legendary Coulson personality Steven Walsh. Just how committed is Steve to racing with the Spoke O'Motion crew? He climbed into his car at 5am and headed west from Nova Scotia (!!!) to join in on the fun. If that doesn't speak to the quality of our events, the quality of our family vibe, and the quality of our contributions to our community then I don't know what can.
Straight from Nova Scotia, Steve came to WIN!
Ten hours of driving (and probably a few litres of coffee) later and Steve hit the line looking lean, mean, and ready to rip. And rip he did. Steve made steady gains on the rest of the Master Sport field through every lap and wound up with a healthy 30-second gap over second place Mark McArthur. With his quick wit, willingness to lend a hand, and warm nature Steve will always be missed and we love it when he comes for a visit. Spoke O'Motion is a lot like a big, extended family: We are always linked even when our lives have moved us in different directions and neither time nor distance can break our bonds. That's the cycling life, my friends.
See you all next Wednesday!
Weather: 13°C, 41% humidity, perfect cycling weather - again!
What a busy day we had this week! Things began with the first race of the season for the York Region Athletic Association's high school race series. 85 teenaged riders took to the forest to represent their schools in a fantastic display of committed teachers bringing cycling to our youth. It was inspiring sight and offers hope that the next generation will fall in love with the joy of two wheels despite the many competing distractions of our current age. Results for that race can be found here.
Spoke O'Motion jerseys peppered the podium across several divisions.
Carys Reid wins again - this young woman is on a roll!
Building upon the Spoke O'Motion focus of building grassroots interest in our sport, the primary race organizer was none other than Team coach Paul Cooney who gives back to the community in myriad ways but these high school races have a reach and scale that few other endeavours can touch. You can cherck out some photos from the event and read about Paul's awesome programs on his Facebook page here.
The high schoolers were also the first group of riders that had a chanec to sample the fleet of goodies provided by our bike brands. Cannondale, Norco, and Rocky Mountain all brought their latest and hottest platforms to offer riders a chance to thoroughly test the performance and comfort of the bikes in the most realistic of all scenarios - in the dirt on some amazing trails.
More than 100 bikes were present for people to check out, test ride, and even race on. Spoke O'Motion deals with the best manufacturers on the market and we are grateful that they go through such incredible expense and time to ensure the best possible experience for our customers.
To put the cherry on top of our delicious day, the weather was exceptional. In a spring marked with relentless rain and dull, grey skies attendees at our series were greeted with blue skies and reams of unadulterated sunshine. Despite the rain that had fallen over the previous several days, the course held up beautifully thanks to our cautious trail selection and decades of extensive trail maintenance.
Ryder took a lickin' but kept on tickin'! An example of perseverance for us all.
This week we will start reporting from the Mini-Me category where there is an inspiring story to share and, perhaps, lessons to be learned for riders of all ages. While climbing the central fire road featuring our first Strava segment, I saw up the trail a rider in a bright orange helmet pulled off to the side of the trail. As I blazed past this young ripper, the realization dawned that it was my middle child, Ryder Cullen, and he was at a standstill while he sobbed and tears streamed down his dirt-stained face.
Admittedly, I hesitated for moment on whether or not I really needed to stop as I had fought to gain second place overall and was chasing down Brandon Wright's wheel for the first time in years. But perspective of the relative importance of things jolted me back to my senses, so I stopped, turned around, and rode back down the trail to ascertain the nature of the problem. As it turned out, Ryder had crashed, flipped over the bars, and landed on his face. To his credit, with a little comforting and a little cajoling Ryder re-mounted his trusty steed and proceeded to finish another lap and a half with nary a complaint. Lessons learned: Never quit. Never give up. Finish what you start no matter what obstacles impede your forward progress. Pain is temporary, but submission is forever. I couldn't be prouder of my little man for stepping up after a pretty heavy crash.
My name is Alex Sampson and I approve this message!
In Novice Men, newcomer Devlin McDaniel continued his winning ways and is putting a ton of pressure on Eli Weening to continue his impressive growth from the few years as he looks to reel in the hard-charging Devlin. With two races down and two victories under his belt, Devlin is within a stones throw of posting some respectable Sport-class times. Solid work for someone so fresh to the race scene. He's certainly a rider to keep on your radar.
