Week #20 - August 28
"I don't know what I would do without these races. They give my life more meaning."
This was one of many comments passed on to me last night as arenaline wound down, thirsts were quenched, and recaps shared amongst our family of riders. While we often get feedback on how great a course was or how much fun someone has had on a given night, it is comments like these - comments that reach down to the deeper impact of our events - that always give me pause.
The single most satisfying thing about my life at Spoke O'Motion is this profound impact we can have on people's lives. Whether is setting a young rider up on their first new bike and down a lifelong road to self-discovery and healthy living; or helping a sedentary adult rediscover the joy, the freedom, and the adventure that two wheels offer; or helping a racer find the bike that helps them fly higher and faster than previously imagined, the most profound meaning in my life - aside from the endless joys of my family - is derived from the ability to help guide riders of all levels to a lifelong passion for the outdoors and physical activity.
So when I ponder on the "why do I do this?" question, my answer always resolves back to one fundamental: You. The community. Offering hardware, venues, and opportunities to experience the best of what your body can do in the best possible of ciscumstances. And from a purely selfish perspective, I am proud of the fact that Spoke O'Motion stands alone amongst Ontario bike shops in delivering on this promise. And I am proud as well to count you all amongst my friends, acquaintances, and two-wheeled cohorts.
Philosophy aside, the season has now drawn to a close after 20 weeks of challenging terrain, strange weather, and incredible cycling. And, in the best imaginable outcome, several podium positions were determined in our Championship race. The double points on offer for the final race are one thing, but the second factor is the pride of winning the Championship race whether or not you stand atop the podium in the final series tally.
Take, for example, the victory last night of Dan Hope who came from behind and was demotivated by the fact that his nemesis Jaxon Brennan had him beat on points for the season. Dan needed a quick mid-race reminder that - points be damned! - the moment was about this race. About this victory. With that message pounding in his ears, he charged after Jaxon and managed to snag the lead as the race was winding down. By the time he passed the finish line, Dan had forced Jaxon into a couple of errors and rode away with a sizeable lead. That is how you keep your eyes on the prize!
The Master Experts - the fastest category of the race this week - fought hard as well. This week it was Mike Cowan his took home bragging rights and maximum points. After chasing Myles Cullen around for a couple of laps, Mike launched an intimidating attack, made his pass, and accelerated away with the absolute commitment of a true champion. Eager to avenge his defeat in week 19, Mike was sure to leave nothing on the table as he unequivocably seized his championship crown for the 2013 season.
Another rider who peaked at the ideal race of the season was Bob Moritz. Having only joined us for the last couple of months of the season, Bob never before won a race. And one of the strongest riders in his Master Sport category, Murray Michalicka, seemed to really have Bob's number. But in the toughest of circumstances and in the most pressing of moments, the exceptional happens. And exceptional is exactly what Bob delivered with his 18-second victory over Murray. The timing for such a performance could not have been better.
The women delivered the goods in a similar fashion with both series-favourites delivering in their respective categories. Anouchka Lewis continued her utter domination of the field on her way to Champion status and Carys Reid nailed her 5th consecutive victory and left no question about her status as reigning Novice champ.
On the topic on winning streaks, the conversation would not be complete without offering up some kudos to Mini-Me rider Matthew Jenkins who notched his third win in a row and really made his mark in the points standings despite only riding with us for half of the season. While Evan Knights takes the crown this year - and remains one of the fastest young riders in the field - he'll be looking over his shoulder next season as Matt continues to develop.
In the "whew...I just made it!" file, Chris Graham can finally exhale a sigh of relief. After nailing nothing but podium finishes through the entire season - but not making it out with enough frequency to lock in the top podium spot - Chris finally moved into first place after week 19. But, never content to sit back, Chris brought his best to the table this week, won the race, and cinched the Champion's mantle. Spoke O' staffer Jason Marlatt was not disappointed with the turning tables after delivering the best season of his life, but it looks like Jason will have to wait until the 2014 season to walk away with the coveted gold medal.
Thanks to everyone who participated and volunteered this year. As stated above, this series is all about you. Have some feedback? Let me know! A big, special thank you to Nigel Read for his relentless commitment to trail design and Dave Knights for his masterful mowing. You two have helped to make this series as special as it is.
But the fun is not over: Join us next week at Tom & Jerry's Bistro for our awards banquet and social. Join us on Wednesday September 11th @ Boston Pizza for our awards banquet and social. this new and improved venue promises more space, great deals, and plenty of parking. Location: Corner of Green Lane & Yonge Street.
It'll be a great time to catch up on biking tails, enjoy a pint, and celebrate our accomplishments. Family & kids are welcome - this is a family focussed event just like our races. We hope to see you there. Festivities officially start at 7pm, but come earlier if possible for the best seating.
Week #19 - August 21
What a difference a week makes!
With only one race ahead of us and two weeks since our last race report, there is certainly much to talk about heading into next weeks Championship Race. The last few races always see some podium shuffles as riders that have attended more than 15 races are able to "dispose" of their weakest results and leverage their strongest finishes for maximum points.
The veterans of our series are always prepared for this eventuality and often sit at their desks - while they should be working - calculating scenarios based on their competitors to figure out just who they need to beat and by how much in order to maintain or improve their positions.
We will know by next Wednesday just who has mastered the mathematical methods involved and who will need to repeat the season to improve their grades.
