September 18, 2008 (Buckwallow, ON) – Pedal is pleased to bring you exclusive daily coverage of the inaugural running of Crank the Shield, Ontario’s first epic MTB stage race. Our correspondent Matt Klymson, who will be on the start line, is a 2-time solo winner at the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice, North America’s largest 24 hour event. Matt is a Toronto native, now residing in B.C., and is racing for the Ontario-based team Cycle Solutions/Angry Johnny’s Racing.
Daily coverage will feature stage reports and results from all three days, reports from top riders, and we’ll also follow the daily experiences and trials of several participants whose success will be judged by whether they reach the finish within time cutoffs.
– Stage 1 – Friday, Sep. 19th – Buckwallow to Kandalore
– Stage 2 – Saturday, Sep. 20th – Kanadalore to Camp White Pine
– Stage 3 – Sunday, Sep, 22nd – Camp White Pine to Haliburton Forest
After watching several years of epic mountain bike stage races on the west coast, Easterners now have an event to call their own. Rumours had been circulating for several years within Ontario’s vibrant MTB community, and the obvious candidate to stage such an event were the leaders of Ontario MTB events, Chico Racing, headed up by the Ruppel brothers Adam and Sean. Their brainchild, dubbed “Crank the Shield” after the famous geological formations that define the region, proposes to be a logistical wonder, honed partly from the Ruppels’ experiences volunteering at western stage races the previous year. Part of their novel treatment will be to house all racers in permanent cabins between stages – a stark contrast to the tent accommodations that are the norm at MTB stage races.
Several of Canada’s top XC racers will be on the start line for Stage 1 on Friday, Sep. 19 at the Buckwallow Cycling Centre to enjoy a taste of the venue’s unique blend of rocky and root infested technical sections interspersed between buffed, high-speed connectors. While Buckwallow, which has hosted several Ontario Cup events, may be familiar to some, what happens next may be an entirely new experience for many of the racers as they spill out from a purpose-built mountain bike trail system into the wilds of Ontario.
Three days later on Sunday, Sep. 21st those who find the conditioning, willpower, and ability to deal with adversity will cross the final finishline – some victorious, others exhausted, and a few undoubtedly shattered by 250km of singletrack, rough ATV trails, and secondary roads. Categories include splits by male/female, under/over age 40, solo/2-person/mixed 2-person, and even the diehard single speeders who will pit their single ratio against whatever grades of terrain they discover along the route, most of which will be completely new and unfamiliar to the bulk of riders. Chico Racing has added a new twist to epic MTB stage races in North America, which typically run in teams of two as a rule. Entries have borne out the wisdom of this decision, with well over half of the 270 participants opting to go it alone.
No less than four of the top 13 from the senior elite XC national championships are in the under 40 solo field, including such perennial Ontario Cup and Canada Cup threats as Andrew Watson (Barrie) and Derek Zandstra (3 Rocks Racing), who narrowly missed out on the MTB national title to Olympian Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) by a scant one second margin. Also in the mix will be Peter Glassford and Matt Hadley, who may have an edge in experience with the format as both saw action at stage races in B.C. earlier this year. Not to be overlooked is rising star Adam Morka, whose name has begun to appear regularly in the top 10 at on NORBA races in the U.S. Super vets Dave Dermont of True North Cycles and Ted Ingram of Cycle Solutions / Angry Johnny’s Racing, currently split across different Ontario Cup age brackets, will lock horns once again in the over 40 solo. Solid single speeder Dave Stowe brings an impressive list of results from 24 hour solo racing to the table, most recently racking up over 300km of trails on one gear during the Hot August Nights 24 hour. His experience may be hard-pressed to hold off the pace over shorter distances to fellow single speeder Brad Hunter and others.
Contenders for the women’s solo title are something of a mystery and it may take a stage or two for a clearer picture. Like many of the other categories, it remains to be seen whether Crank the Shield has drawn strong entries from other sources such as adventure racing, road racing, or from the U.S., all of which could bring dark horse surprises from names not normally recognized at Canadian XC events.
On the women’s side notable entries include Sue Trimble, a fixture on the elite Ontario Cup podium for many years, and Catharine Vipond. At least one stage will be needed to shake out the other team categories, as they learn how to maximize the strengths and weaknesses of their partners. Watch for the quick pairing of Matt and Andrew Handford from B.C. to make a splash near the top of their category.
Strategy and tactics across both individual stages and the overall cumulative results are common fare in the world of road racing, but will represent uncharted territory for many competitors at Crank the Shield. This will become especially relevant during any number of expected events such as mechanicals, crashes, or even differences of opinion over stopping at aid stations to stock up on supplies of food and water.
The comparison to road racing — and even standard XC events – may end there, as the remote and rough terrain make outside team support difficult, if not impossible. Small groups of riders who find efficiencies in working together may find their alliances stretched to the breaking point as they are forced to make snap decisions of whether to feast on opportunities and mistakes of others to carve out precious minutes over close competitors, or continue on and capitalize on the strength of numbers.
Stay tuned to pedalmag.com for daily coverage and updates from the inaugural Crank the Shield MTB Stage Race.