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.