This new series profiles some of the notable people in the Township, and why they love to live, work and play in Oro-Medonte. They people that live here in Oro-Medonte are the experts, they are connected to the place and have a passion for the local culture and community. We aim to highlight and share their stories and favourite places.
For the past 25 years, Oro-Medonte has been a celebrated destination and training ground for world-class mountain biking and cycling athletes, this is showcased at the Hardwood Ski and Bike National Championships, in July 2022, one of many cycling events that happen in Oro-Medonte and bring people from all over the province and country.
Local Oro-Medonte resident Andrew Watson is one of these cycling athletes. Based in Craighurst, Andrew is a specialized athlete and cycling coach with a long list of accomplishments behind his name. Winner of four Canada Cup Championships in cross country mountain biking, and multiple Provincial Championships across four disciplines (Mountain Biking, Road, Hill Climb and Cyclocross), Andrew has raced internationally in World Cups, Pan American championships and prestigious Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) races. A proud member of the Canadian National Cycling team from 2004 to 2012, Andrew’s passion for cycling anchors him firmly to the township.
“Oro-Medonte has some of the best trails and cycling opportunities in the world,” says Andrew. “Our expansive trail network – both public and private – is truly world-class. We have terrific mountain biking and road riding here, and a vibrant cycling community that I’m lucky to be part of.”
Through his Horseshoe Valley business AWI Coaching, Andrew works with a select pool of master and elite athletes, providing in-person and virtual performance training all year round. Many of the athletes coached by Andrew have reached international podiums.
Andrew also helps people from Oro-Medonte and beyond to improve their cycling skills by providing lessons locally. Regardless of their current skill level, riders of various ages and skill levels can book individual or small group lessons right here in Oro-Medonte. Lessons can be focused on mountain biking, road or cyclo-cross and last typically one to three hours. “It’s a great way to boost confidence and improve technical know-how,” says Andrew.
To encourage more kids and adults to get on mountain bikes and learn new skills, Andrew also coordinates the AWI Cycling Club from his home base in Oro-Medonte. This Ontario Cycling Association-affiliated cycling club is dedicated to youth and community cycling development. He also coaches young riders to compete in the prestigious Ontario Cup series.
Love Where You Live
Andrew feels that Oro-Medonte is an unparalleled place to live and work: “Oro-Medonte is a phenomenal area with four vibrant seasons, giving us amazing sports opportunities. If water sports is your thing, you can enjoy stand up paddleboarding, swimming or angling. If you enjoy skiing, you can explore several amazing nordic and alpine trails. It almost goes without saying that we have stellar mountain biking here, and Hardwood Ski & Bike and Horseshoe Resort are almost right at our doorstep. You can basically do awesome stuff 356 days a year, right in your backyard.” Andrew, who grew up in the Bradford area, also favours Oro-Medonte for its close proximity to Toronto. He travels often for biking competitions, and being close to Pearson airport is a huge benefit. “It’s the best of both worlds,” he says.
Best Cycling Spots
Andrew’s favourite location to go mountain biking in Oro-Medonte is the Copeland Forest.
During the pandemic, interest in cycling and mountain biking saw an uptick. But there is still plenty of space – and exciting terrain – for new folks to explore, he says: “The trail system in Copeland Forest is truly spectacular. The forest itself is a whopping 4,400 acres in size. It has something to offer beginner riders who haven’t been on a bike since they were a kid, all the way up to daredevil athletes looking for their next adventure.”
Favourite Local Businesses
Andrew’s favourite local businesses are Hardwood Ski & Bike and HQ Restaurant & Taphouse.
“Hardwood Ski & Bike is a great place for biking beginners,” he explains. “It has a history as a training ground for national champions and olympians, and it is an invaluable space for those wishing to try mountain biking.”
Because cycling always seems to work up a good appetite, Andrew recommends going to HQ Restaurant & Taphouse in Craighurst for some post-cycling food and drink: “It’s my go-to place to gather with other cyclists and sip a rewarding cold drink after biking.”
This summer, Andrew also recommends checking out a new mountain biking exhibit running at the Simcoe County Museum. ‘Making Tracks – Mountain Biking in Simcoe County’ explores the evolution of the sport in the region and shows how Simcoe County – including Oro-Medonte – has been a training ground to top-flight athletes over the past 25 years.
For more information on Andrew’s cycling, please visit the AWI Coaching website.
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