Week 20 - September 7
If one is looking for a single theme in the narrative of our series this year, redemption leaps to mind. This is reflected as clearly in the results from our championship race as it is in the state of the forest itself.
When the first pictures emerged cataloging the state of destruction due to the thinning of the forest, many threw their hands into the air and were prepared to consider the Hodgson Tract of Simcoe Regional Forest permanently erased -and for good reason.
The trail network - 20 years in the making - was erased over a 6-week span
Admittedly, it was heartbreaking to see many years of hard, physical labour reduced to kindling in such a mechanically efficient and ruthless manner. Sections of the forest were clear cut entirely rendering them unrecognizable and what trails were left were no only unnavigable but almost invisible under thousands of pounds of fallen trees and debris from the logging process.
But the eventual reality proved to be much more positive than the bleak outlook promised.
One or two trees were removed...
As word spread of the "disaster" that was Coulson's Hill, we assembled a veritable army of volunteers that came equipped with chain saws, shovels, rakes, and plenty of determination. Over the course of several organized trail maintenance days, we cut, raked, dragged, cleared and cleaned enough trail to begin the season. This extraordinary story speaks volumes about the commitment of the cycling community and how, in our darkest hour, we came together to work our butts off for the broader good.
On the best of these days, we had not a handful of volunteers but more than a dozen. Without the tremendous work of our volunteers, it's quite simple: Coulson would be no more. In my 20 years of maintaining trails, I have never seen such a strong response to a call for help and I remain indebted to all of you who came to the forest to give back to the community and lay the groundwork for another generation of riders to follow. It was an inspirational turnaround from a dire sitiuation.
Further to this, the forest trails were not merely recovered. In several sections, entirely new - and entirely epic - sections of singletrack were hewn from the remnants. A huge thank you has to be offered to Chris Reid and Ray Hawkins who were instrumental in building some of the best pieces of singletrack to ever grace Coulson Hill. Nigel's Re-turn and Log-a-rythm are surely some of the most interesting tracks in the province - absolutely incredible!
Therein lies the redemption: Coulson is not only "back" as an arrow in the cycling community's quiver of great local trails, but it is more interesting, more challenging, better groomed, and more fun for racing than ever before.
But there was also redemption on the race course last night as riders anxiously prepared for the season-closer and looked to make moves on the Championship points race.
Felicia Fleetwood is prepared to destroy Dustin Sampson - who doesn't seem to take the threat seriously
As usual, the deepest category in the entire race was our amazing Mini-Me crew. The stakes were very high heading into the final race with Alex Sampson absolutely desperate to take the wind out of Julia Smith's sails in an effort to cinch the overall championship.
Last week Alex suffered a crash that saw him finish relatively low in the standings. Julia took the win with a very smooth race and this positioned her to snatch the overall championship from Alex's grasp depending entirely on how this race went down. Bottom line: Alex needed an outright victory to claim the title. Anything less and Julia would be crowned the Queen of '16.
Alex was focussed and hungry. He wanted to get the job done!
As the two competitors crossed the line heading out for their second lap, Julia held a narrow 2-second gap over Alex and it was obvious to all involved that it was going to be a tough fight to the finish. These two riders are neck and neck on the best of days and each has unique strengths that come into play on different sections of the course. While queing up for the ultimate showdown, however, it was Julia's turn to taste some dirt in an unexpected spill. This allowed Alex to stomp on by and ride himself to a hard-earned victory and cinch the overall Championship in the process.
Even though Julia couldn't get the win on this night - she's still a champion to us!
Another rider on fire last night was Emmeline Te Bokkel. While always strong - and always substially ahead of her field - it was an absolute treat to watch Emmeline and Trevor Anderson duke it out as they flew to the finish line in an all-out sprint. When it comes to racing, it never seems to matter what category you are in - it only matters that you win the battle. From 100 meters out both of these riders hit Vmax and dug as deep as their hearts, minds, and legs would allow in an effort to make a statement to cap off their exciting seasons.
While Trevor won by inches, it is unlikely he rode away unscathed as Emmeline demonstrated clearly that she was in it to win it. Next year, Emmeline will be moving into the Junior Sport Men category in an effort to give her more competition and ensure her continued development. This young lady is a weapon!
Speaking of ladies tearing up the course last night, there was also a thrilling showdown between Tessa Brinkow and Carys Reid. Tessa may be in her rookie season but she has consistently demonstrated the poise and consistency of a seasoned veteran. Carys, on the other hand, is a seasoned veteran with hundreds of races under her belt.
Carys pulled out all the stops to fend off the ever-improving Tessa Brinklow
One lap into the race, Tessa was riding on a slim 2-second lead and looked composed as the two riders passed by the timing tent. On lap two, however, Carys launched her attack and made a move that left Tessa 12-second in arrears as they struck out on their last lap of the season. Clearly, Tessa reads the race reports as she didn't give up for a second and rode identical lap times through laps 2 and 3. Carys was marginally slower on her last lap and the two riders hit the finish only 3-seconds apart. A courageous finish for both riders and a fine way to bookend the season.
Not to be outdone by his daughter, Chris Reid also did his best impression of a pro rider by capping off his season with another victory - his 14th of the season. With Mike Ceolin still smarting after a nasty crash on August 28th, Chris flew to the finish unchallenged but possesses the discipline to give it his all with every turn of the crank whether there is someone on his wheel or not.
Mr. Reid is a "grand master" in every sense of the word: A community leader, a diligent volunteer,
a supportive cycling dad, a master trail builder...and a MACHINE on the bike.
In an earlier race report, we spent time marvelling at the strength and fitness of Don Kemp (who was incorrectly reported as 62 years old but actually just turned 70!). In Chris we find another inspirational story about the power of sport to keep you forever young - just don't ask his knees to agree with that statement!
Moving on down the age categories and into Master Sport, this race delivered another ultimate showdown dictating championship standings. The showdown was between Ryan Primmett and Trevor Peyton. Last week, Ryan's race ended as quickly as it began when his chain exploded at the starting line and took with it any chance he had to make some points gains in the overall standings where he sat in second place but within striking distance of the top spot.
Trevor, on the other hand, was quite alright with Ryan's mechanical failure as this allowed him an opportunity to further strengthen his position as the series leader. As the two sat at the starting line, their cool demeanours hid from view the internal turmoil that bubbles under the surface of any competitive rider. The wild card in the deck was Mark McArthur whose attendance is less consistent than his stellar race performances. He is a threat whenever he shows up to the starting line.
With the first lap in the books, it was Mark that commanded the lead with a smoking fast performance. The pace he set was, however, unsustainable and Ryan took the lead on the second lap. Mr. Peyton never lost sight of the two leaders and was only 6-seconds behind after two laps. With the end in sight and his competition in the rearview, Ryan cranked up the afterburners, delivered a debilitating last lap to his competitors, and powered his way to a victory. The points gained also hurtled Ryan past Trevor in the championship points and was a poignant way to cap off a season of fantastic race course battles.
There we have it: More redemption. Ryan Primmett stole the show, the victory, and the championship!
Onto the "young 'un" world of Senior Sport men, where Justin Wright - a racing rookie - surprised himself with an absolutely perfect attendance record this year. Combine regular attendance with some very strong results and you have yourself a compelling run for the championship. This is exactly where Justin found himself over the latter half of the season. Unfortunately for him, Adam Pevcevicius had his sights set firmly on the same prize. Much like in the Mini-Me category, this was a do-or-die for the top seeded rider.
However, there was another altogether unknown quantity in this race to throw all expecttion out of the window. James Hilverda joined us for the first time (as we are the last weekly series going) and added another exciting element to this championship - uncertainty.
James and his good friend Mackenzie Kemp turned in ridiculously fast times on the first lap and rode wheel-to-wheel - which killed Mackenzie for the rest of the race but was wickedly entertaining to watch. Mackenzie clearly has some serious speed potential!
Riding from third and fourth place, respectively, Adam and Justin rode a more restrained first lap and waited until lap two to light the wick. In a bold move intended to beat Adam into submission, Justin put his whole season on the line and completely obliterated Adam's lap time by 40 seconds. It would have been a great plan...if Justin hadn't completely blown the wheels off of the wagon. On lap three, Justin had nothing left to give and turned in a 2-minute positive split. Adam, who rode a more composed second lap and managed to ignore Justin's provocations to implosion, proved that consistency wins the day and, with his second place finish, snatched the series championship from under Justin's nose. I imagine that we will see some more fireworks here in 2017 - this isn't over yet.
Adam had his "tortoise and the hare" moment. Consistency is king!
There were several newsworthy sprint finishes last night but none more dramatic than that between Expert rider Kyle Rae and Master Expert Paul Cooney. Both of these riders qualify as some of the fastest and most capable racers in the province and, when on their game, will deliver a show to delight and bedazzle anyone. Typically, Coach Cooney will play from a stronger hand and leave Kyle to capitalize on whatever small errors he can. However, fitness notwithstanding, Kyle is a master bike handler - one of the best I've ever seen - and he'll make you pay for any slight deviation from the ideal line.
The performance of Kyle on this night is the stuff of legends. A story he will share with his children (Lindsay?). A story that will go down in the annals of Canadian cycling history. Alright...that may be a little much. But only a little!
Paul set the tone early with a blistering first lap that created a 21-second gap between the two competitors. On the race course, a gap like that after a single lap might as well be an eternity. "Out of sight, out of mind," as they say. On the next lap, Paul slowed appreciably and Kyle clawed back 6 hard fought seconds. Lap three: These guys are so well matched and so motivated, they spun the exact same time.
Kyle found not just another gear - but another heart and pair of legs. What a performance!
With a 15-second deficit to overcome, Kyle passed the timing tent heading out for lap four looking strong, focussed and confident. Many cheered him on as people seemed to sense that we were on the verge of a very special performance.
11 minutes and 27 seconds later, Paul emerged from the forest a couple of feet ahead of Kyle and then the fireworks exploded. With complete and utter commitment to the cause, Paul and Kyle put every ounce of their being into their pedal strokes and crushed their way to the line at a furious pace. With a final ferocious bellow, Kyle ducked his bars a little to the left, made room to squeeze by Paul and took another ten power strokes to cruise through the finish line ahead of the almost-unbeatable Paul. This spirit and passion is exactly what makes cycling such a profoundly beautiful sport - it was an exceptional moment.
Last but not least, I have to offer a shoutout to our youngest participants. The youngest rider we had out this year, Clair Briggs was only four years old and on a run bike. Ryder Cullen, at 5 years old, participated in 14 races. These young rippers represent the future of our sport and I am bursting with pride that Spoke O'Motion has, without question, the highest participation rate of young riders anywhere.
Our hope is that these young riders are encouraged, cheered, celebrated, and inspired to a life filled with the love of sport and the joy of competition. With any luck, in ten years time we will still be writing about these "kids" and about how they are now chasing their Olympic dreams.
After all, that's what grassroots cycling is all about and we've built a few champions before. :)
Very young riders (like Ryder Cullen) bring joy and enthusiasm to the sport. More, please!
We will be holding our annual Awards Banquet at Boston Pizza on Wednesday, September 28th. This is always a fantastic way to cap off the season, swap some fishing stories, and moan about the one that got away.
Come and hang out (without lycra) at our annual celebration of everything that's great about grassroots cycling. The lucky champions will leave with some shiny medals and some fantastic prizes. Things get underway at 6pm and awards will be given out at 8pm.
Thanks everyone for making this season so incredible - we are honoured and thrilled to have you share your time and energy with us week after week. We do it for YOU!
Thanks also to Doug Brennan for coming out week after week to capture all of the awesome images in our photo galleries. Greatly appreciated by everyone!
Weather: 25°C, 79% humidity - muggy & smoking hot
Week 19 - August 31
There is never a dull moment at Coulson's Hill and the action last night was infinitely hotter than the cooling weather. The beauty of the reduced temperatures, of course, was that one could push themselves even further without melting in the intense heat we have endured for most of the 2016 season.
