August 18, 2005 – The Opening Ceremonies for the 2005 Canada Summer Games saw Ontario Cycling at the fore with Catherine Vipond participating in the gift exchange (between the former and current host provinces) and Dave Vukets carry the CSG Flag into the stadium. Team Ontario cyclists would continue to be in the limelight during the next week of competition. Five medals, a second place overall for the men and a third for the women, Ontario had experienced its best ever results at the Games. Teamwork and tenacity contributed to Ontario’s success.
The mountain bike race started off the four-event schedule. From the start, it was clear who would be battling for the medals. Emily Batty (ON) got into a great position following two BC riders – Jean Ann McKirdy and Martina Feldman. Quite soon after, Catherine Vipond (ON) bridged up to the leaders and it became a four-person race. Feldman launched a big attack, which Vipond couldn’t follow and she fell off the pace. The two BC riders worked together to shed Batty who fought back within 20 sec. of the leaders. Eventually, it was McKirdy who took the gold, Feldman the silver, and Batty the bronze. Vipond faded to fifth after her hard effort. Other Ontario riders finished solidly among the top third of the field with Sarah Coney in 18th, Kelly Bietola in 20th and Krystal Jeffs in 21st. Anna Tratnyek pulled out early. The men’s quest for gold was a one-man show from start to finish of five laps. Raphael Gagne (QC) increased his lead each lap on his competitors until he had incredible four-minute gap by the end. Ontario’s results on the scoreboard were nowhere near as exciting as the race itself. After two laps, Adam Morka (ON) and Brandon Crichton (ON) were controlling second and third spot. At the end of third lap, Morka misjudged the turn after the bridge and fell down with hard chargine Crichton landing on him. The spokes on Morka’s front wheel were severed. With the new technical assistance rules in effect, Crichton was able to give his wheel to teammate Morka who bridged up Daniel Sessford, now placed third. Morka waited for the right moment to attack, however the slippery surface because of rain saw Morka crash and finishing at a disappointing fourth place. Mark Batty rode an awesome race, continually picking off riders on his way to a very strong 6th place finish. Dave Vukets rode to a solid 23rd place finish with Matt Guse in 40th. Brooke Boocock stopped his race early.
Individual Time Trial Anna Tratnyek finished fourth in the 10 km Individual Time Trial missing the bronze medal by just 1/10 of a second. In a very tight finish, the top four riders were separated by a mere 3 seconds and the top five riders by 5 seconds. Jeffs rode to an impressive 5th place finish with Vipond in 7th, Batty in 14th, Coney in 22nd and Bietola in 35th out of 54 starters.
On the men’s side, riders did two laps of the 10 km circuit with four waves of 16 riders. The fastest time to beat came from the first wave as BC’s Marsh Cooper rode to an impressive 27:26. A truly inspired Boocock went out in the second wave and his split time of 13:09 would not even come close to being beat. His final time was 26:40. After an agonising wait, Boocock received a phone call to let him know that he had won, giving Ontario its first cycling gold medal of the games. With 66 starters in the race, Crichton finished 7th, Morka 16th, Vukets 18th and Guse in 28th.
Approximately 25 km from the city of Regina is a little town called Lumsden that boasts a bakery and a couple of hills on either end of the course. Riders were pleasantly surprised by the challenging 12.5 km course that lay ahead. 6 laps for the women and 9 for the men would see both packs splintered at various times throughout the races.
Audrey Lemieux (QC) made certain to split up the peloton early in this relatively short 73 km race. McKridy (BC) was the only one to follow Lemieux. In a gutsy move by Tratnyek, she left her two companions and bridged to the QC-BC duo. Tratnyek set the pace up the next climb and then attacked leaving a cracked McKirdy far behind (who would eventually finish third). Tratnyek buried herself, no doubt inspired by her disappointing loss in the ITT and a struggling Lemieux was never able to catch her. Tratnyek crossed the line over a minute in advance of the Quebecker. Team Ontario was a strong force in this race with 3 other riders finishing in the main peleton of 20 riders sprinting for 6th place – Batty was 11th, Vipond 15th, Jeffs 18th, Coney 33rd and Bietola 35th.
