Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Its a wrap: Kings(ton) Cross

Over the last couple weeks in Ottawa it has really felt like winter has descended. Freezing rain, snow, ice on the roads; it hasn't been pretty. A feeling of closure has been looming, laying in wait to flourish and manifest in the articulation of two simple words: Its over.

Conor O'Brien pulls ahead of me in the uphill sprint finish, during the final seconds of our 2010 race season. This is what I look like at 100% effort. Chapeau to Conor for a coming around (photo: Ian Austen)
As the wind blew away my motivation of get out, or rather stay out, Saturday afternoon and put in a one or two hour ride, the more moderate climes of Kingston beckoned me. With a projected high of +4, driving two hours to race for one in Kingston never sounded more appealing. Minimal preparation was required after a merely dusty race in Renfrew the previous weekend, so I was to bed at the monkish hour of 10pm, ready for the final throwdown of 2010.

Sunday morning started yet better than hoped. At 8am it was already +2 in Kingston; excellent. The winter shoes might stay in the bag. After a smooth trip under two hours, David, Jamie, and I rolled into the parking lot to find Rodd, Todd, and Rob getting ready to roll, and Mike and Andy still on course. Warm up revealed summer weight gloves and no hats were required...the joy! It was time to rock out.

Starting on a stretch of gravel road, the field was off like a bunch of burnt monkeys. I wasn't particularly keen to put a tonne of effort into getting right up front (i.e., I wasn't able to go any faster); my plan was to hang with the lead five as long as I could in hopes of making some time on my rivals. Coming into the race, I knew I HAD to win in order to have any hope of pulling off the series overall win. However, since Duncan showed up, mathematically, he'd have to get one point or less in order for me to take the overall, and that was IFF (if and only if) I won. So there was some pressure, but at the same time, all I could do was focus on what I could control: win. Jamie was also aiming for a spot in the top ten overall, and Rodd and Rob had were right up on top in the points too. What would happen? This was going to be fun!

Rodd climbs teh tanning terraces. I'm told more of these are going in for erosion control; Kingston could get even better! (Photo: Ian Austen)

Rob leads Marc Lapointe up the hill. (Photo: Ian Austen)

Tall Tree Sandwich. David follows... (Photo: Ian Austen)
...with Jamie, then Todd, in tow. (Photo: Ian Austen)

Todd chases Jamie around the building. (Photo: Ian Austen)

After spending the first couple laps, if that, chasing the lead group of five or so, I settled in with Marcel Vautour and Conor O'Brien. Marcel was driving a very strong pace, and I was doing my best to hang on despite feeling pretty horrible. We opened a bit of a gap on Conor, then, heading into the series of three steps I had the brialliant idea to ride them. I came to my senses as I got within a couple feet, but all I could do at that point was make a panic stop, akwardly dismount, drop my chain somehow on the remount, and wonder what the hell I was thinking. Racing can make one temporarily stupid (or permanently...). Conor caught up, commented on my 'interesting' move, and on we rode.

From there on in the race was straight up fun. We were able to ride tempo, as there was enough of a gap not to have to worry. Duncan and Simon Smith had been chasing hard earlier, and getting very close, but both faded back so the pressure was off. Duncan pulled a muscle over a set og barriers, and Simon's crank arm almost fell off. Marcel had rough luck too, flatting while he was chasing down the 4th spot.

Heading into the final lap, Conor and I turned up the pace, and he made his move as we rolled into the uphill switchbacks. I followed close enough to manage to pass on the inside of the final turn onto the gravel at the bottom of the hill, then it was a straight, right turn, uphill finish. Full gas, turn, sprint, change gears, sprint harder. At 100% effort, Conor came up my right side and there was nothing I could do. He had it, awesome sprint! We were both cooked enough to crash each other out on the grass as we fist bumped, classic. Terrific way to cap the season. Duncan's finish well into the points ensured his series victory, capping a very strong cross season for him. Congrats Duncan, well done!

Rodd rolled in next for 2nd spot in the Master's group, followed by Duncan, Simon, Jamie, David and Todd; five Tall Tree riders in the top ten, super! Everyone raced about the course, as it blended a myriad of features from steep climbs to shallower ones, sweeping turns and tight ones, fast descents and slow ones, fast straights and a variety of run-ups. one couldn't call it a power rider's course, or a technical rider's course; it was an all-rounder's course. And it was downright fun.

