Monday, May 24, 2010

Canada Cup #2 Mont Tremblant: Preparation Meets Opportunity

Tall Tree Cycles/Steelwool Bicycles Results:
Senior Elite
- Neil Schiemann - 33rd 
Masters 30-39 Expert
- Matt Surch - 2nd
- Rob Parniak - 7th
- David Stachon - DNF (damaged tire due to being t-boned!)

Back in the winter I penciled in the Mont Tremblant stop of the Canada Cup circuit of mtb racing. Tremblant is closeby, the whole mtb race crew would be there, and I expected to be in good enough shape to enjoy the racing, at least to some degree. I figured I might as well try a hard race and see how the road riding and racing would prepare me. This was all part of my MASTER PLAN to put in a really good ride with my 4-man team at June's Albion Hills 24hr race. 

Fast forward to last Wednesday night, when the bulk of us opted to put our phat tires to dirt rather than skinnies to tarmac. We met up at Camp Fortune after Rodd and I rolled up from town, and proceeded to pound rocks and roots for a couple hours. Long story short, I tore the sidewall of my rear tire 5 minutes into the group ride, crashed and lost a bottle later on, and took a couple brutal insect bites I'm still working on healing. The outing was my first mtb ride in the Park, and second on trails for the year, just in time for Tremblant, I figured. Scramble, sort out the tires, and off we go Saturday morning: David "The Joker" Stachon, my lovely wife and daughter, and myself, comfortably sat in Dave's FIT. Or is it F-it? Your pick.

Despite my poor navigation, we arrived in time to pick up our plates, get changed, find Anna, who was playing a support role for the day, and do a bit of warmup before the start. Oh yeah, thanks to John Barnes, we also picked up our timing chips...kinda important those.

Neil through the lower part of the big descent.
David, Neil and Rob all offered up as much wisdom on the course in advance as they could muster. Number one priority was proper tires. The course tends to be pretty hairy, featuring some solid open fireroad climbs, rolling technical singletrack, and technical downhill in the woods. On their advice, I opted to run a 2.2 Kenda Nevegal on the front, and a 2.2 WTB Exiwolf in the rear. These are both fairly durable tires, and I was confident they would provide both traction and puncture resistance. If I punctured, it was game over, so it seemed worthwhile to play it safe. And crashing would also be sub-optimal. Beyond that, the question of gearing came up: would I need bigger than a 34x11? David thought not. Cool. Then there was frame choice: carbon wonder bike or 853 steel Niner? Kidding, I don't own a carbon mtb. Steel was the pick, and I didn't have any qualms about it.

Neil blazing.

So, equipped with some 411 on the course, I was comfortable with not having pre-ridden as I stood in the pack waiting to start. Rob was close by at this point (though David and I were worried about him as we staged, not having seen him the whole time), as was David. The sh#t was about to fly.  Indeed, the start was pretty quick, but also uphill and loose, so we didn't really get going very fast. I had about 10 or so in front of me, kept the pressure on, and found myself slide up and up to the front as we approached the first singletrack section. I knew I wanted to be in a good position going in, and thankfully, the road miles were serving me least in the leg department. Lungs, on the other hand, were not so happy. I burt them by the time we hit the woods, but not severely. I figured I could recover reasonably well. A better warm-up would have avoided this. Preparation meets....lack of preparation.
So I entered the woods in third, baggy jerseyed rider in front, followed by a fast looking QC rider I recognized from somwhere on an Orbea. Orbea dude blew up shortly after getting into the woods, so I moved into second spot. Then the inevitable, Jon Barnes pulled up. Rob had informed me that Barnes is the guy to beat in Ontario, and he'd be one to follow in Tremblant. Sure enough, I was following once he was able to pass me on a climb. I was ok with that, and planned to keep in touch with him and see what happened. We were already passing the back of the Sr. Expert field at this point, so I know there would be traffic behind us, and didn't really feel like there would be a tonne of pressure from behind. John and I carried good speed through the lap, and I hung tight into the feed zone for the first time. He stopped. Opportunity. I kept the pressure on and tried to open as big a gap as I could. I still couldn't see anyone closing.

