ESCARPMENT ESCAPADE

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FUEL -

WHEN RACE DI­REC­TOR JAMES KOWALEWSKI STARTED MINE OVER MAT­TER IN MIL­TON, ONT. HE HAD NO IDEA HOW POP­U­LAR IT WOULD BE­COME IN HIS LO­CAL SOUTH­ERN ON­TARIO TRIATHLON COM­MU­NITY, OR THAT IT WOULD BE­COME A STOP ON THE XTERRA PAN AMER­I­CAN TOUR IN JUST A FEW YEARS.

The race has grown in pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent years in part thanks to join­ing the Xterra fam­ily and at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional off-road pros, but also thanks to the fun and chal­leng­ing race week­end.

The race takes place in Kelso Park and takes ad­van­tage of the quarry for a pic­turesque, calm and usu­ally-warm swim course where ath­letes cover 1 km in the wa­ter be­fore head­ing into T1. Triath­letes then hop on their bikes for a two-loop ride that al­ter­nates be­tween dirt, road and trails and of­fers in­ter­chang­ing sin­gle and dou­ble paths, so pass­ing is safer. The run takes place on the same first loop as the bike course, so ath­letes are fa­mil­iar with the ter­rain and know what’s ahead – this is great for first-time off-road ath­letes who may be ap­pre­hen­sive cov­er­ing un­known ter­ri­tory at full speed and also for sea­soned ath­letes look­ing for a fast time.

As the only off-road triathlon in the re­gion, Mine over Mat­ter gives triath­letes the chance to try some­thing new in the early sea­son – the race takes place at the end of June – while still tar­get­ing any long dis­tance or late-sum­mer A races. Kowalewski has found that triath­letes who give off-road a try re­turn year after year and en­joy the chal­lenge of a race that de­mands a type of ef­fort dif­fer­ent from road triathlon, but in a fun and sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment that wel­comes first time moun­tain bik­ers as much as sea­soned vet­er­ans.

An­other draw to the race is that the course never gets bor­ing. There’s al­ways some­thing to look at and, in­stead of be­ing on open roads for hours, the park and for­est set­ting give par­tic­i­pants some­thing to look at the en­tire way. Those that re­turn each year no­tice the course is ev­er­chang­ing. This is the nature of off-road triathlon and some­thing that adds to the ex­cite­ment for reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pants.

Last year’s race was the largest yet and hosted the most di­verse field of ath­letes to date. While top-ranked Amer­i­can off-road triath­letes came to Mil­ton to chase Xterra se­ries points, lo­cal star Karsten Mad­sen stole the show, tak­ing the first ma­jor win of his off-road ca­reer. Kowalewski says Mad­sen has been a tremen­dous am­bas­sador for not only the race but also off-road triathlon in gen­eral and knows that part of the race’s suc­cess comes from Mad­sen’s role in en­cour­ag­ing tra­di­tional triath­letes to leave their com­fort zone and try some­thing new. Most end up lov­ing it and have made Mine over Mat­ter a sta­ple on their sum­mer race cal­en­dar each year.

Mad­sen has some words of ad­vice for triath­letes think­ing of try­ing an off-road triathlon such as Mine over Mat­ter: “You don’t need a fancy moun­tain bike to start. Each year, it’s get­ting cheaper to get a good moun­tain bike, but you can also bor­row from a friend – it’s just about get­ting out there. Lots of triath­letes hes­i­tate be­cause they’re scared to get hurt. There’s no shame in get­ting off the bike and walk­ing it in a race if the course gets too tech­ni­cal. Start with a lo­cal sprint race and go from there. Once you try Xterra you won’t want to go back. It’s ex­cit­ing and stim­u­lat­ing and you get to see some beau­ti­ful nature.”—cd

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