Rob and I chat apres race. Notice Rob's seatpost? A botched remount snapped the head off; Rob was not unscathed. Rob was on track to take the second overall position, but Lady Luck had other designs. (Photo: Ian Austen)

Thanks to everyone who helped set up, not least, the organizing crew - and lets acknowledge Timothy Austen, 15 years old - who got up extra early every week and stayed late to create and tear down the courses, making this whole racing thing possible for the rest of us. Your efforts are very much appreciated. Next year the Tall Tree crew will come out to set up at least twice, I promise.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Bikes + Hideous Wind = Whatever

Classic covered bridge shot outside Wakefield. Pascal's Rover on the left, Steve's on the right, my Truffle Pig in the  middle.
 I made brief mention of my new prototype Steelwool Truffle Pig a few days ago. Since then, I spent a couple hours at the shop dialing in the handlebar position on the bike. The bike is a 58cm (C-C), with a 59cm top tube (effective), parallel 72.5 head and seat tube, with 75mm bottom bracket drop. 'Out of the box' it is well proportioned for a lanky rider over 6 feet tall. I'm 6'1", but I don't have very long legs, Instead, I have a pretty long back, meaning I require a characteristicall 'euro' fit: long and low. My Secteur 18 was designed around these proportions, while in the case of the Truffle Pig, we had two frames made to test, in 56cm (Todd's) and 58cm (mine). In 2011, Truffle Pigs will be made in stock geometries, by hand in Canada. I sit on one extreme of the body proportion range for a 58cm bike so this is a good test to see whether the bike will work for a variety of different riders (we have other folks on the team with opposite proportions, looooonnng legs and short torsos). So while the extended head tube would have been ideal for a rider with long legs like Brad, it meant that even with a -17 degree stem my bars were still 2cm too high. I run the bars 60mm below the top of my saddle which isn't a tonne of drop. The only way to get the bars down, which promised to improve the bike's handling and allow me to put more power into it, was to cut the headtube down. No problem. After some precision hacksaw work, followed by filing with a bastard and of course, facing, the front end went back together and the fit was now....perfect! Excellent, lets ride!

Three beauties out front of Moca Loca
Pascal, Steve and I met a Moca Loca on St. Joseph Saturday morning, ready to take on the wind. By 'wind' I mean gusts up to 70kph at +4 degrees. Nobody was running a computer, better not to know how slow we were going to ride. Sure enough, the wind was gusty enough to cause a few pretty severe veers of our lines, but we fared fine. Steve and Pascal's mint Steelwool Rovers feature low trail front ends, so they handled the cross-wind gusts rather well, though their fenders surely diminished their inherent stability.

We rolled the good ol' Cascades loop to Wakefield, featuring lots of tree cover. We didn't let the wind get in the way of a beautiful ride.

The fields here were quite green up until last week. Still, it was plenty pretty out for mid-November.

Pascal encouraged me to try his Chris King R45/Stan's Alpha/Sapim CX-Ray wheels, as he was concerned I might not like the amount of flex  he's been experiencing with them (I have a set of the same hubs in black waiting to be built up the same way). We swapped wheels while still on some rough roads past Cascades, which allowed me to get a good feel. Turns out they are stiff enough, stiffer than all the wheels I have running Open Pros and double butted spokes. Sure, they don't approach Ksyriums or other race wheels optimized for stiffness, but that's not what I want for rough roads anyhow. The Stan's will be great, especially tubeless!

Pipolinka, where else? Dahl and a great loaf of bread. Yep, that'll do. I know I look irritated, but that's actually focus. What would we do without Pipolinka mid cold weather ride? In Dullsville, that's where. 

Profile of the Truffle Pig at Pipolinka. The angle skews the proportions. I'm running a 28c Grand Bois on the back and a 30 on the front.

We shared Cross Loop with a gang of 4-wheelers driving like maniacs. Ah well. The bridge is no longer under construction, btw.
Our photographer for the day, Steve (aka, the Colonel)

Simply put, we had a great ride. About 80k or so on awesome bump gobbling bikes; what more can you ask for in November? Lovely. There won't be many more opportunities like this until spring. With the position dialed in, the Truffle Pig was terrific, and I felt fresh once back home. Perhaps counter-intuitive,  the lower position is far more comfortable for my lower back and neck. I was pretty psyched for Sunday's race with the bike ready to rip. 