But while heart rates soared higher than the mercury on this night, the racing action reached even greater heights. Several riders were able to use this night to lock in their podium positions for the season and several more now stand poised for either big comebacks or even bigger upsets.
In the "locking it down" camp stands Dave Knights who hammered away another victory last night and looks to have successfully fended off the hard charging Matt Saunders. Now it's not entirely put to bed as Dave still has to actually finish next week and not DNF to ensure his absolute Master Expert victory but the odds are certainly in his favour.
That said, Dave's victory last night was, for once, not a lock. On the first lap, the usual crew exploded off the front of the field. Dave, Sean Mahoney, Brandon Wright, Kyle Rae, and I (Myles Cullen) set a tough tempo and the gang stayed together through mucvh of the first lap. Once the goping got tough, however, the tough got going and I dropped off the back once gravity was no longer working in my favour.
While I was able to keep these cycle-savages in sight for a time, the four rode off into the sunset and left me alone to contemplate the meaning of existence and the reasons behind my growing belly. Beyond this self-effacing truth lay my usual motivation: In discussing race prep and strategy with Seamus Cullen before we got underway, I repeatedly emphasized the importance not of racing to the competition but to focus on delivering everything you have within yourself with every pedal stroke, through every corner, and through each lap.
Victory lies not necessarily in absolute placement but in the knowledge that you did everything possible to race the best race you could. This is not just a pleasantry to bolster the confidence of someone who cannot, on a given occasion, win. In sharing this with Seamus, I hope he understands that our entire life journey can be viewed from this perspective. Regardless of how you make out in any particular endeavour, if you can lookyourself in the mirror and know with certainty that out forth your best, you will sleep the slumber of a satisfied. This is the root of self-respect and self-confidence and, I'd argue further, the "other" - that against which you may measure yourself - is not a factor in the equation at all.
But enough philosophy, already! Jeesh. Point being, while I had hoped to hang tight with the fastest riders in town, in accordance with my own mission for Seamus, the job was to simply bear down and turn the best laps I had in me.
As it turns out, 2.5 laps in when crossing the long bridge that parallels Highway 400 I caught sight of a single rider just about to turn into the forest ahead. Dressed in black with a bright blue bike, I instantly recognized Kyle Rae and understood that he must have blown himself up trying to hang on to the feverish pace set by Sean, Brandon, and Dave. Digging deeper I caught Kyle on the rooty ascent and eventually made my pass.
It turns out that my "catch" was good for us both as Kyle found his second wind and clung to my wheel for the remainder of the race (until he decided to blow my doors off with 400m to go!). But even more magic happened on the fourth lap: Kyle had been encouraging me to find another gear as, he claimed, Dave was just ahead. Unsure if this was true or just motivational talk, I kept the hammer down and was rather shocked with we caiught sight of Dave with 1.5km or so to go to the finish.
This is the closest I had been all year to reeling Dave in and - believe me - I gave it everything I had over that last half lap to close the gap. While it was inevitably not enough and Dave beat me to the line by about 15 seconds, I certainly slept soundly after the race.
A VIDEO OF THE FIRST 1.5 LAPS WILL BE POSTED SHORTLY - UPLOADING NOW!
Sean Mahoney had a similar revelatory race and Brandon was unable to shake him from his wheel after more than 45 minutes of racing. It was a sprint finish for the outright victory - an experience somewhat uncommon for Brandon this season and he certainly earned his victory! Close finishes were the status quo this week.
Another great example of the quality of competition at Coulson can be seen in the Junior Sport category. This is another shining example of the power of community involvement when one considers that five years ago, there were no riders participating under 12 years old - there was no category at all - and only a few teenagers raced. Now, the Mini Me category is the largest in the series and our Junior ranks are blowing up impressively. On this night, the field was deep enough and skilled enough that we had four riders competing furiously for the podium positions.
The race was won, for the second week in a row by ther super-fast newcomer Stephenson Hillock by a margin of only nine seconds. While Stephenson lead from the start and established a dtrong lead after the first lap, the chase trio of Luke Knights, Clay Te Bokkel, and Matthew Deangelis rode solid splits and never lost sight of the leader. Even more exciting, the chase group all sprinted to the line and finished only inches apart. The top riders in this category are so closely matched that next week - with a new and decidedly technical course on the way - it wil be anyone's game to win.
The women are never to be left out of the action and Emmeline Te Bokkel rode with a stellar race and posted another victory to remind racing newcomer Tessa Brinklow that first place is hers to defend. In Emmeline's absence last week, Tessa rushed to a the finish line first to score a solid Sport Women victory against the ever-present Carys Reid. While the standing don't look to be budging in this tight field of competitors, they certainly don't leave any race up from grabs after the starting gun sounds.
With one race left on the calendar, next week remains a "do or day" for many but there is, perhaps, no greater battle left than that for the Mini-Me championship. With her victory this week, Julia Smith has pulled within striking distance of snatching the top podium position away from Alex Sampson. the math will break down as simply as this: Whoever wins next week between these two is the champ. It's a pure race between two riders for the ultimate prize.
We are poised for one of the most exciting championship races in many years with lots on the line for many racers and our participation is certain to be super high as most other series have already called it quits. Next week will be the ultimate expression of what grassroots racing is all about.
It's going to be an amazing evening - don't miss it!
Weather: 20°C, 60% humidity - perfect weather!
Week 18 - August 24
Before delving into our detailed race analysis, allow me to correct an oversight that cannot go unmentioned: As we got underway with our podium announcements at the end of the night, the occasion was preceded with a shout-out to Brandon Wright in recognition of his outstanding accomplishment this past weekend at the Ontario Cup race in Elliot Lake - a five hour drive north. For the first time in his career, he made the Expert podium. All of his hard work for the past few years is really starting to pay dividends - what an exciting and rewarding thing to see!
Carys Reid also nailed a podium finish on the incredibly demanding Elliot Lake O' Cup race - CONGRATS!
As exciting as Brandon's finish was, however, he was not the only rider flying the Spoke O'Motion flag from the hallowed podium. Carys Reid ate up the challenging, rugged terrain of the northern Ontario course and was completely unfazed by the nasty, rocky descents and lung-busting climbs. In so doing, she also earned herself a podium position with a solid third place finish and certainly had time to relish her success over the long trip home. Congratulations to all of the Team Spokes riders that made the voyage and did us all so proud!
On the topic of legends and superstars, Carys and Brandon weren't the only ones in attendance this week. We had guest appearances by two of Canada's top athletes, Ed Veal and Andrew Watson. The night was looking ripe for excitement when Andrew rolled up and Brandon Wright certainly knew that there could be no "cruising" to victory this time around. Mere moments later, out pops Ed with his (now grown up) son Evan. Now, not only Brandon was on notice. Now we had a heavyweight bout of epic proportions on our hands.
"Andrew is here? Damn...now I gotta race," said Ed before we got started. And race we did.
Ed certainly brings the big guns to the fight: As it stands, Ed is currently the Canadian Hour record holder so he knows a thing or two managing intense suffering while outputting huge power. Andrew, on the other hand, brings his stunning bike handling skills and consistent power to the battle and can hold a steady pace that will whittle away one's will to live within a few hundred strokes of the crank.
As it turns out, when it comes to messing about in the dirt, the road-focussed Mr. Veal just couldn't handle the ferocious pace set out by Andrew. It is very likely that Andrew felt the weight of the entire mountain bike community bearing down on his shoulders as he looked to defend MTB honour against the roadie invasion. First we have Peter Sagan racing mountain in the Olympics, and now this! All joking aside, thanks to both of the gentlemen for joining us for another exciting race.
Andrew eats roadies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (They're not very filling.)
Often in these pages the future of our current crop of riders is pondered and the question is posed: Are Canada's next superstars here right now? The proof is in the pudding. Both Andrew and Ed cut their chops racing and riding with us at Coulson Hill. Consider the influence these riders now yield and the thousands upon thousands of rider's lives they have impacted in profound ways. Consider also the kids - and adults - they have inspired to push themselves through the pain, through the hard work, through the bumps and bruises, and onto the best possible version of themselves.
Ed's post on Strava after the race
While our popular culture puts movie stars and pop singers onto pedestals of idolatry, few people affect changes in people's lives like grassroots athletes. These are the people we should look up to and aspire to emulate. These are the people who improve the lives of those around them. That these two modern heroes can both attribute some of their success to what we do here at Spoke O'Motion is a part of our legacy that brings me immense pride.
By extension, every one of the people touched by Ed and Andrew has been touched by the passion delivered by Spoke O'Motion. When we write the tagline - we are grassroots cycling - it is much more than a cute quote to indentify our store. It's a philosophy, a mantra, a way of interacting with the world around us.
But the story of Andrew and Ed was from from the only story of the evening. In some of our most tightly contested categories, the finishes were ridiculously close as riders put everything on the line in an effort to score as many late season points as possible.
Adam Pevcevicius has been almost unstoppable this year - on his way to another victory!
In the Senior Sport categrory, the whole podium was seperated by only 4 seconds! While Justin Wright has enjoyed immense success this season - his first of committed racing - the return of Chad Madaleno added another element to the battle that typically revolves around Justin and Adam Pevcevicius. With respect to pacing, Justin rode a masterful race and posted progressively faster laps every time he passed the timing tent.
Even more impressive, Justin clearly never lost motivation despite being well down after the first lap. He fought back valliantly and, by the third lap, had clawed his way back onto the wheel of Chad and Adam. But as the trio flew to the finish line, no one was able to take down Adam and knock him from the top podium position. But joy is ultimately found in the fight regardless of the outcome. (Although winning always feels better.)
Similarly, in the Mini-Me category - always our fullest group - Julia Smith continued her winning ways as she rolled to the line with Alex Sampson and Seamus Cullen hot on her heels. With only 170ish points seperating the entire Mini-Me championship podiums, don't think for a second that anything is set in stone.
As we wind our way towards the completion of our 2016 series, the only thing certain is that we are sure the miss the action once the season is done. Don't miss the last two races!
Weather: 23°C, 57% humidity - gorgeous
Week 17 - August 17
It had to happen. Eventually, despite a record-smashing summer of heat, humidity, and absolutely zero rainfall, the rain had to come. While we saw nothing like to torrential downpours of Tuesday, our Wednesday race prep consisted mostly of digging trenches to divert water trapped in puddles on the fire road to the finish. Episodic rain continued to moisten the trails through a few short spells but the weather was mostly (and surprisingly) cooperative.
Manu the trail dog leads out the Expert field. Some epic passes were on display, but he may have cut a few corners!
Due to the ongoing rainfall during the afternoon, the decision was made quite early to make the event a "double points" night. Occasions like this happen when we need to reward the brave souls who choose to come and race despite the inevitable task of extensive bike (and body!) cleaning. With the Championship Points race drawing to its conclusion, a double points night like this can have a profound impact on the final standings.
Mountain biking is a sport built around challenging yourself, the terrain, and your hardware and nowhere is this more clearly highlighted than in challenging conditions. In a surprising turn of events, however, the conditions proved far more favourable than anticipated and it probably wasn't really worthy of a double points call. But once it's posted online - as we shared to both Instagram and Facebook - it's irrevocable fact. After all, everything on the internet is true. How else would it get there?
Rather than the rainfall turning the venue into a sloppy, slippery mud-fest the corners actually delivered exceptional traction and, for one of the only rides of the season, we were freed from flying half-blind through inpenetrable clouds of dust. Our eyes and lungs were thrilled and the bikes expressed their satisfaction by hooking up better than they have all year. Best of all: Bikes and riders alike left rather clean. Despite the nasty weather to the north, Coulson was blessed by cool air and merely overcast skies.
All of this goodness lead to the most important aspect of the night: Awesome racing action!
Maizy Morton experienced the first race of her life - and did great!
