OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS… Quebec has long had a strong duathlon community, making Esprit an intriguing choice by Triathlon Canada for the championships. Though not completely local, it is close enough to both Ontario and the rest of Quebec to draw together the two strongest duathlon communities in Canada to create a premier event. We’ve said it before…nationals isn’t the same without the horses from La Belle Province. The placement of the race in mid-September also makes it an ideal finale to the 2015 season.
Held on a re-purposed Formula 1 track in Montreal, the location does present some difficulties with over-crowding, but a move to a two day event, with the duathlons on the second of those days, should help ease the congestion. Multi-lap courses can be a challenge, but the one thing you WON’T have to worry about is vehicular traffic on the course. Nor will you have to worry about a sketchy road surface. Not to mention likely being much more spectator friendly than any other race. The venue itself is very unique, in the great city of Montreal, and should provide an excellent experience for those who choose to take part.
The real intriguing question is whether or not there will be any other WC qualifying opportunities for duathletes in Canada. Triathlon Canada recently released a new National Qualifying Events series that included several events that have WC qualifying spots on offer. As of this writing, the only duathlon event on the series is the Esprit races. It is unknown whether or not additional races will be added to the series as provincial championships venues trickle out.
Regardless, these circumstances will create an interesting environment for duathletes. Our loyal readers will know that we are proponents of the USAT model of centralizing qualifying, to draw to a single location the best athletes from all over the country who are interested in qualifying for the World Championships in 2016. This location is relatively accessible to both of Canada’s biggest communities, and hopefully the east will be joined by the west come September to create a truly “national” championship.
Any way you slice it, it’s a better situation than last year for duathletes. First, we have a national championships to compete in this year. Just that is an improvement over some other years in the past. We also know about it before the end of January this year, instead of at the end of March and beginning of May like last year. This is an improvement, and shows that the powers that be are indeed serious about improving duathlon in Canada. This is something we should support, for the sake of our sport!
As we get into the meat of January, it is about time that we take a look back on the season that has passed. It was a season of great performances, unsung heroes and rising stars, with a little bit of frustration and controversy mixed in. Regardless, it was a heck of a journey, and one that built momentum.
2014 started quickly, as the 2014 World Championships were held on the last weekend of May. With the unfortunate demise of the popular Victoria’s Duathlon, much of the Ontario contingent of the 81 Canadian team members headed south to Harrow for the Ontario Sprint Duathlon Championships in mid-May. It was to be quite a competitive field, with many GTA-based elites making the trip down for the race on the flat and fast Essex County roads. Lionel Sanders took the overall win a week after a grueling race at Ironman 70.3 St. George, with Kristie Kniaziew taking the women’s title. The top 5 finishers all recorded times under 1:00, which would only be replicated one other time by an Ontario athlete during 2014.
Worlds came quickly, and the Canadian team jetted off to Pontevedra, Spain for either the sprint or standard distance event. Ontario athletes came home with 3 age group medals, led by Carolyn Silvey‘s 2nd place finish in F55-59. Jen Faraone was 3rd in F40-44, while David Field did the same in M55-59. That same weekend, Matt Despatie recorded the only other sub-1:00 sprint duathlon performance by an Ontario athlete, a 58:41 performance at the Quebec Cup race in Joliette.
The next part of the season was defined by mid-summer A races for Ontario duathletes. In March, Triathlon Canada announced that the Canadian Duathlon Championships would be held at the Toronto Triathlon Festival on July 13, and after Iron Hawk a sprint distance National Championship was added to the calendar in Belle River on July 6th…just a week before the standard distance event, but leaving athletes open to attempting a national championship double.
