Week 19 - September 3
With a stunning turnout of 71 riders - our best attendance in almost a decade - our season finale continued the momentum we have been building at our weekly series over the last several years.
The Spokes weekly MTB series is a creator of champions. Riders like X Games World Champion Brett Rheeder, Norco Factory Team's Andrew Watson, Ontario Provincial Elite Road Champion Ed Veal, and many more successful provincial level athletes have earned their chops amongst the enthusiastic amateurs ripping it up through our immaculately groomed courses.
With any luck - and lots of work - one of our burgeoning number of youth riders just may become the next superstar we can add to that list. And there is certainly no shortage of talents coming to join us on a weekly basis.
Take, for example, the brothers Wright. The elder, Brandon Wright, joined Team Spoke O'Motion this year and is also taking advantage of the coaching provided by Paul Cooney of LTD Performance Cycling. Despite his young age and relative inexperience, Brandon is keeping up with the big boys in the Expert class, learning much along the way, and is ready for the development to come. On the trails, his line selection is excellent and his flowy style guarantees a minimum of wasted energy.
Following in Brandon's formidable footsteps is Aaron Wright. This little ripper simply dominated the Mini Me category this year with a staggering 12 wins and will certainly be one to watch next season. More than just performance, though, both brothers always demonstrate courtesy and patience on trail and are as quick with a smile and kind word as they are to show you their tail feathers.
There were also breakthrough performances this season in our novice women field where Emmeline Te Bokkel laid a definitive stamp on the series with 16 wins and finished ahead of our reigning queen, Carys Reid. While the tough competition initially gave Carys pause, she redoubled her efforts, refocussed her energy, and remained tight to Emmeline's wheels throughout the year. It's a very exciting turn to see so many young women out riding and racing and demonstrating to all that cycling need not be viewed as a a male-dominated sport.
In that vein, just look at Anouchka Lewis! Without much direct competition this season, Anouchka made it her mission to teach the men exactly who was boss. And we can close 2014 with the inescapeable knowledge that Anouchka is the boss of sport class where she would regularly beat all of the men iin the field. This marked the first year that Anouchka had a "proper" race bike and between improved hardware and her fiery spirit, Anouchka is always ready to strike when the opportunity arises.
When it comes to "opportunity", I know one rider who will relish the entire off-season as an opportunity to remind everyone who will listen exactly who is the fastest rider in the household. The father-son duo of Mike and Jacob Goyette have been with us for several years now but it was last week when Mike had a stellar race and posted a better time than his ever-quicking offspring. Cue the household drama! So it was showdown time this week and a chance to determine with (some) finality who would wear the family crown for the next 6 months. Needless to say, Jacob grabbed that bull by the horns, raced his butt off, and laid a whooping on dear on old. Part of the joy in voctory for Jacob, no doubt, was taking the wind out of Dad's sails.
I know, I know. My day will come too. ;)
Thanks to everyone for making this the most successful racing season in the history of our weekly series. For almost 25 years we have been ripping it up at Coulson Hill and the friendships we have forged transcend the time on the trail. And a special thanks to the volunteers that help make our events run so smoothly: Kelly Cullen, Nigel Read, Dave Knights, Steve Hart, Anouchka Lewis, Doug Brennan are all champions in my books!
Thanks to everyone for participating, for spreading the word about our awesome events, and for supporting Spoke O'Motion over the years.
Our awards banquet and social night will take place at Boston Pizza at Yonge & Green Lane on Wednesday, September 17th. I hope you all can make it so that we can share some stories, tip a pint, and celebrate all that cycling has given us.
Weather: 23°C, 57% humidity, stunning summer weather
Week 18 - August 27
With only one race left in the series for the 2014 season, riders were treated to a fast, short course in the run-up to the series championship. Our 3.55km course delivered an exciting experience filled with rooty sections favouring dual suspension steeds, short blasts of fireroad favouring maximum efficiency hardtails, and enough climbing to favour those with stout quads.
Needless to say, fun was had by all and by next week the conditions will be even more immaculate (on the grooming side of the equation).
Aaron Wright - having made the leap the clipless pedals - continues to dominate his class
This week marked the return of several riders coming back from injuries that had waylaid their racing. Alex Beilis made his debut after suffering the ramifications of being t-boned by a careless driver at an intersection in Aurora. Shaking off some nagging back and neck pain, Alex rode a moderate pace to test the waters and we are thrilled to see him return to action after several weeks of recovery. Another rider returning to the ranks this week was Keith MacKinnonb who was dealing with lots of soreness after getting tangled up with Dave Knights a few weeks back. Apparently Keith's time off of the mountain bike didn't cause him any harm as he muscled his way into an incredible second place finish and trailed Steve Prosser by less than 90 seconds.
I also made my return to riding yesterday after several weeks off te bike trying to nurse a little cut on my le.g. What a blast it was to get back on the bike again! While my fitness was not where it needed to be to compete with the "big dogs" in the Expert categories, the sheer joy of railing the bike through corners and exploring the limits of traction put a smile on my face and does winders to lift the spirit. This euphoria is why everyone should ride!
Mike Goyette continues to push towards the podium in Master Sport and, this week, finished only five seconds behind powerhouse Don Blue and just off of the podium. With lots of riding under his belt this year, Mike is hungry to taste some podium glory and it will be an exciting day indeed with he gets a nibble. Maybe our championship race will be Mike's opportunity to shine.
The Novice Men race was an exciting as ever with the top three riders fighting hard for any kind of advantage through every berm and fireroad. This trio finished with less than 20 seconds of space between them and Matthew McGinn took top honours, followed by Steve Trembath and Robert Murphy. This awesome race saw Matthew McGinn score his first Coulson victory after a pile of second place efforts and is certainly a day to remember - and motivation - for many races to come.
Next week is our final race of the season and, as always, our championship races are worth DOUBLE POINTS. This is your last chance to move up the championship results and maybe score yourself a podium position!
Weather: 17°C, 72% humidity, sunny & fresh
Week 17 - August 20
Not even the threat of tornados was enough to keep the hardcore enthusiasts away from our awesome trails. With absolutely impeccable trail grooming and not a drop of rain all day, Coulson delivered what may have been some of the best trail conditions of the season.
Steve Prosser called it "hero dirt" in reference to the seemingly impossible traction the high humidity soil delivered corner after corner. Unfortunately for Steve, Coach Paul Cooney was motivated to be the hero on this night after suffering a defeat to Steve last Wednesday.
Refusing to allow the competition the luxury of even staying within reach, Paul poured it on in a serious way and split the Expert pack like seeds into the wind on the second lap. With the scattering of riders across the course, Paul made further gains on each lap and wound up destroying the field with a 60-second margin of victory. If intent on delivering a message, the competition got it - loud and clear.
The Master Sport Men saw a newcomer - Steve McCarthy - top the top spot on the podium despite Murray Michalicka's protestations. While a visit to his hometown from his current residence in Alberta, Steve raced the Coulson series back when it started almost 20 years ago. While are trails have developed dramatically and the series is much more "grown up" than when he left for central Canada, Steve certainly felt welcomed by our inclusive atmosphere and extraordinary group of riders.
