This past weekend the Varsity Blues mountain bike team, under the captaincy of Martin Cieslak, charged to their fifth Ontario University Cup Championship after winning the fourth and final 2004 Ontario University Cup race at Boler Mountain in London, Ontario. With only 18 points separating U of T from old rival Queen’s University, everyone knew that the championship was on the line, and the Blues did not disappoint.
With outstanding performances from top riders such as Cate Dmitriew, Kristen Lake, Duane Epp, and Peter Cieslak, the mountain bike team managed to earn enough points to win back the University Cup from last year’s champions, Queen’s.
The conditions were far from stellar for racing on Sunday, October 24, with a storm front moving over the course the night that turned the normally dry Boler circuit into a mud bowl.
“It’s like riding in a lake of jello pudding,” explained assistant coach Rob Levan, adding, “definitely more slippery than black ice.”
The top Division A riders had the pleasure of breaking in the course with a gruelling 21km race. They were followed by the Division B riders who completed 2 laps of the 7km course.
At the end of the day the Blues claimed four podium finishes, with Cate Dmitriew winning Silver in Women’s Division A (expert), Kristen Lake and Elizabeth Graham finishing second and third respectively in Women’s Division B (sport), and Peter Cieslak taking the Silver in Men’s Division B (sport). With his second place finish at Boler, Peter Cieslak was successful at fending off top rival Ian Bickis of Queen’s for the Individual Men’s Division B overall championship.
Other top riders for the Blues this season included, Katherine Clark, Alex Bhogal, Tyler Lahti, Michael Chouster, Greg Togtema, Monika Chmiel, Emma Wensing, and Captain Martin Cieslak. They all made significant contributions to the team points category this season.
And while these members all distinguished themselves on and off the course, every athlete who competed deserves the credit for this win.
“It is not enough to say that the team performed admirably-it’s more to say that every member of the team had the courage to do what most people would never do, and that is to do it exceptionally well,” said one team member.
“The spirit of this sport is to compete and have fun at the same time,” remarked racing director David Wright. “These riders are fierce competitors on the course but after the races many interuniversity friendships develop as riders swap stories of personal triumphs and defeats. It feels good to win for U of T, but most importantly it feels great to see the student athletes having fun.”
Team member Kristen Lake, a recent addition to the team, echoed the teamwork and friendship aspects of competitive mountain bike racing: “This title is a first for me, and probably the last since this is my last year at U of T. It is a great feeling, especially when there are so many great athletes and new friends to share it with!
“I have been most impressed in mountain biking not only by my own team, but how all the competitors are so understanding and just plain friendly,” continued Lake. “If you have trouble on the trail, there is always a friendly voice behind you to make sure you’re okay. As far as my own team, the camaraderie is unmatched. Everyone helps out and the pool of knowledge on everything from race strategy to ‘what that do-hicky does’ has benefited me tremendously.”
The team gave all the energy it had on the trail, which helped them capture the championship. Evidence for this was in the fact that the majority of the team was too tired to celebrate after the competition. As Lake pointed out, “We were so tired we mostly just went home to bed.” She was then quick to add, “Official celebrations are still in the works.”