Sask. Cup returns to Buffalo Pound

Matthew Gourlie
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Pavers host provincial mountain bike race

It had been more than a decade since Moose Jaw hosted a Sask. Cup mountain biking event.

After a co-hosting a successful Sask. Cup stop Sunday, the Moose Jaw Pavers cycling club is hopeful it won't be that long before the Saskatchewan Cycling Association returns to Buffalo Pound Provincial Park.

"It's great to have an event here," said Rob Walcer from the Moose Jaw Pavers who competed Sunday and also helped organize the event. 

The third Sask. Cup mountain bike stop was scheduled for June at the Wascana trails. The heavy rain in June forced the race to be postponed and it was moved to Buffalo Pound.

"The Offroad Syndicate out of Regina reached out to us to give them a hand with having the event here. To me as a mountain biker who loves the trail network out here, it was pretty much a no brainer for our club to say yes," said Walcer.

The Sask. Cup race featured 52 competitors from across the province in a variety of age categories and levels of experience. 

The Buffalo Pound trails had hosted Sask. Cup stops previously, as well as Canada Cup mountain biking events a decade ago. More recently the XC8 eight-hour enduro mountain bike race was held in the valley.

The Pavers have hosted the Spring Classic annually in recent years and have put in a lot of work to ensure that the trails remain usable all summer. 

"We co-ordinate a lot with the Park to keep the trails nicely groomed," said Walcer who feels that the trails are growing in reputation.

"It's been a little bit of a hidden gem, but word is definitely getting out there as far as what is here," said Walcer. "Some of that is because of the work that we're leading around the trails. They never used to be maintained during the summer time. There was ad-hoc maintenance and there would be areas around the course that would be cut, but all of the trails are rideable right now.

"People came here and rode in the spring and they the trails would get over-grown. In the fall the grass would stop growing and die back and all of a sudden the trails were rideable again."

The trails cover more than 30 kilometres and feature some steep downhills around the former White Track ski area and tighter technical sections through the vegetation in the valley. The diversity of the course has helped make it popular.

There were more than 30 vehicles and plenty of tents set up around the finish line and the staging area during the race. Walcer said that wasn't unusual 

"You come out here on the weekend and it is a pretty typical for Sunday morning for the parking lot to be this busy," said Walcer. "It never used to be like that."

Walcer said he ran into two riders from Humboldt on Saturday who had heard that there were great trails in Buffalo Pound and came down to check them out.

"About three weeks ago I was out doing some trail maintenance and there was two guys — one was from Las Vegas and the other was California — and they were driving and biking their way across the country. They spent a few days in Whistler and a few days in Banff … they came here and spent a day. They're working their way to Mont-Sainte-Anne in Québec for the World Cup," said Walcer. "They just loved it out here."

Sunday was a chance for some of the province's top mountain bike riders to see the course first hand if they never had.

Cuyler Conly from the Range Road Racing team won the Senior Expert Men's category completing the four laps in an hour and 22 minutes and 36 seconds. Pedro Peralta Elgueta from Offroad Syndicate was second nearly two minutes behind Conly. Darren Dyck from the Moose Jaw Pavers finished 15th in the biggest category on the competition.

Ryan Gaell from Saskatoon won the Sport Men category. Robert Myrchak from the Pavers finished eighth.

Regina's Allison Szeles won the Senior Expert Women's race by a scant 33 seconds ahead of Kylie Boums. Szeles finished the race in 1:22:23.

Moose Jaw's Keian Klein won the 16-and-younger Novice Youth Men division.

"(Klein) is in our Learn to Mountain Bike program, he came out today and competed in the under-16 category; which is great. He's been doing that for four years so far. He had fun and it is great to see these kids come out," said Walcer. "We're growing in both the road and the mountain bike sectors. Our Learn to Mountain Bike program is getting kids out and getting them involved in cycling."

Walcer finished fourth in the Novice Men's division that was won by Rogan Milatz from Regina.

Kathryn Theede from Saskatoon won the Sport Women. Erica Musyj from Saskatoon won the Senior Elite Women division and Saskatoon's Corey Zetterstrom won the Senior Elite Men.

Hunter Jackle won the Novice Women and James Whittingham won the Beginner Men divisions.

There are four Sask. Cup mountain bike races this season.

Organizations: Saskatchewan Cycling Association, Senior Expert Women, Novice Youth Men division

Geographic location: Sask., California, Buffalo Pound Regina Buffalo Pound Provincial Park Saskatoon Canada Cup mountain Las Vegas Whistler Banff Québec Moose Jaw

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