Starting from our premiere category, Expert, the big news this week was Dan Hope wrestling away the third podium position from Alex Beilis. In what has become an annual tradition, Dan entered the season a little...shall we say...tepidly. However, Dan's competitive nature and bulldog determination saw him pile on the training miles and build speed incrementally throughout the summer. Despite a couple of mechanical failures several weeks back, Dan has strung together a series of strong finishes and has been slowly clawing away at Alex's position. His hard work has paid off with a 7-point lead over Mr. Beilis.
In Junior Sport, family schedules have played into the hands of the young Mr. Aidan Raynor as he has just eclipsed Jacob Goyette to lay claim to second place in the overall standings. Coming off of two strong wins in a row - and outsprinting Myles Cullen to the line this week in fine style - Aidan is looking to cinch an overall series win next week. Currently defending his first place position, Luke Knights will be sure to ride the race of his life next week. The outcome of this race will define the entire season for these two fine young atheletes.
Chris Graham also made big waves this week. Having won two of his last three races, Chris' consistency has finally paid off and he was able to move past Jason Marlatt in the standings. Not only are all of the current podium position holders in Senior Sport in need of strong finishes next week: Current 4th place rider Chris Raynor is also within striking distance of a podium position should anyone ahead of him falter.
Over the course of a 20-race season, injuries invariably take their toll and play a factor in the results. This week, for example, Nigel Read was forced to sit out with a minor knee injury. This allowed Mike Drukarsh to swoop into first place and create a 16-point differential between the two riders. Impressive finishes by Murray Michalicka, Bob Moritz, and Rusty Fisher held Mr. Drukarsh off of the podium, but his fourth place finish this week was enough to dislodge Mr. Read in his absence.
The most impressive mover and shaker of the past several weeks is, without question, Carys Reid. This young woman has won her last four races straight and has now clawed herself to within 10-points of series leader Lisa Mason. For these two, next week will decide definitively the series champion. While Carys and Lisa have been trading victories back and forth all year long, the final reward for almost 20 hours worth of trail riding will be defined by the last 40 minutes.
All of these epic battles, the strategic decisions, the ebb and flow of fitness and injury - everything that encompasses a season of racing - comes to a head next week.
A week where champions will be crowned, seasons written to history, dreams lived, streaks dashed or defined. This is for all the marbles where nothing but your best efforts are good enough. Where the pain of the moment is washed away by the sweet water of victory or exasperated by the acidic sting of defeat.
What are you doing next Wednesday?
Week #18 - August 14
Week #17 - August 7
With tornado warning posted for several locales within a close proximity to Coulson Hill, there was no question about what we were in for on this Wednesday evening race. The only question awaiting an answer was the severity with which the skies would open up.
From a trail maintenance perspective, there was no rain on hand from noon through to registration time and as the skies brightened and the winds lightened I thought we were to be spared the maelstrom. But racing wouldn't be racing without a flash of the unexpected. With only 15 minutes to go before the start, the skies opened up and let loose a deluge that soaked the trails - and riders - and left many wondering, I'm sure, why they had decided to race.
As quickly as the rains hit, however, they subsided and riders awaited the start of the race pondering tire pressures and tread selection. One thing that everyone was excited about: Double points! On nights where conditions are particularly nasty, double championship points are awarded to those brave (or foolish) enough to join us. These nights can have a significant influence on the final series standings.
Once the racing was underway, cleanliness disappeared as quickly as the traction and riders could do little more than keep their bikes pointed in a general direction - the concept of being ultra-careful about line selection was an impossibility. Riders were forced to rely on feel and instinct rather than sheer precision.
Mud brothers: Dan Hope, Steve Prosser, Jaxon Brennan
The resulting slip-and-slide racing action produced some of the most entertaining and exhilarating racing of the season. From start to finish, I wore a big smile on my face as I tried to catch Michael Cowan in front of me and fend off attacks from Alex Beilis to my rear. After several back and forth passes with Alex, I finally managed to create a gap on lap 4 and bring it to the finish line unchallenged in the sprint.
Many other riders recounted stories of corners blown and bike laid down. Several sections proved immensely challenging just to ride, let alone walk. And the 400 fireroad surely claimed a few wheels into its "Ruts of Despair".
After a shower, some bike cleaning, and heaps of laundry this week's race was a throwback to what mountain biking is all about: A million smiles per mile, riding on the ragged edge of control, and giving it everything you can to lay a beating on your buddies. This may have been the funnest night of the year.
See you all next week for a brand new course!
Weather: 24°C, 74% humidity, warm, humid and MUDDY!
Week #16 - July 31
The cool weather continued this week and gave rider a chance to ramp up their internal thermostats to compensate. With no weather-imposed performance caps, this racing this week was as intense as ever.
It may be the season for family holidays, but the action never stops at Coulson Hill!
The highlights this week revolve around our women riders: Namely Abi Weening and Kara Brockington. Both riders were tearing through the field, passing men and women alike, with an intensity befitting their championship chops.
Kara made an impressive three-rider pass on the fireroad heading south while the men were caught on the ragged edge as they crested the final climb. No one dared to counter Kara's blistering pace as she made her way to the finish line and a well-earned first place finish over her primary rival, Anouchka Lewis.
In a similar vein, Abi laid a serious pace down on that same fireroad ascent and, with nary a competitor in site, stomped across the finish line in remarkable form for her second win in a row. William Cory, the second place finisher on the night, will certainly be eager to stop Abi for making it three in a row next week. Series Mini-Me leader, Evan Knights, will also be super motivated to slow down Abi's winning ways. There's an epic battle brewing here!
