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February 11/07 9:15 am - 'Cross at the Northern Games

Posted by Editor on 02/11/07

Blizzard Bike Club - Fort St. John, BC
Courtesy Pat Ferris

Feb. 10, 2007

Racing a bicycle mid-winter is unusual, especially with three feet of snow, and minus 21 degree temperatures. Cyclists in the city of Fort St. John, B.C. on Mile 45 of the Alaska Highway met this challenge during the Northern BC Winter Games, on Saturday.

Organizers in this year's edition of the Games wanted something different and unusual. Preferably something that has never been tried in a 'Games' format in BC or a 'Games' format anywhere in Canada. They chose cyclo-cross.

Cyclo-cross is where bicycles meet the rigors and extremes of winter with an off-road, steeplechase flavor. Invented in Europe during the 1940's, it has been around as a way to keep in shape during the long winter months. The bikes are similar to their road cousins but with knobby tires and a heavier construction.

The local bicycle club, the 'Blizzards', are no stranger to cycling in the north. Having been around since 1982, they have seen everything except tornadoes. Snow and cold can be dealt with.

This inaugural event was scheduled for February 10, 2007. Organizers hoped for a break on the snow and cold, but did not get it. The snow fell and the temperatures dropped.

The 2 km local park circuit needed to be plowed by the City of Fort St. John crews, twice, with the largest machine available to clear drifts and deep snow. They were successful by race time, Saturday.

Riders arrived up at the start, warmly dressed. Organizers shortened the event to 4 laps or thirty minutes, reducing risk of frostbite and exposure in the minus 21 degree temperatures.

Initially, Matt Sparling lead for the first three-quarters of a lap but Roger St. Jean of the local club came past and pulled away for the gold. Gary Hilderman eventually came second for silver and Matt Sparling nabbed bronze.

Organizers were so impressed with spectator response they have plans for something similar in next years Northern BC Games in Dawson Creek for 2008.

Hopefully there will be less snow and cold to deal with but then, that is part of the challenge.

1. Roger St. Jean 27:07 for 4 laps (Gold)
2. Gary Hilderman at 0:41 (Silver)
3. Matt Sparling 2:29 (Bronze)
4. Colter Young 4:08
5. Barb Polehoykie 5:02
6. Richard Wood 7:48
7. Floyd Polehoykie 1 lap down
8. Adam Currie 1 lap down

Roger St Jean
Roger St Jean on his way to winning

Gary Hilderman
Gary Hilderman took second


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