Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quebec City to Mont Ste. Anne

It's taken me a couple of days to write anything about this race. My emotions are mixed and my motivation is, well, low. First the details: 77km point to point XC race from Quebec City to MSA. The race starts in the heart of old Quebec, which the signs say is The Nation's Capital -- who knew? It's beautiful either way and it sure feels PRO having such an impressive town shut down for your little bicycle competition.

Our group -- me, Neil, Anna, Trish, Dave and Imad made it to the start just fine and assumed the position near the front of nearly 500 racers. Things rolled out for an 11km "neutral" start through the streets of Quebec City with a police escort. Like I said, PRO. This start may have been neutral but it was sure full of thrills and spills. First Dave hit the deck. He picked up his brand new Jet 9 (first ride on it!) off the pavement unscathed. Trish was not so lucky. She clipped someone's wheel with her hands in her back pocket and went down hard. The road rash would have been manageable for the next 4hrs but this was not:

Carbon rails = weak. Nobody knew any of this crash carnage was happening until hours later at the finish line when Trish greet
ed us in street clothes and bandages. She was okay but disappointed to miss the race.

Following the action-packed start the motorcycles pulled off and dumped us on a gravel road climb reminiscent of the CBC road at Camp Fortune. Things strung out quickly. Neil was well positioned near the front with our friend Tim Carleton from Toronto not far behind. Imad and I sat in the next group. Dave and Anna presumably not far behind us. The next two hours of rugged hydro cut did me in. This is where my emotions are mixed -- the race was fantastic but I was not. I knew after about an hour that my legs just weren't firing. This was the fourth big weekend of travelling/racing in a row and I was cooked. My spirits sank fast and I slipped into survival mode. Neil was dealing with his own setbacks around this time as well - a flat tire and a botched repair cost him what would likely have been a top 5 placing.

It wasn't long before I realized that this was going to be a very, very long day. The hydro cut opener would have been the deciding feature in a race like, say, Crank the Shield but here it was just the beginning. This was a course to be respected. My body and mind were protesting ever louder and the rocky climbs just kept coming. At one point I came to a paved section and could see Imad in the distance. I thought, "what the heck..." and time trialled across the minute or so gap. Just as I closed in the course made a 90 degree turn from the road into a ditch. Weird? Yes. On the other side of the ditch was what would be the pivotal feature for me. A nasty granny gear ascent on a technical trail that seemed to last about 15 minutes. I cracked. Imad rode/walked away up the climb and another handful of people passed. I was genuinely stumbling pushing my bike.

I had looked briefly at the course profile and knew there was two big climbs before a bomber descent into MSA. I was glad to have the first one out of the way but was dreading the next. Somewhere around hour 3 the course started to climb yet another rocky hydro cut doubletrack. It was a tough, rolling climb that I figured must be the final climb. Then the course turned into a clearing with a chairlift base. Were we at the BOTTOM of the hill? Seriously? From there things got really hard. I put it in my easiest gear (26 x34) and hoped for the best. Glancing down at my speedometer was not encouraging -- 5kph -- and working like an animal. The slope was very steep, loose and exposed to the sun. I was shattered and it just went on and on. Were we going to climb the whole freaking ski hill?! More or less. I gave up on watching the data but I'm told it was about a 400 metre elevation gain over a few kilometres.

At the top a friendly volunteer shouted encouragement and directed us onto what looked to be the final descent to the finish. I have raced at MSA before and know just how technical the trails can be so I was kind of excited for this last bit. I figure I'm pretty good at this stuff... but not after the toughest 3.5hrs of my life. Hitting the first steep rock sections I was having difficulty standing and steering. My hands could hardly squeeze the brakes. After maybe 10 minutes of traversing the ski hill on crazy hiking trails Neil appeared! He had dealt with his tire issues early on and steadily gained ground. His presence was motivating and he guided me down the last descent. I was amazed at just how long it was. I guess I'm showing my inexperience here -- I have not raced out West in the "real" mountains -- but it really was humbling.

And then it was over. Wow. Tim was at the finish line having scored an impressive 8th place, Imad crossed in 14th, Neil 18th and me in 20th. Dave came in shortly after in 34th with Stuart Blunt not far behind. We were all within a few minutes of each other so I guess it was hard for everybody. And there were something like 480 starters... still, I wasn't thrilled with how my motivation wilted out there. It's the end of the mountain bike race season though. And it's been a good run! But maybe one weekend too many.

Despite all my cursing and complaining on the course I would highly recommend this race. It's very well organized and the course is second to none. Just be prepared for 1800 metres of steep rocky climbing, stream crossings, mud bogs, white knuckle descents and leg cramps! I'll be back next year.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday Death Ride: "Ambitious...I like it."

There was to be no Quintuple on Sunday (sorry would-be Quintuplets), so it only seemed fitting to honour the day by taking on a different route that could quite possibly deliver an epic merino wool Rapha epic experience. However, with a forecasted 30 degree celcius high for the day, and nary a cloud on the horizon, we all opted for our plastic outfits over epic merino wool. In fact, I forsook (past-tense of forsake, according to me) my older Tall Tree kit with large pockets in favour of my 2010 kit which features child-sized ones: racey! I figured the superior breathability of the RS fabrics would outweigh the compromised carrying capacity. Third bottle pocketed (soon to commence irritating a seam on my back, all day), along with a burrito, two packs of Honey Stingers, two homemade Thrive bars, 5 fig newtons, one Bridgehead fruit and seed bar, a canister of NuuN tablets (thanks NuuN!) and one pack of Clif Shot Blox (some jammed into my burrito shaped tubular seat-bag, including my burrito), I rolled out of the 'Matt Cave' at 7:45am, embrocated with Mad Alchemy's warm weather brew and delighted by the glorious morning weather.

