Winning a seven-stage mountain bike race is a pretty good feat in itself. When you do that training on the rather flat Manitoba prairies, well that's just borderline ridiculous.
But that's exactly what Portage la Prairie's Don Sissons, 48, and teammate Bill Benson, 52, on the Syngenta Prairie Boys did, claiming stages three through seven to win the 100+ class -- the combination of both riders ages were over at or over 100 -- of the TransRockies Challenge in British Columbia last week.
"The TransRockies and TransAlps are the two biggest races for stage racing on the globe," Sisson said, putting the magnitude of his victory into perspective. He competed in the TransAlps race last summer in Europe.
"Stage racing is different than a one-day mountain bike race," he said. "Stage racing is usually seven or eight days over considerable distance over some pretty crazy terrain. It's becoming of more interest to the racing community as the years go by. The TransRockies has run for six years and the TransAlps for 12 now."
In the 24-team race that took the riders from Panorama, B.C. to Fernie, B.C., the Syngenta Prairie Boys over took the Zootallures in the sixth stage and never looked back in the final length.
"It's totally full each year," Sissons said. "There are difficult races to get into. The TransAlps has a 3,500 team waiting list to get into that race. It's nice when you have a chance to win one of these races that you have an invitation extended to you to attend to other races. It allows you to get into some of these big races, too."
Given that most competitors that are based in the mountains see Manitoba as a small mole hill at best, Sissons has to be a little creative when it comes to training.
"You basically find a little hill and you do lots of intervals," he explained. "You ride into the wind and do whatever it takes to be able to compete with guys that have the advantage of living in the mountains.
"My partner is from Falcon Lake and he has a little more of an advantage for rough, rocky terrain that he rides in. Myself, I train locally in Portage here and I've got an old city dump hill and a hill on the Portage bypass that I go up and train on.
There are also local races in some of the more bumpy areas of the province that Sissons races in to stay in shape.
"I raced on the Manitoba race series, which takes us across the province to different race venues, so there's some different variable race terrain that we get to during the season," said Sissons.
"I'm a farmer, so I usually try to go one larger race in the summer and do as many of the Manitoba Cycling Association races that I can."
There isn't much prize money in stage mountain bike racing yet, but that's not why Sissons does it.
"It's the glory of participating in these races," Sissons said of what draws him to the sport.
"The TransRockies had $20,000 prize money that split between the winning teams and the different age categories. Plus each stage that you win during the race, the top three teams, there's prizes for that."