The first big tune-up before “National Championship Madness” was the popular Welland Duathlon. The race lived up to the competitive billing, as the order of finish was upended several times over the course of the race. First run leader Jesse Bauer would end up taking the win after catching bike leader and duathlon rookie sensation Grahame Rivers early on in the run, while pre-race favourite Larry Bradley had a much needed rust-buster to finish 2nd. A similar story played out in the women’s race, with MultiSport Canada age group series winner Jade Carrington using strong runs to chase down bike leader Katya Masun for the win. In the long course bike/run, Parichit Bagga took the first of several long distance wins on his season, while Tammy Purdy ran away from the field to win the women’s race.
The next week, the rest of the Ontario duathlon community headed to Guelph Lake for the first installment of the Subaru Series’ popular two race series. In the Olympic distance event (2k/40k/10k), Grahame Rivers bounced back from a tough effort in Welland to show his bike prowess, taking the win in Guelph thanks to a ridiculous 57:59 40k bike split. The ever consistent veterans Richard Eyram and Daryl Flacks tuned up for Nationals by turning in strong overall performances to round out the podium, while Karine Travaillaud took the women’s title.
The next day was all about the sprint duathletes, as they took to the course. Spencer Summerfield served notice that his was a name to watch by taking control of the race off the bike thanks to a 30:50 ~19km bike split, only to relinquish that lead late in the second run to Kingston’s Trevor King. Bethany Timmerman led the women’s race wire-to-wire to take the race, while Scott Breen continued an under-the-radar season with a 3rd place finish in the men’s race.
Tune-up races done, it was time for the big ones on the schedule. The short course athletes made their way to Belle River on the first weekend in July for the Canadian Sprint Duathlon Championships, but it was a triathlete and a long course specialist who took the day. Elite U23 athlete Chris Moyer stormed to the front with a sub-17:00 5k, and held the lead to the turnaround where he was unfortunately led off course as Daryl Flacks charged hard and moved into the lead. Spencer Summerfield showed off his bike prowess, passing all but Flacks at one point on his way to the fastest bike split before fading on the run. Alas, this was a day for the fleet-footed Moyer, who erased any doubt over the last 5km of the bike and on the run on his way to his first national championship. The race also saw the continued consistency of Scott Breen (who finished 4th) and the emergence of Shayne Dumouchelle (5th).
The women’s race was a show of domination by a single athlete. Blaire Kniaziew-Gervais (in the Year of Matt no less) kept pace with the men on the first run on her way to a dominant split, and recorded the fastest bike and second run splits en route to a 8th place overall finish and a big win in the women’s competition. Katherine Onyett-Jeffries and Bethany Timmerman engaged in a brief battle for second which was ultimately decided in transition, with Onyett-Jeffries eventually taking the silver medal.
The next week, duathletes converged on Toronto for another day of championship racing. The race was billed as a great one, capped off by the late entry of duathlon stud David Frake. A pre-race rainfall did little to dampen the fireworks, which started right at the gun as Jesse Bauer and Mike Park went straight to the front. Park would fade on the 2nd 5k and eventually succumb to a bike mechanical, while Bauer led the way into T1…a lead that was very short lived. Very early in the bike Frake took control, mashing his 56t chainring to an other-worldly bike split and a 4 minute win. Frake’s presence provided a boost to Larry Bradley, who leveraged a very strong run into an equally impressive ride on his was to his best race of the season, finishing 2nd.
The women’s race was a story of local athletes taking on the interloper. Sara Massie of British Columbia faced stiff test from Ontario natives Rachael Simpson, Isabelle Sauve, Tricia Bachman and Jade Carrington, only to beat them all back with her sizzling runs. The rest of the top 5 was composed of those 4 Ontario athletes, who all contributed to quite an exciting race. Massie gained an early lead that was quickly erased as the top 5 came into T2 closely bunched. In contrast to the men’s race, however, Massie fought back to take the national title with a strong second run.
July gave way to August and September, and duathletes’ focus shifted from National to the international distance Provincial Championship at Lakeside on September 14. Some excellent races materialized in that lead up, mainly in the southwestern part of the province, and some new contenders emerged.
