Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Classics Weekend Roundup


In case you missed it, I posted up a short report about our ride on the Clarence-Rockland Classic route on Saturday. On Sunday, many of us reconvened in Almonte to ride the Roubaix course, formally knows as the Ottawa Valley Paris Roubaix Cyclosportif. I met up with David, Bernard, Rod, Jean-Christophe at Euro Sports just before 9am to ride out to Almonte for 11. The 50k ride was windy, so we all got pretty worked en route to rendezvous with the least I was working hard. Green bastards joining the ride were Rob, Neil, and Jim, and Tricia, though not a bastard, was also present and ready to unleash some serious early season fitness. Another gaggle of riders, including Jay, Imad, and Peter Conn, to name but a few, were ready to roll.

Clarence-Rockland mud, of the concrete dust variety.

I'd heard from Ian and Timothy Austen that the route was pretty dicey in the woods on Saturday. Rolling up to the first wooded sector, the dirt roads were in excellent shape. However, as expected, the coniferous tree cover in the woods translated into hardpacked snow/ice cover through much of the double track. Though my knobbed tires were certainly a bit slow on smooth pavement, they shone in these woods, as I got through clean and carrying good speed. However, those on slicks had a lot of trouble with the ice, which is to be expected. No crashes, though, so all was well. 

Stan's Raven in 35c. Tubeless rear, latex front...argh! Both rolled well.
Almonte's gentler, kinder mud.
The second sector, which follows the first by only about 500m, was a little softer and sloppier. Nevertheless, it was rideable at good speed with treaded tires. Jim made short work of it on his hot carbon 29er! 

The proto Truffle Pig will see a short spring classics season, then rock out on dirt roads and trails full time. So far, its been stellar everywhere I've taken it.

From the second sector to the third flowed many kilometers. Many commented on the fine condition of the dirt roads. Most were hardpacked and fast rolling. There were indeed some wet spots that produced a good bit of spray, but overall, the roads were great. Heading into the switchback doubletrack sector, Dave Bilenky rode ahead to scout it out, and found that there was too much snow up on the plateau to be worth slogging through. The climb was fine, being hardpacked snow mostly, but up top was exposed to the sun more, and too deep and soft. Bypassing that sector, we headed onward toward the final woods, which fall about 3k from the finish. 

After waiting for Imad to search in vain for a dislodged bottle while the rest carried on, Rob, Neil and I headed into the final wooded sector together. Full on trail, this sector is my favourite; its fun. With complete confidence in my tires, I attacked full bore, and managed to get through with only a dab of a foot. Conditions here were varied more than any other sector on the route, ranging from packed dirt to deep mud, soft snow, packed ice, puddles, and just about everything in between. Some of the narrower tires ahead had punched through snow, and I could tell from the scarcity of tracks that many had walked through most of the trail. This sector is always forces a final selection in the race, which is why I find it so exciting!


So, with the rain that's coming down now, and will come down, along with the sun that will follow, I'm personally confident that all, if not almost all the snow on the route will be clear come April 16th. I suspect there will still be a fair bit of wetness, but hey, its spring classics season! Whatever the weather delivers, I'm sure it'll be an exciting day. I can honestly say that even if I had no interest in riding hard, I'd be more than keen to ride the route. Even in the brown and grey of early spring, its a beautiful ride.


Todd F. said...

It sounds like tire choice for the event is still unknown. The majority of the roads and gravel sections were in excellent shape, save for the 3-4 really off-road sections. Does one choose a tire for the rough sections or for the longer smooth sections in between? Hopefully, conditions will change for the better as we get closer to the event, making the tire selection easier.

Matt Surch said...

Its always a tough call for this race Todd. The route won't be as mucky as what we rode on Sunday, as a couple changes have been made. A high volume tire is certain;y preferable, but the question is whether to choose really supple ones like Grand Bois, or heavier ones like Paselas, OR, go with a knobby tread of some sort. The best tires I've seen that strikes what seems to be the right balance is the Continental Cyclocross Speed. I'm confident that Grand Bois would get through the woods well, but since I cut one last year, I'm vying on the side of puncture resistance and traction with the Stan's tubeless. I'd rather slog a bit rather than flat, which is why I chose the overbuilt 25c Hutchinson Intensives to run tubeless for Battenkill. So yeah, its a tough call, but the good news is that lots of options will work well overall.