Central Manitoulin elite athletes share their passion for their sport

MANITOULIN—Two elite athletes who used to call Manitoulin home are rocking the sports world. Cindy Lewis, formerly of Spring Bay and now living in Toronto, and Evan Bayer, also of Central Manitoulin, and living in Calgary, are posting excellent marks with Ms. Lewis participating in triathlon events and Mr. Bayer showing outstanding results in road bike racing.

The triathlon consists of swimming, cycling and running with the three in succession, but can be in different distances. The sprint distance has the lowest length, then the standard, long and lastly, the ultra distance. Ms. Lewis participates in the Ironman Triathlon which is an ultra distance event. It includes a 3.86 kilometre swim, followed by a 180.25 kilometre bike ride and a 42.2 kilometre run, which is known as a marathon. Any athlete who completes these events under 17 hours then becomes an Ironman. This triathlon is considered to be one of the most arduous one-day events in the world. Ms. Lewis entered her first triathlon event in Tennessee in 2007 and began racing as a professional Ironman athlete in 2011. She has won numerous top 10 finishes in Ironman and Half Ironman events and recently finished the Ironman Austria. Her personal best time of 9.29 hours was posted at Ironman Texas and, as she explained, this was a race where everything went right.

“There are so many things that might not go your way during such a big event,” Ms. Lewis said, “from equipment issues to nutrition issues, injuries and mental focus. This particular race went well all around and I ended up finishing with a one minute personal best for me. The Ironman Louisville has been the most difficult a few times and that is because of the heat. In 2014 it was almost 45 degrees Celsius with humidity.”

Ms. Lewis’s parents Bev and Fred Lewis live in Evansville and her mom spoke to The Expositor about her daughter’s athletic proficiency. “We moved to the Island when she was 10,” she noted, “and Cindy got interested in track and field in public school and carried on into high school and university. She won female of the year in grade school and was first more than once in track and field events and also won awards in university.” Indeed, Ms. Lewis has been an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) all-star and was named a Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU), now Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), all-Canadian athlete.

Ms. Lewis has a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto and also acts as a running, cycling, triathlon and strength training coach.

Mr. Bayer has been interested in road racing for years. “I used to watch the France in high school,” he told The Expositor, “then get on my bike and see how fast I could time travel around Lake Mindemoya. I knew fairly early that I had talent on the bike, more talent than I ever did running, but was hesitant to get involved in the sport because of the cost and the lack of avenues into the sport in Northern Ontario. For years there were bills and student loans to pay and it just seemed easier to put on a pair of running shoes and head out the door.”

Mr. Bayer is certainly right about the cost of road racing. His two bikes retailed between $3,500 and $4,500 and a powermeter for each bike was $1,200 with race wheels going for $1,000, if you can get a deal. “Add the cost of new chains, ties, cassettes, tubes every few hundred kilometers and it adds up to be an expensive hobby. In short, I could put a down payment on a house for the money I have put into cycling but I don’t regret it for a second. This is also part of the reason I enjoy riding with The Lead Out Project. All of our prize money gets pooled and at the end of the season we buy bikes for kids interested in getting into bike racing.”

Mr. Bayer was in a spin class at a local gym when the instructor asked if he was interested in racing and Mr. Bayer said, “it was basically the kick in the ass I needed to bite the bullet and buy a good bike, jerseys, shorts, helmet, shoes and gloves. I told her I was interested and a week later I was joining her team.”

Bike racing has five different categories and it didn’t take long for Mr. Bayer to win races and move up to the top category and win the Provincial Road Race and time trial. “This,” said Mr. Bayer, “got the attention of Dave Holmes who was starting a new competitive team called The Lead Out Project.”

Mr. Bayer races between 25 and 30 races a season. As he explained, some races are standalone and some are stage races, which are multiple races in one weekend and can consist of a time trial which varies between five and 40 kilometres, a road race from 110 to 185 kilometres and a criterium which ranges from 45 minutes plus three laps on a roughly one-kilometre course to 75 minutes plus three laps.

“Cycling is like decathlon in a way,” Mr. Bayer spelled out. “The best cyclist at one discipline or event isn’t necessarily the best at all of them. To be competitive in all disciplines requires a huge variety of training.”

Mr. Bayer has won many races and in the past year, has raced in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Oregon. When asked if he gets to Manitoulin to visit family and friends often, Mr. Bayer said, “Two to three times a year on average. I usually get home in the summer for a week or two, in November for a few days to deer hunt with my dad and brother and I am always home for Christmas. I both love and miss Manitoulin.”