One race in particular that brought out the big guns was the men’s race at the Tecumseh Duathlon. As spotlighted early this year, the Windsor-Essex community is passionate about their multisport racing, and often turn out in droves to support their races. It usually helps that most races are stationed in city and town centres around the county. Though big guns like Daryl Flacks, Scott Finch and Shayne Dumouchelle were in attendance, it was Ryan Allison who stole the show by backing up his sizzling runs with a solid bike on the crowded course. Dumouchelle continued his coming out party in 2nd, while Flacks continued to amass stellar results finishing in 3rd.
Several athletes emerged as contenders this year. Brian Moore put together two dominating sprint distance wins in the summer off of mostly cycling training, but still recorded stellar runs.Tammy Purdy put Ontario on notice that her running ability transfers easily over to the bike, winning nearly everything she entered (which was almost everything available). Darren Cooney consistently put up age group podiums and wins as he surprised even himself at his improvement. And the exploits of Grahame Rivers, Spencer Summerfield, Bethany Timmerman and Shayne Dumouchelle are all well documented in this article already, and it made for some very exciting racing this year.
The season wrapped up in September, starting at the Provincial Championships at Lakeside. Despite some attrition whittling down the field a little bit in the days leading up to the race, many of the names that became household ones (on the men’s side at least) were in attendance. The women’s race was a little slower to develop, but was won in a dominating solo performance by Shelley O’Bright ahead of Christine Richardson and Renee Hartford. Scott Finch took home the men’s provincial title thanks to a steady, almost metronomic performance on the roads he trains on all year. After Larry Bradley took the first 5k out hard, Finch steadily reeled him in to lead onto the bike, followed by Bradley and the ever-present Daryl Flacks. Finch then withstood a furious assault from Grahame Rivers on the bike to take the win ahead of Flacks (we should start calling him Mr. Consistent) and Andrew McLeod. The season then officially wrapped up after a dominant performance from (guess who?) Daryl Flacks at the inaugural Barrelman bike/run, and a fun grassroots event at the Tillsonburg Charity Duathlon that saw the course record go down.
With all of the action in duathlon this year, it made it a tough job to hand out awards at the end of the season. At the Triathlon Ontario awards, Daryl Flacks was rewarded for his durability in producing excellent results from May to September with the Masters Duathlete of the Year award, while Spencer Summerfield saw his meteoric improvement recognized as the Age Group Duathlete of the Year. Tammy Purdy‘s stellar results across all disciplines saw here named Female Duathlete of the Year by our provincial governing body.
When it came time for Triathlon Magazine Canada to hand out their 2014 honours, there was tons of Ontario representation. Though no Ontario athletes were directly honoured, Jesse Bauer, Daryl Flacks, National Champion David Frake and Worlds medalist Jennifer Faraone were given Honourable Mentions by the magazine to cap off a fantastic 2014 season.
Looking ahead… With some excellent momentum gained in 2014, the duathlon community is looking to the new faces as much as the old guard to keep it going in 2015. Too often is duathlon seen as nothing more than a gateway sport to the more glamourous sport of triathlon. Some movement is occurring at the provincial level, but with changes like World Championship AG draft legal racing in the immediate future, there is a chance that we get pushed to the side temporarily until the 2016 Worlds venue is announced and qualifiers can get sorted out.
All this means is that we are going to have to keep the momentum going ourselves. Chime in on Facebook with what you want to see in duathlon for 2015 (and beyond). Keep telling your friends about this incredible community that just prefers to stay dry. Spread the word at your running groups and on your group rides. Chances are someone is intrigued by the multisport world but sees that swim as a barrier for one reason or another. Many great triathletes started in duathlon…who’s to say the next great isn’t out there right now, waiting for someone to show them the light? Join the conversation on social media: tweet us at @du_enthusiasts, or find us on Facebook (Ontario Duathlon Enthusiasts).