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Championship Standings - 2023

Compete weekly for a chance to stand on the podium in the season championships. At the end of the year, the top three riders in each category will earn a sweet medal and some swag from our amazing industry partners. 

Your top 12 races of the season count towards your championship totals, so you do NOT have to attend every race to win! There is opportunity for all and no single mechanical or missed race should cost you a chance at the Championship title.

Also be aware that during awful weather, the race may be assigned a "double points" night making it all the more important to get out there and chase for the podium!

Click for Series Standings

Week 14 - Crowning Glory

August 21, 2023

Before we dive into the nitty gritty of the race report, I need to take a moment to offer a slew of "thank you" shout outs. Thanks go to each and every one of you who made it out to a race (or 10!) this season. Overall, bicycle racing is not in a healthy state in Ontario and it is very challenging for organizers to justify the investment of time and resources. Regardless of the profile of the event, or how big or small, we do it for you: For the weekend warriors who come out to battle themselves and each other, for the parents who truck their little rippers to the trail so that they can feel the wind in their hair; for the family members who come out to cheer on their loved ones in victory and loss alike.

A special "thank you" must be paid to the volunteers without whom we simply couldn't continue. Dave Knights is a veritable superhero with his lawn cutting and fireroad maintenance. I don't have the time or equipment to get this done and, without Dave, we would be trudging through grassy fields for our starts and finishes. Even if he is operating on three hours sleep after four straight days of work, Dave hits the forest and just gets it done. A more generous soul you will never encounter.

Thanks also to the Wright family, McFarlane family, and others who regularly make clean up and tear down an easy process. Thanks also to Al Muma and Lisa Sampson for the consistently awesome race photos - it feels like a more "pro" event thanks to you and this is another element that sets our series apart from other events.

A group shot of the championship participants

Given how much was riding on this last race, there was a palpable sense of anticipation at the starting grid before the race. While the usual pre-race chatter carried on in a familiar way, there was an undercurrent of nervous energy usually absent from these events. I spoke to several riders pre-race who had opportunity for breakout performances and, amidst offering some advice and strategy on how best to play their hands, could feel the anticipation of the imminent action.

Starting from the Expert field, we had a star-studded list of racers present with several generations of Ontario Cup and Coulson's Hill Series champions in attendance. Paul Cooney, a long time team coach for our race program, was here to mark his farewell race as he heads off to the westerly hills of British Columbia to live the teenage dream of a ski/bike-bum lifestyle. 

Paul Cooney - the teacher, the coach, the champion...the legend. He will be missed!

Few riders have given back as much to the community over the past few decades as Coach Paul. In his recreational life, he was the O'Cup Expert rider I was always chasing, always looking to beat and always aspiring to emulate. His training discipline and methodical approach never got in the way of having a good time on the bike and, even when racing, Paul never forgot that the pure joy of riding was the most fundamental thing to keep in sight. Over his racing and coaching tenure, Paul brought dozens of dozens of young riders to dizzying heights and presented our youth with opportunities to grace competitive stages that had never previously contemplated. 

Through both his high school coaching and Team Spoke O'Motion athletics, Paul moulded young people into competitive athletes and, more importantly, exceptional people. Paul's biggest gift is his passion for everything he undertakes and his infectious way of sharing that magic with those he takes under his wing. I can only imagine what an extraordinary teacher Paul must have been in his professional life. Thanks, Paul, for all of your amazing contributions to cycling. 

(I hope you understand these kind words were all a ploy to earn myself unlimited reservations to your new place in BC!)

Eric Simpson swooped in and took the field by surprise

As fast as Paul is, however, no one could have anticipated the return of Eric Simpson to the mighty trails of Coulson's Hill. Eric has raced with us sporadically over the past coupe of decades and is always an athlete with exceptional fitness and strength. On the first lap, Paul Cooney set the pace with series-leader Jamie Davies glued to his rear derailleur while Eric patiently held third wheel. But the action really got underway on lap 2 when Kyle Rae jumped from 4th to 1st and looked poised to make the pack suffer for the remainder of the race.

Not soon after, Eric countered with another surge and successfully passed Kyle who then clung to Eric for as long as his legs and lungs could handle the strain. Unfortunately the wheels came off of Kyle's wagon on lap four and Eric rode away with a convincing 33-second lead to take the win in the season's penultimate race.

Lindsay-anne Townsend finishes the season like a champ 

If one lives the life by the adage that "timing is everything", then you are definitely flying in the same orbit as the rocket ship named Lindsay-anne Townsend. After last week's muscle-memory driven diversion from the race course, Lindsay-anne was really looking to set the course on fire this week. Lindsay-anne is a ridiculously strong rider and climbing is a notable forté in her arsenal - as anyone who participated in our group road rides can attest. The race began with an enormous effort from Anderson Liddle who lead the race ahead of Jon Weening and looked to have created a rather solid lead in very short order.

By lap two, the pecking order had seen little change and Anderson was still charging ahead of the field and looked to have the race firmly within his grasp. Jon was managing to hang onto second while Lindsay-anne sat in third with a sizeable gap to regain. 

What may have looked like weakness, however, was just an illusion. Lindsay-anne took the bull by the horns on the third lap and made it very clear that she was the Queen of Coulson. Dropping the only sub-13-minute lap of the entire race, Lindsay-anne smashed her previous efforts and timed her effort to inflict maximum damage on the field.

Her pace not only created a very comfortable 18-second margin of victory, but her pace setting also saw key competitors succumb to her unrelenting power and shatter themselves. Jon dropped from 2nd place to 5th under the increased tempo but Dustin Sampson who appeared to be out of contention earlier in the race, thundered back from 5th to claim the last podium position and also post his fastest lap of the event.

Anderson Liddle powers to the line and holds off Dustin Sampson

The sprint of the night came down to Anderson and Dustin battling up the entire fireroad from the exit of the forest. Once the drop emerged from the snigletrack within the forest, Dustin explained, "I dropped the hammer and expected to gap Anderson once my road legs started firing. After a bit, I looked back and he was right there!". 

What a difference a few strokes can make!

In that moment of realization that an attack has failed, an ominous feeling can eclipse a rider's confidence and the willingness to manage an even more demanding effort vanishes like a fart in the wind. You just know that your goose is cooked. While Dustin gave it everything he could to overcome Anderson at the line, Anderson had successfully thwarted Dustin's attack and left him dusted and doubtful. Anderson took his victory and marked the end of a tremendous season that started with some adversity. 

The Novice field was a hotbed of competition! Kaidan Sampson leads from the start.

Amongst the Novice riders, there were several key battles to be fought. Kayleigh McFarlane needed to defend the family honour and secure enough points to lock in the series championship. Liam Cullen was intent on doing everything possible to maximize points and hope for a miracle in an effort to surpass Kayleight and take first overall. Meanwhile, a hard-charging Kaidan Sampson wanted to demonstrate to both of them that he was deserving of consideration in any championship conversation. 

The fastest kids of the year cross the line in tight formation.

In the best of all possible outcomes, all three riders rode tremendous races, managed to keep the rubber side down and battled hard from start to finish. Exciting attacks were made and defended; some positions were swapped on the course; and all three riders crossed the finish line within seconds of one another making for one of the most exciting finishes amongst these top contenders of the entire season. As noted above, timing is everything! It was great to witness a tight, clean battle and see everyone get to the line in "maximum attack" mode and gunning it right until the very last second. These riders are the future and they are all awesome!

Nelson Papel shows us what mountain biking is all about - the FUN and JOY of two wheels!

Thanks agains to everyone who made this year such a success and we are very much looking forward to returning in 2024 in an effort to keep the momentum going and help revitalize organized cycling in Ontario. With YOUR support we can bring racing back and encourage the next generation of athletes to strap on their helmets and fall in love with the two-wheeled life. Spread the love in all that you do!


1. Kayleigh McFarlane1. Craig McFarlane1. Jamie Davies
2. Liam Cullen2. Ethan McFarlane2. Kyle Rae
3. Darcy Anderson3. Lindsay-anne Townsend3. Steve Prosser

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma and Lisa Sampson for the photography. The complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 13 - Smiles for Miles

August 14, 2023

For almost 25 years now, I have maintained the trails at Coulson's Hill and hosted races there for our cycling community. After dozens of kilometres of trimmer line, hundreds of litres of fuel, several pints of blood donated to our local forest critters, and countless rashes, one might reasonably ask, "Why?".

The answer is the simplest and most obvious: The community. 

Check out the photo below for a brief glimpse into the purest expression of mountain bike culture. Yes, we are all staring down the barrel of 45-minutes of abject suffering, but the stories we share, the memories we create, the laughs we share, the battles we wage...these are the spokes the keep our wheels strong and true. At the centre of these relations is the hub - the event itself - a place where we collect ourselves, share this precious hour, and grow in spirit and capability while expressing our athletic passion in the purest of ways. If only more people would choose to experience this joy, I firmly believe we would create a better society.

Idealism aside, the mountain bike race presents a tapestry where our life experience, fitness, and attitudes form threads that intertwine with our fellow competitors where no single thread is more or less important than another, where each is beautiful in it's own entirety, where all of the threads support one another to create a totality of extraordinary complexity and aesthetic perfection. A blanket of support, comfort, and motivation where we aspire to become the best possible version of ourselves on the race course and, by extension, elsewhere in our lives.

