Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cape Epic: Stage 4 - Time Trial

Fantastic scenery during stage 4 time trial
Photo: © Cape Epic (cyclingnews)
Looks like Dave and Brett might have opted to 'consolidate' today, i.e., recover on the bike and prepare to hit stage 5 hard tomorrow. Plenty of racing left to do! Good coverage found at cyclingnews.

Here's the spiel from the organizers:

It's a first for the Absa Cape Epic - two time trials in the 2011 race! This was a 32km route through the foothills of Brandwacht. As in 2010, riders traversed the western side of Worcester in this semi-desert environment. Added to last year's route was an extra 5km loop along dual track past the local golf course. The route data read 860m of climbing which may not seem like a lot, but over such a short distance, it still required a hard effort. As usual, the top teams left at 1 minute intervals, racing only against the clock; some looking for a stage win while others wanted to consolidate.

David Stachon achieved the following results:
Stage Time:1:36.59,0
Stage Position:21. in Masters category and 98. in general classification
Overall Time:21:13.03,5
Overall Position:16. in Masters category and in 85. general classificatio

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cape Epic: Stage 3

I received word from Dave today. Internet access is spotty around the race camps. Today the team bumped up to 15th overall in the Masters 40-49 category, further lending credence to my prediction that they'd continue to gain ground over the course of the race. And the pair is advancing in the ranks despite adversity of the painful variety. Here's what Dave had to say:

Brett and I are riding steady and smart.  He is riddled with saddle sores, so riding is excruciating for him. He's as tough as nails. I'm feeling like a million bucks and just lapping up what I'm calling "bicycle fantasy camp."

We still have quite a ways to go, but making to the half way point today is a great milestone.

It's interesting to hear what the riders think of the technical sections of the course. I'm biased....but man, they need to check out Fortune, Tremblant, or Mont Saint Anne.

I'm thinking the +35 degree highs are not helping in the saddle sore department; ouch! I hope Brett has access to DZ Nuts; as Pascal says, "that stuff is healing ointment!" Dave's perspective on the race epitomizes optimism. Rather than approach the race with a results oriented frame of mind, Dave's enjoying the experience, taking it as a cycling holiday that happens to involve a lot of really hard riding. Sure beats desk jockeying. When I have opportunity to take on my first stage race down the road, I'll take a page out of Dave's book and aim to enjoy the experience and take it all as it comes. 

Dave's last comment about reactions to technical sections of the course supports the impression many of us have had when riding away from out home range: there is not much out there more technical than what we ride around home. Camp Fortune is the most technical cross country course I've ridden or raced anywhere in Eastern Canada (I've not raced out West), and all the courses in Quebec are plenty technical. All of us who've ridden out West in the Whistler area were pleased to find that we had all the skills we needed (except for skinnies!) from our riding back home. Yep, there is a whole lotta excellent riding to do within striking distance from Ottawa. Being at ease on technical sections conserves a lot of energy.

Ok, so here's the spiel from today's stage, a long one:

Stage 3: Saronsberg / Tulbagh to Worcester (125km; 1200m of climbing)
With the fast roads out of town, riders covered 13km before the first climb. It was steep at times and very loose, requiring hard bursts of effort to gain momentum over the rockiest parts. If there was ever a theme for race week, it's "from effort comes reward." After the 4km climb, riders arrived at a plateau with a beautiful valley nestled between spectacular mountains that resembled the pictures found on the covers of fantasy novels. There were little time to look around during the race though - the deeply rutted descent tested the rider and equipment alike. After smooth farm roads and more rocky tracks, the tyres were put to the test, with devil thorns lying in wait. A long drag upwards on a rough path led to a remote hut at the foot of the cliff face of the bare rock of the mountainside - a geologist's paradise. After the final waterpoint, Absa Cape Epic veterans had some déjà vu, with a similar run into the race village through some winding singletrack.

David Stachon achieved the following results:
Stage Time:6:47.04,9
Stage Position:16. in Masters category and 88. in general classification
Overall Time:19:36.04,5
Overall Position:15. in Masters category and in 83. general classification

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cape Epic: Stage 2

Leading mixed category Esther Süss crests the climb of the historic Witsenbergpass
Photo: © Gary Perkin / SPORTZPICS (cyclingnews)