Upon meeting up with the rest of the troops under the Alexandria bridge, we were off to begin our adventure. The plan was far from straightforward. We'd head to the McGregor lake loop, see how Thom's Tall Tree jacket was doing in the woods, stashed since May (moldy, in fact), head onto some cottage dirt roads connecting to the far end of Paughan, head west, drop south one way or another to the entrance of Lac Phillipe, ride the trail to Wakefield, break, get back on the trail and ride to O'Brien beach, then home one way or another. Brad was already in Wakefield, and hoping to meet up; I was hoping to receive a phone call to coordinate. In my mind, this route was doable, but surely hard. "Ambitious, I like it" said Steve on the phone Saturday night. Audacious even. 

Perkins came soon enough and saw us reload on supplies, the grocery store being open before noon, and providing free water via the bathroom. We provided the fashion moment for the day. Nice. Continuing on, we rode steady to the junction of the 366 and 307, where Mark, Chris and Steve parted ways. Mark would have enough after about 100 all in, and Chris and Steve would try to head us off at Low.

I think at this point we'd already been chased by one dog. I almost hit h/er when s/he dodged left after giving up on Steve. Skid, no impact. Phewf. Dog number two was far worse. Cruising downhill at about 35kph, a full grown Rottweiler and black lab take chase. Blackie has nothing, but Rottie has kick. S/he is at my heel immediately and snarling, really looking keen to take a bite. I keep pedaling and yell. I drop the f-bomb as a last resort. Nope, this dog does not give a shit. I grab my bottle and go for a face-shot. Doh, its closed (obviously not a superior Camelbak bottle). As I look forward I'm about to eat it into the ditch, and barely avoid disaster one-handed. Fortunately, Snarly has run out of gas, so I'm clear. I worry about the others, but they get through as the owner can be heard yelling, and Snarly is listening. One has to wonder what this dog has been through. I'm not one to punch or kick dogs, or any animals, so I'll try to get some pepper spray for next time. Is it wrong of me to kinda want to get even?

Back to the fun stuff, we manage to miss a key turn that would head us toward Paughan. Instead we descend an awesome paved road to the 307, and head north once we hit it. Great roads over there, just added at least 15k. Close to the final climb before descending the long, long downhill toward the dam, Thom suffers a biological, and I offer some Badger embro for his ailing knees. Back in business, we descend and hit the depanneur (corner store) in Low.No Chris or Steve. No surprise either, it has been hours. Its 1:30 by the time we leave, and I opt to head alone on the 105 and West on Woods to spit out on the 366 by Lac Phillipe and ride the trail to Wakefield, as planned. The others ride the road; we'll rendezvous. 

After about 20k of tempo, wind, and some solid climbing, I start to falter. I'm feeling it. Its hot, I'm sweating like mad, and there is little respite from the sun (since I've heard of many experienced riders suffering heat stroke and dehydration on Sunday). To my delight, I pop out exactly where I want to, and a dep looms across the road, Phillipe's entrance 100 feet to the right. I drink a grapefruit juice and proceed to feel horrible once riding again. Why? Too cold? Maybe. I feel as though I have nothing on one climb on the double track I'm traveling, then miraculously come around a minute later. Odd. The trail is beautiful and I enjoy it without expectation with regard to speed. A farmer has been cultivating something off the side of the trail in a bunch of clearings, reminding me that the 'trail' I travel has been a farm road for a long time, preceding the 366 as the main route to Wakefield from Masham and beyond for generations. Cool. Rolling downhill into a low area I've seen a bear grazing in I picture myself running into one, striking three for three as Ariel had joked earlier. Jerk. No bear, I'm clear; phewf. Pulling up to Pipolinka, I wear my fatigue on my face, or so it feels.

It takes 15 minutes sitting with the guys to feel ready to ingest anything. I consume a cherry roiibos slush, a must have btw. Then we ride. Ariel and I are delayed, and think Rodd and Thom must be crushing it ahead as we fail to catch up. That seems like an odd proposition. Instead, we cross Brad and company heading the opposite direction on Cross Loop. They've been riding for a while too. Then Thom and Rodd pull up behind; we'd been in front of them all along. Funny.

Solid tempo from there follows, Thom and Ariel both finishing strong, Rodd drops off after slogging his single 42 tooth ring all day. By home, I'm at about 183k total, which puts Ariel well over 200 from Orleans. I'm toast, crushed, finished, spent, cooked. The day is more taxing than any other this year, including D2R2. Funny that. Under the conditions, and wind was significant, I think my original plan was just too hard. In more moderate weather, it would be possible. Some of the dirt was perfect, while other sections were slow and loose. That takes its toll. I think we've confirmed that the leg we took to Paughan is the toughest way to get to the Dam. Here's the map, in case you'd like to take a crack. Elevation gain would likely be about 1500m for this loop, give or take. We did take photos, I just don't have them yet...

Note: I've run the start on the roads, while we actually take the path through Lac Leamy. Its just harder to map that, and you can look to other maps of mine for that part. This is a bit of a rough cut, so if you want to use it for a GPS, I suggest checking it over to make sure everything is cool. I believe we should have headed North on Denholm rather than south to the 307. The map can be found here: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Death-Ride-Aug-29-2010

Totally unrelated, just have to share this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXhBti625_s&p=31D142B8D7402238&index=2&playnext=7

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Matt's 2010 D2R2 Ride Report: Part I

Just back from a very wet and beautiful Wednesday night loop on the Gatineau Parkway with a great group of folks. I realized pretty early in the 40k loop that my legs have yet to fully recover from Saturday's efforts at D2R2. It was a helluva ride. While in the shower I had a good flow of creative ideas running through my head about how to frame this post; riding is great for getting creativity going. I"ll break it into two parts. Here goes.