Thank you all for being a part of this ongoing journey. I sincerely hope you find it as rewarding as I do.

The Expert field shares a laugh before showtime

Sometimes it is not only a matter of an individual having a remarkable evening. As we have often seen this season, success seems to be a little infectious and when once family member is on fire, sometimes the whole gang can absorb some of that excess heat. For this weeks example off such a phenomenon, look no further than the Sampson family.

Dustin Sampson came into spring in a long ways from the form he wished to maintain and faced the mental battle that many of us have struggled with before. When fitness feels a long way off, it can feel pointless to start on the journey. The end goal seems impossible to attain and the work required to get there insurmountable. I've been there myself o many an occasion. However, like any journey, everything begins with taking your first steps.

If Dustin Sampson ws doing a happy dance, it would look like this!

Dustin has been diligently attending our club road rides and getting stronger every week. His power and endurance have made steady progress and, in stages, these efforts have resulted in progress on the mountain bike as well. In race 9, Dustin's first of the season, he finished four and a half minutes in arrears to David Van Schie and crossed the line in 8th place. Only two weeks later, Dustin notched his first podium and had shrunk the gap to David by three minutes and was now contending with only a 90-second gap to first.

This week, Dustin was facing several tough contenders from series leader, Craig McFarlane and his son Ethan, to a hard charging Anderson Liddle, and also seeing pressure from a peaking Tyson Denobrega and Jon Weening. The race started predictably enough with Craig taking a commanding lead and turning the fastest Sport lap of the race in a blistering 13:15. Right in his heels was young gun Anderson who was only a few seconds back.

Anderson Liddle was happy with his results

Kudos to Dustin for his excellent race management. Dustin did not panic or deviate from his plan. He rode his own race and remained laser-focussed on riding a sustainable pace that pushed his personal envelope but didn't exceed it. The consistency demonstrated by Dustin is, ultimately, what won him the race. By the second lap, Craig and Anderson had blown themselves up while Dustin, Jon and Tyson made their way up the standings with Phil Goodenough remaining tantalizingly close to their wheels.

By lap 3, Dustin was all alone and riding away from the field. By the time he hit the finish line, he had tucked away a tasty 26-second lead over second place finisher, Jon. Dustin pulled a negative split on his last lap and rode all of his laps within 13-seconds of one another. Fast and steady wins the race!

That community I wrote about above? Here it is on display. Winners!

But Dustin was not the only Sampson to light up the forest this week. Alex Sampson, who has had his love of mountain biking reignited this year after a multi-season absence is back and firing on all cylinders. After a few weeks of toiling in the mid-pack, Alex took control of the race early on and made it clear that he was not keen to relinquish the reins. Posting a pair of very consistent laps, Alex's power could not be matched by his competitors and Alex rode away with a strong 1:25 lead. Now, this gap would have likely been much tighter if Liam Cullen had not Superman'd over his bars and Kaiden Sampson had not generously sacrificed his own race to help Liam recover himself sufficiently to finish the race, but that's racing. What a fantastic demonstration that you can always come back to riding and get yourself back to a happy place with a little saddle time. Congrats, Alex!

Alex Sampson on his way to victory

Another rider who posted a season's best result is Tyson Denobrega (I think I have written that sentence already this year!). In his continued march of progress, Tyson rode both consistently and aggressively - as demonstrated by the dirt stains on his shoulder and hip post-race. Throwing caution to the wind, Tyson has put the field on notice that he is in the hunt for a podium and that any errors made by those in his headlights will be punished with a prompt pass. 

Tyson Denobrega pulls the Sport category into the singletrack

Only 12-seconds off of the podium, this was Tyson's top finish of the season and is being delivered right when it matters most. this all begs the question: Did shaving his 'stache result in aerodynamic gains? To make matters even more interesting, consider that Phil Goodenough was less than 2-seconds off of Tyson's wheel at the finish. These two have fought fiercely all season long and next week's final race should provide quite a conclusion a competitive season.

The most courageous ride of the night belongs to Chris Staniewski

This week featured not only amazing racing, but a brand-spanking new course. Unlike other series where you ride the same course week-after-week, with no changes, forever, we deliver new challenges every other week. New creations and varying configurations that have never been experienced before deliver exciting racing opportunities where different courses cater to varying skillsets and everyone has the chance to find a course that perfectly suits their strengths. This variability demands an extraordinary amount of trail maintenance but this is one of the things that makes our series so unique and compelling. 

Our new course was rough and rooty and built to deliver high average speeds and leverage high-grip tire and chassis combinations. Imagine our surprise when championship contender Chris Staniewski shows up on a gravel bike with skinny tires (a semi-slick rear!) and no suspension. As a testament to his extraordinary skill and fitness, Chris entered the first singletrack section, which is chock-full of nasty roots, with speed rivalling his dual-suspension equipped competitors. As I followed his wheel, Chris bopped and floated through all of the chudder with remarkable precision and grace, hanging onto the race leaders wheel with unexpected aplomb.

It was only on the climbs where Chris' relative lack of traction caused a significant disadvantage. It was just magical to watch Chris rip the downhills  and maintain such control. What a machine!

And there you have it, gang. Another week in the books jam packed with stories, adventure, and amazing competition. You know what else is awesome? You just helped yourself live longer:

One race to go and it is worth TRIPLE points. Here are the current Championship standings:

1. Kayleigh McFarlane1. Craig McFarlane (+1)1. Jamie Davies
2. Kylie Ferguson2. David Van Schie (-1)2. Chris Staniewski
3. Liam Cullen3. Ethan McFarlane3. Kyle Rae (new)

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma and Lisa Sampson for the photography. The complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 12 - Opportunity Lost

August 7, 2023

It's hard to believe that the season is winding down so quickly. With only two races left to go, it is more crucial than ever to come out and put your best effort into improving your fitness and collecting some championship points.

This week, attendance was a little...light.

But that just made for more opportunity for those that joined us. The story of the night was, without question, written by Ian Travell. Ian has had a tremendous season and his fitness has made steady gains while he has battled the super evenly-matched Sport category.

On this night, however, fate stared him right in the face as he biggest rival on the line were two riders directly ahead of him in the Championship standings - Craig and Ethan McFarlane. The McFarlane family has been snatching podiums all year long - in Novice as well with consistently excellent performances from Kayleigh McFarlane. But when you are at the top of the heap, you also have a big target on your back and Ian knew exactly who he had to take down.

Ian Travell may have sealed the deal...if his chain hadn't snapped.

From the outset of the race, Ian powered his way to the front and was intent to lock in his first victory of the season. He had the pace. He had the will. And the course was well-suited to his strengths. Unfortunately, fate was not reading the playbook, however, and Ian snapped his chain on Nigel's Return and was forced to hobble back to the starting area.

Craig McFarlane continues his winning ways.

With Formula 1-style speed and precision, I repaired Ian's chain while Gord Wright temporarily took over timing duties. On the plus side, Ian was able to recover his race and at least finish in the points but was understandably disappointed that a  win was snatched from his clutches with an ill-timed mechanical failure.

Ryder Cullen lands an Expert podium - at 12 years old!

Huge kudos as well to Ryder Cullen for becoming the youngest gun to hit the Expert podium in series history. Eli Weening's run as the youngest podium winner was awesome but short-lived as Ryder rode the low-attendance wave to third place and also grabbed a mitt-full of championship points.

Two more races to go and the final results will be written in stone. Here are the current Championship standings:

1. Lila Van Schie1. Kayleigh McFarlane1. David Van Schie1. Jamie Davies
2. Abram Wong2. Kylie Ferguson2. Craig McFarlane2. Chris Staniewski
3. Hazel Van Schie3. Liam Cullen3. Ethan McFarlane3. Steve Prosser

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma for the photography. Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 11 - Dog Days of Summer

July 31, 2023

With the debut of another new course, the evening was ripe with opportunity. Different style courses require different skill sets and you never really know how things will shake out when something fresh is sampled for the first time.

Our newest creation is a collection of windy singletrack with minimal climbing. The most successful riders on this night will be able to scrub minimal speed through the back-to-back corners and will be able to trust their tires to dig into the berms to maintain peak corner velocity. You need to brave and smooth and ignore your brains demand that you give the brakes a squeeze. Fortune favours the bold! (That said...I went over the bars twice between warm-up and the race, so take that advice for what you paid for it.)

Liam Cullen was #1 on this night - and knows it!

Bold indeed was little Liam "The Lion" Cullen who, aboard a new-to-him Norco Revolver FS, rode a tactically proficient race. Liam played the game by allowing Alex Sampson to dictate the pace through lap one and then tunred on the jets on the penultimate lap. Once those afterburners were lit, Liam was able to take a sizeable chunk out of the competition and wound up with a 2-minute gapo over his closest competitor, Alex.

Eli Weening continues to impress

Only a fews weeks into his Expert experience, young Eli Weening may very well be the youngest rider to have ever graced the Expert podium. By delivering his two first laps in under 15-minutes each, Eli took his third place position by the horns rights from the outset and didn't let go for a moment. To continue is progress, it is crucial that Eli manages to finish as fast he starts but racecraft comes from experience and Eli has lots of racing ahead of him in which to sweat the details.

