Carl Milroy - head cheese at Red Thread Brewing Co. - was on hand to cook some food and share some of his fantastic local, organic brew. Look for "Making Tracks" at your local LCBO - the official beer of our weekly MTB series.
Week 11 - July 11
While riders may have had a hard time concentrating on the task at hand in anticipation of cold beer and hot burgers, the racing this week was, nonetheless, fantastic.
The new course was beautifully groomed with barely a pine cone or stick to be seen and the adventurous track took us to the northernmost reaches of the forest and back again through a couple of sharp climbs, some creek crossings, and plenty of fun single track.
The open course design is very open to passing opportunities and our Mini-Me category was well-separated from their adult counterparts. In a nutshell, the stage was set for some awesome action and our participants delivered in spades.
The most significant display of power belonged to Lindsay-anne Townsend who rode a brilliant race and surprised the timing crew with her exceptional finish. The key backstory here is the presence of Tessa Brinklow who exploded onto the cycling scene in 2016 and has really had a breakthrough season this year.
Thus far, Tessa has racked up 7 wins in 11 appearances at Coulson's Hill. The racing between Tessa and Lindsay-anne is constantly tight and often comes down to an exciting sprint finish. The big finishes have, however, mostly fallen into Tessa's domain.
Last night, however, Lindsay-anne was determined to script a different ending. Lindsay-anne took off from the line with vigour and the two competitors circled the track wheel-to-wheel for the first two laps - neither surrendering an inch or slackening their ferocious pace. From the observer's perspective, Tessa, sheltering herself from the wind and allowing Lindsay-anne to set the pace, seemed perfectly poised for a late race attack that would lay waste to Lindsay-anne's efforts. So it was stunning to witness Lindsay-anne come barreling down the final straight - punishing her drive train and competitors alike - pushing a massive gear and crushing her way to the finish line in a remarkable display of will and competitive spirit. This was Lindsay-anne's race and she would have it no other way. It was an awesome finish! We may say it consistently, but I can't wait to see what next week holds.
Another rider who took the gloves off this week was Chris Staniewski. Chris' speed over the course of a season is not always super consistent, but when this man is "on" he is a force to be reckoned with beyond most of our seasoned Experts. While he could not wrestle an absolute victory from the tight grip of club coach Paul Cooney, he capped a second place finish with a convincing margin over Steve Prosser and Dan Hope and notched lap times within 1-second of Paul. That kind of time is nothing short of incredible and speaks volumes about how Chris was feeling on this night. Sometimes the stars align, the training schedule peaks perfectly, the nutrition is perfectly balanced and the results simply look after themselves and leave a rider to bask in the glow that comes from reaching beyond yourself into the next stratosphere. Chris had one of those nights - and he'll certainly want more. Look out Experts!
Standout performances seemed to be the theme of the night as Dan Hope also delivered a breakthough performance. While Dan began the season in Sport, he ongoing improvements and impressive performances afforded him the opportunity to upgrade to Expert. Typically, this leap involves several weeks as pack fodder while you gain your sea legs and learn to manage the added physiological and psychological burden of the additional ride time. Dan would have none of that. Right from the start Dan made it clear that he intended to be a competitor.
Through the second and third laps, Dan wrestled a convincing lead out of the hands of Steve Prosser and the stage set for a serious upset in the typical order of things. Steve, however, was not having it and these two attacked and counter-attacked each other relentless on lap 4. At one point, Steve crested the first stage of a climb and was on the edge of voiding his lunch when Dan made his catch. Amazingly, and as a testament to the power of his competitive spirit, Steve refused to relent and pushed onward despite feeling ill and pulled off what became the definitive move of his race. His countered Dan's attack with everything he had, plowed through the second tier of the climb, and kept the throttle pinned right until the finish (where he promptly disposed of his lunch after all).
This is what it takes to be a champion: You have to push through your discomfort, push past your physical limits, and never surrender to the voice in your head yelling at you to relent. The battles like these are exactly why people race and, as I discussed with a couple of competitors post-race, where the true magic of competitive sports lies. It makes no difference if you are a Novice or a Expert. No difference if you are battling for 4th or 15th. The beauty, the power, the self-realization is in the battle itself. To conquer your own mental space and give everything you can, leaving nothing on the table, is the moment that lives are changed and you come to understand yourself and the world around you at a much deeper level. That is why you race.
See you all next week when we will write another chapter in the history of the hills of Coulson. And thanks again to Carl Milroy and Red Thread Brewing Co. for another awesome beer and BBQ night!
Ella Sugar - one of many new faces for 2018 - continues to impress with her commitment to improvement and the joy she derives from her cycling adventures. Get fit for life - find your passion!
Week 10 - July 4
With half of the season now in the rearview mirror, it is a great time to consider the impressive progress made by the huge collection of new riders this year.
Our Experts remain monstrously talented, comitted, and speedy - as expected - and always put on a clinic on bike handling, race strategy, and the benefits of frequent, demanding training.
The biggest story, however, is the influx of new riders and racers that have joined us this season. More than in any previous year, we have expanded our tent tremendously and it is an absolute joy to welcome new and aspiring athletes to the fold and to watch their skills, fitness, and confidence evolve.
It is tough to come and try something like our weekly series for the first time. There is the initimidation factor to contend with, there is uncertainty about your skills, there is inevitable suffering to contend with.
So I offer particularly huge kudos to all of you who have ventured out for the first time in your lives. You are the true champions of this season regardless of your results so far. Stick to it and I see podiums in your future!
Jamie Davies had a tremendous race and finished 2nd - just behind Brandon.
Regardless of the oppressive heat, the Expert athletes turned up the heat even further and put forth a huge effort in their quests for domination. This week we had all of the "big guns" in attendance with Brandon Wright leading the charge from the outset but needing to be mindful of the threat presented by Jamie Davies, Paul Cooney, and Steve Prosser.
Heading out for lap 2 of 4, this foursome remained quite tight and the stage was set for a war of attrition as the heat began to sap the rider's energy as quickly as they could gulp the water from their bottles. Paul started...well warmed up as he had rode from Sharon to Bradford before the race began.
At that point, he burned two fast laps (to warm up more?) before the race began. While Paul is a machine of extreme durability, the 3rd lap of the race saw Paul falter as he dropped more than a minute to his closest competitors.
Amazingly, Paul was able to recover from this implosion and on his fourth lap he turned a solid lap time. However, the damage was done and Jamie was there to put the proverbial nail in Paul's coffin. Jamie is always strong but his pace this season is simply stunning - he finished within 45-seconds of Brandon's winning time to take second place overall and improve his position from the previous race.
Steve Prosser also capitalized on Paul's third lap to recoup enough ground to be within striking distance by the end of the race. As Steve and Paul emerged from the last section of singletrack on the way to the finish, they both laid the power down and sprinted for all they were worth to capture the final podium position. While Steve made some initial ground, Paul was able to dig even deeper and fend off the attack to secure his podium position.
Chris Graham picking clean lines and riding strongly to victory.
Another category that is seeing it's share of heated battles is the Master Sport Men. In this field, we are seeing a constant back-and-forth between Chris Graham, Mark McArthur, and Martin Sugar. Better than just a tight points battle is the fact that the racing itself continues to get tighter and more competitive by the week.