Some may have read my post about last year's D2R2, my first. That was a pretty fast ride, and I felt really good about my efforts. I was part of a pretty large group that eventually was wittled down to a handful of riders with lots of grit. This year was a different scene in more ways than one. My tall tales of the 2009 edition inspired a number of our clan to sign up and prepare. Pascal, Jamie, Glenn, Steve, Ariel, and Chris were committed and up for the challenge. While I was on vacation for the week leading up to the ride, Steve dedicated himself to preparing tulip diagram cue sheets for the crew. Sadly, due to a family emergency, Steve had to drop out on Thursday night, so he did not actually get to use the cues himself. He hooked us up though, and we were sporting one of the best set-ups I saw. More on that in Part II.

So Steve was out, but the others were in, and they took the time to set up their bikes with compact doubles and mtb cassettes - 32 and 34 tooth pie plates. Apparently, there is some debate going on over at Velocipede Salon about the appropriateness of such gearing. When I heard this tonight on the group ride all I could do was laugh. Veteran mountain bikers as we are, we know there is such a thing as too low gearing, but its somewhere lower than 22x34, not 34x34! That's only 1:1! No, we are quite familiar with the virtue of spinning gears on climbs and saving the legs. Apparently, some of the pros on the Pro Tour agree, like Vino, for example, who rode a 34x30 in the Giro. I told the guys how I had to mash a fair bit in 2009 with my 34x28, so they reasoned lower would be wise. And it was.

But I digress. The scene was different, I had a bunch of buddies there this time, so the dynamic was different. I knew they wanted to ride conservatively to ensure they avoided biologicals. If I rode with them they might feel like their ability to pace themselves appropriately was compromised. Fact is, I'd be climbing faster, especially due to my higher gearing. That could cause anxiety. So I figured I'd best leave them to make their maiden voyage ensemble and I'd ride with a quicker group. As it turned out, that group was much smaller than expected, never growing larger than 6. We began at 6:07am, Todd Holland, who I'd ridden with in 2009, Kurt, his buddy and teller of tall tales, then Paul on the Specialized full suspension mtb, Dan on a regular road setup, and a fellow I didn't get the name of on a full on cross race bike. I expected to join up with a larger group sooner or later, but that never happened. Perhaps this had something to do with the 3 flats I suffered?

Flat one came fairly early on, and I discovered my spare was punctured too. Huh? Todd offered his graciously while the others waited. CO2 and I was back rolling quickly. Unfortunately, I think the CO2 bled through the tube before it warmed up (it was still pretty cold out), and reduced the pressure, as I flatted again going about 70kph on a long dirt descent. The others streamed by as I pulled over and began the patch job repair. After descending for another while, aided by Steve's excellent cue sheet, I climbed Hillman, likely the most difficult climb of the route, alone and at tempo. I had negative thoughts.  My computer hadn't worked for a while, so my distance was off, I'd carried a dead tube and left my second spare in the car...I felt like a tool. If you want things to go well you have to be properly prepared; I wasn't, and there was no excuse. After finishing the climb and time trialing a road section with Todd and Kurt in sight, I  caught on as we resumed the dirt. Within 20seconds WHAM, I strike a pointy rock and flat again! WTF? "We'll ride easy" the guys said, likely feeling sorry for me. After repairing the tube again I pumped it up with real air and felt confidentish about it. Was their a mystery offending object still in their leading to air bleeding? Not sure, couldn't find any. This was all before lunch! I chased back again, which took a lot of effort. It was a joy rolling a consistent pace with the guys. When's lunch? Soon. Phewf.

From lunch on, which was, BTW, great, we just rolled a steady pace. There was plenty more climbing to do, and we just churned away and got it done. I experienced some strain behind my left knee, evidence of either a technique issue or perhaps my hip alignment rearing its head. Patten hill was not as difficult as 2009, perhaps because I rode into it a bit slower. It was fine. At the top the food was once again outstanding, and I met up with Pete Smith, Mr. Mad Alchemy himself, who was riding a strong pace solo. We rolled off together, along with the others, and eventually headed into the last challenging section, the jeep road trail. The trail was littered with loose rocks and strewn with riders, but I managed to get through with speed and no major impacts, which was a treat. Todd latched on after the exit and we team time trialed in together, wrapping up the ride with a couple no-handed wheelies. Kidding. Total time was 8:49, longer than last year, but probably about the same rolling speed, 25kph, but that's with about the first 20 miles missing on my computer. Max sped was 85kph, faster than last year. The route was far rougher than o-nine, so that certainly slowed things down a bit. I felt like I had two flat tires a lot of the time. More on bike set-up and other cool stuff in Part II.

All in all, I had mixed feelings about the ride this year. The climbs hurt my legs sooner than I would have liked, which was a bit of a downer, but might have had more to do with the roughness than my form (I thought I was fitter going in). My gong show was disappointing, and not riding with the other guys left me feeling like I missed out. For next year, I'll run bigger tires, lower gearing, and ride with our guys. Going in I though Richard Sachs was out to lunch in calling D2R2 a party ride. Coming out, I'm thinking he's onto something, it just takes a good bit of planning and preparation to get set the stage for a rocking party. I look forward to rocking out next year with my compadres.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

D2R2 review- Best Ride Evar!

I will try to make this post shortish and sweetish. Firstly, I spazzed out in the morning at the hotel room and could not find my camera, so no pics. I can assure you that we were there and the scenery was some of the best I have witnessed while riding a bicycle. I was a little nervous going into this. Some say it`s one of the toughest Randonées in North America. It was tough but it`s really in how you ride it. We all rode super low gearing (34 chainring and MTB 9 speed cassettes, mostly 34 tooth). For 90% of the ride, we were either slowly grinding away in the lowest gear up these silly steep and long climbs OR we were SCA-REAMING down these seemingly never ending, twisty-turny descents. I spent most of the time smiling and often laughing, especially going down. This was the most fun I have ever had on a bike and I am somewhat timid going downhill. By mile 90 (get this, miles take longer to tick by than kms...) we figured out that the descents are so fun and smooth because the roads are mostly 2-300 years old. A 10-15% gradient with curves originally built for horse and carriage rides much different than one made for cars. (no stupid turns once you`ve hit 75kph)
The gravel was mostly excellent and the pavement was impeccable. I felt like I
got to spend 10.5 hours in cycling heaven. That sounds long but it flew by. I can`t recommend this ride enough. I`d do it again tomorrow if I could. Thanks to Matt for doing the recon last year, for prepping us properly and for the long term loan of the big orange bike. Thanks to Glenn, Ariel and Jamie for staying positive and riding superbly. BIG -SUPER-BIG thanks to Steve aka "the Colonel" who could not make it due to sudden unfortunate circumstances but who made us wicked tulip notes. Great job Steve, We owe you beer and/or something.

