This past weekend was the Nanaimo double header; Cross on the Rock's Island Championships on Saturday at Beban Park, followed by race #4 of the series at Bowen Park. In the midst of the two races, Oak Bay Bikes Nanaimo hosted their infamous ‘cross social on Saturday night. Many people have came from all over the west coast to race and rave about the Cross on the Rock (COTR) series. Places like Port Alberni, Parksville, Courtney, Vancouver (and it’s greater area) and the majority from Victoria, to name a few, can be seen on the start list in each division.
The Island Championships were run a little differently than any other COTR races, grouping racers together by age group, rather than skill level (beginner, intermediate, expert, etc.). This certainly brought on the cold sweats for me, as now I was racing against Internationally known cyclist, Mical Dyck along with locally (and beyond!)-famous riders, Dawn Anderson, Sarah Stewart, Tanya Berg and Joele Guynup. COTR just got brought up to a whole new level for me; I was terrified. These women are all incredibly strong and fit. My goal of the day = don’t get lapped. Starting out, I didn’t know how realistic that goal would be. The course was bittersweet. A solid amount of technical skill was needed to get your way through tight corners, fields and muddy sections, a pump-track, and loose dirt with roots. With that, my fitness was definitely put to the test during the run-up of 6-7 steps and the 8-or-so flat open sections that would allow you to pass others and gain up some speed. Being the “last not lapped” was surprisingly rewarding and I’m sure if we went another lap Mical would have caught me, but I was still disappointed on my last time through the pump-track.
In the Women’s 20-35 category Dawn Anderson came 2nd, Tanya Berg came 4th, and I came 14th, out of strong field of 17. In the Men’s 16-19 category, Adam de Vos took the win, Chris Sundby placed 3rd, and Jordan Kinghorn came 6th. The Men’s 20-39 category was almost as competitive as the women’s category (in my completely unbiased opinion!) Tom Skinner came 3rd, Dan Scott came 8th, Derek Brain came 13th, and Chris Dickinson came 38th. To cap it off, Rob Williamson came 27th in the 40-49 age category.
COTR race #4 held up to it’s reputation. According to COTR organizer, Normal Thibault, 104 people raced both events. Located about a kilometer or two from Beban Park, this was also another technical but fitness oriented course. Not sure if it was the race the day before or the OBB Nanaimo social (or both!) but this was a grueling race. From the start there is a long open section on the road that leads you into a brutal switchback climb and into a nice piece of singletrack. There’s a number of sections that were my favourite, and this was one of them. The fast descents were fun and required a lot of concentration to follow your line along the grass section and into some tight corners. The absolutely silly 30-something step run-up was killer but luckily for me it came with a flat grassy section afterwards and then a steep downhill. There were not only one sand pit, but TWO. This was my least favourite section, although I’m pretty sure I got the hang of it by the last lap. The second sand pit came after a steep 50m descent that flung you around a corner on a hill and gave you momentum to pedal through at least half of the pit. This was a great spot to watch during the other races! On the last lap coming out of the trail section and into the field, a slack piece of course tape that was fluttering in the wind caught hold of my bars and pulled my bike out from under me. I was pretty angry but it didn’t take me long to hop back on my bike and get going again.
This race, like most other COTRs, was divided into beginner, intermediate, masters and experts. In the Intermediate men’s category, Chris Sundby came 2nd, Jordan Kinghorn came 13th, Chris Dickinson came 20th, and James Peacock came 26th. I came 5th in the intermediate women’s field and Katie Rabien was doing well and fighting for some positions before she had to unfortunately pull out of the race from an existing back injury. Barry Rempel pulled in at 5th in the Master men’s category, followed by James Tarrant in 10th and Rob Williamson in 27th. Dawn Anderson reeled in a 1st place finish in the expert women’s field followed by Tanya Berg in 3rd. Tom Skinner is the only men’s expert rider to race on both Saturday and Sunday and podium at both events. What can I say – I’m a very proud sister! Dan Scott rolled in at 10th place and Adam de Vos came 14th. Big ups to Kevy Calhoun from Rocky Mountain Bikes who killed it on Saturday and entered the Bowen Park cross race but broke his frame!
Highlights of this weekend involved meeting the infamous Corey and Sean from Nanaimo, mega-phones, loud cheers and more cowbell. The race organizers and announcers did such a fantastic job with course set-up and take-down, organizing race times, racer support, primes along with top finisher’s prizes and draw prizes. Everything was top notch. Roland and Katie Rabien worked on the race results and timing for each race – HUGE thanks to them (especially when they raced, too!) They are always up in a flash!
To leave you on a semi-sappy note, I’d like to say thanks for all the people who came out, cheered and offered support. Big thanks to my brother, Tom, who stood on/ran along the sidelines for my whole race, shouting words of encouragement, even though I’m sure it wasn’t super great race prep for his upcoming race. Many, many thanks to all my friends and supporters – you guys are the best and make the races so much more fun! There were so many shout-outs around the course, each one hasn’t gone unnoticed! I swear, every time I’m on a race course, I always feel like I am the most popular person out there. I’m still hurting from this double header but already looking forward to COTR #5 – Transfer Beach in Ladysmith! Hope to see you out there!