Thursday, June 25, 2009

Do Wallabies Live in Tall Trees?

Here's an email cut/paste from original Tall Tree racer David Stachon. He took the big green Niner to New Zealand for a year last summer but will return shortly. He's been keeping busy sightseeing with his family, road racing and even jumping into one of those ironman triathlon thingees... He recently did an enduro style mountain bike race in Rotorua:

It was pretty much like old times....had to leave Saturday at 10am, do a 3.5 hour drive, a pre-ride, stay in a crummy motel, and race on Sunday.

I can't say things went to plan...

1) I borrowed a guy's floor pump in the parking lot and put in 32psi ...which is normally perfect for me; however, I was being bashed around like crazy. It was way too being me, I waited until I was half-way down a 15 minute downhill to do something about it (because I was going nuts). I got off the bike, leaned over the front wheel to open the valve and my forearm pressed against the brake rotor. I managed to nicely scald myself. It actually looks pretty cool now because you can literally see the rotor design burned into my arm in dark red.

2) Following the burning, I continued down the fast downhill. A few minutes later, a wallaby hopped across the trail causing me to lock-up and swerve and eventually end up in the rhubarb. I wasn't hurt, but I bent my derailleur hanger and my shifting was pretty f'd. (with about an hour left to ride)

...point "2" actually made my whole weekend. Sure, the bike was broken, but how often in life does a mtb'r crash because of a wallaby! ...and, there was no way I was going to hit it because it may have started boxing me. Surprisingly, spotting a wallaby in the wild in NZ would be about as rare as spotting a bear in Gatineau. Sure, they are there…but seeing one on a ride doesn’t happen very often.

..overall, of the "Masters" riders I came in 3rd. (which is pretty decent because there were about 40 of us) Ironically, I finished the race with another guy on a 'niner. (not the same model we have though....and naturally, he was a, I'm useless in single-track these days)

That's about as exciting as it gets for me. It's quite cold right now in Auckland so I'm looking forward to summer in O-town.

Anything new with you?

Monday, June 22, 2009

24-no-12 Hours of Summer Solstice 2009

2nd and 3rd! 

Back: Andy, Thom, Matt, Kurtis, Pascal, Rodd
Front: Jamie, Anna, Greg, Jeff
The new team kit was big hit. We had lots of people shouting support: 'Tall Tree Cycles Rocks!' 