While new faces may have shuffled our Sport class deck, the Mini-Me battles continues to rage with the same players fighting for dominance. While Aaron Wright continues to develop his skills and rode away to a compelling victory, the fight for second to fourth was tighter than ever. Parker Sole (2nd), Seth Kelly (3rd), and Elijah Weening (4th) all finished within five seconds of one another and jostled for position all night long.
If these young rippers are the future of the sport, then we are in very good hands indeed!
Bear in mond that our series has been cut a little short this year thanks to the neverending winter of 2014, so there are only two races left. We'll have a new course setup for next week that will be a little shorter and will hit trails that remain well-lit despite our diminished sunshine timelines.
Look forward to a fast, open course of about 3.3km in length. The next couple of races are your final chances to rip it up this year and many podium spots remain up for grabs. Don't miss it!
Several people - in the interests of strategy - have inquired about points allocation for different race positions. Here's a link to the appropriate info for those fighting for the championship podiums.
Weather: 20°C, 94% humidity, overcast & humid
Week 16 - August 13
This week the women ruled the roost! Emmeline Te Bokkel continues to set the pace for her pack and is on track to finish the season with a perfect record (when taking her top 15 results). While Carys Reid and Abigail Weening are always nipping on Emmeline's heels, it will take another season before we find out if someone has the drive and talent to dethrone our current queen.
Emmeline Te Bokkel enjoying the awesome course on her way to victory
Similarly, Anouchka Lewis continues to decimate not her field, specifically, but the whole Sport class. Not satisfied with being the predominant force in women's racing at Coulson Hill, Anouchka laid the gauntlet down this week with an extraordinary performance that saw her beat every Sport rider in the field. Men, women, old, young...everyone fell prey to the force of nature that is Anouchka. Congrats on this accomplishment, Anouchka! There are many seriously fast sport men who had to return home a little dejected this week.
Sprint finish of the week goes to Mike Drukarsh and Jon Weening. Mike had a solid lead coming into the last half of the final lap when Jon made the decision to lay chase and make a serious effort to close the gap. On the final straightaway, Jon drew even with Mike and they rode wheel to wheel through the last corner and the sprint was on as soon as the bikes had levelled out.
The 100m to the finish must have been interminable for these two and they put everything into each crank stroke as they barelled towards the finish line wearing matched grimaces of pain and focus. When all was said and done, Mike snatched the comeback away from Jon with inches to spare. It was only after the race that Mike inspected his bike and found that he had suffered a severely warped disc brake rotor in a mid-race mishap.
While this additional load may have made Mike's efforts just that little bit more intense, Jon is surely motivated to prove that he has the mettle to take Mike at the line. Next weeks battle should be killer!
On the topic of battles, Coach Paul Cooney and perrenial series leader Steve Prosser had a race typical of their rivalry. Neck and neck through 90% of the event, riders at this level are continually evaluating their opponents strengths and weaknesses, strategizing optimal passing points, and preparing the make (what they hope is) the race-winning move.
The spectators are clueless about most of these happenings except for the snapshot we capture for 30 seconds of every lap as they pass through the start/finish area at mach speed. I know that these guys put everything on the line when Steve crossed the line for the win and pumped his first into the sky. Steve is rarely emotionally expressive at the finish line, so this was a clear indication that both riders had really pushed themselves and left no fuel in the tank. A hard fought victory is always the sweetest.
One more note: A big shout out to Doug Brennan who comes out week after week to donate his time and take our awesome event photos. There's no other weekly series that delivers free and extensive photography from (most of) their events and posts it all for people to download at their conveniece. THANK YOU, Doug. Your efforts are just another part of what makes this series so special and unique. It's greatly appreciated.
Next week, it's round two on our relentless 4.2km course. The racing is sure to be fast and furious - just the way we like it!
Weather: 14°C, 77% humidity, overcast & cool - but dry!
Week 15 - August 6
Not only was our course in equal measure fast, flowy, and technical but the weather has really turned around since our early spring wet-fest. The gorgeous weather, in turn, makes for awesome trail conditions and some intense racing.
Chris Graham - with a determined look - races towards victory
The big news in the Expert class revolved around two facts: Steve Prosser looks simply unstoppable this season and took another victory with a 40-second gap over the nearest competitor. I am sure he is sorely missing the challenge from Dan Hope who was having a fantastic season before he snapped his frame in a crash at the Hardwood Hills Canada Cup.
The second relevant story is the continued rise of Dave Knights. On this week, he clung to Mike Cowan's rear wheel for the first two laps - at which point I became convinced that this may be Dave's night. Unfortunately for Dave, Mike's competitive nature forced him to light the wick, turn on the afterburners, and ensure that Dave's attack was thwarted.
According to Mike Cowan, "You know the reason why Dave will never beat me? His legs are too hairy!". There you have it, folks. Straight from the mouth of champions. Shave or lose!
While the finishing order may look familiar in the Expert categories, Andy Farmer told me before the race that he was there to win - and win he did! With a 2.5 minute advantage in the bank, Andy rode a very strong race and this experience should bolster his confidence for the inevitable showdown with his nemesis, Jacob Goyette who was away this week participating in the Ontario Summer Games on behlaf of Team Spokes/LTD Performance Cycling.
Chris Graham (pictured above) continued to demonstrate his winning ways and is now fighting to maintain a single point lead in the Championship points. In the same category, Mackenzie Kemp has had consistently solid results that are keeping him in the hunt. Should Chris miss some races, this could be a whole different conversation.
Another round of the championship shuffle occured amongst the Master Sport Men, where Bob Moritz - the previous championship leader - lost the coveted top podium spot to Murray Michalicka. Unfortunately for Bob, he suffered a crash on the weekend while pre-riding this weekends upcoming Ontario Cup race that aggravated an existing rib injury. As such, he was in too much discomfort to race. This gave Murray impeded access to the podium and, as of this week, Murray is currently king. I'm sure that Bob will be anxious to right this wrong at the soonest opportunity.
Everyone must be mindful that as we enter the last several weeks of racing, the standings are subject to significant change. Only your top 15 races are counted towards your overall standings so your worst races get dropped and the series leaders ultimately get capped in their point totals. The short version: There is a ton of opportunity to improve your position in th standings by finishing the next four races!
Next week will feature a brand new course that is bound to challenge and entertain. See you all soon.
Weather: 21°C, 60% humidity, stunning summer weather - again!
Week 14 - July 30
Nigel Read just keeps making these race courses better than ever. This week riders were treating to an epic expanse of singletrack that walked the fine line between technical and flowy. With a total of 5km on tap, the course delivered challenging creek bed climbs, long section of winding gnarliness, and enough climbing to challenge the legs.
In light of the realities of our short-lived (and well-earned) summers, this will mark the longest course of the year so I certainly hope we have a big crowd out for next weeks showdown that will surely deliver more exciting action and even more exquisite trail grooming.
