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Canmore hill climb tests cyclists' limits at RMCC Road Festival

"The whole time I was going up, I was just thinking pain, pain, pain."

CANMORE – With only a few hundred metres left to race in Saturday’s (June 3) Silvertip monster hill climb, dozens of out-of-breath cyclists were looking at the finish line as an oasis in the mountains.

After all, sprinting up the near two-kilometre leg-drainin’, lung-bustin’ race at the Rundle Mountain Cycling Club (RMCC) Road Festival is not for the faint of heart. Just ask cyclist and Canmore’s Ashton Thomson, who had one thing on her mind while in the moment.

“The whole time I was going up, I was just thinking pain, pain, pain,” said Thomson. “But I knew it was short and everyone else was feeling the same thing, so it was just like that eight minutes of just redlining because once I was at the top I knew I could just collapse in the grass, which I did.”

Laying on the grass gassed, Thomson had won first place in the junior women’s category – her second first place and third podium at the weekend bike festival. She crossed the finish line at a time of 8:11.1, beating second place rider Juliette Versailles of Edmonton by more than 30 seconds.

Thomson had been ill earlier in the week and was unable to get in some warm-up training before the local competition. However, she said her hard work this season paid off and she noticed her training gains out on the courses.

“It was definitely mind over matter,” said Thomson, who represents RMCC. “When the legs were screaming stop, you had to think, gear up, stand up, and push the tempo. It was just a lot of small technical things that add up and they slow you down when you’re tired, so just staying on top of your riding technique.”

Starting at the base of Silvertip Trail and ending at the peak of Silvertip Road, most cyclists are pretty spent by the time they reach the peak. In hindsight, Canmore’s Connor Howe wishes he had been one of them.

The Olympian, who’s a speed skating world cup gold medallist, hit turbo mode with about 400 metres left when most others were just hoping to get to the finish in one piece.

“At the last corner, I kind of realized I had a lot more in the tank, so I kind of sprinted and attacked,” said Howe. “I felt strong at the end, but maybe I could have distributed my energy a bit better.”

Despite Howe’s powerful push to the end, he finished sixth at a time of 5:36.3 in the men’s Cat 1/2, the top level for men in the province. Banff’s Finn Borstmayer came in ninth.

Kaden Colling of Ontario finished first at a time of 5:18.7.

In the women’s Cat 1/2/3, which has the best women racers in the province, Canadian Olympic cyclist Leah Kirchmann reached the top of the hill first at a time of 6:47.6. Olympic speed skating gold medallist Ivanie Blondin was second and last year’s junior champion Anabelle Thomas came in third.

In U17 boys, RMCC cyclists Emmett Macklem finished fifth and Bjorn Eidsvik was seventh.

In U17 girls, RMCC athletes Dakota Dixon and Alloya Guest were first and second; and in U15 girls, local riders Ella Eidsvik, Kalea Giesler, and Lyra Giesler were first, second and third.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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