Winnipeg Free Press July 21/17
Two local cyclists are competing for Team Manitoba in the men’s road race and one in the men’s mountain bike cycling events at the Canada Summer Games.
Willem Boersma, 20, of Portage la Prairie and Kurt Penno, 18, of Sanford are on the five-member men’s road team and Kailen Shackleton, 18, of Portage la Prairie is one of three on the men’s mountain bike team.
Head provincial cycling coach Jayson Gillespie said Manitoba’s strength is that the athletes have grown up together as a team.
“They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly they are willing to ride together as a team for an individual result. Only one person can win which means the rest of the team has to work for the one person who has the best chance on the day or as the race unfolds. This is our biggest strength — that all the riders will race to win as a team, but also lose for their teammate to win,” he said in an email.
Boersma, who grew up in Portage and attended Westpark School until Grade 11, has cycled for over 12 years and competed in road racing for about six years. His experience includes world and national cycling championships.
“Coming into these Canada Games, I am an older rider with lots of experience and I view my chances as very good to succeed in getting medals. Although my goals are not only to succeed as an individual, but help my team win in any manner I can,” he wrote in an email.
The road race events will take place at Birds Hill Provincial Park.
“I am very familiar with the course as I have been riding on it since day one. It is a course that suits me well as a rider and I think the home field (road) advantage will be good because of the amount of support we will receive from spectators,” Boersma said.
He views the cyclists from Quebec as being his strongest competitors.
Gillespie said Boersma is a support rider who will work to make sure his teammates are safe and in a good position by chasing down attacks and breakaways for them.
Penno has switched from mainly mountain biking to road racing about five years ago.
“One of the biggest events that I have done is Tour de l’Abitibi, which is an international race for athletes that are 17 and 18. The field of riders is usually around 150 guys which is quite enormous for most athletes, myself included,” he said in an email.
On July 17, Penno won the sixth annual Challenge Sprint Abitibi, contested by the top sprinters from each team.
He has also competed in the national cycling championships three times and in Western Canada Summer Games.
“I think my chances at Canada Summer Games are pretty good because I have been racing with a few of the top level guys that will be there. However, I know it will be very challenging to beat some of the stronger riders that are going,” he said.
“I am very familiar with the Birds Hill course because I have ridden it countless times. The biggest competition that the team and I will face will be most likely Quebec, Ontario, and B.C. I have raced with those teams throughout the year and know they will have strong riders.”
Gillespie feels that his road racers have an advantage as they know the Birds Hill course.
“Manitoba’s toughest race is the wind. We know the wind; we know how to ride in the wind. We also know the course, how the wind moves around Birds Hill Park” he said.
Mountain biking at FortWhyte Alive
The mountain bike competition is taking place at Bison Butte Park located on the northeastern side of FortWhyte Alive.
Shackleton, who graduated from Portage la Prairie Collegiate Institute, said he began mountain biking about eight years ago. He’s been part of the Kids in Mud cycling program, riding trails in Birds Hill Park and Roseisle, Man. He’s also a member of the Portage Junk Yard Dogs cycling club and trains with Prairie Fire Racing.
While Shackleton has had the chance to train on the Games course, he knows that he’s going to face some very experienced riders from other provinces.
“It’s going to be the first time I’ve raced against older guys,” he said.
He feels that the course, which is more flat than many mountain bike courses in other provinces, might prove to be hotter and windier than some of his competitors are used to.
“We’re going to get our advantage knowing the lines inside and out,” he said.
Gillespie said Shackleton has good technical skills and the ability to hold a consistent pace throughout a race.
For more information on the Canada Summer games cycling events, see http://canadagames.ca/2017/content/cycling