By Darren Lum
Published Aug. 8 2017
A local rider is looking forward to representing the Highlands at the O-Cup Provincial Championships for cross-country mountain biking.
Owen Flood a competitive mountain biker for the past six years and Haliburton Highlands Secondary School graduate is excited about competing in front of family and friends since this year’s event is once again being hosted by Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride facility from Saturday Aug. 26 to Sunday Aug. 27.
“It’s definitely fun being on your home trails you know really well and helped build. Having people around that don’t normally get to watch you race and support you … that means that much more and makes me want to give them something to cheer about” he said.
Flood said his race will start at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday and welcomes spectators.
This is the second year Sir Sam’s is hosting the event which includes hundreds of riders from youth to those older than 50.
Last year Flood said he was sitting fourth in the U23 elite class with just two laps when a front brake bolt came out and was lost on the trail. With his front brake hanging off at the start of a descent he decided to stop and pull himself from the race.
Since that strange incident he has been careful checking his bike meticulously before races.
“That doesn’t happen very often. I’ve never seen it happen. I was pretty shocked” he said.
Another local rider expected to compete is Nicholas Emsley who will be competing in the junior expert category. Flood said Emsley will start a few minutes after he does. Flood will race in a field of competitors that includes the U23 elite and the elite (plus 19 years) riders.
He’s coming into this event with the best finish of his two years riding in the U23 elite class.
Flood said his ninth place finish in the sixth race of the O-Cup series the Albion Endur-O-Cup race in Caledon on Saturday July 29 was from his strong riding at nationals and the preceding training he did in Vail Colo.
This course was two laps of 24 kilometres and was mainly a fast sweeping course with long climbs. Although it wasn’t technically challenging which is something he prefers he managed the endurance stress and impressed himself with his fitness.
He had been in a small group for much of the race and then was able to pull away late to secure the top-10 finish.
He points out he had just returned to Ontario from competing on July 22 in the 2017 Canadian XCO Championships in Canmore Alta. where he finished 19th.
He was happy with this top-20 result which is his best finish at nationals when he was a junior. He’s looking forward to building on the result.
The national race was a six-lap race each lap the distance of four kilometres and had a course that proved to be far more technical than anything Flood has ever experienced racing. It was steeper with chutes more than 45 degrees drop-offs of at least two feet and included rock gardens consisting of large loose boulders.
After a few pre-rides he grew accustomed to the challenging features. The conditions were ideal with sunny skies and temperature in the mid-20s. However another challenge was the elevation which was close to 4000 feet. Flood said he benefited from his training down in Vail Colo. since it was averaging close to 7000 feet and topped out at 10000 feet. This was the first time he had trained at altitude. He said altitude didn’t affect him very much except for his recovery.
His goal for nationals is to be in the top five of elite U23 and the top 10 elite racers. Hitting these marks will be a confidence booster and signal to him he is on the right track for his goal. In two years he aspires to be able to race a world cup event like the one hosted at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec. This will require strong finishes at races which will score him invaluable UCI points by finishing in top 10 in Canada Cup races or top 20 in races in the U.S.
His focus this season has been building his fitness as part of a long-term racing plan.
“This year wasn’t necessarily about the results. It’s more about gaining good fitness. The results are just kind of a bonus of that” he said.
Although he is appreciative to his Uxbridge-based racing team Maverix Racing and his current personal coach Kyle Douglas he hasn’t forgotten the people that made his racing possible.
There was Dave Webb and Blake Paton who got him started several years ago by meeting up with him and other young friends to ride the trails at Glebe Park. They informed them of racing opportunities such as the O-Cup race series.
Flood also gave thanks to Sir Sam’s Chris Bishop who owns and operates the facility with family.
Bishop said he welcomes this opportunity to host nationals. He said this second consecutive hosting opportunity is proof that Sir Sam’s trails and infrastructure is competitive with the best in Ontario. He adds this event is not only great for Sir Sam’s but the Haliburton area.
“Hosting this event gives us some great exposure to the elite of the Ontario and Quebec mountain bike community. Over 400 cyclists and their families will be converging in the Haliburton area for this two-day event. The economic spinoff to other business such as restaurants and accommodators is significant as well as giving the Haliburton Highlands some great exposure” he wrote in an email.
Flood invites young riders to race at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
“It’s like a super-friendly course. Like no climbing. Just an entry-level race. They’ve been doing it all season but this time [it] will be bumped ahead a day and do it at the top of the hill” he said.
Racers such as Flood who intends to be there are encouraged to come and cheer on the new riders.
He welcomes the opportunity to be an example that other young racers could follow.
“It’s nice to see if maybe they saw what myself and Nick are doing [they might want] to try it out. It would be a pretty cool thing to see some other people get into it and maybe build up little bit of a racing reputation in Haliburton” he said.
Sir Sam’s is just a short drive for the opportunity to try racing he said.
“If parents can bring [their] kids to try it out. It’s a great way and super close. Only 20 minutes to have their kid try it out and go from there” he said.
See www.superflyracing.com for information and schedule.