The boys and girls Centurion Next Wave Junior Teams, as well as a number of younger members delivered impressive results at one of Ontario’s premier cycling events last weekend. It was only a year ago that the team (then simply called Next Wave) was discovered at the Centurion Blue Mountain Prospects Stage Race. Results from that race drew the attention of Centurion organizers and led to their decision to become title sponsors for the team. This year’s event would be a chance for the boys and girls to prove their talents. The Centurion event draws nearly 2000 cyclists of all ages and abilities with many coming just to ride the distance and others coming to race and go for the win. The format of the weekend was again a stage race format with a Time Trial (race against the clock) on Friday evening, long road race (80 km) on Saturday and short road race (41km) on Sunday. Saturday would also feature the gruelling C100 race (which was raced separately from the 3 day stage race). Each year Collingwood’s hills are a huge part of the race but this year the weather would play a bigger role with a stormy day of racing on Saturday which nearly saw the entire race cancelled. In the end the race would go on but not without taking a toll on all competitors who fought rain and wind to get to the finish line.
Centurion-Next Wave’s red and blue jerseys lined up for Friday night’s 10km time trial under calm and dry conditions. With each rider setting off in 20 second intervals, 86 riders took the start. Perennial local master’s favourite Dave Viney would take the win. But close behind him were Centurion-Next Wave’s Staples brothers Matthew and Graydon, Brody Sanderson, Gunnar Holmgren, and Tyler Clark in 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th position all covering the course at over 40 kph. Amongst the women, Centurion’s Dana Gilligan placed third.
Saturday’s racing proved dicey and unpredictable due to the weather and most riders suffered in the warm but rainy and windy conditions. In the C50 (80km) road race, which saw nearly 900 riders take part, a late breakaway would prove decisive. Eventually whittling down to three riders including Centurion’s Holmgren, Noah Simms and William Lampe of Toronto, Simms would lead the trio of riders down the finishing stretch only to have the 26 year-old Lampe snatch the win from the boys. Holmgren would finish second and Simms third. Viney would chase hard behind to preserve his overall first place standing and finish fourth 21 seconds later, maintaining his overall lead by a mere 0.8 seconds over Holmgren. That margin would later prove crucial. Also in that group was Centurion’s Cole Schumacher in 8th place. Amongst the women, Dana Gilligan had the win in her grasp only to see it slip away as she hit the pavement within sight of the finish. Two women would pass her as she remounted her bike, elbows and knees bloodied, and she had to settle for third place.
Meanwhile in the separate C100 race, 186 cyclists battled it out. A lead group of 30 riders established itself early on. Eventually former winner Bruce Bird would repeat for the win, followed by Kitchener’s Larbi Benhabib and Pan Am athlete and Canadian Hour Record holder Ed Veal. Finishing a strong fourth place however was Centurion’s Graydon Staples riding an impressive race which belied his young age. Equally impressive was Centurion’s fifteen-year old sensation Tyler Clark finishing in 9th place.
The next day nearly 400 cyclists took the start for the C25 race on a beautiful, calm Sunday morning. With Holmgren in second place in the overall standings, the last 41 km stage would prove to be more important than anticipated. All the team needed to do was put 0.9 seconds of daylight between him and Viney. Also ready to fight for the podium in the women’s race was Gilligan. Racing was fast and furious from the gun. Even with the climb up the Pretty River Parkway, the race winners averaged 41 kph. The team attacked and attacked to force others to chase. In less than an hour, a pack of 30 riders lunged for the finish line with Simms taking the win for the team by a wheel width over local favourite PJ Kings. He was followed by Holmgren 0.3 seconds later. In the pack behind though Viney finished less than a second later. After three days and nearly three and half hours of racing, Viney would take the overall stage race win by the slimmest margin possible: 0.1 seconds. Holmgren would settle for second place overall.
Meanwhile in the women’s race, Gilligan would recover all the time she lost the day before and take a commanding overall win, nearly 7 minutes faster than her nearest competitor. With this win she continues to establish herself at age 16 as one of the fastest female road cyclists in the province. Centurion’s Erica Leonard finished fourth overall, just a few seconds shy of the podium.
The Centurion race weekend marked the end of the 2015 road racing season. It has been a fantastic season of racing for the team, winning a number of races including the Ontario Men’s Junior Road Racing Championship and the overall win at the Tour de la Releve in Rimouski. The team is now poised for an even better season next year as it continues its partnership with Centurion Cycling. Although the riders deserve some time off the bike, most are now switching to the cyclocross discipline and indoor track racing as the weather turns colder and racers look ahead to an even more exciting 2016 season.
Picture 1: Centurion-NextWave’s Holmgren (left) and Simms are interviewed after finishing second and third in the C50 race.
Picture 2: Centurion-Next Wave’s medal haul for the C50 race in the overall and age group categories.
Picture 3: Dana Gilligan finishes first in the overall women’s stage race flanked by second place Sarah Elliott (left) and third place Sophie Hotchkiss (right).