This week the margin of victory for Chris - who has been on a tear of late - was down to a measly 8-seconds. Now that Martyn knows with certainty that he can hang with Chris, even in challenging conditions, there is no telling what the rest of the season will hold.
Mark was unable to hold the pace of the top two riders this week but there was plenty of excitement there, too, as Dustin Sampson rode a particularly strong race and was nipping at Mark's heels throughout the race and rode a particularly strong last lap gaining 14-seconds on Mark.
This massive effort put Dustin in position to contend a sprint finish for third place. Mark withstood the onslaught but, like the battle between Chris and Martin, the landscape has now changed for these two riders and the rivalry rekindled. Dustin is hungry for a taste of the podium and everyone ahead of him had better be on their toes if they hope to keep him from indulging in those delectable delights. (It's lunch time...I'm hungry.)
Eli Weening has been an absolute rock star this season and looks unbeatable.
The Novice category is also heating up in the mid-summer swelter. Eli Weening continues to be a dominating force in the field but we are defiitely seeing some increased competition of late. Seamus Cullen, who is typically right on Eli's tail, could not handle the heat and got out of the kitchen with his first DNF.
But into this void stepped Michael DeAngelis with his best finish since our season opener. Not only was his placing strong, he managed to constrain Elli's margin of victory to only 23-seconds. This is one of the closest finishes of the season so far and marks an important milestone: Perhaps Eli is not invincible after all.
Additionally, we have seen impressive gains from Mike Jackson who logged his third podium finish in a row this week and has been making steady progress up the championship standings. (Heads up, competitors: Mike is taking advantage of some coaching next week from Spoke O'Motion Cycling Club's Dustin Sampson.)
Our Mini-Me category can't be left out of a race report - especially when there is so much going on! First off, Alex Sampson earned his first win of 2018 with three steady laps on the course followed by a slowdown on his last lap. Fortunately, his competitors slowed down at a similar rate.
The only rider who managed to turn in a strong last lap was Benjamin Gummer who beat his third lap by 3-seconds in a mad dash to contest the inevitable Mini-Me sprint finish. In keeping with our trend over the past several weeks, a whole train of Mini-Me riders smashed through the start-finish area in a wheel-to-wheel, bar-to-bar hammerfest that proves the future of our sport is filled with piles of talent.
Consider that positions 2 through 5 were seperated by only 7-seconds and you'll see why our Mini-Me racers provide some of the most entertaining action of the entire field.
Next week we premiere a new course so be sure to join us for some more intense racing action. And please help spread the word about our series. Tell a friend, tell a neighbour. Drag them out to participate and help spur on the next generation of cycling enthiusiast. Help change a life and expose more people to the joy, the thrill, the excitement of recreational racing. The barriers to entry are very low and the change to a life can be extraordinary. Help spread the passion!
Brandon rips the shortcut line at full speed on his way to victory.
Week 9 - June 27
For the first time in several years, riders this week literally covered the forest from end to end. With a course that re-opened some trails that had been buried for almost half a decade, participants made it all the way to 12th Line - the northern perimeter of the forest.
With another "old school" design punctuated by long, fast sweeping corners and a little less singletrack, those with the strongest legs carried advantage over those whose strengths lie in the technical sections.
That said, there were certainly some demanding sections to deal with: Two creek crossings offered riders a brief respite from the heat as they flew through the shallows; a nasty, steep climb that could catch the most experienced riders by surprise; a rock garden shortcut that favoured momentum over choosiness, and a log-over that must have stood a proud 20" off of the trail.
All this made for an exciting race that rewarded consistency and encouraged riders to balance the risk versus reward ratio very carefully. Unfortunately, the threat of unpleasant weather scared off many of our regulars despite the conditions throughout the day being absolutely perfect. There are a few people in life whose prophecies you should never rely on and first amongst them is the weatherperson.
Benjamin Gummer stepped up huge and scored his first podium finish.
The biggest story of the night went down in the category filled with the smallest of riders. All season long, Kaiden Sampson and Ryder Cullen have been battling for singletrack supremacy. Most often their finishes came right down to the line and an exciting sprint finish.
Ryder had a brilliant start to the season and rode away with a convincing victory in the season opener back in early May. Since that time, however, Kaiden has consistently taken wins at Ryder's expense as shown by the long string of 2nd place finishes in the Championship standings.
Things were due for a shake-up - at least from Ryder's perspective - and that is exactly what we got. With the Mini-me course a little faster than usual this week, these little rippers were facing the daunting challenge of managing four laps - a season high.
To top it off, the usual contenders were joined by a fresh face in the podium battle - Benjamin Gummer. As his older brother Jacob had bravely joined the Novice ranks after some dominant Mini-Me performances, Benjamin was there to take over the Gummer mantle and bring glory to the family. And rise to the occasion he did.
The first lap transpired as race fans would expect: With Kaiden leading the field. This time, however, instead of Kaiden creating a gap on his competitors, he was being tightly shadowed by Ryder who, in turn, had Benjamin on his tail.
Heading out for their third lap, Kaiden's pace still could not be matched by his competitors and he maintained a consistent, if narrow, lead. By this point, Benjamin had made a move on Ryder and was looking strong in second. The gaps were minuscule and no one could foresee the ending we were to witness.
On the last lap, everything changed when Ryder made a move to take over both competitors and catapult himself into first place. As the trio rolled around the last corner - wheel-to-wheel-to-wheel - everyone pounded the pedals with all that their little bodies could muster. Kaiden is a fierce competitor and as the boys made their way to the finish line, he seemed to close the gap and Ryder's opportunity for victory looked to be slipping away.
But Kaiden could not sustain his last ditch effort and Ryder managed to cinch his first victory in 8-weeks. It was an amazing ride by all three boys and the spirit of competitiveness that drives them is a remarkable thing to behold.
Ryder on his way to his first victory since May 2nd! What a fighter.
The only thing that takes away from this story was a dirty pass by an unidentified male adult rider who cut Kaiden off in the race and took him off the bike. This may not have defined the outcome, but it sure took Kaiden out of the zone. Beyond the matter of the race, however, is that of sportsmanship and respect. We might not know the perpetrator, but I hope this incident is cause for some reflection.
As we instruct on an ongoing basis, safety is the first priority. What risks an individual decides to take upon their own shoulders is entirely up to them, but when passing another person the faster rider is obliged to do so safely. If there is no room to execute a safe pass, then the only option is to wait. The ONLY option is to wait. Your pass jeopardizes someone else's safety and that is not a responsibility you have any right to bear. All participants are expected to ride by this code.
On a positive note, a big shout out to Tyler Spina for diving into the Expert field. The latest rider amongst a strong junior field to step right up into the "big league", Tyler has had solid performances in the regional High School series and on the Ontario Cup scene. He is strong, motivated, and ready to learn. Once he gets a few more races under his belt, expect to see some impressive growth in his ability to hang with the fastest riders out there. It can be an intimidating thing to join a group where you can expected to get trounced for some time, but Tyler has the heart to get the job done. I can't wait to see the progress he makes over the remainder of the season.
See you all next week!
Jacob Gummer laid a pounding on the
Mini-Me field for the past two weeks.
What a powerful and skilled young rider! Upgrade time?