Mike Goyette setting the ultimate line
Coach Paul Cooney was out this week to finetune some details with families of the LTD Performance Cycling/Team Spoke O'Motion contingent to the Ontario Summer Games taking place in Windsor next weekend.
Now, of course, Paul wouldn't arrange a meeting at Coulson without taking the opportunity to battle it out with his rivals and pupils alike so the ante for the evening was automatically bumped skyward.
To that end, Steve Prosser, Coach Paul, and Mike Cowan fought for every inch of trail and for every second that could be wrung from the ticking clock. While in the early goings it looked as though Paul had the composure to put the pressure on Prosser at the moment of his choosing, after four mighty laps spent on the cusp of unconsiousness, Steve launched a brutal attack that simply could not be answered and took a commanding victory. Mike Cowan, while always a threat, maintained a tight gap on the leading pair but was unable to make progess on reeling them in.
Showing tremendous growth this year is Brandon Wright who is improving his power weekly and, while still a ways from the front of the pack, is showing the potential for great speed as his grows in experience and age. In a similar vein, Connor Irving is another young rider quickly establishing himself as a future powerhouse. While his current results do not accurately reflect his speed potential, once Connor strings together some consistent races his power and fitness will be enough to make his rivals wince.
The difference between a good race and a really great race comes from an unexpected source: Tactics. When Bob Moritz and Murray Michalicka came through after two laps and heading onto their final tour, I turned and said to Kelly, "Who do you think will come around first?" Gut instinct told me that the 2nd place rider is always in the best spot at that point in the race. If you can tail an opponent for a chunk of the race, optimize your planned passing spots, and then launch an aggressive, well-timed attack on the last lap it's all but over. Rider #2 will almost always come around if he's on your wheel for the first two. Pretend to be pooped, fake a little slide out, or launch an attack of your own...but do what is necessary to get that rider off your tail! There you have it: Make tactical tip of the day. ;)
Carys Reid and Abigail Weening continue to brew the biggest rivalry of the year with another incredibly exciting sprint finish. These two young woman have had more sprints this year than all of the other categories combined. It's awesome to see these two young athletes push themselves so hard every week - and both improve so much because of it! This is a remarkably distillled vision of the beauty of sport. This week Abigail took the win by one second. When these two meet again, the competitive fireworks will surely ignite.
Next week we are on to week 16 and while we will not have our Ontario Summer Games athletes with us, we'll surely relish the racing in their absence. Good luck to those attending the Games and be sure to send us lots of pictures.
I'd also like to thank all the people who make this event run so well: Kelly Cullen, Nigel Read, Dave Knights, Steve Hart (and his crew). And thanks to all of you riders for making this so awesome!
Coulson Bridge Fund - All the bridges at Coulson are in desperate need of repair, which is limiting our use of some favorite trails, and causing overuse of others. We're asking for donations of wood (2 x 4s, 4 x 4s) and money to rebuild the bridges. Steve Hart and The Shop are graciously donating the manpower. We'll pick wood donations up, and cash donations can be made at Spokes, or Coulson on Wednesday nights.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the Coulson Hill Bridge Fund. We are currently just shy of $100 and I'd really be happy to get to $200 for next week and turn the money over to The Shop so that the rebuilding of our bridges can begin. Not only are we rebuilding the bridges we love to ride, but we are helping our most vulnerable youth learn valuable skills and contribute to society! See what The Shop is all about at their web page.
Weather: 19°C, 60% humidity, stunning summer weather!
Week 13 - July 23
Ok, so Myles is away doing very important Myles-type things this week, so here’s my second race report of the season. Maybe this one will contain a little more horn tooting...
We had a cool, overcast day for the 13th race of the series, and although it felt as if we might get some rain, it held off for us, and ground conditions really couldn’t have been any better. Likewise, the course was well groomed and trimmed, especially after Steve Hart and his crew from The Shop weed-whacked it to within an inch of its life. Thanks Steve! Course length was actually 4.65km, not 3.5 as we (we meaning I) inaccurately reported last week.
As is usual for this time of year, several regulars were conspicuously absent from the field, while a couple of brand new faces came to check things out. Good guy Phil came all the way up from Toronto after hearing good things about our epic weekly battles of rider vs rider vs Coulson. Phil thoroughly enjoyed himself and the course and vows to be back. He wonders if anyone else comes up from the Toronto area that he could car-pool with? Let us know and we’ll hook you up.
I haven’t seen the evening’s results yet, but I do know that Jon Weening scored his first ever podium in the Master Sport class, with a third. Way to go Jon! Don Blue won the class, and hopes Jon doesn’t get a new bike any time soon. Some other guy came second.
Anouchka Lewis spent half the race touring all over the forest. Afterwards, she was advised that she can come and help put up arrows on future courses if she doesn’t like the way we lay things out.
Brandon Wright demonstrating some awesome cornering attitude
Many riders made a point post-race of saying how much they’d enjoyed the course. Sharon Godlewski in particular enthusiastically talked about how much fun it was and how she thought it was an ideal mix of climbing, singletrack, and fireroads etc etc. I found that very disappointing and assured her that I’d be sure to come up with a much better effort for next week.
Thanks to Dave Knights for bringing the trailer and setting things up. Thanks to Kelly Cullen for running things like a pro, and thanks to Myles Cullen for perpetuating the best little race series there is.
Myles will be back next week (if he’s finished test riding the new 2015 Norco bikes) and we’ll have a brand new course for your entertainment. If I could just get Sharon to stop smiling... ;)
Coulson Bridge Fund - All the bridges at Coulson are in desperate need of repair, which is limiting our use of some favorite trails, and causing overuse of others. We're asking for donations of wood (2 x 4s, 4 x 4s) and money to rebuild the bridges. Steve Hart and The Shop are graciously donating the manpower. We'll pick wood donations up, and cash donations can be made at Spokes, or Coulson on Wednesday nights.
Weather: 17°C, 63% humidity, cool & overcast
Week 12 - July 16
For the second week running we were blessed with sunshine and blue skies - a luxury not to be taken lightly after a spring full of cold and wet weather. The beautiful weather only served to highlight the efforts of our trail marking and grooming crew that delivered another spectacular event to test your skills and determination. The beautiful thing is that, these days, I can indeed call it a "crew" as Dave Knights, Anouchka Lewis, Nigel Read, and myself all put in dozens of hours work this week to ensure that the trails were ready for prime time.
While appearing from the sidelines to be a rather short course at 3.5km, the high density of single track meant that there was rarely a moment to catch your breath and the punishment seemed relentless. To some this challenge seems a little cruel - but we're doing it to make you faster! :)
Clay Te Bokkel leading the train on his way to a 2nd place finish
Several categories had super tight finishes this week and the sprint finishes bear testament to the incredible depth of field that rides with us on a weekly basis. Steve Prosser took Dan Hope by inches, Mike Cowan and Dave Knights were so close that they even got the same finish time, and Keith MacKinnon mustered every ounce of his strength to eek by future star Brandon Wright at the line by mere inches.