I managed to get out to ride this afternoon, and today's update on Dave's progress in Untamed, Magical Africa came through just as I send off a photo of a crazy ice flow covering a slope on Maxwell Road, near Wakefield. Thankfully, it was softish, so I managed to scramble down without incident. I was putting my fresh wheels to the test on the Truffle Pig. They combine a bit of the familiar and a bit of the novel: Chris King R45 hubs (I've used a King Classic rear hub for over a decade), Stan's Alpha road rims (first foray into Stan's for road), and Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes (never used Sapims on any of my wheels, let alone CX-Rays). I've shod this 1350g wheelset (without skewers, acording to my kitchen scale) with a set of Hutchinson Intensive tubeless tires in 25c, the largest size anyone makes at present in a slick tread. Today was a beat-down session, and the wheels held up perfectly; 'dead nuts on' in fact. Stiff and responsive too. Excellent. I'll do a post on these wheels specifically soon, after about 500k or so. Speaking of wheels, its nice to see Mavic is getting onto the wider rim program with their new M40 wheelset, a 40mm deep carbon rim laced with 24 bladed spokes to lowish flange hubs. These will be their go-to wheels for Paris-Roubaix, so one can expect them to garner some interest from the cyclocross crowd. And speaking of Classics, it looks like the whole dirt road race thang is slowly catching on in the US. The Tour of the Battenkill folks are putting on another race in May in Michigan...I wonder if its close enough to be worth the drive....

Ok, back to Dave's exploits in the desert. It appears as though my prediction that Dave and his partner would climb in position over the course of the race might hold water. Today the guys improved on Stage 1's result and bumped themselves up in both the Masters category and Overall general classification. I'm guessing they'll aim for top 15 from here on in. Who knows, perhaps they'll creep toward the top 10. Time will tell. If we're lucky, maybe Dave will have a few minutes to provide some insight into what they are going through. I won't blame him if he maintains his focus on eating and recovering, that's for sure!

Check out for more great photos from the Epic. Here's the rundown from the organizers:

Stage 2 - Saronsberg/Tulbagh to Saronsberg/Tulbagh (104km; 2300m of climbing)
A 12km steady upward drag took riders to a 6km climb on an ancient Voortrekker wagon trail, specially opened for the race. At the top, the 18km mark, riders already ascended almost 1000m. With the stage's major obstacle out of the way, the valley opened up ahead, with the route looping clockwise, following the buffer zone between orchards and mountainside. A look at the profile showed that the tracks were far from flat and a short section of singletrack compensated the labour of the first 50km. As it was a hot day, some riders were tempted to take a dip in one of the several dams dotted along the route as they begun to head home. After a 1.5km rise to the highpoint of the day's outing came the rewards of the hard work invested in the first climb, the unmistakable silhouette of Table Mountain was visible from the crest. Riders then descended the wagon trail towards town for a good night's rest.
David Stachon achieved the following results:
Stage Time:6:07.22,7
Stage Position:17. in Masters category and 85. in general classification
Overall Time:12:48.59,6
Overall Position:16. in Masters category and in 87. general classification
And how about a wonderful video to cap things off. See if you can spot the Steelwool(s)! Mystery prize goes to whomever calls it first.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cape Epic: Stage 1

Click here for the video link

Looks like David and his partner, Brett Burton, had another great day today during stage 1 of the Epic. Dave and Brett are racing under the Olympic Cycles banner, the shop Brett works at in New Zealand. I'm having a hard time finding photos, but it looks like the organizers sent the one above of Dave, albeit tiny. Tomorrow's stage looks tough, and HOT. I'll be really curious to hear how the racers are staying hydrated out there. Seems to be a couple feed zones at least per stage. Also wondering what sort of chain lube is working in all that dust! From the looks of it the 29ers are the hot ticket out there. Dave must be loving his pimped Niner double bouncer, seems ideal. Here's the spiel from the organizers today:

Stage 1's distance was a shade under 90km (with 2050m of climbing), which may sound short but it was not to be underestimated! The flat roads out of town left few clues as to what was to come. Very soon the short(ish) but incredibly steep, rough and loose climbs appeared, and on the treacherous descents, volley-balled sized rocks and sand patches pocked the little-used dual tracks. While the pros made short work of it, the first 50km took some backmarkers over five hours. The stage's last climb on some rough roads brought riders to the top of one of the most precariously difficult downhills they've seen at the Absa Cape Epic. With large rocks, deep ruts and a sheer drop on the left, riders were wise to take it slow.

David Stachon achieved the following results:

Stage Time:5:18.35,1

Stage Position


19. in Masters category and 90. in general classification

Overall Time


6:41.36, 1
Overall Position:
19. in Masters category and in 90. general classification

Dave is presently the top placing Canadian in the race! Way to represent buddy!

Goooo Dave and Brett!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cape Epic Begins!

Sorry, even the smallest viewer is too wide. Go here for the full width. 