Maizy Morton had been bugging her Dad Thomas to join him in the racing action for some time and, by all reports, she is glad to have come out to experience the thrills of it all. But the Mini-Me performance story of the evening belongs to Seamus Cullen. He arrived with a plan and was eager to battle it out with his arch-rival Alex Sampson. Alex is a real powerhouse on the flats and Seamus has a difficult time holding his wheel on the straightaways but Seamus has a handling advantage through the tight, twisty singletrack. Without giving away too much raceday strategy, Seamus scouted the course beforehand and identified two key sections where he planned to make his move depending on how the race played out.
Seamus Cullen (238) pulls hard right from the start on his way to his second career victory
Unfortunately, neither option had a chance to be exercised as Alex had a crash that slowed him down temporarily. Seamus capitalized on the opportunity to take the lead and defended his position until the two crossed the finish line. Huge congrats to Seamus for his second win this season. These two are sure to keep fighting it out on the race course for years to come. Being a double-points night also worked out massively to Seamus' advantage - as did the absence of Logan Knights. Seamus now sits in third place in the Championship standings only five points behing Julia Smith. This series is anything but locked down!
Trevor Anderson delivered a season best performance with a second place finish
Trevor Anderson also had a breakthrough performance this week with his best result ever against a strong field. While Damian Fleetwood usually has Trevor in his rearview mirror, on this day Trevor rode a beautifully executed tactical race. Damian lead through the first two laps but never created a significant gap on the determined Mr. Anderson. Trevor's greatest asset through this race was one we have harped on regularly through these race reports: Consistency.
Instead of succumbing to the pressure of running a hotter pace than you can due to a competitor's tempo, Trevor kept his rival in sight but was mindful of running his own race. The gap between his fastest and slowest lap was only 27-seconds. Most importantly, where Damian's legs ran out of go-juice on their third lap Trevor had enough left in reserve left over to close the gap and make the pass when it mattered most. Well executed, Trevor! Don't worry...Damian knows what you are up to now and will be looking for revenge in just six more days.
Paul Boken rode his strongest race of the season and put his competitors on notice
It what seems like a week chock full of standout performances, another rider that deserves special mention is Paul Boken. Aside from his general improvement this season - demonstrating by far the best form we have seen after many years at Coulson - this race demonstrated that Paul has the potential to mix it up with the best riders in the Expert field.
There was a trio of Expert riders battling for the podium on this night. Sean Mahoney, Jeff Desroches, and Paul Boken are typically pretty tightly spaced but the final outcome is usually consistent. On this night, however, Paul found an extra gear and some impressive grit and he battled back from fourth place after the first lap. Jeff was the first rider to find himself in Paul's sights and Paul clung to his wheel until he found just the right moment to make his move.
And when that move was made, Jeff could not respond in kind. Paul produced a blazing fast fourth lap with a big negative split that saw him chasing down Sean Mahoney on the final straight heading to the finish line. Finishing only two seconds back from Sean is an accomplishment on any night and the manner in which Paul fought back from a tough position, made convincing passes, and then offered a challenge at the line is an impressive accomplishment indeed.
Aaron Wright REALLY wants a Championship podium spot
The Junior Sport riders saw a tumultuous reordering of the typical results this week and Aaron Wright was there to take advantage of the double points with another strong, consistent finish. Unfortunately, Levi Te Bokkel did not have a good night with an uncharacteristic 8th place finish. This, combined with Aaron's 4th, has brought the Championship points battle to a thrilling crescendo. These two are only seperated by 13 points and this battle can really go either way. While Clay Te Bokkel certainly has the Championship locked up in this category, the balance of the podium is up for grabs and the competition ferocious.
Even if you don't usually don't read through the Championship Points in detail, you should really check out just how tight many of these battles are. Master Expert is currently seperated by a single point (I bet Matt Saunders is wishig he came last night!), Junior Sport is up for grabs, Mini-Me is hotly contested...
The most important races of the season are yet to come! Make sure you don't miss the last three races of the season and good luck to everyone as we blast towards the finish line of the 2016 race season.
Weather: 21°C, 88% humidity - super tacky & dry trails, slight drizzle
Week 16 - August 10
The key to the heat is to never stop riding. When blowing through the trails at a healthy clip, the breeze passing through our incredible cycling clothing and aero helmets provides a surprisingly comfortable experience despite our desert-like conditions in 2016. The key, of course, is not to stop. Once you stop in weather like this, the taps turn on and your body starts dropping water faster than Matt Saunders dropped me on a climb this week. (That's pretty fast, in case you were wondering.)
Matt Saunders is on fire this year! His climbing is beyond tough to counter.
This week we delivered a fast, flowy course that, while long, totally avoided technical sections and delivered speed, speed, and more speed. It's 4.2km length took riders for several south-to-north tours and covered a great deal of forest without getting mired down in the tighter bits of singletrack. The sections that brought riders north delivered high-speed apex-to-apex carving that was a bike handlers dream. As an added bonus, there was only one significant hill.
That hill, however, was certainly enough to put a chink into my armour. After creating a healthy gap on Matt Saunders on the descent on lap 2, Matt saw my rhythm stutter for a moment as I paused to draw from my water bottle. While Matt had planned to launch this attack on the third or fourth lap, he recognized a good opportunity when he saw one and launched a furious charge up the central fireroad from the lowest point on the race course.
By the time Matt came abreast of my bike, he head such a head of steam that any kind of counter attack seemed futile. In hopes that he had launched too hard, too early I took a few more measured strokes, saw Matt's gap open up to about 20 metres, and then began my counter. The intent was to crest the hill as Matt let up and then come around him at a pace high enough to discourage any response.
Unfortunately for me, my legs were not consulted on the viability of this plan before it was hatched. Within 5 meters of making the catch the tank had run dry and there was nothing further my body could offer regardless of what my mind asked for. Moments later, the mind joined the legs in the strike mandate and Matt rode on to snare a second place finish.
Aside from Matt's powerhouse performances this year, another rider tearing up the course this season is Adam Pevcevicius. The Senior Sport categort has seen lots of action this year and Justin Wright has a commanding spot on the podium thanks to his consistently solid performances. But on this night the battle being waged was that between Adam and a strongly resurgent Blake Fick.
Adam Pevcevicius tore up the course last night with a 13:34 first lap.
The stage was set when Adam ripped a searing first lap and appeared absolutely untouchable in his field. But Blake either didn't read the memo or simply didn't care. While he couldn't put forth the single lap speeds that Adam threw down, his consistency kept him firmly in the hunt for the top spot. The brightest spot in Blake's performance came on his last lap when he turned a significant negative split and erased 24 seconds of Adam's lead.
On this night, Adam still reigned supreme but he should be kept awake at night by the spectre of a looming Blake attack. The good news is that we only have to wait until next week to see the rematch.
Another thing that we love to celebrate at Coulson is our diversity. We spill a lot of virtual ink on our little rippers in the Mini Me category - and the racing there was fantastic as always - but we also draw some inspiring veterans to round out our ranks.
Don Kemp and his partner Leena Robinson are AWESOME!
Don Kemp and Leena Robinson represent the magic that cycling puts in the palm of your hands. For millenia, people have searched for the fountain of youth, looked high and low for ways to maintain a youthful vigour, and chased dreams sold by profiteers promising eternal life. Yet for all the money to be made, the snake oil to be consumed, the trends that come and go, the most effective answer is the simplest: Excercise your passions - and make exercise your passion!
Don celebrated his 62nd birthday a couple of weeks back and always hammers through ourn courses - no matter how hard, how long, or how hot - with a smilel on his lips and a sparkle in his eyes. That sparkle might be because he also gets to share his passion with his dear wife Leena who, while a few years Don's junior, manages to approach cycling with the same gusto as Don. This woman is a powerhouse on the road and in the dirt and manages to do it all with neverending good natured enthusiasm.
Parking lot fund: Thanks to everyone that threw their change into our bucket for our parking lot fund. We are out of pocket about $400 to get the tree stumps removed from the area that has become our new parking lot. The grading work was generously donated by Jon Weening and the clean fill was donated by the crew responsible for the bridge building project. As any of you who have considered any kind of landscaping/construction project can attest, a $400 bill for a complete parking lot is exceptionally inexpensive. That said, we are requesting that anyone that could throw a couple of dollars into the hat for the next few weeks at Coulson please consider doing so. We build these trails for the community and we are certain the community sees value in the work. Please help out if you can!
Weather: 29°C, 43% humidity - holy hot Batman!
Week 15 - August 3
Two weeks ago from the Coulson Hill fold seems like an eternity - maybe "bike years" are somewhat akin to "dog years" in that regard - and it's a thrill to return to the heat of competition. Huge kudos to my dear wife Kelly, the whole Wright family, Mike Ceolin, Sean Mahoney and everyone else who helped keep the series running like a finely tuned Swiss watch in my absence. In the truest sense of the word community we are all there to support each other when the call goes out - thanks to every one of you!
The Coulson Hill family - all smiles before the suffering!
This was a special week for us at the Hill as we ran our annual Team Time Trial. The only mountain bike race of it's type in Canada, this race partners two people together and sends them out on a criterium style race course - a rounded rectangle with no singletrack and tons pf space for passing. The two riders do not need to stay together, but the results are determined by the combined lap total and time of both competitors. So, in effect, everyone is depending on someone else to give it their best and never give up.
It has been written in these reports before, but there are lots of invaluable life lessons tucked away into sport and, by extension, our race series. Case in point: We are always counting on those around us and everyone brings something to the table - the important thing is that we all contribute to the best of our abilities.
The Graham boys demonstrating the meaning of TEAM
Many participants also manage to ride this event in family teams and this year was no different. We had many father-child collaborations like Chris and Simon Graham (pictured above), Ryan and Miya Primmett, Dustin and Kaiden Sampson, Dave and Logan Knights, and Myles and Ryder Cullen. From duos like these, one can certainly see that cycling is a family sport like few others. It's pretty certain that there won't be too many parent-child hockey tournaments any time soon. Few sports deliver such an inclusive and family-focussed experience and this is one of the many amazing aspects of our chosen endeavour.
The LeMans start has gained legendary, but controversial, status.
It's also filled with laughter but cyclists often hate running!
The LeMans style start is another unique aspect to our Team Time Trial that often gets mouths flapping. All of our bikes are laid on the sarting "grid" and then riders (runners?) must complete a few meters of trail running through some single track before finding, mounting, and pedalling away on their two-wheeled steeds. It is always a little chaotic as riders stomp their way through the trails clad in lycra and stiff-soled cycling shoes. But whenever you catch a glimpse of competitors faces you see smiles from ear to ear and hear whoops of joy as we wind our way through the trails.
The freight train barrels up the fire road towards the start/finish area
By the time the race is underway in earnest, the Experts have picked their way through the field and the procession has begun. The most effective riders on this day manage their timing to squeeze in an extra lap on their competitors in an effort to push their team into the top spots. As the fastest riders are paired with the least experienced riders, there really is no way to predict the outcome and many new faces have an opportunity to hit the podium.
Kaiden Sampson dropped his dad Dustin after the third lap
Especially impressive this year were our Mini-Me riders. Bear in mind that they are typically used to riding for 25-30 minutes. On this night, they are asked to give it their all for up to 45 minutes. Last year our yougest riders completed only a couple of laps each. This year, those same riders completed as many as 7 laps! The newcomers that filled their previous roles as the youngest in the crew completed a minimum of 5 laps each. It's beyond impressive that little 5-year-old tykes like Kaiden Sampson and Ryder Cullen held down the teams for their poor, aging dads.
Needless to say, good times and fun memories were created for all and it is no wonder that this event is one of the highlights of our racing season. The cameraderie, the teamwork, the exciting passing action all combine to make this a memorable evening.
Next week we return to our traditional format but we will be tapering the course length to accomodate our shrinking days as we begin our slow march towards autumn. Did I just say that? Man, oh, man time flies when you're having fun!
Don't forget Ray's BBQ and ride this Sunday!