And it did. Out in Renfrew this morning, the Truffle Pig seemed to be in its element. Neil was just back from Europe, and managed to ride a scorching first lap with me in tow. The course was laid out over an equestrian park and, unlike Nepean, was rather bumpy. However, I knew my TP's curved seatstays would provide an edge coupled with my tubulars; I'd be able to keep the power down over the bumps, or at least that was the plan. 

It worked. I wound up with Imad and Mark Boudreau, 'chasing' Derrick St. John, Evan McNeely and Warren McDonald. After proceeding with the other two for a couple laps, I could see that I had a substantial gap on anyone who was possible a Master A rider, so I eased up and stopped chasing their wheels, settled into my tempo, and rode the rest of the race strong and consistently. And it was fun, no sucking. I thus managed to attain the win I was after, which makes the overall series win mathematically possible. I did all I could today; all I can do is show up next week in Kingston and hope for the best. Its going to be exciting!

Jamie suffered a rolled tubular today, possible due to Stan's sealant inside, Rob rode strong, Rodd faded from the bone rattling, Neil eased up after realizing being off the bike for a few weeks really does eat into your fitness, and Jim simply had a rough day after a long day of work on Saturday and very little sleep. Mike and Glenn ripped it up in the first race, and I'll have to wait to see how that worked out; they both seemed content.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Truffle Pig in da House!

Originally uploaded by mark.carver.1979
Potentiality became actuality last weekend when I had double opportunity to put my new prototype Steelwool Truffle Pig through the paces in its element: two twisty cross courses. The only thing missing for this lightweight Pig rig (prig?) was mud. No matter, I got a great feel for the frame and fork over the course of the two days, and have already had a couple pithy conversations with Will Ficner, the bike's designer, about things we can improve on for production. These will be built in small batches in Canada, details to follow. I have a bit of work to do to dial in my position, but in terms of the ride quality of the frame and fork, I am very happy with its responsiveness and propensity to go hard; i.e., it makes me want to push harder. Marc Carver took this great shot' once I have more I'll post again and go through some of the finer points of its design, and where this bike is going to go in retail terms,

Triple Threat Cross !

So a few weeks back some of us old farts who are in heated battle for points in the OBC series decided that we should hit up the RWR races for a “triple threat” weekend of cross. This was going to be painful but the friendly competitive rivalry going between myself, Jay Heins, David Bileneky, Peter Conn and Drew Edwards was the perfect segue for such a challenge.

Saturday brought some nice weather for the 12:30 start time. The bike was ready (albeit with much more aggressive tires than needed for the essentially mud free course. This was a very different style of course for me compared to the familiar OBC series courses which tend to have one or two more mountain-bikey elements to them. This was lots of flat grassy twists and turns (which is generally not bad for me), and a few straightaways (which are generally bad for me) but there was no sections that I could really take charge in and make up any real time. Plus the attendance is significantly lower and even in this race there was three separate age group starts. About 25 in the start as opposed to the usual 100 +.

Start was hard and fast down the road with John Gee taking the hole shot into the hard left turn. He was followed closely by Rob Orange - these are the uber 40+ machines ! The rest of us eventually settled into our pecking order with me bopping around Kris Westwood, David Bilenkey and Peter Conn for about 3/4 of the race. The most vivid part in my memory is the long VERY BUMPY backstretch and after a few rounds of that meat grinder David and Kris were long gone. I had a reasonable enough gap on Peter - but it looked like he was closing a bit on the last ½ lap as I looked back at any strategic turn. Final result - a respectable 6th.

Saturday night brought it’s own little contribution to the triple threat but even with that and about 2 hrs of sleep (unlike Matt’s monk) I seemed pretty energetic for Sunday’s early race in Renfrew. Arriving with lots of time to scope the course I found quite a range, a lot of open straight field (crap), a tight 90 into a ditch at mach 1 and 180 out at mach 0.00000001, an awesome short steep dirty wall leading up to the forest section, then a cool series of about six 180 degree grassy switchbacks coming down. I switched up the front tire for something a little less aggressive for all the field.