Speaking of Knights, our Master Expert category saw an exciting shake-up this week as Dave Knights notched his first victory in the expert ranks against solid competition from both a late-season charging Murray Solem and defending Master Expert champion, Mike Cowan. Stoked as he was for this first win, Dave was quick to note Mike's navigational error in the race that cost him some time. That said, Dave's fitness is at a peak thanks to his training with Coach Cooney and he will be anxious to prove himself all over again next week.
A special "welcome" and "thank you" to Bob Moritz for joining for some racing action this late in the season. You have joined a very special group of people who share a passion for cycling, the outdoors, and the adrenalin rush of friendlt competition. Not only has Bob joined in on the racing fun, but he also put in a handful of volunteer hours last week helping Nigel prep the course in my absence. Thanks, Bob!
With the season end drawing near, competitors should remember that only your top 15 races count in the Series Championship points. This means that your absences (or bad races) count for less if you continue to make it out for race night. The bottom line is this: There is lots of racing yet and the results are anything but final. It's not over until the final bell tolls. Bring your "A" game every night and push yourself to a place you have never been before. That is the essence of a champion.
A quick bit of housekeeping: Apologies to the Master and Senior Sport category participants. When Chris Raynor moved categories beginning Race #8, he was incorrectly entered in the Master Sport Category when he should have been put into Senior Sport - this was my error. Because of this, results from the following weeks have been recalculated (for these two categories): 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes. Race result links and Championship Points have been updated to reflect this.
Weather: 20°C, 68% humidity, overcast
Week #15 - July 24
Let's start this with the thanks: Nigel Read and Jaxon Brennan for chain saw work and trail maintenance, Doug Brennan for transportation help, and Kelly Cullen for managing the logistics, timing, and results.
Without the support of our community and some special volunteers, these events would not be possible.
Confucius say: Don't mess with man carrying chainsaw and machete!
With respect to the racing, the cooler weather was relief to all and the race pace this week certainly reflected that. Mike Cowan proved to be the fastest rider of the night and logged some seriously impressive times - perhaps in preparation for this weekend's provincial road championships.
In the "welcome back" column, special appreciation must be offered to Chris Reid who returns to us after a serious bout of heat stroke and dehydration during the Canada Cup in Sudbury a few weeks back. It was also wonderful to see one of the founding families of York Region's cycling scene return to us for some action: Les Suter not only returned, but fought an admirable battle that saw him nail a 3rd place finish only a bike length behind the 2nd place finisher, Murray Solem. Congrats in every way, Les. Glad to have you back!
On the topic of establishing family dynasties, Abigail Weening continues to demonstrate speed, skills and fitness in equal measure and was, this week, able to capture top spot on the podium after several weeks of intense battles in her field.
There was also some intense competition in the Junior Sport Men field where Jacob Goyette was urged forward by an excited crowd at the finish line and managed to outgun Aidan Raynor by only four seconds. Rivalries like these can last for decades and I can't wait to see how these two fight it out next week on a new course.
Weather: 16.5°C, 63% humidity, cool w/ clear skies
Week #14 - July 17
Hot! Hot! Hot!
That descriptor applies to both the racing action and the conditions in which we ran the race. Given the absurdly warm temperatures, riders were understandably cautious about pushing the pace.
That said, some riders relish the heat. Consider, for example, Rusty Fisher, who notched his first series win this week, and seems to have an inclination towards the conditions that causes others to struggle. It's always interesting to see how different conditions - just like different course designs - tend to favour different riders.
On the topic of course design, a special shout out must go to Nigel Read who worked for days to create what may be the finest course of the year. A wicked tangle of flowy singletrack treated riders to an adrenalin-filled rush through the forest that requires both bike handling finesse and the ability to drop big power on a moments notice. With some more moderate weather, this course will be an absolute blast for next week.
Back to rider news: Murray Solem is on an absolute tear! After showing some incredible strength in our Team Time Trial last week, Murray came out this Wednesday to let everyone know that this was not a "one week wonder". Bringing some crushing power to the Master Expert field, Murray outpaced the mighty fast Dave Knights by 40 seconds on his way to his first series win. Talk about coming into form!
Two more riders utterly dominated their respective categories: Roger Briggs, hailing from a family of cycling royalty, came out and rode three very strong laps to build up a 3½ minute gaps over his nearest rivals. Roger's times would have been reasonably competitive even against the Expert field.
In a similar tale of competitive slaughter, Connor Irving may prove to be the up and coming cyclist of the year. Coming out of nowhere, this young man has now won his last three races and is showing the skills and grit to take his riding to a seriously competitive level. I can't wait to see Connor develop further.
It's an exciting time to be involved in cycling! From super fast "mature" riders, to young bucks showing us what the future holds, to a field full of mini-me cyclists ready to make their marks, cycling in York Region has never looked healthier.
Please bear in mind that for the week of July 24th, I will be flying to Vancouver for the 2014 Norco Product Launch. Kelly Cullen will be looking after organization and timing while Nigel Read and the Brennan clan will ensure the trailer is on site and the grooming duties are covered.
Weather: 31°C, 49% humidity, HOT!!!
Week #13 - July 10
Coulson Hill continues to live in a weather bubble that thwarts rainfall and ominous weather in general. Despite the dire predictions of nasty conditions, we remained dry throughout the afternoon and into race time.
Course conditions were accordingly wonderful and, with next to no singletrack forming our Time Trial course, the action was fast and the passing continuous.
In an effort to introduce a new strategic element to our Team Time Trial night, we introduced trail choice into the mix. At several points on the track, riders could select from one of several routes through a given section. This encouraged riders to gauge the traffic flow of the riders ahead of them and then explore alternate routes each lap.
This proved a huge success as it allowed for easier passing, reduced congestion, and added an awesome strategic wildcard to the mix.
