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Mountain Bike racing just a part of the cycling spectrum
2023-08-01
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It’s been ten years, to the month, since the Walden Mountain Bike Club (WMBC) played host to a series of races that would bring in riders from regions far beyond Sudbury, in any kind of serious numbers.

In July of 2013, it was the likes of Geoff Kabush, Emily Batty, Derek Zandstra and Sandra Walter who were showcasing their talents on the Walden Trails, site of Canada Cup racing that summer.

And while it’s not quite on that same scale, the Ontario Cup races that were staged Sunday at the same venue were a welcomed return for members of the WMBC family who very much enjoy showcasing all that this area has to offer.

Those on hand included not only a larger local contingent with a pair of very active Sudbury mountain bike teams now in the mix, but also a good number of the club crews which have become synonymous with the sport right across the province.

Scott McClure and his family had just arrived in northern Ontario in 2013, his daughters serving as volunteers at the Canada Cup event. Having made the move from Minnesota, the now 59 year-old who enjoyed countless cycling trips with his spouse (and continues to do so) has experienced pretty much all aspects of the sport, with far more of a road bike background that precedes his leap into the world of mountain biking around the age of forty.

“The training is probably similar but you have to get the technical ability, which I still don’t have – I still do a lot of road biking,” said McClure. “Minnesota is like southern Ontario, mountain bike trail wise, so when I first moved here, I thought: I can’t ride this."

"Now, I can ride a lot of it.”

“There’s some technical parts that I probably can ride – but I’m 59, so I don’t ride it,” he added with a smile. “There’s a lot of roots and a lot of rocks here, obviously – a lot of loose rocks and a lot of riding bare rocks, Sudbury-style, rocks that are not smooth - they’re jagged.”

Very much a middle of the pack competitor, McClure is thankful for another recent trend, one which plays to his very diverse riding interests. “The thing I have noticed that we have in Sudbury now is that there is a real cross-over between people that ride the road and people riding mountain bikes.”

“Before, they were pretty separate,” noted the member of the WMBC Wolfpak racing team. “You now have a big community of people who enjoy riding.”

By her own admission, Meredith Davies is “what I would consider brand new” to said community – in her own words.

The mother of two young children who moved to Sudbury with her husband from Nova Scotia back in 2009 is now three years into cycling, the last two of which have involved more mountain bike racing.

“I wanted something to challenge myself, something to push myself and see where I was at,” said the first place finisher in the Master Sport Women (35-44) division, covering off roughly 14.5 kilometres in a time of 54:30.10.

“I wanted to give myself something to work towards in the summer,” Davies added.

With a goal to simply finish and have fun, Davies found herself in with a pair of WMBC cyclists as she represented the Sessions Circus Racing team, the more recent local entry to the O-Cup circuit courtesy of business owner and avid cyclist John Lalonde. As for a general race game plan, Davies wasn’t venturing down the pathway of anything too intricate.

“Because I am not great as a technical rider, when I get to the hills, I tried to push it,” she said. “There was nothing crazy about the hills other than the fact that they are steep and long. If I am going to do anything here, I knew it had to be on the hills.”

Also a fan of the gravel trail settings, Davies and her spouse are registered for Hurtin in Haliburton (September 16th) and might also squeeze in The Voyageur 200 one week earlier in North Bay.

The broad range of the cycling spectrum is just one of the elements that attracted Paul Mysko to the sport, a former member of the Canadian cyclocross team who now heads up the race program with the Hardwood Next Wave mountain bike crew just north of Barrie.

“It’s kind of nice to do road, mountain and cross – to get exposure to all of it,” suggested the 22 year old who arrived with a team of 15 youngsters between the ages of nine and 16 for the O Cup festivities this weekend. “Cyclocross tends to be shorter; mountain bike is kind of this weird in between and road is longer.”

“It’s good to have the wide variety to develop as an athlete as a whole.”

And while he had never previously competed in Walden – his Ontario Cup career came just after the 2013 races which kind of closed that chapter of WMBC hosting for a stint – Mysko can still relate to the nervous energy that emerges on race day.

“The atmosphere here: it’s super exciting, especially in the morning when you have a lot of the younger athletes out there,” explained the young man who represented the country at World Championships in 2018 and 2019 (Netherlands and Denmark). “It’s just a great atmosphere to be around.”

“I get excited to wake up ad come and feel the excitement at these races.”

Of course, for the likes of Mysko, there’s also a heightened anticipation as the truly elite of the field take to the course early Sunday afternoon. “It’s going to be really fast,” he noted. “It’s a hard packed course. The dirt feels like concrete and the rocks make it even faster out there.”

“It’s going to be highways at points and that would make me excited for the tactics in that style of racing,” Mysko added. “When it’s fast, everyone tends to get bunched in together which means the little things make the difference.”

His powers of premonition were impressive, especially as it relates to the U17 Expert Boys event as Tristan Grenier (Ottawa Bicycle Club) edged Evan Moore (Collingwood Collective) by a tenth of a second, after spending nearly an hour on the three-lap circuit (56:53.0 vs 56:30.01).

Noteworthy results from the local contingent included first place finishes from Alex Anstice (WMBC – Master Sport Men – 35-44 – 1:04:58.3), Jake Gougeon (WMBC – Senior Expert Men – 19-34 – 1:24:36.3) and Ethan Mourre (WMBC – U19 Sport Men – 1:07.14.1), with both John Lalonde (Circus Racing – Senior Sport Men – 1:09:56.10) and Noah Rioux (WMBC – U19 Sport Men – 1:09:50.1) settling for silver.

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