Race started on 2 laps of a track then it was hammer for the steep up. Being in about 5-6th wheel was bad as Jay fooked up the wall and stopped us all while Chris Olsen rode away. (How important is that hole shot??). The downhill 180 series was another section to really know who is in front of behind you....some guys are smooth while others are jittery hacks, (I’ll let you decides which ones you want in front). I suffered from some hackage in the first couple laps. Surprisingly I managed to hold my own in the long sections with the usuals and Jim Laird (of 50+ fame) and was able to clean the steep wall each time up making up a bit of time. In the end tho Jay and David have just got a little more in them than I do and I dropped off a few meters on the last road section due to some errant shifting and limped in to the finish climb about 15 seconds back - all of us collapsed in heaving masses. Final result - a solid 4th. Two down and one to go.

Time to spin out just a little and down some choc milk and an banana and hit the road back to O-town. Got back with time to spare and figured since I lived only a few minutes away from race #3 that I would have a quick shower to warm up and refresh and even clean the machine a little. Of course at some point I looked down at my watch - holy shyte - 12 pm !! Booted it to the race and with a little ride around hit the start line realizing that the front wheel switch-over in the morning revealed a slow leak. There I was on the start line with about 5-10 psi in the front tire...this is going to be ugly. Luckily Trish was there ad was able to grab their floor pump and bring it to the pit. I really had wanted to put on a good show as I had friends come out to watch due to missing the Mooneys Bay intended race. The first half lap was a nightmare as I was swishing and sliding out all over the place - basically I was a complete hazard for anyone behind me and I felt rather sheepish about the whole affair. Amazingly I made it to the pit without completely flatting or rolling the tire. Thanks Trish ! Got going again after about a minute and chased down a few of the 50 + guys that passed while in the pit. I kept Drew Edwards in my sights every time there was a straight leading to a bunch of turns - but could never bridge the gap that was substantially further than it looked. This course was even more twisty and turny than Saturday and all the accelerate /decelerate was taking it’s toll on my dizzy ravaged body. I was basically on my own the whole race - giving it all I had (which was not much to be honest) until the last lap. Then the wall really hit and all I could do was a little more than a soft pedal in as John Fee and Shawn Marshall lapped me...soon to be followed by Matt and crew. Final result - a humbling 17th.

There were a handful of other triple threat-ers as well and while many of them hit some sort of wall of agony at some point in the third race - some managed to really impress. Imad was one of them.

Triple threat weekend - glad to have done it but glad it is over !

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sparks Fly at the Hammer and Anvil Cyclocross Double Bonanza!

The Anvil begins. Photo: Bernard Durand
I still love double cyclocross weekends. This weekend's racing was particularly sweet, as our Masters fields started at 12:30pm. This afforded me time to break the fast with my family, get suited up at a leisurely pace, and even warm up in the garage (you know, calisthenics and stuff...or maybe the trainer) a bit before heading to the Nepean Equestian Centre at 11. One could get used to this pace!

Ok, cool, stay here, this is good. (Photo: Kelly Marshall)
Oh yeah, this is definitely going well. Man, do I look PRO or what, matching tape, coordinated shoes and gloves.... (Photo: Kelly Marshall)
Shit! WTF am I doing?! Bye Shawn........ (Photo: Kelly Marshall)
After battling illness for over a month, I was hopeful that I'd feel good on the bike on Saturday. Well, I did, which was a real treat. I started well, battled with John Fee and Shawn Marshall, made significant bike handling errors at key times, and ultimately saw Shawn ride away from me as I floundered. In the end, I finished in second spot, with Simon Smith hot on my heals. Even though I knew my unforced errors cost me a chance at the win, I was nevertheless happy to be riding at or near full strength again; one can much more readily control errors than one's state of health. Jamie took a hard crash due to a pile-up on the first lap, injured his shoulder, but showed real character in soldiering on and putting the hurt on for the whole race for 9th spot. You can't buy spirit like that. Dave, Mike and Rob were in the mix as well, finishing 5th in MA, 6th, and 9th in MB, respectively. Pretty darn good.

This is Masters is all about, crushing it AND parenting at the same time, or at least the same day. (Photo: Kelly Marshall)
After some vegetarian chili (thanks to the organizers for making that option available), I returned home motivated to improve in the bike handling department on Sunday and go for the win. Positive thinking and belief in one's ability to win is at least half the battle. As I wrote on my facebook page Saturday night, "If one wants to fight like a ninja, one must sleep like a monk." So that's what I did.

