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Olympians challenge cyclists at Canmore Road Festival

"I knew that I showed up with a bit of a target on my back in this race."

CANMORE – The risk of getting some serious road rash is only one element for cyclists entering the high speed world of crit racing.

With eight sharp turns and no room for errors, the racers at the Rundle Mountain Cycling Club (RMCC) Road Festival race navigated the 1.3-kilometre course in downtown Canmore on Saturday (June 3).

There were a few crashes along the way – nothing serious – but for a mass start specialist like Olympic speed skating gold medallist Ivanie Blondin, being in close company with competitors and fighting for position is second nature.

“The transfer over to speed skating is pretty flawless; it’s the same muscle groups, it’s the same energy systems,” said Blondin, who raced at the local competition.

Blondin won silver in the women’s Cat 1/2/3 crit race, behind Leah Kirchmann, an Olympic cyclist from Calgary. Kirchmann is also another high-level athlete who wanted to check out the provincial competition over the weekend.

“I knew that I showed up with a bit of a target on my back in this race,” said Kirchmann, a 2019 national time trial champion. “I knew everyone was going to watch me pretty closely in this race, but it was a good race. The women raced aggressively and it was quite exciting until the finish.”

Rounding the corner for the final 200 metres, two cyclists in the top level women’s race crashed down and slammed into the padding mats that lined the fencing. Both cyclists were not seriously injured and were up walking soon after. For the other racers, like Kirchmann, Blondin, and last year’s winner Alexandra Volstad, it was an all out wild sprint to the finish line.

After 16 laps, Kirchmann edged out the field and won at a time of 32:36. Blondin took second place, and Volstad of Calgary was third.

“I’m not primarily a cyclist, so to be able to race with someone like [Kirchmann] is really cool,” said Blondin. “We’re finishing a [speed skating camp] right now, like a two-and-a-half week build, so I’m pretty crushed from training, but I just wanted to feel [the race] out and wanted to be a bit conservative knowing I can sprint pretty well to the finish. Unfortunately, there was a crash which is really sad. It would have been nice to finish together to see where we could have all been.”

Folks around town might have noticed an Olympic presence on the cycling courses in Canmore last weekend.

Along with Kirchmann and Blondin, other Olympians were racing at the RMCC Road Festival such as hometown boy, Connor Howe.

“I did a little bit of recruiting them to race,” said Howe, a speed skating world cup gold medallist. “I’ll take kind of credit for encouraging Ivanie to start last year and she just picked it up so fast and is talented and Isabelle [Weidemann] as well ... Ivanie recruited Leah, so it’s a cool group of us.”

In men’s cat 1/2, the highest men’s level in the province, Howe finished 12th after 20 laps around the bending course.

“I kind of got caught behind a crash where I had to catch up after and kind of maxed out the heart rate and I just blew up kind of five laps in and that's when I lost the pack and there’s no really coming back,” said Howe.

In first place was Edmonton’s Eric Berg at a time of 33:59. Banff’s Finn Borstmayer finished seventh.

In the junior women, RMCC’s Ashton Thomson finished first overall after 14 laps at a time of 30:02.

In men’s Cat 3, RMCC’s Mike Macklem finished 13th.

In U17 boys, RMCC athletes Emmett Macklem was fifth and Bjorn Eidsvik was sixth.

For full results, visit

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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