Dustin Sampson continues the theme with his first podium

The Sport class continues to evolve as rider's fitness levels ebb and flow over the season. On the flow side of the ledger, Dustin Sampson was in fine form this week and, after a tough start to season, shows us all that consistent hard work on the bike does indeed pay dividends. After a tough 100km road ride on Sunday, Dustin managed to retain his form on Monday while trying to hang onto the hard-charging David Van Schie and Craig McFarlane.

While Dustin's pace wasn't quite up to the level of those top two, Dustin rode a consistent race and kept all of his laps within 20-seconds of one another. Only Craig managed a better execution with consecutive negative splits across every lap in the race.

David Van Schie wins the gun show

The current Sport champion had, as expected, another strong showing this week and put his second win of the season into the books. It bears mentioning that Craig McFarlane was hot on David's heels this week and finished only 40-seconds in arrears. There are plentiful reports that once the category caught sight of David's powerful pipes at the start line, they all simply surrendered the victory. This was psychological warfare at it's finest - the intimidation is real!

We will have to see if the show of power has the same effect next week.

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma and Lisa Sampson for the photography.

Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 10 - The Beat Goes On

July 17, 2023

With summer upon us, vacations and other seasonal adventures often get in the way of dropping the hammer on Monday nights, but that doesn't make the racing any less awesome for those that make it out. The intensity its ramping up dramatically as we cross the halfway point in the season and riders clamour for important championship points in the hunt for personal bests and, for an exclusive few, podium positions along with the attached glory.

Paul Boken crushed the field with his best ride of the season

This week, in Sport class, where the tightest clashes of the season are being fought, we witnessed an explosion of fitness and finesse as Paul Boken elevated his game in a profound way and made it clear that he is back and gunning for the big leagues. His biggest category rival, currently holding down second place in the championship standings, is David Van Schie, who, on this night, couldn't hold the wheel of the hard-charging race winner.

From start to finish, Paul laid a pounding on the field. This is a tough course on which to build time margins as there is very little sustained climbing and any time gains must be made purely through meticulous handling through the flowing, twisty single track. Riders of similar fitness levels are, therefore, separated not so much by power output as they are by bike feel, traction management, and, to a degree, bike geometry. (But let's not get too deep into the weeds on that last point as Chris Staniewski regularly demonstrates that fitness and skill trumps all.)

The Sport class is a hotbed of rivalry and tight finishes

Paul's dominant victory has him contemplating a return to the Expert category where he rode last year - yet another fantastic example of riding form coming back after some hard fought saddle time and competitive pressure. With several riders having made the move from Sport to Expert over the course of the season, the championships are in a state of flux.

After many consistent races, Craig McFarlane now sits atop the field with 106 points. David Van Schie is hot on his heels with 102 points and should be able to catapult to first at the next event unless something unexpected goes down. Even more exciting, however, is that Craig's son, Ethan McFarlane is poised to upset the apple cart in third place with 92-points and has snagged his fair share of victories against his dad while slowly chipping away at Craig's lead. Even on this night, Ethan fought hard to gain two positions on his last lap, pass his dad in the process, and net a 2-point gain. Looks like a battle of the McFarlane family to the finish!

Anderson Liddle chasing Craig McFarlane on his way to another podium

But the championships are far from being sorted. Remember that only your top 12 finishes count towards your overall championship points. This means that if you suffer a mechanical, simply have a bad race, or need to miss a few races due to scheduling conflicts, you are absolutely not out of contention. As more riders creep towards their 12-race points caps, the standings often see some unanticipated shuffles that allow different faces an opportunity to make their presence felt. The bottom line is this: There is critical racing yet to come and the results are far from set in stone.

On that note, it was exciting to see Anderson Liddle have another strong night and notch another podium finish in this tight crowd. Within about 40-seconds of second place David Van Schie, Anderson continues to impress himself upon the field and gain valuable points. From a tactical perspective, the interesting thing here is that Anderson is keeping both McFarlane's from the podium and that is where maximum championship points are captured.

Trevor Peyton rode his way to 2nd place

While Chris Staniewski handily rode away from the field in the Expert category without Jamie Davies or Kyle Rae in attendance (and did so with blazing lap times and negative splits despite the lack of pressure), Trevor Peyton made big progress this week demonstrating a capacity for both impressive outright speed and solid consistency. His blazing first lap saw him keep Chris within an 18-second margin and Trevor did an admirable job of keeping his losses in check in the remaining laps. Through the last three laps, Trevor only dropped about 15 seconds and his pace proved too hot to handle for the rest of the field. Next week, when it's my turn to abandon the timing tent and race, I look forward to challenge Trevor - it has been some time and his pace looks pretty intimidating!

Seamus Cullen awaits his opportunity to attack Chris Graham

In a rivalry whose balance of power has shifted regularly throughout the season, Chris Graham and Seamus Cullen were back at it again this week. Each rider brings specific strengths to the table and has challenges where the other shines. As a result of this dynamic, different courses have tended to yield different results depending on their nature. Chris has exceptional climbing power and strength on the flats while Seamus argues that he holds advantage on the tight, twisty sections of trail.

Playing to these known strengths and weaknesses, Chris aggressively defends his position heading into the single track and tries to make it as difficult as possible for Seamus to pass on a climb or fireroad. On the flip side of that coin, when/if Seamus can enter single track ahead of Chris, he is firing on all cylinders, desperate to make a large enough gap that Chris cannot effectively launch a counter attack when the trail opens back up.

This week, Seamus found his hole, made his move, and made it stick. Not only did Seamus manage to make it past his fiercest rival, but he also dug deep and damaged to reel in Dave Knights who, admittedly, was on tired legs having just completed a 5-day stage race in Quebec. Seamus caught Dave a few hundred metres before the finish and the two athletes, of two very different generations, had a fantastic sprint to the line where Seamus took the W by mere inches.

In what other sport is age irrelevant and it's just a matter of giving it your all and letting the chips fall where they may? Cycling, and bike racing specifically, is a magical place where ability and determination trumps all, age is only a mindset, and competition can come from any imaginable spot. It is "sport" in the truest possible sense of the word.

Next week, the course gets reversed and we will be treated to yet another brand-new experience the likes of which has never existed before. That's the way we roll! Hope to see you there.

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 9 - Moving Up, Not Out

July 10, 2023

Every day we are faced with choices. Most often, it's the simple stuff - what should I have for breakfast? Should I wear my black shirt or green shirt today? This is the cruft that consumes everyday life and we make this decisions, often times without giving them much additional thought. Other times, and the more interesting circumstances to ponder, are the more demanding questions we stare down.

Whether one debates about staying late at work to see that last project through to completion, fulfilling an obligation that you are inclined to pass upon, or make that extra stop on the way home to pick up some supplies to finish a nagging project on the home front, these conundrums present a more nebulous ethical debate.

On either side on the coin, there are fair points to be made and the answers are generally less clear cut as there is sacrifice to be made with either choice. Were we looking to achieve to our maximum potential in life, the answers snap more clearly into focus as, using the examples above, each of those hypothetical situations could be viewed through the lens of moving life forward in pursuit of the most desirable outcome. The goals may be trivial or substantial for any given choice, but your answer defines the trajectory.

Ryder Cullen became the youngest Expert in series history

In and of itself, the choice to pursue organized sport is a step that frightens and intimidates many. From the very start, the idea of coming to race at Coulson's Hill means a commitment to some suffering. Fit or not, a full-effort hill climb demands mental fortitude and brings an ache into your lungs and legs - and mind - that, from the outside, seems difficult to rationalize. Do it often enough, however, and that pain discomfort becomes something to relish and something to seek out. This pain allows you to smash through perceived barriers to your performance, to strengthen your resolve, to build unimagined power in both your body and mind.

Kyle Rae knows all about fortitude

Coming to race also brings with it the daunting reality of absolute, objective measurement of your state of being within the scope of the sport. some will view this as an opportunity to put their hard work to the test and eagerly anticipate the opportunity to compare their fitness and skills against Some of the best local riders in the area. Many, however, quietly dread the idea of putting their self-perception on the line and determining once and for all with they sit amongst their competitive set at the current point in time.

My point is this: Elite athletes stare at these same demons in the mirror. The self-doubt about being "good enough", the fear about looking weak to their peers, the anxiety about the pain and hard work to come. This is normal and this is human. To move forward, however, you need to stare these fears in the face, muster up your courage, and acknowledge these fears as what they are: Obstacles. Climb up, climb over, smash down these obstacles that stand in your way. They do not own you and do not define you.

To bring this full circle to our series, Ryder Cullen made the brave leap this week to ascend to the highest rung of competition. Despite, or maybe because of, a consistent reign of success in Sport class, Ryder leapt to Expert entirely without our prompting. Generally speaking,  when a rider wins a category in the previous season, they are automatically relegated to the next category without discussion. Given that Ryder is only 12 years old, booting him up to Expert just didn't seem like a reasonable course of action this spring so he was allowed to remain in Sport. 