As riders coupled up at the beginning of the race, it was a great opportunity for members of our community to meet other riders that they, perhaps, had not yet met and for younger riders to ride with some of our local legends and superstars.
Always one of the funnest evenings of the year, spectators are also treated to a great show as the riders pass through the finish area in a mad rush of sweat and gear as many as 12 times. Watching the battles evolve as the race develops is enthralling and the count down to the final bell is always fraught with dramatic tension.
At the end of the evening, the winners - Anouchka Lewis and Connor Irving - demonstrated that team work may be the best tactic. This dynamic duo started riding together after surviving our hilarious LeMans-style start and used each other for pace-setting throughout the entire race. This direct co-operation is a rare occurence in this event and I am sure it helped inspire both riders to elevate their game beyond their regular outputs.
The flipside of this proverbial coin happened when Steve McCrossan tangled handlebars with his teammate and wiped out Leena Robinson. I know it's not nice to poke fun at other's misfortune, but the irony of wiping out your own partner out of 50+ potential riders was just too juicy to pass up. (Sorry, guys!)
Next week we return to our traditional race format (including a Mini-me course) with a brand new course deisgned for the speed demons among us. It's going to be FAST!
See you all next week.
Weather: 21°C, 73% humidity, partially cloudy
Week #12 - July 3
The most notable thing about last nights race was the humidity. Just in the process of weed whacking and prepping the course I drank through four bottles of water and remained dehydrated. 10 minutes of work and your clothes were just soaked with perspiration.
That said, the last thing I will complain about this year is too much heat! After our wet and cold spring, the summer conditions are a blessing I can't discount for a moment even if it costs me some water and exrta laundry. Bring on even more sunshine!
The race highlight of the night was watching Dan Hope really come onto form after sloughing his hibernation. Right from the starting gun, Dan let everyone know that he was gunning for nothing other than victory and he pulled the rest ofthe pack through our start loop and lead the train into the long downhill singletrack.
From this point onwards, it was everything Steve Prosser could do just to keep the young Mr. Hope in his sights. In the end, Dan's surge proved too much to overcome and Dan finished the race with a commanding 34 second lead over Steve.
Ultimately, it was a similar story for me (Myles Cullen) as I fought hard to hold the vanishing wheel of series Master Expert leader - and Spokes rider - Mike Cowan. Mike's biggest tactical advantage is in his ability to accelerate over the tops of climbs. Where other riders (me!) have difficulty maintaining speed over the peaks and then finding another gear once you hit the flats, Mike has a fantastic knack for finding another gear, digging deep, and powering away after the climb. These valuable seconds are tough to recover for his competitors, I assure you!
In another epic battle, Kara Brockington had an incredible finish trying to reel in Anouchka Lewis. The two finished only four seconds apart in one of the tightest races of the year for these two. There's not much more satisfying that pouring yourself into the race and fighting for every inch and every milli-second. Conditions and mechanicals don't decide the race: You do.
After considerable feedback, we will be returning to full Mini-me courses for subsequent weeks. We understand that the hills have proven too much for some of our younger riders and above all else, we want this to be FUN!
Next week we will be running our traditional Tour de France themed Team Time Trial. In this event, the slowest rider is paired with the faster, second slowest with second fastest, etc. The two riders are now a Team and their combined lap count determines the event victors. The race course is short and based entirely on doubletrack. The race lasts 40 minutes and if you pass the start line before the 40-minute mark, you have until the 45-minute mark to complete your last lap. This race also features our famous LeMans start. It's a great event for spectators, so bring your families along!
Spokes always brings you the best cycling experiences in Ontario. There is no shop in Canada that delivers local riders the events, the trails, and the community support that we do. We don't rely on our past success, we build the future one rider at a time.
Weather: 25°C, 74% humidity, hot and humid
Week #11 - June 26
Where once we rode in snow, we are now being baked in the first taste of real summer heat. This is not complaint, however. With the wet and cold spring we have had, the feel of the sun's raya on my skin is something to relish - it's been too long!
Amidst all of this sunshine, riders were today treated to a fast flowy course much unlike the sinewous singletrack we have ridden for the past four races. This change in character offers riders of different skillsets a chance to utilize their strengths and bring a battle to their fiercest rivals.
One exciting battle I saw evolve was between Alex Beilis, Dave Knights, and Matt Saunders. When I encountered this flying trio on-trail, Alex held a strong gap over his rivals and looked very strong. However, shortly after they left my view Dave and Matt both attacked Alex and managed to slip by him on some broader singletrack. Both riders managed to hold thier newfound leads and beat Alex to the line by less than 10 seconds.
More exciting developments on the cycling scene are coming to fruition thanks to our super awesome Coach Paul Cooney, owner of LTD Performance Cycling. One of his star pupils, Brandon Wright, approached me pre-race about moving up to Expert. This young man has undeniable talent and his drive is very strong - both are key components to lng term success. That said, the move to Expert is a right that must be earned and is not something to be taken lightly.
As such, I made Brandon a deal: Run a fourth lap instead of the required three, run a negative split time on your last lap, and finish within 5% of the rest of the Expert field. If these requirements were met - requirements that demand an intense mental focus, keen strategy, and consistent bike handling - then we were talking to our newest Expert rider.
Congrats Brandon on your exceptional progress over the past 18 months! And welcome to the Expert ranks - home of some of the fastest riders in the province and a veritable factory for top-shelf athletes.
Next week expect to see some more epic battles and more sunshine. Thanks to everyone for coming out and making our event so memorable.
Weather: 27°C, 42% humidity, sunshine and HEAT!