Baggy jersey, Nicolas Dignard, in first, was still in sight at times, so I kept the power down and suffered plenty. Then Barnes caught me. "Wow, impressive!" I thought to myself. "If he's fast enough to close a gap like that, he should be in front of me." So I followed again. Barnes was fast everywhere, including the downhills. He was riding really smoothly and steadily, impressive. I wasn't as comfortable on the steeper descents as I'd like to have been, getting banged up by a too wide new saddle, and my bars felt a bit too high to really get the weight down in the corners. I felt pretty spazzy on the berms. What's good for trail riding isn't necessarily great for racing. A little short on preparation there, to be honest.

Barnes flats. Opportunity. I kept it steady and rolled on, covering the next lap, the third, all alone. It was clear nobody was closing, so I let up a bit, smiled as much as I could, thanked the encouraging spectators , and asked Anna for the gap to first as I rolled through the feed zone. "2 minutes," she replied, as I missed the handoff, and almost had to stop to get the bottle. I figured 2 minutes was closeable if I had luck, so I increased the tempo a bit.

Passing the ladies now, I was about halfway through the last (4th) lap when I spied what I was sure was a closing fellow Master 30 rider. I didn't react until I confirmed when I could see his plate. By this time he was right on me, and encouraging me on. It was Mathieu, friend of Neil and Anna, still recovering from a terrible crash in Moab (I learned this later). We hit the last climbing steps together, and I upped my tempo, hoping to shake him through the technical woods that followed. I'd have to get in first to do that! Sure enough, I knew I was clear soon, as I no longer heard his bike behind me. From the bottom of the descent into the village and up to the finish, I knew I had it cinched, and enjoyed the opportunity to smile and enjoy it. I knew I was most likely second, as I was confident the #1 rider had made it in, but nevertheless, I threw both arms up to celebrate across the line. I scored a 2nd as a Senior Expert in a Canada Cup DH years ago, but this 2nd placing was far more satisfying. I could identify a few areas where I could have prepared better: better warmup, narrower saddle, lower bars, but with regard to training preparation, I came into the race fitter than I've ever been, and was fortunate enough for that preparation to meet opportunity, producing success.
Rob finishing strong.

Mathieu rolled in 30 seconds later, and Rob crossed the line soon after in 7th. He'd had a terrible start, sliding off the trail in the loose gravel, and was forced to chase far more than he'd have liked. Nevertheless, he was positive. David, whom I'd passed on the side of the trail early on, had pretty awful luck. He'd been tailgated and t-boned by a rider, which rolled hit rear tire off his rim. upon trying to reinflate it he discovered the bead was damaged, so no go. Game over. Bummer. David took this ill fortune in stride, and was all smiles afterwards. Neil was also smiling, having placed 33rd in a field of 90 elites, a position he was proud of. He fought hard and diced it out with many a honch. Sweet. Anna played the part of feed-master for all of us, which was invaluable and much appreciated!

David "The Joker" Stachon

For those considering trying an xc race at Tremblant in the future, I'd echo the advice I received: be sure to run meaty tires, come prepared to climb wide open loose stuff and decent technical steeps, and be sure to run a granny. Full suspension for 26" wheels is a must in my opinion, and in a 29er, I'd have to say steel is ideal for a hardtail, and full suspension would certainly not be wasted. I've ridden enough on aluminum hardtails to know how good I had it on the ol' 853. It certainly took the edge off.

Up next, the Sunset Series kicks off at Camp fortune on Wednesday, and the green wave will be in full effect. Its sure to be hot as hell, so if you're coming out, don't forget to eat your pickles!


Anna O'Brien said...

Pictures are up on Flickr. I'm still learning how to use the site, feel free to move them around as needed.

Matt Surch said...

Thanks for the pics Anna, nice shooting!

Steve said...

Awesome write and results for the whole team!!

Way to go!!