Week 8 - June 20
Our second week on the "long course" brought out plenty of familiar faces and a few new riders to enjoy the epically fast and flowy track whose grooming has raised the bar for mountain bike courses around the province.
The course begins with 6 solid minutes of high speed descending - most riders across the province would be stunned to hear that we can deliver a descent of that duration in little ole Coulson Hill. On subsequent laps, this section makes for a beautiful spot to collect yourself and prepare for the work that is to follow.
Our speediest riders will use this as an opportunity to try and make some "easy" ground on those whose bike handling skills are not quite up to scratch. Those who battle the limits of adhesion and courage may lose sizeable chunks of time to their more confident brethren here and be forced to work that much harder with the slope reversing itself and the climbing begins.
One young rider who had no difficulty mastering the art of flinging himself down the hillside was Jacob Gummer. Jacob and his brother Benjamin are both newcomers to the series as of week 7 and are both showing consistently speedy performance.
This week marks Jacob's second consecutive victory in convincing fashion and Jacob gives every indication that he is ready to test his skills in a more competitive field. He has a great handle on how to pace his efforts and can really lay the hammer down when he needs to build a buffer between him and his fellow Mini-Me riders.
Mike Jackson: Getting faster and fitter by the week.
But Jacob is not the only one rocking the boat these days. Mike Jackson nailed down two very consistent laps in Novice to not only notch his first podium finish but to make it all the way to second place.
With excellent pacing, Mike only dropped 22-seconds between laps and is demonstrating the required passion to drive his ongoing improvements. Congrats on your progress this year, Mike.
Some riders have found the climbing pretty tough over the past few weeks. We understand that and really want everyone to stick with us for the entire season in spite of the tiomes when you feel disheartened or outclassed.
The bottom line is this: The more you ride, the more consistently you join us, the easier it all becomes. (Alright...maybe not easier but you certainly get faster! ).
These improvements sometimes come in big chunks and sometimes every second must be hard-earned through lots of difficult work. But it you don't follow the path, you will never reach your destination. Fitness is just that: A path that leads to better health - both physical and mental. Follow us and we will deliver you both - it's what we do.
Mike Ceolin charging towards his first podium of the 2018 season.
Another example of exactly what we are discussing here is embodied by Mike Ceolin. Mike has been racing for a few years now and he has become quite the racing machine in that time. Always bringing the skills and bike handling, Mike's progression on the fitness side of the equation is a story that should inspire anyone questioning whether or not a lifestyle change - and the hard work it entails - is worthwhile.
In the past two years, Mike has lost well over 50 pounds and has become a veritable tour de force on the race course. This week, Mike earned his first podium in Master Sport, and had to topple the formidable Martyn Sugar to do so. Given Martyn's impressive run on the podium over several weeks, Mike's 3rd place behind the terminally fast Mark McArthur and Chris Graham is very impressive stuff.
Another impressive feart on this night was Mike's negative split on his third and final lap. When the final lap of your race is your fastest, it is a solid indicator that you managed your output effectively and rode as smart as you did hard.
Everyone has the power to be the person they want to be - on and off the bike. It requires only two facets: An earnest decision to focus on the goal at hand and the will to do the work required. You, too, can be like Mike!
Eli Weening lays the hammer down and finishes off an aggessive - and impressive pass - on Greg Rushton.
The final highlight of this week's report belongs to Eli Weening. What this young man lacks in years, he more than makes up for in heart and determination. One glance at the photo above and you know you are looking at a champion. When it comes to a commitment to the task at hand (in this case laying a beating on Greg Rushton), Eli goes all-in every time. There are no half measures, no good enoughs...there is only a relentless focus on doing the absolute best he can with every effort in every moment. These are the threads from which champions are spun and, even more importantly, off the bike Eli is always friendly, always encouraging, and always a good sport. This young man is a model of what all cyclists should aspire to live up to. The fact that Eli just happens to have won his last three races in a row is just the icing on the cake. Amazing stuff, Eli!
Next week, join us for the debut of another new course. We plan to officially re-open some trails that have been overgrown for years. See you then!
The star of the day was not a rider at all, but the new 2019 Cannondale F-Si adorned with the stunning new Lefty Ocho.
Week 7 - June 13
The premiere of a new course is always exciting and with our recent adventures further north into the forest riders are being treated to extensive ripping descents and some super fun single track.
When we create courses it is always tough to know with certainty what direction will prove more fun and the verdict was in last night - by virtue of near unanimous raised hands - that our new direction is the winner for this course.
The first six minutes or so see you drop almost 60 meters in elevation through a combination of blazing fireroad and flowy singletrack. Then, when you finally hit the creek, it's time to turn it around and begin the long haul back up those 60 punishing vertical metres.
The climb is mercifully broken up with some singletrack ascents that makes the time pass a little more easily and the fireroad sections offer, at least, consistent steepness. The consistency allows you to settle into a rhythm and just let your legs and gears work their magic.
The night got underway with a significant surprise for the gear junkies amongst us as Neil Gold - the top Cannondale rep in the country - dropped by for a surprise visit to show off his freshly assembled 2019 Cannondale F-Si hardtails equipped with the groundbreaking Lefty Ocho suspension fork.
This suspension takes everything that was desireable about the original Lefty - supreme lateral stiffness, incredible steering precision, ultra-lightweight, suppleness beyond compare - and improves compatibility with all bikes, ease of wheel removal, improved aesthetics, and even further reductions in weight. Maintenance intervals and durability were also key engineering targets that the Cannondale wizards attacked with great vigour.
What all the marketing speil in the word cannot possibly communicate, it just how incredibly this new bike rides - and that, after all, is what it's all about. The snappiness and responsiveness of the chassis is felt with every pedal stroke as the bike explodes with acceleration under every turn of the cranks. The bottom bracket stiffness is instantly apparent as is the sub-20 pound weight. The bike just screams at you to pick it up a notch, reach for the next gear, and keep the hammer down.
Even more impressive is the bump absorption and compliance. In relative terms, building an ultra-stiff and responsive bike is simple. The magic recipe is in combining the instantaneous power transfer of a stiff chassis with flex in the seat stays and seat post that allow you to remain seated through the chudder, roots and rocks. For a hardtail, the ride quality was massively impressive and I could remain seated through sections that would have torn me apart on earlier versions of the same bike. This is a massive step forward for race hardtails and I could certainly live with this bike as a daily driver despite my general preference for full-squish .
Neil Gold (in black/grey) was kind enough to loan me a 2019 F-Si for the night - what a rocket!
The race got underway with Steve Prosser taking the helm and steering the ship towards Lactic Acid Island with an urgency that left the crew struggling to pull the oars. As the gang pushed northward and downward, Dave Knights took to exploring the rhubbarb and marsh rather than ride David Van Schie's awesome bridge. We're still not too sure why but this navigational call cost Dave a couple of positions.
Steve, Luke Knights, and myself (Myles Cullen) sat in first through third for the first two laps. On the third lap, sensing that Steve's pace was ebbing and that Luke had better cards than he was showing, I made an early move and passed both riders on the 400 fireroad just before we ducked into the singletrack to continue the descent.
Hoping to create a gap on Steve and leave Luke stuck behind, I let the F-Si work it's magic and relished the snappy response and incredible standing climbing that only a hardtail delivers. Still riding comfortably within my envelope, my mind focussed on maintaining pace, we barreled towards the final lap and an outcome yet to be determined.