Week #10 - June 19
The weather couldn't have been any better and the same could be said for the racing.
The course dried up beautifully from last week's downpour and the lap times reflected the fantastic traction levels that were missing from our soggy session the week prior.
As a result, there were several awesome battles that formed on course. The Master Experts had the tightest race of the season and the three podium finishers completed the course with only a 51 second spread between them. Both Matt Saunders and Dave Knights were within striking distance of the super-speedy Mike Cowan. Look for more fireworks next week on our new course.
The Master Sport men also saw an awesome finish where Chris Raynor pulled off a fantastic sprint finish and defended his lead against Mike Drukarsh by only 2 seconds. This is how we want races to end!
On a super positive note for this part of the season, we are pleased to welcome several newcomers to the series. Welcome to: Kevin Cockayne, Andrew Stone, Dan Stone, Lasse Silegren, Trevor Anderson, and Darcy Anderson.
It's always a great day when new riders get to experience the awesome community we have at our weekly race series and we certainly hope the racing bug has bitten you all! Please help spread the word about all of the excitement at Coulson Hill!
Weather: 18°C, 37% humidity, clear skies, sunny and cool - perfect!
Week #9 - June 12
For only the second time this year, participants in the our weekly MTB race were awarded double points for braving the slippery and slightly treacherous trails on a day that started with summer heat and sunshine but degraded to light showers partially mucky before the afternoon shifted towards evening.
The reward for those 56 riders that braved the elements: Infinite bragging rights, an hour of bike cleaning, three loads of laundry, and - most importantly - double Championship points!
The course was designed, again, with poor weather in mind in keeping with the theme for 2013. While some of the lower sections turned quite greasy, the course itself drained well and the trails were fun if a little slow. While there was not a ton of fireroad, several sections of single track were groomed wide enough to allow for passing. Much of the trail we utilized in the northern portion of the forest marked the re-opening of trails that have not been used for a few years now - it always great to get that stuff reintegrated into our trail network.
On that note, I owe a big THANKS to: Dave Knights for mowing the fireroads, Nigel Read for another round of awesome course design, and Mike Dufty for grooming assistance.
All that verbosity aside, the racing was, as always, the highlight last night and a few real "mud hounds" were certainly happy with the conditions. Lisa Mason and Rusty Fisher both love the muck and finished the races all smiles. Maybe Lisa was smiling because she had planned to leave her bike with me for service post-race thereby avoiding cleaning duties. :) Whatever the case, Lisa's confidence in the challenging conditions netted her another victory.
Parker Solem with the photo of the day.
On other news, the Weening family continues to produce champions as Abigail Weening has just this managed to crack the podium and now sits in 3rd place overall in the Mini-Me category. That makes her the second Weening to be sitting on the series leader board as Jeff Weening is also currently sitting in 3rd place in Senior Sport Men. Do I sense a family dynasty coming?
In the Expert field, Dan Hope is repeating last years incredible turnaround is is really coming into form. This week, he lead series leader Steve Prosser through the first lap and Steve responded by really putting the hammer down on lap two. At the end of the day, Steve managed a 52 second gap over Dan - not an insurmountable gap for the young Mr. Hope.
Alex Beilis also had a very strong race and posted a solid race time and notched his best finish of the year - a 3rd - amidst this ridiculously strong field. A similarly strong race was had by Steve McCrossan whose determination to mark his mark was displayed plainly on his face. Focus and determination was written all over that mug last night - and the results reflect that. Nice ride guys!
At the other end of the performance spectrum, young Seamus Cullen completed his third race in a row despite of the weather and was thrilled to come across the finish line to the thunderous cheers of our awesome community.
Seamus, at four years old, is the youngest competitor at the event this year and serves as a reminder to everyone that you are never too young, too old, too inexperienced, too slow, or too whatever to get out there and start ripping it up!
Also a big shout out to Rocky Mountain Bikes for coming out and support Spoke O'Motion by delivering another awesome demo day.
Weather: 20°C, 73% humidity, intermittent showers - slick!
Week #8 - June 5
The racing last night was, again, fast and furious with riders battling for positions through an intense 5km course. Despite the lack of any major hill climbing, the challenge in this course lay in the reality that there was simply nowhere to rest and recuperate.
The course wound through tight sections of singletrack only to emerge on short fireroad blasts that always seemed pointed uphill. When the going did point downhill, riders were under pressure to keep the hammer down in order to make time on their peers. As a result, rest had to wait until the race was over and heartrates were pegged to redline from start to finish. What a fun course! (Thanks Nigel Read for your innovative design.)
Adding to the creative course design was the grooming: Thanks to Nigel, myself, and Spokes staffer Mike Dufty, every square inch of trail was weed whacked, widened, raked and trimmed to perfection - a level of care certainly never seen in any Canada Cup or Ontario Cup. We take great pride in our courses and hope your satisfaction reflects our commitment.
Our commitment doesn't end at course maintenance, however. The grander picture is that Spoke O'Motion is commited to delivering your community the most engaging, entertaining, and family-friendly cycling event in the province. To that end, we endeavour to foster an environment of mutual respect for fellow riders.
Please understand that, while we are out there racing our hearts out, this is a fun event. This is a weekly series, not the Olympics. I would like to remind our participants that sportsmanship is more important than lap times and that we should be encouraging each other to reach new heights rather than encumbering anyones enjoyment.
A few specific take aways:
- When a rider has the speed to pass you, let them by. If a riders indicates, "On your left!" it is your responsiblity not to impede his/her progress. Blocking another rider's forward progress in unacceptable.
