Photo courtesy of Disco Stu
As mentioned in Part 1 of the Double Bill post, Sunday the 18th was mtb race day in Kingston. Bright and early, David, Stu and I piled into Imad's Kunstadt van to make the 2 hour drive to Kingston. Plenty to discuss with the Tour ongoing and races past and future to discuss, we made it to Kingston with plenty of time to spare in advance of the 10am start. We were in fact near Kingston, at 'the Farm,' where the J&J 8-hour races are held. I'd never been there before, so I figured I'd be in for a few surprises.
The starting field wasn't exactly big, but it only takes one or two riders near you ability to push you hard. Starting on a dirt road, I took the lead off the gun and pulled for a kilometer or so into the first trail section, which took us through a corn field. The surface rode surprisingly well, and I was happy to continue to drive the pace to break up the group as soon as possible in order to have fewer to fight later on. We were in for 52k total.
Road tactics were in effect for the first kilometers, as it was clear nobody was interested in coming around and taking the wind. After a while, Conor O'Brien slipped ahead and did the pace making for a while. I encouraged him to keep it smooth and steady in the woods, which he did rather well. Out into the open, he had a harder time keeping the pressure on, so I pulled away again.
Things broke up before too long, and I found myself in the clear for a while. Conditions ranged from mowed grass to cornfield, gravel road, slow singletrack and quick singletrack. The slow singletrack featured lots of rocks, minefields at times, and odd limestone looking formations with big fissures between slabs. If not careful, one could drop a front wheel in and taco it. One rather sunny section run at slow speed featured a swarm of horse flies. They ended up doing a number on my flanks. Why do they like that region so much? I don't know, perhaps it was the new shorts with metallic green panels....Ouch, its really quite tough to kill those demons while navigating rocky terrain!
Soon enough Rob and Imad had worked their way close enough for me to see them on switchbacks. I didn't see much point in killing myself to stay away, so I eased up enough for us to join up and work together on the open sections of road and grass. Eventually Imad was unhitched on a rough section of cut grass through woods, so Rob took over the pace setting and I did my best to hold on. Progressing well into the halfway point of the course, a missed turn had me bunny hopping a barrier into a sand corral, which ended up rolling my front tire a bit. Rob and I opted to stop a minute or two later so I could add air. After confusion at the mid-way checkpoint with marshalls not knowing where we were supposed to go, Conor and Tim Carleton pulled up as we waited for the organizer to show up and tell us which way to go. We urged them to have Tim and Conor wait the commensurate amount of time, and off we went, a little perturbed. I soon realized I hadn't put enough air in my tire, and I was running the risk of a crash or puncture. This time it made sense for Rob to continue on while I stopped. Oh well, I guess I'll do my best to get back to him, I thought. After at least 20 minutes of solo riding I came around a corner to see Rob working on his tire. I asked if he wanted my to stop and he responded that leaving my pump would be fine. I pulled it off and got going, hoping he'd catch up before too long.
It was all solitary riding from there, a good 20k of riding. I had to stop once again to air a tire, this time my rear, due to what I later saw was a small puncture. My Stan's sealant worked well to seal it up, but the high pressure I put in to play it safe was sure was rough. I ended up rolling in 2:39 after departing, followed by Tim Carleton and Conor O'Brien. Imad rolled in for 5th with David, Stu and Rob trailing in succession. Tricia took the women's race to round out two wins for Ottawa. Results are here.
All told, we almost did two laps to get to 52k in the race. Our group agreed we'd have preferred to simply do laps of the best terrain, and the gravel road would be fair game, as we like to break up the singletrack with wide open fast sections. I personally wouldn't have been very keen on the course had I driven much more than two hours to get there. On the more positive side, the poolside BBQ afterwards was pretty good, though the veggie burgers were not vegan friendly. Note to organizers, get vegan veggie burgers.
Despite some pretty singletrack, the 29er was almost certainly the better format for the Kingston course. While some of the tight singletrack might have been a tad slower, the reduced rolling resistance on the open grass and gravel was definitely an asset. Until the rest of the competition are on 29ers I'll be using my perceived edge as a motivator to really push it on the open stuff. I suspect the road riding helps just a bit too. If only I can get my q-factor down closer to my road bike, then the Niner will feel really good. I suspect 2x10 Sram will be required for that, at least the XX cranks.
Next up on the MTB end of things for yours truly: another Sunset series race before the August 16th Canada Cup in Bromont. After that, I'll he heading down to the US with my family and rendezvous with Chris, Glenn, Steve, Pascal and Jamie for D2R2, one of the highlights of the season. Bromont should he a good technical course that will reward climbing ability, so I think I'll be in the mix. Hopefully Rob and I will both have a good day, and we can work together and get two Tall Tree riders on the podium. Time will tell.
C'mon back soon for my report on Sunday's all-road ride, dubbed the Tour de Panneur. I'm waiting on the GPS trace and photos, so I'll get it up asap.