Volume 95, Issue 46

Thursday, November 22, 2001
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Western's mountain bikers take on all-terrain

Western's mountain bikers take on all-terrain

By Lauren Schellenberger
Gazette Writer

After an impressive inaugural season in race competition, the Western Mountain Biking Club is seeking more riders and a higher profile on-campus.

The Western racers finished the year fifth out of 11 teams in the highly competitive Ontario University Cup Race Series. The series consists of four races that feature all-terrain, cross-country racing in both beginner and advanced categories.

Team co-captain Sean Ainley said he was encouraged with the result.

"Our team came into the race unrecognized, we worked hard and managed to beat established teams," Ainley said.

Ainley credits the team's success to dedication and a strong work ethic. "The team ranges in talent from national team members to new riders, but everyone does the best they can and it shows in our results," he said.

Greg Kenwell, an experienced team member, has high expectations for next year. "I feel the team can definitely move up to at least third place next year and seriously close the gap on the University of Toronto and Queen's powerhouses," Kenwell said.

However, some team members also acknowledge that such improvement requires more racers. While the club boasts over 40 members who routinely participate in weekly casual rides, only 10 riders competed in the race series, leaving the team depleted in comparison to other squads like U of T, which has over 30 racers.

According to Kenwell, in race series, competition points are awarded to the team's top three racers out of six. In some races, Western only had three total racers competing, thus preventing the team from maximizing their point output. "The only way to move up is to get more racers involved," Kenwell said.

A long-term goal of the team is to gain varsity status over the next year or two. Ben McNabb, co-captain of the team, hopes varsity status can vault biking into the mainstream consciousness and entice more competitive racers who have been deterred by "club" status.

"The race series has national team members and pro-elite racers competing at a very high level. It is time that these athletes were showcased," McNabb said.

McNabb feels varsity status is a feasible prospect because the University of Toronto has already achieved such status and Queen's and Waterloo have also showed interest in classifying their teams as varsity.

"As more teams become interested and our profile grows, mountain bike racing will be recognized as a sport, rather than a hobby," McNabb said.

For now, the team encourages new members to give the mountain biking club a try. "There is no need to be intimidated. The mountain biking team is for anyone with a bike," Kenwell said.

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