Rio-Games-hopeful Andrew Yorke may be the future of Canadian triathlon. But he’s definitely got a future planning the future of cycling in Headwaters. Sitting down with him was quite the ride, spanning life-saving health diagnoses, four-day cycling itineraries, and how mellow music makes him anything but.
Orangeville saved your life.
In 2008 after a long period of worsening health, the Headwaters Hospital finally diagnosed me with a staph infection and an epidural abscess. Surgery at St. Mikes, twenty-six staples in my back, a month on an IV… I thought I’d never race again.
Here we are, eight years later and you’re currently ranked to qualify in the Olympic Games.
Well, my final race is May 15. I’ll need two top finishes: I have one currently and am ranked to qualify, but then I’m going to have to be selected by Canada for a spot. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew was named to the Canadian Olympic Triathlon Team]
What drew you to triathlon?
I liked riding my bike and enjoy being outside. I was competitive and racing against other people drew me to it. And the town of Caledon got behind me as I improved to racing nationally and internationally.
Headwaters, Caledon — they’re tailor-made for long, endurance sports. Running, skiing…
Well, yeah! Cross-country is huge up there. There is a definitely some sort of a distance and a cardio connection. The terrain definitely attracts that kind of people. You’ve got the Bruce Trail, the Rail Trail, there are so many places to run.
Is there a particular place where you tell people, “If you really want to have a beautiful ride, here is where you should go?”
A lot of the time people want a challenge so they come to Caledon because there are hills. A lot of the roads in North America are on a grid system; north, south, east, west. There is not a lot of tactical skill needed to road bike. When you come to Caledon there’s still the grid system — so you don’t get lost — but there is switch back climbs (roads that zig-zag up instead of climbing straight up.). And on top of that are great dirt roads. Dirt riding on a modified road bike is exploding in popularity right now because there is no cars on those roads.
I’d say we do about 50% of our riding on dirt roads. And most people that come to Caledon see the dirt roads but don’t think about cycling down them. But surprisingly, they are technically a bit more challenging, but a lot more fun. You see more, you get away from the city and people. You can stop in any of the small towns, get a coffee or food. You don’t need to be someone who is a hard core athlete. You can get on your bike and go riding for an hour. And go town to town.
What a fantastic idea: the Headwaters cycle trail.
You’ve got to make a link between various municipalities. You could start, in say, Niagara/ Hamilton. It seems far but it is only 100 km from Caledon. You could do a ride and start in Hamilton, then head towards Melville, they have beautiful riding, they have Rattlesnake Park. That would be your halfway point, and then you could ride into Caledon and make some stops along the way. From there you could spend a couple days and then end up at Georgian Bay. It’s like a four day ride, maybe 220 km. Someone who isn’t that into cycling could do it over four to five days; someone who is into cycling could do it in a day or two.
On your Canadian Olympic Team bio it says, “Always listens to the same two songs on race day.” Is it jinxing you to say what those songs are that you play?
That is true! I normally listen to Pulmonary Archery by Alexisonfire, and then stuff like Bon Iver which is very mellow and chill. And that will still get me as pumped up as the hardest music.
It allows you to get in touch with your emotions and race off that. It’s been a big part of my performance. If I can’t get in touch with that, it’s not like I am going to have a bad race… but I if I can I know that something good is going to happen.