Winnipeg's Karlee Gendron and Anna Schappert knew what to do when Manitoba lost one of its riders in the three-person mountain biking relay at the Canada Summer Games: Ride as a two-person team.
Gendron and Schappert emerged from a chaotic race with a silver medal in the 18-kilometre event after teammate Hanna Boersma had to bow out with ongoing concussion issues. Gendron and Schappert discussed other options in the weeks leading up to the Games, but decided to ride the three-stage event without a third partner.
"I was happy it was only going to be two because I got to race two laps," said Gendron on Tuesday, a day after the event. The 21-year-old took the first and third leg, while the 22-year-old Schappert raced the middle stage.
"It was awesome to get second," said Gendron before Schappert added: "Yeah, super stoked."
Gendron got off to a slow start in the first leg, but caught up to riders from Quebec and Ontario on the first ascension. Quebec City's Andreane Lanthier-Nadeau got a flat tire near the top of the hill, allowing Gendron to pull into second.
"Karlee came in and she was like 'go go go, Quebec has a mechanical,"' said Schappert. "Ontario was first, then me and then Alberta was a little bit behind us and then Alberta caught up on the climb. On all the descents I gapped everybody.
"On the second half of the lap I could hear a whole ton of Quebec people yelling for Quebec. ... so I wasn't sure how far back she was so I was gunning it up the climb as best I could."
While Schappert maintained Manitoba's lead, Gendron was on a stationary bike first to cool down from her opening lap, then warm up again for her second. As she prepared to go back on the course she got updates from family and coaches on her teammate's progress.
"Anna did an amazing job with her lap and held Quebec off her wheel," said Gendron. "Then it was a battle between Frederic Trudel — who won the cross-country — and me. It was going back and forth on the climbs and descents and I finally took her in a sprint finish."
Ontario won the event in one hour seven minutes 49.23 seconds, Gendron and Schappert finished in 1:11:16.49 and Quebec completed the course in 1:11:17.62.
Both Manitobans are experienced cyclists. They have both competed in several Western Canadian Games and Canada Games and Gendron will compete in road cycling in the second week of the 2013 Games. She was Manitoba's flag bearer at the Games' opening ceremonies.
Wealth of experience
Gendron was able to fall back on that wealth of experience for the relay instead of doing any special preparation for her two trips around the course.
"I don't think I did any specific training geared towards doing two laps, but we did the cross-country course on Saturday," said Gendron, who won bronze in that event. "That was the same course as the relay so just learning the course sort of prepared you. Actually, the second lap of the relay I was a lot faster.
"You know the course well, you know the conditions for the day, the mud, everything."
Both riders enjoyed the relay format of the event, especially the shorter, aggressive laps instead of the more measured pace of a cross-country race.
"I think the relay is just a completely different race. It's shorter for each party involved and it just gives you a different dynamic which you can excel at as opposed to cross country," said Schappert. "Because we've only ever raced one kind of race — the cross country race — and now they've shifted it to three completely different types of racing which gives people way more opportunity to shine."
Schappert and Gendron also liked working with each other and cheering each other on instead of shouldering all the pressure of an individual event.
"It was really wicked," said Schappert. "It's nice having someone to work with because the sport can be really singly focused and when you work in a team it's way more rewarding."
Added Gendron: "It's totally different when you get into a team atmosphere and you have someone else that you're competing with instead of against."
Manitoba was not the only team to overcome adversity. Lanthier-Nadeau carried her bike for most of her six-kilometre lap after a flat tire early on in the race.
"I started running because there was no other option, because the tech zone was behind me so I couldn't go back or anything," said the 20-year-old. "I knew that my teammates were really strong and I knew that we still had a shot at the medal. So on the descents I was going on my bike and when it was too uphill or too many rocks, I had to run."