Weather: 28°C, 40% humidity
Week 14 - July 27
Race Report courtesy of Nigel Read:
Big news for the Cullen family tonight: Seamus Cullen was finally able to nail down the first win of his young career! He’s had his eye on the prize all year and has come oh-so-close several times during some epic battles with Julia Smith, Alex Sampson, and Logan Knights but on this night he held it together and made all the right moves to secure the victory. Congratulations Seamus!
It was a bit of a shame that Myles couldn’t have been present for his son’s first victory, but rumour has it that he’s still trying to track down his luggage from the Vancouver trip. Apparently he’s in Utah this week and getting close. Turns out it’s a good thing Brandon didn’t give away Myles’ bike as a draw prize last week as a very powerful lobby advocated for. That, coupled with the luggage thing, would have sent the poor guy over the edge - stuck in Utah of all places. Tsk tsk.
So... it was a hot and extremely muggy night for racing, but the course was in near perfect condition, with just a little dust in spots. We ran last week’s course backwards, and I, for one, enjoyed it immensely. The experts may have enjoyed it slightly less, as they had a very tricky climb at the north end that the rest of us were spared. I heard no complaints however, just positive comments.
Next week looks to be the annual running of the ever popular Team Time Trial. Most riders consider this to be the most fun ride of the year, so be sure to come out and don’t miss it! Two riders per team, riding at the same time (it’s not a relay), and their combined lap total determines their finishing position.
Teams are created by pairing the year’s fastest rider (Brandon Wright), with the year’s slowest rider (me); then the second fastest with the second slowest; third fastest with the third slowest, and so on. Family members can be paired regardless of standings if so desired. Also, it’s a great spectator event due to the very short course and the high number of laps completed, so bring out your family members that wouldn’t normally get to see you for more than a few seconds if they were there on a regular night.
Movers & Shakers Report
Courtesy of Kelly
Junior Sport Men
Matthew DeAngelis took the win tonight with Damian Fleetwood just 10 seconds behind him. Damian just pushed away from Trevor Anderson who was hot on his heels and only 5 seconds back. There was also narrow gap between fourth and fifth, where Aaron Wright managed to gain fourth spot over Luke Knights.
Last but not least, here’s another event not to be missed... please make plans to attend Ray Hawkins’ 4th Annual Fun Ride and BBQ, on Sunday August 7, 2016. See the flyer and map on the Coulson’s Hill MTB Race Series and Trail Riding page on Facebook and please join the page if you’re not already a member.
Weather: 26°C, 51% humidity, muggy
Week 13 - July 20
Race Report courtesy of Nigel Read:
The View From the Back
Hard to believe we're at race 13 of the season already. As always at this time of year, the bike manufacturers are beginning to introduce their new lineups to their dealers, so this week saw Myles, Kelly, and family in BC for the 2017 Norco product launch. Brandon Wright and Sean Mahoney took over the normal weekly duties of hauling the trailer to Coulson and getting the tents and timing gear set up. Thankfully, they also brought the sound system and disco ball along, for those in the mood for some dancing. Brandon did an admirable job with registration, only stumbling for a moment while getting a brand new entrant organized with his favourite lucky number of 155, (or was it 153?)
Brandon also made some valuable pre-race announcements about sections of the course that required extra caution, such as low branches, slippery roots on top of the bank beside the creek, and the optional route at the northern section of the 400 fire road that includes a drop of a couple of feet. At least two riders didn't listen closely enough to Brandon's advice, as one nimrod crashed hard into the pines below the drop, and another fell off the bank into the creek. Brandon's a soft-spoken young man, but when he speaks, you're flirting with danger if you don't listen up, and when it comes to trees, anything over 3 inches in diameter might as well be a Mack truck.
Once again, the course was super dry and dusty, leaving competitors, machinery and the masses of rabid fans and spectators covered in a thick, sandy coating. In spite of the dust, the masterfully laid out course was thoroughly enjoyable, especially since the temperature had moderated considerably since last week.
Kyle Rae dominated the Expert ranks, delivering another solid win with Brandon Wright unable to challenge while on the sidelines in the timing tent.
In the Grand Master (old guy) class, last week's winner, Steve Hart, was bumped to second this week by Chris Reid, whose pacemaker redlined several times during the event. Third place was taken by some tree-hugger, who finished way, way off the pace.
There was a big shakeup in the Novice Men's category, with Ben Dobson delivering the win in only his second race ever, in spite of the fact that he stopped for a quick swim below the rooty bank. Jim Gilmour was second, and enjoyed the course so much that he did an extra lap just for fun.
In the Mini-Me class, Alex Sampson out-sprinted Julia Smith for the win, serving notice to Julia that he was tired of playing second fiddle. (Luckily for Julia, a large branch had curiously fallen across the trail so she couldn't take the same wrong turn as last week, no matter how much her instincts wanted her to turn right and ignore the 3 arrows that said go straight.)
So that's it for this week... Next week, Myles and Kelly will be back, and we'll either be running this course backwards, or we'll be running our annual, world famous 'Coulson Hill Team Time Trial', featuring the universally despised LeMans start. (Okay, it might not be universal; it could be just me.)
See yer next week. :)
Myles' note: Thanks to everyone that lent a hand to keep our series running in fine fashion despite the family trip to the Norco product launch. A big shoutout to Brandon and Sean for managing the logistics and thanks to Nigel for surprising me with another entertaining race report. Next week, my darling wife Kelly will be running the show will I continue my jetsetting lifestyle with a trip to Utah for the 2017 Cannondale product launch. #bikelife
We will be running our ever-popular Tour de France Team Time Trial the following week after my return (August 3rd).
Weather: 26°C, 34% humidity
Week 12 - July 13
While, for some, the heat may have been oppressive the results we saw at this week's race were nothing short of impressive.
With the debut of another epic course - covering 5km of trail and reopening several sections of trail that haven't been utilized since the wanton destruction of our trail network logging operation - riders were treated to a true mountain bikers paradise. Tons of twisty singletrack that ran the length of the forest, challenging switchback descents, and the least amount of climbing we could manage came together with a dozen hours of weed whacking to deliver a ripping course that highlights many of the best elements of our beloved forest.
The impressive results mentioned above come through a couple monumental firsts.
Steve Hart takes home his first win - congrats!
In our new-for-2016 Grand Master Open category, there has been a tight three way battle all season long between Chris Reid, Mike Ceolin, and Steve Hart. Typically they finish in the order that was just listed. Speaking with Mike earlier in the day while performing some trail maintenance, he described the tactics involved in week 11.
"On the last lap, suddenly Steve was just there. He'd beaten me mentally and I didn't think I'd drop him," Mike reported. Ironically, these mental gymnastics were the focus of our last race report - I imagine they hit home for a number of our participants.
Mike continued, "Then, on the last climb, when Steve was right on my tail I just pinned it. I was totally done at the top be he [Steve] couldn't see me." And there, in a nutshell, is a beautiful demonstration of effective race tactics. Fast forward seven days, however, and the tables had turned.
Steve Hart and Mike ride pretty much neck and neck through lap one, but Steve maintained an admirable consistency through his three blistering laps while Mike wilted llike a thirsty flower - a pansy maybe - in the summer heat. End result: Steve nailed his first Coulson Hill career victory.
Kyle Rae shows his championship colours. He is officially "back".
After being the first athlete to have an entire race report focussed of his trials and successes, Kyle took the opportunity this week to write his own fairy tale ending to the story we begin last week. The Expert/Master Expert pace started off comfortably enough last night and it seemed, for the first half of the first lap, that the group had collectively decided to run a reduced tempo race.
And then, perhaps predictably, all hell broke loose as Kyle Rae, Jeff Desroches, Sean Mahoney, and Dave Knights offically lit the fireworks. These four jet pilots rode the remainder of the race with afterburners in full burn and left the rest of the field, literally, eating their dust. But it was Kyle who rode away with top honours on this night by beating runner-up Sean Mahoney by a relatively tight 33-second margin.
This marks Kyle's first Expert victory in almost a decade and truly puts an exclamation point on the most thrilling comeback story we've seen in some time. Congratulations on making it back to the top of the heap, Kyle! Maybe there's hope for me yet. :)
The big boys and girls were not the only ones delivering extraordinary performances last night. the Mini-Me riders had their fair share of excitement, too. After many races of battling hard to land himself on the podium and delivering a string a second and third place finishes this season, it is thrilling to write that Logan Knights has scored his first ever VICTORY!
Logan Knights at the start of the race - chasing victory with every stroke
Even more exciting is that this victory was earned the hard way. Speedster Alex Sampson delivered a killer first lap performance and looked to have victory in hand. Alex is a very consistent rider and knows how to defend a lead. Logan, by contrast, is used to chasing down Alex's wheel. On this steamy evening, Logan rode a smart enough race to deliver a negative split and drive a 5-second long stake into Alex's hopes for victory. Logan's victory also leapfrogged him into second place overall in the Championship standings. There is certainly some extraordinary racing going on amongst these future stars.
Damian Fleetwood's face says it all - it was a HOT night of racing.
Thanks to everyone who came out and braved the heat. Being able to meter your output and deal with adverse conditions of all extremes is a vital skill nd takes practice - like everything else. Pace yourself, drinks lots, and set yourself up for success by conserving energy everywhere you can.
Next week, I will be attending the 2017 Norco Product Launch in BC along with my family. Brandon Wright will be running the race and performing the necessary trail maintenance in our absence. Thanks in advance to both Brandon and Sean Mahoney who be lending Brandon a hand and towing the trailer to the event.
Stay tuned to our social media feeds for all of the 2017 product updates that I am allowed to share - and maybe a few I'm not supposed to. :)
Weather: 31°C, 27% humidity - HOT!
Week 11 - July 6
Fitness is an elusive and somewhat ethereal thing. Some people train hard all winter and pour themselves into their off-season regimens. Other riders spend the winter months off the bike entirely and relish stepping away from the sport to recharge their batteries and renew their enthusiasm for the season ahead. And, predictably, there is a segment of people that fall in the middle of this spectrum and ride enough to keep the legs tuned but otherwise engsge in alternste winter activities - or nothing at all!
How these varied approaches play out over the course of the race season is always an interesting experiment to watch unfold in real-time. The cause for reflection on this topic is the impressive rise to power of Kyle Rae - who, incidentally, is celebrating a birthday today.
Kyle, as was mentioned in an earlier race report, is blessed with a tremendous bit of raw talent and a mighty set of lungs. But when he hit the trails early this spring his fitness was, he won't mind me saying, a little underwhelming. In his first race of this season, Kyle finished dead last. But rather than let this result put him ion a negative state of mind, Kyle set upon the work of riding himself back into competitive form.
Five weeks later, Kyle was contesting podium positions and finishing within 12 seconds of third place. Not satisfied to be so close but still so far, Kyle redoubled his efforts - and found more joy in cycling than he had in years. These efforts continued to pay dividends and merely two week later, Kyle made his first trip to the podium.
Now we fast forward to the week's race - our 11th of the season. On this night, Kyle came ready to flex his muscles and while his pre-race warmup consisted of a chain repair on a fellow racer's bike, he hit the start line with a glint of fire in his eyes and a fire in his belly.
Off like a shot, it was immediately clear that Kyle and Brandon Wright were queuing for a fight to the bitter end. Through the first lap, the two leaders were battling head-to-head and the outcome was too close for anyone to predict. However on the next two laps, Brandon's pace was nothing short of relentless. As strong as Kyle felt, Brnadon just kept pulling away and Kyle was forced to ride within himself in order to maintain lap consistency.
In an hour long race, there are so many variables that can impact your pace experience teaches one to never give up, never let up, and never settle for "almost". It only takes a slip of a tire, one tiny moment of interference from lap traffic, an instant of inattention for the tables to turn and the results to be thrown into the air to land where they may.
