By Darren Lum
Published Nov. 1 2016
Ending on a high note is a great way to start a new chapter of racing for one young cyclist with Haliburton roots.
Nineteen-year-old Owen Flood who was embarking on cyclocross racing the past few weeks didn’t just win one race but rather two on the same weekend at the tail end of his time with cycling team Arrow Racing.
The Haliburton Highlands Secondary School graduate was intent on a podium finish and started it off by winning the Guelph Cross race on Saturday Oct. 22 at the Guelph Lake Conservation Area and then followed it up with a win the next day at the Vaughan Cyclocross Classic at the Veneto Centre Park.
Obviously confidence was high after a breakaway secured his win in Guelph when conditions were windy and cold. Flood admits to playing possum waiting at the back of a group of six riders allowing them to lead and expend more energy. He noticed after successive laps of the race course that his competitors struggled with the sand pit section. They regularly dismounted to run with their bikes while he powered through while seated by taking advantage of his power-to-weight ratio advantage – Flood is a sleight young man. On the last lap when he was one of three in the lead group after the initial group split into two he left them on an uphill climb with a burst of speed which was set up by the sand pit to set up his attack.
The next day in Vaughan he sat at the back of the pack numbering close to 50 riders for his second of two races on the weekend.
He said with few O-cup race series points he was relegated to the back for the start. It drove him to pursue the lead group by charging hard from the start passing racers on his way to a hard right turn en route to clearing obstacles such as “bunny hopping” over logs and sprinting up and barrelling down the “fly-over” – an overpass with stairs at the front and then a ride down portion at back – past dozens of riders in the first few laps.
“There were definitely obstacles that played to my advantage to gain spots for sure” he said.
On the last lap he was fighting for position with two other racers. Halfway to the finish line Flood passed the second place rider who fell. He took advantage of the miscue by increasing the tempo and reduced the lead group to him and another racer.
Leading to the finish there is an uphill section that he figured would be the right place to attack.
“The second we turned onto the asphalt to head up to the finish I dropped a few gears and went out and went by the guy. He tucked in on my wheel so we turned the right hand corner going into the finish we were just wheel on wheel. It was a sprint finish. I ended up having a bit more in the legs to beat him by I think it was only a second. It was really tight racing so it was really good” he said.
The mountain bike racer with six years of experience said fitness and bike skills related to cyclocross riding was key to his success.
Both races earned him upgrade points towards moving up from his elite 3 status to the top level in the O-cup for cyclocross racing of elite 1/2. Juniors who are 18 must race elite 3 but with enough points can race in the top level category.
Despite this success the rest of this cyclocross racing season is up in the air for Flood.
The victories will still give him satisfaction and ends his 2016 season on a high note after few highlights in his first full season mountain bike racing at the elite level.
“Definitely having good results gives you a lot of motivation heading into the off-season for the next few months” he said.
His first ever cyclocross race came earlier this year.
At the Baseball Cross race held at the Barrie Sports Complex during the Thanksgiving weekend Flood finished fourth.
Cyclocross is a bicycle race with a twist.
Racers use a bicycle that possesses attributes of mountain biking with the weight and lightness of a road bike. It looks like a traditional road bike except it is designed for the myriad of surfaces during a cyclocross race which includes grass trail sand and asphalt. Flood’s bike is close to being entirely made of carbon fibre from the wheels and frame to many of the components. It has tires measuring close to twice the width of a road tire. They are glued on to carbon rims to enable the ability to run them with lower air pressure than a clincher to boost the traction by creating more tire contact to the trail. The entire bike only weighs shy of 17 pounds which makes it easier to carry over and up obstacles such as knee high walls or “flyovers” that are mainstays on a cyclocross course. At the highest level competitions are held in seasons when snow and mud are common place. The world championship is held every year in January. This sport was originally started in Belgium by road cycling racers who put on wider tires to ride after their racing season during the autumn and winter in Europe.
“It’s basically an all out effort as hard as you can go for 45 minutes. It’s definitely unique because of all the obstacles because it is based in more park settings so there is not a lot of elevation there is not a lot of technical stuff it’s more get on and off the bike to get over features and stuff like that. Getting back on and going as hard as you can to the next feature” he said.
After five years with Arrow Racing Flood said it was time for a change this coming race season.
He will join Mavericks Racing based in Uxbridge. The 19-year-old elite mountain bike racer is studying at Mohawk College to be a strength and condition coach contacted the Mavericks’ team manager to be added to the roster. It was a fresh start and great opportunity to work with the team’s coach Kyle Douglas who is the team manager of Ontario based professional mountain biking team Scott-3 Rox Racing and a coach to elite rider Liam Mulcahy and national mountain biking champion Derek Zandstra.
“It gives you confidence in what he could do for you” he said referring to the connection with Zandstra. Mavericks’s major sponsors are Scott Bikes Continental Tires Clif bars and Scott-3 Rox Racing.