As some may know, pretty much the whole Tall Tree crew packed up for a weekend of 24-hour MTB racing this past weekend. Thom, Will, Brad and Rodd closed up shop Thursday night and said good-bye until Monday. By Friday evening we were all assembled at Albion Hills Conservation area, about an hour north of Toronto.
This post really is really the preamble to the real post for the race, which will include great photos taken by not-me. For the moment, I'll just provide a quick synopsis for those who are curious about how things went down.
Going into the race, we had four teams: 1 four-man, 1 5-person mixed (co-ed), and two 5 person 150+. Right off the bat, the Tall Tree Management team, originally consisting of 5 riders - Thom, Will, Brad, Martin, and Kent, was down to 3 when both Kent and Will had to pull out due to unforseen circumstances. Lily stepped up for her first bona-fide 24hr experience: up to 4. At this point, the team was planning to approach the race with a less than full on competitive attitude; they'd make the most of it anyway they could. Well, come Saturday morning, the game changed a bit more: David was violently ill. It was pretty obvious he was not going to be able to ride, so his team, the mixed folks - Anna, Tanya, Sylvain (Neil's buddy from work in for his first 24hr experience) and Glenn, pulled Thom into their ranks from the already depleted team of 4 to reconstitute their team of 5. Now that's the Tall Tree spirit in full effect! Meanwhile, the other two teams, the 5 - Pascal, Jeff, Jamie, Mike and Mark - and the 4 man - Rodd, Neil, Rob and moi (Matt), were still whole and ready to ride. And we did.
So, being the preamble, I'll provide the punch-line now...makes sense right? In short, overall, as a team, we were successful. Because of the Management team's generosity in giving up Thom to maintain a strong 5 person mixed team, they were victorious. First place went to Tall Tree Green Crush, with a 22 laps. Awesome. Our 4-man team was constituted by veterans to the whole 24hr thing, save Rob, who'd never done a single one, nor ridden at night before! Crazy, right? Well, it didn't matter, Rob showed up totally prepared, and was super solid. Each of us showed up well prepared it turned out, and we managed to pull off a victory in our first 4-man attempt, with a total of 26 laps, just about 20 minutes or so behind Ryan Atkins' team for most laps overall. Maybe next time! Special merit points go to Neil for doing double laps twice, and Rob for doing a seventh lap to try to close the gap on Ryan's team. Talk about sporting spirit! It was an absolute pleasure to race alongside Rodd, Neil and Rob, and to share the experience with the rest of the team. A victory for one group is a victory for the whole team.
Like I said, I'll post more with photos when I have them, but for now I'll add that we really noticed a lot of folks taking notice of the team this year, asking questions about the shop and the bikes. I got the sense that folks felt comfortable approaching us to talk, and this is very encouraging, as we aim to encourage this. We're ambassadors for Tall Tree, Steelwool, and cycling in general, so we're always happy to have people come over to talk about what we're all about. There was quite a lot of interest in Thom's Steelwool Rook he built for himself a little over a year ago, likely because he was blazing on it and it looks hot! The bike's passive suspension in the rear 'triangle' was likely the ideal set-up for Albion hills, combining traction, comfort and performance in one killer package. Steve, from Toronto, asked whether I'd get another Niner? 'Well, not if I can get Thom to build me a Rook,' I replied; I can't wait to get on one! Overall, out of 18 riders on Tall Tree teams this weekend, all but 4 were on 29ers. There is no 26" bike I'd ride over my 29er for this race, none. The big wheels are unequivocally faster there, especially when hitting 45-50k/hr. At the same time, I also prefer my 29er for racing at Camp Fortune, one of the gnarliest race courses in North America. If its good here on the rocky stuff with steeps and also killer in Southern Ontario, its pretty fair to say 29ers make darn good race machines. AND they rule for long rides with pavement! Nuff said.
C'mon back for photos and testimonials!