This past weekend, Rob, David, Tanya and I hit up Mont Tremblant for Canada Cup #1. Us dudes had raced there before, but this would be Tanya’s first visit. I secretly wished at least one of us would reach the podium.
Mont Tremblant is not for the faint of heart. It’s a place of learning, and sometimes, perhaps often, when it comes to cross country mountain bike racing, the learning is coupled with pain and suffering. So it went on Saturday.
Same course as previous years, with minor tweaks at the bottom of the extended downhill portion, I was not apprehensive about the course. I’d arrived the previous year and raced without a practice lap and fared very well. The question was one of tactics and fitness; would I hold up with only 1.5 hours on the mtb this season? The answer was not what I was hoping for.
At go I found myself flailing and wound up with both feet flat on the ground. Once rolling I made mistake #2, and opened the throttle wide, fighting my way through the pack and to the front. A rider dangle off the front, and I reeled him in, passing, and heading into the woods in first. Rather than adjust my original tactic I’d set out – lead into the woods, then control the pace – I’d forced the issue by chasing, putting in more effort than everyone else to get there. The previous winner passed in the woods and I held on. I had the presence of mind to know I’d have to recover for a bit. This was proceeding ok until I felt my rear tire losing air. I dismounted, heard the hissss, added CO2 as the chase pack of 7 or so streamed by, then got going again. Rob was now ahead, and looking comfortable. Chasing again, I soon realized my lack of mtb time was catching up to me, as was my profound lack of upper body strength. Road riding just isn’t sufficient to prepare one for the onslaught Tremblant delivers. You’re either putting out power to climb, going over or around roots and rocks, navigating bridges, or hanging on through mine fields; there is no respite until you reach the bike path for a shallow descent, then climb through the village.
With the temperature sitting around 24 celcius, humidity around 60%, and too much effort expended early, I was in a sad state of affairs heading into lap two. With original designs on a podium spot, I felt I’d failed, and ought to pack it in. Whenever this happens I think of my friends and family on the sidelines cheering me on, and how I’d feel like I let them down if I quit. So I don’t, and I didn’t. Just ride, and try to improve wherever you can, I thought to myself.
There was little improvement in the woods. Many feet down, near crashes, flailing; gong show. I knew this came down to rustiness, so I didn’t hate myself for it. I just tried to survive. A crash on a mud and rock turn in the open landed my hard on my hip, but with the adrenaline flowing, I didn’t feel it (sure do now thought!). Heading into lap three, Imad reminded me that I was just warmed up, and this gave me a surge of confidence and energy, knowing some of the riders ahead would be fading. I clawed my way up to Rob, only to fall off in the woods. The rest of the time I chased him and a couple others behind him, but didn’t really make up ground. Rolling in a minute back from Rob, I was glad to have made it unmangled, as was he. We collapsed against a shady rock wall and traded war stories about our last hour and a half. Meanwhile, Jon Barnes was enjoying a well deserved victory, proving he is one hell of a rider, once again. Respect Jon, well done!
In the end Rob narrowly missed the podium finishing 4th, with me back in 7th. Tanya rolled in from the expert women’s race in 4th spot, an outstanding result for her first Tremblant experience, and David rilled in 11th in the masters 40-49 race. I’ve not heard what went down in that race yet, as Dave and I barely saw each other afterwards.