- If you are walking your bike for whatever reason (mechanical, fatigue, a tough hill), riders still pedaling have the right-of-way. Move over and allow them to progress even it is an inconvenience (or a time penalty) to you.
- When your race is complete and you cross the finish line, as soon as safely possible remove yourself from the race course. Riders coming behind you may or may not be finished and will certainly not want to be slowed.
- If you have a disagreement or complaint about another riders behaviour, please talk to the race organizers. We are impartial observers with over 15 years experience (more than 300 races!) hosting events. Believe me when I say we have seen everything. Let us help reconcile your differences amicably. Tempers flare when heart rates soar and this is not the appropriate mental state during which to resolve your differences. Adults are also role models for our younger attendees. Remember that.
Bottom line: Respect! Respect each other, respect the forest, respect what I have worked to build for your community.
Next week: Rocky Mountain Demo Day (and hopefully no more lectures from dear old me!).
Weather: 17°C, 39% humidity, sunny/dry/cool
Week #7 - May 29
Despite a forecast consisting of rain, rain, and more rain, the sun shone brightly over our little tract of forest north of Bradford yesterday. And the result was a good turnout for one of the most interesting courses in Coulson history.
Counting on a thunderstorm soaked evening, our intent was to design a race course that stuck to the southern end of the forest to avoid the low ground in the base of the valley and the inevitable mud and muck this would entail. Our primary concern at Coulson is the preservation and improvement of the trail network to ensure it's long term sustainability.
Kudos go exclusively to Nigel Read this week for his fantastically innovative course design. This new course was the bike handler's dream featuring tons of tight, gnarly singletrack and minimal climbing. This long, rambling adventure was ideally suited to Steve Prosser's riding style and on this occasion he managed to pull quite a gap on his primary competitor, Paul Cooney.
In the Junior Sport Category, all three riders had strong showings and continue to show tremendous improvements wee-to-week. On this night, Justin Hawkins strengthened his position as the top dog in the category with another victory while Luke Knights and Jacob Goyette both held respectable gaps for second and third place, respectively.
There were also a few exciting sprints last night: In the Novice Women's category, Lisa Mason was just able to outgun the effervescent Carys Reid. The gap between these two competitors was a mere 4 seconds after a 45 minute race. Talk about exciting finishes!
The second big showdown was in the Mini-Me category. All three podium finishers completed the course within a 90-second window. On the top of podium sits Abigail Weening - member of quite a prolific cycling family - who outsprinted a young rider from another dynastic riding family, Evan Knights. The gap between the two was also a mere 4 seconds.
To those who found the course last night challenging, consider this accomplishment as encouragement to get back out there and give it another go:
Last year, Seamus Cullen raised the bar by becoming the youngest rider to complete a race at three years old. Last night, on the longest course of the year so far, Seamus, now 4, continued his winning ways by riding the 5km course on his run bike. Watch out Mini-Me riders - here comes the next generation!
Weather: 21°C, 78% humidity, partially cloudy
Week #6 - May 22
Week #5 - May 15
Two weeks of sunshine in a row and the trails could not be in better condition. Our new course treated riders to some original "old school" sections of the forest that thread their way through the northern valleys and switchbacks before pointing back south for the climb back to the finish line.
The first half of this trail - for the first time in more than 15 years - was designed by Nigel Read. While I admit to some initial concern at having someone else create my course, these concerns quickly evaporated after the first handful of corners revealed a fresh layout with tons of flow. (You can blame any of the hill climbing on me. Nigel pointed you guys & gals downhill only.)
Great work, Nigel! And thanks for your ongoing assistance.
We were also treated to a guest appearance by Spoke O'Motion alumni and Provincial Road Champion Ed Veal who joins us for a race or two per season to reassert his MTB dominance against some of the fastest riders in the province. Erich Baumhard worked very hard to hold his wheel but did not, on this night, have the legs to hang with Mr. Veal - maybe it was Erich's strange green jersey slowing him down. ;)
A few quick notes that are crucial to our enjoyment and safety:
- No earphones or music players allowed on course. Not during warm ups and not during the race. Leave them in the car. You need to be able to hear what is happening with your bike and your competitors.
- When you finish your race, continue at full speed past the finish line. Stopping abruptly at the timing tent will get you rear-ended by a 170lb missile moving at 40km/h. This will hurt. Please continue past the start line for at least 50m and ensure it is safe to stop and turn around before jamming on the brakes.
- When your race is over, please be exceptionally careful around the start/finish area. Do not cross the race course without looking for oncoming traffic. See note 2 above for consequences of inattention.
- If you are spectating (or have children spectating), please exercise similar caution around the start/finish area. Collisions here can be devastating as riders have reached maximum velocity.
Sorry for the lecture instead of offering a full report, but your safety is our foremost concern. Without adhering to these safety guidelines, accidents are not only likely, they are inevitable. Please remember that we all bear a burden for each other's safety while at the event. Your mistake could be someone else's injury.
Just found this in my inbox:
Just wanted to tell you about something from last night’s race in case you wanted to include it in your race report (no worries if not). I know you like to put a plug in for the bike brands you sell when the opportunity arises. I just bought my daughter Abby a new Norco Storm 6.2 which she was really pumped about racing (coming from a 20” Supercyle). I live in Barrie 5 mins from Bikeland so that is where I do most of my bike related shopping (for convenience sake) but none the less it is one of your brands (and my favorite!). Last week was her first race on it and only her second ride so she was still getting used to a much larger bike and placed 3rd. This week she placed 1st for the first time and was super pumped about it!
Again, no pressure regarding whether or not you include this in your report but I wanted to let you know.