However, after watching key competitors like Evan Knights and Eli Weening make the jump to Expert and being the driven young ripper he is, Ryder requested a move to Expert where he comfortably and confidently came in last place. Progress does not come through ease. Confidence is not derived from smashing weaker competition. Expand your horizons by tackling obstacles head on and doing whatever it takes to reach your goals. Cycling, whether for recreation or competition, is a journey that comes with peaks and valleys both literal and figurative. Relish the downhills with an understanding that the only you get to enjoy them is by crushing that climb in front of you.

Anderson Liddle makes a comeback after a tough 1st race last week

Even after having made the commitment to come racing, sometimes the best laid plans explode in our faces. Other times, it is our chains, or our tubes (Evan Knights), or our wheels (Dustin Sampson). Such was the case in week 8 when Anderson Liddle looked to join us for his first Coulson's Hill race after experiencing success in the York Region Athletic Association's amazing high school series. While Anderson unfortunately suffered a chain breakage and was forced to walk his bike back to the starting line for a quick Formula One-level pitstop courtesy of yours truly, this early disappointment turned to thrills this week.

Anderson rode a great race and found himself right in the thick of things in the hyper-competitive Sport category. Just 40-seconds off of the podium on only his second outing, Anderson battled hard to chase down Richard Allen who has been spending lots of time riding with our road club to build his fitness. As is often the case with rookie racers, pacing proved to be the fly in the ointment. Anderson was sitting pretty in fourth place heading into lap 2 with Richard in arrears by about 17-seconds. Richard's road legs began to pay dividends as the race wore on, however, and he made 8-seconds back on Anderson through that second lap. On lap three, where consistency always dictates the outcome, Richard was able to claw back another 23-seconds to finish just 13-seconds ahead of Anderson.

What a fantastic battle! With our killer new course, filled with flowing, twisty single track and barely a straightaway in sight, you are able to continually check on the whereabout of your competitors and it is a wicked motivator to be able to constantly evaluate when you are gaining (or losing) time to the rest of the field. Nothing helps you find more power like a rabbit to chase. 

Lindsay-anne Townsend has found her groove

On this night, the Sport class podium is a story of success for all involved. From the bottom up, it begins with a continuation. A story that has already been told yet continues to unfold, is that of the astounding progress being made by Jon Weening. As a brief recap, Jon finished race #1 this spring in 12th position of fifteen riders. To be clear: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and the whole point of this series os to get people involved, more active, and introduce them to a like-minded community of amazing people. That said, this is just not where Jon wanted to be. 

Fast forward two months and Jon is not only contending for podium positions but is quieting gunning for his first win. He may not have vocalized this goal yet, but watching the way he went out last week, it is clearly in his game plan. This week he finished a little bit more than a minute behind the race winner, David Van Schie, and will be looking to make up more ground next week.

A phoenix of another feather can be found in Lindsay-anne Townsend who has clearly found her groove over the past few weeks and stands poised to challenge the best on the field for absolute supremacy. On lap one, Lindsay-anne led the entire field with a blistering 16:23 lap and was giving eventual winner David everything he could handle and then some.

David made progress on lap two and secured a pass but was only able to open up a 5-second gap on Lindsay before heading out for their penultimate lap. But David made the keen tactical decision to save his best for the last and taught the field a lesson in race craft with three consecutive negative splits where the rest of the field rode progressively slower. David's last lap was the fastest of the event for Sport class and this secured him the win - but with only a 20-second gap over the increasingly confident and hard-charging Lindsay-anne. Next week: The take down!

Trevor Peyton changes the landscape

The ongoing battle between Seamus Cullen and Chris Graham in the Expert field saw a bit of a shakeup this week as series veteran Trevor Peyton returned to his stomping grounds to renew the competitive landscape and give these riders a little extra to think about. With Seamus suffering the effects of a few crashes on a course that was well-suited his riding style, the stage was set for a show down between Chris and Trevor.

Trevor made his mark early on and looked to have Chris firmly in control as he notched two successive laps with Chris in his rearview - growing the gap in the process. To further darken the skies on Chris' race forecast, he faced some traffic on lap three that set him a further 16-seconds in arrears. While 16-seconds may not sound like much, on a 4km race course when you are already executing at maximum pace, that may as well be an hour. Heading out for lap 4, Chris was in the unenviable position of staring down a 30-second hole.

Chris understood the obstacle and knew what it would take to overcome. Making up every second he could through the winding singletrack and pushing the limits of traction and power, Chris attacked hard on the last lap and managed to erase the gap to Trevor as the two emerged from Nigel's Return wheel-to-wheel. The race was on!

In a comeback for the ages, Chris took advantage of his momentum and entered the final straight to the finish line with the mental edge of having caught his rival. When the launch came, both riders dropped the hammer and fought for all they were worth all the way to the finish line. In the closing metres, Chris powered by Trevor and managed to net himself a 2-second advantage to claw himself into 6th place overall. 

Choice made, obstacle defeated. That is progress. Never stop pushing, never surrender. The only way forward is forward.

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma and Lisa Sampson for the photography. Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 8 - Speed Thrills

July 3, 2023

The blazing sun had nothing on our star-studded slate of riders itching to do battle on this scorching Monday night. The temperatures may have be hot, but that was nothing compared to the fiery battles that players out on the race course. Conditions, aside from the heat, were absolutely ideal. The course was tacky and traction predictable but the moisture from the previous week had eliminated any loose, slippery sections. The scene was set for proper racing mayhem. 

Sport Class is where the action is - a deep and competitive field

This week's highlights revolve primarily around the Sport category where the field is evolving and improving at an astounding rate. Due primarily to consistency of attendance, we are seeing the level of competitive and the tightness of the racing improve by leaps and bounds every week. It's an unbelievably exciting thing to watch the series evolve from a group of riders separated by dozens of second per lap, to tight clusters of riders battling hard from lap to lap looking to capitalize on the smallest of errors from their competitors. By the end of the race, positions 2-6 in the Sport field were separated by only 15-seconds. To say that it is "anyone's race" is not to resort to tired sports cliché, but is a real representation of the fantastically tight battles. One slip, one misplaced tire, one moment of surrender to the ache in your legs and your position is lost.

Jon Weening tore the field apart (on lap 1, anyway)

One rider demonstrating a real return to form this season is Jon Weening. Perhaps inspired by his wickedly athletic son, Eli, Jon has upped his game and continues to show us glimpses of his athletic future in every race. With a packed paddock of Sport riders leaving the gates, Jon surged forward with uncharacteristic aggression and took to the front of the pack to assert his intentions of victory. Pushing the pace through lap 1, Jon turned the fastest lap of any sport rider in the entire event by a sizeable margin.

Unfortunately, however, it became apparent on lap 2 that all was not well in Jonstown. His blistering pace on lap 1 proved too hot to handle and a bitter combination of heat and fatigue set out to spoil Jon's effort to nab the victory. Jon fell from 1st to 8th where he remained for the rest of the race and his hopes of domination were dashed. We speak often about pace at the series and about how your first lap should often feel almost a little too easy as this will leave you the capacity too increase speed, or at least maintain consistency, as the race progresses. Often times when you are feeling your best, it is a good sign to lay up a little and prepare to defend your lead rather than attempt to decimate your rivals. Remember that is is not a matter of how much time you win by but, instead, a matter of winning.

Ethan McFarlane snags his first career victory

The embodiment of this mantra came from an unexpected source this week as relative rookie Ethan McFarlane demonstrated the wily poise of a seasoned veteran despite his young year and rode a brilliant race of pace and discipline. While Ethan paced his first lap in the middle of the pack (6th) and sat a worrisome 30-seconds behind then race leader, Jon Weening, Ethan managed to give up very little time on his subsequent laps. In a classic tortoise vs. hare tale, Ethan kept all of his laps under the 17-minute mark and gradually picked off competitors as he methodically powered his way to the finish line.

The result of this brilliant bit off race craft was the sweetest result of all: His first Sport class victory. Huge congratulations to Ethan for a well-played tactical effort and for absorbing the lessons that we try to continually reinforce. 

Like son, like father - Craig McFarlane shares his son to the line

In a similar storyline, Craig McFarlane also rode a strong race and worked his way from 3rd after lap 1 all the way to first place on lap 2 when his som Ethan began to put forth his hard attacks. In the background of the photo above, you can see the 3rd and 4th place riders just rounding the bend on the way to the finish line for a dramatic sprint finish. This is the tight racing that builds great friendships and even better rivalries. Chasing down a friend on the trail is the most thrilling aspect of the sport and who has the best legs on any given day is always up for debate until you cross that finish line.

Ian Travell hits the podium for the first time

For several weeks now, we have been covering the improving fortunes and fitness of Ian Travell. Like any good Netflix documentary, our uncanny insights (read: luck) have resulted in a perfect made-for-TV ending where an inspiring rider has struggled from mid-pack obscurity and, through perseverance and hard work, risen to the moment and captured results to satisfy the soul, have you reaching for a tissue, and sharing a toast with your loved ones. Overstatement aside, Ian has just proven to himself and his competitors that he has the goods to battle for the podium on any given day.

