Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Racing Recap

I feel like I haven't been around 'ol O-Town much these days. I was bummed to miss the Damned Big Bike Ride the other week but also happy to be mountain bike racing with good friends and good results. The weekends have been pretty busy this past month -- here's some highlights:

Albion Hills -- Ontario Cup #2

I usually really like racing here -- fast, smooth and flowing -- a real race course and nice counterbalance to Quebec's rocky wet courses. Especially early in the season. That's why I wasn't happy to see rain and huge mudbogs at Albion this year. The smooth, fast doubletrack had some unrideable sections that really took the life out of my legs... I slogged in for fourth place in the Old Man Expert race. My girl Trish pulled off a 6th place in the Elite race for her first real mountain bike ride of the year -- not bad at all! Anna is continuing to learn the ropes of Elite racing and finished satisfied. Neil had the ride of the weekend with 12th in the Elite Men race. After breaking his ankle last winter he likely had some fitness doubts that were put to rest after Albion. Good job.

Syracuse Road Race

Trish's road team were competing in this two day (three stage)race so I decided to tag along and race the final day's big road race. My ambitions for the race were pretty low: make all the splits and be there to contest the finish. Mission accomplished. This actually turned out to be a satisfying accomplishment as the course was very hilly (including a 1.2km uphill drag to the finish) and windy. I completely bungled the uphill slow motion sprint and finished 6th. By that point the climbs had reduced the "peloton" to 8 survivors so I was glad to be there. Trish's team dominated the women's event and she finished 2nd overall to her teammate Sue.

Mont Tremblant Canada Cup

This is one of my favourite races of the year. The complete opposite of something like Albion Hills: significant climbing and some seriously insane descending. This has been an odd season though and this year the Tremblant race was (gasp!) dry! Still the opposite of Albion Hills, but in an opposite way -- confused yet? Either way, rocks, roots, a bit of mud, bridge structures, cobbles(!) and the always competitive Quebec racers always make this a memorable one. It's the kind of course that can either leave you with a really satisfying feeling of accomplishment or a lot of self doubt. This year I left happy! Third place behind the ubiquitous Jon Barnes of O-Cup fame.

In years past I really used to dread this course -- the sloppy rock strewn descents were just too much. The last couple of years I've had personal best results there and I (seriously!) attribute it to my bike. The big green Niner hardtail with a 100mm Fox F29 is absolutely perfect for this kind of racing. Light and fast for the climbs but also extremely stable descending. A couple of years ago I switched from a 29er to a 4" travel 26" wheeled full suspension race bike. I really did have Tremblant/Fortune in mind when making the switch. I figured the rear suspension would make me a descending star. Not at all. Getting the Niner with a longer travel fork, Avid Ultimate brakes, XO/XTR drivetrain and Stan's wheels was like a revelation. I can't think of a bike I'd trade this thing for.

Okay, I'm officially hogging the blog now...


Matt Surch said...


You've gotten to a great start. I'm really impressed by your road finish; well played! And terrific mtb races. I have to say I agree with you on the merits of the big wheels for racing. Even with a rigid fork, my MCR is proving to be quite stable and quick now that I have a shorter stem and wider bars on. I've decided that 29ers need reasonably wide bars for technical riding. Keep on truckin.

rob.parniak said...

I agree on the wide bars Matt. I'm running the big sweep Niner bars at about 26.5". Just this morning I was reading something about the benefits of wide bars that made a lot of sense -- they provide leverage on the front wheel. That's obvious. But it's not for turning the bike -- it takes very little leverage to really turn a bicycle. The wide bar provides leverage AGAINST all the nasty things that are trying to turn your wheel -- rocks, roots, bumps etc. That's where the stability comes from. The bars don't really allow you to turn better -- they allow you to control all the things that are trying to turn you... Makes sense to me.

Matt Surch said...

100% in agreement Rob. Last year I suffered from more endos than probably the prior three years combined. I even endoed uphill. I simply dodo not have enough leverage to resist the wheel flopping at times. This gave me the false impression that the big wheels were not suited to more technical riding. I only think this is the case for ultra steep stuff now, since the bb is higher than a 26.