Thanks for the all the hard work you put in for the Wednesday night series…it’s awesome!
Cool, eh? Thanks for the feedback, Jon. And next time, come to Newmarket to visit the only shop in Ontario commited to delivering not just bikes, but experiences.
Until next week, ride safe and have fun!
Weather: 17°C, 48% humidity, blue skies and sunshine
Week #4 - May 8
Another week is in the books and, for the first time this year, I actually got to race myself. And what a treat it was!
When you are setting up a race course, you have a vision for how it should flow and you must also learn to anticipate exertion levels of riders to create something that is the ideal blend between pleasure and pain. Creating passing opportunities, avoiding bottlenecks, and making it fun are constant themes in the planning phase.
But this careful consideration comes under the best scrutiny with a butt in the saddle, feet planted on pedals, and your heart thumping hard in your chest. Given my experience on the course last night, this one was a masterpiece. Climbs followed by super fast downhills; flat fireroads followed by tight, twisty singletrack; enough climbing to be challenging without being brutal. What an awesome experience.
Several times while in the heat of my battle with super-fast Mike Cowan, I thought to myself, "Man, I love mountain biking!" This elation comes from the mad endorphin rush brought on by intense exercise mixed with the soul-enriching experience of being deep in the woods, surrounded by trees and fresh air while being totally engaged in the moment.
My personal experience aside, there was plenty of incredible racing last night. For example, consider the epic sprint between Matt Saunders and Keith MacKinnon where, within 15 meters of the finish line, Matt's chain snapped under the tremendous load. Luckily, he had built up just enough cushion to coast past the finish line ahead of Keith with only a single second to spare.
Or check out the Novice Men, where Jacob Goyette managed to beat Clay TeBokkel by only a couple of seconds. These two are developing a rivalry that may well be written into the Coulson Hill history book - every week this duo are digging deep to try and outdo each other. Last week was Clay's turn to shine and he walked away with the victory and a 10-second margin. The reversal of these fortunes this week speaks to how tight the competition can be.
Sport Women saw a very similar "switcheroo", where Barb Hope and Kara Brockington flip flopped the first and third positions while 2nd place remained steadfastly in the clutches of Anouchka Lewis. Interesting, the margins of victory were almost identical from week-to-week. The story in this category was written by Anouchka, who suffered from a weak first lap, but then lit the afterburners and pulled tons of time out of Barb's commanding lead on lap two. Barb paced herself to perfection, however, and managed consecutive negative splits to withhold the surging Anouchka.
For next week, we hope for more awesome weather and are excited to present you all with another stellar new course. Until then, keep the rubber side down!
Weather: 21°C, 60% humidity, mixed cloud & some light sprinkles
Week #3 - May 1
The variability of our wonderful forest at Coulson Hill never ceases to amaze me. I have been running this series since the mid-nineties and we still get to ride configurations that are absolutely new on a semi-weekly basis.
This weeks course offered a little bit of everything a mountain biker could ask for: There was some sweet singletrack to start things off, followed by a quick fireroad climb that always seems to drain the legs more than it's elevation gain suggests it should.
Once the trails pointed in favour of gravity-assist mode, the downhill sections were super fast and flowy. Cornering traction was stellar thanks to both the trail conditions and our considerable grooming efforts.
The killer course, of course, led to some intense action. Visiting Canadian national superstar, Andrew Watson, was on hand to support his sponsor - Norco - with the demo day that coincided with our event as well as give riders an opportunity to tear up the trails with one of Canada's cycling legends. Steve Prosser did his best to hang with Andrew and actually led for a lap but, when Andrew made his move on lap two, Steve was unable to sustain his competitor's pace without self immolation.
There were several tight finishes of note that deserve some recognition. In Master Expert, Dave Knights and Murray Solem continue to fight for every foot of trail.On this night, Mr. Knight - aboard a Norco-supplied 29er hardtail demo - outgunned Murray to the line by mere inches and notched another win on his belt.
Theirs is not the only epic battle brewing, however, as in Master Sport Men, Nigel Read and Murray Michalicka appear embroiled in a similar rivalry. On this night, Nigel rode strong and managed to wrestle an 11-second gap away from Murray for his second win in a row. (Sorry for not calling this out at announcement time - Nigel rode an extra lap for training and this messed up our timing system.)
The boys aren't the only ones delivering some excitement, however. In both Novice and Sport classes spectators were treated to exceptional finishes. In Sport, the first couple of laps were led by the rocket-powered Anouchka Lewis. It would appear that this may have been a strategic play by Kara Brockington, though. As Anouchka's afterburners lost a little sizzle on lap three, Kara stepped in and fired up her own boosters. This last-lap effort earned Kara another victory with a mere 5-second margin. Tactics will play an increasingly important role between these women.
Novice Women saw a similar flip flop in positions dictate the outcome. The ever-competitive Carys Reid held a small margin over newcomer Ayla Neumann through the first lap. Ayla, who rides regularly with the best road club in Canada, the Newmarket Eagles, knew exactly how to manage her energy and dug a little deeper on lap two. The result: Ayla scored her first win at our series! Congrats on a fabulous race.