Saving his best for last, Ian made a huge jump from 6th to 3rd in the last lap and wilfully managed to counter a surge from a hard-charging Phil Goodenough who was more than eager to ensure Ian did not see his first step on the podium. Despite Phil's impressive lap times and solid consistency, he just did not have the legs to overcome Ian's power in the last 200m as the two barrelled towards the finish line. Kudos to both riders for the entertaining finish and hard work.

And hot on their heels was Tyson Denobrega, who, unfortunately, relied a little too heavily on Jon's playbook for this race and, after turning a blistering second lap to find himself staring at a podium position in 2nd place, found that he had lit the wick a little too early and was unable to defend against the pressure applied by his rivals. Tyson still managed to tie his season's best 5th place finish but must have been a little disappointed to have missed the podium after such a strong second lap. Sometimes the adrenaline of being ahead of the competition can make one push themselves past a reasonable boundary. It is always best to temper excitement with cold calculation.

The red jersey in the photo above belongs to Scott Morton who rode an admirable race and also finished within a stone's throw of the podium. The Sport class battles are more heated than every and the tight competition serves to make everyone a better rider. At the end of the day, that's the name of the game. Come out to test yourself, to push yourself, to learn about yourself and to become the best version of yourself. That's racing in a nutshell.

Seamus Cullen executed his strategy to perfrection

One last story to tell: Seamus Cullen has battled hard all year against fellow Expert, Chris Graham. Both riders are equally matched overall but their strengths definitely lie in different aspects of the sport. Throughout their on-course confrontations, they know each others strengths and weaknesses well. They know when to attack, when to sit back, and when to push for the win. These are foundational elements to race craft and are the epitome of entertaining races for the participants.

To that end, Seamus set out on this night to play his cards as cleverly as he could. Chris has tremendous accelerative power and can drop Seamus on moderate to demanding climbs. Seamus, on the other hand, is super smooth and fast through the winding single track. Both riders were attentive and vigilant as the race wore on and the two rolled through the laps wheel-to-wheel just waiting to the chaos to begin.

Every time the trail would open up and a firewood presented itself, Chris dropped the hammer and pulled away hoping to create enough of a gap that Seamus could not catch him in the twisties. Attack after attack, Seamus reeled Chris back in and kept in contact biding his time and waiting for the opportunity to strike.  

On the fourth lap, Seamus had decided on when and where to make his move. Flying down the east-most double track towards the creek, Seamus clung to Chris' rear wheel and prayed that Chris would hold his line at the bottom left hand bend. When the time came, Chris held fast and Seamus seized the opportunity to squeeze past and then make his way onto the extended flowing single track that veered to the right. This lengthy bit of tight trail was the perfect spot for Seamus to create some space and make it as difficult as possible for Chris to counter.

The move stuck. Seamus built a gap and then pedalled ferociously all the way to the line and broke Chris' spirit in so doing. Racing is 60% physical and 40% mental. When a competitor manages to break you mentally, it is a very tough hole to dig yourself out of and being mindful of the right time, the right place, and the right of force to apply in your winning move can make all the difference in the world. Well played, Seamus!

Next week, we will debut a 100% new course with several chunks of single track that have not yet been seen this season. We hope you can join us for the action.

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma and Lisa Sampson for the photography. Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 7 - Speed Thrills

June 26, 2023

This week we ran our previous course in reverse for an entirely new perspective and new set of challenges. While we may have lost the big drop off, the track remains a fantastic example of what makes Coulson's Hill such a thrilling race venue. No 2km fireroads here! No riding the same course week after week for all of eternity. The courses are fresh and unique every two weeks and we always find new ways to string the singletrack together to keep things fresh.

In an effort to accommodate riders of all fitness levels, we also avoid massive, continuous climbs. Wherever possible, our elevation gains will be made in short(ish) steps broken up by sections of flowy singletrack that allow rides to catch their breath and summon their will to keep pedalling. This makes even the toughest courses manageable - and much more fun!

The early morning storms seemed to have scared off many of our participants this week and attendance was definitely on the sparse side but it was sunny and dry at Coulson's from noon onwards and, by the time we were underway, there was barely a drop of water to be seen on the course. the dirt remained moist, however, and traction was certainly a little more challenging. In search of the perfect balance of grip and flat-prevention, many riders were dropping tire pressures in the minutes before the race started and the hiss of escaping air was almost comically consistent.

Ellamarie Belcourt destroys the field by over 5-minutes

If domination is the name of the game, then Ellamarie Belcourt clearly understands the plan. In her first appearance for a few weeks, Ellamarie took to the course with fire in her belly and lightning in her legs and beat the Novice field by well over five minutes. Her lap times were so fast that she would have continued to be competitive in the Sport class and we are thrilled so see her back in the game.

Ian Travell matches his season's best

With his consistent attendance, and consistent hard work, we are seeing tons of competitive racing from Ian Travell in the Sport category. Excellent race execution saw Ian maintain extremely consistent lap times across his 3-lap race - his last two laps were exactly 5-seconds apart! This speaks to several facts: Ian clearly left it all on the course and didn't leave anything in the reserve tank. He raced his own race and didn't fall prey to trying to keep up with riders that would force him to ride beyond his current fitness levels and, inevitably, blow up. And, finally, this is a clear demonstration that experience pays. The more you race, the better your game time decision making and the more capable you become at extracting optimal performances. This strong showing by Ian allowed him to hang onto 7th place overall in the Championship Series.

Jon Weening absolutely SMASHES his season's best

One of Ian's biggest championship rivals is Jon Weening. This season, Jon is working hard to deliver a storybook tale of working hard to accomplish your goals, of bettering yourself through conscious decision making, and of perseverance being key to bringing it all together. Jon has been working hard on and off the bike to improve his nutrition, build up his strength, and shed unwanted body weight. What can be said other than the results speak for themselves! 

Jon put in some hard laps on a demanding course in the 24 Hours of summer Solstice on the weekend. Did he throw in the towel on a Monday night race and make excuses about being tired, sore, or otherwise disinterested? Hell, no! Jon hopped right back on that horse and not only participated in our Monday race, he absolutely demolished it. Running on sore legs and little sleep, Jon pummelled himself on the course and turn in three blazing lap times within 1-minute of one another and turned this consistency into his first podium of the year. The bar has now been set and the expectations raised. We are looking forward to seeing more of Jon on the podium in the races to come. Congratulations on being able to reap the benefits of the work you have put in, Jon!

Chris Staniewski is just crazy fast!

On the topic of "putting in the work", another word cannot be typed without sending some kudos to Chris Staniewski. He, too, raced the 24 Hour relay this weekend, puts in a ton of mileage overall, and committed himself to a fearsome fitness regime over the past winter. His fitness is staggering and Chris has some of the best bike handling of any rider you will ever encounter. Combine fitness and technical skill and you have a multi-faceted, dangerous competitor on the course.

While Chris may have fallen to the series-leader, Jamie Davies, who is all but unbeatable this season, his pace was far too hot for the rest of the field to handle and he is a threat for the top podium spot every time he attends the event. Chris has shown spurts of speed in years past but this year he has truly turned into a singletrack slayer of epic proportions.

Ei Weening continues to show enormous potential

Last week, we covered Eli Weening's ambitious jump to Expert and his results this week go to demonstrate the magic that added training volume, young legs, and some great genetics can deliver. Straight off of winning his category at the 24 Hours, Eli came out with all cylinders firing and managed to outpace several key rivals. On this night, despite almost no sleep for two days and completing 5-laps of the Albion race course, Eli managed to contain key rivals like Aaron Wright and Seamus Cullen. To make this ride even more noteworthy, Eli came within a minute of catching multi-year champion Steve Prosser whose exploits in the series are the stuff of legend. Could Eli be the next Big Thing? The only limits are his ambition!

Ryder Cullen patiently hunts down his prey, David Van Schie

Sliding in under the radar but in an equally impressive show of poise, Ryder Cullen took a story from the same playbook. Competing on the same team as Eli at the 24 Hour event, and sharing in the same category victory, Ryder has been slowly recuperating and trying to catch up on sleep since Sunday afternoon. Playing his cards close to his chest, Ryder let David Van Schie pull through the first lap so that he could feel out his leg strength in a controlled manner.

Shortly after the picture above was snapped, Ryder chose to turn on the jets and see if he still had what it would take to fend off the ever-competitive David. Turns out that his young legs responded just fine and Ryder managed to create a solid gap of over 60-seconds by the time the clock tolled. Oh, to be young again! 

Rumour has it that Ryder will be following Eli and making the jump to Expert soon - making him the youngest expert to ever enter the category.The future is looking bright around here. See you next Monday when you can be a part of making the future happen.

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma and Lisa Sampson for the photography. Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 6 - Personal Growth Brings Personal Bests

June 19, 2023

Week 2 on our thrilling new course brought with it some tremendous weather (after a week's delay) and an even more meticulously maintained track. This did what it was expected to do: Brought the racing to a whole new level of action and intensity.

This is the only XC course I have seen in thirty years of competitive cycling to feature an (optional) 10-foot drop that offered the brave an opportunity to save precious seconds - if it didn't end in catastrophic failure. There was also a super cool wooden A-frame that could help the skillful short-cut a tough, tight right-angle corner by traversing a huge fallen tree. Our courses feature character galore and reward the veterans while allowing the novices to enjoy a safe and equally-engaging adventure.