Next year, prepare the best you can and do it (the full 180k); you won`t regret it.

One photo, found on flickr taken with a guy Glenn referred to as "Florida" for the duration of the ride. We met lots of other nice folks as well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quintuple Pave Classic: Cancelled

It looks like the Quintuple just isn't in the cards this year. There are a couple conflicting events, numerous key people on the organizing end are out of town or swamped, so it just won't get off the ground. As I suggested in an earlier post, I think we'll focus on the Ride of the Damned, Double Cross and Fixed Gear Folic next year, as this time of year is just too hectic to pull off the event (dated TBC, hinging on the cyclocross calendar). However, I do think we'll do a big group ride soon, of the no-drop sort, and cover a bunch of great roads with bail outs for those who are not up for a long haul. We'll put out word here and simply meet up on a Sunday morning to ride.

Anyone torn between the Crazy Train time trial and Quintuple is in luck, decision made. I'd like to do the TTT myself; we'll see whether that's in the cards or perhaps just a nice long ride. I've drained the water out of my bike from the solid rain it soaked up on the way home from the US on Sunday, and its almost ready to return to service.

I'm working on getting a few photos together from D2R2, so if you are interested seeing more about the event, check back in soon.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

D2R2 2010: All Smiles

Just back to the hotel in South Deerfield after a couple hours hanging out with the guys and families after a full day on the bike. Despite 7 flats between Jamie and me...more on that later, everyone was glowing after the ride, truly amazed by the quality of the course and the impeccable planning and execution on the part of the organizers and army of incredible volunteers. Thank you all for giving your time so we could all experience a great day on bikes in your neighborhood. In Pascal's word's the ride exceeded his expectations 5-fold. I was worried some of the guys might roll in cursing my name, but each of them was totally chuffed. Fantastic. More, with a few photos, once I'm back in Ottawa after the weekend. Hopefully some of the guys will provide some words to convey their impressions; I'll do a bit of nudging.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Battle of Bromont

Last weekend was round two of the big August XC racing block -- Canada Cup at Bromont. Last year was my first experience with Bromont and it was hardly favourable as the course was about 75% unrideable due to some serious mud. Nice planning. This year things were more or less dry and everything was completely rideable. Not only rideable but awesome! It was a short lap (under 20min) but it packed a punch -- basically 10 minutes of steep climbing and 10 minutes of wild descending. Classic Quebec ski hill race course. Though steep and long the climb was quite enjoyable with twists and turns, varying pitches, roots, rocks, dirt, gravel, bridges and even a couple of descents. Take note Camp Fortune -- there are other ways to get to the top of a ski hill than gravel roads. The descent was pretty hairy and even included a full-on four cross course. Everything was perfectly manageable in the dry conditions and rewarded skilled riding. Nice.

Once nice thing about being an old Masters rider is that, at Canada Cups we race in the afternoon following the elite race. Which means I got to watch Neil, Anna and Trish. We're normally on the course at the same time so this is a treat. Neil managed an excellent 24th place while Trish motored through the field to finish 11th. Excellent work. The women's race was particularly interesting as the field was led by American superstar Mary Mcconeloug. She was really, really impressive and by the second lap was well into the men's elite field that had started a minute or two ahead of her. Wow.

At 2:30 Matt and I took the start line for the Master Expert race. He was very serious:

And so was I:

Five laps meant five times up the big climb... This made me a little hesitant at the start. I don't really consider extended steep climbs to be an area where I excel. Accordingly, I took the first climb (which began 10 seconds after the start line) cautiously assuming people in front of me would be exploding by the top. Then again, the field is usually pretty deep at Quebec Canada Cups so who knows... either way I rode it steady and found myself about 8th wheel by the top. Matt was charging hard up ahead and was out of site by the first trip down the descent. He's about the best descender I know so I figured he'd grab the lead there.

By the end of lap one I found myself in 5th position but the gaps were pretty big -- the slow motion death on the climb followed by the banzai singletrack made group riding/tactics pretty much nonexistent.

Then people began to come back to me as they paid the price for lap one. I picked up speed and found 3rd place by lap 3. On lap 4 Matt came back into sight and we joined on the descent. Any sort of team riding is rare in standard XC races but it is great to have someone to help set the pace and motivate you. I led us around for the final trip up the big climb and did my best to guide us down the descent without embarrassing myself in front of former DHer Matt. by the finish line we were both pretty spent but crossed more or less together and were thrilled to have claimed two podium spots. The winner was a couple of minutes ahead but our smart riding on the last two laps gave us 2nd and 3rd easily.
It was an excellent race on one heck of a race course. It was great to have such an evenly matched teammate not only for support but to battle with -- you better believe I sprinted him for 2nd!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ontario Cupdate

It's hard to believe it's August already and that the 2010 mountain bike racing season is coming to an end. But for me it's ending with a great big bunch of races! A good one every weekend this month and a couple of Sunset Series mid week events thrown in as well. The Bromont Canada Cup awaits this Sunday, Ontario Provincial Championships the weekend after that and then the Quebec City to Mont Ste. Anne Marathon will finish off the month. The racing block started last weekend though with the Ontario Cup race in Milton Ontario.