With that in mind, Kyle kept the hammer down and didn't consider giving in for a moment. Lap 4 presented Kyle with a sizeable hole to climb out of: A cavernous 41-second pit. Of course, in he middle of the race you don't know this but there are many visual cues along the way to let you know how close (or far) you are from your competition. With an extroardinary display of mental fortitude, Kyle picked up his tempo and delivered a big negative split on his last lap while, in contrast, Brandon faded significantly.
By the time the two crossed the finish line, Kyle had clawed back all but 14 seconds of Brandon's advantage and shown himself - and the rest of the field - that he was back.
For this, Kyle get the "Movers & Shakers" award for 2016. There's nothing in it other than pride and recognition, but for any rider to move himself from last place to battling for 1st in the penultimate category of our series takes commitment, courage, and passion - not too mention some pretty impressive skills. To top it off, Kyle does it with acoy smile, nothing but encouragement for others, and a willingness to lend a hand whenever it's needed.
Again I'm grateful to be surrounded by such a remarkable cast of characters in such an incredible sport. Stories of personal growth, self-improvement, goal-setting, and overcoming challenges aren't the exception - they are the norm.
And to all of our young athletes: You can do anything you set mind to. There are no limits to your potential in life - only the perceived limits you put in your own way.
Dream big. Fail hard. Repeat. Soon you, too, could find yourself a true champion. And that doesn't always mean standing atop the podium.
For all of the friend of our series, our broader Spokes base, and lovers of Ravenshoe, Ray Hawkins is generously hosting asnother awesome social cycling event on August 7. Join us for riding, food, drink, and fishing stories. Check out the flyer below:
Click here for a PDF of Ray's BBQ flyer.
Weather: 28°C, 51% humidity
Week 10 - June 29
Another Wednesday night race and another stunning night for pushing the limits of (wo)man and machine. The refreshing temperatures helped push aside the memories of 30 degree days past and reminded us that summer can indeed be a time for hammering out some hard laps in relative comfort.
Comfort that is always tempered, of course, by screaming quads, aching lungs, and a brain that sometimes spends its energy compelling you to quit. Get past all that and the rest is actually quite easy.
The most tightly contested results of the evening belongs to our Mini-Me category. Julia Smith rode another strong race and took the victory by a comparatively small margin of 32-seconds. Just behind her, however, is where the real action was unfolding. Alex Sampson rode a smoking fast first lap and almost certainly thought he had dropped his two closest competitors for good. Passing through the start area, Alex was only six seconds behind series leader Julia.
However, Logan Knights and Seamus Cullen had a different strategy in mind. While both boys sat almost 30-seconds behing Alex on the first lap, they were motivated and fully capable of eroding that lead in short order. Riding wheel-to-wheel for the entire race, Logan and Seamus lit the wick on lap two and both boys turned in massive negative splits. Alex dropped his pace quite a bit, perhaps having chased Julia a little too hard on the first lap, and soon had two hard charging little rippers on his tail.
As the trio headed towards the finish line, with only 120 meters to go, Alex was able to dig deep and poor on some extra power in an effort to thwart the attack of the two boys behind him. He had enough in his legs to defend his lead and, similarly, Logan was strong enough to outsprint Seamus on their way to the line. From 2nd to 4th the gap was only 4 seconds - now that is intense racing action.
In the Senior Sport category, Chris Staniewski faced some fierce competition from Chris Graham who missed last week but was back for some retribution this time around. With only a single outing where he didn't take the victory, the pressure is on Mr. Graham to continue performing to his potential when veterans like Staniewski rejoin the fold. And you can never rule out Adam Pevcevicius who trailed Chris Staniewski by a shade over 30-seconds and will certainly be looking to make progress towards a higher step on the podium.
And, with another strong race in hand, it's a great pleasure to congratulate Jon Weening on his first win of the season. Fellow Senior Sport rider Dustin Sampson shot of the gate like a man riding with the hounds of hell hot on his heels but was unable to maintain his overzealous pace on subsequent laps. Jon leveraged his racing experience and didn't respond to Dustin's surge. Instead, he rode his own race maintained a solid pace and chipped away at his lap times producing consistent negative splits.
Just goes to show that racing is not about speed - it's about pace.
On the flip side of that coin, young Clay Te Bokkel used this race to display both stunning speed and impressive consistency. Posting a better first lap time than almost any expert posted all race, Clay clearly has a exceptionally deep pool of potential to tap into. This extraordinary performance was also enabled by Clay's brand spanking new hotrod - a Cannondale F-Si Alloy 2.
The challenge of equipping your kids with bikes is not lost on us. Clay's previous bike was a high-quality, high-value Rocky Mountain Soul. But in two short years this young man has shot up several inches and the Soul had become a safety and performance bottleneck in terms of sizing. The new ride fits great and Clay's results speak to the synergy between a talented rider and some remarkable hardware.
Next week we move on to a new course that we be sure to thrill, to challenge, and to inspire net-level performances. There will undoubtably be more stories to tell!
Weather: 22°C, 31% humidity; perfect weather, crazy-dry course, dusty
Week 9 - June 22
This week we debutted an exciting new course that ripped through 4.6km of exciting singletrack, exhilarating high speed corners, and a few leg and lung-busting climbs for good measure. Ambitious plans had us open up three existing trail segments that had been completely buried by our incredibly considerate loggers as well as showcase a completely new trail called Nigel's Re-turn. This masterpiece features at least a dozen challenging switchbacks, a slew of beautiful berms, and a few punchy (but short) climbs. When we say "ambitious" it is really a euphimism for "ridiculous amount of hard work". This weeks course has more than 60 man-hours behind it!
Nigel poses at the head of the trail named in his honour
Once we get a little rainfall, Nigel's Re-turn will firm up substantially and turn into a bike-handler's paradise. This is probably the nicest piece of trail work in the entire forest - maybe even Simcoe County. It's bears noting that this construction was done with no government dollars, no grants, and no fundraising. This trail exists solely through the hard work and dedication of a pair of committed cyclists looking to contribute to the community. Nothing captures the spirit of the mountain biking like trail building - and this trail will stand the test of time to become one of the best sections anywhere. Many thanks to the gents who put in all the work.
Predictably a fantastic race course lead to some exciting racing and nowhere was that more evident than in our hotly contested Master Sport Men category. In a rematch of the line-up that filled the podium on week #7, the same three contenders filled the podium again but in a mirrored order.
Trevor Peyton on his way to his second win in a row!
This entire trio - consistenting of Trevor Peyton, Ryan Primmett, and Shawn Bruch (1st through 3rd) - hammer each other every week and are always tightly spaced by the time they cross the finish line. But this week marked the closest finish thusfar in the category this year. Only 20 seconds seperated the three as they blew threw the start/finish area completely spent and utterly satisfied. Ryan always seems to find himself stuck between Trevor and Shawn for some reason. When three riders come to the line with such similar levels of fitness and skill, tactical decisions often become the deciding factor.
When racing, it is crucial to identify your opponent's strengths and weaknesses so that you can make the most of your own. Early on in the race, identify when and where you will make your move and then be prepared to execute. There is often only a single opportunity to make your move so when your window of opportunity cracks open, you must be ready to explode yourself to seize the moment. It will be very interesting to see if the tides shift next week with some more experience on the same race course. The gaps are so tight that the slightest mistake will surely cost you a position.
The Novice Men had a similar exicting finish as Matthew Jenkins and Evan Knights sped away from the field and set themselves up for an exciting showdown. Both riders managed to dial in some fantastic negative splits and demonstrate some serious staying power. Through the first lap, Evan maintained a solid, if narrow, lead and crossed the line with 13 seconds in his pocket.
Matthew - riding a loaner bike from Spokes while awaiting some service parts - had a different outcome in mind. On lap two, Matthew hit the afterburners and poured on some impressive speed taking almost a full minute off of his first lap. The result was, ironically, another 13-second gap - this time in Matt's favour as he hammered across the line for a victory.
Emmeline is a model of consistently - she knows how to win!
Another rider unquestionably deserving of some kudos is Emmeline Te Bokkel. The entire Te Bokkel clan is incredibly gifted and Emmeline does an extraordinary job at waving the family flag. This week marked Emmeline's ninth conecutive victory and she continues to win in a dominating fashion. Racing is a revealing activity: Your peers will quickly see how graciously you win and how graciously you will accept defeat. Emmeline wins with a quiet grace demonstrating a maturity that belies her tender age. It's a lovely thing to see and speaks volumes about who she is. Emmeline is certainly shaping up to be a powerhouse and we can't wait to see how far she goes.
Luke Knights is on a tear after another victory. Watch out Clay!
Much like Emmeline, Luke Knights is another very talented young rider that is always in the thick of the action. He and Clay Te Bokkel have fought back and forth all year long looking to assert themselves as rightful heirs to the Junior Sport throne. As of this week, Clay maintains a 30-point advantage in the overall points standings but for the past couple of weeks, Luke has had Clay's number and has been whittling away at the points lead Clay enjoyed.
The best racing of the season is still to come and remember: Only your top 15 races count towards the championships, so while every race is important, there is always room for a few bad results to fall away. Never give up, never stop pedalling, and, most importantly, never stop having fun!
IMPORTANT FEEDBACK REQUEST:
This week I had a couple riders approach me to ask if we would consider running the same course for three weeks instead of our traditional two. Their logic was that they wanted more opportunity to become familiar with the course and improve their lap times. Our series is built for you!
If the embedded survey does not work for you, please respond at this link.
See you all next Wednesday.
Weather: 19°C, 43% humidity; perfect weather, crazy-dry course, dusty
Week 8 - June 15
The taunting started right at the starting line: Dave Knights calling out fellow fire fighter Sean Mahoney and egging him on to put forth a serious effort. Dave had situated himself not in the front of the pack - as befitting the current series leader in Master Expert - but in the third row.
Dave Knights hunting down Coach Cooney for the pass to move him into first place.
It must be said that Mr. Knights never shies away from a challenge. Within a third of a lap, Dave made his move in a steep climb and charged his way past several "road blocks" including Sean to take his place at the front of the peloton. While making his passes, Dave jeered at Sean and urged him to hold his pace. Sean fired back with some colourful repartee but, most importantly, did not fire back with a vicious counter attack.
That counter attack he saved for lap three where Sean dug deep and clawed back a staggering 18 seconds on Dave. He was clearly intent on letting Dave know that we won;t be runing the show for long. As usual for our Coulson crew, just because two riders aren't in the same category it doesn't mea they are gunning for each other.
Meanwhile, in the Master Sport Men category there was a heated battle between Ryan Primett, Mark McArthur, and Trevor Peyton. It's hardly the first time this trio has thrown down in the dirt in an effort to assert dominance but it may have been the most hilarious finish.
Mark McArther may be trailing Ryan Primett here, but that was soon to change.
Mark McArthur was lookig strong at the beginning of the race and was the first Master Sport rider to cross the line for his first lap. Hot on his heels was the ever-competitive Ryan Primett who was trailing by only four seconds. These two titans appeared to be the strongest riders of the night in their category and the wild card in this hand, Trevor Peyton, crossed the line well back on his first lap. Trevor was, in fact, a full 21 seconds off of Mark's pace. A gap like that, on many nights, would present an insurmountable challenge.
Upon crossing the line for a second time, Ryan had snatched the leadership position from Mark by the slimest of margins while Trevor lost a few more seconds and seemed simply outgunned and destined for third place.
A good story isn't a good story without a surprise ending. This is exactly what Trevor provided.
In a masterful display of pacing and timing, Trevor reminded us all of the importance of racing your own race. One must never allow their pace to be defined by their competitors. You must approach the race with a defined strategy, you must identify your own limits, and you must ride within them.
Having turned his third lap in an impressive negative split, Trevor judged his efforts masterfully on this occassion. Just as Mark McArthur was about to cross the finish line, Trevor appeared for a moment over his shoulder and then gracefully slipped past him and grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat. An incredible - if somewhat lucky - display of tactics and timing. The whole scene was certainly a cause for some chuckles in the timing booth. Mark certainly won't take victory for granted next time!
