The 2017 Hayman Classic youth stage race wrapped up Sunday to a chorus of praise along with questions about how to make it bigger and better in 2018.
That may be a tough challenge. This year’s edition featured sprints, climbs, dizzying descents and a circuit race on the ultra-smooth asphalt at Area 27, Canada’s newest motor speedway.
“It was beautiful, really smooth, nice corners,” said Liam Langford, of London, Ont., racing for Kallisto-FCV, who won the first stage for under-15 and took second at Area27.
And with every event came a blizzard of upbeat reviews on Twitter and Facebook, notably from the Ontario contingent – coaches as well as riders.
“One of the first people who jumped on my Tweet and reTweeted it was Steve Bauer,” said an enthusiastic Art Adams, coach of London, Ont.-based Kallisto-FCV.
Adams said he would continue to talk up the Hayman Classic once he gets home, a commitment echoed by Rick Lee, coach of NCCH in Hamilton, Ont.
For Lee, the venues, terrain and beauty of the Okanagan Valley combined for a memorable cycling experience, all of it wrapped in an environment that promotes skill development and sportsmanship.
“The whole feel of this race is very special,” he said.
This was the third year for the Hayman Classic, which is bidding to become a top event on the young cycling calendar both regionally and nationally. Several changes were introduced this year to provide greater variety and challenges over a three-day competition that unfolded like this: On the morning of June 9, a mass-start hill climb that began in the Okanagan Valley south of Penticton and turned uphill over grades of 15 to 20 per cent; on the afternoon of Day One, a circuit race around the spanking new, 4.8-kilometre track at Area 27 near Oliver, B.C.;
On Day Two, June 10, a fast-paced criterium in Penticton;
On Day Three, June 11, a road race, also near Oliver, that featured a vertiginous descent with speeds of 80-plus kilometres an hour.
Top organizer and former Olympian Ron Hayman was pleased with the result, noting that the circuit race, the climbs, the descents and the sprints offered participants “a lot of firsts in racing experience. And that’s the goal – to give them real-world racing experiences against their peers.”
Hayman said the weekend was everything they hoped for and added that everyone was blown away by the first stage that finished at Painted Rock in the Skaha Bluffs parking lot. Hayman liked how things went at Area27 and said they would love to continue hosting a stage there.
“It was spectacular, and they were absolutely in love with it,” said Hayman. “We had riders as they came through the first lap, they were screaming to their family and friends on the sidelines how much they loved it.”
The Hayman Classic attracted 96 riders divided into four categories (under-15 boys and girls, under-17/19 boys and girls). Hayman would like to see 35-plus riders in each category to bring out true cycle racing.
“It takes a large pack to create all of the kind of intrigue and tactics that go around bike racing,” he said.
Hayman is hoping joining the national circuit will help boost numbers as well as attracting more U.S. athletes. A decision on that could come in September. This year only a single rider made the trek north. That was 14-year-old Gavin Bowen, of Bend Ore.,with his father Bart Bowen, two-time U.S. road champion.
Among Canadian riders, the biggest contingents came from British Columbia and Alberta. A four-rider team came from Yukon, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were represented by one rider apiece. The presence of 12 riders from Ontario was a milestone. Never before had a rider from Ontario attended the Hayman Classic.
Part of the difficulty is distance, which means greater travel time and cost. But next year there’s the added problem of dates – the junior national championships are scheduled for late June in Kamloops, B.C.
That raises a host of questions around cost and timing for teams that might want to attend the Hayman Classic, which has so far been held in early June.
Coach Art Adams of Kallisto-FCV said the timing of the two races is a significant challenge but if that can solved the Hayman Classic is “definitely a race I would put on my calendar for next year.”
Coach Rick Lee of NCCH Lee described the situation in almost identical terms: “If the timing is right next year, we would certainly come back.”
Bart Bowen, the former U.S. champion who now runs Bowen Sports Performance in Bend, Ore., proposed more exchanges between Western provinces and states.
“We need more events like this for juniors,” he said. “The northwest could have a really great (cycling) scene if we had more Americans coming to Canada and more Canadian coming to the States.”
As for the young cyclists at this year’s Hayman Classic, Victoria Slater probably spoke for most of them when she described her experience as unforgettable. For Slater, a U17 rider from NCCH in Hamilton, it was the first she had travelled to Western Canada, let alone B.C.
Asked if she would come again, her immediate reply was: “Yes. Definitely. Without a doubt.”
With the conclusion of the Hayman Classic, which is a four-event stage race, four riders received special jerseys for winning the general classification award in their respective age categories. They were:
U15 girls: Lilly Ujfalusi, Devo pb Fortius, New Westminster, 3:29:47.97
U15 boys: Erik Haaheim, Red Devils, Kelowna, 3:21:52.79
U17/U19 girls: Elisabeth Gin, Cannondale pb Fortius, Surrey, 5:52:28.05
U17/U19 boys: Ethan Palamerek: The Lead Out Project, Lacombe, 5:30:38.14
For full results, go to www.haymanclassic.ca.