This past the weekend was the first of two stops for the Canada Cup circuit in Ontario at the relatively new venue of Horseshoe Valley Resort. They have hosted a couple years of Ocups so far and now this year they were ready to take on the second instalment of the National circuit by providing us with a very fun and challenging course. It was also the first Canada cup event that has been put on by Superfly Racing and I would say it was a resounding success!
I had the pleasure of staying at my good friends the Diseras who live a stone’s throw from Horseshoe at the top of the hill as you come down Horseshoe Valley Road from Orillia. As usual Pam and Perry were very accommodating and made me feel as if I were right at home, which made for a nice, relaxing weekend prior to the race.
I arrived on Friday afternoon and that night we had an amazing potluck dinner organized by Pam with the Norco team and friends. It was a great time and was nice to enjoy some time chilling out and sitting around the fire. There was also a little friendly competition on the newly acquired slack line in the back yard, in which veteran team member Andrew Watson was able to narrowly best team manager ‘Havy’ by making just far enough along the line to claim victory.
The next day I was able to get a solid 3 laps in on the course to get more familiar with it and I felt very smooth and comfortable ripping through the flowy singletrack sections with my good friend Mitch. The third lap I made sure to hit everything at speed putting in a few hard efforts throughout the steep and punchy course. I rode the 3rd lap with my friend Danny who ended up winning his race in the Master Expert category the next day and from the way he was riding I can see why!
Now that I felt ready I rode back up to the house and got in some good food and rest to recover for the hard 6 lap race the following day with 1,000+ metres of climbing.
One of the nice parts about staying so close to the venue was that all I had to do was get everything ready and roll down the hill to start my warmup. For warmup I rode around the copeland forest side of Horseshoe Valley Rd for a bit getting a few solid efforts in to get the heart rate up and make sure I was ready for the super hard start ahead. I also rode a small piece of singletrack in the Copeland to get used to handling my bike in trails a bit. I started warmup a little earlier than I needed to with the race starting at 1:45pm with it not being completely clear to me on the sheet what time we exactly started since it mentioned a 1:30pm start time as well. This lead to a bit over 45 min of warmup but I used this extra time to roll up the start loop a couple times and get more familiar with the first few turns.
I got a 3rd row callup in 24th spot so this was a decent enough spot to be in the front half of the field. Off the start it was an all out sprint up the bunny hill and I managed to hang onto my position for the most part coming back down the hill somewhere in the top 20-25 or so. Along the road section I saw a small gap was opening up between the top 15 or so and a couple riders in front of me so I was a little worried since going out in the wind seemed like it might be a risky option. It ended up alright since there was a slight bottleneck going into the first singletrack to bring it back together but nothing too crazy, which was nice for a Canada cup for a change. The race then began to spread out pretty quick. I made it through the first lap in one piece although lost a few spots on the climbing sections with a few gung ho riders zooming by and then proceeding to ride the brakes hard on the dh/rock garden sections. This was a little annoying but I put in a couple hard efforts in the next lap or so to get around them and build a gap through the singletracks that I knew I was riding smooth on.
It seemed that I would be on my own for a bit coming through on lap 3 until a french rider bridged back up to me while following a junior on our team that was catching up to us in his 4 lap race after starting 2 min behind. The french rider ended up being pretty quick through the singletrack and kept me honest on the longer climbs so it was good to have him to pace with as we traded back and forth and powered through the remaining laps, passing other elite riders and lapped traffic along the way.
I could now notice a few leg cramps starting to form around lap 5 or so and it ended up being my slowest but I managed to fight through them for the last lap and hang on to the french rider’s wheel going up the final climb. It took all of my effort just to hold on and at the very steep bit at the end he gave a fierce kick that I could not quite match. He entered the final dh with a 10s gap and I fought right until the end but ended up rolling in on my own in what turned out to be 20th position.
Very fast and intense race and I really enjoyed the course and am happy with my first ever top 20 and best result at a Canada Cup! Now it’s time to rest up and get ready for the XC Eliminator Thursday night at Hardwood and the Canada cup on Sunday.