On the fourth lap, shortly after turning uphill from the creek bed, a quick shoulder check in a tight, twisty section revealed that Steve had surrendered his position to Luke and that Luke was now charging towards me like a bull being shown a bright red flag.
Jumping out of the saddle, I was determined to try and create enough of a gap that Luke would be unable to launch an effective attack before we made it back to singletrack. If I could enter the singletrack first, I was optimisitic that I could fend off whatever mught happen thereafter.
No more than 40 metres before the entrance to the windy, uphill singletrack that could have sealed my victory, Luke roared past like a man possessed. Luke didn't just pass me - he obliterated me with a display of speed and endurance I absolutely could not match in the moment. It was an epic maneuver and demonstrative of impressive confidence and fitness. What an athlete Luke has become!
Another seismic shift took place in the Master Sport Men category where Martyn Sugar continues to make his presence felt in his pursuit of championship gold. While Chris Graham took the win with another strong showing, Martyn's consistent performance and another second place finish saw him displace Mark McArthur from the top spot in the championship standings. That said, should Chris continue riding as strongly as he has over the past couple of races he is sure to be a big threat to the riders currently occupying the podium. Only 23 points seperate first through fifth in this category - this one will certainly come down to the wire.
Remember gang: Don't skip a race because of the potential of foul weather. It probably won't happen - yesterday was glorious at Coulson and we only saw about 20-minutes if rain at 3:30pm. Furthermore, even if it was to rain and turn into a muckfest then there is even more reason to attend: Double points! On nights when the weather is truly foul, riders will be rewarded with double championship points. Seasons have been won and lost based on these nights and, beyond all else, once you are wet, riding in the rain is a ton of fun.
A huge shout out to Scott Russell for volunteering to come and do some trail maintenance yesterday. We drove to 12th Line and entered the forest from the northern perimeter and reopened sections of trail that were completely erased due to logging and neglect. Nine person hours later, we successfully resuscitated about a minute's worth of riding. Yes...the math really is that discouraging. But the reward of creating a beautifully manicured bit of trail from pure bush is something that needs to be experienced to be understood. If anyone can spare time on Wednesdays, please let me know! There is no glory or payment other than the satisfaction of a job well done for the benefit of our awesome cycling community - but I'd argue that's enough.
Look to see this sweet, classic Coulson trails included in our next new course! See you all next week.
Everyone is ready to get underway in sunshine & cool temps.
An ideal night!
Week 6 - June 6
The action at Coulson's Hill began early on Wednesday as the weed whackers and back-pack blowers made an appearance in an effort to combat the ever-encroaching foliage that looks to bury whatever trails we clear and mark.
A huge debt of gratitude is also owed to Dave, Luke, and Evan Knights who spent a combined 10+ hours on the weekend giving me a head start on my Wednesday workload.
All of the hard work paid off, however, once the rubber hit the dirt and riders were able to fly through the course at speeds unattainable last week. With logs removed, trails widened, and debris cleared the stage was set for some intense racing action. And that is exactly what we got.
While the overall championship podium positions did not see much of a shake-up after this race, this belies the excitement that transpired on the course. For example, Robbie McCrossan, the one rider to make a dent in the overall points race, rode another strong race and has built significant momentum over the past two weeks. Last week, in our first run at the current course configuration, Robbie blasted to his first victory of the season. He owned that race from start to finish and, while he surrendered some time back to Dan Hope on the last lap, he rode a controlled and tactically flawless event.
Robbie McCrossan has been on a tear for the past couple of weeks. He now sits in 3rd place in the Championship standings.
This week, however, Dan was out for vengeance and keen to ensure his training would not be going to waste. Lap one played out like a carbon copy from week 5 with Robbie laying down the fastest opening lap but with Dan hot on his heels - and by "hot on his his heels" we are talking about a one second gap. The two riders effectively crossed through the timing area wheel-to-wheel. In week 5, Dan's second lap was his demise as he dropped 25-seconds to Robbie who was in full attack mode. The roles were precisely reversed this time around as Dan dug deep and managed to turn very consistent lap times where Robbie lost 35-seconds on lap 2 - almost exactly what happened to Dan the week prior.
Few riders push themselvesd as hard - and suffer as much - as Dan Hope. He's a fierce competitor with an appetite to win.
To Robbie's credit, he found a way to run a negative split on his third and final lap where, in comparison, Dan faded but there was not enough gas left in the tank for Robbie to launch a legitimate counter-attack. That said, Robbie's back-to-back 1-2 finishes have catapulted him onto the championship podium for the first time and the racing is exciting and unpredictable - exactly what we want to see. Further to that, these two riders had better not forget about David Van Schie who only trailed Robbie by an additional 30-seconds. No position can be taken for granted in this category.
Chris Graham had a stellar race and earned a "W"!
Another rider marking his first win of the season was Master Sport competitor Chris Graham. After notching his first podium last week with a 3rd place finish behind Trevor Peyton (now an Expert) and Mark McArthur, Chris was intent on making his mark and cementing his position amongst the leaders in his cat. Chris absolutely crushed his first lap with a sub-14 minute lap - dropping the field in the process.
Dustin Sampson sat in second place as the crew rode into their second lap hoping to keep Chris in sight and reel him in as the race wore on. Chris maintained a consistent pace that revealed no chinks in his armour, however, and even turned a negative split on lap 3.
In his effort to catch Chris, Dustin burned a few too many matches and left the door open for Martyn Sugar to lay down a pass on lap 2 and eventually put 20-seconds into Dustin on the lap. Martyn went on to clinch second place as he held Dustin off through their last lap.
But the boys aren't the only ones out there fighting for dominance and glory. The battle amongst the Sport Women is always fierce and the competition ridiculously tight. The outcomes bounce between riders and every week we are treated to an intense showcase of grit, determination, and, this week, some beautiful racecraft.
In an earlier race report, I wrote about the importance of understanding your pace. The temptation, especially for young or less experienced riders, is to go out at full-tilt-boogie the moment the race is underway. That's all well and good if this is a pace that you can sustain through the entirety of the race. However, the enemy of optimized lap times is over-exertion early in the show.
Tessa Brinklow made an amazing move when it mattered most and rode on to a hard-warned victory. Watch out Canada Cup!
The best-managed race will see a rider turn consistently faster lap times as the race wears on - this is the hunt for the often sought but difficult to attain "negative split".
Carys Reid started the show by setting a strong pace on the initial lap. Tessa Brinklow - the current series leader - stuck on her tail like glue and didn't let Carys slip out of her sight for a moment.
Through the first couple of laps, these two powerhouse women rode wheel-to-wheel and, from all appearances, they appeared tightly matched on this night.
On lap 3, however, Tessa was able to sustain a remarkably consistent pace while Carys was running out of steam. With a surge that must have felt overwhelming in the moment, Tessa made her move and charged ahead in a relentless and punishing drive to eventual victory.
She wound up creating an almost 90-second gap in this last lap and delivered a clinic in how and when to make a move.
Look for both of these superfast ladies to make their mark on the Canada Cup course this Sunday at Horseshoe Resort.
