Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Monday, September 19, 2011

A big start to a big new season!

Well, schools back in and rolling in full force, which means a change in focus; my focus and effort on a bike go to the University of Guelph Cycling Club! For those who aren’t familiar, we have a superfantastic club here at the university with a very driven and talented race team component! There is a series of four races run by the University of Toronto (specifically Dave). UoG has been quite a powerhouse race team since its establishment (some 8 years ago) and we just keep gaining momentum every year. Our success is undeniably a function of how awesome friends we are our ability to help eachother out at races and with training, and the drive of the individuals in the club to train, and to achieve.  I am so excited to see so many new faces out this year at the events we hold and racing!

Half of the team here, cheering for the brave racers on the course!

The first race in the University Cup mountain bike race series is at Mansfield, and in my opinion it is one of the best races of the year. Mansfield is a two day event with three races; a criterium (an incredibly short course that you do two laps of), a time trial (another short course (about 3.5km) which each rider completes on their own as fast as they can), and Sunday is the typical cross-country mountain bike race.
We arrived on Saturday in the morning, set up camp, and registered for the races, fixed bikes, and then raced!

This tent needed some fixing, green wood and a roll of electrical tape got it up though!

The criterium is such an awesome event to compete in and to watch, because from the middle of the loop you can actually see the whole race. Riders are let out 3 or 4 at a time and must complete 2 laps; the top two of each heat move on to the next round. Shoving 4 racers at a time on a trail and telling them to do it as fast as they possibly can makes for a bit of a gongshow and some close calls – but everybody survived. Guelph had some really awesome results, with our boys Scott (a varsity Nordic skier) and Mark finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively. By the end of this event I was already losing my voice from yelling, cheering and heckling to the best of my ability. Next up was the time trial, which was a beautiful course of almost exclusively singletrack. After finishing Scott and his twin from Queen’s Brett came out to the biggest hill on the course with me to cheer people on. Weekends like these make me want to cheer more than I want to race sometimes, and we were told afterwards that it was very helpful to the riders.

Just a blurry streak of gold flying by in the crit!

After all the racers were done and everyone was either packing up for the night or setting up camp, a few of us guys from Guelph as well as a couple of U of T riders went out to the race course and cleaned it up. We cleared sticks, fallen logs, and half fallen trees (you should see Scotty W. with an axe!). I was pretty stoked that the guys from Guelph helped out with this (even our Alex, who hadn’t raced U-cup before was raking the trails with his bare hands), and it earned us free dinner from U of T. It’s so great that we can all camp and help each other out with absolutely no animosity between the teams.

Scott, later at the campfire while trying to wipe a smudge off his face ended up with a very smudged face

That night was one of the most fun nights that I’ve had in a while. We were camping out in a cleared area on the property along with University of Toronto, Trent, and maybe some other small university groups as well. One teammate in particular made the effort to ensure a great camping experience for everyone; our perpetual Rookie Dan. He brought bacon, trailmix, sportsdrinks, chips, and possibly most importantly, an axe and a saw. I don’t know where the energy came from, but soon I was out in the bush sawing fallen trees, balancing on fallen trees and sawing their branches, and chopping trees down. Dan was dragging the fallen branches out to near the fire pit would be, and soon more guys jumped in. Kelsey, Kyle, and our new first year Alex (who is dangerously fast) came out for the fun. Between us we demolished a bunch of dead trees, made a vine rope swing, and chopped through a log that was almost two feet in diameter (which took a few hours and about 10 coordinated guys to drag out). I have no idea where any of us got all of that energy from after racing twice that day, and how we managed to race the next day either! Once a substantial pile of wood was taken out, a tepee was set around a decrepit picnic table, and a fire was light both below the table and on top of the table. Needless to say this had flames greater than ten feet high, kept all that were near nice and warm, and brought the schools all together.

The camfire, and the bench that we chopped, and dragged out.

The next morning was cold, and I am very glad that when I finally did get out of my tent, there was bacon already cooked (courtesy of Danno) and the fire was still nice and warm. That day it wasn’t the race that I was really looking forward to; it was the totally awesome fun of cheering the racers up the hill. Guelph had a great showing, and the competition was stiff. For some reason the Men’s A field is now packed with elite men (almost all of which seem to be engineers; who I guess need some outlet and relief from school), and the other categories are quite serious as well. At the end of the weekend Guelph had two racers on the podium, and I am very proud of everybody. We did it all this weekend, we camped, we raced, and we built a stronger team. Looking forward to next weekend’s race at Boler Mountain in London! I dare some riders from Western to come out!

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