Week #20 - August 5
Don't miss our Awards Banquet and celebration!
WHEN: Wednesday, September 12th starting a 6pm
WHERE: Tom & Jerry's, Newmarket
WHAT: Awards ceremony and social - have a beer and share a tall tale or two. Family friendly. Children and spouses welcome.
What a season! Race participation is higher than it has ever been, new faces are rewriting the status quo, old faces are reestablishing their legacies, and our smiles-per-mile ratio continues to boom.
We were exceptionally fortunate this year to have incredible weather for all but two of twenty races - if only every season went like that! The dry weather also slowed down the overgrowth in the trail system resulting in the best grooming we have ever delivered to our ridership (and the public alike).
But I cannot say another word with respect to grooming without a huge shout out to two particular individuals that offered me unparalleled levels of support this season: Dave Knights took it into his own hands to ensure that our fireroads and double track were meticulously groomed to golf course standards. Thanks to a new acquisition - a riding mower - Dave saw to it that I no longer had to make endless rounds up and down the fireroads with only the 20" cutting swath of my push mower.
In addition to Dave's help, more thanks have to be offered up to Nigel Read who showed up every Wednesday to assist with chainsaw work, trail clearing, and trail marking. Nigel made my summer a much more manageable effort than it has ever been and I am incredibly grateful for the support. Not only did Nigel work in the bush all day, he then continued to get out there and give it his all each week even when his best efforts had already been offered up through his day of hard work.
Each course represents approximately 15 hours of labour to be in the shape you see it on race day. There is no other series in Ontario - provincial and national level events included - that deliver the level of grooming and signage that we expect of ourselves at Coulson. We raise the bar like this for one all-encompassing reason: To deliver the best racing experience in the province. I hope you feel your time and money is well spent.
Now on to the racing!
Jaxon Brennan delivered perhaps his best race of the season last night as he took the lead on his third of four laps and looked to have an edge on Steve Prosser. Extra motivation for Jaxon came from the factt that the second place Expert, Dan Hope, had returned to university and a win would have elevated Jaxon into second place overall. Alas, it was not to be. In Steve's hardest sprint of the entire season, he clipped Jaxon to the line by inches to cinch another win and deliver the final word on his overall Expert championship status.
At the other end of the experience spectrum one finds another member of the Brennan clan battling for a podium spot in the Mini-me category. Here it was Kerry Brennan making a final attack on arch-rival Carys Reid as the two made their way to the finish line. With less than 50 meters to go, Kerry called out a quick "On your left!" to Carys who then dug extra deep into her reserve of mental strength to counter-attack Kerry's charge. The result: Carys held her position by a nose and both young women finished the season with a sprint memorable enough to keep those fires stoked over winter until the inevitable rematch happens next April. In other exciting Mini-me news, Robert Murphy had another strong finish (2nd) that propelled him past Jacob Marlatt and into third place on the championship podium.
Other such last-race shuffles occured in a couple of categories. Perhaps most notably, Les Suter put in one of his strongest races of the year and nailed his third victory of the season besting Mike Cowan by almost 30 seconds. The great news for Les is that this double-points win catapulted him into third place overall and secured him a nice piece of shiny hardware for the effort. This news will rub Matt Saunders especially raw as Matt was well aware that he needed to beat Mike Murphy to maintain his podium position, but had not considered the impact of a potential win by Mr. Suter.
For the Master Sport Men, this was definitely the year of Steve McCrossan. With a slew of wins and solid form all year long, Steve took a commanding lead of the series early on and his clutch was unyielding. However, there are important considerations for the future in this category. Erin Bale, for example, won the last two races of the season and was looking very strong as he and Steve sprinted to the line in this championship race. The outcome was not decided until the two flew past the timing tent at full boil. Erin won the battle by the slimmest of margins and I am sure that he will be ready to prove that this the proper order of the universe come next season. Erin's late season performance has been nothing short of sensational. Steve Walsh has similarly improved his game as the season progressed and his consistent finishes within moments of the mighty McCrossan are surely grist for the winter training mill.
When it comes to late season surges, the conversation cannot be complete without kudos being offered to Anouchka Lewis. While Donna Winters had the series title locked up with her untouchable performances through most of the season, Anouchka took it to the champ hard over the past few weeks and won every race over this time. (Coincidentally, she also bought a new bike - a sweet Rocky Mountain Element. Hmmm...coincidence?) Bike aside, Anouchka's speeds have been fantastic and these women are sure to battle harder than ever next year to settle any debates.
When we speak of the Senior Sport Men, the podium outlook has not been very dynamic over the latter half of the season. Chris Raynor, Alex Beilis, and Mark Cairns all rode fast, consistent races and had few troubles with mechanicals or crashes. This consistency made the lock on their respective positions difficult to crack. However, the complexion of the category looks much more dynamic for the future when you consider one key figure: Dave Brown.
Having joined us only for the second half of the season - and for only five races at that - Dave notched three wins, a second, and a third. Performances like this stretched over the course of an entire season would clearly shake things up a little bit for the Senior Sport Men.
This last story repeats itself in Novice Men as well where Jeff Weening has similarly joined us for five races over the last five weeks. His incredible momentum delivered victories in the last three straight races. New blood and new enthusiasm has an amazing impact on group dynamics - I can't wait to see how this all evolves next year.
As a wrap up to this somewhat long-winded race report, I want to say "thank you" to all of our riders. This is your series. These are your trails. What exists every Wednesday is all about you. Thanks for your participation, ideas, feedback, and passion. This is the fuel that drives grassroots cycling and I am honoured to be a part of your individual journeys.
Weather: 20°C, 57% humidity, clear skies, cool air and sunshine!
Week #19 - August 29
Tight racing was the name of the game this week. And race strategy is clearly at play when we see finishes like in the Expert category where Steve Prosser, Dan Hope, and Jaxon Brennan crossed the line within 14 seconds of each other. While I was not at the finish line to see the sprint, the pace is always monstrous when this freight train rolls through town.
I spent my race following a few riders to learn about their riding styles and strengths/weaknesses from the first-person perspective. After picking my way through some speedy Mini-me riders and the ever-improving Novice classes, I found myself immersed in the myriad Sport classes and took the opportunity to learn a few things and watch some action transpire.