Join us next week to be a part of this exciting narrative, meet great people, test your mettle, and learn to live life on two wheels. Next week we will also debut a new course - it's gonna be awesome!
Dave Van Schie (left) - bridge builder extraordinaire - and Paul Boken enjoy a cold brew and burger after an epic race. Treats never taste better than when they are hard-earned! Thanks to Red Thread Brewing Co. for supporting our event!
Carys Reid and Kaiden celebrate a great night of racing with friendship and food - two of life's greatest joys. (Along with cycling, of course.)
Week 5 - May 30
While the onset of spring was delayed by snow storms and lots of cold, wet weather, now that the season is underway the conditions have been nothing short of stunning. In this 2018 season, we have already seen more sunny, hot days than we did throughout the entire summer of 2017.
To celebrate this joyous weather, we joined forces with local brewmaster Karl Milroy and his company, Red Thread Brewing Co., to host a delicious post-race BBQ and beer tasting. Kudos to Karl and Red Thread for donating their time and cold beer to help make our cycling experience all the more satisfying.
It was straight to the beer cooler for many after punishing themselves on our new and challenging course. Progression was the name of the game this week and no one can say they weren't warned! The early courses are intentionally kept reasonably flat and relatively short in order to lay the groundwork for what is to come later in the season.
When the season begins, our expectation is that most riders have not spent their winters whittling away the hours aboard a trainer and, instead, use the early season to rekindle their love affair with their saddles and to train their legs and brains to cope with the relentless time spent at threshold.
A month into the series, however, and the time has come to increase our expectations. Our new course ventured into the northern reaches of the forest and moved away from the tight, twisty mayhem of our earlier tracks and offered in its place high speed descents, fast sweepers, and plenty of climbing. The Mini-me riders also faced a more challenging course - that was almost entirely exclusive - and rose to the occasion admirably.
The Expert field was more competitive than ever as Brandon Wright took to line looking to fend off a motivated Steve Prosser. For the first couple of gruelling laps, Steve was able to keep Brandon in sight but he was never truly within reach. As the race wore on and Steve wore down, Brandon slowly crept away and wound up netting a comfortable 65-second gap by the time the race concluded. On lap one, Brandon lay down a blistering time of 12:57 and, once again, clearly established himself as the man to beat.
Brandon Wright is looking unstoppable this year - unless Steve Prosser has something to say about it.
Tyler Spina on the path to victory. In second place here, Tyler went on to victory.
Only 30ish seconds behind the duo of Steve and Brandon toiled Dave Knights and Chris Staniewski. While Dave wound up sneaking past the finish line fractionally ahead of Chris, these two battled hard all night and pushed each other to maintain a monstrous tempo throughout the entire event.
Demonstrating the power of proper motivation, neither rider gave an inch over almost an hour of racing as they battled back and forth over four laps and were never more than a few seconds apart. A single mistake or lapse of concentration on the part of either athlete, and the results may have told a different story. This was Chris' strongest performance of the year and one he surely hopes to build on.
Another rider who has really found his legs and looks to be growing into an exceptional talent is Tyler Spina. While the first few races of the season were dominated by an undefeated Evan Knights, Tyler just posted his second win in a row and put almost a minute on Evan in the process.
Of course, the tide can recede just as quickly as it rolls in and Tyler cannot afford to let up for a moment if he hopes to displace Evan from the top spot in the Championship standings. There is a lot of racing yet to come and different courses will play into different rider's strengths - results are never a foregone conclusion.
Most importantly, these Junior Sport riders continually show the drive and the heart that will help them reach new heights and push past the mental barriers that can so easily hold us back.
Seamus Cullen makes his mark with the first Novice win of his season.
Seamus Cullen is a young man that continues to turn heads and raise eyebrows. Riding in Novice for the first time this year, Seamus has been in the hunt every race and has consistently been notching podium-worthy performances.
With the demanding course the Novices faced, there was some concern that the course may have been too difficult for some of the less experienced riders. Combined with the crushing heat of the day, several riders did indeed fall victim to the dreaded DNF.
Of note, Seamus' key competitor Eli Weening suffered in the soaring temperatures and retired after his first lap. This left the door wide open for Seamus to make his move and collect his first Novice victory - an impressive feat for a 9-year-old. This victory also strengthened Seamus' hold on the Championship podium.
Mark Shillum also kept the hammer down and chased Seamus through two gruelling laps to mark another 2nd place finish. With two solid finishes in a row, Mark now holds second place in the overall standings and has made impressive progress from the beginning of the season.
Tessa Brinklow emerges victorious after a tough battle in the woods.
The Sport Women category also saw heated action last night as Tessa Brinklow and Lindsay-anne Townsend renewed their long-standing rivalry. These two riders have battled hard, race after race, for years now and the results are always up in the air - and the racing ridiculously exciting.
After trading blows for the first couple of weeks of racing action, Tessa appears to have locked in a pace just beyond what Lindsay-anne can manage. But the margins of victory are so very small, the outcomes are impossible to predict.
This week, Tessa took Lindsay-anne by only 7 seconds and Lindsay-anne appears to have left some jetfuel in the tank.
On her last lap, Lindsay-anne clawed back 9 seconds of precious time and completed the lap just one second slower than Tessa's first lap. This suggests that the results are being defined by tactics and race strategy rather than purely fitness.
Knowing when to burn your matches, when to conserve, and when to make your opponents suffer is at the heart of racecraft. By making small adjustments to race strategy and energy outlay, the results can look very different indeed. This is one rivalry that always delivers excitement.
Unfortunately, the third shining star in the Coulson sky, Carys Reid, suffered in the heat and wound up a few minutes behind the leaders. Carys had a solid victory last week and will surely be looking to turn her fortunes around in week 6.
Trevor Peyton leads out Mark McArthur in a fight to the finish.
Another show of strength from Trevor Peyton in Master Sport, where he rolled away with his third consecutive victory, means that Trevor is now our newest Expert rider. There is no pretending that this will not be a challenging transition as the race duration increases as does the level of competition. However, Trevor has shown a solid growth trajectory over the past few years and will surely benefit from the demands that lay ahead.
This shake-up will also change the complexion of the Master Sport category where Mark McArthur is now the reigning king and is feeling the heat from both Chris Graham and speedy newcomer Martyn Sugar. This category has consistently produced the tightest finishes and closest championship battles. 2018 is looking no different and there is a ton of racing to come!
Kaiden Sampson on a charge towards world domination!
A race report would hardly be a race report without coverage of the future of our sport - the Mini-me riders. Riding a new course that barely touched upon the adult course and delivered some rather challenging terrain for little legs and bikes, our field did a tremendous job rising to the occasion.
The group this week seemed to ride in clusters of two. Maizy and Jake Morton - the latter of whom was out for his first race of the season - ploughed through the course together finishing only 1-second apart.
Similarly, Ella Sugar and William Young rode tail-to-tip through their laps as well. After conceding 5-seconds on the first lap, Ella pushed hard to close the gap on their last lap and clawed back to within 2-seconds but was unable to make a pass on William who was not prepared to surrender an inch.
