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Crank the Shield organizer first-ever winner of new Tourism Award

Sean Ruppel brought annual epic three-day bicycle event from southern Ontario to Sault and area
20191107-Sean Ruppel Tourism Sault Ste. Marie awards photo supplied
Sean Ruppel accepted the Tourism Choice Award for the annual Crank the Shield bicycle event in the Sault and Algoma region at the 17th annual Tourism Awards held by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, Nov. 7, 2019. Photo supplied by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie

Sean Ruppel, Superfly Racing president, was honoured at Thursday evening’s 17th annual Tourism Awards, hosted by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie at The Water Tower Inn.

Ruppel received the new ‘Tourism Choice Award’ for Crank the Shield, a gruelling three-day sports tourism trek for mountain bikers throughout the Sault and Algoma region, which Ruppel first brought to the area (away from its traditional southern Ontario location) in 2018.

Born in southern Ontario and a Muskoka resident, Ruppel’s family has roots in the Sault and area dating back to the 19th century, the family owning a camp at Batchawana Bay since 1932.

He has spent his summers there since 1975, stating he visits family members in the Sault “four to six times a year.” 

“There is certainly a lot of background here, and that’s largely why I brought Crank the Shield here,” Ruppel said, speaking to SooToday after the awards ceremony.

The summer of 2019 marked the second consecutive year Crank the Shield has challenged and thrilled bicyclists from the Sault, from across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

“Next year we’re going to take a break from the full event. We’re going to do something in town, we’re going to do a weekend event of some magnitude in 2020, and the year after we’re going to reboot it to the way it was this year, in 2019.”

“It feels fantastic,” Ruppel told us after accepting the award.

“I came up knowing I was in the running for an award, maybe for event of the year or tourism ambassador, but I didn’t know this new award category existed. It feels great to be the first in on a new award for sure.”

“I think they (Tourism Sault Ste. Marie) recognize my passion for the area and my desire to bring people up here. When I was younger I remember always wanting my friends to come up to see this place. I would describe it to them and they couldn’t understand the breadth and the majesty and the size of the Lake Superior region. I’ve been able to bring up many friends of mine and they really love it,” Ruppel said.

“We’re really excited Sault Ste. Marie is investing in mountain biking events. Crank the Shield can’t take all the credit but it could have been part of the impetus that got them thinking about it.”

“Mountain biking is going to be continually a huge part of the tourism landscape for Sault Ste. Marie,” Ruppel said.

Approximately 170 bicyclists took part in 2019’s Crank the Shield.

Of his role as Crank the Shield’s main organizer, Ruppel said, “You run the gamut of emotions running an event like this. You go from high stress to a feeling of really having accomplished something, and every emotion in between.”

“The 2019 Crank the Shield ran as flawlessly as an event could, finishing the event on a real high. We had a lot of positives... a lot of people are already really clamouring for the full 2021 event to happen again, but giving it a rest actually allows us to spend more time on trail development and put together an even better Crank the Shield in 2021.”

A news release from Tourism Sault Ste. Marie follows, with a full list of winners from Thursday’s awards ceremony.


The envelope, please! Tourism Sault Ste. Marie hosted its 17th annual Tourism Awards last night. Held at the Water Tower Inn, the ceremony recognized the people, organizations and businesses that go above and beyond to welcome visitors to the community. The 2019 winners are:

  • Tourism Award of Excellence: Frank O’Connor, a longtime tourism advocate and owner of the Voyageurs’ Lodge & Cookhouse.
  • Business of the Year: John Giuliani’s Fishing Adventures, a company that provides guided fishing tours on the St. Marys River and area lakes to visitors from around the world.
  • Event of the Year: 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Winter Games, which was hosted by the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.
  • Customer Service Award: Erroll ‘Bud’ Stewart, Maintenance Lead at Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre.
  • Tourism Ambassador Award: Entomica, Sault Ste. Marie’s only insectarium, which offers hands-on experience with creepy crawlers in a fun, safe and educational capacity.
  • Tourism Choice Award: Crank the Shield, a multi-day cycling odyssey that took place on Algoma region trails in August 2018 and August 2019.

“From major events and cruise ship visits, to new cycling trails and other infrastructure projects, it has been a solid year for the local tourism sector,” said Jennifer King-Callon, Director of Travel and Tourism for Tourism Sault Ste. Marie. 

“It’s great to honour the people, businesses and organizations for their role in fostering the Sault’s visitor-friendly reputation. I thank the 2019 Tourism Award winners and nominees for all that they do to support our industry and our entire community.”


Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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