This series has been my main focus for quite a few years now. The level of competition is high in the Old Man Expert category, the courses are great, the atmosphere welcoming and the organization is always impeccable. And this year it's been going quite well for me. I won one of the events and have worn the series leader jersey all year. That win was a goal for me and it was nice to accomplish it early in the season.

Heading into this past weekend's event in Milton I figured my chances for another win were pretty much over. There are two guys in the series who are undeniably stronger than me -- Eric Jobin and (of course...) Jon Barnes. Jon seems to win every race he enters and Eric is right on his heels. Quite often I find myself in the mix with them but eventually settling for 3rd place.

However, I was hopeful that the Buckwallow stop in the series would be my chance for glory. It is an awesome "power" course with flowy, rock strewn singletrack from start to finish. Perfect for me and maybe not so much for my Southern Ontario competitors. I have won here twice before so I knew how to do it: take the lead right away, let the tech bits create gaps and ride as hard as possible for 2hrs. Simple enough. And that's what I did. But I didn't win. The demands of the course sent Eric off the back and left me with Jon Barnes to contend with. On the last lap I put in an all out attack that cracked him. Unfortunately there was still 15 minutes to race and it cracked me too. Barnes worked his way back up and eventually crushed me in the last 2km. 2nd place.

I was happy to have thrown everything I had at him but dissapointed not to win. Good ride on his part though --he had crashed really hard at about the mid point of the race. I was about an inch off his rear wheel at the time so I got a front row seat for the destruction of his carbon fiber Trek. His top tube made contact with a rock and created the kind of crack that would keep me from riding it again...

A month later we were on the start line again for round 6. I was less confident about my suitability to this course. It has a long, steep, loose climb on every lap that the skinny little guys generally gap me on. My plan was to try and hang on for third. Not a very good attitude, I know, but it seemed realistic. All the fast guys were on the start line -- including Jon Barnes with a nice gob of epoxy on his top tube. He gets his bikes for free so he's not too concerned about a long term fix.

I took the lead from the start and never really looked back. The pace on the climb was manageable and the fast singletracks were a joy. We had a fast little group of five for a lap but I fully expected Eric and Jon to pull away. I hoped to stay with them. Instead I ended up doing a lot of pace setting until it was only Eric and me left. The others had fallen off (surprisingly including Jon.) We worked very well together riding close and sharing pacing duties in an effort to further gap Jon then fight it out at the finish. In the last KM I put in an attack on a steep but short climb. Eric made it back moments later though and it took one last surge on a bumpy doubletrack to finally distance him by 9 seconds. Victory!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A tale of adversity at the races...X 2...

Part 2 - Wilderness 101

I had initially meant to include this all in one report with the Epic 8 below - but time and space had some disagreements with that plan. So - Five days after the Epic 8, after mostly a week of rest, a couple light rides and a lovely paddle to a remote island the next adventure in adversity loomed large. Disco Stu and I were heading down to Coburn PA for Wilderness 101 (hundred miler). Well the adversity hit 2 days before the race even began. Wednesday night while tooling around tuning up the bike I got stung by a wasp...which as of last year I have discovered I now react to fairly severely. My leg was swelled up, itchy as hell and a bit painful. Next...Thursday night as I decided I should used my old mtb shoes until I could figure out a way to resolve the “plastic buckle” issue. This entailed changing cleats, well low and behold, the very last cleat screw I tried to unscrew was completely seized !! I eventually tried to drill it out but to no avail. Next option, change pedals so I can still use the old shoes and cleats, however after the 24 hr and the thread stripping of my crankarm, some threadlok was applied to my new pedal threads...well it did it’s job and after fighting with this for too much of Thursday night it would just not come off. Option # 3 try to put some appropriate padding in my new shoes and pray to dog that it would alleviate the issues I experienced during the 8 hr. So all told it was about 1:30 before getting to bed Thursday night, not ideal given that I knew Friday would be lucky to bring me 4 hrs of sleep before the early start Saturday.

Friday night down at a brew-pub near Coburn, which was filled to the brim with those godless mtn biking hordes trying to cram in reasonable nutrition and a pint or two. We sat beside Jeramiah Bishop, who I met last year at Intermontane and started chatting. I was already a bit concerned that I would not be recovered enough after 7 days from the 8 hour race and he asked me “How I finished?”...when I told him of the excruciating cramping he shook his head saying that “that did not usually bode well”. One more thing to think about...but in this business one must be adaptable AND manage expectations. So I just took it in stride and my game plan was to go as hard as my body let me without destroying myself for nothing. After all I was here in a new place and race for me so told myself to just “do what you can and enjoy it”.

Race morning saw me up before Stu...not sure how that happened...but I felt good, even had half a coffee ! We did fiddle around a bit and soon the almost 300 racers were lined up at the start. Stu shot over just in time for them to roll out (2 km on the road neutral start). I caught the back end about 5 rows behind Stu. Started riding up through the masses, looking for Stu as my plan was to stick to his wheel as long as possible, but as fast as I was moving up, he must have moved up faster or sooner as I never did see him. This is the problem with having to pass 250 people en masse !