The highlight reel story, however, belongs to Kaiden Sampson who rode away from Ryder Cullen after Ryder performed an unnecessarily close tree inspection on his first lap. This opportunity was all the invitation Kaiden needed to pick up the tempo even further and capture his fourth consecutive victory. Ryder did his utmost to close the gap on his second lap and did, in fact, regain 4-seconds but this was not sufficient to erase the deficit. Congrats to Kaiden and good luck on the race to championship glory!
We also have to offer a huge shout out to Dave Van Schie for his hard work and time spent in building us a new bridge. We used it in this week's course and it was smooth, stable, and FAST. Just like him! We couldn't do what we do without the help and support of the community. Thanks to everyone that supports us in any capacity they can.
Carys Reid and Paul Boken rip through some immaculately groomed singletrack. Pursuing.
Week 4 - May 23
The life of an athlete is all about the pursuit of excellence. While calling this a "pursuit" implies that one eventually reaches a destination, the intriguing thing about athletics is that the endpoint never arrives.
It is an intangible, shifting target that seems to move every time you get close to having it within your grasp. Whether 2018 marks your first time on the race course or the challenge of a new category and new competitors, the journey is in constant self-improvement.
The hunt begins when you first begin riding and you find yourself at the back of the pack struggling to make every climb, clipping your bars on every tree, and desperately trying to keep your riding mates in sight.
Then the lifestyle changes start coming: Quit smoking, reduce the visits to your local fast food establishment, skip that extra drink so that you can get up early to get another ride in.
All of these little, cumulative changes come together with your increased activity levels to help some extra pounds melt away. Suddenly, those riders that dropped you every climb are within grasp and you can begin to taste the seductive sweetness of speed.
Another couple of weeks at Coulson's Hill and you start clawing your way up the ranks. It's the same journey for every rider whether you are a Novice or an Expert. There are spurts of extraordinary progress when everything seems to be heading in the right direction. There are frustrating plateaus where it seems no amount of sacrifice and suffering make any difference. But the bottom line is this: We must pursue excellence.
We must look to break through our physical and mental barriers in an ongoing effort to be the best we can. Sometimes the journey is replete with joy and success while at other times we are beset with failure. But the journey itself is what matters - it is where the learning happens. As told in the cyclists' mantra: It never stops hurting, you just go faster.
Young riders like Ella Sugar represent the future. The fastest amongst us can be the role models that inspire future Olympians.
Aspire to be great
This week we have undertaken to formalize our upgrade/downgrade policy for rider categories. A copy of the resulting document can be found here. The Coles notes (do those still exist?) version is this: We want you to be inspired by our Expert-level racers. These athletes represent where you can all go with enough saddle time, commitment to healthy lifestyle choices, and lots of hard work.
To ride expert, you have to be within 10% of the average speed of the race winner. Fail to make that grade three times and it's back to sport you go. We hope to incentivize borderline riders to work harder than ever to hold their positions and provide a benchmark for up-and-comers to shoot for.
Similarly, riders from entry-level categories are encouraged to quickly stretch themselves past their comfort zones and push onwards and upwards. Tougher competition, longer races, and more saddle time are the best ways to raise the bar and stay motivated.
Liam Armstrong joined us for his first race this week and had a solid outing. Just wait to see the progress he'll make after a few weeks on the trails.
There are a few important and exciting things to note for next weeks event:
First off, Red Thread Brewing Co. is joining us in hosting a BBQ and tasting session after the ride so be sure to bring some warmer clothes to lounge in. There is no need to tell you to come hungry because after racing, there is no way you won't want to wolf down a burger or hotdog and wash is down with some delicious local craft beer.
Secondly, we will be debuting a new course next week so forget everything you have learned about the current course and be prepared for an entirely new adventure.
Careful attention will be paid to ensure an abundance of passing opportunities and the conditions now allow us to explore some of the more northern reaches of the forest. Expect a faster, flowier course designed for the speed demons among us.
It's going to be an amazing evening of bikes, burgers, beer, and amazing people. Life is good!
We are also in need of a couple of volunteers to put in about 90-minutes of work on Monday evening to help David Van Schie install a new bridge in place of a rotten and dangerous one. If you can lend a hand, please let me know by email ASAP. Ideally, a chainsaw owner would be very helpful.
See you all next week and, as always, spread the word and invite your friends!
The Rocky Mountain demo drew people from all over to test ride some of the most entertaining platforms available to cyclists today.
Week 3 - May 16
While the sun beamed it's replenishing rays upon the drying soil, the new course was treated to more love and affection than my lawn has seen in years. Weeds were whacked, trails were blown with 260km/h gusts, and signed checked and double-checked. We were ready.
As were the good folks from Rocky Mountain bikes who came prepared with a host of amazing platforms to test in ideal conditions.The new Thunderbolt was a particularly popular bike as it seamlessly blends a playful trail bike with an occasional race weapon. It's a crazy fun ride. (For me, its all Element all the time. Read about my experience here.
For the first time this season, my perspective of the race was not from that of a rider but from the timing tent. Observing the race unfold before me like a complex piece of origami complete with unexpected creases and surprising pieces popping up from nowhere reminded me of just how variable and unpredictable racing can be. It was super fun and I'd encourage participants to bring family and friends out to the event so that they might soak up the experience and the ambiance of this remarkable weekly event.
This week, the headline show was between young Brandon Wright and the...uhhh...less young Paul Cooney. What Paul gives up in chronology, he more than makes up for in discipline, training and experience - pretty much the holy trinity of cycling excellence. When Paul arrives at the line, it's enough to make everyone snap to attention but something exciting is bound to go down. As the Experts were running four laps of our new course, the was lots of time for the drama to reveal itself.
Perhaps predictably, Brandon shot of of the front of the race and set the pace for Paul to try and contain. Contain he did and Paul rode comfortably on Brandon's wheel for the first two laps. Somewhere in the midst of the third lap, Paul attacked and passed Brandon and Brandon described the subsequent lap following Paul as one where "Paul attacked and attacked and I just held on. The downhills allowed for time to regroup so he couldn't create a gap."
When this duo passed through the timing area heading out for their final lap with Paul in the lead, spectators (including myself) were surprised at the early move. Worrisome for Paul's fans, Brandon looked rather composed on his wheel and looked to be riding well within himself. Almost immediately, bets started flying about the outcome.
As the two rounded the last corner only 150m from the finish line, all eyes were fixed on the epic spring about to happen. Brandon had the inside line and charged hard from over Paul's left shoulder. The two hammered for everything they were worth - blasting to the finish line at over 40km/h despite the punishing pace they had already sustained for four gruelling laps. It was all about this moment; this pedal stroke; this gear shift. Now or never was upon them both.
The furious mashing of gears and pedals saw Brandon pull even with and then ever so slowly pull past the monstrous powerhouse that is Coach Cooney in full flight. Brandon took the win by inches in a heavyweight battle as sure to be remembered by the riders themselves as the awestruck spectators. What a show!
While on the topic race tactics and knowing when to show your hand, Evan Knights demonstrated exceptional tactics this week too with a last lap, last corner attack on Tyler Spina. Tyler looked like he had the Junior Sport victory all neatly sewn up as a string of riders rounded the last corner coming into the finishing sprint. Tyler's positioning was perfect - he was spinning efficiently and energetically and looked happy to see the finish line. Then, in but an instant, Evan emerged from the throng of riders and laid down the best sprint of his life.