The most entertaining experience was coming onto the tail of Anouchka Lewis and Steve Walsh. In the spirit of context, Anouchka and Donna Winters are two smokin' fast ladies that always drive the Sport Men mad. Now, if you haven't heard, men tend to be a pretty competitive bunch. And not much can get their knickers more tightly twisted than getting smoked by women. (Before anyone takes offense and launches a barrage of hate mail, let my qualify this statement as a generalization in the spirit of humour. Any likeness to any person/persons living or dead is purely coincidental.) So - back to my story.
Steve was leading Anouchka by several bike lengths when I came upon the battling duo having just crossed the bridge at the end of the long downhill section of the northern-most fireroad. Coming around the top of the tight uphill switchback just off of the fireroad, Steve lost his balance and came unclipped for just a moment - but enough of a moment for Anouchka to have eliminated any remaining gap.
From this point, Anouchka stuck to Steve's wheel like poo glue and marked her time until her opportunity to pass would arrive. Arrive it did - right as the riders finished to uphill singletrack that parallels the long downhill. The second the trail opened up to the fireroad, Anouchka lit the afterburners and Steve was left in her wake. Now focussed on maintaining a reasonable gap, Steve kept the hammer down trying to keep Anouchka within his sights.
Steve closed the gap and was back o nanouchka's tail by the time they emerged onto the central fireroad. After a couple of failed passing attempts and lots of pressure - including some smack talk - Steve muscled past Anouchka on some suprisingly tight trail in a bid to seize the position with authority. Anouchka rode smart and did not react in haste while the two now barrelled through the forest in reverse order. The upside of this epic battle was that their pace had quickened to the point where the two had reeled in Master Sport leader, Steve McCrossan.
The problem for Mr. Walsh, however, was that his time in the lead was already defined. As in Anouchka's earlier pass, the attack came the moment the two hit the fireroad - this time the short chunk of trail that parallels Highway 400. With McCrossan laying down an awesome pace up ahead, Anouchka responded quickly by dropping the hammer hard and separating herself from Steve by a good 8-9 meters. Steve, whose drivetrain had been causing plenty of grief up to this point, misshifted turning left off of the fireroad where riders entered the last section of singletrack and that instant sealed his fate. Anouchka was gone and catching Steve McCrossan was an impossibility.
Watching this battle unfold was so dramatic and awesome to watch that I just had to make this our weekly race report. If I missed some other great stories as a result...don't worry. Your time will come!
Next week is our Series Championship race - double points and a winters worth of bragging rights are on the line.
Weather: 21°C, 49% humidity, clear skies, cooler air and sunshine!
Week #18 - August 22
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I must say yet again: What a week of exicting finishes! There were several hotly contested sprint finishes spread through several categories and the winners were not always those expected.
In our premiere category, the Experts saw an old face rejoin us for an evening of exciting action when Ed Veal came out for a rip through the woods. While Ed managed a fantastic lap time of 11:17 - third fastest amongst all riders - a spill resulted in a DNF in what could have otherwise been an exciting battle for top spot. The repercussions of Ed's torrid pace, however, undoubtedly still dictated the outcome of the event.
Dan Hope, who has demonstrated a remarkable comeback late in the season, clung tenaciously to Ed's wheel for a lap in anticipation of Ed determining the tempo for the entirety of the race. In so doing, Dan ran the nights fastest single lap with a stunning time of 11:05. However, once Ed's incident removed him from contention, Dan quickly realized that he had burned a lot of fuel in his effort to keep pace. Steve Prosser had decided earlier to "ride his own race" and let Ed and Dan pull off of the front. His decision was a wise one as he maintained a tempo somewhat below redline - tempo that allowed for four very fast and consistent laps. The wiley veteran was rewarded for his strategic thinking with another "W".
In more familial affairs, it was an awesome sight to see the father and son duo of Steve and Robbie McCrossan sprinting to the line in an all-out battle to establish the family MTB hierarchy. It turns out that, on this night, Papa McCrossan still rules the roost. But we all know where this story goes... ;)
In an historical first for our weekly series, I am also thrilled to report that one of our women riders has advanced to the point where she needed to compete against even faster riders and, as a result, have moved into higher categories. As of last week, Elyse Nieuwold has joined the elite ranks of the Expert category. This enables her to both compete another timed lap and race against some of the fastest riders in the province. At the Ontario Cup events, Elyse competes in the Elite category - the highest level of racing in the province.
Amongst the Master Sport Men, Ray Hawkins and Steve Walsh had quite a battle this week. Both riders played a very strategic race and leveraged their own strengths to their advantage. Ray took second place to Steve's third on this occasion, but I am quite sure that Steve is looking to reverse that arrangement for our next race report. The last sentence has not yet been written here.
Jeff Weening is shaping up to be our next Novice dominator and delivered a convincing win with a 1:40 gap over the next riders. However, the most intense action was for the next three spots where Greg Rushton, Luke Knights, and Juan Carlos Granja were all seperated by only three seconds. The best battles are not always those at the top levels of racing! There is tight competition at every level and for every rider the same performance pressure exists.
The Mini-mes saw the same intense action at the finish line where Robert Murphy took another win in a sprint finish against the promising newcomer Clay TeBokkel. This win has foisted Robert onto the championship podium for the first time. And don't forget that Kerry Brennan and Carys Reid are also right in the thick of things just waiting for their opportunity to climb back atop the podium. We are very excited to see how all of these young riders develop.
Only two races to go before our Champions are crowned!
Weather: 21.8°C, 57% humidity, mainly sunny
Week #17 - August 15
Last weeks song trivia challenge was won by Kerry Brennan. Several of you got the right answers, but Kerry did it first. Thanks everyone for your replies.
The mid-afternoon rain storm may have dampened the forest floor, but could do nothing to dampen the spirits of the 44 riders who came to battle if out regardless of the somewhat gloomy skies. For those that came, the course conditions - while a little slick - were otherwise excellent and our grooming had overcome the growth of the underbrush that has exploded with a couple of weeks of wet weather.
