Week 15 - August 8
A new course made for new opportunities as the course this week featured one tough fire road climb per lap and the tight, twisty maze that is Log-a-Rythm was featured right before a fast descent to the finish. These changes made for a different set of strategic demands on riders as they planned when to make their moves and spend their limited caloric resources in hopes of making a decisive manoeuver stick.
Martyn Sugar pulls Mike Ceolin through Log-a-Rhythm - Mike was poised for attack despite the smiles.
It's one thing to discuss this in theoretical terms, but for the racers on the course these are very real considerations. For example, spectators this week were treated to a super exciting finish this week as Mike Ceolin made a mad dash to the finish line in an attempt to claw back the lead of Martyn Sugar as they headed west on the final straight. Mike launched his attack "one turn too late," according to his post-race recap. While demonstrating absolsutely amazing closing speed on Martyn - who may not have been fully aware of the impending attack - Mike ran out of runway and pulled up mere seconds short of a heroic pass. It was a spectacular finish either way...but it sure didn't end the way Mike had hoped.
Evan Knights simply smashed his last lap on the way to victory. What an effort!
Another thrilling finish was brought to us by Evan Knights. Things looked to have gone seriously awry for our Junior Sport rocket on his second lap when he was seen on the side of the trail on the fireroad leading to the timing tent clearly fighting with a malfunctioning bike. In this moment of frustration, Tyler Patenaude capitalized brilliantly and took a lead on Evan as the two made their way onto their last lap.
However, sometimes an incident like this can be an impressive motivator. Evan lit the wick and was promptly rocketed into an orbit that saw him cover the course in his best time of the night and he capped it off with a ridiculously long and ridiculously fast sprint that no one would have even considered challenging even if they had been on his tail.
Evan was riding like a man possessed on this third lap and pulled a staggering 40 seconds on Tyler despite the fact that Tyler rode a very strong and consistent race.
The Master Sport Men category saw more battles than just Mike Ceolin and Martyn Sugar. The top five riders in the category rode wheel-to-wheel for the first lap and the final order was up for grabs right until the final section of trail.
Chris Graham has been super solid for weeks now but the competition has also upped their game and presented Chris was some challenges of late. While it appeared after the first two laps that Mark McArthur was to be the primary threat to Chris' dominance, especially after he crossed the line right on Chris' wheel after the first lap, the third lap proved to be his downfall.
Mark was unable to maintain his blistering pace on lap 3 and, while he was fading, Martyn and Mike were there to rub some salt in his wounds and bury his podium goal for this week. Chris' pace on lap #1 was definitely a little too much for his competitors to handle and the price paid was felt as the race wore on and lap times climbed in lockstep with their meters ascended.
Chris Graham is focussed - and motoring! - as he pounds he was to victory ahead of hungry competitors.
The last story of the night goes to Seamus Cullen. This young man has made impressive gains this year in terms of his technical skills and fitness. However, despite many solid performances, Seamus had, to this point, been unable to topple the electric Eli Weening from the top podium spot. Eli possesses power on the climbs and fireroads that Seamus simply cannot match. The ace in Seamus' hand is his amazing bike handling in the tight stuff. In the pre-ride, Seamus strategized about where opportunities may lie to make an attack on Eli on the last lap.
These young men rode virtually identical first laps and the tension at the timing tent was palpable as I awaited the return of these riders to the finish line to see if Seamus would manage to be successful in his bid to take Eli down. To make matters even more interesting, Seamus was promised a handsome reward if he managed to beat Eli in a fair race unblemished by illness, mechanicals, or navigational errors. Hot off of his first Ontario Cup podium and a nice long road ride, Seamus had the confidence and training to make his mark.
Luck, as it has a way, also playerd its part on this night. Just before the boys made their way to last climb, Eli blew a corner and crashed. Seamus promptly attacked with everything he had left, made the last few turns, and barrelled up the last climb on his way to Log-a-Rhythm. If he could just fend off Eli until the tight, twisty singletrack, the race - and first win - could be his. Without relenting for a moment, Seamus kept the throttle pinned and, while Eli predictably made ground on the climb, Seamus hit the singletrack having maintained a lead.
