Ava Irving-Staley, from the U Kon Echelon Bike Club, finished second in the Under 15 Girls. Mark Brett/Western News

Excellent conditions for Hayman Classic cycling events

Coaches and riders were unanimous in their praise of the South Okanagan competition

Excellent conditions and a top-notch field of riders turned last weekend’s edition of the Hayman Classic into the best-ever in the four-year history of the junior cycling event in the South Okanagan.

Coaches and riders were unanimous in their praise of the competition, which drew a record number of entries – 124 – from Canada and the United States.

Related: Youth cyclists hit the road

“Champions are bred in races like this,” said Rick Lee, manager and head coach of Hamilton, Ont.-based NCCH. “Apart from the national championships, this is the race our kids want to take part in.”

Last year NCCH brought 10 riders to the Okanagan Valley. This year they brought 18 and Lee hopes to bring more in 2019, a sentiment shared by Bart Bowen, the former U.S. road champion who now runs Bowen Sports Performance in Bend, Ore.

Summerland’s Tam Westby of the Kelowna Red Devils Cycling Academy on his hill climb in the first of four races at the Hayman Classic Friday. Mark Brett/Black Press

Bowen brought four riders from Bend this year – including sons Tanner, 13, and Gavin, 15 – and thinks he can come north with another 10 in 2019.

“I wish we had an event like this once a month for these kids,” he said. “It’s so good for them.”

At the rider level, 15-year-old Ana Large of Kelowna-based Red Devils Cycling described a weekend of “great riding and great competition against people from all over Canada and the United States.”

She, too, is looking forward to 2019, anxious to snag the first-place finish that eluded her on the weekend.

This year’s version of the Hayman Classic saw nothing but blue skies and warm temperatures over three days of competition: a time trial and circuit race on Day One; a criterium on Day Two and a road race on Day Three.

Floods from melting snow forced the road race to move from Oliver, to a new venue further south in the heart of Okanagan wine country. The course was less steep but it better suited the skill-training goals sought by Ron Hayman, the former Canadian Olympic cyclist for whom the Hayman Classic is named.

The easier inclines put the emphasis on pack riding and drafting to provide a “true road-race experience,” said Hayman, who expressed satisfaction with the growing stature and reputation of the Classic, which this year was added to the national race calendar. Word of mouth and positive comments from participants and coaches have helped as well, he said.

“I think we’re poised to grow this event significantly,”

Rick Lee of NCCH predicted the Hayman Classic would get bigger and better, in part because it is open to riders age 11 to 14 (U13 and U15) who can watch and learn from those in more senior categories (U17 and U19).

“They see where they can go and what opportunities they’ll have,” he said. “Kids racing here this week, we’ll see them in the Olympics in years to come.”

The next summer Olympics are scheduled for Tokyo in 2020, but the more immediate concern now involves the world junior championships slated for late September in the Austrian Alps around Innsbruck.

Finding young Canadians riders for this event is partly what drew Kevin Field to the Okanagan for the weekend. Field is the men’s road program manager for Cycling Canada and he’s on the hunt for young riders who can climb.

At the conclusion of the Hayman Classic on Sunday, Field began a three-day talent ID camp which will feature a hill climb Tuesday out of Penticton on grades of eight to 14 per cent. Almost 50 young riders will take part. The camp will also offer guidance to young riders who might want to move up the amateur ranks or pursue a career as a professional cyclist.

Field, too, is a fan of the Hayman Classic for its promotion of junior cycling:

“What Ron does is amazing … because it’s only for the junior categories and we don’t have much of that in Canada. It’s really important for junior development.”

Trena Irving, coach of the Whitehorse-based U Kon Echelon cycling team, concurred, adding that the Hayman Classic should aim for 300 participants.

“We need more of this stuff in Western Canada. That’s why it’s important for all coaches and clubs to support this kind of effort. Ron is doing a tremendous job.”

As in previous years, the 2018 edition of the Hayman Classic was conducted as a stage race, meaning the times from each of the four events were added together to produce a cumulative result for each rider over the course of the weekend. Awards were presented to those with the best or fastest total times.

Also, for the third time in four years, the Hayman Classic served as the British Columbia youth cycling championship in three disciplines – individual time trial, criterium and road race.

Full results for the B.C. championships and the stage race (general classification) can be found by clicking here.

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