Our Sport Women category saw a bit of a shake-up this week as Emmeline Te Bokkel threw a leg over a loaner Cannondale Scalpel Si and rode off to a convincing victory over the balance of the women's field. After an incredibly successful 2016 season, Emmeline must be thrilled to know that she is, again, a super strong contender in the pack and able to ride with the best of them on any given night. Carys Reid took second place - an impressive feat itself given that it was her second race of the day. Meanwhile, Tessa Brinklow put the hammer down and finished in the last podium spot and kept Carys within a 30-secondvmargin of victory. This category looks like it will be hotly contested throughout the year as any given course and any given days could swing the advantage to a different rider's favour.
It was hammer time for Emmeline as she rode to victory aboard a rocket-powered Cannondale Scalpel Si
Another rider with lots of saddle time this week was Matthew DeAngelis. After nailing the podium in the high school race earlier in the day, one might be excused for assuming Matthew wouldn't be able to dig deep again for a second effort. Despite the physical difficulty of pushing yourself to the limit in a repeat performance, perhaps the taste of podium glory was just the inspiration Matt needed to bring his "A" game to the weekly race. After hunting down Aaron Wright's lightning fast wheel for the first lap of three, Matthew judged his timing, made his move, and narrowly edged Aaron across the line for the start of the last lap. But this tiny sliver of margin was all Matt needed to hold off Aaron - who finished only 5 seconds back when all was said and done. Congrats to Matthew for leaving it all on the table and pushing a massive pace despite the fatigue he certainly fought.
Matt heading out for his last lap. In the lead and keeping the throttle pinned!
Our last story of the night belongs to Mike Ceolin in the Grand Master Open category. Last week, Mike rode a very strong race and thoroughly surprised any competitors that raced against him in 2016 with his newfound speed. However, despite averaging 18.11 km/h over the course of the race, he was unable to make ground on the blistering pace set by Rusty Fisher. A new week and a new race, however, leaves opportunity in the open for any rider to come on in and snatch it up. Mike didn't merely improve upon his week #1 time - he crushed it. With his average speed cranking up to 18.95 km/h, Mike posted the two fastest (non-Expert) lap times of the entire event. On the way to this feat, he erasing his 1-minute deficit to Rusty from last week and, instead, built a 2-minute margin of victory. That makes for a 3-minute swing over a direct competitor on the same course. Every once in a while athletes are treated to a day of "special performance". Mike clearly had one of those days and he'll certainly tell you what an exceptional feeling it is.
Work hard, aim high, and smash through any limit you think there may be. The only limits are the ones you impose on yourself.
Congrats to everyone for another stellar week of racing and a huge thank you to the crews from Cannondale, Norco, and Rocky Mountain for continuing to help make our series one of the premiere events in the province.
A special thank you as well to Lisa Sampson for stepping up to take over photography duties and delivering an amazing collection of photos. We have an extraordinary community of riders and enthusiasts gathered around us and every one of you is appreciated more than you might know. Until next week!
GUEST CONTRIBUTION FROM STEVE PROSSER:
To my good fortune, I was able to arrive early for this year’s demo day. The sun was shining on a wicked fleet of bikes, kindly being set-up by the reps who gave us their time - thanks guys! I burned a fun lap aboard a Rocky Mountain Pipeline. With my admiration of fat bikes, it was no surprise that this thing was a blast. The plus-sized tires begged to be pushed hard into corners and the suspension encouraged popping off of every rise along the way. Certainly a tempting option for those who like it a little rowdy!
As I arrived at the start line, I was pleased to see some old faces, including Kyle Rae - the eternal rocket, and Mike Cowan who was also trying a bike with some irregularly sized rubber.
A heavy hammer along the 400 left Brandon Wright, myself, Myles Cullen and Kyle Rae weaving a tightly knit thread through the singletrack with the rest of the expert class close behind. Brandon and I made a 50-foot gap that was quickly taken back as Myles and Kyle dropped the hammer at the start of the 2nd lap. Brandon would have none of it though and used his wicked power to weight ratio to slowly disappear into the trees ahead of us.
Soon enough, Myles blasted past me on the rough downhill into the tight right at the bridge and pulled hard up the muddy climb! While doing everything we could, Kyle and I kept within 10 feet of his wheel coming onto the back Strava straightaway. At this moment, Myles selflessly stopped while mid-hammer, dropped his bike and went to aid his young lad, who had seemingly crashed. Leaving his well-earned lead over Kyle and I behind at the drop of a hat, Myles couldn’t have shown a more genuine display of kindness! :)
From there Kyle and I fought it out for a short time before his superior fitness shone through. With an impressive burst, he made a gap I could not close and took a well-earned 2nd place finish. Brandon took the win further showing his wicked consistency at Coulson’s. I was able to cross the line in 3rd but not without a good fight from Myles! He closed the gap at one point, but understandably couldn’t keep pushing as I got on the gas upon hearing his arrival.