The Tall Tree Cycles team had a great 24 hour race this weekend, with members pulling 2nd, 3rd and 4th spots in the 5 person 150-199 category. 
We were all hopeful, but I don't think any of us really thought we'd get away without enduring a good bit of rain on Saturday. We endured more than anyone expected. This was the hardest race I have ever done. Ever.   
By 9pm most of our 15 racers had shown up to our camp site at Albion Hills on Friday night. We enjoyed the luxury of setting up and hanging out in the dry, and a few of us managed to pre-ride the course. I pulled off about half of it before dark, and quite enjoyed it. I hit 55k/hr on one of the descents; I like that. The course would reward both fitness and skill, and offered a lot of opportunity to recover. No much opportunity to eat or drink though. Rough for the solos. Aside from those who arrived late, we all got to be a t a reasonable hour. 
We took a lot of rain overnight. Hours. It came and went, usually with a misting in between, all morning. But the forecast was optimistic. We were too.
I was to start first for Tall Tree Cycles Chlorophyll Power. Our team originated as a mixed 5-person, but after losing Candace due to her cat, Malcolm's sudden illness, we scrambled and took on Andy, thus becoming a 5 person team - not officially mixed. Rodd had done the first lap during his previous umpteen 24 hr races, and was keen to pass the honour to me. I took it as an opportunity to improve on my pacing; I usually go too hard my first time out. It was pouring. We got going and people floundered all over the place. I managed to pass all the way up to the top of the first climb, and moved into the front of the field. Before long I was 7th, and pacing well. I was happy where I was, riding smoothly and pacing myself. About 2/3rds of the way through the lap I ejected my water bottle. I stopped, pulled off, backtracked to get it, and 3 guys I'd been pulling away from passed. Ah well, no big deal. Kept going, pulled some mental moto slides on fast turns, including one that ended up a 180. It was slick by firm. I had a good time and thoroughly tired myself at then end. Then off went Rodd.   
After the first lap there was little rest to be had. Mud had to be cleaned from bodies and bikes, preparations made for the next lap. There never seems to be much time to relax between laps on a 5-person team, almost none if its muddy. Rodd rode a fast lap, Thom had a horrendous crashfest, Anna and Andy rode really well. The other ten guys were also going well, slipping away, then slogging. The course was deteriorating fast. Glenn told me in no uncertain terms that I had to run for the first 3 k of the course. It was unrideable. Bikes were coming in with 20-30 pounds of mud on them. It was a mudfest. Before I headed out the rain subsided for a while. After taking 4 minutes to get up the last hill to the finish, Anna handed off the 'baton' and off I ran. I am not a runner. Nevertheless, it went pretty well, and I covered the section to the best of my ability, and was able to get back on the bike eventually. Then I hammered, and it was great. Traction was better than before, and I was going great. Aside from a dropped chain in a slide, I had a perfect lap. I was very happy. Out went Rodd. The first 3 k was cut out, so he didn't have to run as much. He pulled a fast one. The others had solid laps, considering many climbs had to be run/walked, and chunks of mud cleared from the bike. Sloggy.   
I prepared for my double night lap, to begin some time around 11. Thom and I discussed the scenarios. We both suspected they would call a delay or stop the race. Rolling over the the start/finish, we got the news. The race was now a 12 hour. I would do one lap, and hope to get in before 12 in order to get Rodd out. If I could do this, we could take 1st. Greg's Freeride Friends Forever Development Team was sitting third, Will's Log Drivers fourth.   
Standing in under the tent at the line, the clock ticked past 11. Could I do a lap in less than an hour? Uh, no. However, it was uncertain whether my time could be good enough to pull ahead anyway; we just didn't know. Anna rolled in at 11:25 and I was off. The lap was my hardest ever. Running up hills was so brutal. Again, I am crap runner. Rodd is an awesome runner. But I couldn't get back fast enough to get him out; even in the dry it was impossible. He wanted to get out there though! I was consistent, but did slide and shoulder check a tree, then clip a sapling and eat it into another tree. My left hamstring cramped as I hit the ground. Oh oh. It worked itself out. The final run-up (lets just use cross terms, its appropriate), my quads locked up near my knees. Grimace. keep it going. Finish. Cooked. 2nd place. Done. Greg's team - Kurtis, Jeff, Jamie, Pascal - held third, Will's - Brad, Kent, Glenn, Martin - held fourth. An outstanding showing for a group of riders who, for the most part, don't race. Bike handling was a massive asset, and we had lots of that in the camp. Riding in the Gatineau Park is good for that. We were all more than happy to get a good sleep!
More photos (thanks Kim!) can be found here. Results are here.

The start. Soggy.

My Niner after my last lap. This is way less mud than some had on their bikes.

Kent handled the mud really well

Pop-up tents are essential for these races.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pre-24hr Firetower Excursion

The last time I rode to the Firetower was last summer. Rodd and I did the route from town on our 'cross bikes. Our eyes shook around in our heads a fair bit. We were mentally tired at the end more than anything else. Riding the skinny tires required extreme vigilance. It was fun.

On Sunday Rodd, Greg, Candace, Pascal and I headed out for the ride at 9. It was the first glorious summer-like day I've been out for a ride on this year. Its was spectacular. My Niner shares a few things in common with my 'cross bike, being both 700c rimmed and rigid. However the extra inch of tire on the ground, tubeless no less, makes the world of difference. The bike was in its element, smooth, responsive and efficient. Sure, I bottomed rocks to my front rim a few times, but that's what sealant is for isn't it! If you plan to ride a rigid bike fast, tubeless tires go a long way. Better traction, lower rolling resistance, lighter and harder to flat. Messy too! The Stan's rims are proving superior to the UST Mavics I've used. I love Mavic, but Stan's beadlock simply works better. They are also incredibly strong for the weight. I'm glad I trusted friends who swear by them and gave them a try. 

