Ontario Cup racing with the Walden Mountain Bike Club Wolfpak crew can be fun – and challenging and exhausting, and many other things.
But as the group who congregate a couple of times a week at the re-named Walden Trails in Naughton look to continue to build a foundation from which to grow and prosper, attracting young riders who are lured to the venue for thrills that extend well beyond the races is equally as important.
Where Caden Sutton was posting competitive results as far back as 2019, younger brother Tanner is following a slightly more vertical path. “I followed with a bit of a different approach than my brother because I liked downhill riding,” stated the teen who celebrated his 14th birthday just two weeks ago.
“It’s more about hitting bumps and jumps and going fast for me, more than competitive racing.”
The siblings who were initially introduced to the mountain bike scene by virtue of a demo day for bikes that Adventure 365 organized at the site a few years back were among the notable WMBC contingent who made their way to Albion Hills Conservation Park, just north of Brampton, for the 24 Hours Summer Solstice this past weekend.
While his brother teamed up with a five-man relay team that also included Noah Rioux, Owen Claridge, Ethan Mourre and Graydon Bain, Tanner was more than happy to be filling another role completely. “I’ll be there in the pits, helping out, handing out water bottles and food – just kind of being part of the crew,” said Sutton.
“I like to help service the bikes and hand out stuff that they need.”
And when he returns, it will be back to the Penthouse, or the A-Line, or even Seven Up, all sections of the Walden Trails – or maybe even taking a trek over to the Adanac Ski Hill down which he launches himself from time to time. “I think it’s great just to be your own person on the bike instead of having to race against other people,” said Sutton.
“Personally, I like sailing through the air; it’s just you and what you like doing.”
Sutton might well have a kindred spirit in the form of 11 year old Jett Gasteiger, another youth who is completely comfortable enjoying pretty much any contraption on two wheels. “I’ve had a Strider bike since I was really young, and then an electric dirt bike with training wheels since I was maybe four,” stated the grade 5 student at R.L. Beattie Public School.
“But as soon as I got my first actual mountain bike, I did fairly well. Most of the stuff I was doing on the Strider bikes really helped with that – and a little of the dirt biking experience as well.”
Much like Sutton, Gasteiger is not one to get too bogged down with race results. “This is my first year of really racing,” he explained. “I’m not particularly good at going fast, but I really enjoy mountain biking, in general. I’m used to doing the more technical stuff.”
While he and his dad will wander over to tackle the Kivi Park trails from time to time, they’ll also explore, making their way along “an unofficial nine trail”, as the young man has dubbed the impromptu circuit. As such, safety is a constant priority, with helmet properly fastened, in large part as protection and, to a much lesser extent, as a means of dealing with a sizeable flow of locks which graces the young man’s head.
“As long as your helmet is tight enough that your hair doesn’t actually come forward, then you’re okay,” explained Gasteiger with a smile. “I can just brush it back and when I put my helmet on, I can tuck it way back so that it doesn’t get in my eyes.”
Good thing too, given that the WMBC club member is clearly drawn towards a penchant to be a little adventurous on his rides. “I’ve just started to do wheelies, but I’m not really any good at them,” Gasteiger confessed. “I’m not super good yet at the little skills: jumps, bunny-hops, things like that.”
“I’m pretty good at rollers, but as soon as there are rocks or divots in the rollers, anything that makes them a bit different, that gets tricky. In general, just going out and having a good time is really fun. It’s less about doing a particular event; it’s the whole of biking that I find really nice.”
On this particular evening, Ethan Mourre provides the contrast.
A “AAA” hockey talent in the winter who has also suited up with the Sudbury Rockhounds rep lacrosse group in the past, the 15 year old in his third year with the Wolfpak lives for the thrill of competition – even if his start in the sport was a whole lot more casual.
“I would come out with my mom (Carol) and we would whip around here and I would do all of the Walden races, but other than that, nothing really extensive,” he said, making the move to club racing at the urging of club organizer Marc Rioux (his son Noah is basically the same age as Mourre).
Much like his other athletic endeavours, this undertaking required commitment, the kind needed to hold your own against some of the top riders in the province. “It’s the training on your own that’s probably the biggest difference,” said Mourre. “You really have to be putting in the effort on the off-time that is not part of the team practice.”
As he worked towards preparing for the all-day all-night affair outside of Bolton, Mourre altered his workouts to better simulate the relay experience. “An O-Cup race might be eight or nine kilometres; one lap and you’re done,” he said. “This is a lot longer and a lot more fatiguing. You have to practice at keeping a slower pace over a longer period instead of just going full out for the 25 minutes to half an hour.”
At the end of which, the goal for he and his teammates remained modest. “A successful race would be none of us getting hurt and all of us completing the full 24 hours without any major interruptions,” said Mourre.
Also competing for the WMBC was:Wolfpak Junior #2 – Joshua Rioux, Warner Bain, Marc Rioux
Wolfpak Racing – Jocelyne Heneberry, Monika Jost, Carol Mourre, Stacey Greene
The Real OG’s 2022 – Edgar Bauman, Jake Gougeon, Paul Guenette, Marc Rioux