In the overall podium standings, the big mover and shakers this week were Emmeline Te Bokkel who captured first place overall with yet another strong race and Chris Graham who clawed his way into 2nd place overall with another victory notched onto his belt.
Beyond all the racing glory, however, this week saw an incredible demonstration of our community spirit when Andrew Szafranski had his front wheel slide out on a fireroad. As innocuous as this sounds, on the way down his frame impacted his leg and broke it. Within moments, a rider interrrupted his own race to alert us at the timing tent. A second rider stayed with Andrew to offer comfort and immobilize the affected limb.
Within minutes of the accident, EMS were on-site and attending to Andrew and several volunteers were helping with the logistics of bikes, wallets, phone calls, and managing race traffic. The fact that everyone leapt to help, everyone was concerned for Andrew's well-being, everyone willingly absorbed last-second course changes without complaint reflects the core values of sportsmanship, community, and mutual respect that embodies our series and participants.
We wish Andrew well in his recovery and I'm sure that, while we may not see him back out this season, he'll be ready to remount his trusty steed come spring 2015 and make a tremendous come back. He may be down...but he's not out.
Thanks to everyone for their assistance and time last night in dealing with this unfortunate accident.
Next week I will be attending the 2015 Norco Product Launch in BC so event management duties will fall to Kelly, Nigel, and Dave. Thanks for supporting our event and I'll see you again for Week 14!
Weather: 17°C, 63% humidity, sunny and dry - again!
Week 11 - July 9
Without question, our annual Team Time Trial is one of our season's most highly anticipated events. When veteran racers team up with new riders in a joint effort to put down the best possible lap count on a wide open race course, the action is bound to be heated and the action intense.
While the course, by our traditional standards, is highly "simplified", the game plan is to allow almost constant opportunity for passing and manoeuvring amongst riders of differing skill levels. To that end, we focus on open double track and try to keep single track to an absolute minimum.
For 40 minutes this Wednesday almost 70 riders - our best turnout of the season - hammered themselves senseless around our Nascar-style loop in an effort to support their Team and hit the podium.
The LeMans-style start (pictured above) is another hallmark of this event and draws an interesting mixture of cheers and jeers as lycra clad cycling donning stiff soled shoes embark on a 200m run through the bush in an effort to mount their bikes as quickly as possible and avoid getting tangled in traffic. While cyclists are typically not the keenest of runners, it's plainly evident from the smiles in the picture above that everyone loves this fresh and light-hearted start format.
The racing this week was interesting as riders can begin fresh laps up until the 40-minute mark. Usually this results in some intense sprints to get bck to the start/finish line in time to nail another lap. On this occasion however, timing worked out such that the top riders had little chance to sneak out for an extra lap over their immediate opposition. As a result, in many circumstances, the burden of victory fell to the rookie riders in the pairings and these men and women pedalled for all they were worth.
At the 45-minute point - the absolute cutoff for final laps - there were a couple of great sprints by some young riders looking to beat the clock and score that one last lap. The intensity and drama were just priceless as these young stars hammered towards the line and the welcoming shouts and cheers of 100 people waiting with baited breath at the finish line.
The spirit of friendly competition and community is never more palpable than on these Team Time Trial nights.
Next week we return to our traditional format and I am sure that Nigel Read will have cooked up another doozy of a course. Until then, my friends!
Weather: 19°C, 49% humidity, sunny and dry
Week 10 - July 2
Well what a pleasure it was to come back this week and rejoin our Wednesday night crew!
While ever appreciative of Nigel's race report from last week, once I had ridden the course and performed some minor signage maintenance I found myself a little agrieved. But for all of the right reasons: Nigel's latest course was an absolute revelation and I fear he sold himself way short last week by not tooting his own horn even a little bit.
Although maybe he was just frustrated at not having had a chance to race it. ;)
It was a marvel of winding single track descents that seemed to go on forever delivering incredible flow and allowing the rider to be carried away in the rythm of the forest. To top it off, the climbs offered in pennance for these incredible downhills were broken up by chunks of distracting singletrack and never proved steep enough to cause a coronary. Well done Nigel Read!
Murray Michalicka staying ahead of his rivals through a nasty rocky technical section.
All of this course awesomeness lead to the kind of fantastic racing action that only Spoke O'Motion delivers. Attack after attack was fought off of the front as Steve Prosser and Coach Paul Cooney fought for mountain bike supremacy - or at least for bragging rights until next week. On this occasion, it was a massive surge up the last fireroad climb that left Mr. Prosser gassed while Paul rode away to glory on his single speed steed.
In another impressive effort, Jacob Goyette notched his third consecutive victory against his rival - and series Junior Sport leader - Clay Te Bokkel. This night saw the two riders seperated by only 10 seconds and Clay rode a ridiculously fast last lap in order to come within striking distance of Jacob. There is an interesting straegic lesson here in that Jacob buried himself on his second lap to build a solid lead and, while Clay was able to take advantage of a weakening Jacob on their last lap, it was not enough to reel him in. The lesson: Never let your competitors establish a commanding gap. Do what you have to do to stay on their wheel otherwise that wheel may just be gone...forever.
The Senior Sport Men also saw some great competition today with Andrew MacPhail handing Adrian Chao his first defeat of the season. On the flip side of this coin, it was also Andrew's first taste of victory - a meal I am sure he is looking to indulge in again. With his improved fitness and power, these two riders are sure to duke it out several more times before the season is in the books.
With a technical course playing into the hands of long-travel-equipped Murray Michalicka - and series leader Bob Moritz missing in action - Murray was certainly hoping to capitalize and score his second victory in as many weeks. However, he was probably not counting on the wily Shawn Bruch to rain on his parade. Shawn had a tremendous outing this week having come off of a disappointing result in week 9 and was able to nail his second "W" of the season. Congrats!
In keeping with the "comeback" theme, Novice ace Damian Fleetwood made a point this week to demonstrate that he does indeed deserve the series leader position he has earned. After being beaten by the unflappable Robert Murphy for the past two weeks, Damian needed to make a statement to the field. And he shouted from the mountaintop with an admirable 1 minute 5 second gap over Robert. But Robert is a fierce competitor and he is certain to come back to the starting line with some fire in his belly.
In celebration of the 2014 Tour de France, next week we will be running our annual Team Time Trial event.
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!
Weather: 23°C, 83% humidity, warm and sunny
Week 9 - June 25
There is always some stress involved with leaving my series mid-season and I would like to thank my dear wife Kelly, Nigel Read, Dave Knights, and Anouchka Lewis for helping ensure that this weeks race went off flawlessly despite my absence. Thanks to everyone for making our event so personal, so much fun, and such a staple of the Ontario cycking scene.
Nigel Read was kind enough to prepare this fantastic race report:
The forecast promised no rain, but it was dark and threatening all day, with several light showers thrown in for good measure. The course however, was in pretty good shape in spite of the torrential downpour Tuesday afternoon. There were a few mucky spots, but no water crossings this week, which is what prompted Dave to express his true (?) feelings. Alas, love (and course design) can be fickle, and I fully expect Dave to have a change of heart in the very near future. We’re not done in the streambed just yet; Ma Nature just renovated it for us again!
