Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hell Climb for Cancer 2011 - The Aftermath


The Hell Climb for Cancer on Wednesday night was an unqualified success! Over 60 riders came out, despite threats of rain, to take on the 6.2 km ascent from P10 at the base of the Fortune Parkway to Champlain Lookout. Some sported their regular road bikes, while others ditched gears in favour of fixed wheels. Then there were the folks on snow bikes (!), BMXs, a tandem, a box bike, long bike, kids bike, trail-a-bike, mountain bike, and of course, Will, on his Moulton folding bike. Zany! The mood was electric in the parking lot, with many a rider sporting costumes, ranging from sassy (Mike's french maid outfit) to metal (James', Rob's and Mark's outfits), with a whole lot in between. A great number of riders definitely took up the spirit of the event and ran with it, which was a real joy to see.

In Anna's words: "Thank you to all participants who came out for the party up the mountain!  You raised an astounding amount: $1300 from cash and online donations! Incredible!  Your generosity and enthusiasm blew me away.  This money will be a long way for the fight against cancer and researching a cure." 

Indeed, the cycling community really stepped up to support Anna's Ride the Rideau fundraising campaign, very heartening. It feels good to be part of a community of supportive, passionate people. If anyone who missed the opportunity to donate in person would like to do so online, click the link in the line above.

Tricia has likely never looked this menacing before.
We couldn't have done it without the support of numerous local businesses, and the generous efforts of our volunteers. A big thank you goes out to The Cyclery, Kunstadt, Bushtukah, Phat Moose Cycles, Tall Tree Cycles, and Danielle Pratt for their generous prize donations. It was great so see a better prize spread than most of the fancy races I've been to! No less, thank you to our volunteers: Deb, Danny, Charlotte, Neil, Rob, Pascal, Mark, Alex and Greg! Everybody was learning on the fly, and I think all did a spectacular job!

Martin forgot the milk, but took his dog for a helluva ride!
Results are up, still somewhat unofficial, as there are a couple times that look like they might need to be revised. Click here to view them.

Lots more photos going up on our flickr page, I'll post more here asap.


(all photos stolen from Whiteface Lake Placid Facebook)

So far this season has been going pretty much like any other mountain bike season: three Ontario Cups, two Canada Cups and a couple of early season "road" races. Two third place finishes, two fourths and a second. Same old races with the same old results. Tremblant and Hardwood Hills stand out for their excellent courses and the others... well... all I can really remember is the usual beating from Jon Barnes. And then last weekend happened. Dave and I (along with Cyclery Vince and his wingman Swat Team Sean) travelled to Lake Placid for The Race of the Year So Far. The event was billed as an official Leadville 100 qualifier starting and finishing at Whiteface Mountain with 100km of racing in between.

I will admit that I was a little put off by the Leadville association. I'm getting a little tired of Leadville being referred to as "the World Series of mountain biking." I guess that makes former winners Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer the Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire of mountain biking? Maybe the analogy's not too far off. Anybody who follows XC racing at all knows that Leadville is hardly representative of the sport's top tier. Plus I'm a grump. Like the punker kid in high school who hated when his favourite band got popular. Why, they started showing up on TV! And playing his town! The horror! It's irrational, I know, but Leadville-mania rubs me the wrong way. Gravel road race on a mountain bike? Whatever! And now this qualifying series. I can just see the Leadville marketing people sitting around a board room table saying, "Look there's this Hawaiian Ironman... it's like heaven for triathletes. They're dying to get in and will pay any price. We could TOTALLY do that with Leadville!" High fives all around.

Those early misgivings went out the window when we arrived in Lake Placid and I found myself thinking, "no matter how this race actually turns out, 100km on a mountain bike in a place this beautiful can't be bad." The Whiteface/Placid area was overrun with bicycles on this weekend. Hundreds of eagerly training triathletes, downhillers at the ski hill, a road race up the mountain, a welcoming party at a local pub for racers. It really felt like something special before we even got to the start line.