With only three races left on the 2012 season, riders holding podium spots are looking to solidify their positions while riders just shy of the mark and feverishly looking to topple the leaders. This is certainly making for some exciting racing we are thrilled to see that so many new riders have joined our ranks over the past eight weeks.
The Novice and Sport categories have both seen an injection of new energy with riders like Scott Phillips taking the win in week 16 and Dave Brown nailing a second place finish this Wednesday. The take-away from this is that we all need to remember to share our passion with everyone we know! The more riders we bring into the sport the better our trail systems become, the more manufacturers can spend on future technology, the more exciting race action we can all share.
There is no better example of community-driven excitement than the evolution of our weekly race series itself. Where we once catered to less than 20 riders per week, did our timing by hand, and performed virtually no trail maintenance except for an annual clean-up; we now host 50-70 riders per week, have opened up new categories to foster better competition (and bring out even younger children), perform extensive trail maintenance on a weekly basis, and have moved to an awesome electronic timing system - all thanks to YOU!
I acknowledge that this is a regular theme of mine, but I just wanted to take another opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your participation, your suggestions for improvements, and your assistance with trail maintenance. At the end of the day, this series belongs to you as much as it belongs to Spoke O'Motion.
See you next week for a brand new course!
Weather: 19.7°C, 82% humidity, overcast (afternoon rain storm)
Week #16 - August 8
An adage that I have called upon in the past is ringing true for yet another season: The times they are a-changin'.
Upon a newly christined course, chock full of tight, twisty single track punctuated with downhill passing zones, riders and fans alike witnessed some of the most intense action of this entire racing season.
In the expert category Dan Hope and Steve Prosser fought voraciously, as always, for the top spot. In a post race interview Steve said, "From the very first lap, Dan just kept on attacking and attacking." Those initial 500m laid the groundwork for the next four laps. The pace for the top experts was punishing and relentless throughout the whole race. At the end of the day, Dan had the legs and determination to take the mighty Prosser down a notch. Thanks for a fabulous spectacle!
On this night, there was indeed a battle outside raging and the order is rapidly fading.
This energy extended into the womens field where, in the Sport class, we saw Anouchka Lewis finally ascend to a podium spot atop the previously unassailable Donna Winters. While Anouchka has been edging ever closer for the past few weeks, it was rather startling to see her lead from start to finish (and not get lost...more on that later). I was told later that Donna has been training exceptionally hard for the Crank the Shield stage race and was, as a result, somewhat fatigued but this takes nothing away from Anouchka's accomplishment. Every racer knows, a win is a win.
Now onto to getting lost... Despite a near flawless race season and a course marked with over 130 signs, Master Expert soon-to-be champion Mike Cowan managed to work his way off course and lose almost three minutes in the middle of the race. As a result, we saw Les Suter take the win followed closely by Murray Solem. The good news here is that our top four Master Expert racers finished within 45 seconds of each other. This is tight, competitive racing at its best.
For the record, the only reason I am giving Mr. Cowan an extra rough ride here is that he told me post-race of a nagging fear that I might rip his performance in the race report and dreads his website visit as a result. Hehe. Ask and ye shall receive! :)
On a personal note, I am thrilled to publish that Seamus Cullen - my older son - completed his first real MTB race at only three years of age. Parents ask us all the time, "How old do you have to be to come out?" The previous, and long-standing, record for youngest rider was six. Needless to say, I am thrilled that Seamus wanted to ride the whole race and did so without a single shortcut. Next step: Toronto Olympics 2024!
Remember: The slow one now will later be fast.
50 bonus points to the first person to email me the three snippets of song lyrics embedded in the race report. Artist and title also required.
Weather: 25.4°C, 51% humidity, mainly clear
Week #15 - August 1
The ever-popular Team Time Trial was another resounding success this year. An innovative format that couples riders together where the winners are determined by cumulative lap counts and times, this event is also the most spectator-friendly of our races as competitors pass the start/finish area as many as 15 times.
Designed around a simple double-track focussed course with minimal singletrack - just one small section this year - this race is a fitness test in the purest sense. Unencumbered by technical terrain, the fastest riders on this day are, quite simply, the fittest riders. There are certainly circumstances where a rider can find themselves stuck behind a slower rider, but these times are very quick indeed and allow riders to ramp the tempo back up in short order.
One of the most valuable aspects of this event, however, is the opportunity for younger riders to be a part of a team with their cycling heros - some of the fastest riders in the province. Sometimes, some of the fastest riders in the country in their respective age groups. This aspirational quality builds community, defines role models, and helps bond the Coulson Hill family like no other race of the season. Even better: It's a whole heap o' fun!
Important championship changes: Sharon Godlewski has moved into 1st place overall in the Novice Women category after an evening of immense effort and perseverance - I don't think I have ever seen Sharon riding without a big smile on her face before, but she was all business this week and has earned the top podium spot in her category as a result. Another big change occured in the Master Expert category where Murray Solem has leapfrogged Matt Saunders to nab second place. There is lots of exciting action to come - be sure you don't miss a race!
Next week we return to a traditional XC race format and we will be presenting a brand new course for your riding pleasure - be sure to arrive early enough to pre-ride.
Weather: 23°C, 58% humidity, sunny
Week #14 - July 25
Before anything else, I have to offer a very public "thank you" to Jacob Marlatt, Steve Walsh, and Nigel Read for helping make this 14th week a great success. While I was in British Columbia sampling some exciting new Norco hardware for the 2013 season, this crew ensured that our race proceeded in the same professional manner as always. Thanks to you all for your continued support and assistance.
All that said, I will do what I can to offer up a race synopsis withoutany firsthand knowledge of the events. The tale of the times tells me a great deal about how last week went down.
The Expert podium is as tight as ever and with Steve Prosser missing from the action, Dan Hope took the victory with a commanding lead over the rest of the field. The battle here is ultimately for the third and final podium position where Robin Wallar, who place 2nd this week, is holding a small 8-point lead over fellow Spoke O'Motion athlete, Jaxon Brennan. This battle will rage on right through week 20, I am sure. Look for Jaxon to try and regain some ground on Robin's impressive burst of mid-season speed.