In saying that, I can’t help but take splendor in who I was racing with on this particular evening. All of us have been able to display some consistency within our realm. There were times where it was like a scene cut and pasted from 15 years ago; Kyle, Myles and I battling it out at Coulson’s Hill! Both Kyle and Myles were, and still are incredibly talented riders, and truly gave me some valuable lessons as I grew my roots in the sport. The memories we have are endless, and nights like the aforementioned keep fueling the fire!
- Steve Prosser
Weather: 9°C, 37% humidity, cool & dry amidst a week of miserable weather
With a begrudging acceptance that the weather forecast was not going to deliver on its promise of a full day of sunshine and unicorns, the trail crew descended on Coulson around lunch time to finish off the remaining trail marking and grooming. Our goal is always the same: To deliver to best groomed, most entertaining courses of any event in Ontario. Those who have raced extensively readily attest to our success in meeting these targets.
Our season opener was no different. While little longer than a typical early season race at ~4km per lap, we a managed to avoid all of the major climbs although on early-season legs even the "minor" climbs sure seemed able to sap leg power pretty quickly. But by punctuating the course with tight, twisty sections that challenged riders' bike handling skills more than their cardio. Experts had a little surprise on hand, too, with the demanding and technical Nigel's Re-turn thrown onto the end of their already intense lap.
As fortune - and the weather forecast - would have it, the clouds did indeed break by late afternoon and leave us awash in welcome blue skies and sunshine as we hammered away at putting the final touches on the venue preparations and course. Exactly what the doctor ordered for a little race day joy.
Riders started rolling in around 5:30pm and it is always a pleasure getting reacquainted with those joining us again and especially exciting to see the new faces joining us for the first time. Ones first race experience can be fraught with conflicting emotions as riders face (entirely self-imposed) performance pressure, surging adrenalin, and the uncertainty of how their bodies will respond to the demands imposed on it. But always bear in mind two keys points: 1) It's all for fun...so don't worry, be happy! 2) No one cares about your results but you.
But, despite the importance of keeping this all in perspective, it is a race and most of the riders involved are keenly interested in putting forth their best possible effort. The beauty of the race is that it really doesn't make much difference if you are battling for 3rd or 13th, so long as you get a chance to fight really hard to hold off a hard-charging opponent or are able to reel in that elusive rider 5o feet off of your front wheel. The joy, the self-satisfaction, the very essence of the race is in all of these small battles that construct the whole.
Experts at the ready!
In the Expert category, several accomplished young riders have made the leap to the top of the pyramid and were cutting their teeth against the "big dogs" for their first time. Special congratulations to Luke Knights and Clay Te Bokkel for stepping up to the challenge and performing admirably. This day, however, belonged to last year's series champion Brandon Wright. His margin of victory was a little over 60-seconds - which is admittedly large - but there were a few tactical mistakes from Steve Prosser, who is returning from a year-long hiatus and looking to regain the championship throne. An early crash in traffic saw Steve drops a few positions and made if very difficult to catch Brandon who was certainly not about to take his foot off of the throttle. Sean Mahoney, who took second place, rode a strong, consistent race and must have been thrilled to keep Steve, who was relegated to 3rd place, at bay.
In Master Expert, Dave Knights demonstrated that there is simply no replacement for winter hours in the saddle. Finishing within 45-second of Brandon Wright - a young man almost 25 years his junior - is an exceptional accomplishment and makes it clear that age is never a barrier. The only barriers you face are the ones you erect yourself! Dave rode brilliantly consistent laps and never extrended himself too far. His last two lasps were actually exactly ther same time. You can just call him Mr. Consistency.
Dave Knights - on his way to victory. Strong like bull!
In Grand Master Open, the story of the day has to belong to Mike Ceolin who rode himself to a solid second place finish behind Rusty Fisher - a former pro that logged almost 10,000km in the off-season. Kudos to Mike for his mind-blowing transformation heading into the 2017 season and his commitment to improving his health in the most profound way. Mike will go down in Coulson history as perhaps the most amazing transformation ever witnessed. This reinforces the another element of cycling beauty: Weight loss in and of itself need not be the focus or the goal. Performance is the fundamental goal and, in order to succeed, weight drops. Mike always had leg power to spare and with his newfound physique, his power-to-weight ratio must be off the charts.