After having moved up quite a ways on gravel road I figured to be in the top 40 or so then we hit a ridge where a dude ahead of me was spewing out every last bit of fluid in his gut....someone else also had their adversity issues apparently...Then we hit the first rocky downhill double track. Things were going great then....kathunkathunkathunka....flat. Tried to get off to the side as much as possible while about 50 racers zoomed by me at 50+ kph. For some reason my pump was not working and I think I bent the valve a bit fighting with it as I also lost 1/2 my first CO2. Then after struggling for way too long used the other to finally fill the tube as much as possible but still too low. On my way again feeling rather discouraged, however passing tons of people again I started to fell like maybe I could get back into this...then about 20 minutes after the first flat....again...kathunkathunkathunka. Now I was screwed, pump not working properly, no CO2 left. I had to wait for about 25 racers to pass me before someone offered up some help (Thanks to Peter). So after lacksidasically replacing the tube off I went again....again passing people. But now we were in more technical single-track, and lets just say the skill level at this end of the pack is not quite so high as that at the front end. One girl seemed to be going along slowly but steadily so I was waiting behind her for a safe opportunity to pass when she slammed on the brakes in a abrupt stop at a narrowing and little wooden bridge. This stoppage threw me (literally) for a loop...more adversity as I was a stuck and tangled mess. Finally I got myself going and I vowed to get the hell outta the timid end of the pack. At aid station 2 there was great tech support fixing all kinds of peoples probs. I tossed my 2 tubes and cannisters on the ground thankful just to get one replacement, but the guy asked me if I wanted 2...”yes sir thank you very much !” I can’t say enough about the volunteers and support at this event - they were outstanding in every possible way ! Also pumped up my rear tire (the one getting flats) to 32 PSI for good measure.

Now I was feeling less pressure, (but more in the tire) loaded up with 2 new tubes and CO2s, knowing that I was so far out of it I was no longer racing, it was time to just enjoy a hard ride in a new place. The hills were pretty long and steady which seemed to work well for me - check the map and profile here. But the vast road sections were sparse pickings looking for someone to work with, everyone that I passed on all the roads was in no shape to work with me so it was an ITT on all the road sections for me - that must have cost me 15-20 minutes easily over the course of the race.

The next rocky section we had to go down was pretty killer and I was very gingerly trying to pick a line down the rocks, but in these trails there really is NO line, just a bunch of copious and randomly scattered baby-heads and pointy protrusions. Then wouldn’t you know it....pfltttttttttt.....again. By this time I am laughing at the sheer odds of 3 flats halfway into the 163 km race. After finally getting out of there and onto a road, there was another guy looking in need of help with a flat - so in the spirit of “paying it forward” I stopped to help him out. Getting going again I started to feel hungry and was looking forward to my V8 (thanks for the suggestion Stu), and more importantly my pickled sausage at aid station 3 !! Some dude was riding along all chatty and “Whoop-de-doooing”, and asked those around him for a “Whoop-de-do”, as I was the only one to respond, (albeit with a rather reserved Canadian Whoop-de-do), he seemed impressed and we rode together till aid 3. Felt really good finally with another CO2 pickup there, pumped the tire again - this time to 36 - that’s gotta hold - and the eagerly sought after pickled sausage...damn it was good ! The ensuing single-track rocky climb was going well for me - it was work but again passing people and feeling strong. I seemed to have recovered well enough from the 8 hour and the terrible cramps I had experienced then did not appear to leave any residual ill effects...tho again, I was not really in “kill myself race mode”. Funny as Stu was telling me later that he did not feel good on this section at all. Shortly after this was a killer dusty/sandy steep technical downhill....no traction! One guy was riding my ass and I was just about to tell him to leave some room as my tires were pumped high and had no grip, then I saw a sharp right turn with a little space to the outside left. So I pulled off and all of a sudden (next adversity) this guys slides right into me totally out of control on the inside, his bar-end caught my helmet and dragged me along with his bike by my head - NOT pleasant, and then catching my bike frame or wheel with his pedal both of us sliding in an uncontrollable mess. I was sooo pissed - this was just stupid - and there are people coming behind us. After getting my bearings, assessing the bike, body and helmet, and shaking off the disorientation I told him to go and I took my time getting back behind him.

Some more road then a crazy rocky downhill where pretty much everyone had to walk a little section. At this point I was not going to do anything crazy stupid for where I was going to be ending in the results. As I flipped my bike over to walk all of a sudden all my tools were all over the ground. Somehow my tool bag was either left open or got opened in the crash prior. I picked up everything right there except my CO2 trigger - that I NEED ! So went back uphill searching for it - after a couple minutes a guy mentioned that he saw a red handled CO2 up the hill a ways....a few more minutes walk and I found it - finally. Back down and on the go again after another 10 minutes delay.

Somewhere between aid 4 and 5 a guy actually caught me after a long climb and stuck with me for a while. It was great to have some company and chat - tho there were no opportunities to actually work together from a drafting perspective at this point. Eventually I did pull away as he was not terribly confident on any downhill sections. Then came one more rock garden - and guess what - flat number 4 !!! How much adversity can one guy get in a race?!?!?

In the end I came in just ahead of the 50th percentile and about 1:15 behind Stu. I figure that we would have been right about together had I not had the mechanicals, had people to ride with on the road sections, and had not lost the “racing drive”. Still I was not wreaked like the last race, Stu was there at the finish as was the beer, and I just accepted what the day had handed me.

As far as the race is concerned - it is an excellent event, but for me perhaps not enough real “fun” mountain bike sections to warrant doing it again. There are lots of gravel roads - which I had thought would have been double-track or dirt fire roads. The rocky sections were not like Quebec rocks that you actually “use” and work with in your ride, more just a jumbled minefield of bucking rumble strips. That said I think some of you guys would really like this race and probably do reasonably well. Though it is a very strong field here with a bunch of pro and endurance elites. Even with Stu’s good finish he just made it inside the top 25% overall and in cat. The evening consisted of burger eating, beer drinking, and racer cheering as the sun went down. A pretty sweet finish to a day full of adversity.

Well in the end I’ll attribute much of my adversity to 1) Operator error, 2) Poor tire selection, 3) Plain old bad luck....I guess that’s 2 out of 3 against me !

Front tire choice here good...

Rear tire choice here bad.....very bad....

Again for a more race oriented and less adversity perspective, check out Disco Stu’s race report here. On a team related note - at both events I got a lot of comments and compliments on the team kit...feather in the cap of Will Thom, Matt, and whomever was involved in selecting the design and colour scheme.

