Clegg moving quickly in crossover cycling career
Sometimes, it’s not the most experienced or technically-sound racer who wins the day. Just ask Robin Clegg.
“We’re the sketchiest guys here,” Clegg said shortly after clinching the Category 3 overall title at Banff Bikefest on Sunday (June 17). “Everyone tries to stay away from us out there. We’re still learning how to ride.”
Joking aside, Clegg and his Cat. 3/4 Rundle Mountain Cycling Club teammates put forth a yeoman’s effort to win the overall Cat 3 division. He was part of the RMCC’s battalion of former and aspiring Olympic athletes relying on that big cardio base to power them to victory. Clegg, Tyson Smith, Jason Myslicki, Matt Neumann and Anthony Killick all excelled in the lower categories for RMCC, which established itself as a western leader over the past year and a half.
“The entire team did a great job. By the last race, I had a minute lead,” Clegg said.
A retired member of the Canadian Biathlon Team turned mortgage advisor, Clegg finished ahead of Craig DeBellefeuille by 55 seconds to take the win. Dalton Fayad was third, 58 seconds off the pace.
Still new to the cycling game, Clegg has quickly risen up the sport’s ranks at the provincial level. The win allows him to graduate to Cat. 2.
“It’s way more strategic than biathlon. In those races, you kind of just go until the end of the race. Here it’s picking your spots,” Clegg said.
Clegg started off strong with a win in the prologue, finishing the 2.34-km course in 2:34.63, ahead of RMCC veteran Aaron Sands and retired Nordic combined athlete Jason Myslicki, who finished second and third in the first stage.
He widened his lead in the Lake Louise Leg, where he finished second behind Killick to maintain his overall jersey. This was the first year the Cat. 3 riders were allowed to race on in the third stage, and the pack stuck together through the meandering course, which circled Lake Minnewanka before heading to Lake Louise. Killick won in a sprint finish to close out the 153-km race.
Clegg again was the class of the field in the 21-km individual time trial, overcoming windy conditions to post a 26 second lead over Dalton Fayad of Regina. That set up the show-stopping crit race Saturday evening on Banff Ave, where the RMCC crew worked to protect Clegg’s lead. Myslicki ended up with the win in the stage, while Sands, Clegg and Chris Taylor of RMCC all cracked the top 10.
By the time the Tunnel Mountain stage rolled around, Clegg had a minute lead on his nearest competitor. The final stage was a grueling 21 lap race up and down Tunnel Mountain, which proved to be a struggle due to variable weather. However Clegg held on for the win.
“I was fine as long as I stayed out of trouble,” Clegg said. “The team did a great job the entire weekend.”
Another RMCC cyclist, semi-retired biathlete Tyson Smith finished third overall in the Cat. 4 races. The 24-year-old is now a coach with Foothills Nordic and enjoying the change of pace.
“It’s nice switching up training, and to crush some beers after the race. When I was with biathlon, cycling was one of my favourite forms of training, so this is fun.”
Along with fellow coach and Cat. 5 racer Fraser Mills-Connery, the two snuck in big coaching days in between races.
Several local racers had strong individual days. Team MitoCanada’s Kyle McLaughlin competed in his first Bikefest and won the Cat. 5 time trial, edging out Neumann.
The crit race proved to be the biggest obstacle for the Iron Man athlete, however he managed to grab seventh place.
“This 30 minute burst of mayhem is foreign to me. I’m more accustomed to the long, five-hour rides,” McLaughlin said.
“I was really nervous going in, but I got a lot of good advice from some of the RMCC guys. I just wanted to stay in the front group, and relaxed once I learned not to break in the corners.”
Neumann was fourth in the Cat. 5. crit, and said patience is the key to strong racing. He figures he’s logged 2,000 km on the bike this year already, but definitely had enough in the tank for BikeFest.
“You have to take the opportunity to use the right amount of energy,” Neumann said. “You definitely need to know yourself.”
The open women’s category saw Margie Smith and Brittany Webster represent the Bow Valley. Smith’s main goal this year was to survive the crit race, while her best performance proved to be on the Tunnel Mountain climb, where she finished 10th. She was eliminated two years ago for falling back too far, however this year, she survived gut check time.
“I felt good out there and hope to have saved enough for the road race,” Smith said after the crit, where she was 17th. “I spend 90 per cent of my time on my mountain bike, but road biking is good cross-training.”
Webster was 16th in the crit. She had no expectations going into the race, so she was happy to finish. Her best performance was also on the final day, where she finished eighth.
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