Skinny Bike Mike doesn't have quite the same ring to it as his last nickname - but it fits!
Changes like this and the pride Mike should take from his hard work are the true joy driving what we do. Spoke O'Motion delivers the hardware and the venue - you deliver the will and together we change lives. It's a beautiful thing. Or maybe it was all about Mike's shiny new Cannondale Scalpel Si. Hmmm.
Another beautiful thing to watch is the transformation of our Junior Sport riders. As these young men grow and mature, we see their race craft and strategic thinking improve, we watch as their bodies change and power builds, and we see their confidence grow in step with these other changes. On this night, all of the stars aligned for young Aaron Wright as he set the trails ablaze with his white-hot performance. With a commanding 1:42 margin of victory, the rest of the class has their work cut out for them if they want to challenge what could be a season of domination for young Mr. Wright. Time will tell if the rest of the junior sport men will rise to the challenge. The gauntlet has been laid!
In Senior Sport, Chris Staniewski went off the line guns blazing and turned in a blistering first two laps during which time he was fending off a well-trained and highly focussed Adam Pevcevicius. Despite maintaining reasonably consistent lap times, Chris slowed by about 20 seconds on his last lap and this allowed Adam to capitalize and make a final attack that Chris simply could not counter. By the time these two crossed the line, only 15 seconds separated them but Adam had made it clear that he was there for the long haul.
In it to win it - but Chris couldn't hold off the ferocious speed of Adam on his third lap
In the spirit of continuity, Dustin Sampson started the 2017 season where his 2016 season left off - victory! There is no better boost to the confidence than a great opening race and Dustin can approach the balance of the season with confidence that he can hold and maintain a lead against strong competition. On this day, that competition came from Mark McArthur. Mark was an ongoing threat to anyone in the category last year and things are looking no different at this point. Mark clung to Dustin's wheel through the entire race and this duo flew through the start/finish area inches apart lap after lap. That said, Mark's got to find a way to make a move if he wants to climb to that top spot. This is only the first battle in what is sure to be a season-long war.
Dustin may be in the lead, but Mark's tire is just on the edge of the frame!
In war, to the victor go the spoils so there should be no one more spoiled than Spoke O'Moion Cycling Club's lead female rider Carys Reid. Hot off of an impressive Ontario Cup victory this past Sunday, Carys took to the starting line brimming with confidence that was evident for all to see. The rest of the field was not to be intimidated, however, and the results were hotly contested.v The top four riders in this field were separated by only 30 seconds and we are enjoying some of the tightest Sport Women action we have seen in years. Tessa Brinklow finished only 5 seconds behind Carys and is certainly hungry to make her mark.
Carys in full flight coming across the finish line with Tessa just a couple riders back
The last group story for this report - which has been admittedly lengthy - involves our beloved Mini-Me category. This group may officially be considered the cutest but it certainly does not make them less ferocious once they hit the starting line! It is also typically one of our largest group of riders. Several new faces joined us their racing debuts this year. Shout outs to James Bernier, Holden Allen, and Chloe Davies for making our weekly series their first adventure in competitive cycling.
Check out the focus on these young faces. Ready for action!
It worked out great for James Bernier who made the podium on his first appearance. Similarly, Holden Allen can lay claim to the fastest Mini-Me lap of the night with a blistering 13:18. But, alas, it was not a sustainable pace for the young ripper and his second lap saw him lose ground to the eventual winners. The racing action was incredible, though. Holden, Alex Sampson, and James sat 1, 2, 3 through the first lap. As Holden imploded on lap 2, the remaining leaders were soon overtaken by a hard-charging Seamus Cullen. After nailing passes on the two front runners, Seamus crashed pretty good and lost the lead to both Alex and James. Demonstrating poise and perseverance, Seamus picked himself up, dusted himself off and gave it everything he had to make the catch. And not only was Seamus able to regain the lost ground, he launched an attack that left the field shattered. Seamus wound up banking a 41-second gap. Watch out Novices - he comes the next generation!
Don't miss May 3th: It's Demo Day!
Rocky Mountain, Norco and Cannondale will all be present
with a veritable fleet of test bikes.
Weather: 16°C, 72% humidity, cool & dry - it was a beauty!