Well, I'd hoped to post some stuff about last Sunday's terrific ride, but I wound up just a bit busy welcoming our baby boy into the family on Tuesday night. My lovely wife, Danielle, set a personal best (PB) for delivery; just 2.5 hours after dinner, Seneca Otis came out into the world. It was kinda like a cyclocross race: short and, uh, intense. He's a beautiful, mellow fellow, and yes, he does have rather strong legs! My priority is taking care of the family, but I think I should manage to get some posts in over the next few weeks while I'm on leave. Its a busy time indeed!

Ok, so now to the topic at hand. As I mentioned in a previous post, Tall Tree's David Stachon is in South Africa to race the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race. I'll receive an update on Dave's progress each day for the week, and post them here. 

Today the race launched with what sounds like a really interesting prologue. Read on for the copy I received. I'd say 15th in the Masters category (of 199!) is an awfully good start, and I expect Dave to handle the cumulative stress of the following stages really well. Go Dave!

For the second time in the Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas' history, riders participated in a prologue. A common feature in grand road cycling tours, the prologue in the Tokai Forest, part of Table Mountain National Park, allowed spectators to see teams race against the clock. The event saw 1 200 excited mountain bikers from 54 countries enjoy comfortable sunny weather with the first team starting their 8 day journey at 07h00. Regarded as the Eden of mountain biking in Cape Town, this revered network of trails in Tokai Forest represents all of what makes this sport so great, with tough climbs, fast descents and flowing single-track forming the 27km route. This showcase event was a race against the clock to decide the seeding in the field and which teams will wear the coveted zebra-striped leaders' jerseys at the start of Stage 1 in Saronsberg/Tulbagh.

David Stachon achieved the following results:
Stage Time:1:23.01,8
Stage Position:15. in Masters category (of 199) and 89. in general classification (of 600)
Overall Time:1:23.01,8
Overall Position:15. in Masters category and in 89. general classification

Monday, March 21, 2011

Minimal Monday

Great weekend of riding. Waiting to receive a gpx trace from Jamie to post, hopefully tonight. Until then, check out this outstanding blog post Pascal sent around today by offroad fixed gear master frame builder Matt Chester. My favourite chunk:

"As little bike as possible" is a statement that resonates with me more than any other in matters of cycling. As alluded to before, how another might interpret it is a personal matter, perhaps resulting in a freewheel, simple multispeed capability, or other concession away from the notion of bare asceticism. The idea is to yaw towards self-sufficiency and simple independence in a way that is motivating, embracing the experience through acceptance versus a warring frustration to crush and "overcome" what is ultimately an empty universe.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Magical. Untamed. Africa.

This Friday, Tall Tree Cycles' resident time trial master, David Stachon, will fly to South Africa to prepare for a the AMSA Cape Epic stage race. The race, which begins on March 27th, is composed of 8 stages, launching from 27km in Tokai Forest, which forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. Dave, like all other competitors, will race with a partner, a friend I believe lives in South Africa. Dave has been training as hard as he can on top of working full time and family duties; I'm confident that he will be ride well and have a great race. I'll be receiving email updates from the organizers daily on Dave's progress, which I will share here. We'll be able to send Dave our encouragement through this portal; whether he has energy to do anything more than change and eat before hitting the sack each night remains to be seen. 

Here's an exciting Trek video about the race. Dudes are fast. I'm pretty certain Dave and his partner will race the Masters category, so I don't think they'll be 'worrying' much about these two. 

Go Dave!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Its in the air...

Sorry, I tried to get an action shot, but I couldn't convince Steve or  Todd to remove their gloves to snag an iPhone photo...this will have to do.
Confirmed, spring is in the air. Sure, when I say 'in the air,' I mean I can catch a fleeting whiff, little more, but lets not get caught up in that; its in the air. Do you know how I know? Riding. Outside. Twice. In a row.

Yep, its true, two consecutive days or riding out-of-doors. Not on the trainer, not on rollers, not on snow, not in a bar; on the road. Indeed.

Saturday was relatively balmy, striking a high of +4, and with a few interludes of sun breaking up the overcast palour, twas a beautiful day. Jamie and I struck out at two hour window to occupy, so we proceeded to hammer toward Wakefield. Despite a bit of headwind, we managed to make food time to the turnaround point 10k from the village, and our return was quick enough to afford us time to roll up Kingsmere road for a bit of steady climbing. The roads, while wet and apparently more pothole riddled than usual, were free of ice or other hazards, so all was good on that end. Despite over 1000k worth of time spent on the trainer since January 1st, I found myself pedaling squares more than anything else. I think the rollers are a bit better when it comes to maintaining technique. Ah well, its March. So a good ride on the books, about 70k all in.

