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!
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!
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.
Jacob Gummer laid a pounding on the
Mini-Me field for the past two weeks.
What a powerful and skilled young rider! Upgrade time?
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.
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 willto do the work required. You, too, can be like Mike!
Mike Ceolin charging towards his first podium of the 2018 season.
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 Hopeon 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!