Sunday morning's routine replicated Saturday's, with an additional 50 pushups thrown in (uh, right). This time my lovely wife and daughter came along, cowbell at the ready. We arrived to a slightly less balmy, perhaps chilly venue, the same as Saturday's, and proceeded with the proceedings. The course was not drastically different than Saturday's, but I did find it flowed better for me. I liked Saturday's twisty, technical course, but I liked this one even more. Chapeau to the Ride with Redall crew and volunteers for creating a terrific course. I think the majority of us were confused by the tape from time to time, so hopefully next year something can be done to help the old eyes and brains register what we're looking at.

Dudes looking good. Jamie, Pascal, Todd. (Photo: Kelly Marshall)
 We had far more Tall Tree riders out to race today, distributed between the Masters 30-39 and 40-49 categories. We started well, and this time, as I staged at the front, I was able to get the holeshot and lead for a bit. John Fee and Shawn Marshall were right there, once again, and Simon Smith was also very close. John passed before long, and I settled in behind him at a good manageable pace. After taking the lead to pull after a couple laps or so, I slid out and they surged away, Yohan, the fast junior in tow. I managed to bridge up, and regained contact, so all was well again. About a lap later I stuffed my front wheel in a turn, and to my horror, rolled my tubular! "Krikey, I'm going to have to get this back on," I thought, as Shawn and John rode away, Yohan trailing. I rotated the tire around, bringing the 1foot long length of rolled tire to the top, reached down, and yanked it back onto the rim. It seated back as it was, but I had no idea how well it would hold. I rode tentatively and Yohan caught up. Once I was reasonably confident the tire would remain seated, I started chasing, however, John and Shawn had opened a gap of at least 30 seconds. I tried to harness all my inner strength to reel them in, but I could only go so fast in the turns, so I could do little to close. Yohan was tenacious, and we battled a bit, but in the end, I came around the last turn leading, and held the position across the line for third. Again, I was happy with my physical performance, but accepted that there was nothing I could do to prevent my technical, so I'm ok with it. There will be more races, more opportunities to get everything right, or close enough.
Here we are, the lead group of 4: me, John, Shawn and Yohan.  Everything is going well at this point. (Photo: Kelly Marshall)
Jamie, Rob, Todd. Hey, where's Rodd? (Photo: Kelly Marshall)

Oh, there he is, with matchy matchy tire and kit. (Photo: Bernard Durand)

There goes the train. (Photo: Stu Blunt)

Here they come! Shawn just couldn't hold the sprint. The guys hammered out a very hot last lap, battling the whole way. (Photo: Stu Blunt)
Then us. I led into the sprint, and gave it 100%, unclipping near the line! Oops. (Photo Stu Blunt) 
This time I wore pants. Congrats John, great racing guys! (Photo: Kelly Marshall)
Behind me a train of Tall Tree riders steamed over the course, battling amongst themselves and having an absolute blast, from what they said:  Rob, Rodd, Todd, and Jamie, rolled a fast pace, and rounded out 5th through 8th spot in that order. Awesome! Meanwhile, Pascal and Chris rounded out 14th and 16th, and David, Glenn, and Mike took 7th, 11th and 17th in Masters 40-49. Great riding everyone!

You might notice from the photos that I'm racing on my new Steelwool Truffle Pig cross bike. Yep, that's right, the bike is in full effect; actually, Todd has one too, and he raced his for the first time today. I'll do another post about the bikes asap. They are HOT. We've got a couple studio shots of my frame and Todd's complete bike here. More to come.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Latest news on Beaver Pond

News Story out today! Please pass this around to every group and person you know or write blogs on the topic. Let's hope that Urbandale (the developer) will help the City make this a reality. Here is the NEWS STORY.


Thank you.

Go to http://www.ottawasgreatforest.com/ to show your support and to learn more.

