by Dave Shishkoff
The Golden Week of ’Cross on Vancouver Island concluded this weekend — despite having just raced last Monday, most threw a leg over their bikes to race their friends and peers in the sport for the double-header weekend in Nanaimo, both days which presented warm (13C) and sunny conditions for more near-record turnouts in this Island cycling series.
Saturday was our return to the legendary Beban Park, site of the first-ever Cross on the Rock, and 2006 host to the Canadian National Cyclocross Championship, most frequented locale, and this year’s Island Championships. The course was a fast one, and featured many straight-aways (often with a headwind), a full BMX track, and a surprisingly stifling set of a half-dozen stairs. Race categories for the 139 racers (35 female) differed from the series, being age-based instead of ability-based, which meant riders got to race people they often don’t, revealing some surprises in capability!
Top prize for our Island Champions was a characteristically uncharacteristic prize: custom embroidered towels! Racing highlights: great to see some hustle from Russel Anderson who’s had a cold start to the season, but kicked it into high gear for the weekend! Which Russel will we see for final races in the series? Also 2006 Masters 40-49 National Champ, Peter Stevenson, made his first appearance of the season at Beban and proceeded to rip apart legs and finish up third in the category … but then was a no show for Bowen!
Speaking of which, fatigue was not an issue, as most returned and then some, with our 2nd best-ever turn-out and another record female turn-out for the Kona Kup — cyclocross totally occupied Wall Street! (Bowen park is on Wall Street in Nanimo.)
42 riders were found in the Beginner, Intermediate and Open/Expert women’s fields with ages spanning 14-53! Mical Dyck, perhaps the most adored and cheered island cyclocrosser since Wendy Simms, has been following in her footsteps, and racing with the Expert Men for as much of a challenge as possible (and finished eighth!) Total number of riders to Bowen Park, and the sixth race in the series was and impressive 153.
The course was perhaps the most challenging riders have faced — relentless being an apt term. The only place for any meaningful recovery was the conclusion of the final lap. Returning riders noticed that the overall course had been refi
ned significantly, with wider turns allowing more speed to be carried, and the descents had many fewer obstacles, meaning fully brake-less drops and moments well over 40 kph on the sharp, steep hills. This also meant short, agonizing climbs that brought tears as riders approached seven, eight and even ten laps for the Expert Men as they worked their way up and down across this hillside park. And the lung-burning features didn’t end there, with two passes through the thick, deep beach volleyball pit … err … “courts”.
And stairs. About 50. All said and done, each lap featured about 45 meters elevation. Today would have been a good day for the Best Pain Face award, but instead Last – But Not Lapped riders were awarded this event. A few stories of those who survived: several Expert races begged Tyler Trace and other speedsters to go easy on the first lap to keep the total lap count down, but no, ten laps! Stefan Jakobsen made his return to racing Cross on the Rock after two years, planning to race Masters, wasn’t old enough, and still schooled by Nigel Ellsay and Chris Sunby — both of whom are half his age.
Broken: Kevin Calhoun’s bike. Glenda Harling’s bike. Several chains. Drew MacKenzie’s back. First blood: another win for Victoria Boyd …this time after moving up from Beginner to win the Intermediate category.
Our gratitude goes out to Nanaimo Parks and Recreation, The Nanaimo BMX Association, The Vancouver Island Exhibition Association and the Nanaimo and District Equestrian Society for welcoming us to their property. The great folks at Oak Bay Bikes Nanaimo were our sponsoring bike shop, and Peter and Sean and the rest of the champions from the Mid-Island Velo Association did an amazing job designing and setting up the courses. And sprouts, as always, were generously gifted to riders from Glenn Wakeling and Eatmore Sprouts & Greens.
Racers have a couple weeks to recover until we make our first visit to Lady Smith for Hallow’een Cross at Transfer Beach on October 30th — prizes will be awarded for best costume! Visit the Cross on the Rock website for more details on this and our full series.