Eli Weening in 2016 vs. his new role as our newest Elite rider

Personal growth takes all sorts of different forms and always transpires at it's own pace. The amazing thing is that it is relentless and ongoing as long as one puts in the work. Celebrating this growth and the advancement of one's skills and fitness is one of the many great gifts this series affords us. The photo above shows us one of many such processions of maturity, sportsmanship, perseverance and grit. 

Eli Weening has alway been a ferocious competitor and he has grown into a young man of impeccable character, endless kindness, and is always ready with a huge smile. But when you get Eli on out! He'll burn your legs with his massive attacks and lay on the power until you are begging for mercy. It won't be long now until this new generation takes over completely from us "old guard" riders.

Maria Picotti is in the points again

Racing is not always about climbing the ranks and putting you through increasing levels of suffering. For a great many people, the accomplishment lies in completing the race itself. Even on the easiest of courses, racing is a demanding endeavour. It hurts to push yourself up hills that feel unending only to turn around at the top and do it all again. The challenge is both physical and mental. The people who love riding the most understand that they need not take any of this too seriously and must come to relish both the joy of the downhill and the suffering of the climb. 

Maria Picotti has rejoined us this season and always impresses with her persistence and joyful approach to the ride. Racing is not always about winning - it's about proving to yourself that YOU CAN. Congratulations to Maria for pulling 4-minutes off of her week 5 race time! 

Liam blasts his way to his second victory

And here is the perfect counterpoint to the story above: Liam Cullen has one mode - fast. He has one approach to competition - win or die trying. While the jury is out on thenmental health implications of this all-or-nothing approach, it certainly makes for a fearsome competitor with an unquenchable appetite for consuming his rivals. Liam also rode a sound strategic race by allowing Darcy Anderson to set the pace through the first lap and biding his time to make his move. On the last lap, Liam turned on the jets and flew from Darcy to the finish line accruing a 1:13 gap by the finish. This result allowed Liam to climb into 3rd in the Championship standings.

Darcy rode very well and has steadily improved his finishes through the season so far - improving from 4th to his season's best 2nd place this week. Since Darcy's return from injury, his stamina has seen steady progress and he is now fighting for victory every race. Darcy must enjoy an amazing feeling of satisfaction in returning to form. Progress is wonderful!

Tyson Denobrega hunting for a top 10 in the Championships

Sport class is also seeing some "movers and shakers" turning up the heat and delivering seasons best results. One such rider is Tyson Denobrega who, on this night, notched his best finish of the season with a solid 7th place and trailed another newcomer, Tristan Abuton, by only 20-seconds. Both of those riders are within seconds of cracking the top 5 and will continue to exert pressure on the podium contenders to keep their heads in the game.

Lindsay-anne Townsend pulls out the dual suspension magic

That said, the top Sport riders are flying and won't make anything easy for the rest of the category. Lindsay-anne Townsend made a bold equipment choice this week and pulled out her dual-suspension Norco Optic, opposed to her usual choice of a Norco Revolver hardtail, and the extra traction and compliance afforded by the squishy bike helped her catapult to a second place finish on this night. While a dual suspension will be heavier, don't let the myth of light bikes being faster misguide you into forgetting that traction, control, and confidence get you to the finish line fastest.

Anderson smokes his dad, Greg Rushton, at the line*

This weeks comeback of the week belongs, without question, to Anderson Rushton. After battling through two long and gruelling laps filled with technical features and tough climbs, Anderson came across his dad, Greg, who was struggling to get to the line having just completed the last climb.

Seizing the monumental opportunity that had fallen into his lap, Anderson charged ahead with everything he had, passed his dad, and maintained his pace all the way to the line. Greg didn't have enough in the tank to mount a counter-attack and Anderson happily took the W away from his over-extended father. What a turnaround!

In all seriousness, though, big kudos to Anderson for finishing such a tough and demanding course. Great job and keep the faith that this story will, one day, actually come to pass.

See you all next Monday for ANOTHER NEW COURSE. We never stop working to deliver you the most entertaining and welcoming race series in Ontario.

* Not everything I write is strictly accurate. Some dramatic licence may be taken. ;)

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma for the photography. Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 5 - Every Dog Has His Day

June 5, 2023

The debut of a new course is always a source of joy for our riders. The chance to experience a new trail that has never existed before in the long history of our series brings with a chance for us to entertain and to challenge our riders.

Some courses weave tightly through the trees and test your low speed handling chops with relentless tight radius turns just waiting for you to drop your front wheel too low and send you over the bars. Other trails deliver bottom to top climbs that make you feel like your legs are on fire and that your lungs will burst.

This new course runs the entire length of the forest and incorporates many of the best trails that this tract has to offer. It's 4.15km length treats riders to fast, flowing downhills, has a couple of big jumps for the brave, has some beautiful twisty sections and enough climbing to reward those who have put in the work while being forgiving to those who are working on their pace.

Liam Cullen notches his first win of the season

With the return to longer laps, the Novice riders had to contend with only two laps of mayhem and, for only the second time this year, the best time was laid down not by Championship Standings leader, Kayliegh McFarlane or her arch-nemesis Kylie Ferguson, but by little Liam "The Lion" Cullen. Liam has had a bad habit this year of going out too hard and blowing himself up or crashing himself out with reckless abandon.

On this night, however, the stars aligned and Liam finished with a 2-minute gap on the field and also managed to post a solid 30+ second negative split. Excellent race management from this ferocious little competitor! It will be interesting to see if Kyle and Kayleigh can dig deeper next week and try to erase this gap. 

Paul Boken didn't miss a beat

Another name from season's past that rejoined the Coulson's crew this week is Paul Boken. Just because he hasn't been racing with us, his super strong results certainly confirm that his riding hasn't skipped a beat! Up against a very competitive sport-class field, Paul was battling hard in an effort to reel in Eli Weening in front while simultaneously defending against Ryder Cullen and David Van Schie on his tail.

Eli Weening can't be stopped

While Eli's pace couldn't not be countered - his lap times were competitive with Expert/Elite riders - Paul made a valiant effort to hang onto his wheel and made it clear that he intends to climb back to the Expert ranks in short order.

The battle between Paul, Ryder, and David came down to the wire for all three riders who finished within 24-seconds of one another to cinch up the podium spots - and, unfortunately, leave David just shy of the mark. Consistency, as usual, won the day as Paul lost only 26-seconds from his first lap to his last where Ryder lost almost a minute.

In fairness, Ryder rode a blistering 15:37 first lap and then suffered a hard crash just a minute from the finish that saw his gap over David evaporate and put Paul out of reach. On another night, this podium could be looking quite a bit different. Next week, I would anticipate Eli moving to Expert/Elite and there to be an amazing showdown for the podium.

Seamus almost notches his first Expert/Elite podium

The Expert/Elite category certainly saw it's share of drama as well this week. On the topic of what dogs did NOT have their day, Evan Knights made his debut on the Expert/Elite cat only to have his hopes popped - along with his tube - by a pointy rock on a blazing downhill. Similarly, I had my first outing in several weeks spoiled by a big nail in my rear tire that I picked up on a trail that I had just blown clear. Not all luck is good luck.

In the positive side of the ledger, two riders had celebratory results with Seamus Cullen edging ever closer to Aaron Wright thanks to his ongoing efforts on the road with our cycling club. Road miles may not offer the same sheer exhilaration as mountain biking, but the fitness gains are undeniable. Seamus continues to make immense progress and it won't be long before he will have the chance to take me down in a battle much like that between Ethan and Craig McFarlane

Kyle Rae takes down the King - Jamie Davies

One dog whose story just keeps getting better is Kyle Rae. After weeks of battling toe-to-toe with Jamie Davies, Kyle finally took Jamie all the way to the line and then blasted to the finish in a sprint that was almost too close to call. At the end of the race, Kyle beat Jamie by about half a bike length and, in so doing, handed Jamie his second loss of the season and notched his first win.

All of the drama, the passion, the thrills, and the spills return for another round next Monday. Here's hoping that some more riders can make it out to battle around our amazing 4km course!

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma for the photography. Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 4 - Turning Tables and Evolving Battles

May 29, 2023

Another stunning evening and another super exciting race filled with passes, drama, sprint finishes and crashes. Most importantly, we seemed to have really turned the corner from the "dark times" and people are genuinely stoked to be back enjoying group activities and organized sport. This is a win for restoring social activity, reconnecting with those we didn't see through the pandemic, and a saving grace for organizers who were at they wits' end on restoring attendance.

Eli Weening is on fire!

The "Ride of the Night" award has to be presented to Eli Weening. From the outset of the race, it was clear that Eli was a young man on a mission as he set the Sport-class pace with a heroic first couple of laps. To his credit, Eli didn't just rip hard out of the starting gate: Eli set the starting line on fire, blew down the timing tents, and left a trail of smoke behind him as the spark flying from his drivetrain threatened to set the whole forest ablaze. He didn't just ride fast "for a Sport rider" - Eli rode some of the fastest laps of the race. Fast enough, in fact, the his best lap was within seconds of the Elite podium lap times.