With the totality of the effort etched on his face, Evan put every ounce of his being into the pedals and powered past Tyler with mere inches to spare and earned himself an awesome category win.
These efforts - these displays of perseverance, courage, suffering, and pure, unadulterated effort - are some of the most impressive things on earth to behold. Everything that is going on in your busy life is cast aside. All of your worries, all of your stress, all your fears, all of your self-doubt...it all vanishes into the intoxicating rush of living wholly, completely in the moment. Never in life are you at a point more pure and more divine than when you completely lose all self-awareness and just...exist. Exist in the moment with but one single, solitary focus.
It's an incredible place to be and I hope our weekly series can bring you all just a little bit closer to these moments of pure flow when the world melts away around you. This is why we do what we do!
Not only are our resident rockstars out there keeping it real every week, but we are continuing to draw an unprecedented number of new riders. We haven't seen such an influx of new blood into the sport for many years and we are absolutely thrilled to be bringing this event to more new riders than ever before. For example, young James Ley just completed his first Mini-Me race (after two previous valiant efforts). The smile on his face as people cheered him past the finish line was worth 1000 hours of trail maintenance.
In a similar vein, Bella Deangelis joined us this week for the first race of her life. This pint-sized powerhouse showed grit and determination beyond her years as she plowed through three tough Mini-Me laps. For a moment, I thought she might throw in the the towel as she passed the timing tent on her way out for lap #3 but, to yet more more cheers from the crowd, Bella trucked right on by and kept herself flowing through another lap. What a remarkable achievement for this young trooper!
Thank you all for joining us and we hope to see you all out again next week for another fantastic voyage of thrills, spills, and personal discovery.
Week 2 - May 9
Unlike the early season, where our challenges revolved around the refusal of snow to remain sequested at the North Pole, this week we faced - and conquered - a windstorm of epic proportions that uprooted healthy trees and knocked down weaker ones. The trail network was littered with debris and many trails were completely impassible.
Before we can even begin to talk about the incredible racing action, we must offer thanks to the volunteers who have toiled relentlessly in the forest to restore it to it's former glory.
Our forest is maintained entirely by volunteers and does not consume a penny of tax dollars or grant money. A huge shoutout to Nelson Papel, the Knights family, the Patenaude family, and the Wright family for their tireless contributions week in and week out - we couldn't do it without you!
Now on to the racing:
Another week of sunshine and blue skies helped the remaining sections of soggy trail turn tacky and firm - conditions are already better than through most of our soggy 2017 season.
Not only did our theme of fantastic weather continue, but so did the barrage of new faces entering the sport for their first time and riders rejoining our cast of characters after a long winter break. This created some shake-ups in a few categories and the racing will only get tighter from here on out.
The charge on this night was led by Steve Prosser who set the Expert pace for the first couple of laps. Once the dust settled after a few tumultuous corners as the lead pack sorted itself out and the ambitious were able to make the passes they needed, on the train from Steve's tail sat Dave Knights, Chris Staniewski, and Myles Cullen. While Steve's pace was brisk, he burnt through a few too many matches in his efforts to start his afterburners and, on the third lap, he slowed up enough for Dave and Myles to slip past and increase the tempo even further at the front of the pack.
Steve Prosser leading out the Experts. Dave Knights, Chris Staniewski, and Myles Cullen hot in pursuit!
Once he had surrendered the lead, Steve was unable to counter the blistering pace being laid down by Dave and lost a bit of time on ech remaining lap. Myles, sitting in second place overall at that point, was similarly close to Dave and successfully prevented Steve from being able to recapture his position but got dropped on lap four when Dave laid down the hammer on the final climb and ensured that he had enough gap to guard from a counter attack. Dave proceeded to win the overall and secure his spot atop the leaderboard in Master Expert for the second week.
The surprise performance of the week goes to Ben Dobson. Ben has been riding for years and started racing with us last year. He has delivered a number of compelling performances and has nibbled at the apple of greatness but never enjoyed a full mouthful.
On this day, Ben left his Newmarket job aboard his amazing Norco Revolver dual suspension and rode his bike to Coulson Hill. At that time, he was eager to take advantage of our Cannondale demo day and set himself up on a Scalpel Si courtesy of our awesome Cannondale rep, Neil Gold.
Admittedly, expectations for Ben's performance were blunted by the knowledge that he had already put in a reasonably long ride and must have been fatigued before the race even got underway.
Once the results we tallied, however, we were thrilled to announce that Ben had just laid claim to his first career win at Coulson. This is a remarkable achievement on the best of days and a true stunner given the circumstances. Congratulations, Ben!
Ben wasn't the only one setting the world on fire, though: We had another career landmark to celebrate this week as Kaiden Sampson made his mark on the Mini-Me map with his first win. We always knew if was only a matter of time until Kaiden managed to score his first "W" - his talent, drive, and positive spirit are well-known to the regulars at Coulson. Just cruise through our many photo albums. Kaiden will always be found with a big smile on his lips and a cheeky sparkle in his eyes.
After a close contest last week, Kaiden went out hard in hopes of removing Ryder Cullen from atop the podium. Ryder had a different race strategy this week in, instead of following Kaiden, wanted to set the pace from the outset and drive Kaiden into the hurt locker.
However, Ryder may have pushed that early pace a little too hard as, on the first lap, he hooked his handlebars on a tree after an overly aggressive corner entry and then was flung into a second tree. After a few tears were shed, Ryder regained his focus and set off the chase Kaiden back down.
But Kaiden, with the taste of victory on his tongue, was not about to let opportunity pass him by. Kaiden ripped another two solid laps and managed to keep Ryder at bay for the entirety of the race and scored himself a solid, if narrow, victory.
It looks like we will all be treated to another season of these wiley vets chasing each other into the twilight. This is sport at it's most pure and most beautiful - may it inspire another generation of riders as these two young men grown up in the embrace of comeraderie, competition, and the love of the outdoors.
One last story before we wrap this up. In 2017, the Master Expert category was one of our most hotly contested. On any given Wednesday, Trevor Peyton, Mark McArthur, and Dustin Sampson could be counted on for a dramatic battle and super tight lap times.
Last week, Dustin ran the course uncontested and commanded a strong margin of victory. This week, however, saw the field return to its prior depths and Dustin knew he was facing a particularly challenging field.
Add Chad Madaleno to the mix - hot off of a solid performance at last weekend's inaugural Ontario Cup MTB race - and the stage was set for an awesome battle. On the first lap, Mark set the pace with Trevor hot on his heels and then a short gap to the duelling Dustin and Chad.
From this point, like most mountain bike races, it was a war of attrition. The rider who could lose the least pace every lap would be the one to emerge victorious. This ability to pace yourself and know when the time is right to bury yourself in a big effort lies at the heart of effective MTB racing.
On this night, Dustin's armour was the first to show chinks and Chad was there to snatch third position heading into the third lap. Chad would go on to retain this position and put 20-seconds on Mr Sampson.
Trevor rode a masterful race and sat behind Mark for two tight laps and then lit the wick to launch his attack on their last lap. Both riders managed to pull negative splits on their final lap (when a subesquent lap is faster than the one that came before it). This is the holy grail of racing: An ultrafast last lap has the power to bury your competitors and dissuade them from even trying to attack.