This week, the course was 3.85 km long, and seemed very well received. Several riders liked that the climb back towards the finish was broken up by a section of fireroad that ran across the hill before continuing up again. Also appreciated were the 4 or 5 optional lines that were available at various points around the course. Nobody said it, but I think several people would have liked one more option; where the trail cut around a huge fallen tree. A good number of people chose to walk down the rocky bank, (always a better option than crashing) which was quite slick because it’s right at a point on the hill that sees a lot of runoff.
The course seemed to suit Dan Hope just fine; he had a substantial lead on the last lap, aided by the fact that Steve Prosser was fooling around taking soil samples. Mike Cowan was right in the mix for most of the race too.
I was able to get a few pictures, but it was such a dark evening that many of them are unusable. There are a couple that I like though...
A big thanks to Dave Knights for bringing the trailer, setting up the tents, and mowing. A big thanks to Anouchka Lewis for tireless raking, and pleasant company. A big thanks to Kelly Cullen for anchoring things week in and week out. And a big thanks to Myles Cullen for Spoke O’Motion’s Coulson Hill series. Awesome.
Myles will be back in the saddle next week, figuratively, and I hope to be back in the saddle next week too, literally. Watching is not my cup of tea. Earl Grey is.
Weather: 17°C, 94% humidity, cool, dry until the last 5 minutes!
Week 8 - June 18
Steve Prosser summed up this course best when he said, gasping for air post-race, "Now this is a biker's course."
Certainly one of the funnest courses of the year so far, we were blessedly spared significant damage from Tuesday's extraordinary storms. Aside from from gooey sand and silt being deposited in some sections, the course was, more or less, spared from any significant damage.
That said, the impact of the storm was plainly visible through a multitude of mud and water swept swathes cutting through the forest at seemingly random spots. For our purposes, the biggest changes presented themselves through the "wet" route that ran through 150m of creek bed.
Whereas last week you could bomb through the creekbed with impunity, the flood waters rushing through the river walls deposited rocks in new places, made some lines impassable, and created newly formed sandbeds offering some different lines. One thing was obvious: What you knew from last week had to be thrown out the window.
From the front lines, Dan Hope, our race winner, reported that he was able to fend off Steve Prosser by taking the dry line when Steve tried the wet route. As long as Dan kept the hammer down and railed his corners through the switchbacks of the dry route, Steve was unable to make an inch of progress.
I, however, had quite the opposite experience. While in my first trip through the creek I crashed three times and made no progress on the competition, on subsequent laps, once I had defined my lines, I made important strategic passes and was able to keep a charging Dave Knights and Mike Murphy off of my rear wheel. Were it not for my technical aptitude, the two would have certainly shown me their collective backsides with ease.
Parkem Solem just might be having fun!
This week did not see a much of a shake-up in the overall podium standings although a special mention must go out to Mackenzie Kemp who has just bumped himself up to the top spot of the series championships thanks to another strong race. The flipside of that coin is the fact that Ryan Primett, last weeks Senior Sport winner, was only 1-second behind Mackenzie. Ryan is currently only 4-points off of the podium steps and is certainly hungry to earn himself some shiny hardware by the season's end.
We can't talk about strong races - and strong seasons - without bringing up Mike Murphy who is having the season of his life and is always threatening the podium contenders in Master Expert. Mike has ridden with us for more than ten years now and I have never seen him faster. Yet another reminder that age is never a barrier to success in our "beautiful game".
At the other end of the age spectrum, we are witnessing an epic rivalry between Jacob Goyette and Clay Te Bokkel who are going toe-to-toe every week in a battle of cycling supremacy. This week, the gap between the two was only 11-seconds (in Jacob's favour) and, depending on course layout and how each rider is feeling, next week could be anyone's to win. It wll be interesting to see who is holding the reins five years from now...
Next week I will be in Salt Lake City, Utah attending Cannondale's 2015 Product Launch so event hosting duties with fall to my deputies Kelly Cullen, Nigel Read, and Dave Knights. Thanks to all three of you for your ongoing support and assistance in making our race series one of the finest in Ontario.
Weather: 18°C, 88% humidity, cool, dry, & comfortable
Week 7 - June 11
In an uncharacteristic move, the day began with a somewhat pessimistic social media post suggesting that people be ready for a mucky evening at Coulson Hill. The weather forcecast left little room for interpretation in predicting a generally miserable day with up to 25mm of precipitation likely.
Needless to say, a forecast like that does not get me terribly excited to toil away in the forest for 6 or 7 hours of weed whacking, raking, and clean-up.
Before and after shot of some typical trail grooming
The wonderful news, however, was that Coulson did not see a drop of rain over then entire day. While Newmarket and Bradford were hammered with rainfall throughout most of the day, our blessed forest was encapsulated by it's own little pocket of sunshine.
Thanks to the tremendous work of Nigel Read we were treated to a masterful course filled with some exciting optional lines where strategic decisions could dictate the outcome of the race and some exhilarating downhill rips. Once we complete our grooming efforts for next week, this will certainly be one of my favourite courses of all time - and that's saying something having run this series for almost 20 years.
While not a lot of positions shifted around on the overall podium standings, there was still a tremendous amount of intense racing action. The sprint of the day was extraordinary this week with Dan Hope and Mike Cowan going head to head over the last 50 meters, both riders' faces contorted into masks of focus and pain, as they barrelled towards the finish linedoing the full tilt boogie. Mike took the sprint with a bike length to spare and his expression told everything about how hard he dug for the victory.
The Master Sport Men also had their share of drama as Les Suter continues to build his form and present a serious challenge to Ontario Cup dominator, Dave Knights. This week they finished only 20 seconds apart and Les is sure to come on even harder next week. It might be his flashy new carbon wheels...
The increased length and difficulty of this weeks course undoubtedly presented a challenge to many riders on the course, but even our Novice riders seems to rise to the occasion and post some pretty impressive lap times. Damian Fleetwood continued to demonstrate considerable skill and fitness as he took another win while being chased down by Robert Murphy who proved unable to hold Damian's ferocious pace. Emerson Blue was, however, quite close to Robert's tail and I'm sure that next week Emerson will be more motivated than ever to work his up to the next rung on the podium ladder.
The Novice Women's battle was again an intense one and, this week, it was Carys Reid whose technical skils helped her take a win from the up-and-coming Emmeline Te Bokkel. The gap at the end of the race was less than a minute and next week anything can happen!
Congrats to you all for finishing this demanding course and you can look forward to more ridiculously awesome racing action next week.
Weather: 23°C, 73% humidity, warm & humid
Week 6 - June 4
With our season now well underway, the courses have become a little more challenging. Challenging in the sense that after your first lap, with your quads screaming for mercy and your mind begging for the pain to stop, your are unsure about how to continue.
Should you let up and sacrifice a position or two in the name of preservation? Should you push on and ignore the distress signals your body is sending into the ether like smoke signals pressing for your immediate attention?