Seamus hit the final straight in a full sprint from the moment he was visible and crossed the line with an hilarious mixture of joy, surprise, and exhilaration. He had really left every ounce of energy on the course and was left basking in the afterglow of a battle hard fought and won.
Seamus Cullen rode a magnificent race and managed to take down his mentor and key competitor, Eli Weening.
Overcoming adversity. Identifying strengths and weaknesses. Seizing opportunities. Handling victory and defeat with grace. Taking direction. Executing plans. Never surrendering to doubt or hardship. These rhyme off like lessons from a life coach. Our reality is that this is just another Wednesday night of racing - this is why Spoke O'Motion builds more champions than any other series in Canada.
On that note, huge kudos to Spoke O'Motion alumni Elyse Nieuwold for being selected to represent Canada at the UCI World Championships. Elyse both rode and worked for Spokes over the course of many years and we are both very proud of her and very excited to see what lies ahead for another Spoke athlete and ambassador.
And don't forget about Ray's (not so Annual) Fun Ride and BBQ this Sunday! Join us!
Week 14 - August 1
Despite the forecasted possibility of our first rainy night of the year, and a 10-minute period of showers at around 5pm, the weather at Coulson Hill was awesome at race time. The earlier rain both helped and hindered conditions: On the positive side of the ledger, the silky dust that coated the trails thanks to all of the dry weather was washed away. The flip side was that sections of the trail that were extreme hard pack quickly developed some greasy spots that could make quick work of the over-eager or inattentive.
The course itself was simply immaculate thanks to the hard work of Dave, Evan, and Luke Knights. They diligently picked up the mantle where I had left off last week and ensured the balance of our trails were free of brambles, bushes, and branches that so greatly diminish your enjoyment of the trails. Trail maintenance is on ongoing - and neverending - battle and the work required is tremendous. For some perspective, when Log-a-Rythm was cleared last week, it took three full hours. Three hours for a trail that we rip through in a matter of a minute! It's wild. But there is nothing more satisfying than ripping through a freshly groomed trail without a speck of debris and cleared from edge to edge like a lush, green tunnel. It's hard to beat the satisfaction from a job well done.
One thing that can certainly eclipse this feeling is finally stealing a victory against a long-term competitor. This is exactly what happened to Jon Weening this week as he took to the course hoping to finally crest the cycling mountain that is Ray Hawkins. Ray is the ultimate cycling warrior - he has been playing with his two-wheeled toys for decades, knows his body and his hardware intimately, and possesses the poise and smooth, efficient style that only experience can provide.
Jon, with much less experience under his belt, has looked up to Ray for years as a mentor and as example of the obvious benefits that a lifetime of healthy activity provides. But this was the day that Jon wanted to school the teacher. On the last lap, Jon was determined to make his move and see that it stuck. He attacked valiantly on the central fire road climb, hoping to create a gap that Ray could not counter. To Jon's dismay, however, Ray resisted a panicked response and just upped his tempo enough to eat away at Jon's lead as the two athletes motored up the fireroad.
As they hot the top of the hill, the two rider were, once again, wheel-to-wheel and Jon was convinced that this was an opportunity squandered. And one never knows when opportunity may again come knocking. After taking a moment to collect himself, Jon settled into the knowledge that his victory would inevitably require a full-effort sprint finish.
The moment the two hit the westernmost fireroad, a mere 300m from the finish, the game was on. Jon and Ray hammered for all they were worth and they rounded the last bend before the finish line with Jon tending a small, but tenous, lead. Without letting up for even a moment, Jon carried his momentum all the way to the line and, for the first time in his career, took down the legendary Mr. Hawkins.
