A memorable season of cycling for Laura Haapamaki
by Randy Pascal
With her 32nd birthday only days away, local cyclist Laura Haapamaki is not sure that she can do this again next summer. And if not, she will
look back on 2011 as a truly memorable year of racing.
The mother of two young children boasts an athletic background that dates back several years, but was entering only her second year of cycling road
racing this season.
"I was a runner, but I kept getting injured from running" she said Tuesday night, having just completed her workout with fellow members of the Sudbury
Cycling Club at the Delki Dozzi Track.
"I met (national track rider) Tom Hums and he suggested I give riding a shot." In 2010, Haapamaki competed throughout the province, achieving a
great deal of success within the Masters Division.
Naturally, the driven young woman decided to up the stakes, signing on with the P-K Express team, riding alongside two-time Olympian Susan
Palmer and racing at the elite level.
"I haven't won any races this year, last year I was," Haapamaki said. "But I'm racing against (Olympic Gold medal winner) Clara Hughes." The
excitement in her voice is unmistakable.
It's the thrill of competition for those who look to push themselves to the limit. Considering the fact that she remains a relative rookie compared to
many of her opponents, Haapamaki has come a very long way in a short period of time.
Benefitting from the coaching of well-respected Sudbury cycling guru Battista Muredda, Haapamaki did not alter her training substantially in 2011,
despite the increased level of competition.
"We ramped it up a bit and worked on what I'm not good at," she said. "Last year, we just didn't know what I'm not good at, because it was my first year
Where her inaugural year of cycling competition would find her racing across Ontario, more exotic destinations were in store this spring. "I trained and
raced in California for a couple of months. Racing with palm trees is just insane - those were my favourite races," Haapamaki said.
But sporting a relatively slight build by cycling standards, she achieved her best results upon returning to the more rugged terrain of the north east.
"I'm a hill climber. Because of my size, I'm good at the hills and we raced in Vermont - that was one of my best races," noted Haapamaki.
While the past eight months or so have been truly memorable, balancing life can provide a challenge. "I don't know if I want to do this again next year.
It's a huge time commitment away from my two kids," she noted.
"I'll do the same training over the winter, but might stick around and race in Canada next year." And if her tour of racing with some of the North
American elite goes no further, Haapamaki will look back fondly on what she has accomplished.
"My 10 year old son said to me one day, "I'm glad you're not a normal mom," Haapamaki said with a smile. "I think my kids are able to look up to me and
see that it doesn't matter how old you are, you can do what you want to do."
In other local cycling news, Jody Nadjiwon topped the results for Sudbury Cycling Club members who competed over the weekend at the Niagara
Classic 2011, capturing top spot in the Masters "A" Women's division.
Nadjiwon completed the 49.2 km distance in a time of 1:29.29, finishing roughly a minute ahead of Danielle McKibbon (Ciclo Sport Racing). Liam
Wilson picked up a 5th place finish in the Elite 4 Men's classification, while Haapamaki was eighth in the Elite Women 1 & 2 grouping.