Le Niner Magic Carpet Ride (MCR)
We confirm our hands are still there, under a tall tree
I treated the group to one of my pairs of see-through shorts. The new team clothing won't arrive a moment too soon; these things have been way too revealing!
Candace is about to pass Pascal and Greg through the middle. No prisoners!
We crossed paths with Anna and her friend Marie-Helene on route. Rodd didn't take a photo of their hommes, Neil and Matt when we encountered them later on. Weird.
Ah, there's Rodd.

Our ride was both eventful and uneventful; in other words, it went swimmingly. We enjoyed a few blazing downhills, had a few close calls on turns and generally had a good time. We ended up with 80-85k all told, riding a total of about 4.5 hours. Aside from a flare-up of a chronic cramp for Greg, I think we were all riding at levels we were happy with. All of us are racing the 24hr this weekend, so we wanted to give our legs a good working on the climbs. Glad to say I think we all needed more climbing that we encountered to really put the hurt on. This bodes well for the weekend. 

We struck a plan to ride the Parkway on Wednesday night and attempt to rip our legs off. The idea will be to warm up at the usual pace, then commence leg and lung torture on Pink. Hitting each climb at the limit should get us just where we need to be for Saturday. We'll incorporate an extra loop into the ride to make the ride a little longer. It'll be paved. We'll meet at the gate at 6:30. So near to the Solstice, it'll be light past 9. What a treat!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I read about Rapha's Gentleman's Race format last year. It was immediately appealing. This video captures the action rather well.

This is the sort of event I'd love to participate in. I don't think I'd be the only one. The most appealing aspect for me is the teamwork. We are slowly learning how to work efficiently together after years of solo within a group pounding on our mtbs. Working well as a unit is very rewarding. Hilly, loose terrain make teamwork even more challenging. In order to draft, one has to forego the ability to see everything. So tire choice is even more important than usual.

This isn't Portland; we'll have to organize a Gentlefolk Race ourselves. Since most of our quiet, hilly roads are dirt, it'll have to be a mixed terrain affair. A few volunteers will likely be necessary. I think it would work best if we organized in concert with a couple other clubs, perhaps the Wheelers and Rendalls. If any of you are reading this, get in touch and we'll start with coming up with a date. I'm thinking a 200k route would be just right, maybe a little less. Teams of five might be ideal. A GPS onboard for each team would suffice to track the route. Navigation would be up to each team, following a prescribed, but unmarked route. Time to start scheming.

Update: Steve sent pics from our snow storm ride a couple weekends ago. I've updated the post with some pics, more here

yes that is snow building up on our arms

This weekend will bring an opportunity to put in a hard, long mtb ride before the 24hr race at Albion Hills next weekend. We'll have between 15 and 20 riders amassed in a tent city, racing in 5 person teams. There will be veterans, and a number of rookies present, all sharing a common goal: ride just shy of exploding, again and again. We're hoping for nice weather, but preparing for the worst. If it gets nasty we'll have to bust out our gnar skills. Either way, we'll have a great time. That's the plan anyway!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rideau Lakes, kinda.

My dad committed to doing the OBC's Rideau Lakes Tour for the first time back in the winter. Getting back into riding after years off the bike, he was to take on two consecutive days of riding that far exceeded any distances he'd ridden before. I decided to set the Sunday aside for an out and back interception ride; we'd ride his last 100k or so together.

A good group of friends signed on to take on the ride. Leaving town around 8, we were seven. While most, if not all of us tend to prefer hilly terrain - and thus do little riding on the Ontario side close to home - I think the flat day was good for all of us. Likely the best thing about it was that we were able to work on rotating through our double paceline. On rough and really hilly terrain its tough to work on this. Disparities in ability and fitness really manifest on challenging terrain. I think we all learned a thing or two during the hour or so we worked on a quick rotation. We know more experienced riders can do it efficiently; we just have to get the hang of staying tight. This spiced up the ride. 

We hit Perth averaging 32, which was pretty good, had lunch, then Jamie, Ariel and I bid farewell to the others heading back to Ottawa while we continued on toward Kingston. The idea was to hit 100k on my computer before turning around. As luck would have it, my dad pulled up as we were stopped at 85k. Homeward bound. 

Even though there were only three of us blocking wind, my dad found it quite strinking how much easier it was to ride behind us. He'd ridden every other kilometer alone. And there was wind. Jamie and Ariel doubled up and I blocked on the traffic side while my dad tried to stay close behind the the inside guy. We rolled pretty consistently at 30, 10k/hr faster than my dad's solo pace. Good news for a man with a sore rump!