In speaking with a rider yesterday who is debating joining us for some racing, he expressed doubts that he would be "fast enough" to race. We hear this every day when speakig to customers in the store. I relayed to this gentleman that racing - competing in any manner - is a battle against yourself as miuch as anything else. It's a battle to teach yourself how to push yourself beyond self-imposed boundaries. It's a battle to manage - and come to love - suffering. No matter if you are battling for first, fifth, or fifteenth, there will be someone on your tail urging your forward and a rabbit just ahead begging for you to catch.
The rewards of this activity are monumental: Confidence, fitness, mental well-being...and a slew of friends and role models that will change your life forever. Now get out here and ride your bike!
Mark your calendar for Sunday, August 12th for Ray's (not) Annual Fun Ride & BBQ. Join the Spoke O'Motion & Coulson Hill crew for an awesome casual mountain bike ride at Ravenshoe Forest followed by a BBQ just around the corner hosted by the very generous Ray Hawkins. Lose the lycra, ditch the helmet and enjoy some social time with your fellow cycling compadres. Bring your partner, bring a friend, bring your kids - everyone is welcome! The MTB ride will be split into groups of similar skills/speeds. E-bikes will be available to demo. Food is provided. Please BYOB.
Week 13- July 25
The new week brings along with it a new course. And, as promised in last week's race report, this course is a little less demanding on the climbing front but doubles down on the tight, twisty singletrack.
It's a super fun course that weaves back and forth through the southern section of the forest and covers a ton of ground while not diving into the northern valley and, as a result, saves riders from having to climb from the lowest point in the forest.
But that did nothing to diminish the intensity of the battles out there. Let's begin with the Novice category where Eli Weening was back and ready to reestablish himself as the fastest Novice rider of the year. To the surprise of nobody, Eli was able to do just that as he displayed considerable skills through the infamous Log-a-Rythm and was able to keep the throttle pinned on the climbs and double-track.
Super exciting to see was the Novice runner-up, Seamus Cullen, holding close to Eli's wheel and riding the strongest race of his life. On his second lap, he was only 1-second off of the thunderous pace set by Eli and he finished only 6-seconds back overall - by far his best performance of the season. We will see if he can score an outright victory over Eli before the year is out.
Mike Jackson also continues to make massive strides and finished only 90-seconds back of Eli - marking yet another personal best. This great performance Mike also rewards Mike with a 3rd place in the Championship points race for the season. Congrats!
In Senior Sport Men, the show was stolen by David Van Schie who, for the second week in a row, tore up the course with a vengeance and managed to ride through most of the group that started ahead of him. It was a very impressive effort and David's speed has really taken a quantum leap over the past few weeks.
Abigail Weening shows Seamus Cullen the lines through Log-a-Rythm.
Mike Ceolin nails his first win in an outstanding performance.
On the topic of "kicking butt and taking names", the headline story this week belongs to Mike Ceolin in Master Sport. Mike has had a challenging season in 2018 and has not lived up to his own expectations on race day and, as every rider can attest to, this can lead to a fair share of frustration.
But on this race day, Mike's mind, body, and bike formed that immaculate bond where the three entities mould into a singular tool with but one function: Speed.
Mike rode a stellar race with fantastically consistent laps that varied by only 2-seconds over three laps. Coming from third place after the first lap, Mike remained laser-focussed and picked off his competitors one by one as he made steady progress towards his hard fought victory.
The feeling one gets after accomplishing a challenging goal and overcoming myriad challenges along the way is a strange mixture of relief, elation, and satisfaction. And once you have sipped from this delicious goblet, you are sure to relish another swig. Here's wishing Mike continued success for the balance of the 2018 season.
Dustin Sampson, who came in 2nd this week in the same category, also rode one of his strongest races of the season and was thrilled to have finally overcome his category nemesis, and series leader, Mark McArthur.
Another rider who has been leapiong from success to success is Tyler Patenaude. After showing the best form of the season last week, Tyler rode another thrilling race and outpaced a very competitive Evan Knights to take his second win in as many weeks. This also catapulted Tyler into first place overall in the Junior Sport field. What a great way to head into an Ontario Cup weekend!
