77 brave cyclists lined up at the entrance to Mt. Revelstoke National Park for the 6th annual Mt. Revelstoke Steamer on Sunday, and one of them set a new course record.
The gruelling, 27-kilometre race features a 1.6-kilometre elevation gain up the winding switchbacks to the summit of the landmark mountain.
The conditions were almost ideal for a new record. It was calm, cool and sunny at the 10 a.m. start time as racers gathered near the entrance archway at the Trans-Canada Highway. Cyclists departed each minute or so, with beginners leaving first and elite racers last. This leads to a more dramatic finish, as the riders average out and bunch up closer to the end.
I stopped to take photos at one of the first scenic viewpoints on the ride. Racers hammed it up for the camera, shouting out jokes as they passed.
Further up the hill the humour was gone, replaced with steely, distant looks and lots of grimaces, gritted teeth and grim stares.
A convoy of spectators and assistants followed the racers up the mountain, jangling cowbells and cheering them on along the course.
The winner and new course record-holder is Okanagan-based masters rider Olav Stana, 56. Stana finished with a time of 1:09:33, beating the previous record mark of 1:11:37 set by Frank Woolstencroft. “He crushed the course record,” noted race organizer Brendan MacIntosh of Revelstoke’s Flowt Cycles and Skis, who organizes the race alongside Justin and Lynsey Weber.
The Revelstoke Cycling Association put up $500 for anyone who set the new mark. “We weren’t really expecting anyone to beat the course record,” joked MacIntosh.
After the ride, racers chowed down on chili and baking near Balsam Lake and later attended an awards ceremony at the Village Idiot restaurant.
In addition to the top prize, there was over $2,000 in prize money handed out.
In another story of note, racer Stuart Smith broke his saddle at the 4-kilometre mark and rode the remaining 23 kilometres standing up.
There were also several young teenagers in the race, something that MacIntosh would like to see more of. He also encourages all cyclist to come take a shot. “We don’t want to make it elitist by any means,” he said.
So, how do youth or other outsiders possibly work up the courage to tackle the Steamer?
“My own personal tip is to chase the snow,” says MacIntosh. As the snow-line recedes on the Meadows in the Sky Parkway in the spring, ride up to the snowline a few times a week, gradually moving up higher as summer arrives. “You just keep doing that,” he recommends.
The average time was about 90 minutes this year, which is quite fast. The majority of the racers appeared to be competitive riders. There were quite a few masters riders, but not that many in their ‘20s.
1. Olav Stana, 56, 1:09:33
2. Patrick Paquette, 23, 1:13:16
3. Matt Staneland, 31, 1:14:13
1. Stacey Smith, 25, 1:29:30
2. Lina Nickelsson, 37, 1:34:55
3. Laura Dyer, 48, 1:37:13
Top Revelstoke riders, Men:
1. Matt O’Hagan, 28, 1:17:26 (Revelstoke native)
2. Richard Hamilton, 46, 1:19:57
3. Daniel Dube, 48, 1:21:50
Top Revelstoke riders, Women:
1. Laura Dyer, 48, 1:37:13
2. Atsuko Knight, 47, 1:39:00
3. Sarah Newton, 43, 1:46:44
For complete results, see www.flowt.org.