In Master Expert, Murray Solem continues to march confidently forward and is now nipping at the heels of the ultra-quick Mike Cowan. With his strong 2nd place finish this week, Murray has his sights set squarely on taking Mike down a notch before the season winds down. Thanks to another strong race, Murray is now also only a single point behind Matt Saunders in the battle for second place in the Championships.
The men aren't the only ones facing the heat of a mid-summer battle. Our Sport Women are engaged in some of the best racing we have ever seen in this category in our weekly series. While the points battle shows a super-tight battle for the top podium spot between Elyse Nieuwold and Donna Winters - now only 5 points seperates this duo - the true battle is between Anouchka Lewis and Donna. This week saw Anouchka have her closest finish ever to series-dominator Donna (perhaps she was assisted by her new Rocky Mountain Element!). This is an exciting time to be watching these two battle it out. We'll have to wait and see if Anouchka can take a victory over Donna before the season winds down.
Next race: Team time trial!
Week #13 - July 18
While the overall standings did not see substantial changes this week - although Jaxon Brennan scraped himself into the last Expert podium spot and Lori McCrossan regained the top spot over fellow Novice Sharon Godlewski - the lack of podium transposition belies the awesome race action we witnessed this Wednesday.
The biggest news of the night was that Dan Hope nailed his first victory of the season against the seemingly unstoppable Steve Prosser ending a massive 11-race winning streak. Dan attacked late on the last lap and, despite giving it his all, Steve was unable to reel in the charging Mr. Hope. While Jaxon Brennan beat many of the fastest riders in the province on Sunday, this week he was not on the pace of his team mates and I am sure he is hungry to show these two that he can take a big "w" when the chips are down. The balance of the season is poised to be a brilliant competitive landscape.
At the other end of the experience spectrum, our Mini Me category presented the deepest field we have seen all season. It's great news to see so many young riders taking their leisure and turning it into a true passion. This is the fire from which future Canadian superstars are forged. Congrats to Robert Murphy for taking a victory over super-fast, super-talented Carys Reid. Our other female Mini Me superstar, Kerry Brennan is still recovering from a nasty cut delivered while pre-riding Sudbury's punishing Ontario Cup a couple of weeks back. Look for Kerry to get back on track over the next few weeks - now she has something to prove!
Kudos are due to Alex Beilis as well who was "on form" in a big way. After notching a hadnful of wins earlier in the season, Alex had faltered over the past six weeks and, while always in the hunt, and failed to climb atop the podium. But now that the draught has been broken watch for Alex to return to the well. One win is never enough.
Next week I will be in BC to attend the 2013 Norco Product Launch and the race will be run by Jason Marlatt and the truck/trailer delivered by Steve Walsh. Thanks a pile to you both for taking up the reins in my absence! Stay tuned to our Facebook page for any updates from the launch that I am allowed to share (and maybe some I am supposed to keep quiet!).
Please arrive early to ease registration time pressure and help Jason deliver another succesful event. Have fun guys & gals - I'll be thinking of you all.
Weather: 23°C, 47% humidity, perfect weather (finally a break from the heat & humidity)
Week #12 - July 11
The action continues as we head into the second half of our race season at Coulson Hill with no sign of letting up. Not only is the action - and weather - hotter than ever, the past couple of weeks have seen some new faces added to the fold and I would like to take a moment to extend a warm welcome to: Andy Bradley, Dave Brown, Jessie Graham, Clay TeBokkel, Kelby Habert and the rest of the new faces that have made our series a part of their weekly schedules.
As people make time for summer indulgences - cottages, vacations, and the like - we are nearing the point where races will actually fall off of the Championship Points totals. Remember that only your top 15 finishes (out of 20) count towards your series championship, so don't count yourself out if you need to miss a few races. Things can change in a heartbeat out here. Plus, a single rain day - along with the double-points that ensue - can alter the mix even further. There is surely a lot of exciting racing to come!
In our Expert category, Jaxon Brennan had another strong race and dragged himself a few dozen points closer to the last podium spot. He is now trailing Robin Wallar, who was unable to attend this weeks slugfest, by a mere 5 points. While Steve Prosser certainly appears to have the series championship tied up at this point, the balance of the podium remains hotly contested and we are sure to see some changes as we march forward to September.
Much like in Expert, the Master Experts have born witness to absolute domination by one rider standing head and shoulders above the class. Mike Cowan is having his strongest season ever and is dominating the field without showig any signs of weakness. Will someone be able to take him down a notch this year? We'll need to see some stellar races from the likes of Les Suter, Mike Murphy, or Murray Solem to make that happen.
Unlike the Expert categories that are laden with veteran riders that have often ridden with us for years, the Senior Sport Men field has seen a massive shake-up in the last few weeks. While the overall podium standings are not (yet) reflecting the changing tides, newcomers have announced in no uncertain terms the changing of the old-guard. Kelby Habert joined a three weeks ago for the first time and has shown championship potential with a win in hos second race. He march to the podium was, this week, stalled by a flat tire but I expect to see lots more of Kelby on the podium as we move forward. Another new face - Dave Brown - has joined us for two weeks now and reached the podium on both occasions. This week saw Dave climb onto the top spot with another impressive finish over the field. If Dave and Kelby continue to progress, the Senior Sport championship is sure to look much different a couple of months from now.
Ray Hawkins continues to lay down consistent top finishes in the Master Sport category and this week was treated to his first win of the season. Although I am sure that both Steve Walsh and Nigel Read will have some input on the idea of Ray beating them to the finish line uncontested. Both Steve and Nigel are showing tremendous progression through the season and breaking new ground with every race. Let the personal bests continue!
The men aren't the only wons fighting tough battles and relishing the spoilsof victory, however. One of our tightest categories in the entire field is Sport Women where just over 100 points seperates Donna Winters (1st) from Barb Hope (3rd). For this group of strong riders, the importance of the "top 15" cannot be overemphasized. Elyse Nieuwold, currently in second place, has the most wins but has also missed the most races. Once races start falling off of the combined tally, the landscape is sure to change appreciably. Always remember - even when your legs are screaming and your mind is begging you to stop - that every point counts and every place matters.