Chad Madaleno underestimated himself

Sadly for Eli, Chad Madaleno did not read the memo about Eli's extra serving of awesome-sauce. After racing with us for many years, Chad made his return to the fold a memorable one. After his warm-up laps, Chad figured that he would likely be battling for a podium spot in the Sport category and would save some Expert exploits for later in the season once he had time to prove his mettle and build some confidence.

Well consider it proven!

After dropping 8-seconds to Eli on the first lap and holding the gap on lap 2, Eli started to slow just a wee bit. Just an 8-second reduction in lap speed was enough for Chad to launch an attack that put Eli in his rearview - and Chad clearly doesn't check his mirror for tailgaters! Eli rode a stronger fourth lap, but it ws not enough to offer an opportunity to counter the uber-consistent Mr. Madaleno who rode to the finish in first place by a measly 1.7 second margin.

Phil Goodenough driving the sport-class train to the limit

But this was not the only exciting story in the sport category. There were several bunch sprints and many outcomes were uncertain right until the finish line. One of the best finishes came down to Craig McFarlane, Ian Travell, and Phil Goodenough. While Craig's son, Ethan McFarlane, may have notched another family victory to gloat about at the dinner table, Craig dug deep in a fantastic sprint against Ian and Phil and managed to lead the trio to the line while defending against Ian's ridiculously strong fourth lap. Had Ian not had such a rough first lap, I would expect him to be nearing podium contention.

The battles emerging on the hearty middle of the sport category have been very entertaining to watch. 

There is no victory to small to celebrate. Podium spots are limited but personal accomplishment can be measured in myriad ways. For some, it is simply finishing. for others, it is chasing down that rabbit that always seems just a few seconds too fast. But, whether or not you prevail on a given night, it is all progress towards a better you.

Tristan Abuton shows ons of potential

There are another two racers that warrant mention in the report. The first of whom, Tristan Abuton, is a new racer this season and another rider who was uncertain where to begin his journey. After joining the Novice field, and promptly trouncing the competition, Tristan eagerly jumped up to Sport class and has been making steady progress week-to-week. The most important part of development in any pursuit of passion is repetition. Coming out weekly for a full-effort 40-minute blast pushes your body and mind to a new place. A place where pain becomes background noise and speed is the only focus. When you find access to this state of flow, the world around you just melts away while you blast yourself to speeds you previously thought impossible. The key is to stop thinking and to be in the moment - akin to meditation. Be in the NOW.

Tyson Denobrega gets faster every week

Another rider deserving of a shout-out is Tyson Denobrega. By dipping his toes directly into the deep end by attending every race of the year so far, Tyson's progress has been remarkable. Every single race, Tyson has posted faster times and is edging closer to the top 10 in the hyper-competitive sport field. This week, he managed to pull almost 2-muntes off of his week 3 results and I'm sure his confidence is growing with each passing race. Another 30-seconds off of his week 4 results and Tyson is right in the thick of the top 10. Nothing drives future success like seeing progress. Keep hammering Tyson! 

Chris Staniewski may not have won this night...but he delivered the best air!

In the Expert field, everyone was excited to see the return of Chris Staniewski (alright...maybe not his competitors). In our first race of the season, Chris put on a show of remarkable strength and fitness by destroying the entire field on an aggressive trail bike - a bike engineered for lift-access, gravity-fuelled joy rides. Chris took this knife to a gun fight and emerged unscathed having sliced and diced his way to the top spot on the podium.

As such, it was with some trepidation that this opponents observed Chris' attendance upon a cross-country oriented race weapon this week. However, there was not to be a repeat of his week one heroics. Others have had a little more time to train their explosive power and sustained peak efforts. The bottom for the Elite podium was spectacular with Chris setting the tone with an opening lap of an eye-watering and lung-busting 8:55.

But, Jamie Davies and Kyle Rae did not surrender an inch more than necessary and clung to Chris' wheel until the surprising happened: Chris cracked. On lap 3, Jamie and Kyle both managed to pass Chris and then somehow managed to find yet another level and proceeded to run negative splits for the next two subsequent laps. At their fastest, Jamie pulled an unfathomable 8:42.

It just goes to show that nothing is a given, that there is always someone ready to take your crown, and that a race is never over until that wheel crosses the line. Never surrender, never falter, and never give up. Just when you are suffering the most, have faith that your competition is hurting just as much. Find it within yourself to turn off the pain, push past the tired legs and just send it!

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma for the photography. Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 3 - New Faces Light the Wick While the Veterans Blast Off

May 22, 2023

It is human nature to question what we do in our daily grind. Is it valuable? Does it satisfy me? Is there something else that might prove more fulfilling? After a very positive turnout for our third week of racing, I can tell you that I am beyond stoked to have revived our series for another season of action.

Harper Pogue completes her first race ever!

Satisfaction comes in many different flavours, but, in my mind, there is something quite unique about working in the cycling industry. In ways big and small, we have a unique opportunity to imprint upon people a model of healthy living, reinforce their love of the outdoors, and inspire them to push past their boundaries of comfort or fear to embrace a life free from self-imposed limitations.

In the store, we regularly hear stories prefaced with, "I'm too old to...", "I'm too out of shape to...", "I can't do that anymore..." I'm here to tell you that these outlooks are completely wrong. You CAN do anything. You are NOT too old/young/weak/heavy or any other such nonsense. Every journey begins with a step and the steps you take today are what defines your tomorrow. Nothing more and nothing less than your own daily decisions define who you are and who you can become.

Spoke O'Motion staffer Matt Noddle also made his race debut

So, with an eye to the future, it is a tremendous thrill to welcome new riders to the fold. Sometimes inspiration is found in young little rippers like Harper Pogue who rode a valiant first race to come in second to the always-smiling (and alway chatting!) Lila Van Schie. Other times we can look at new racers like Matt Noddle who wokred his butt off to hang with the established Novice riders and completed his own personal goal: To complete the race.

There is no victory to small to celebrate. Podium spots are limited but personal accomplishment can be measured in myriad ways. For some, it is simply finishing. for others, it is chasing down that rabbit that always seems just a few seconds too fast. But, whether or not you prevail on a given night, it is all progress towards a better you.

Steve Prosser rode his strongest race of the season

Even at the pointy end of the spear, rider progress and standout performances can happen at any time. Repetition is the route to success in everything! This Monday, Steve Prosser rode a determined race in an effort to hold the wheel of Jamie "Rocket" Davies and delivered a battle for the ages. Steve actually held the lead after lap 1 until Jamie launched a hard attack to push the pace on lap 2. Rather than surrender the position, Steve kept his head in the game and countered in lap 3 to regain the lead.

While Steve did ultimately surrender the lead to Jamie on lap 4, he managed to minimu=ize his losses and lose only 15-seconds to Jamie by the time the race finished. A remarkable performance by both athletes.

An epic battle between Chris Graham and Les Hegedus

Another fiery race-course battle was between series vets Chris Graham and Les Hegedus. These two have raced against one another for many years now and, as any racer knows, intense rivalries never get old. Win or lose, the heat of the battle is what makes the race so insanely satisfying. All of the pain, the self-doubt, the battle of will... it all fades when you make your move and, with a little luck, it sticks and allows you to rip to the line ahead of the competition.

Les rode a brilliant race and managed his pace like the experienced tactician he is. After his fist lap he was in 7th place - trailing Chris. After the second lap, Les was down another 10-seconds and Chris looked to have a strong position. However, Les stuck to his strategy and left enough in the tank to turn in a blazing 5th lap of 9:17. (Remember all of talk about "negative splits"? This nis what that looks like!)

Chris was, on this night, unable to respond to Les' ridiculous surge and wound up in a 25-second deficit by the end of the race.

Liam Cullen giving his all to outsprint Darcy Anderson

While Kayleigh McFarlane and Kylie Ferguson continue their battle in the novice category and treated us to another sprint finish - this time won by Kayleigh - the Sprint of the Night Award this week must certainly be awarded to little Liam "The Lion" Cullen against the hard-charging Darcy Anderson

Liam used his weight advantage (at 60lbs he has an advantage over everyone!), to attack Darcy on the middle fireroad climb. Once past Darcy, he shoulder-checked continually to evaluate the odds of maintaining his lead. Darcy had expressed concern over Liam's neck health but I assure you that Liam is rather elastic and is very used to hard crashes - he's a trooper.

As these two rounded the last corner before the finish line, Darcy was first to stand and start sprinting. Liam's shoulder check ensured that he was well aware of Darcy's intent the moment it happened and Liam responded with a full-effort counterattack and pounded his way to the finish line with a 1.1 second lead over the hulking Mr. Anderson. What an epic finish!  

Walker Prosser crossed the line in full celebration mode

Sometimes the racing feels super tough - we've all been there. Sometimes it feels like you are in your element; you are where you are supposed to be; you are experiencing the best version of yourself in the moment; you are alive and loving it.

That was Walker Prosser who, having nailed a strong 6th place in Novice, made sure that everyone understood his mindset when he hollered, "I was born for this!" every time he passed the timing tent.

Me, too, Walker. I am picking up what you a putting down, my young friend.