The answer to that difficult question is determined by how you define your goals. For certain, in a grassroots series like ours, absolute results are only as heavily weighted as you would have them. Whether your join us with the regularity of a priest addressing his parish or join us for only a handful of races throughout the entire season, the choice is entirely yours as to how to parse your results.
Mark Cairns working hard to make ground on his field
Speaking from a personal perspective, I readily acknowledge my competitive nature and, every week, want to make ground on the riders who handed me defeat on previous confrontations. I want to improve my lap times during our second race on the same course. I want to nail the elusive "negative split".
Now while I set these defined targets on a weekly basis - when I have opportunity to race - the beauty of cycling is that my main rival is always the same: Me. While I will certainly pedal myself ragged trying to catch Dan Hope (who rode to a commanding birthday victory), the battle is always an internal one. The minds spins endlessly while on course wondering about how your competitors are feeling, wondering about how much reserve power is left in your legs, wondering if that noise you heard is a rival catching up to you (Mike Murphy), wondering just how much you have left in the tank for a strong finish.
This inner dialogue is unending while racing (and often riding), but the real magic happens when you can turn it off. When the voices, doubts, and fears recede and you are left with nothing but the moment that is encompassing you. At this point the world around you melts into the background and the only things of importance are the sound of your knobbies digging into the dirt looking for every last ounce of traction, the brush of a tree that just brushed your shoulder as you carve an impossible arc, and the compression of your tire as you take a challenging line over the rocky terrain. When you let go of the conciousness of your actitivity and live solely in the moment of what you are doing, flow happens.
And when in the state of flow, the hills seems less steep, the ground supernaturally sticky, and the tight twisty trails open up like super highways. You can do no wrong.
This immersion in flow may last a second, may last one hundred meters, or, if you are really in the moment, may last a lap or even an entire race. When you get there, you'll know. And then you just have to let the good times roll.
I'll get back to a more traditional race report next week but what you should all note is just how quickly the championship podium standings change. Just this week, two new riders made their way on the Expert podium. Thanks to his unerring consistency Mark Cairns moved into 2nd and Brandon Wright into 3rd. Brandon did so even after suffering an early mechanical that brought him back to the parking lot for repairs. In a similar vein, after another strong race, Chris Graham leapt into 2nd place in Senior Sport.
Bottom line: There is a ton of amazing racing yet to come and expect the results to continue to fluctuate dramatically as the season evolves. Never give up and never think your spot is secure!
A big "thank you" to Andrew from Rocky Mountain Bikes who came out to treat riders to some delightful new hardware. A number of people took the opportunity to test out some new gear on some of Simcoe County's most entertaining trails. Even if you are not in the market for a new ride, it's always great to have an opportunity to test ride extravagant gear in it's ideal environment. We greatly appreciate the time and expense involved for our brands to help support the local cycling community.
Next week we'll deliver another exciting new course to thrill you, challenge you, and keep you smiling from ear-to-ear! Until then.
Weather: 17°C, 48% humidity, cool & slightly overcast
Week 5 - May 28
The tide has turned and spring has finally brought us some warmer weather, blue skies and phenomenal trail conditions. Thanks to this fact, we brought riders on a longer and more northerly lap this week.
For the first race of the season, we ventured beyond the half way point in the forest and there we found dry - albeit incredibly overgrown - trails that beckoned us with sweet promises of fast, sweeping corners while simultaneously terrifying us with threats of high-speed front wheel washouts as we explored the limits of our traction and courage.
Our grooming efforts beat back the foliage, swept the forest floor free of pine needles, and opened up passing opportunities even on the tightest of singletrack. Due to the volume of work involved with clearing 4km of forest trail (more maintenance than I do at my house, for sure!), we accomplished about 65% of our goal and next week our course is sure to be even more delectable. A big shout out to Nigel Read for course design and Dave Knights for his impeccable fireroad maintenance. Thanks, guys!
Spoke O'Motion Team Coach - Paul Cooney - getting it done!
As to be expected, the course was fast and the racing action-packed. Incidentally, we also had our best turnout in years with 70 riders packing the start area! Thank you all and please help us get the word out about what we have going on here.
In the Expert category, Steve Prosser took his usual position at the head of the pack but had his run to the podium cut short by a snapped chain on the first lap. While he was able to make a speedy trailside repair, the kind of gaps incurred when things like that go wrong simply cannot be made up against a field this strong. That left the reigns in the hands of master jockey Jaxon Brennan who rode his way to first place beating his nearest competitor, Myles Cullen, by over 90 seconds.
In a similarly dominant style, Coach Paul Cooney demonstrated the effectiveness of his own training programs by taking the top podium spot in the Master Expert over his superstar pupil - who is dominating the Ontario Cup racing scene - Dave Knights. While Dave certainly drops a monstrous pace, he fell to Paul by over 2 minutes. It's a shame that Steve Prosser suffered a mechanical on his first lap as a Prosser/Cooney battle on this course could have been epic. Until next week, I suppose, where I'd love to see a rematch.
Chris Graham is certainly on a bit of an early season tear and has managed to take two victories in the last two weeks in Senior Sport. This category is full of excitement and there are a handful of riders here with podium potential. Chris needs a few more strong races before he could make his way to the overall podium, but with the performances delivered over the past couple of weeks, he certainly looks intent on capturing the top spot from series leader Mar Andrew who maintains a sizeable lead on the rest of the field. But these things can change quite quickly at Coulson!
Senior Sport is not the only category undergoing a bit of a shake-up. In Master Sport Men, we had a newcomer to the series, Shawn Bruch, make a commanding statement in his debut race by relegating Bob "The Dominator" Moritz to second place. With only an 11-second gap between them, I'm sure that Bob is eager for next week and a chance to avenge his defeat. Although, riding stronger than ever, Murray Michalicka, may also prove to have a say in the matter. This week Murray had his strongest finish yet winding up on 11-seconds behind Bob. We're talking about a 22-second spread between the entire podium in the category - this is as tight as racing gets and tons of fun for all involved.
The Novice Men had a nice deep field as well this week. But not deep enough for anyone to challenge the young, but mighty, Damian Fleetwood who took a big lead early on and streched it out to over 3½ minutes over Robert Murphy and Steve Trembath. Robert and Steve, however, had an awesome showdown and sprinted each other to the line with Robert fending off a tremendous attack by Steve.
Breakout performances are always something great to write about and this week we had a doozy in the Novice Women field. Until this week, Emmeline Te Bokkel was plugging away - and smoking the competition - in Mini-Me. Stepping up to the plate and moving to a higher class is always a stressful affair, but Emmeline managed to channel this anxiety into an incredible performance. Not satisfied with merely making an appearance in the Novice field, Emmeline went on to take the top podium spot against a field of exceptionally strong riders - like 2nd place finisher Carys Reid. Without a doubt, the Novice Women will be on the lookout next week and I expect some incredible racing is yet to come amongst this group.
