Race to the top

May 3, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

She juggled classes, acclimatized in a sauna, postponed assignments and mid-terms, and flew more than 16,000 km across two continents on short notice just to be there—and that was the easy part.

The real challenge for SFU cycling dynamo Jean Ann McKirdy came on March 24 when she began South Africa's eight-day, 900-kilometre ABSA Cape Epic, one of the most demanding and competitive bike races in the world.

McKirdy and her South African partner faced tough competition from more than 1,000 other cyclists, climbing some 16,000 metres in elevation over paved highways, dirt roads and loose rocky hillsides with no roads at all.

When it was over, McKirdy and her teammate, local bike-shop owner Geddan Ruddock, were on top. "We placed third in five of the eight stages, second on day four, and third overall in the mixed category," says the third-year biology and psychology major, who just finished her final exams and assignments.

McKirdy agreed to compete when Ruddick's original partner dropped out at the last minute, but she had virtually no time to train with him.

"We only had two rides together before race day and the long days in the heat were a bit of a new experience for me," she says.

"I think that we adjusted well though, and I was willing to learn and push myself. We had a puncture the first day and disappointingly came up short of the podium, but over the next few days things began to come together."

Now that she's recovered from the Epic, McKirdy's looking forward to the racing season in Canada.

"It was an amazing event in a beautiful country, but now I'm looking forward to events in our beautiful country."

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