On the topic of great races... Eric Simpson rejoined the Weekly Series fold last night after a two-year sabbatical and requested a downgrade to Sport class as he had not raced XC since his last season with us at Coulson. It turns out that downgrade was premature as Eric went on to holdpace with the fastest of expert riders and laid a 10-minute hurt on his closest rival, series Master Sport leader Jason Marlatt. And Jason is no slouch - in fact, he is delivering the best racing of his life this year with the results to show for it. Needless to say, Eric will be returning to Expert next week. :)
Story of the week: Mid-race, Erin Bale snapped the frame on his 10 year old Specialized Enduro - this may be a blessing in disguise! - and the fabulous Norco crew of Kevin Haviland and Justin Rogers stepped right in and, within minutes, had Erin aboard a Norco Revolver 1. Despite this setback, Erin still managed a solid fourth place finish and his able to finish his day atop some of the finest cycling hardware on the market - thanks to Spokes and Norco. More grassroots cycling at it's best.
Next week: Same course and even more amazing grooming. We are currently about 70% raked. Look for perfection next Wednesday.
Weather: 22°C, 46% humidity, sunny & HOT!
Week #2 - April 24
Now it can be said that we have truly raced in every possible environmental condition.
We have been caught in torrential downpours that lit up the night sky with lightning bolts bright enough to illuminate the town of Newmarket. We have been pelted with mid-summer hail stones. We have seen summers dry enough to threaten local camels with dehydration. But never - never - have we race through snowfall.
Until last night.
When I arrived around noon time to perform some trail maintenance, it was cold and rainy. After a fews hours in the downpour, I was throughly soaked and completely frozen. I resolved myself to a couple of quick laps and then retreated to my truck to await our first riders.
The rain slowed, finally stopped, and then as 7pm drew near, was replaced by white fluffy stuff falling from the sky. Everyone in attendance - more than 30 people joined us for a double points night - commented on the bizarre and ridiculously unseasonal weather.
The cooler temperatures, however, were a good thing for the trails and the conditions were firmer than last week even if there were still a few sloppy spots.
With double points on the line (these can play a big factor in the overall standings by the end of the year), those brave souls in attendance battled for every inch of trail. Big news for the evening included Nigel Read posting his first career win in Master Sport after fending off strong efforts from both Ray Hawkins and Murray Michalicka. These three riders wer seperated by only 43 seconds, so we are looking forward to some more heated battles.
On the women's side, we were treated to two notable performances. One by series veteran Lisa Mason who always rides with confidence in these nasty conditions and loves the cooler weather to boot. The second bit of excitement came as newcomer Kara Brockington demonstrated a joyous attitude and laid down some solid times despite the inclement weather. Kara makes a welcome addition to our growing womens field and I look forward to seeing increased competition in these ranks.
In the "long-time-no-see!" file, a big shout out must be paid to Justin Hawkins who rejoined us last night for the first time in a few years and then proceeded to handily earn himself the top podium spot in the Junior Sport category. This field is deepening every year and I think that once our attendance returns to norms - i.e. some warm weather comes! - this will be a hyper-competitive category.
The report would not be complete without acknowledging the incredible speed and skills of Coach Paul Cooney who blasted through the trails as though they were dry. While Mike Cowan is a man with skills and speed to spare, on this night he was no match for the fire burning in Paul's belly. As the season marches on, I can't wait to see if Mike can turn the tables and score a victory over his nemesis Paul who, on this occasion, appeared pretty much unbeatable.
Good luck to those of you participating in the first Ontario Cup race this Sunday at Woodnewton. See you there!
Don't miss May 1st: It's our Norco Demo Day!
Weather: 0°C, 100% humidity, light snowfall!
Week #1 - April 17
Springtime has offically landed when trails reopen and the racing begins. While the weather thusfar has been less than stellar if measured by sunshine and double digit temperatures, the internal thermostats of our riders have been cranked for months.
Whether excited to try out your new rigs (and there were many shiny, new machines in attendance last night) or anxious to test out those spring legs, the opening race of the season is always a curious blend of excitement and apprehension. There's nothing like a race to get those butterflies floating about in your stomach!
Despite the generally unpleasant weather of the last few weeks, the trail conditions were suprisingly good and went to great lengths to try and keep the trails healthy and riders clean. As such, we stuck exclusively to the southern half of the forest and did our best to snake our way through as much fun, twisty singletrack as could be added to the course.
The season began much as last year left off, with Spokes rider Steve Prosser tearing up the competition. While Coach Erich Baumhard was able to hold Steve's wheel through the first lap and a half, Steve made ground through each tight section until he finally broke Erich's will to chase.
The sprint of the day was fought in the Master Expert class where Keith MacKinnon mashed out an incredible finish over veteran rider Dave Knights. Trailing these two titans by only a few seconds was another top competitor, Murray Solem. If this is a sign of things to come, we are bound to have an intense season.
In the sport classes we had a few new faces join us - always good to see! - and a number of novices from the 2013 season joined the mid-level Sport ranks. On the "new rider" front, what better way to put your stamp on the series than starting off with a big ole' "W". Senior Sport rider Brandon Chappell did just that and has laid the groundwork for a dominating season.
Similarly, Brandon's wife Lauren Chappell also became acquainted with the podium nailing a second place finish in the Sport Women category beaten only by the always powerful Anouchka Lewis.
In Master Sport Men, another new-to-the-crew rider joined form Collingwood where he is used to big hills and gnarly singletrack. If you see or hear Joe Bauckham on your tail and you are approaching a downhill section, be prepared because you are about to be run over! This downhill racer is using our series to bolster his DH training and prepare him for the battles to be fought over the Ontario Cup series.
There is a ton more racing action before us: Each of every week, there will be new stories to tell and fresh legends to record. Be a part of it!
And, if you came out and had fun, please help spread the word. This is grassroots cycling at it's finest.
Don't miss May 1st: It's our Norco Demo Day! Now onto the numbers:
Weather: 10°C, 50% humidity, clear skies & sunshine