Updated: Jul 30, 2019
Well here we are, 2 weeks out from the big show. By now we are all gett*in*g shape and have a few races under the belt before the tentpole event of the spring, the General Clinton Regatta.
The North East offers a wide variety of events and conditions to challenge even the best paddler. Sandwiched in between the USPP and Ed Wessels race on the Susquehanna river, is Canton Canoe Weekend. Held on the Grasse and Little River, it is one of the best and most well attended events on the spring calendar. The race offers a taste of every condition imaginable; downstream and a technical upstream, small and big water with log jams, corners and tight turns, fast swirly water and boulders. North country weather is always unpredictable, some years it is hot and humid, others snowing or freezing rain.
The race is a looped course, starting downstream for 1 mile, back upstream past the start/finish line, around the top buoy, back down to the bottom buoy and up the side Little River, around a buoy and then back to the finish for a total of 14.5 miles.
Billed as the C1 Pro World Championship race, the money is good and the winners (male and female) get a sweet jacket. Big names such as Steve Lajoie, Guillaume Blais, Mike Davis, the Pellerins, Trevor LeFever, Rebecca Davis, Gloria Wesley, Sarah Lessard and many more showed up this year for pain and glory, with Mike Davis pulling off a spectacular come from behind win, and Rebecca solidifying herself as the best female paddle on the circuit. Rebecca won by a handy 5 minutes, and Mike 45 seconds over yours truly. It was a race for the ages, with Trevor Lefever controlling much of the race.
Going around the bottom buoy and for the first 20 minutes upstream, it was a train of boats trying to hang on. Guillaume, 4th in line, was the first to make a mistake, tipping over after sliding over a log and getting turned sideways toward shore. Doing so caused a split, with Trevor and Steve getting a few waves ahead. Mike, now 3rd in line, was able to bridge back up briefly with me in tow, but we didn't last long, fading back after the massive effort. Trevor, with Steve in tow, quickly built a sizable lead. At this point I was hitting my lactate limit and it was all I could do to stay on Mikes wave. Mike settled into a good rhythm and, after giving himself a few minutes to recover, attacked again, dropping me and was able to catch the first two boats. Now I was in no man's land, caught between the 3 lead boats, and 3 chase boats made up of Guillaume, and Mathieu and Jimmy Pellerin. For the remainder of the upstream I gradually lost time on the leaders, and the 3 behind caught up to my stern at the top buoy.
Trevor, Steve and Mike had about a minute lead going around the buoy, and on the downstream, after I was able to pause and take a SIS gel, things finally started to come back together. I threw caution to the wind, put my head down and started hammering. I knew if we were able to maintain the gap downstream, going into the little river, with some luck we had a shot at catching back up. As we made our way down, I started feeling better and better, slowly closing the gap on the 3 leaders. Guillaume took a hard pull, giving me a much needed, few minute break.
Entering the little river, all 4 of us were now about 45 seconds back, and I really opened it up, hoping to make up ground before the top buoy. About half way up, I came around a corner to the sight of Trevor just getting going again after taking a unfortunate spill. I jumped on his stern and the boat felt like it was moving well. Steve was another corner or 2 ahead, I could see his tempo was lower than usual, a sign that maybe he was starting to fade. Mike was further off up the river. The Little River buoy is always really difficult to get around, but I was able to pass Trevor making the turn, took another SIS and started off after Steve. We caught Steve on the final upstream, about half a mile from the finish line. I was able to get around him, with Trevor in tow, and finished 2nd, 45 seconds behind Mike. What a race!
Sunday was the c2 races, with it being a two horse race between the duos of Steve and Jimmy, and Guillaume and Sam Frigon. Steve and Jimmy came out on top, winning on the last upstream by a handful of seconds.