Next week we will debut another new course and look to reopen some more overgrown trail. There is lots of forest left to explore and lots of adventure yet to come!
Weather: 26°C, 38% humidity, perfect weather (again!)
Week #11 - July 4
Sunshine mixed with an awesome new track to deliver a night to remember on this baking Wednesday evening. Despite record breaking heat, almost 50 riders took to the forest to see if they could survive the sweet new singletrack and the sweltering weather.
Several riders did not, in fact, make it to the finish line. While it is not uncommon to see a mechanical gremlin or two over the course of an evening, this week several riders succumbed to the heat and called it a day before the checkered flag had dropped. Our unusual summer has certainly provided some unusual outcomes.
On the topic of outcomes, the most impressive feat of athletic accomplishment belongs, without question, to Paul Cooney. If you take a gander at the "Fast Laps" file linked below, you will note that Paul put almost a full 30 seconds on reigning Coulson Hill Champion, Steve Prosser. If ever there was a lesson on absolute power more impressive than this, I can't recall it.
For another rider - Robin Wallar - progression is the name of the game. Having ridden three of four laps in a tightly organized pack with Dan Hope and Jaxon Brennan, on the last lap of the night Robin lit the wick and launched an attack for the ages. At the finish line, we excitedly awaited the battling bikers and debated how the trio would come around the last corner. At an awe inspiring lean angle, Robin charged through the last corner trailed by nothing but a could of dust. Not another rider in sight. Robin hadn't just taken the lead...he had shattered his competitors. This was racing at its best.
But we are just past the halfway point in the season and there is tons more to come! Next week, we will complete the grooming on our ambitious new course and be sure to deliver to quality you have come to expect from Team Spoke O'Motion.
Good luck to everyone heading to Sudbury this weekend to conquer the next Ontario Cup!
Weather: 28°C, 55% humidity, sunny
Week #10 - June 27
The weather could not have been more cooperative as we launched the 10th race of the season, marking the halfway point for 2012.
Our current course, a relatively non-technical track with lots of passing opportunities and open fireroad, really highlights who has the legs and lungs to finish a handful of strong laps. Given that this course was set up specifically with last weeks heat wave in mind, the course was relatively short. As a result, the usualy lap count was increased by one lap for all categories and the Mini-Me riders even had a chance to sample the adult course.
And the course clearly suited some riders more than others as we saw some changes in the podium finishes that represent a high-water mark for several athletes. First off, a big congratulations to Jamye Mikkelsen in Master Sport Men for nailing his first victory. Now the beauty of this was not merely that Jamye won his category, but that he did so in a particularly commanding style by building up a 2 minute advantage over the next rival, the ever-fast Steve McCrossan. It would appear that Jamye intends to make a strong run for the podium and this result is certainly a crank stroke in the right direction.
Another congratulations must be delivered to Steve Walsh. Having finally cracked the Caramilk secret, Steve confirmed this week that he has what it takes to be a contender amongst the best riders in the field. With all of the hard work Steve puts in every week (and his efforts at our free winter Spin Classes), it is rewarding to get some results befitting the commitment. I am sure Steve will approach the next races with a newfound confidence and a hunger to prove he deserves the company in which he now finds himself.
The Mini-Me category is so hot it is close to boiling over! The two leading ladies - Carys Reid and Kerry Brennan - finished a mere five seconds apart this week and Kerry has now stepped back up to second place in the Championship Points race. Both of these girls are fiercely competitive (although they manage to do it with big smiles) and I am sure there will be some pretty intense battles to come as we draw closer to September.
Next week there will be a new course up, so be sure to come early to pre-ride!
Weather: 22°C, 53% humidity, partially cloudy
Week #8 - June 13
We couldn't have asked for better racing weather: The sky was blue and cloud free, the temperatures a little cool, and the previous days rain had firmed up the trails and eliminated any hint of dust. Unfortunately the rain also eliminated any hint of several bridges, so some last minute trail re-routing was required to keep our trail together. Thanks to Nigel Read for designing a sweet creek crossing at the bottom of the forest!
Some big news this week for Juan Carlos Granja as another fantastic finish has propelled him onto the podiumand is leading the man he removed from this position - Mike Ciglic - by only 11 points. Despite this changing of the guard, the biggest threat of all to this category may come from newcomer Chris Taylor who has won his first two races. While he may be a newbie to us, Chris clearly has the drive and the legs to make him a strong competitor for the rest of the season. It will be exicting to see how these new faces change the evolving landscape of the Novice Mens category.
The Senior Sport Men have seen some exciting racing of late as well and this week it was Mark Cairns who looked as strong as a bull and made points gains on his two biggest rivals, Alex Beilis (2nd) and Chris Raynor (absent). The podium has been dancing back and forth between all three of the riders over the past few weeks and on any given day, any one of the three can look like an unstoppable force. Mark definitely took this role today and crossed the line looking poised, relaxed, and strong. Look out!
Returning rider Bob Farrell (Master Sport) is driving change in his category as well. Bob was a force to be reckoned with in 2011 and has now rejoined the Coulson Hill family for the 2012 season. While his absence may have been appreciated by fellow riders - especially Steve McCrossan - Bob has made his presence felt since his return and has one win and one second place finish to add to his race resume. However, on this day the mighty McCrossan proved to be more than Bob could handle. Steve has a commanding lead in the category, but I am sure Bob will be very eager to battle for every "W" and look to make gans where ever possible.
Apologies this week to Ray Hawkins for messing up his timing from last week. The data was there, but did not get integrated into the results properly. To give you an idea of how tightly knit this community is: No fewer than five seperate riders were quick to point out my omission. Even riders that were poised to benefit from the mistake. You guys are all so awesome!!! Thanks for keeping me on my toes.
For next week's new course, look forward to something with an entirely different personality. Always fresh, always hot - served up the Spoke O' way!
