Sudbury’s trails will play host to some of Canada’s best mountain bikers.
The Walden Mountain Bike Club is hosting a Canada Cup race this weekend – a prestigious event in the mountain biking community that's reportedly never been held outside of southern Ontario.
The race is usually at Hardwood Hills in Barrie, Ont. but had to be held elsewhere this year as that club prepares to host a national competition next weekend.
The choice of the Walden trails and Sudbury location is a huge honour, said Rob St. Marseille, president of the Walden Mountain Bike Club, and "chief of course" for this weekend's Canada Cup race.
"It’s a great way to showcase the sport," he said. "I think anytime you can bring the world champion to your venue, I think that’s huge."
St. Marseille estimated some 600 mountain bikers will hit the trails at Walden, including Catharine Pendrel, the current women’s world champion, along with other members of the Canadian Olympic and national team.
7 events on race circuit
Riding alongside them will be group of up-and-coming local mountain bikers.
One of them is Sudbury biker Charlie Reid, who has been racing competitively for four years. He’s a member of the Walden Mountain Bike Club’s Wolf Pack team of a dozen riders.
"I think it’s going to be a big advantage for us to be able to ride on our home course," Reid said, after finishing his practice on the race circuit. "To know what’s coming around the next corner … we just need to concentrate on going as fast as we can and keeping our cardio up."
Reid and the rest of the Wolf Pack team would normally travel to southern Ontario to participate in the Canada Cup Race.
There are seven events in the race circuit, including two Canada Cup races. Results from a participants' top five races then go on to contribute to their overall points for the season, meaning events like this are very important in qualifying for bigger competitions, Reid said.
Both Reid and St. Marseille said they hope the Canada Cup race being held in Sudbury will help raise the profile of the sport in the city.
"Not too many people know that there are so many talented mountain bikers here in Sudbury," St. Marseille said. "It’s a chance for them to come out and show off for the hometown crowd."
The mountain biking trails at Walden will provide a more technical course for racers, due to the steep bedrock slopes and landscape of the Canadian Shield.
"It’s a good mixture between the fast-paced trails down in southern Ontario and the diversification of the hard rock up here in Sudbury," Reid said. "It’s going to be a good challenge for everybody."
St. Marseille and a team of Walden Mountain Bike Club volunteers have been working to groom and trim the trails for the past six weeks in preparation for the race.
"This has probably been a three-year process, in total," St. Marseille said. "We’ve had to make significant changes to parts of our trail system to plan the course and put it in a way so it doesn’t impact our ski trails."
The club has also added half a dozen new trails for the race – infrastructure St. Marseille said he hopes will be used to host larger-scale mountain biking events in the future.
But until then, St. Marseille said he’s just looking forward to this weekend.
"This was something that — seven years ago — was just an idea," he said. "To have it actually come to fruition and know that Sunday we’ll have 1,000 people in our city … is awesome for the sport and a great chance for Sudbury to show how great a place it is."