Steve Hulajinfo@ottawasgreatforest.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

This Sucks

Cyclocross always seems like a good idea in July. Everyone is tanned and lean, winning races saying, "I'm gonna do this EVERY weekend 'til December!" Then September rolls around and it's, "I'll get by on residual fitness!" October arrives and it's dark, cold and wet every night. Training more or less stops but it's easy to say, "all I have to do is hit the trainer a couple of times during the week between races." Of course actually getting on the trainer in October never happens. Improvement without putting in any effort proves to be wishful thinking at best and pure delusion at worst. The continual back slide down the results sheet commences. Videos of guys with names like Sven, Zdenek and Klass make it look easy flying around unhindered by municipal bureaucrats in flashy skinsuits on carbon wonder bikes . Last Sunday my reality looked more like this:

Which leads me to this conclusion: cyclocross sucks. I should explain that. As a 30-something weekend warrior I have no business employing a coach. In fact I'd go so far as to call myself an uncoachable cynic. However I've been riding, training and racing long enough to figure a few things out on my own. To me the main principle in training for bike racing is: do it until it sucks. This is different from the popular training philosophy of "ride lots." It is important to ride a lot but sometimes you just have to do it until you break. Until it sucks. I'm not talking about the days when you head out the door in the rain and immediately say, "this sucks." I'm talking about 4hrs after that moment when it REALLY sucks. Or the second lap of a long race when you've blown up after starting too hard and the self doubt creeps in. Or on the last interval you think you shouldn't have done. Or, say, the mid point of a cyclocross season. I think coaches call this idea of going outside your comfort zone something like "over reaching." The body and mind adapts to the increased stress and improvement occurs.

Every race has a suck point and how you deal with it usually determines the outcome. Thinking of my season as one big race, cyclocross is undoubtedly my suck point. So like I said: cyclocross sucks. For me. In spite of this -- or perhaps because of this -- I've been showing up for something like ten years now. Check the wicked orange Barracuda jersey:

And I'll keep showing up. Pushing through the suck and -- presumably -- coming out stronger in some way. Almonte put me deeply in the suck zone. But the important part is what happens next. So I'll throw myself on the anvil next weekend. How about you? Think I'll wash my bike first.

Note: no City of Ottawa lawns were harmed in the creation of this blog post.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Like the PROs, Except the Fast Part: Canadian Cyclocross Nationals and Almonte Double Bill

Wow, look at this photo by mcadooja, its amazing! This hump led into a sketchy turn; it was exciting.
Great shot of Jamie by TorontoRob from Nationals
This weekend Jamie and I had the opportunity to race a double cross weekend, just like the PROs...and other people who race double weekends. Cool, its fun to live racing for a couple days in a row every once in a while.

Off to Toronto Friday night we went, slept about 6 hours, and were at the Arlington Arena just after 8am for registration and practice. We showed up expecting a fast course, and found a climby power course instead. Perhaps 'instead' is too strong.... A couple laps before the first race began was sufficient to figure out what we had to do: start fast. There would be little opportunity for recovery over the course, so closing gaps would be very difficult.

Warming up on the trainers for 30 minutes has Jamie and I good and warm, ready to line up. Since we'd registered almost last, we were staged in the back row, four back. Hmmm, no good. I knew I'd have to do whatever I could to move up fast. I tried, but didn't have much room to slip through as we approached the first turn, and ended up stuck behind traffic while the lead five or so opened a gap. With a great deal of discomfort I managed to work my way to 6th spot, and Jamie was only two back. The course featured three real climbs, on that was difficult to pull off rolling every time, and four additional short climbs. Of those four, three followed off-camber descending turns. There were virtually no corners that afforded more than a second or two of recovery, so suffering was the name of the game. Yes, suffering, I did not manage to maintain an altogether positive perspective. This came down to the fact that I was not able to ride as strong as I was riding before becoming ill just before the Toronto UCI weekend in October; this was and continues to be disappointing and frustrating. However, while I was not having a great day, Jamie was. Riding better than ever, he pushed it a bit into the barriers that could be approached at 30kph, clipped the first, and slammed into the second head first! He consequently lost three spots and any chance of reaching me. Bummer. In the end, I gave up a spot and lacked the mental and physical strength to chase hard enough, finishing 7th, two spots behind Shawn Marshall, and just ahead of Simon Smith, both riders from our Eastern Ontario Series. Jamie wound up in 12th, a very respectable finish, and his best performance to date. After getting lost in a mall on a Booster Juice mission, we were back in Ottawa for dinner, and preparing for round 2, Almonte.