After all that I think it is time to put the mtb away for a bit and take a break from racing and traveling to races. My mind is simply out of the race zone and I need to refocus, do some swimming, running, paddling, hiking and rollerblading. The three intervening weeks should be just what the doctor ordered. Next up - most of y’all will be D2R2ing it while I’ll be at Lake Placid for XTERRA off-road triathlon Aug 22.

Monday, August 9, 2010

August 29tt - Quintuple Pave Classic

The Quintuple Pave Classic on Sunday, August 29th, is still on. Due to a number of factors, the ride will be lower key than the Ride of the Damned in May in terms of amenities. For this one, there won't be a 'manned' checkpoint, but the depanneaur in Low will suffice, and the BBQ apres will be held at Tall Tree HQ (255 Richmond Rd). With many of the TT crew either away racing, on vacation, or otherwise tied up, we don't have the numbers to pull off the sort of extravaganza we managed for the Damned ride. There are two competing events that will pull riders away as well, The Ride with Rendall Crazy Train team time trial, and the 24hr Hot August Nights race at Albion Hills. This is the busiest time of the season for some of us, so a BIG ride is about all we can manage. I'll be away racing the Canada Cup in Bromont on the 15th, vacationing in the US through the week, then meeting up with a Glenn, Pascal, Chris, Jamie, Ariel, and Steve for D2R2 on the 21st. From the 27th to the 29th I hope to race Velo Raid, a 3-stage mtb race from Quebec City to Mont St. Anne, along with Rob, Neil and Anna. If that happens, I won't be in town for the Quintuple at all. Pretty hectic. Rodd will be the go to guy for the event, so any questions can be directed to him: rodd@talltreecycles.ca

Next year we'll most likely focus on the Ride of the Damned in May, and Double Cross and the Fixed Gear Frolic in the fall.


When: Sunday, August 29th, 8am

Route: We discussed the route and will default to the Ride of the Damned course. Cue sheets are already perepared and only require a minor fix or two. Go to the post with all the details from that ride here

IF the turnout is small enough for Rodd and team to feel confident about the group sticking together for a special surprise route, this option might be exercised. If the turnout is large, keeping the whole group together for navigational purposes won't be practicable, so the Damned route will stick. The Damned route is 160k total, from Lac Leamy. Since the BBQ will be held at Tall Tree, riders may opt to meet there to drop off bags, then proceed to Lac Leamy. Rodd may opt to move the meeting spot to Tall Tree altogether, so make sure you check back to confirm as the day approaches.

Teams: The team format still applies. Teams of 5, or if you can't pull enough together, talk to Rodd about pulling in a few others. We've managed thus far getting teams sorted. Team captains are asked to contact Rodd with your team name and roster (tentative is fine) by Wednesday, August 25th. Please also indicate how many riders plan to attend the BBQ, and of those, how many are vegetarian.vegan. This information is vital to planning cue sheet requirements and BBQ supplies.

Cost: $5 per rider, with all proceeds going to Stand Up for Cheo. The BBQ won't be covered in the fee, so bring some money to cover BBQables, again, with proceeds going to Stand Up for Cheo. If you'd like to bring beverages for the apres to the shop in the morning or Saturday afternoon, we'll have a cooler ready.

Again, questions go to rodd@talltreecycles.ca

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A tale of adversity at the races...X 2...!!

Part 1 - Summer Epic 8 Hour

July 23 saw myself and Kiwi Lisa heading down Hardwood Hills for the second 8 Hour MTB race this year. I was planning on focusing on these endurance races and had started the year well after winning the first one. There are tons of fast guys both over and under 40 y/o at these events so I had no real allusions of winning again but definitely was shooting for podium and would be unhappy with anything less than top 5.

Got to stay at a friend of mine who is a mechanic at the shop there and lives about ½ km from the course so that was great. Was feeling reasonably well and fit and the weather was perfect, no rain, warm and humid with some cloud cover.

I took the first few laps of this race at a slower pace than the Spring 8 hour and was suffering from an increasingly painful headache. I hoped that it was just the sweatgutR headband I was wearing (perhaps too tightly) and was relived after removing it and ingesting an advil. Next bunch of laps went well and steady and I thought I was in top 2 having not been passed and being told earlier that I was 4th overall. Stopped to grab a perogie, pepperoni and a peach (perhaps not the best combo) after about 5 laps. I’ve come to discover that 24 hr race food and 8 hr race food have different purposes and therefore should be different items....I am unfortunately still in 24 hr mindset and most of the food I had was not really what I would want or need over the course of a much faster paced 8 hr.

Up til about the 5 hr mark things were going pretty well and steady, tho I kept missing salt intake each time I briefly stopped in the pit, even tho telling myself specifically to get salt as I was felling twinges in my right quad/ham. Then my stomach started to give me some grief...(I was later to discover that the rest of the pepperoni in my food had some foreign whiteish matter growing on it....I’m thinkin’ that did NOT bode well for Mike’s tummy!!). Slowed down a bit and finally got some salts in but it was a bit too little too late. Tanya had just told me that I was in 3rd which had me a bit discouraged as I thought I was higher and started to get a bit desperate in worrying about hanging in third. By this time the twinges had become full blown cramps...spinning did not help on some of the hills...tho strangely on some of the steeper punchier hills actually standing and mashing letting gravity do 90% of the work seemed to be less conducive to cramping. But along came another adversity.... My long awaited Specialized shoes...mostly awesome BUT, they have this plastic part which anchors the non-latching side of the buckle and it is place (anatomically on me anyway) right at a boney protrusion on the inside of my foot above the arch. There is no real padding on the inside of the shoe to protect and by hour 6 this was causing severe pain as this plastic part squeezed against that bone like a vise. That problem was getting worse, and then hotspots on my feet at the cleats started. Again new pedals and cleats (SPD’s for the first time) so perhaps the surface area is a little different. The next little bit of adversity to hit was when I pulled off my shades to wipe my eyes and the rubber ear piece somehow came off leaving just the skinny wire of the frame to secure to my head. Needless to say this is not terribly secure and the glasses kept slipping around as I had to constantly adjust their positioning due to the lack of rubbery grippage.