While Trevor's margin of victory was a scant 5-seconds, he showed an understanding of racecraft that will strike fear into his competitors the next time this fearsome foursome lines up at the starting gate. Well played, sir.
Rocky Mountain Demo Day Next Wednesday, May 16
In keeping with the demo theme of the past few weeks, we are thrilled to let you know that Rocky Mountain will join us at Coulson Hill next week with a samplig from their product catalog - including another e-bike in the Altitude Powerplay. Rocky Mountain has been synonymous with mountain biking since it all began and their resurgence over the past few years marks a renaissance for this iconic Canadian brand. A brand whose engineering excellence has garnered a cult-like following around the world. Their tag lines sums it up: Ride the Difference.
Week 1 - May 2
After weeks of wet, cold, and soggy weather - when all we wanted was to feel some sunshine absorbing into black lycra - our race season finally got underway this Wednesday bathed in glorious sunshine and very warm weather.
The first race of the year always feels like something of a homecoming - familiar faces bombard the registration tent and the chatter of participants circles around winter training, events to come, and how much people have (or haven't) been riding to date.
There is a palpable excitement in the air as nerves take hold and everyone seems just a little extra anxious to test their legs in what, for many, is the first demanding ride of the year.
This week we were thrilled to see so many new faces joining the fold - ready and eager to have some fun, rip some awesome singletrack, and improve on their skills and fitness. As usual at Coulson, most of our newcomers were families - parent-child pairs that were there to support each other, guide one another, and work through the frayed nerves brought on by competing in what, for many, was the first race of their lives.
Lives that were about to be changed forever. The challenge - and intrinsic beauty of cycling - is that when you begin, the work seems incredibly intense and the fun might not seem immediately obvious. Early season fitness can put a strain on even a seasoned rider's joy-factor. But fear not, new riders! The more you ride and the more often you join us, the more quickly the work magically transforms itself into pure bliss. With some more rides under your proverbial belts, the fitness will come by itself, your confidence in your bike handling will increase, and the hills will seem much less daunting. Somewhere along the way, you may even come to relish the work and suffering - it is then that you have truly joined the pantheon of impassioned cyclists.
As most of you likely know, we postponed the start of our season due to the unseasonal weather we experienced a couple of weeks back. It may have been disappointing to lose a week, but what a difference some sunshine and warm weather made to the trail conditions.
With the exception of two mucky areas, the course was mid-summer dry and we took great pains to create a course that stuck to high ground and utilized the driest sections of the forest. The bikes stayed clean, the riders remained (mostly) upright, and the racing was as exciting as ever.
Our 3.3km course wove through lots of tight, twisty singletrack and riders only had to navigate a single climb. In our early season courses, the emphasis is on handling and learning to race in a group. As the season rolls onward, the cardio demands will increase in step with our fitness levels. This progressive approach keeps it fun and allows us to keep slowly raising the bar - and help you move up along with it.
Spectators were treated to an explosive start in the Expert field. As soon as the field laid down their first few crank strokes, there was a loug "bang!" as Chris Staniewski - who finished the 2017 season in 2nd place overall - blew his chain apart. While the field barrelled out of sight down the fire road, Chris made a speedy repair and was soon in hot pursuit.
Unfortunately, this mishap took him out of contention this week but created great opportunity for his competitors. Brandon Wright demonstrated his usual speed and stood poised to lay a beating on the field but missed the "Expert Only" loop at the end of each lap and was, unfortunately DQ'd as a result.
The left the door open for Steve Prosser to take his first step towards his run for the overall podium in the Expert category. Steve delivered consistent laps and has stated his intentions to track down Brandon and reclaim his crown as Coulson champion.
Paul Boken continues to impress with the progress he has made over the past couple of years. He nailed a 2nd place finish this week and will be looking to continue collecting points with every effort.
A big shout out to Aaron Wright who made his Expert debut this week after taking the 2017 Junior Sport championship. Development is all about moving past your comfort zone - Aaron's lives this commitment.
One of the best battles we are likely to see evolve over the season is the competition between Tessa Brinklow and Lindsay-anne Townsend. These two powerhouse women fought for every podium spot throughout the 2017 season and, if this race is anything to go by, look to be as evenly matched as ever.
On this night, Tessa proved to be the faster rider but powered past the line with only 11-seconds in hand on her key competitor. Early season legs being what they are, this is by no means indicative of where we wind up later in the year and Lindsay-anne is undoubtedly hungry to capture some #1 finishes while Tessa will fight to retain her points lead.
Also of note, Dustin Sampson started the season on a high note by nailing down a convincing victory of his Master Sport field. Newcomer Chris Lynch rode a tremendous race to capture second place in this group and demonstrated exceptional consistency with his lap times - typically something we only see with wily veteran racers.
If he nibbles away some time here and there, his knack for pacing may prove troublesome for Dustin over the long haul.
Mike DeAngelis (left), Eli Weening (middle), and Seamus Cullen (right) fought from start to finish to claim their podium finishes.
Our Novice category - which is an "open" category open to men and women of all ages - is always a source of inspiring stories and exciting races. This week, this category was chock-full of new riders and new faces. As amazing as these new riders did, however, they were unable to dethrone the existing powerhouse Eli Weening. Eli is an exceptional young rider who made the jump from Mini-Me to Novice last year and battled all year long to secure himself a third place in the Championships. Another year on and Eli is riding like the contender he truly is. On this night, Eli held a one minute advantage over his closest competitor. That is a solid lead but not enough to become complacent about. Mike DeAngelis nailed a second place but had better keep an eye over his shoulder as Seamus Cullen, making his Novice debut in 2018, was hot on his heels and is hungry to better his third place finish. That's an extraordinary result for such a young rider but Seamus is a competitor and has but one target in his sights: Eli and the top of the podium.
Now if we want to talk about the future of the sport, look no further than our ambitious Mini-Me riders. Over the past few years, this has traditionally been one of our busiest categories and the racing is always intense - and the photos ridiculously cute.
The two riders pictured - Kaiden Sampson and Ryder Cullen - have challenged and pushed one another for three years now at Coulson Hill. Riders join us as early as 3 years old as the Mini-Me courses are designed specifically for smaller, newer riders that can't cope with the same physical challenges as their older counterparts.
But that doesn't make the racing any less intense! Last year, Kaiden took 2nd place overall in Mini-Me and Ryder landed just short of the podium. Keen to ensure this doesn't happen again, Ryder played his cards like a master tactician this week.
Sitting on Kaiden's wheel for the first two laps allowed Ryder to conserve energy and be ready to capitalize on any opportunity that presented itself. When Kaiden inadvertently made a wrong turn, Ryder seized the opportunity and dropped the hammer with authority.
With a huge negative split - and his fastest lap of the night - Ryder attacked lap 3 with a vengeance and secured himself his first ever victory. What a race!
Cannondale Demo Day Next Wednesday, May 9
Next week be sure to arrive a little early for an opportunity to sample some bikes from Cannondale. They will have both mountain and road bikes on hand and we encourage you all to take this opportunity to ride some of the most immaculately engineered products on the market. Read the reviews, check out what the magazines say...research all you'd like. At the end of the day, the proof is in the riding and this is exactly why we work to ensure everyone has the opportunity to ride product from our amazing brands.