At the outset it was clear that Ontario and Quebec would dominate the men’s race. Vukets found himself in an early break with Tremblay (QC) that would last over half of the race. BC and AB riders were unsuccessful in their chase. With less than four laps to go, a sole Albertan, Mark MacDonald stayed away for over a lap. Morka, Guse, Boocock and Vukets were doing a superb job keeping the gap manageable in order to allow Crichton to bridge at the appropriate time. A surprise attack by Gagne (QC) and Jamie Lamb (NS) caught MacDonald. This break quickly distanced them from the pack and looked to be heading for the podium. Coming into the final lap, Crichton unleashed a solid attack, which only Kevin Lacombe (QC) could cover. Crichton remained at the front, driving hard with Lacombe sitting on his wheel and reduced the gap to 30 seconds. Lamb was unable to sustain the pace and got dropped with 1 km to go. Lacombe took the sprint over Crichton with Gagne coming in third. Team Ontario sprinted hard in their respective groups with Guse, Morka, Boocock, and Vukets finishing 18th, 20th, 21st and 26th respectively. Batty did some hard work at the beginning of the race and finished in 39th.
40 laps for the women, 50 laps for the men, 900m per lap, one 120 degree corner and sprints every 5 laps”¦ in the pouring rain. These were exciting races to say the least.
The women’s peleton started cautiously being very aware of the slick surface and the first 120 degree corner. Crashes occurred throughout the race with Ontario coming out unscathed. It was apparent after the first few sprints that Team Ontario would need to try to take a flyer in order to gain a lap. Riders took turns attacking at various points only to be caught by the dwindling peleton. Testroete (AB) showed her sprinting prowess along with Alex Wrubleski (SK), both finishing 1st and 2nd respectively. Lemieux fought hard to take the bronze. Team Ontario rode strongly with 5 riders in the main pack. Vipond took a point in one of the sprints and finished in 9th place. Batty, Tratnyek, Jeffs and a very happy Coney finished with the pack in 14th, 15th, 17th and 19th respectively. Bietola was 23rd at 1 lap.
If the women’s race started cautiously, the men threw caution to the wind. Crichton was determined to get on the podium for the second time these Games with help from his team-mates and took off at a blistering pace. The battle for the silver was shaping up between Crichton and Tremblay with Crichton winning the 8th sprint over Tremblay. Crichton again showed his incredible drive and finished fourth behind a third place Lacombe who had a sizeable lead and the win locked up. The initial announcement had Crichton in third behind Tremblay with the same number of points. The tiebreaker is actually the number of wins and when the dust settled, it was Lacombe, Crichton and Tremblay taking the top podium positions. Ontario rounded out the top 6 places with Guse – 4th, Vukets – 5th and Boocock – 6th. The mountain bike specialists did an awesome job as Morka and Batty finished 24th and 25th respectively.
In the overall flag points (determined by the totalling points of the top four riders in each event), Ontario women finished third with 1255 points behind Alberta with 1273 and the perennial favourite Quebec with 1302. Ontario men finished second this year, an impressive improvement over previous years, 121 points behind Quebec. Nova Scotia took third place with 260 points behind Quebec.
Two gold (Boocock, Tratnyek) two silver (Crichton) and one bronze medal (E. Batty) along with the overall second and third team standings form the basis for the story of Team Ontario at the Canada Summer Games. But there is so much more – the team camaraderie within Ontario and other provinces, the respect that was shown for staff, team-mates and other teams, the best-ever performances of all athletes, the incredible learning and finally the potential of all Team Ontario riders for their future and the future of Canadian cycling. The CSG journey began three years ago with planning, long lists, training camps, selection races and preparatory competitions which culminated in Ontario’s best ever showing at the Games. This experience will be the springboard from which these young, talented athletes will continue their cycling career. The momentum of success will continue.
Many thanks to the entire support staff without whom the above would not have been possible – Denise Kelly, Neil Ross and Sophie Radecki (coaches and manager), Jamie Beblow (OCA office), Glen Meeuwisse (VP High Performance OCA) and RitaSue Bolton (CSG Mission Staff). The parents, families and friends of the athletes deserve a huge thank you in appreciation for their support and a special thanks to Rick Batty for his technical assistance while in Regina.