See everyone again next week for another fantastic race and good luck to everyone competing in this weekends Ontario Cup races at Albion Hills. There is a strong contingent of Spoke O'Motion riders competing this weekend although a few of our superstars are still out west after having competed in the Canadian Championships in Canmore, Alberta. Of particular note, team coach Paul Cooney took third place in Master Expert. On a national stage, that kind of result is simply extraordinary! Congrats to Paul as well as Brandon and Aaron Wright for representing Spokes at such a prestigious event.
KEY DATE CHANGE: Our Team Time Trial will take place on August 22nd. Sorry for the confusion on dates but there were some scheduling conflicts that needed resolution.
Week 12- July 18
With Monday's thunderstorms having finally broken the unbearable heat, our attendees were offered a beautifully fresh evening complimented by our usual immaculately groomed trails.
Regardless of trail and weather conditions, RJ Gagnier came outr to win - and win he did! RJ was running about 20 second per lap faster tha his closest competitor Ryder Cullen who, incidentally, spent some time on his third lap picking raspberries (video to follow).
That said, Ryder's second place finish was enough to push him into 1st overall in the series Championship standings. Kudos also to Davis Walter for hitting the Mini-Me podium in only his second career race. Awesome stuff!
RJ Gagnier powers onto the fire road on his first of four smoking laps.
Paul Boken clinches his first expert win!
Paul Boken is a little over a week away from punishing himself in a gruelling 6-day endurance race through some treacherous landscape. In preparation for this challenge, he has been working hard at improving his power and endurance.
Everything came together this week as Paul rode smoothly and consistently through four tough laps. Dan Hope, who gave chase all night, did his best to close the gap and gained almost 20-seconds on the last lap but it was not enough to come around Paul.
What a confidence boost this result will be for Paul as he heads out for one of the biggest physical challenges of his life.
It was also a pleasure to see Les Hegedus back out and racing mountain bikes again. He has spent lots of time on the road so far this year and, while his technical skills may be a little rusty, will surely be looking to make his presence felt as he regains the form he has shown in previous seasons. Welcome back!
It's game time. If looks could kill, his competitors would know they were in trouble.
With many of our regulars out of town on vacation, doors of opportunity have opened for fresh faces to capture some podium glory. One such rider who stood to benefit was Seamus Cullen.
While typically gunning for second place and working to minimize the gap to Eli Weening, on this night Seamus put his game face on and turned two blazing laps on his way to adding another victory to his collection.
The win also earned Seamus enough points to move past Eli in the championships and into first place with just over half of the season behind us.
Huge improvements were also seen from fellow Novice riders Mike Jackson and Michael Deangelis who were both closer to Seamus than they have been yet this season. It is inspirational to see so many people hitting new personal bests every week.
Now, on the topic of PBs...
Martyn Sugar captures his first win!
To watch the progression of a battle between two athletes of similar capabilities is like watching a dance. Sometimes the two are wheel-to-wheel in perfect symmetry; sometimes a rider will be on their own to fend for theselves and define their own tempo.
The dance of week 12 was defined by another stellar start from Chris Graham - who has been steadily waltzing to category dominance. But hot on his heels, and eager to make a statement, was Martyn Sugar.
Martyn has shown tremendous potential this year and has consistently landed on the podium but, before tonight, had failed to find a perch of the topmost spot. But this was his week.
Chris had a rough second lap and dropped almost 45-seconds from his initial time. Martyn, conversely, was rock solid and put together incredibly consistent lap times. This effort delivered him a comfortable margin of victory and allowed him to finally lay claim to absolute victory. Even better: This also put Martyn into 1st place in the Championships. Could this be the birth of a new dynasty? We'll see how Chris responds in the races to come.
We had mentioned at the end of the evening that we would be running our annual Team Time Trial next week. After reviewing schedules, it is necessary to move our time trial to August 8th. Next week we will debut a brand new course and - good news for those who have found the event difficult - the hardest courses of the year are now behind us. As we wind down the season and daylight diminishes, our courses will become a little easier asnd shorter. Good news for some and good times for all! See you next week.
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.
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.
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!