The actual race drew a decent field of around 230 racers including one of America's fastest XC dudes Jeremiah Bishop and his Cannondale teammates. Things started at 6:30am with a speech from the legendary Dave Weins, the playing of the always-inspiring Star Spangled Banner and finally a shotgun blast from the town's mayor (who was inexplicably wearing a Guinness top hat.) Blammo! Mass start on pavement.

Dave and I took a conservative approach to the race as we feared the five significant climbs a little bit. Before the race a fellow racer at our motel said something that stuck with me: in a race this long and hard sometimes you have to let people go. So on the first fifteen minute climb Dave and I watched as a group of about 20 fast looking guys rode away from us. We could have got in their group but it would have required a red zone effort and we figured we should save those for later. Plus we were still going faster than the other 220 or so people behind us.

The defining feature of the race is definitely the Adirondacks themselves. The second climb of the day came after about 1 hour and lasted for around 40 minutes. After an 80kph descent we looped around and came right back up again for another 40 minutes. Another wild descent and we were back at it climbing for 20 minutes or so. All of these initial 65kms took place on roads. Paved roads. Gravel roads. "Seasonal Jeep roads." Normally I'm not thrilled about riding my mountain bike on roads but this was different. These roads weren't some crummy doubletrack under a hydrocut as is so common in marathon racing. These were quiet country roads that took us to the top of mountains, past the most charming American scenery and eventually down ridiculously thrilling descents. Before the race I would have been the first to proclaim that this is not "real" mountain biking. Half way through the race I realized it's about the most "real" mountain biking I've ever done -- me and my buddy riding bikes up mountains. Bikes. Mountains. Mountain Biking.

It wasn't all smiles and sightseeing though. We were hammering pretty hard. And making up ground as folks were being spit out of that initial group we let go. In fact we were only ever passed by one person for the last 3/4 of the race. That's always good for motivation.

With about 25km to go the race entered what technical director Dave Weins described as essentially a second race course. The first three hours would be spent on various types of roads and the last hour would be completed around White Face ski resort. This section involved some decent singletrack and some muddy technical features but most significantly it would also have us completing the final difficult climb. In the racer meeting the day before Weins mentioned that he had been unable to clean the entire climb while marking the course. And he's Dave Weins. And we're not. This is why Dave and I opted to stay out of the red until the end of the race.

I think this was a good move as we managed to sweep up more remnants of the lead group as it exploded on the steep, steep ski slopes. This was a slow motion death march like I've never experienced before. Thirty plus minutes of granny gear riding and the occasional bit of walking. Walking using our bikes like crutches with our heads hanging over our handlebars... Dave and I were still making up ground though. We could have hopped in that front group 3hrs ago then melted down on this climb or let them go and accelerated throughout the race. Either way we'd be in the same place: walking up a giant ski hill at the end. Our method seemed like a lot more fun. Following the death march we bombed straight down the ski slope then rolled in 13th and 14th overall. Exhausted and satisfied. Sean and Vince rode solidly and came through shortly after with affirmation their training for the real Leadville has been sound.

On a side note we were beaten by this guy on a cyclocross bike:
This astonishes me. The bike was certainly appropriate for much of the road sections but he must have had to walk up the entire ski hill. And how the heck did he get back down to the finish line?! The descent bottomed my fork out multiple times and had me wishing for more powerful brakes. Jesus. This guy'd be going to the Olympics if he'd get a proper mountain bike! Well done.

This race receives the prestigious David Stachon Fist Pump of Approval.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hell Climb for Cancer - June 29

Another stunner poster by Greg Cosgrove

Registration is at P10 (at the gate of the Fortune Parkway) at 6:30 pm.