By now I was mentally in survival mode and at lap 10 I was still in 3rd, however at lap 11 I got passed and we were playing leapfrog fro a while which left me harried in the pit stops looking around for my competitor .....and thusly not fueling ideally. I was fighting to survive an not loose any more places when the unthinkable happened...and I have no idea how. I got passed halfway through lap 13....I know I was struggling but seriously I was at least 20minutes or more ahead of this guy in the middle of the race. His final few lap times were fast beyond belief, not just a factor of me slowing, not sure how this was humanly possible but it left a bad and confused taste in my mouth....there was just no way his lap times made sense !!

In the end I finished 5th, still extremely respectable, especially given all my adverse issues, but I was not terribly excited about it all. My body was in the throes of some intensely painful cramping for the ensuing 30-40 minutes, and I’m sure some people were wondering if they should get medical help for me. Finally it all cleared and after some rest and food, and later beers and fantastic ribs a’ la Ben followed by a special screening of “Dawn of the Dead”, I felt a little less zombified.

For those of you “younger” old guys, let me tell you it does not get any easier once you become an “older” old guy. My time for 5th place out of 38 in 40+ would actually have been 4th of 32 in under 40. 8th out of 90 solos overall was the final - and still quite respectable - tally.

For more race oriented reports check the Vegan Vagabond’s report here.....and Kiwi Lisa’s here.

Next part to be continued.....Wilderness 101...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cycling Conspiracy!

If I lived in the US I think I'd go bonkers over the polemics.

The vitriol expressed in the R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.'s article linked to is saddening. Notice how insidious his 'revelations' around population growth, famine and climate change are. I wonder how many countries count as 'civilized' on his calculus, what scale of famine counts as 'famine,' and whether the revision of climate science should really be counted as a mark against those who warned against climate change but had the direction of temperature change off?

Rugged individualism is not cool. You can see it run through a certain portion of the American psyche. The Horatio Alger myth meshes well with rugged individualism. Its maintenance supports the notion that social welfare policies and universal health care only prop up the weak, those who really don't deserve to succeed in life - Social Darwinism at work. Watch out for the socialists, they'll make us weak! Apparently, those who ride bicycles are easy targets as socialist, environmentalist weaklings who don't really deserve to exist if they can't hold their own with cars, SUVs and the rest.

Which reminds me, what is up with a woman in an SUV yelling at my wife, as she rode with my daughter on the back of her long-bike on the sidewalk along Carling avenue near Dow's Lake (as I do when I'm with my daughter): "Hey, get off the sidewalk, you're not allowed there! You are supposed to be on the road!" Seriously, what goes through people's heads when the do stuff like this? My wife could only laugh. You want to give us a ticket, Mrs. Citizens Arrest? Call the cops? Go for it. There is the letter of the law, and there's the spirit of the law. Thinking people follow the spirit of the law, especially when the safety of their children is concerned. If infrastructure is not conducive to safety, we have to adapt, and sometimes that means operating outside the rules. People who consider themselves 'good' because they dogmatically follow rules scare the s@#t out of me.

Friday rant over.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Le Tour De Panneur

If you've been waiting for the other shoe to drop, i.e., for the post on the Tour Dep, sorry for the delay. I've been pretty busy with work, family, riding and sleeping. A gaggle of us were down in Vermont shredding the Kingdom trails over the long weekend, which I"m still recovering from now. I hope to find time to report on that soon. Stellar riding, and lots of it.

So, as promised, here are the pictures and the map from our Tour De Panneur a couple weekends ago. Great route.

7:30am start at Island Park. Steel bikes in full effect.

Great old abandoned farmhouse on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River as we headed West. Could make a great Tall Tree club house.
This doubletrack heads North toward the escarpment, behind a drag race track. The races were on, but few people seemed to be around.
The group, minus moi, some more posey than others.
Atop the Eardley-Masham climb, at the furthest entry point into the Gatineau Park. This climb always feels awful. Back on a spring ride, a truck tried to get up but couldn't due to the amount of gravel atop the pavement. It used to be dirt. Its still hard.
More tall trees, and us. Rodd'll have to say where this is, cause I can't situate it.
Same stretch, almost a line. Pascal, Todd, Martin, Steve and Matt.
Dep stop #1.
Dep stop #2, probably. Todd's fantabulous Kirk.
Dep #3? This one is in Low, no question. We did, however, have questionable food here.
Like this. Can you guess? Yep, Rodd.
And this. Hmmmmm....
This combo was pretty good. Orange juice and Perrier make for a nice sports drink combo. Ooooohh, Perrier.
A jar of pickles combined well with the Amy's bean and rice burrito I pulled out of my pocket. I think I ate 4-5 pickles out of the jar, and the others ate the rest. Sodium-tastic. This was actually overkill, as it wasn't really that hot out. Apparently, drinking pickle juice is great for warding off cramps. I like them, so they make a perfect companion to sweaty riding.

I'd have preferred to post the map here, but all I can pull off is the link. Perhaps Rodd will plug the map in here. The map was created from Todd's GPS trace, but the battery died at Wakefield, so the rest isn't there. We took River Rd and the 105 back, as usual, which adds 40k.

All told, this route didn't actually have much climbing. The other side of the Gatineau River is where most of the climbing is to be found, as there just are not that many roads over the escarpment. By not many, I mean there are three that actually connect to other roads: Notch, the Parkway, and Eardley -Masham.

BTW, the Quintuple Pave Classic is still on for August 29th. Due to many of us being on vacation during the lead-up, including myself, we'll do a low key event compared to the Ride of the Damned. The route will be just as good, but it'll be more bare bones: assemble, ride, BBQ at the shop. 5-person teams is still the format. It'll be fun. It would be great to hear whether folks would like a more challenging route, or whether something similar to the Ride of the Damned would be just right.