On the topic of rivalries, we are witnessing some intense dynastic battles as the children of some participants look to live up to the family name and ride successfully to the podium. This week, Parker Solem managed to snatch the victory from Elijah Weening in what is surely the hottest rivalry going in the Mini-Me category. These guys are trading positions every few weeks and neither one has a clearly dominant hand so the racing only stands to get even more exciting.
Next week is our Rocky Mountain demo day - read about it on our home page. Several awesome platforms will be available for you guys to test (and maybe race on). Read about it on our home page.
One thing to remind our participants: For the series championship, only your top 15 races count in your points total. This means that people who miss a few races for whatever reason are not penalized and, as the season winds down, the championship landscape can change dramatically. If you want to be in contention, you should really try to make at least 15 races.
As always, thanks everyone for coming out and please tell your fellow cyclists about how much fun you're having!
Weather: 16°C, 72% humidity, cool & a little overcast
Week 4 - May 21
The Mini-Me category is a source of great joy to me.
Within the bike industry and several race organizations, it has been said for years that mountain biking has been in a steady state of decline since its heyday in the early 90s. While the populist enthusiasm has indeed waned since those golden days, our series reaffirms that mountain biking remains a vibrant and exciting option for riders across all spectrums of experience, age, and budgets.
Seamus has been racing with us since he was 3 years old. Now 5, he just loves rippin' it up!
Consider that as recently as four years ago there was no Mini-Me category. The addition of this <12 age category, with easier courses of reduced length and technicality, was a result of a rider suggestion. As is part of Spoke O'Motion's core values, we value feedback and suggestions from anywhere - and this suggestion was a whopper of a success.
In the first year, we drew only a couple of young tikes to the trails on a regular basis. As is to be expected, these are typically children of established cyclists that want to expose their kids to the same joy of physical activity and love of the outdoors that we all share.
But as time wore on, this category continued to grow. And we started to see parents who don't necessarily ride bring their children to join us at Coulson. And this is the magic: Spoke O'Motion is building cycling into a viable athletic endeavour for parents to promote to their children. Just like hockey and soccer are seasonal staples, we want to turn cycling into the same mainstream, organized recreational activity that offers accessibility, low cost, and rewarding outcomes for the short and long-term development of the sport and it's participants.
Bottom line: Last night we had nine little rippers out there giving it their all and helping lay the foundations for the cycling backbone of our mountain bike loving country. Congrats to all of the Mini-Me riders for coming out and making friends, enjoying some healthy competition, and going home pooped. Life is as it should be!
On the results side, Emmeline Te Bokkell continued to prove her dominance but clearly has to keep checking her rear-view as Aaron Wright continues to break into her time differences. This week, the final gap was well under a minute and Aaron is definitely gunning for the top spot. And, to toot my own boys horn, Seamus Cullen has his best showing ever and managed to not come in last! His new Cannondale has truly transformed his experience on the trail with gears, hand brakes, and super light weight construction. It's a big step up from a coaster brake equipped 16" wheel!
In the Novice Women category, the competition is as fierce as we predicted earlier, with Carys Reid and Abigail Weening going toe to toe for position. This week, Carys managed to fend off a tremendous attack from Abigail who finished only 2-seconds behind the winner. Leena Robinson occupied the final spot on the podium and was only trailing by an additional 17 seconds. There are certainly some exciting battles yet to come among this group.
Novice Men, however, saw results that reflect one simple word: Domination. Mackenzie Kemp put the boots to the field and wound up with a commanding 2+ minute lead over the field and was the only Novice rider to turn a sub-10 minute lap (9:55). Thiskind of time would put Mackenzie in a competitive position within the Junior Sport Men category provided he could maintain his blistering pace for an additional lap.
Along the blistering pace theme, Dave Knights showed the Master Expert field who was BOSS last night with a blazing 22.62km/h average speed. This was enough to give him an almost 30-second lead over Myles Cullen. Dave is, without question, having the season of his life this year and we expect more podium pictures from this weekend's upcoming Ontario Cup at Mansfield.
While this race report started with a focus on youth, one of the extraordinary things about this sport is that age really presents no barrier. Dave, for example, is a dramatically fitter, faster rider at 40+ than he was at 20. When you take of your body, your body will take care of you!
Next week we will have a new course laid out and we hope to continue building participation and delivering a fantastic experience. Please help spread the word!
Weather: 21°C, 64% humidity, sunny after a short late afternoon rain storm
Week 3 - May 14
At around 5pm on Wednesday afternoon - after having spent the day with my right-hand-man Nigel Read - marking, cutting, cleaning, and weed-whacking, I sent out a social media message via the usual channels proclaiming the conditions to be exceptionally good.
Which, at that time, they were. We had cleared mountains of pine needles from the new track we had opened, Nigel's new rock garden (with five truckloads of rocks!!!) was packed and groomed to perfection and we were generally quite proud of ourselves for the work accomplished.
For those of you who joined us last night, the next part of this story will come as no surprise. By the time 6pm rolled around, the skies had darkened, the temperature plummeted by more than 8 degrees, and the deluge had begun.
Murray Michalicka, Jon Weening, Bob Moritz, and Don Blue were all smiles and fist bumps post race - not to mention MUDDY!
Regardless of the inclement weather, more than 50 brave cyclists suited up for our second "double points night" of this young season and, as I remarked at the end of the evening, it never ceases to amaze me that I never see riders happier, swapping more harrowing stories, and revelling in the general chaos like we do on rainy nights.
There is something so primal, so fundamental, and so youthful about playing around in the mud with your friends that these are often the most rewarding rides of the season - despite the bike and clothes cleaning that necessarily ensues.
Given the conditions (and fearing a mutiny aboard the good ship Coulson), we reduced the lap count for this week's new short course by 1 across each category. Despite this reduction it was still a demanding eveing as the limited traction made cornering treacherous and the straights an excercise in carefully metered power. That said, conditions like these really highlight different rider skills.
Steve Prosser blazed to the lead on this night and walked away from his competitors seemingly unfazed by the deteriorating trails. Steve's tremendous experience and outstanding bike handling skills meant that he was not as encumbered as some of his competitors. Similarly, Jaxon Brennan had a very strong race and actually gave Steve his early series lead by making an impressive last lap pass on new-to-Coulson speedster Caleb Hellreich.
In the "whoops" category for the night, Mike Cowan and Paul Cooney went the wrong way at the start and had to do quick u-turns to catch onto the tail of the speeding Expert train. This seemed to take some wind out of the broad sails of Coach Cooney, but Mike Cowan fought all the way back to not only win his category but take a second place overall. What an extraordinary effort it took to correct the navigatioal error and then pick his way back to the field. Kudos, Mike!
Mar Andrew continued his winning ways in Senior Sport and now sits atop the series leaderboard after another strong finish. He was followed closely on this night by Nelson Papel who is getting faster week-to-week but still has some ground to make up on mighty Mar.
But the men weren't the only one getting down and dirty on this evening. Our Sport Women had a great battle on their (dirty) hands and Lisa Anne Berger managed to take back first place by fending off a determined Annie Nanowski. The gap seperating these two athletes was only 18 seconds and, given dry conditions, it's anyones race to win. This battle may shape up to be one of the more hard fought rivalries of the season and there looks to be lots of tight racing in store.