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma for the photography. Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Week 2 - The Story of Progess in Small Steps

May 15, 2023

Treated to another day of cool temperature and sunshine - that we unfortunately had to share with hordes of mosquitos and black flys - the racing at Coulson's Hill proved that what we are doing works. Our goal is to provide a competitive venue focussed on emphasizing the joy of sportsmanship, relishing the adrenalin rush of competition, and realizing the benefits on consistent hard work. These lessons transcend the hobby of cycling and, when applied broadly through our lives, can help us approach many aspects of our lives in a positive and meaningful way. Engagement with life itself is the most fundamental takeaway I hope this series instills in you all.

Kyle Rae personifies perseverance and courage

There is no better example of this approach to life than that of the inimitable Kyle Rae. Some of us talk about the challenges we face in life, the injuries or setbacks we have faced, and the struggle to return to the place we started. Life has truly (finally!) come full circle for my dear friend Kyle. Approximately five years ago, Kyle suffered an unlikely series of bike crashes that resulted in severe concussion symptoms. Not blessed with the same knowledge we have today about the severity and consequences of brain injuries, Kyle rushed back to his passion for riding and this decision cost him dearly.

This year, Kyle has returned to Coulson's Hill to resume his racing career with a smile on his face and a hop in his step that has been a long time coming. Through it all, Kyle put in the work to regain his health and had extraordinary support from his family, his extraordinary partner Lindsay-anne Townsend, and his many friends cheering his progress from the sidelines. His tenacity and courage has brought along progress and healing that was, at times, highly uncertain and his return to our series is an incredibly emotional and joyful reality. May we all have the courage to fight through tough times with the same graced and poise Kyle has shown.

To top off this incredible comeback story, Kyle has returned in fine form indeed and nabbed a second place finish this week after losing to Jamie Davies - the fastest man on earth.

Ethan McFarlane in a happy place!

Progress takes all kinds of forms, and another milestone that most of us can relate to is that moment when you finally beat your parent in competition. (I can still remember the first time I finally beat my dad at chess.) Such was the story this week when Ethan McFarlane delivered a smoking race to take down his dad, Craig McFarlane, by a 45-second margin.

At the beginning of the race, the strategic theme the riders were asked to embrace was that of the "negative split" where your first lap should not be your fastest. One must meter their output in such a way that you can get faster on each successive lap - or at least lose as little time as possible. Ethan clearly picked up that mantle as he rode four exceptionally consistent laps and worked his way from 8th place to 6th while simultaneously giving his dad a result to stew over for a week. It'll be fun to watch this battle evolve as the season marches onward.

Eli Weening pulled 6-minutes of his week #1 results on his way to the podium

The race this week was also dramatically faster for most of the field. In our pre-race chat on week #1, I implored riders to come weekly, to tough out the painful first month and to reap the results that certainly follow. Well here we are just an eek into the series, and the lap times are already plummeting. More than half the field saw their lap times improve by massive amounts. One of the strongest returns to form was seen in the Sport category where the podium complexion had changed significantly. Eli Weening, for example, took 6-minutes off of his first race results - in the process making it abundantly clear that youth is a powerful drug! With progress like this on display, we can look forward to a season of new rivalries where, from one week to the next, victory is up for grabs and nothing is a given. That's a recipe for exciting racing.

Kylie Ferguson pulling her friend Kayleigh McFarlane through the finish area

On the topics of hot rivalries, one of the tightest emerging battles belongs to good friends, and competitive skiers, Kylie Ferguson and Kayleigh McFarlane. While Kayleigh outrode Kylie in week one, victory is never certain. The two riders rode shoulder to shoulder all night long and it was ultimately anyone's race. Through the first two laps, the gap between the two riders was only 1 second. As they rounded the last corner and emerged on the finishing straightaway, the wick was lit and the two K's blasted their way to the finish line. In a reversal from week one, it was Kayleigh who snatched the victory on this night. As it stands, these two friends and now in a battle for championship points with Kylie leading with 38-points compared to Kayliegh's 36. 

Evan Knights on the hunt for victory chasing down Ryder Cullen

Another rider that saw massive 6-minute improvements was Evan Knights. What makes his story worth telling, however, is more than just his superhuman improvement in fitness and strength. It takes more than mere power to dominate a bike race. Times aside, Evan improved from a fifth place finish last week to the top step of the podium in week two through clever race-craft. Bike racing is like chess: It is not a matter of simply advancing your most powerful pieces in one fell swoop. The art of effective offence is to plan your attack carefully, identify your opponents weakness, and then exploit your strength and their weakness in one crushing movement that also reduces their willingness to counter.

Evan delivered a masterclass in race-craft this week by allowing Ryder Cullen to set the pace for the first three laps while Evan patiently sat on his tail. this allowed Evan to carefully plan his attack and to ensure he made his move where and when it would be most efffective. On his last lap, Evan launched a blistering surge and, as Ryder was already on the edge of his capability, the attack stuck. Evan powered to the line and captured a whopping 27-second margin of victory.

Remember everyone: Power gets you to the finish, but strategy gets you to the podium!

Next week the course gets reversed and it will be an entirely new experience. See you there.

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma for the photography. Complete photo gallery can be found here.

Racing is back and the stoke is high!

May 10, 2023

With our start having moved a little deeper into spring, our inaugural race of the 2023 season was bathed in sunshine and perfect temperatures. It was cool enough that standing around in lycra while waiting to get underway produces a mildly unpleasant chill, but once underway with the blood pumping and the adrenalin flowing, the fresh spring air provided some pleasant relief from the boiling temperatures of the blood coursing through our straining muscles.

Sport class gets underway - it's a full category this year!

With early season racing some people come to event fully-prepped with a winter in the rearview mirror packed with indoor cycling, fat bike riding, and various training regimens having bolstered their fitness and confidence coming into the season. For others, this first race offers the first "hard" ride of the season and it is truly a day of reckoning. An opportunity to have a chuckle about what could have been, to assess where we actually are, and to look longingly at where we want to go.

That is to say, if you found this first race rather tough - welcome to the club!

The Expert/Elite pack flies from the starting line

That said, while the perceived effort (and the corresponding amount of pain) never actually changes regardless of how fit you become, the speeds you can sustain certainly do and this weeks race provided no shortage of role models whose performances can serve to inspire and whose skills we can look to emulate. Of dramatic note this week was the absolute dominance of Chris Staniewski - a series veteran who is always a podium threat but on this day grabbed the race by the horns and set forth a display of utter dominance from start to finish. With lap times hovering around the 9-minute mark for all 5 laps, Chris has made his intentions clear. It is now up to the rest of the field to up their fitness game to present a challenge as the season continues.

What makes this even more astounding is that while many racers focus on shaving grams from their bikes in the relentless pursuit of feathery weight, Chris smashed the field with a full-fat Enduro bike with Fox 36 forks and loads of suspension travel. Maybe Lance was right after all, "It's not about the bike". Of course for Lance, its wasn't all about the training either but that's another discussion.

Anderson Rushton is chased through the woods by Lila Van Schie while Scooby watches the action

But our series is never all about the superstars at the top of the heap. It was a tremendous pleasure to welcome back some young series veterans like Anderson Rushton pictured above. Several young riders have made the huge jump from Mini-Me in 2022 to Novice this year and their courage and determination is the stuff of legend just as much as Chris' heroic display of power.  Brock Allen and Walker Prosser have also taken the leap this year and this means, for all of the young rippers, tougher courses, longer races and even tougher competition. Huge kudos to these young athletes for voluntarily moving up the ranks despite the challenges that come along with the leap. These kids are champions in every sense of the word.

David Collier being pursued by Ethan McFarlane through the pines

It goes without saying that attending a race for the first time - or the first time in years - can be an intimidating experience. Our goal is to make the series as welcoming, open, and diverse as we can. We draw in riders as young as 4 years old and we have had participants as old as 69. We don't discern between male and female participants but instead try to create categories based on ability. We are always looking for ways to extend the joy of organized cycling to more people. So it is always awesome to see new racers join the ranks. This week we saw several new faces join us and I hope their experience leads them to encourage other to come out and join in the fray. 

Kudos to David Collier, Kayleigh McFarlane, Kylie Ferguson, Trevor Hunter, and Tyson Denobrega for strapping on the race plates and testing their mettle. It was especially exciting to see Kayleigh and Kylie battle each other for an exciting sprint finish at the line. Kayleigh managed to cling hard to the third place position to claim highly-valued podium points in the series championship but I know that Kylie will be hungrier than ever next week having lost by only 0.6 seconds at the line. The battle lines have been drawn!

Kylie Ferguson in the hunt and chasing down Kayleigh McFarlane

Will the races hurt you both mentally and physically? Yup...if you go hard. But, with some repetition, these intense efforts will become a feeling you relish. A place where you mind and body wage battle against the terrain, against your fears and self-doubt, against your own good sense telling you to quit. And the person that emerges from the other side will be fitter, stronger and happier as a result. The people you meet along the way will be rivals, rabbits to chase and you may even find a nemesis or two but these relationships will all change your life for the better.

Thanks to everyone for their participation this week and I look forward to our next race.

Complete results with lap times, splits and more can be found at the link below.

Thanks to Al Muma for the photography. Complete photo gallery can be found here.