Sunday proved drier but a bit colder than Saturday, +3, featuring a pretty stiff headwind from the North. Today Pascal, Steve and Todd were out, featuring a motley assortment of steeds. Steve sported his robust vintage Miyata touring bike, Pascal his trusty fixed gear Bianchi, and Todd was on his freshly fendered Steelwool Truffle Pig, courtesy of Brad's handiwork. Todd will post some photos of the ENVE cross fork mounting after a bit more tweaking; its a pretty ingenious set-up. No surprises on my part bike-wise; I rode my Steelwool Secteur 18, which is presently 'dolled up' with mismatch downtube shifters, impotent STIs, XTR rear derailleur, 105 Octalink cranks, a dinged up Open Pro on the back, and a weird Specialized handlebar that's wider than I like, but features elastomer suspension/vibration damping! And a high end carbon seat post. Yep, its a hodge podge for certain, but the Truffle Pig gets all my good bits, and will come out to play when its drier out. Or if/when I put fenders on it. Whatever, training/rain/spring bikes don't need to be fancy, they just have to fit well and roll. And have nice tires. And make you ant to ride. Check.

I digress. Our (s)quad carried a mellow pace north, and we found traffic pretty light and respectful. Nice. About 25k from town a rider approached. I could distinguish what appeared to be an OBC jacket, mitts, and a toque. Aha, John Large, out to Wakefield and back I figured. Great to see him out, smile on his face.

As usual, the low lying section of River Road along the water about 3k from town sported a few spots of ice, just like those packed onto numerous streets in Ottawa. Not a problem, these were easy to avoid. With a small group, we had no trouble avoiding all the holes on the road. This will be tougher in bigger groups, so if you are out, be wary. Also, as always, bigger tires make a big difference when hitting the odd hole. I like 28s and up this time of year...well, all the time really. 32c or 35c Panaracer Paselas make an awfully nice spring tire; changing flats in the cold rain sucks.

After the obligatory stop at Pipolinka, where I had an outstanding vegan apple curry soup, we enjoyed the tailwind all the way home; what a joy that is. Just outside town we crossed paths with Thom, Brad, and Martin, who seemed to have missed our meeting time by 2 hours. After a brief chat they were on their way to Pipolinka for coffee and snacks (yes, there is definitely a trend here). We missed our opportunity to get a great group shot...doh.

The distance was just right for Pascal's first outing of the spring, as the fixed gear was far from forgiving. He'll be out on his sweet Steelwool Rover next weekend, I'm certain. Steve too, I bet! We agreed its probably wise to keep the fixed gear to the flatter routes early in the year to avoid injury. Once the legs tune up, its great to get hit some hills and work on some strength. But pushing hard early is risky.

So 80k today, 70 Saturday, that's a nice even 150k for the weekend, about as good as one can hope for this March. The roads are bumpy but otherwise good, and temperatures above zero allow for at least a few hours on the saddle in relative comfort. Looks like a couple gorgeous days to come later this week, so I hope some of you have opportunity to get out and enjoy a spin. I think there will be more than a whiff in the air at +10!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Since Matt's post below Ottawa's winter situation has gone from bad to worse -- in the form of 20cm of new snow. At this time last year we were putting in long road rides without fenders or any real winter gear. Now we're snowbound and the first races are a month away... oh my god oh my god oh my god... what to do? I give you The Enabler:

