It’s a long, long way from the tiny skate parks of Sturgeon Falls to the heights of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Yet that is exactly the voyage that Paul Guenette will undertake later this summer when he competes at the Leadville 100.
It was not at all the vision the now 26-year-old veteran of the Walden Mountain Bike Club could have predicted in his childhood.
“I grew up playing hockey,” he said. “Biking was during the summer, doing dirt jumps at the skate park, doing normal teenager stuff.”
In fact, it was only his move into Sudbury to pursue Civil and Mining Engineering studies at College Boreal just less than a decade ago that unveiled to the eldest of two boys a world he never imagined.
“When I came to Sudbury for school, I went out exploring by myself, doing some trails, doing some road stuff with my heavy 40-pound dirt jumping bike,” Guenette recollected. “In 2008, I entered the Sudbury Fitness Challenge in Naughton, my first-ever race.
“I entered the shorter distance, which was only 26 kilometres back then, because I had no idea what I was getting into, and I won it by five minutes. That’s when I got approached about racing. I had no idea this even existed, the racing aspect.”
It did not take Guenette long to fully immerse himself in his new passion, joining the Wolfpak Racing Team by the spring of 2009.
“I started doing the O-Cup series, and I haven’t stopped doing it since.”
Looking back, the local cyclist maintains the foundation to his current success was very much set in his formative years, learning to maneouvre his primary piece of equipment long before he even understood the technical demands of mountain bike courses in Northern Ontario.
“The bikes are completely different, but the abilities and the skills transfer right across,” said Guenette. “Your bike-handling skills, how you take jumps – compared to people down south who just race their whole life, they don’t have those technical skills. The trail systems in southern Ontario are completely different than in Sudbury, just the landscape alone.”