Still looking as fit as ever at the age of 71, Sudbury Fitness Challenge (SFC) mainstay John Larmer is not about to get too riled up regarding his results at any particular race - even less, when it came to the Bush Pig Open held last weekend in Naughton.
"This is the first race of any kind of race, for me, this season," said Larmer. "It was great. To train, train, train, without a race, it's hard to do that and stay motivated. This is fun, to be able to see a few of the people that we haven't been able to see, all summer."
Hosted by the Walden Mountain Bike Club, the trail race was adjusted to allow for staggered starts, to accommodate social distancing requirements. Furthermore, the eighty riders who competed were dispatched to the trails in four waves of twenty, with the first cyclists off at 9:00 a.m., and the last leaving the start line at 1:49 p.m.
"I actually prefer this kind of start," said Larmer. "I'm older now and I like to warm into the course. When it's a mass start, there tends to be people who don't really know where they belong, and then you end up running into them. They clog up the trails and stuff."
Separation aside, Larmer was thrilled at the condition of the local course that has staged both Ontario Cup and Canada Cup races in recent years. "These courses are technical, highly technical," he said.
"For a hard core mountain biker, which I am not, really, but a lot of the folks from the club are, it means lots of twists and turns, up and down, rocks and stumps." To boot, the weather come Saturday morning was gorgeous, with no precipitation in site until after supper.
"We were thankful there was no rain," said Larmer. "When this course turns to mud, you can't carry the speed. Well, you can, but it you don't know the course well, you're in the trees."
As for the motivation that pushes Larmer to continue to show at countless SFC events, he confesses that it was something that was engrained in him, a long, long time ago.
"It's just a lifestyle choice, one I made in high school," said Larmer. "I've seen lots of good athletes over the years, kids that I have coached in hockey, and then they stopped - and I didn't."
"I got my kids to do the sports that I was doing, so it was a family thing. We just incorporated it right into our routine."
The same holds true, to a certain degree, for Peter Ledingham, the 45 year old who finished second only to Paul Guenette in the men's advanced (3 X 6 kms) circuit.
"I grew up right across the street here in Naughton," explained Ledingham. "When I was young, I would come here and cross-country ski, and maybe a bit of mountain biking - but at that time, these trails didn't exist."
Thankfully, this is Sudbury. Mountain bike trails can be found across the region, if one knows where to look. Ledingham knew exactly where to find the help that he needed.
"I started really mountain biking in my late teens, usually with the guys from Cameron Cycle," he said. "I would borrow my dad's Canadian Tire mountain bike and trash it with those guys out there. I'm not going to lie - I really didn't know where I was half the time."
If his bearings, within Greater Sudbury, did not come quickly, his love of mountain biking certainly did. "It's kind of an adrenaline sport," said Ledingham. "When you're blasting down the trails through the woods, there is definitely an element of risk."
Some people like that and some people don't. For me, it makes it exciting. Then you have to develop the skill in order to do it well, which makes it a challenge. I really do like keeping active. I think it pays dividends in your life, in general."
Though his younger years were interspersed, at times, with both mountain biking and competitive motocross (Ledingham raced across Ontario and into the States during his time with the sport), the man who acknowledges drawing heavy inspiration from Sudbury cycling legend Bill Narasnek remains excessively thankful for all that his hometown has to offer, even in the midst of a pandemic.
"We have so many opportunities up here for mountain biking," he explained. "Sudbury is an awesome area. Not only with Naughton Trails, which are amazing, but a lot of forest management roads, trails all over the place, back country roads."
"I don't think that it (the pandemic) has had a negative impact, with the exception that there aren's as many opportunities to compete."
Speaking of which, here are some of the top finishers in the various events:Advanced - 3 X 6 kms - Boys - U16 and 16-19
1st - Elijah Jeffery - 1:17:43
2nd - Noah Rious - 1:17:48
Advanced - 3 X 6 kms - Open Men
1st - Paul Guenette - 53:59
2nd - Peter Ledingham - 55:57
3rd - Marc Larochelle - 57:49
4th - Mike Banks - 58:13
5th - Marc Rious - 58:54
Advanced - 3 X 7 kms - Open Women
1st - Wanda Dewulf - 1:18:47
2nd - Jess Lonsdale - 1:26:01
Advanced - 2 X 6 kms
1st - Women - Megan Bischoff - 48:51
1st - Men - Ian Nener - 47:44
1st - Boys 16-19 - Kai Nener - 44:09
1st - Boys - U16 - Joshua Rioux - 1:01:54
Advanced - 1 X 6 kms
1st - Women - Carol Mourre - 27:17
1st - Boys 16-19 - Josh Guignard - 34:48
1st - Men - Rob Rice - 22:00
Recreational - 3 X 4.5 kms
1st - Boys - U16 - Kaeden Ward - 46:12
1st - Boys - 16-19 - Laydon Bursey - 48:20
1st - Open Men - Todd Withers - 42:56
2nd - Open Men - Mitch Trottier - 44:10
1st - Women - Sheila Geraghty - 45:40
2nd - Women - Sara McIlraith - 48:15
3rd - Women - Stacey Trottier - 51:10
Recreational - 2 X 4.5 kms
1st - Boys - U16 - Hector Loiselle - 37:01
2nd - Boys - U16 - Owen Foers - 37:50
1st - Open Men - Steffon Luoma - 40:04
1st - Women - Beth Mairs - 39:28
Recreational - 1 X 4.5 kms
1st - Boys - U16 - Chesley Godwin - 19:18
2nd - Boys - U16 - Colton Mende - 23:21
1st - Girls - U16 - Sophie Gauld - 20:01
2nd - Girls - U16 - Julia Masters - 23:15
1st - Open Men - Rob Gervais - 26:42
1st - Women - Lisanne Gauld - 18:02