Weather: 16°C, 55% humidity, nothing but blue skies and sunshine
Week #9 - June 20
Week #7 - June 6
Despite the ominous weather warning and the localized thunderstorms, our weekly race series proceeded under blue skies and sunshine. Other than a brief rain shower early in the morning, the entire day had been dry and comfortable. We have often joked the Coulson Hill lives in it's own little micro-climate and this semi-serious reputation certainly earned its stickiness on this day. In fact, even on my drive home after the race I noted that the roads were wet everywhere I drove - everywhere except our forest, that is. Bizarre.
This awesome weather lead to another awesome day of racing and there were several great battles on the course. Even with a brief stop to assist a rider that had crashed, Paul Cooney took the field as is easily the fastest rider on course thusfar this year. But I know Steve Prosser is gunning for him and looking to topple to MTB giant before the season winds down.
Lots of tight points battles are emerging and we have several categories where podium spots are changing faster than the weather. Our Novice Men category has really filled out and positions 2 through 5 are seperated by less than 100 points. A couple of good races for anyone - or a mechanical gremlin taking someone out a race - and the landscape here could change tremendously. And the demographic spread here is equally interesting: In 5th we have Luke Knights, a young man looking to make his mark in the Novice class whereas in 3rd and 4th we have Mike Ciglic and Juan Carlos Granja. These men are each almost four times the age of Luke and yet the trio battle it out every Wednesday. How's that for equality of opportunity? :)
The scene is even tighter in Master Sport where 2nd through 8th place are merely a couple of high scoring races apart in the points spread. I'm sure some riders are hoping for a rainy night to snag some double points and make some ground on the competition. And remember as well that only your top 15 races for the season count towards your final points total. Every race matters, but only your top 15 actually count. This system rewards consistency and allows for vacations, mechanicals, and illnesses without penalty.
Sorry for the delayed results this week. Some technical gremlins emerged when I tried to deal with the age changes for the Sport Men categories. I think I have it all straightened out, but if any of you find any anomalies, please let me know. If you are under 40 as of December 31st, 2012 you should now be in Senior Sport.
Thanks to Chris Graham for this awesome suggestion of the age breakdowns. We now have two much deeper categories with more opportunities at victory for all. I've said it on many an occasion, but reiterate it now: This series is about you. I am very eager to hear suggestions on how to improve what we do and welcome feedback, criticism, kudos, and high fives in equal measure.
Thanks again to all of you for making our weekly series the longest running (since 1992) and most vibrant MTB race in Ontario.
Weather: 20°C, 49% humidity, mainly sunny
Week #6 - May 30
What a beauty day for a bike race! The oppressive heat and humidity that had choked southern Ontario evaporated and in it's wake we were left with a dry and slightly cool evening ideally suited to a good hammerfest.
And that is exactly what we got. The parity we are witnessing between racers this year is simply amazing. In our Expert and Master Expert categories, we are getting used to seeing trains of riders flying through the start/finish areas seperated by mere seconds. The gaps between the top five riders - that used to be relatively large - have shrunk considerably. Riders like Dave Knights and Mike Murphy are, for the first time, nipping at the heels of the established oligarchy and showing that they have the goods to compete with the best of the best.
This week was made even more interesting by the presence of Rocky Mountain Bikes and their fleet of demo bikes. There was not a spare Rocky to be found: Their entire stock was out on the race course by 6:30pm and several riders took the opportunity to race some of the thrilling new frame designs from one of Canada's premiere frame builders. And the bikes must be good: Steve Prosser took 90 seconds off of his time from last week aboard Rocky's brilliant new Element 970. There's no better proof of concept than objective fact.
Admittedly, the second week on our track also deliver better grooming with over 80% of the trails weed-whacked, mowed, and widened. Spoke O'Motion takes great pride in delivering our weekly race courses and I am sure you all see the passion with which the trails are groomed and maintained. There is no other store in Ontario that actually puts in the work to deliver not only great products, but to also provide customers (and non-customers alike) with a place to use all this great hardware. What good is a great bike without a great trail or event? That is what it takes to build grassroots cycling infrastructure and if you have come to love cycling you probably have trail volunteers to thank for it. And on the shoutout train, I cannot bring this all up without a special thank you to Dave Knights and Nigel Read for helping with lawnmowing and chainsaw duty, respectively.
Our women's categories are continuing to fill out as the season progresses and we saw a few exciting finishes as a result. At annoucement time post-event we incorrectly listed our Novice Women winner as Lori McCrossan. Lori was kind enough to point out that this honour belonged, in fact, to Meghan LeDez who lay a pretty good beating on the balance of the Novice Women field winning by over 9 minutes. I guess it's upgrade time!
Another rider whose performance commands respect is Murray Solem. Murray is an Olympic athlete who represented Canada in Athens in 2004 and is lighting up the Master Sport category with some mighty impressive lap times. What an honour to have an athlete with a race resume like this in our midst. Thanks for joining in on the fun, Murray!
Similarly, Carys Reid seems to be an unstoppable force in the Mini-Me category although new-to-Coulson rider Robert Murphy may yet prove to be a big competitor. Rumour has is that Mini-Me all star Kerry Brennan is also poised for her comeback race next week. There's a battle brewing here and it's great to see all of these young women leading the charge.
With respect to categories, I had a great suggestion from a competitor that I reevaluate the age breakdown for the Senior to Master transition (that is currently 35). The suggestion was that the Senior age bracket get bumped to 40 instead. The idea behind this is to better spread out the competitors. Before I implement this, I would like to ensure that no one has any strong objections to this idea. Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have a comment. The categories are designed to create a fair and competitive field for everyone. Decisions taken with respect to categories are never made to single out particular riders or demographics but to preserve and protect the spirit of friendly competition.
Next week there will be a new course laid out so be sure to come early enough to pre-ride.
Weather: 18°C, 58% humidity, mixed cloud
Week #5 - May 23
I promised a doozy...and a doozy you got! 4.1km laps of tight, twisty engaging singletrack punctuated by hills long enough to build some lactic acid, but short enough to leave you ready for more.
This course is simply epic - if someone were planning on joining us once per season, this may very well prove to be one of the best courses of the year.