Levi Te Bokkel is moving on up after yet another display of domination.
Taking victory for granted may have been a bit of a curse for superstar Novice rider Levi Te Bokkel who notched another "W" onto his belt this week in commanding style. With more than 3-minutes gap over his nearest rival, a 2015 Championship victory, and only one lose on his record for 2016 the time is now for Levi to test his chops against some more mature competition. It is never without some trepidation that a rider moves up the ranks, but the only way to advance your skills, find motivation to train harder, and to raise the mental bar is to race against stronger competitors. I'm sure it won't be long before we are talking about Levi taking another step up the ladder on his climb up the competitive cycling pyramid. Congrats on all of your success Levi! And don't worry: There's more on the way.
Seamus has Julia in his sights - and he wants to win!
In the Mini-Me category, the rate and quantity of improvement is truly something extraordinary. Masters athletes, like myself, can only dream of shaving minutes off of race times on a weekly basis like these kids are often able to. It's an exhilarating thing to watch these young kids exercise their passions on the race course, discover power - both mental and physical - they never knew they had, and be filled with joy by the whole process.
So while Julia Smith did indeed head home ensconced in the beautful glow of victory, it is Seamus Cullen who gets the shout out today for nailing the best result of his racing career. His second place finish was the result of an intense sprint finish with Julia who held on for the win by only a half wheel's length. EVen more impressive, Seamus rode away with the fastest Mini-Me lap of the day and returned a monstrous negative split on his second lap. Talk about progress!
Another Mini-Me was present this who may have tempered these achievements is a new rider to us, Jack Cowan-Brokenshire. This young man is already an accomplished cyclist and regularly hammers out 10+km trail rides. However, on this night he missed a Mini-Me short cut sign and, instead, completed two full adult laps in a time approaching that of the Novice riders. Look out fellow Mini-Me riders.
Jack and dad tearing up the course - the adult course at that!
The upside to this bit of misdirection is that Jack travelled all the way from Oshawa to ride with us - a 90-minute trip each way - so maybe he was satisfied with the extra kilometres on the trail. Either way...this kids rips!
Next week we will be christening a brand new piece of singletrack - one sure to go down in history as one of the most epic pieces of singletrack at Coulson Hill. But beware: It's not for the faint of heart of weak of leg. It's gonna be awesome.
See you all next Wednesday.
Weather: 21°C, 46% humidity; perfect weather
Week 7 - June 8
As a bike shop committed to delivering the best possible cycling experiences, nothing speaks to us like an "in-the-dirt" demo day. Our first demo day of the year was hosted by Norco a few weeks back. It was a tremendous success and allowed people to ride bikes like the new Norco Optic - a 120mm trail bike that pushes the ART of Norco's geometry and suspension kinomatics.
This week we had a tag team demo day with both Cannondale and Rocky Mountain joining in for our Wednesday afternoon festivities. With a host stellar bikes on hand, ranging from the convention-shattering Cannondale Slate - a road bike that implements high volume 650b wheels and a suspension fork valved specifically for road, to the highly regard (and super popular) Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt.
Hopefully everyone got a chance to ride some interesting bikes and have a chat with our passionate factory reps that are always ready to discuss - and debate - the merits of different bikes. We sure are spoiled for selection on the bike front these days. Clearly, the best choice is to have a different bike for every day of the week! ;)
Despite the rather dreary weather on offer this week, the racing was as hot as ever. Our new course - a 3.8km track filled with gut wrenching descents, flowing singletrack, and mostly modest climbs - put a smiles on most everyone's face as they tore through lap after lap. There was even a "secret" shortcut rockpile assembled by Brandon and Aaron Wright that allowed eagle-eyed riders an opportunity to shave a few extra seconds.
That rock pile lead to what must have been the Pass of the Night.
Mike Drukarsh (right) makes an amazing pass by taking the "daring" line over the rocks - what a move!
With Ray Hawkins setting a tough tempo on the uphill fireroad to the singletrack entry, Mark Cairns wasn't giving up an inch without a fight and certainly wasn't going to let Mike Drukarsh gain anything on the fireroad. In the briefest of moments, Mike darted to the right and launched himself over the massive pile of rocks and logs hoping to gain some advantage.
The plan worked even better than expected - as evidenced by the surprised look on Mark's face above (see the photo link below for a higher resolution version of the picture). Mike wound up sneaking into position between Ray and Mark and poised himself for a strong finish. As fast as Ray is, he didn't give Mike a moment to make another move and managed to maintain a lead over Mr. Drukarsh until the bitter end. But what an awesome move!
In the "not so awesome move" department, the story is all about Jacob Goyette. From the starting line Jacob set out on a blistering pace and was sitting in third place as the lead group was about to turn right and enter the first section of singletrack. Unfortunately for Jacob, he applied his brakes while also trying to steer which lead to a rather abrupt - amd complete - loss of traction. From an absurdly high rate of speed to a crashing stop in a span of 10 feet: If it sounds unpleasant, you'd be absolutely right.
To his credit, though, Jacob bounced right up without a moment's hesitation, double checked his bike and was off with a vengeance. While Jacob lost a handful of seconds and a few positions due to his off-course excursion, his astounding fitness got him back into the thick of things in no time at all. He sure passed me (on the eastern fireroad climb) like I was standing still. And for all that, Jacob managed to pull himself back into second place behind series-leader Brandon Wright. Talk about an impressive comeback! Impressive ride, Jacob.
Jacob may have been crazy fast - but he couldn't reel in the rocket-propelled Brandon Wright
Coach Paul Cooney made a special appearance last night, too. Now, just to be clear, Paul is special every time he joins us. But this was a very special outing because he came not to thrash the rest of us "old" Experts, but he came with more than a dozen of his students from community cycling programs in Aurora, Newmarket, and East Gwillimbury. Paul has done an extraordinary service to the community by providing children and adults alike a real alternative to traditional organized sport.
Thanks to his programs, riders can have a scheduled, structured, and systematic approach to skills and fitness development - much like more "traditional" sports options. This builds our sport from the ground up and provides a future for cycling at every level. Spokes is very proud to support Coach Paul and LTD Performance Cycling in his efforts. To that end, last night these 12 ambitious young riders got a chance to "sample" our race event at a greatly reduced rate in hopes that the bug bites and they want to join us for more.
Another new rider - Miya Primett - joins us for the first time.
She's looking to follow in her father's successful footsteps. Thanks for introducing the next generation, Ryan!
As of result of this extra participation, our Mini-Me category was bursting at the seams with 21 particpants. Several of Paul's riders have apparently embraced his direction wholeheartedly as Damon Milos and Tyler Spina sprinted to a photo finish at the line. While Damon one this particular battle, I suspect the war between these two is just getting started. Hopefully we will all get to witness some more of these two young rippers tearing up the course.
An extra shout out has to go to Dave Knights. Not only did Dave help with a pile of grass cutting this week - all those beautifully maintained fireroads are his work - he is just a rocket on the bike this season. Every year Dave gets a little quicker and he is going full bore this season. Always ready with a gentle smile and a kind word, Dave is an athlete, a gentleman, and a super-involved dad. Thanks for everything you do, Dave!
Dave Knights: A lawn-mowing, trail blazing, hill smashing, 1st place winning machine!
TIMING NOTE: There were definitely some timing issues for a few Mini-Me riders last night as a result. If there is EVER something wrong with the results, please let us know immediately and we will do our best to get it sorted out promptly and fairly. We strive for perfection in timing and event oprganization but sometimes fall short. Please let me know if you have a problem!
See you all next week and please help spread the word about the series.
Weather: 12°C, 58% humidity; overcast & cool but zero rain
Week 6 - June 1
Well there is abolsutely no question as to our lead story this week. This honour - and the word is not used lightly in this context - belongs to Nigel Read. It is an absolute joy to report on Nigel's return to the cycling fold after the enormous mountain he climbed over the past several months.
Nigel - known as Bubby to his grandkids - getting some post race love. He earned that hug!
For the past few years, Nigel has been a key partner in trail marking and maintenance. His course designs are always interesting and his contributions really temper my work load. Needless to say, Nigel's assistance is always welcome and appreciated. Beyond his help with the series, Nigel has also been a tremendous ambassador for the sport of cycling. Eager to introduce new riders to the thrill of high speed shenanigans, Nigel is always willing to take time from his schedule to attend our events and lend a hand wherever it is needed. From Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day to our participation in the Newmarket Santa Claus parade, Nigel is there and ready to spread the love.
Nigel Read is back on track - literally and figuratively. What a joy!
So when Nigel was diagnosed last fall with an aggressive form of cancer, our collective hearts skipped a beat. Like all of our riders, Nigel is family. What befalls him, befalls us all and the fear of losing Nigel to that monster called cancer shook us all to the core.
Only a handful of weeks ago, Nigel's family hosted a party to celebrate the completion of cancer treatment. The road to a full recovery had finally begun. Of course, Nigel being Nigel, fast is never fast enough. Whether that is on the bike or related to his recovery, Nigel is never content to follow the norm. He pushes ahead, unrelenting, with his eyes firmly set on the end game: To get back on the bike.
From heading out for a few gentle kilometres a couple of weeks back, Nigel surprised us all last night by coming to the line fully kitted out aboard his sexy Norco race machine. Not only did Nigel come to the race prepared to start - he came prepared to finish. Crossing the finish line hands raised in victory alongside Chris Reid, Nigel taught us all a number of lessons these past few months: Never give up, remember what brings you joy, and never lose sight of how many people you touch every day - they all love you!
Congrats Nigel from the whole, big, extended Spoke O'Motion family. We couldn't be happier to see you back in the fold doing what you love.
Now, before I soak my keyboard any further, onto some lighter news...
Eric Simpson hot on the heels of Brandon Wright - what a performance!
The second surprise performance of the night belongs to Eric Simpson. Throughout the years, Eric has always shown extraordinary potential but didn't always have the staying power to maintain the initial blistering pace he is known to set. Well it would appear that Eric has indeed found his mojo. Not only did he finish in second place behind the incredibly quick Brandon Wright but he managed to knock 10-seconds off the 4th lap compared to his 3rd. How's that for late race jam?
At the other end of the spectrum we saw a couple new Mini-Me riders join our ranks. The Mini-Me group remains our largest and most active category and this bodes exceptionally well for the future of our sport. These young riders are learning the joy of competition, the satisfaction derived from pushing yourself to the limit, and the camaraderie that comes from sharing the experience with like-minded people. These experiences will shape their lives forever and it is a priviledge that we all get to play a part in it. Remember that every time you cheer on a Mini-Me rider - and every time you get stuck behind one! You are potentially shaping their lives forever.
Ellamarie getting the job done on a challenging trail - her first race ever!
The other thrilling part of the Mini-Me category is witnessing - and cataloging - their extraordinary growth over time. This was demonstrated clearly this week by Seamus Cullen who climbed aboard his new 24" wheeled rocket - the Norco Charger 4.1 - and proceeded to decimate his time from last week by 6 minutes! This allowed him to finally truly "race" the best in the category and the action was furious.
Seamus just about to enter Log-a-rythm - no problem with the big wheels here!
The racing was closer enough - and intense enough - that we had our tightest finish ever within the category. While Julia Smith rode another exceptional race and rode away with a victory, Logan Knights, Felicia Fleetwood, and Seamus finished in a mad three-way sprint for 2nd through 4th. These kids are truly getting a taste for the thrill of competition. Can't wait to see these guys battle it out again next week.
Tessa Brinklow has really developed her racing chops
In the Novice Women category, Tessa Brinklow continues to grow and improve her race tactics. In the first few weeks of the 2016 series, Tessa learned to overcome the challenge of pace. On her first outing, she launched from the starting line in burst of enthusiasm that quickly devolved into a mess of tired legs. After a little bit of coaching and some more experience, Tessa has transformed into a confident rider that is delivering very consistent lap times and is developing some effective race strategy.
