All 13 of top teams at sprints finish in C-2 race’s top 13 on Sunday
Spike’s Challenge champions Steve Lajoie and Guillaume Blais post event’s best sprint time
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
This year’s Spike’s Challenge C-2 race champions – Steve Lajoie and Guillaume Blais, both of Quebec – posted the top time at the Spike’s Challenge sprints for position event on Saturday.
Year after year, the top sprinters consistently finish near the top during the race, making the sprints for position an event that can provide a good forecast of which teams fans can expect to be near the top of the leader board. This year, all 13 of the top 13 teams at the sprints for position event on Saturday also placed in the top 13 during the Spike’s Challenge C-2 race on Sunday.
In 2016, 12 of the top 13 teams at sprints also finished in the top 13 during the Spike’s Challenge. In 2015, 14 of the top 16 teams at sprints for position also placed in the top 16 during the Spike’s Challenge C-2 race. In 2014, 10 of the top 11 finishers for the Spike’s Challenge C-2 race also placed in the top 11 during the sprints for position competition.
The 2016 Spike’s Challenge C-2 race featured a record field with 84 teams. Event organizers expected lower numbers this year. The 2017 Spike’s Challenge – the 26th C-2 race in the event’s history – featured 66 teams.
For the 66 teams in this year’s race, if they wanted to be at the front of the line for the C-2 race event’s running start on Sunday, they had to earn it on Saturday during sprints for position.
At sprints, teams paddled upstream first on the pond in the city park, went through a narrow opening under a railroad bridge, turned around at a buoy near the courthouse, paddled downstream, went under the railroad bridge a second time, and finished at the starting area near the pedestrian bridge in the park.
Posting a strong sprint time and getting a spot near the front for the running start can be a significant advantage; it means fewer teams near you and in front of you, less traffic to work around, and fewer teams near you once you get to the water. Being in the middle and toward the back of the pack can be a challenge with such a large part of the total field trying to get into the water all at the same time. This year, with the new dock at the Old AuSable Fly Shop, teams were allowed to run farther before entering the water, but most teams put their canoes into the river at the usual spot by the Marathon’s starting banner.
The running start of the Spike’s Challenge is similar to that of the AuSable River Canoe Marathon – a 120-mile race from Grayling to Oscoda slated for Saturday, July 29 – but the Marathon’s run is longer and usually has a few more teams. Many Marathon teams use the Spike’s Challenge as a warm-up race.
In both races, paddlers enter the water at the dock at the Old AuSable Fly Shop. The Spike’s Challenge finishes at McMasters Bridge (the fourth AuSable Marathon timing location).
This year’s Spike’s Challenge C-2 race featured 66 teams, 61 of which competed in the Expert Division. Of those 61, 49 competed in the sprints for position event on Saturday. Teams that do not sprint have to start in the back for the C-2 race’s running start. Expert II Division teams are not required to sprint; three of them did and two did not.
This year, in the Expert Division, sprint times ranged from 4:28.4 to 7:12.4.
Lajoie and Blais posted the time of 4:28.4. Mike Davis and Weston Willoughby took second place in the race and at sprints; they had a sprint time of 4:35.3 on Saturday. Andy Triebold and Mary Schlimmer finished third at sprints with a time of 4:39.8 and they took fourth in the Spike’s Challenge C-2 race.
Wes Dean and Jason Hatfield were fifth in both events, posting a sprint time of 4:41.5. Christophe Proulx and Russ Reker took sixth at sprints (4:41.6) and eighth in the race. Rich Lauth and Kyle Mynar finished seventh in both events; they had a sprint time of 4:46.1.
Ted Smutek and Matt Gabriel were eighth at sprints (4:49.2) and sixth in the C-2 race. Patrick Madden and Phil Millspaugh were ninth in both events. Madden and Millspaugh had a sprint time of 4:51.0. Trevor Robinson and Bill Torongo finished 10th in both events; their sprint time was 4:54.8.
Wade Binion and Henner Cruz were the 11th place team at sprints (4:56.1) and they took 12th at the Spike’s Challenge on Sunday. Danny Medina and Austin Weiler posted the event’s 12th best sprint time at 4:57.7 and they had the 11th best time during the race to McMasters. Sean Brabant and Kyle Stonehouse were 13th in both competitions, posting a sprint time of 5:06.5.
Complete results of the 2017 Spike’s Challenge C-2 sprints for position are available on the Internet at the AuSable River Canoe Marathon’s official website: www.ausablecanoemarathon.org.