The Novice Men also have some fierce competition brewing as Damian Fleetwood and Mackenzie Kemp look poised to duke it out week-to-week. For the second week in a row, Damian has managed to eek out the win over Mackenzie but the margin of victory is very slim indeed - only 24 seconds - and I know Mackenzie wants that top spot from his younger rival. In an impressive showing within this same category, Matthew Jenkins made his debut in Novice having just moved up from Mini Me and proved his mettle by nailing a third place finish against a bunch of strong riders. Now that is a solid result for a new category!
Kerry Brennan, a long time Coulson Hill veteran (can you say that about an 11 year old?), marked her return to the series with a great effort against fellow youngster Carys Reid. While Kerry could not quite hold the pace against the super-motivated Carys on this night, once Kerry gets some more races into her legs I am sure there will be some very close races between these two strong, young women.
Next week we'll be running the same course but in balmy, sun-drenched conditions.
Pre-rides with pink unicorns and water bottles filled with beer have also been pre-ordered. We'll just have to wait and see how that goes. But I assure you, the conditions cannot possibly get more challenging than this!
Weather: 8°C, 93% humidity, the skies opened up! Moderately heavy rain, no active lightening/thunder.
Week 2 - May 7
If every Wednesday can be as good as this one, then we are bound to have one seriously amazing season. The weather, for once, was not the primary story. Instead, the stellar trail conditions and ridiculously fast course were the stars of this particular day - just the way it should be.
Jacob Goyette, in Team Spokes gear, leads the pack through the start/finish area
The others stars of this day were the demo bikes that the good folks at Norco had on hand for riders to race on for the evening. Riders like Dan Hope, whose regular rig is in dire straights, took to his loaner Norco Revolver hardtail like the proverbial duck to water. In fact, Dan blew me away by posting the nights fastest lap and besting Team Norco Pro Andrew Watson's best lap by almost 20 seconds. Whoever said "you can't buy speed" clearly hasn't ridden a new bike in a while.
In another exciting breakout performance, Jaxon Brennan demonstrated why he has earned a coveted sponsored position with Spoke O'Motion and hung on to Watson's wheel for most of the race and wound up trailing by only 33 seconds once the checkered flag had dropped. To give you some idea of just how blazing fast these riders are, the top average speeds wth over 30km/h! Most riders can't maintain that on speeds like that on a flat road while these incredible athletes deliver this speed through corners, trees, climbs and challenging terrain. Extraordinary!
In Junior Sport Men, we saw another dominating performance by Coulson newcomer Peter Wen who is clearing his field by almost 3-minutes. Methinks a category upgrade is in order! Congrats on your tremendous success, Peter!
The biggest weekly improvement this week belongs to Don Blue who rode a fantasic race and, while he could not reel in the category winner, Bob Moritz, did manage to climb from a fourth place finish in week one with a 66-second deficit, to a second place finish with only a 20-second gap to Bob. Bob had better keep his eyes on the prize should he hope to fend off the furious charge from an empassioned Mr. Blue.
Sprint finishes are always a crowd favourite and we had a bunch of tight finishes this week, but none tighter than the photo finish between Novice victor Robert Murphy and second place rider Mackenzie Kemp. These two battled it out all night and took the fight right to the line where mere inches seperated the two on a battle that could very well have gone either way.
The Novice women also witnessed the emergence of a fierce new rivalry when Carys Reid took an unusual second place finish against a hard-charging Annie Nanowski who rode an extraordinary race to take the win on her first visit to our series.
Our Mini-me category saw no shortage of tight racing action with lots of passing and leads changes throughout the race although the overwhelming strength of Emmeline Te Bokkel was too much for her adversaries to overcome. Looks like Emmeline will be moving to Novice, however, so the Mini-deck will be shuffled yet again.
As a general note, this season is shaping up in a very positive light. We have added more new blood to our ranks so far this year than we usually add in an entire season and our attendance this Wednesday was outstanding.
Mountain biking is alive and healthy and we are grateful that you all choose Spoke O'Motion to provide you with an outlet for your athletic enthusiasm. This is a core event to our identity and we are grateful that the community responds so positively year after year. We have run this series, and maintained this forest, for nearly 20 years now and neither have been healthier than they are right now. Thanks to YOU!
Next week, new course! Come early to pre-ride and get an advantage over your opponents.
Weather: 13°C, 35% humidity, sunny, clear skies, perfect trails
Week 1 - April 30
Despite this weeks weather delivering nothing but prodigious precipitation, nothing could dampen the spirits of the 53 foolhardy brave souls that ventured into the misty night to let loose their pent-up passion for pedalling.
And let loose they did! While most riders shivered through our opening announcements, once underway there were no second thoughts about the temperature or weather.
Early in the afternoon, I had Tweeted and Facebooked a current condition report from the trailside and, when some nameless rider arrived at the registration booth, they had the nerve to suggest I was milking the truth in order to get people to come. Would I ever do such a thing? ;)
The reality of the trail conditions mirrored my favourable posts. The trails offered tremendous traction, good speed, and were raked and groomed to perfection - just the way we like it! There was barely a puddle to be found and just as little mud. Believe me when I say this surprised me as much as it did our participants. With the spring we have had thusfar, I was anticipating a much less drivetrain-friendly experience.
Needless to say, between the months of being cooped up indoors, the stellar trails, and the excitement of the season opneing race, the action was intense.
For the first time in his Coulson Hill racing history, Mike Cowan took the overall win besting the likes of the mighty Steve Prosser and blazing fast newcomer Kaleb Hellreich. Mike and Kaleb battled down to the last straightaway with the final gap a mere 4 seconds. Right from the get-go, this season is looking to deliver some thrilling action for riders and spectators alike.
Interestingly enough, Mr. Cowan has also recently come under the tutelage of Team Spokes coach, Paul Cooney. This certainly suggests some causality between quality coaching and outcomes - although Mike ultaimtely has to do the hard work to reap the rewards.
Steve Prosser, meanwhile, had nothing but positive things to say about Kaleb's performance. "That kid is fast!", offered Steve while reflected on the night's happenings.
In other news of youth and the development of speed, Connor Irving and Brandon Wright also both delivered strong races competing against riders with years more experience and thousands more miles burnt into their muscle memory. These young rippers are the future - and it's coming fast.
But the magic doesn't belong exclusively to the young. In what was also the strongest race of his career, Dave Knights was able to hold onto to Mike Cowan's wheel and only lost by a 20-second deficit. This is simply extraordinary given Mike's early season form.
Next week, under hopefully more favourable conditions, I'm sure there will be even more grins, more stories, and more dirt shredded all in the name of grassroots cycling. And, if you came out and had fun, please help spread the word!
Here's an alternate account from one of our regulars, Mike Drukarsh.
PS: The first one to email me the number of "p"s in the first paragraph get 10 bonus points.
Don't miss May 7th: It's our Norco Demo Day!
Weather: 8°C, 93% humidity, wet and cold - but fun!