On the topic of strategy, Leena Robinson appears ready to teach Darcy Anderson a trick or two. These two ran wheel-to-wheel for much of the race and finally crossed the finish line only seconds apart. While obviously competing in different categories, once you are on the course and drowning in endorphins and adrenalin, the importance of categorization evaporates and you are left only with the motivation to dominate your opponents. Leena hung on to the bitter end and, while unable to launch a final attack of enough strength to reel Darcy in, she has certainly put Mr. Anderson on notice.
Next week we have both Rocky Mountain and Cannondale coming out for a demo day - make sure sure don't miss it. We will also be debuting a brand new course. Until next week, sports fans!
Weather: 20°C, 49% humidity; perfect
Week 5 - May 25
This week the bar was set high from the outset with our most ambitious course of the year so far. With 4.1km of flowing singletrack, high speed descents, and rooty uphill singletrack our competitors were, again, treated to an expererience unparallelled with respect to course design and maintenance.
Huge kudos to Chris Reid and Ray Hawkins for creating the coolest piece of singletrack in the forest - the very appropriately named "Log-a-rythm". This tight, twisty trail is filled with enough turns to induce dizziness yet manages to encourage enough pace to have you bouncing from corner-to-corner in this seemingly endless maze. Awesome stuff and sure to become a local classic.
Felicia stands atop the podium on the most challenging Mini-Me course of the year!
Our Mini-Me riders were also treated to a super-engaging course that challenged their bike handling skills to the extreme. On this night, the advantage went to Felicia Fleetwood whose adroit handling skills allowed her to thread through the trees like a master weaver on a loom. While there was a (legitimate) dispute about a missed turn, this did not impact the outcome and Felicia earned her win with skill and grace. We always aim for fairness and encourage a respectful dialogue should one be concerned about the integrity of the results.
Another rider who celebrated his best result of the season was Darcy Anderson. Under the direction of Team Coach Paul Cooney, Darcy has been working hard and following Paul's guidance with discipline and determination. And he now has some results to bolster his confidence and reaffirm his commitment to the "program".
Darcy posted his best results yet! He says, "Bring on the tough courses!"
For all of his hard work, though, Darcy could not hold off the hard-charging Evan Knights who notched another solid race and used his second place finish to climb into second place overall on the Championship points race. The whole Knights family are true competitors who love the cycling lifestyle and embrace the joy of competing - despite (or maybe because of) the hard work of it all.
Evan Knights moved into second place overall with another solid race
Now we can't talk about solid performances without mentioning the impressive performances of a new rider to our series this year. Lindsay Townsend has won every race she has attended thusfar and often completes an extra lap after her race is over just because she's having so much fun. (I can't say I was up to another lap last night - so good on ya' Lindsay!)
Lindsay storms the rock pile on her way to another victory
Also in the Novice Women category, Tessa Brinklow had Leena Robinson within her sights last night and was gunning for that evasive second place position. The dynamic duo finished only nine seconds apart for their tightest battle ever and the beauty of this course was that your opponents often seemed tantalizingly close - but closing that final gap is never easy!
On the topic of "closing gaps", a big shout out to Kyle Rae for the phenomenal improvement he has shown in such a short period of time this season.
Kyle is coming back into fine form - and quickly at that!
Kyle is one of the most talented and natural riders I've known, and, as life would have it, he has bounced in and out of the cycling lifestyle over the last handful of years as competing obligations have commanded his attention. Over the past couple of years, Kyle has found his passion for riding reignited. With the passion comes the saddle time and with the saddle time comes the ZOOM! If you ask Kyle how to get fast, he'll give you the best advice ever: "Don't use your brakes!". Truer words were never spoken.
Continual improvement is the name in the game in life. The same philosophy applies to riding and is perfectly embodied by the dozens and dozens of riders who participate in our weekly series and continue to push themselves to new heights and to reach new goals.
Carys is always smiling, always working hard, and always getting better - what a role model!
Carys Reid is an exemplary emerging rider who we have seen grow from a spirited young ripper into a mature and confident young lady who conducts herself, both on the course and off, with dignity, composure, and passion. These are the life lessons at the heart of competition and Carys' dad, Chris Reid, must be exceptionally proud to see his daughter evolve into such an impressive young woman who is a role model for the next generation.
Another Anderson - this time Trevor - makes the race report after making the podium
The final kudos of this weeks report belong to Trevor Anderson. Trevor has been engaged in a heated battle with Aaron Wright in the Junior Sport category. Through the grapevine, it was reported to me that Trevor was highly motivated to make for his loss to Aaron last week. While Aaron may come across of a quiet young man, his demeanor belies a fiercely competitive nature. He wants to win and he wants to take down his competition. So Trevor, whether he realized it or not, really had his work cut out for him.
On this night, it came down to a sprint finish and Trevor can hold his head high knowing that he gave it his all, left nothing on the table, and, on this night, rode away victorious. Isn't sport beautiful?
Congrats to everyone and see you next week!
Weather: 24°C, 44% humidity; stunning!
Week 4 - May 18
The overcast skies could do nothing to cool the fires burning in the bellies of our competitors that were eagerly anticipating another fantastic event. The climbers course challenged everyone and reminds all involved of the fundamental irony of cycling. It never gets easier. You just go faster.
The reality is that is doesn't much matter where you fall on the fitness spectrum when it comes to cycling. It's completely self-delusional to expect that one day, after enough training and experience, the hills will stop hurting and you will be flying up the slopes with wild abandon. Once you reach your initial target, the goal posts just move and you are once again slapped in the face with the reality the to truly "ride your best" you are always on the cusp of complete and utter collapse. There really is no end game that doesn't involve more suffering.
How does all that sound? If you still want to ride after that little diatribe, then you are truly are a cyclist. If the very idea of all that pain makes you salivate at the opportunity of taking that next Strava segment, then you just might be a future champion.
Seamus working hard to catch the category leaders - on his 7th birthday!
It's never too early to start racing.
The Mini-Me's had a super exciting race this week as the podium positions shuffled repeatedly as the 3-lap battle wore on. While Julia Smith quickly took her post as race leader once the starting gun fired, Felicia Fleetwood impressed all by bringing herself across the start/finish line in second place a handful of seconds ahead of Alex Sampson.
Unfortunately for Felicia, she came to the timing booth after crossing the line reporting that, "I totally had a terrible last lap." It couldn't have been that bad as Felicia still managed to retain the third place but she did give up a position to Alex who crossed the line in commanding fashion to take second.
The same good fortune did not apply to Alex's dad, however. It's always an entertaining scene to see a competitor running like crazy with a bike over his shoulder in an effort to preserve their positions despite a broken bike. That was the case this week for Ian Boddaert this week who dropped a chain only a couple of hundred metres from the finish line.
With Dustin Sampson only 20-ish seconds off of his wheel, Ian did not want to take the chance to stop and attempt a trailside repair on his bike. So he started booking it by foot. In the final stretch, Ian took a moment to do a shoulder check to see if Dustin was to be a threat - and there he was! Bearing down on the running cyclist and looking to snatch on extra position in the standings. But it was too little, too late. Ian crossed the line ahead of Dustin and took home some extra points for his cross-training efforts.
Just goes to show that you should never give up and you should never let off of the gas. You never know when a competitor could suffer any sort of mechanical (or mental!) failure that may serve up an opportunity to make up ground you had already surrendered.
Steve Hart demonstrated that age doesn't matter when he outsprinted a rider 1/4 his age
The sprint of the night belongs to Steve Hart. We often talk, both in the shop and in these race reports, how age doesn't matter when it comes to cycling. Steve, who celebrated a birthday just last week and, incidentally, bought himself a flashy new bike to celebrate, responded with a measured fury when faced with Trevor Anderson - a hard charging Junior Sport rider - as the two approached the line.
With both athletes in full flight as they approached the line, Steve successfully defended his lead and demonstrated clearly that a healthy lifestyle is the ultimate weapon to defend yourself against aging. It was poignant moment to see such very different riders battling each other - regardless of category - solely for the beauty of competition.
In another epic battle, Shawn Bruch and Ryan Primmett continue to fight tooth to chain for every inch of ground. This week Shawn managed to eek out a 16-second margin of victory after Ryan threw down an impressive first lap that left Shawn almost 10 seconds in the hole.
Sean Bruch storms through one of the last corners on his way to victory
However, in an impressive display of grit and determination Shawn blazed his fastest lap of the night when it mattered most - on the last lap. He pulled 23 seconds out of Ryan and this was enough to seal himself a nicely pakcaged victory. If it was this exciting to watch, I can only imagine the minds games going on between these two on the course. Great racing, guys!
Justin Wright proves himself a serious contender
It may be a little early to make a call for the "Most Improved Rider", but it's never too early to give a huge shout out to a young athlete that has already shown incredible gains in his results. Justin Wright is new to our series this year and has joined us for every race so far. In this brief time, Justin has elevated himself from an initial result of 8th to the most desireable position available - the top of the podium!
With steady and consistent improvement each week, Justin has now shown that he can compete with anyone in his field and is now most certainly a marked man. Look for the likes of Chad Madaleno and Adam Pevcevicius to return next race and try to take some of the wind out of Justin's sails. The competition is only going to get tighter as the season marches forward.
Next week we'll have a brand new course with a very different personality. Join us then and, in the meantime, please spread the word about the fun and family atmosphere at our weekly series.
Weather: 16°C, 39% humidity; cool & overcast
Week 3 - May 11
This weeks race gave Coulson Hill'ers a welcome opportunity to bask in some sunshine and warm air - a pleasant change indeed from the otherwise chilly temperatures we have faced so far this year. Of course, on race night, the ultimate compliment to fantastic weather is a fantastic course and on this front we delivered in spades.
Our 3.3km concoction featured blazing fast fireroad descents, some punchy, technical climbs that caught even some experts off guard, and some extended climbing that was sure to punish those early-season legs. To keep riders in touch with their competitors, the course was designed with several sections where riders double backed in the direction that they had come from and could then see just how close their hard charging rivals were - or weren't!
There was also a cool "choose your own adventure" line where you could go straight or turn right. The net distance was virtually identical but, depending on traffic and your handling skills, one line could be dramatically faster than the other. Whether that was the straight or right line, however, we'll leave to the participants to debate.
Brandon was on fire and put a big gap on the field early - a gap that held for four laps.
The outright performance of the evening belongs to Team Spokes rider Brandon Wright. From the start, Brandon launched an aggressive offensive on his competitors and brought such a fierce pace that no one could make a move to reel him back in. Not only was that first lap enough to dent in the confidence of the field, but Brandon demonstrated masterful pacing and managed to run very consistent laps from start to finish. His fourth lap, for example, was only 15 seconds slower than his first.
All that said, the surprise "Fast Lap" award belongs on this night to Gary Briggs. This impressive rider has been a staple in the riding community for almost 15 years now and age is doing nothing to slow this man down. In fact, his whole family is fast - just check out the lap times from his older brother Roger Briggs. His little boy Wade - who didn't race this week - won't be too far behind once he gets some more saddle time and gets through the tough academic calendar of kindergarten. Rumour has it, he's in secret talks with Coach Paul in an effort to up his Mini Me game.
Gary Briggs blazed the second fastest lap of the night - on a fat bike!
Perhaps even more impressive is that Gary set this benchmark - the second fastest lap of the night - aboard a fat bike. In the shop, we are constantly asked about why a rider would choose a "slow" and "heavy" fat bike. The results speak for themselves: Last year the series was won outright aboard a fat bike. This week, as noted, the second fastest lap was delivered by a fat bike. Mike Ceolin continues to notch win after win on a fat bike - although this week, Chris Reid came within 5 seconds of interrupting that streak (and after four hours of very demanding trail maintenance earlier in the day - watch out, Mike!).
The next story that brought great joy to the universe this week was the awesome accomplishment of Max Dodson. This young man competes in the Mini-Me category and had not done much mountain biking - and had certainly never raced - before joining us a few weeks back. In his first two races, Max struggled with the intensity and duration of the effort and was unable to finish. But, most importantly, he didn't give up. Not even for a second.