Near the city limits Jamie and Ariel headed off to chase a group, and I soon followed. I caught up and we team time trialled all the way back into town. The Hunt Club stretch is strangely fast. I recall other years motoring there, and this time was no different, maintaining 48k/hr for a while. Fun. 

Passing one of the entry points to the Rideau Trail got me thinking of riding to Kingston on the trail during a Rideau Lakes weekend. We could have our bags transported and spend the day offroad. I'm going to look into it. Might be a good time. 

Jamie's computer shows he got over 200k. I've come close many times, but have yet to get there. I think I've been shy by a few ks a few times. Just a silly thing, but I had hoped to get the digits on Sunday. Ah well, I think I'll have to wait until our next Dam/n ride! 

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...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Who knew it could snow heavily this time of year? now with supporting pics

Matt and I had been hankering to get back to the Hastings Highlands since doing our second Hastings Hilly Hundred race last fall. The riding is spectacularly scenic, quiet and tough. Plenty of double digit steepness, with the steepest touching 20% in spots.
So we tried to rally the troops to come on back to Jacques house for a sleep and ride, and many expressed interest, but when the day came Steve was our sole wind buddy.

So off we drive to Jacques, via the scenic route.

Truly unbelievable views on the way up via Renfrew, Dacre, Foymount, Quadeville, Palmer's Rapids, and Combermere.

Arrive at Jacques just as the sun is setting, and unload. It's always a treat to get to enjoy Jacques and Adriennes hospitality at Stone Wall Farm. We are truly blessed to have such a welcoming host and hostess who so patiently open their retreat to a rotating crew of cyclists and cross country skiers. Thanks you two!

So we say our hello's, look over the bikes, admire Jacques tractor, layout clothes for tomorrow, have a snack and to bed by eleven(ish). Weather looked to be cool but sunny next day, chance of precipitation in the afternoon. Less than 1 mm they said (HA! says I)

Roll out after a hearty breakfast at 8ish, promptly plummet down two steep descents.
(which we would rue on the return trip), and hung a right on Siberia Rd.
Familiar terrain, we entered the Hastings route half way up one of the longer sustained climbs on the course, and immediately started warming up. Climbing up to where the checkpoint was last year, and then plummeted down Centreview Rd. to the highway. A short stint on the highway, a left onto Boulter and we were riding some very nice road. Rolling, some short steep pitches, always plummeting off the backside. No traffic, and those that did pass gave us plenty of room. Always a wave too.

Jacques left us as he had an appointment with a Rototiller, and pointed us on our way.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong way, but thankfully we noticed after only 3 or 4 km, when we came to a T that wasn't supposed to be there.

Puzzled and looking at our map a kind soul in a pickup helped us get back on track.
Some dark clouds had spun in, and suddenly it was blowing quite a bit more, and some rain and hey what's that? Snow! And it was.

Unfortunately, I don't have photographic evidence of the snowstorm that hit us, but Steve does, and just as soon as he gets back from San Fran, I'll show ya. (edit ha see there they are!). So snow hail, rain and wind for about 45 minutes to an hour on and off. If it wasn't so miserable it would have been spectacular. I do remember one instance when we all looked to our right, with the wind off our right shoulder, curtains of snow were dancing across an open pasture, in waving sheets. Truly a sight. Unfortunately, we were under dressed, thin gloves (i had brought my short fingered gloves in my jacket in anticipation of warmer temps.) Such a fool. But I was wearing wool to the skin, on top, knickers and ski socks down below, so really only my hands truly suffered.

At any rate, we all got thoroughly soaked. And covered in snow. Then the wind picked up (!) and the sun came out. The temperatures never rose much though. Made for a chilly ride. Uphills were a dream, downhills were to be dreaded.

We made it home, 130 km covered, 1900 m or so climbed, and only needed to stop once due to uncontrollable shivering. Not bad I'd say. The rest of the ride was beautiful.
Hard, but beautiful. Remember those steep descents we had at the start of the ride.
15% plus.

Hope Steve will still be our friend.

More pics here