The performance story of the night has to go to Paul Cooney. While Paul is always a force to be reckoned with, on this past Wednesday he was no less than a brtual force of nature. Where our senior expert category is typically a tight one - especially for the top few spots - on this occasion Paul simply obliterated the entire field. Take a look at the fast laps PDF and note that the top three times are held by Paul and that the next closest times are almost 45 seconds behind. This type of gap is simply unheard of and speaks volumes about Paul's commitment to world cycling domination.
And to help all of you "old" guys and gals keep some perspective: Paul is one of the fastest riders in the country and he is 44 years old this year. Age is clearly not a limiting factor on your performance. I can't tell you how many 30-40 year olds we see coming into the shop telling me about how they are too old to be racing or ripping around the trails. If only they could meet half of our Coulson crew!
In keeping with our "Oh my!" files, this week's award goes to Jamye Mikkelsen. Amidst a stinking cloud of smoking rubber and the strange sound of a collective gasp, Jamye passed the timing tent riding only his front wheel in an act of balance and control usually reserved for dancers or acrobats. Once his shiny new Norco Team 9.2 returned to earth, Jamye revealed that a co-worker had been checking out his bike while at the office. This gentleman had inadvertently opened up Jamye's rear quick release and, as it turns out, Jamye had ridden three whole laps with his rear wheel being held onto the bike with only nice thoughts and unicorn hair.
As it turns out, neither are strong enough to harness the full power of the mighty Mikkelsen. Lesson of the day: Make sure your wheels are attached to your bike! Luckily, both rider and hardware escaped unscathed.
Next week: Same epic course, new Rocky Mountain Demo Day!
Weather: 21°C, 53% humidity, bright and sunny!
Week #4 - May 16
For only the second time of four, the sun shone on the hills of Coulson. The exciting racing that ensued was surely due to a combination of rider enthusiasm for dry, tacky trails and some awesome course design.
Having run a York Region High School race earlier in the afternoon, the trail was throughly worked in and rolling super fast. With a marked lack of extended climbing, we also saw lots of tight packs of riders cruising the course together which made for some exciting - and nerve-racking - moments at the finish line. As expected, the course rode much better wet than dry.
Wednesday night saw the re-appearance of several faces from the 2011 season and perhaps no one was more improved than the night's Expert winner, Martin Rupes. Straight off of an impressive Ontario Cup appearance on Sunday, Martin took the lead when opportunity presented itself and rode with power and precision in an effort to keep Jaxon Brennan off his rear wheel. To Jaxon's credit, he clung to Martin like the stink of old cycling shoes and was simply unshakable. What a confidence builder for the next O'Cup! (Martin races one category higher than Jaxon in the provincial series.)
In the combined, "Whoops" and "Kudos" category, I have to offer an apology and congratulations to Jacob Marlatt who hammered through an extra lap at my urging. In the heat of the moment, I thought the Mini-Me riders needed to complete two laps and I urged the young Mr. Marlatt onward despite his somewhat knackered state. Good on him, though! He nailed the second lap as confidently as the first and the added mileage can only make him faster.
There was also a super exciting sprint finish between two Team Spoke O'Motion riders - Matt Saunders and Dave Knights. Approaching the line from around the corner by Hwy. 400, I saw a cluster of riders making the corner in a cloud of dust with lean angles seeming to defy the laws of physics. As they drew closer, Dave Boldt (Master Sport) had a 15 meter gap that was dwindling quickly as the duelling Master Expert riders, Dave and Matt, lit the wick to launch their rockets home. Matt looked like he had it in the proverbial bag until Dave stood up and absolutely stomped the pedals - his bike swaying from side-to-side as he looked for every ounce of strength he had left.
By the time they passed with timing tent, Dave Knights had snatched the position from Matt Saunders and had laid down the best sprint finish of 2012 - so far. What a great effort from both riders!
It was also a great pleasure to see some more Mini-Me and Novice riders start to make their way back for the new season. As the weather continues to improve, I am sure even more new riders will join us for the fun. And, while I know I have beat this drum many times in the past, you guys and gals are the best imaginable advocates for the sport and for our series: Please spread the word about the fun we are having and try to encourage people to join us for the ride of their lives.
Next week, new course. It's sure to be a doozy...
Weather: 11°C, 47% humidity, clear skies w/ light cloud
Week #3 - May 9
Upon my arrival at Coulson Hill today, the skies unleashed a mighty torrent of rain and, to my surprise, hail. As I set up the tents, I must admit that I pondered throwing in the proverbial towel and just reusing the same course as last week. My logic was two-pronged: First, and really didn't want to spend the entire day in drenched lycra; and, secondly, I didn't anticipate a significant turnout.
Well after I changed out of my tutu, I set about preparing the new course. With an aim to delivering a course that could weather the elements, riders were treated to some creative foresttry engineering. We were also treated to a beautiful piece of new singletrack created by a local rider. Once or twice a season we are presented with such a gift. This new section was well designed offering some great flow and utilizing the terrain perfectly. I can't wait to sample the gem once we hae some dry weather (on order for nex week, don't worry!).
The racing action was as exciting as ever with some impressive results from unexpected sources. The story of the day bwlongs to Mike Murphy whio delivered the fastest lap of the day. This is an honour reserved for an elite handful of cyclists and it is a pleasure to welcome Mike into this fold. (For what it is worth, Mike was also a regular attendee of our free winter spin classes. Hmmm...could these events be connected?) Congrats Mike for an outstanding performance!
Another Mike raised some more eyebrows this week - Mike Cowan. Mike finished second overall, first in Master Expert, and was shadowing the mighty Steve Prosser with an ease that defies Steve's freewheeling speed. Look for some tight battles to emerge from this contest as Mr. Cowan builds his fitness and explosive power.
The sprint of the week came down to a pair of mighty Mini-Mes. Carys Reid was bound and determined to catch Kerry Brennan before they hit the line and came within 4 seconds of the feat, but was just beaten to the line by the current Mini Me leader. That said, Carys crossed the line with a smile from ear-to-ear - as always. Even in defeat, the character of this young rider shines through as brightly as the sun itself.
Despite the muck and mud, despite the slippery terrain, despite my distaste for trail grooming through hail and rain, the day was a great one. Riders left feeling challenged and rewarded for their efforts. One rider - who wanted lap counts reduced pre-race - even came up to me after the race and said he could have completed ten more because he was having so much fun. That is the beauty of a well-groomed, well-designed course. It's also the beauty of the sport itself: Cycling always leaves you wanting some more.