I've been monkeying around with this bike racing thing for quite some time now and though I'm no pro I have figured out something that has allowed me some modest success. Here it is, wait for it: you have to train in the winter. Particularly if you want to be strong in the Spring.
I despise riding an indoor trainer, I live in Ottawa and I want to be fast in the Spring. This statement presents a challenge that requires some creativity to overcome. Certainly cross country skiing -- particularly skate skiing -- provides a crucial cross training opportunity and this has been my go-to alternative activity for many years. Also spinning classes. Yes, it's a lot like riding a trainer but the group, instructor and music make motivation easier to muster. At least for me. Cyclelogik -- just up the road from Tall Tree and not an aerobics studio with exercise bikes -- is an excellent venue. So ski a lot, spin once a week, hit the trainer occasionally and ride outside in heinous conditions. This basic strategy has been working okay.
Then this year Trish and I acquired two Surly Pugsleys and things changed. The bike's giant wheels and tires make riding snow covered singletrack a real joy. Since getting the bikes in late January the misery sticks have seen a lot less use but we have managed three rides per week including three and even four hour outings on weekends. The key word in that last sentence is "outing". As in "outside" and not "inside" on a trainer. I think I've been on the thing four times all year. From our house near Westboro we can easily do a three hour loop using the unplowed bike paths with minimal road miles and no driving. I have often complained how Ottawa does not plow bike paths. Now I realize I just had the wrong bike!
The Pugsley opens up possibilities and turns otherwise negative situations -- like having a tonne of snow in March -- into positives. Okay maybe not positives -- but manageable situations. Roads covered in snow? Hit the trails. Minus 10 degrees and windy? Get off the road and onto the snowy trails -- 7km per hour and labouring hard on a 35lb bike makes minus ten degrees feel like plus ten. We've even got "first tracks" on city streets following big snow storms. When snow paralyzes the city it becomes a playground for the big bike. Cruising the neighbourhoods ramming through snowbanks is ridiculous fun and excellent training. What more could you want? For $1900 you can buy the ability to ride pretty much anytime. Options.
Just be sure to order your Pugsley months in advance as they are apparently sold out across North America. Hmmm....

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Two-fer Tuesday

Rodd’s come up with a couple sweet links to sink your teeth/eyes into.

First up, last weekend’s L’Eroica in Tuscany, specifically, Crete. The strada bianche (white roads) looks smooth and fast for this year’s race, and fellow Canadian, Ryder Hesjedal gets lots of camera time. This footage ought to get those with a penchant for dirt roads juiced up and ready to unleash. All we need now ‘round here is spring. In the absence of spring, this made for a great companion to last night’s trainer ride. Beautiful roads and scenery, if this race doesn’t tempt you to plan a trip to Tuscany, perhaps nothing will.

Tagging off, this gorgeous film has to portray the most inspiring trail riding I’ve ever seen. Chris Akrigg, whom some will recognize from past videos carrying out his stylish bmx-inspired street/trials infusion interpretation of urban landscapes, turns to natural trails here. Smooth trail moves are interspersed with awe-inspiring maneuvers unlike anything I’ve seen before. Think Hans Rey trail riding, but turned up to 11. Yep, this one goes to 11. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Is it spring yet?

Steve aka The Colonel
What we should be doing now, but are not.
In my world, March 1st marks the beginning of spring in Ottawa. Most years, this belief amounts to little more than misplaced optimism. In case you didn't already know, I'm an optimist. Mostly. I tend to look for the positive side to most situations, the silver lining. For example, when I broke a few bones in my foot years ago, I took the down time as an opportunity to read more, which led into my return to post-secondary education. I consider this injury a turning point in my life. Sometimes shocks to the status quo are just what we need. On the other hand, certain turns of events leave most people asking one simple question: why? I don't have to rhyme off example of such occasions, we all know them well.

Scaling back to everyday perturbations, I must admit that I am far from optimistic when I'm ill. I see no silver lining, just lost time and squandered opportunity. I am not pleasant to be around when I'm ill. So, after spending the last two weeks ill AND injured (knee to rock smashing on maiden snowbike ride), I looked forward to March 1st, spring, a welcome change of state to lift my spirits. Upon getting up and looking outside, the first hints of not-spring were evident. Yes, one of the streets out front was melty, but the one off the side was snowy. Not spring. After a quick breakfast, I rolled out of the garage to a distinct sensation of not-spring. In fact my sensory system was telling me exactly what I didn't want to hear: its still winter! Frigg. Its still winter. And its March. Frigg. I've had enough of this shit.

Later in the day I received word that spring will indeed arrive, at least by April 16th. Why April 16th? Because this day marks the annual throwdown we affectionately call the Almonte Roubaix. There were scheduling challenges this year, but Bob Woods and Ian Austen have prevailed and nestled the Roubaix in the day before the Calabogie Classic road race. So, for the first time in a long time, if not ever, the Almonte Roubaix will fall on a Saturday. For those looking to double up their racing, the opportunity is there. Perhaps we'll see more riders from out of town seize the opportunity to double up too, who knows? One thing is for certain, the Roubaix will be exciting, and our team will be certain to know the route well to avoid falling prey to sabotage like last year.

The outlook for March is not too pleasing at the moment, however. Yes, Saturday's forecast is for plus 4 degrees celcius and light rain, all day. Still recovering from the tenacious virus that has plagued me for more than two weeks, it might be difficult to decide whether or not to spend hours in the rain come Saturday. It looks like March might well deliver more trainer time than desired. One thing is for certain: spring will be oh so sweet when it arrives. And I'll be sure to announce it when it does.