Max Dodson - a model of the "Winners Never Quit" mantra
Fast forward to race #3. Max came to the line prepared and sporting a look of real determination. Not only did Max finish the race cleanly but his first two laps times were absolutely identical. While his third lap pace dropped a little bit, the very fact that Max has grown so much in such a short period of time is an exciting testament to the beauty of our sport. Congratulations on your results, Max! (Now just get your Dad to finish. Hehe.)
Now we can't start talking about imporessive performances without bringing Emmeline Te Bokkel into the discussion. The Te Bokkel gene pool is deep in red blood cells and their entire clan delivers consistent wins - just check Levi Te Bokkel's race resume for reference. But Emmeline has been delivering consistently dominant lap times in the Sport Women category. And this category is stacked with exceptionally skillful riders like Carys Reid and Abigail Weening. Incidentally, those latter two women had yet another incredible sprint to the line. The battle of Carys and Abi will be an exciting story to watch evolve over the course of the year. With fitness and power being so evenly balanced, it's time to start refining some race strategy.
Emmeline is a cycling powerhouse: She can climb like a mountain goat,
change direction like a mountain lion, and sprint like a cheetah!
On the spectrum of bucket list items, beating Steve Prosser probably ranks pretty high for more than a few participants. That said, the opportunity presents itself rather infrequently as Steve's history suggests. Furthermore, the time, effort, and dedication required to make it happen pushes the realization of that dream well beyond the grasp of all but the most highly dedicated.
Given all that, huge kudos are due to Dave Knights who, at 40 something years old, rode one of the strongest races of his life and managed to knock his aspirational target off of his pedestal. As Steve is never anything less than stinking fast, Dave must have really be relishing the glory of his accomplishment.
Dreamers take note: Dave leads Steve up a rocky, technical climb.
Congratulations to everyone on meeting and/or exceeding their goals. Dream big. Fail hard. Get up and try again. It's the only way to live life.
See you all next week!
Weather: 20°C, 26% humidity; warm & dry
Week 2 - May 4
Perfection. Absolute, unquestioned perfection. This statement reflects several realities of this week's race. As is our patriotic duty, we will start with the weather: What a treat! While warm enough to hang out in short sleeves and shorts (at least for a while), it was also cool enough that racers had no difficulty moderating their temperatures under intense efforts.
This is just the sort of weather that most athletes dream of - neither the dehydrating, oppressive heat of summer nor the moist chill of an early spring ride. These favourable conditions lend themselves to our second set of stellar circumstances: The trail conditions. With the wet weather of the past few weeks behind us - hopefully for a while - the loose mucky sections from last week firmed up beautifully. The singletrack was clear, firm, grippy and fast. It was a fine vintage indeed.
In an effort to make the race experience even better, the trail running south that parallels Highway 400 towards the start/finish area was widened by 18" on both sides to better facilitate passing. Add to this the fact that we recovered the tight, twisty singletrack in the southwest corner by the old parking lot and included this "new" section into riders' first laps and you had a night of super-fun action.
Of extra import, all logging operations in this tract of forest have finally come to an end. This means that there should be no further disruptions of our trail network and the work of reopening the remaining damaged/covered trails can begin in earnest. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for upcoming trail maintenance days if you would like to volunteer some time.
But wait...there's more! Norco has one of the cornerstone brands at Spoke O'Motion since we opened in 1988. Over this period, and certainly since my involvement began in 2002, the quality of engineering and industrial design coming from this all-Canadian powerhouse has been breathtaking. Norco bikes push the boundaries in ride quality, weight, and handling and deserve consideration against any "boutique" brand in the market. Fit and finish is second to none and their after-sales support is truly legendary.
Fortunately for us, Norco is fully committed to demo days to allow riders to test the goods "in the dirt" - just as God intended. The result was that many participants took the opportunity to compete on borrowed hardware and relished the experience to objectively measure their improved performance. And, as one might expect, the results speak for themselves.
Take Levi Te Bokkel as a clear example. Expected to race for three laps, Levi heroically proceeded to stomp out a total of five laps (!!) while beating his arch-rival and speedster Matthew Jenkins by over three minutes. These two riders are typically sprinting to the line mere inches apart.
The (thankfully) inimitable Lance Armstrong told us loudly that It's Not About the Bike, but he clearly never rode a Norco.
Another race story truly drove home the essence of what we do at our weekly series and, in a broader stroke, at Spoke O'Motion. For the second week in a row, Chris Reid, race veteran and community leader rode with the Sport Women category in order to coach, inspire, and push riders to new heights. Here's an excerpt from his email early Thursday morning:
"Very interesting Coulsons, I stayed with Carys and Abby for the whole race. Carys passed Abby first lap and Abby slowed down (gave up). I pushed her along until she had her wheel again, observed she was a little stronger on the hills, Carys faster in the single track.
She passed Carys two more times pulling a lead in places but Carys got her back each time. I kept barking tips to whichever one was on the back. They came around to have a sprint finish with Carys by a length.
Abby was really stoked, they were texting all night. She gained some real confidence and they both had a blast. Funny thing, it was one of the most fun evenings I can remember at the Hill."
Stories like this are the foundational blocks upon which cycling grows and thrives. Cyclists are passionate about our sport and nothing is more rewarding than helping that passion bloom for another. The more involved you are, the more people you can touch, the more we can all impact the world around us. In that sense, it is also a metaphor for some much larger concepts and offers a glimpse into why I find Spokes to be such a rewarding outlet for my energy.
But before we get all teary-eyed in the sentimentality of this all, there is another story sure to bring a tear to Coach Paul Cooney's eye. The fastest lap of the night, expectedly, belonged to Paul. He blasted out a rather extraordinary 7:10 in his full-frontal attack on the laws of physics. However, as remarkable as that is, the performance story of the evening belongs to Dave Knights.
Dave has raced with us for many years and his family are now contenders in almost every cagtegory we offer. Frankly, his long term goal may indeed be total world domination. Beginning a few years ago, Dave took a more organized approach to his training and solicited Coach Paul's to help him reach his goals. With Dave's stunning time of 7:13 last night - only three seconds off of Paul's blistering pace - Dave has proven that he is, indeed, one of the fastest Masters riders in the entire province. What an extraordinary accomplishment and what a piece of riding!
I guess those new 24h work shifts are paying off, eh Dave? ;)
Almost as impressive was Jacob Goyette taking second place in the Expert field and fending off a hard charging Steve Prosser through five laps of torture. Jacob is coming off of his first career Ontario Cup victory this past Sunday and is paving the way for a very positive season for Team Spoke O'Motion. This young man is showing some incredible growth over the past two years and we are excited to see where his potential leads.
In the Grand Master Open category, we had a bit of a shuffle as we finally put Steve Hart into the appropriate category. Now that he is racing with his peers, Steve walked away with a first place finish. As the field expands in this category, it should become as deep and competitive as our more junior ranks. Mike Ceolin, who helped extensively this Wednesday to open up some new trails (thanks!), managed a second place but certainly won't be content to relinquish the top podium spot for long. Next week, the true showdown begins.
A big shout out to Julia Smith who took her first victory ever. This Mini Me minion is ready to show the world just how awesome she can be!
Looking forward to next week, we will deliver an exciting new course that will cover more ground and return us to our typical 4/3/2 lap format (expert/sport/novice). Now that our forest he been returned to our caring hands, new trails will be christened, old trails will be reborn, and the racing will be better than ever.
Weather: 15°C, 44% humidity; cool, dry, and hard-packed soil - perfect!
Week 1 - April 27
After a long winter that stretched uncomfortably into spring, our first race of the season was awash with sunshine and blue skies. While it looked like a beautiful spring day, however, temperatures were definitely on the chilly side as competitors shivered while awaiting the official start.
The cool temperatures were not our only logitical challenge of the evening, however, as the busy-beaver loggers were still hard at work and had buried the trail network we had groomed to absolute perfection just three days earlier. Putting aside my frustration at the decimation of our hard work, out came the chain saw and rake for an afternoon filled with chopping, cutting, and clearing. After all: The show must go on!
Those who have raced with us in years past appreciate our commitment to immaculately groomed and prepared tracks and, despite the the recent thinning can rest assured that our wonderful trail network will not only return to its former glory but will go well beyond. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for information on trail maintenance days if you would like to donate some time to the cycling community. Think of the thinning not as disastrous but as an opportunity to create an even better trail system.
Now on to the racing!
The anticipation for the cycling season was obviously high as 72 riders hit the start line across a whopping 10 categories of age and skill. There is certainly something for everyone at our events. And, no matter where on the spectrum of fitness and experience you fall, fun is the name of the game.
Our Expert category was certainly stacked last night. As Coulson Hill Expert champ Steve Prosser approached the line brandishing his perrenial #1 plate, he stood facing Canadian National Champion Andrew Watson and emerging superstar Kaleb Hellreich as well as a stack of super talented and fast Expert competitors.
From the outset it was a battle of will as Team Spokes rider Brandon Wright did everything he could to hang onto the wheels of Kaleb and Andrew. By the time the final bell tolled, Brandon wound up in third place losing to Andrew by only inches.
Kaleb Hellreich on the way to the nights fastest lap: A blistering 7:12!
In our newly christened Grand Master Open category for riders over 50, Ray Hawkins demonstrated the speed and fitness of riders half his age and went on to a resounding victory over his peers. It will be interesting to see how Ray will make out when he moves up to Master Expert. What an inspiration Ray provides: Faster now than he has been in the last 15 years, he stands as living proof that age is not a determining factor in your athletic performance. You can be fast at 15 and you can be fast at 50. It's simply up to you to decide to make it happen!
In more exicting news, the Junior Sport category is filling out nicely as more riders are graduating from the Novice classes. Luke Knights is off to a tremendous start after snagging his first victory over the formidable Clay Te Bokkel and William Corry who fill out the balance of the podium. While Luke's margin of victory presents some short-term challenges to his competitors, Clay and William crossed the line only 8 seconds apart and are sure the have many more race course battles.
Our most hotly contested category of the night fell to the Senior Sport Men where the entire podium was seperated by only 5 seconds. That margin equates to just one missed shift, one blown corner, one bad line. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing a sprint finish amongst three speedy athletes all gunning for the top spot. One this night, Coulson veteran used his experience to his advantage. Paul Boken took first place over two new-to-the-series riders Mark Lancia (2nd) and Kris Williams (3rd).
Here's hoping these two fresh faces continue to grace us with their presence to help keep some pressure on Paul - although Chris Graham, a perpetual podium contender, probably isn't feeling the same way right now as he was squeezed out of his familiar location on the podium.
Big shout out to Eli Weening - one of our youngest Novice riders of the year. Congrats on moving up!
The Novice category has been stocked with a host of young riders that have just graduated from the Mini-Me ranks. It takes a lot of courage and confidence to move from a category where victory is likely to a category where you will be competing with bigger, older, more experienced riders.
Both Elijah Weening and Reid MacKinnon fall into this camp and we are very proud of these two young rippers. If they are the future of the sport, the future is looking bright indeed! While Reid's night was foiled by an ill-timed bout of asthma, we know he has the skills and speed to make a legitimate podium run over the course of the year.
More exciting things happened in our Mini-Me category - a category specifically for children under 12. In his best performance to date, Alex Sampson took home the highest honours of the night while Logan Knights fought extraordinarily hard for his second place finish falling only 14 seconds from the Alex's hot pace. In third place, with the first podium of his racing career was Seamus Cullen.
Congrats to all of you - but especially to Kaiden Sampson who, at 5 years old, is our youngest contender so far. He fought through wet feet and some tough hills to finish his race no matter how hard it felt. What a champ!
We are just getting started folks - the most exciting racing is yet to come.
Don't miss May 4th: It's Norco Demo Day!
Weather: 6°C, 26% humidity, cool & dry