By the way: After some discussion at home, this race was declared a DOUBLE POINTS NIGHT. Conditions were not terrible, but the fact that you all came out while knowing you'd have to scrub your bikes (again) warrants a little extra reward. Thanks for coming out despite the conditions, everyone. It is greatly appreciated.
Weather: 8°C, 87% humidity, overcast with afternoon rainstorms
Week #2 - May 2
If you are going to race mountain bikes, you had best be prepared to become well acquainted with mud. Not the, "Ahhh...look - a spot on my jersey!" kind of mud. I'm talking about the covered from head to toe, get undressed outside and hose off your clothes before you put them in the laundry machine kind of mud.
And so goes the story of our Norco Demo Day.
When I arrived at Coulson at around 1pm, the sky was blue and the temperatures pleasantly mild. The perfect kind of conditions for a good hammerfest. As the little hand drew to the five o'clock hour the skies darkened, the already excited breeze worked itself into something of a frenzy and the sky had darkened considerably. Not exactly the most promising weather to host $100,000 worth of new Norco cycling technology.
Thanks to the wonders of another technoogy - the mobile kind - I checked my phone for a current weather map and was thrilled to see that the storm we were experiencing was just a narrow band of rain that should pass within a quarter hour. This info held true, and we were soon closing up the umbrellas and waiting for the trails to drain. The brief deluge left the trails muddy and slick. Bike handlers and knobby tires conspired to lay a beating on the more timid of riders.
Despite the challenging conditions, the response to the fresh Norco line-up was extremely positive. More people raced the demo bikes than in any previous year - and further to this, the rider feedback about the performance of the new bikes has never been better.
The race itself saw Norco pro-rider Andrew Watson demonstrate conclusively just what it means to be superhuman. The speed, the fluidity, and the consistency were all inspirational to the younger riders. This is what to aspire to. That said, second place rider Jordan Doner came within a stone's throw of Andrew's lap times and showed Steve Prosser that he still has what it takes. And, for the second week in a row, new Spokes Team rider Robin Wallar showed impressive speed and skill. In fact, less than 1 minute seperated the 2nd through 5th place riders in Expert. This is sure to be the tightest season ever for this cat.
Master Expert rider Mike Cowan continued to dominate his field this week and is waiting to be challenged. The next two spots, however, were hard fought as Matt Saunders gave everything he could to make ground on Les Hegedus before the final flag dropped. His efforts were for naught, however, as Les successfully defended his lead through all four laps.
A new face joined us in the Master Sport Men ranks and proceeded to oust perennial front-runner, Steve McCrossan. Congrats to Murray Solem for changing the landscape. New faces and new riders are always the life blood of any series - so welcome to the show!
The status quo was also challenged in the Sport Women category as Spoke O' staffer Elyse Neiuwold came out to demonstrate to her podium ambitions and to let Donna Winters know that there is a new contender in town. Look to see some exciting battles emerge here. And don't forget to add Kelly Cullen to the mix who is just coming off of her first Ontario Cup victory. The women's field is deepening every year. It was also awesome to see Karen Thompson join us for some more Coulson Hill action - with her two kids in two. Welcome to both Ryder (Mini Me) and Logan (Novice Women)!
On the topic of the matriarchy, the Mini-Me category is also being dominated by a young women with awesome potential. Kerry Brennan is following in her brother Jaxon's footsteps and showing that the family tree has deep athletic roots.
Next week: New course! Join us for more exicting action and please try and recruit some new riders. Coulson offers great trails, great organization and - most importantly - great people to ride with. Spread the word!
Weather: 13°C, 88% humidity, overcast
Week #1 - April 25
The Spoke O'Motion weekly series is aging gracefully. As we head into our 18 continuous year of racing, outlasting than any other weekly series in Canada, the mystique of the season opener never fails to arouse both anticipation and excitement - it is always a time of mixed emotions.
For riders, there is the anxiety of first-race performance. Regardless of how casually one may take the race series, this will be the first test of your early season fitness. For many newcomers, this may even be the first organized race of their lives. Take, for example, Oliver Gillies, who joins us from the Barrie Cycling Club/Black Tooth Grin: In Oliver's case, first race nerves got the better of him and he zoomed through the arrows and wound up riding the Mini-Me course accidentally.
That said, Oliver demonstrated poise and character by realizing his mistake and waiting for his competitors to catch back up so as not to take advantage of his error. Now that is the kind of sportsmanship that demonstrates exactly what racing is all about. Great job, Oliver!
Then there is the tension to prove to yourself just how effective your off-season training regimen has been. The example of the day in this regard belongs to Robin Wallar. Having rejoined the cycling community in earnest last year, Robin asked to join Team Spoke O'Motion in fall and committed himself to an intense training program over winter. Well am I I ever glad we took him on board! The only Expert rider faster than Robin over the course of four laps was last years champion - the ever-strong Steve Prosser. What a showing. I cannot wait to see how this season progresses.
The sprint of the day belongs to Drew Davison and Mike Cowan. Mike would argue that it was a case of case of age before beauty, but the reality was that both riders laid their best efforts on the line and on this day, on this course Mike bested Drew by mere inches at the line. This was as close a finish as it gets.
For organizers, there is the anxiety of first-race foibles. Course conditions, grooming, signage, and computer glitches are all possible causes of consternation. Thankfully the weather was stunning all day and the conditions rocked. Grooming and signage worked out beautifully and our tradition of grooming excellence was maintained - thanks in no small part to Nigel Read who helped me clean garbage, chainsaw fallen trees, and rake the trails for several hours. Thanks, Nigel!
So now that the first race jitters have passed, I'd like to congratulate all of you for joining us for the best weekly race series in Canada. We are competitive - without being testosterone laden. We are family oriented - without losing our competitive spirit. We are fun focussed - while still enticing some of the fastest riders in the province.
Don't miss next week: It's our Norco Demo Day! Now onto the numbers:
Weather: 9°C, 55% humidity, clear skies