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Mountain bikers get ready to ‘Crank the Shield’

The three-day event features over 165 km of challenging and scenic trails

Mountain bike enthusiast and event organizer Sean Ruppel is putting the finishing touches on some of the area’s northern trails in preparation for Crank the Shield – the only multi-day mountain bike stage race in Ontario.

From Friday to Sunday, riders will experience beautiful views and challenging trails of three stages of intense mountain biking.

Beginning at Batchawana Station on Friday, participants will bike 75 km to Stokely Creek Lodge on day one, then a 55-km trek to Searchmont on day two, and finally a 35-km trail to Hiawatha on day three.

Participants will stay overnight at Stokely Creek Lodge for both evenings, busing back and forth between each event. They will also have the chance to visit Harmony Beach and other notable locations during the afternoons and evenings after each leg is complete.

The weekend spectacular will wrap up at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre for an afterparty at 7 p.m. on Sunday for live music, refreshments, and an awards show.

Since its inception in 2008, Crank the Shield had been running in Haliburton, Ontario before Ruppel moved the stage race to the Sault area in 2018.

The event faced postponements the last two summers, so Ruppel is excited to get going again with around 150 riders from across the country expected to participate.

“It’s a better turnout this year than I thought it would be,” he said.

“It’s really fun, but it’s also just really pretty. It’s nice to introduce people to new areas.”

From the biking paths, to the scenery, and everything in between – Ruppel says each day is different.

“The first day is true backcountry wilderness mountain bike riding,” he says. “A lot of people don’t do that anymore because they’re obsessed with the new-age single track. Day two is a mix of new single track with the old and big country.”

With help from the Kinsmen Club, the Sault’s tourism sector has recently invested in expanding the biking trails up north, which are featured along the event’s third day of the challenge.

Alana Kenopic, manager of tourism and travel development with the city, is beyond excited to have the newly established trail network receive international exposure.

“This is a great opportunity for us to showcase these new trails to high level riders who are coming here for that experience,” she says. “They want to see the new single track because they want to try and challenge themselves. It’s a great pinnacle where we’re ending the race, and a great way to tie it all in and build up Crank the Shield.”

“It’s a phenomenal ride,” Ruppel adds. “I’ve had a ton of support from Sault Ste. Marie.”

Unlike years past, the Agawa Canyon Tour Train will be unavailable to take participants up to Batchawana Station for the first leg of the race, so bikers will be bussed to stage one instead.

Despite the post-pandemic challenges of event planning, Kenopic gives huge props to Ruppel for managing to pull off the race.

“COVID has overlayed a series of challenges for event hosting in general,” she says. “We’re happy this event has come out on the other side of the pandemic. It’s hard for any event organizer to be able to pull off successful events. We’re looking forward to showcasing the Sault, reminding people that we’re an event city, and that we get behind our events.”

For more information on Crank the Shield, visit here.

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Alex Flood

About the Author: Alex Flood

Alex is a recent graduate from the College of Sports Media where he discovered his passion for reporting and broadcasting
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