Jay Heins caught us before the start, cool shot!
Muddy. Practice had our bikes dripping, and in my case, clogging. Riding smoothly would be the ticket, and there would be jockeying, no doubt. Off we went, and I found myself in the front within 75 meters. Oops, I didn't want to be there, what was I thinking? Perhaps that I'd like to see? The spray was intense.

See what I mean, my eyes are closed. I found keeping them this way kept the mud out. The only downside was blindness, but it was pretty much the same with them open anyhow. Photos by Kim, Fred and Felix
Check it out, Rodd and I are right behind Nathan! I was actually ahead for a while, then I guess I blew up. Or I just couldn't ride fast enough.
Rob and Jamie were right in the top ten, then Jamie pulled away, only to flat his rear tubular. He might have worked his way up to me if not for that.
Jim worked hard, and like everyone else, got worked.
It was not Pascal's day. He's been sick, and I think that might have played into his near-vomit. He packed it in with a couple laps to go; he knows when to say when.

Rodd kills it on his feet.

As Jamie tried to bridge up to Glenn Rendall, he flatted. This was very disappointing, as he was flying, yet again. Heading into the second last lap I got sideways on the descent leading into the barrier in the photo above, and rode through the rhubarb, narrowly avoiding a crash. By the time I reached the top of the run-up and ride away, I realized I'd flatted. That makes three rear tire mechanicals in the four races I've done in Almonte. Cursed? Perhaps. David's luck was perhaps worse though, as his pedal failed completely minutes after the start, taking him out of the race off the bat. I think we'll all want to right the scales next weekend at the Anvil and Hammer races. Despite our poor luck, Rodd put down an outstanding performance, pacing himself very well, and finishing just behind Nathan Underwood (who is an Elite, not Master), for what had to be second place, behind John Fee. I'm not sure where Rob, Jim, and Mike wound up yet; we'll have to wait for the results. However, I can see from the overall, that Rob may well have moved up to second spot overall, where I was sitting, behind Duncan Beard, as of last weekend. We'll see. It looks like the overall could be within grasp for a Tall Tree rider after all....

For more great photos, visit our flickr page.

Almonte Cross Part 2: Trouble In CX Paradise

Contrary to popular belief, I'm not feeling so well here.

This week was rather tumultuous for the cyclocross community of Ottawa. Bob and Ian were quick to react to the City’s decision to revoke the permits to use Ottawa public parks to hold the races and moved the venue to Almonte. As usual, they set up a very challenging course for us and it looks as though it got the better of the Tall Tree Team. The course was muddy, slippery and technical, and in the end for me, a bit much.

This is my first year racing cross and I have a lot to learn. Lesson 1: Make sure you get plenty of intensity during the year.

I have over 7000km in my legs this year, but most of them are from either riding to work or going on long “slow”, all day road/gravel slogs. Minimal red zone riding has resulted in mostly pain and mediocrity for me so far. I generally finish bottom third in the Masters A category. Sure, I’m up against some real honches, but in most other races/rides (Almonte Roubaix etc), I’m at least top half.

Lesson 2: Know how much to dish out and when to dish it out.

Today I was in my usual position, in a dimly lit hurt locker, duking it out with the usual suspects (Disco Stu among others) when an attack on a hard climb with a barrier halfway up (Thanks Ian and Bob) put me over the top. I began to dry heave uncontrollably. After about 8 heaves, I decided to call it quits. At that moment, I was not thinking of Matt’s wise words: “The pain only lasts an hour, quitting lasts forever.” It’s only after I saw the photos my son and sister took that they came back to me. I could have taken a 10 second break, eased off and finished the race. But I would have been behind all those guys I was racing with and I had trouble dealing with that. In hindsight, I should have kept going and just accepted my place in the pecking order. (For that day anyway)

The Walk of Shame. Tsk Tsk.

Lesson 3: Don’t quit, just take your lumps. You’ll feel better in the long run.

Bad luck struck much of Team Tall Tree: Matt and Jamie flatted out, Dave had some sort of pedal cat-ass-trophy very early on and our good buddy Phat Moose Kent died a quiet little death mid-race.

Rodd and Rob Represented Respectfully

We’ll be back next week for more at Ride with Rendall’s Anvil Cross. See you then!

Photos by Frédérique and Felix Marais here