Between the end of April and early July this year, I was sent to Winnipeg, Manitoba on short notice for a career related course. Since I was going to be there for the majority of the 2015 MTB racing season, I brought my bike with me as I intended to participate in the various races and events within the province. I participated in a total of 7 races, 5 Manitoba Cup XCO style races, and 2 recreational XC races. My experience was very positive and I’m excited to share my experiences with as many Nova Scotia cyclists as possible. I’m very happy that I got involved, but I’m certainly happy to finally be home.


Shortly after receiving notice of the upcoming career course, I didn’t waste any time jumping online to the Manitoba Cycling Association (MCA) website to see what kind of racing and events were happening within the province. Considering I was going to spend the majority of the MTB season in the area, I wanted to get some good riding in and maybe a race or two. Once I accessed their schedule, I was amazed about how active it was. They had the XCO style racing and a 5-race recreational series, similar to the Wolfville short track, known as the “Birds Hill Wednesday Night Racing Series”. They also offered a race series of what they call “Eliminator”.


After 3 long days of driving, I finally entered Manitoba and started heading towards Winnipeg. I looked around and one single thought came to my mind – it’s flat; how hard can MTB racing really be in this province, right? I was wrong, very wrong.


Not too long after getting settled in, I set out to the local bike shops to get guidance on the best places to ride and information on group rides. My first stop was a shop called “Bikes and Beyond”, mainly because the shop was very well reviewed on Pinkbike, and they were very helpful. The other bike shops I visited were also supportive, and one I’d like to mention alongside “Bikes and Beyond” is “Woodcock Cycle Works”. The Manitoba cycling community certainly impressed me with their kindness and enthusiasm right off the bat.


My first race was held at Birds Hill Park on May 6th. It was the first race in the Wednesday night series, as well as the first race of the MB 2015 MTB season. The first thing I noticed was how well attended the event was. The parking lot was packed with bikers and spectators. One thing that really impressed me was the amount of kids that were participating; there were at least 30 to 40 kids from ages 6 to 16. I talked with some other racers about why there were so many and was told that the majority of the younger racers come from a province wide, grass roots organization called “Kids of Mud”. Kids of Mud (KOM) is the official youth cycling program of the Manitoba Cycling Association, administered by a group of participating clubs. KOM is a learn-to-ride and learn-to-race program for kids 16 and younger, covering the fundamentals. This program fosters long-term athlete development through the help of certified coaches and other volunteers. I was extremely impressed. Talk about securing the future of the sport.


The next race was the first XCO race of the year called Brandon Hills. This was my rude awakening into how tough a Manitoba race can be. This province does not have much to offer in the way of mountains or hills, but as I traveled to the trailhead, I quickly realized that the race organizers knew where to find them. This race, along with the other 4 XCO races I participated in (Grand Beach, Sandilands, Pinawa, and Birch Mtn.), were all very challenging in their own ways, and were also very well attended in all categories. Lots of steep climbs and super technical single-track did a very good job at keeping me on my toes. After Brandon Hills I realized that I would have to drop a skill category just to keep up. Normally I race in the “B” category here in Nova Scotia, which is equivalent to the MCA “Competitive”, but I dropped one category to “Sport” (N.S. equivalent C) for the remaining races because the riders are incredibly fast and skilful. I certainly did not expect that level of racing in the province of Manitoba, but I’m very happy for the challenge it gave me. I feel as if I’m walking out of there a better rider than when I walked in. I didn’t podium any races, but I did position well considering the terrain and level of competition, so I count that as a win in my book.


The racing community impressed me as well; all of the racers and spectators were so friendly and helpful. Two racers in particular from the Woodcock Cycles Racing team took me under their wing, so to speak, and introduced me to a lot of other people involved in organizing and participating. After knowing them for only a few short hours, they were offering me post-race “refreshments” and inviting me into their group for some friendly chatting and relaxing. I also had a very nice talk with MCA president, Trevor Ketler after the Pinawa race, after he heard I was from Nova Scotia. I had a few questions for him about how the MCA operated, and he had some for me about BNS. I learnt a lot about MCA and am looking forward to sharing that knowledge with my fellow riders. The one thing that impressed me the most about the racers was the fact that they cheer on and push all other competitors to go faster and take on obstacles better than them during the races. I was also given tips on what the best lines were and cheered on by volunteers along the various courses. Almost everyone I came into contact with supported me, offered help, and made me feel as if I was part of the community. Considering I only spent a short amount of time in the province, I find this community spirit and support very impressive to say the least, and I’m thankful for that.


In conclusion, the Mountain Biking community in Manitoba is very healthy and is brimming with enthusiasm and spirit. I would recommend to anyone that if they get the chance at some point, to experience it for themselves. Don’t let the flat plains fool you; it will challenge some of the best riders out there. Well done Manitoba Cycling Association. I had a blast and thank you for making my experience so good that I had to write about it. Maybe one day I’ll make it back out there.


Ride Strong;

Evan St.Cyr

MCA Plate # 301


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