The only multi-day mountain bike race that includes a train ride

Crank the Shield sends riders to one of Ontario's most stunning regions

Ontario deserves an epic multi-day mountain bike race. And what could be more to the point than one that begins with a scenic train ride to northern Ontario?

Last year, after a three-year hiatus, Crank the Shield returned. And not only did they make a comeback, they moved the race from its longtime home in Haliburton to one of the most scenic parts of the province: the mythical north shore of Lake Superior.

“It was a great reboot after a three-year layoff,” says Crank’s event organizer Sean Ruppel. “This location, the routes and the incredible train ride have all been in the cards for over seven years.”

Crank the Shield is a three-day stage race with a registration fee of $739 which includes a train trip to the event, three days of racing, three meals a day, space for a tent or RV and much more. Fancy amenities such as beds can be had for a premium rate.

Last year drew 180 riders, and Ruppel is confident the numbers will approach 250 this time around.In addition to numerous team and solo categories, there are also ones for e-bikes, single speed and fat bikes.

Heading into this year’s event, which runs Aug 16-18, the train ride has been shortened by 30 minutes and bike storage has been simplified to just handlebars and pedals.

“Last year, some people took up to an hour to simply put the wheels back on,” he says. “So it meant the race started late.”

He says, the route — three stages of 75, 55 and 65 kilometres respectively— will also be shortened by about 15 kilometres.

The race crosses over three major river valleys and takes full advantage of the amazing trails being built around Sault Ste. Marie.

Ruppel has long had a family cottage in the area, and enjoys the opportunity to show off the stunning landscape made famous by the Group of Seven.

“For me, the best part is introducing many new people to what I think is the most spectacular place in the world,” he says. “It’s not uncommon to hear of people driving across the country for the first time, and are shocked to say the prettiest part of Canada isn’t necessarily the Rockies or the West Coast, but the beauty of the north shore of Lake Superior. The land is big, the lake is clear, vast and beautiful yet powerful. And the mountains are the oldest in the world.”

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