Surprised and delighted. That pretty much summarizes the feelings of mountain bike enthusiast Rob St. Marseille as he looks back on the growth of the Walden Mountain Bike Club (WMBC) over the past few years.
The evolution of the WMBC will take another step forward next weekend as the Naughton Trails play host to an Ontario Cup mountain bike race for the very first time. Hard to believe the group was pretty much a fledgling local association not all that long ago.
"The WMBC started as a result of the Ontario Summer Games (August of 2010) and we started with about 30 members in our first year," St. Marseille noted. "It's really helped cause a resurgence of the mountain bike scene in the city. I don't know that we can take all the credit, but the work we've put into creating the venue in Naughton and just the fact that racers are getting some attention is helping."
Home to an active Nordic ski and fitness club, the Naughton Trails began to incorporate the mountain bike community perhaps four to five years ago, making headway pretty quickly.
"As the trail system grew, more people starting using the trails and the trails started getting even better," St. Marseille said.
Looking to possibly host an event locally a few years before the Summer Games, St. Marseille and company were informed they weren't quite there yet.
"We originally didn't have a very good balance of the wide open ski trails and the single track at the time," he explained. "We just kept plugging away at it and then the city won the bid for the Summer Games. We had to build a considerable amount of new trail."
The results, however, were undeniable as mountain bike enthusiasts from across the province raved about the set-up that Naughton enjoyed.
It is likely the one area of the entire Ontario Cup race environment which excites St. Marseille beyond all others.
"I know that we have a great race course and a course that will probably be unique to the Ontario Cup circuit, just because we have the Cambrian Shield here," he said. "It will be very challenging for those riders who are not used to it, but for the true mountain bikers, they'll love the race course."
Fact is, St. Marseille considers the Naughton Trails to be something of a throw-back, an old school technical course that tends to neutralize the pure speed cyclists who cross-over from the road-racing scene.
Set to be staged on Sunday (July 8), the Sudbury stop of the Ontario Cup circuit is a pre-cursor for a pair of Canada Cup events that will come to the same venue in 2013 and 2014. It's a good testing ground for the organizers, all while still accommodating some top-end provincial talent.
"You'll have your series leaders in every single division here and some very exciting racing," St. Marseille said. "We're hoping to have about 500 competitors for this event."
In fact, St. Marseille and company remain on the lookout for some additional volunteer help, particularly when it comes to helping to direct the parking that will utilize the Penguin Research Centre parking lot, given the expected influx of vehicles.
With the WMBC Wolfpack already enjoying plenty of success this summer, St. Marseille is anxious to see his crew step-up with home "field" advantage.
"I know that we have four or five riders that have a chance to be on the podium," he said.
Leading the way will be Crystal Sabel, who not only made the jump from Sport to Elite in order to garner more competition, but has yet to be really challenged in her first two events at the higher level, winning by a couple of minutes or more.
"She's a very strong technical rider and this sort of race course suits her," St. Marseille said.
Other local riders that warrant a watchful eye include Jody Waddell, Paul Guenette, Dominic Girard, Angela Keefe and Charles Reid.
For further information on the club or the race itself, visit www.waldenmbc.ca.
Posted by Laurel Myers