The Hell Climb is a FUN-raiser event, devoting all revenue to Tall Tree Cycles' team member Anna O'Brien's Ride the Rideau fundraising campaign. Anna needs to raise $1500, so we're throwing a party event to help her get there. Anna actually works as a research scientist in the lab that the Ride the Rideau is raising money for! In 2010, our first Hell Climb raised about $300 for Martin's Ride to Conquor Cancer fundraising efforts. We'll try to top that this year!
On Wednesday, June 29th, we'll all meet up at the Gate (Gamelin) to roll to the parking lot at the base of the Fortune Parkway, P10. We will arrive there at about 6:30, so if riders prefer to meet there, that is fine.
Riders will register by making their $10 (minimum) contribution, at which point they will receive their staging numbers. Riders will go off at 30 second intervals. As this is a grassroots event that is all about combining fun and challenge, we will be using stopwatch timing.
We will have five categories:
Open Men - regular road bikes
Open Women - regular road bikes
Fixed Men - all ages, no gear restrictions!
Fixed Women - all ages, no gear restrictions
Super-Modified - wild and wacky family friendly: tandems, mtbs, trail-a-bikes, kids in trailers...

This year the Hell Climb will turn it up to 11 by encouraging non-team kit, Unafilliated. This means anything but regular team kit is welcome: retro, vintage, costume, stylish, poseur, hideous...whatever. The idea is to have fun with it! Yes, we will have a photo car! We are already hearing that Marco Pantani will make an appearance!

This year's Hell Climb is supported by a slew of generous sponsors: Burro Burracho, Bushtukah, The Cyclery, Danielle Pratt RMT, Kunstadt Sports, Phat Moose Cycles, and Tall Tree Cycles. Thank you to all the sponsors for stepping up!

Prizes will be awarded to the top three and DFL finishers from the Open and Fixed categories. Prizes will be drawn for the Super-Modified category.

Prizes will also be awarded to best and worst dressed. Only riders riding Unafilliated will qualify for these prizes.

Start scheming your outfit!
Homepage for Ride the Rideau:

Video of Anna talking about the fundraiser:

If you can't make the event but would like to support Anna's cause, you can donate online at:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mississippi Mills Bike Month

Bob Woods, tireless organizer and promoter of cycling in the Ottawa Valley, was kind enough to send us an email about the Mississippi Mills Bike Month events that are underway, and continue through the month of June. Here's the rundown from the man himself:Mississippi Mills Bicycle Month is in full swing. It is a month of cycling related activities to promote cycling in and around Almonte. There are wide variety of activities such as Birders on Bikes, a Building Tour on Bike, Stargazers on Bikes, bike polo, bike movie nights, the Tour de Miss, and the new Slow Food Farm Gate Tour.

Bob is organizing the Tour de Mississippi Mills which is coming on Saturday June 18th. It is an opportunity to have a nice ride though the countryside with family or friends. There are four ride options that comprise the Tour de Miss that riders choose to ride:

A2A-Almonte to Appleton Ride- 29 kms;
River to Lake Ride - 55 kms;
The Four Hamlets Ride - 79 kms
or the Grand Tour - 100 kms.

Details of the Tour de Miss and a map are found on our website:

The rides are on quiet country roads through out beautiful Mississippi Mills- not the Paris-Roubaix course! The start is and finish is in "downtown" Almonte (a different location from last year). Registration is $15. and includes a post ride bbq and refreshment.

A new tour this year is our Slow Food Farm Gate Tour, where cyclists will ride to participating organic farms to sample their products that they sell at their farm gate though the season. The farm Gate Tour will be held on June 25th.

Full information about Bicycle Month is on our website at

Thursday, June 9, 2011

To Crash or not to Crash?

Today's post's theme is crashing, and perhaps, not crashing. I will begin with Wednesday night's Sunset Series mtb race, then progressing onto funnier fare.

The Bad
Would the thunderstorm hit us? This had to be the question on everybody's mind. At 28 degrees, I didn't really care. I left home about 10 seconds before the apocalypse began, dark foreboding skies, progressively harder rain, then...wait for it...hail. Sideways rain and 80kph gusts were not really hard core enough as I rode to the War Museum to meet Jim. Nope, this one went to 11. The rain was so intense I could barely see, then the hail came in. I took cover under a tree for a few minutes, and got rolling again once the hail was subsiding. By the time I got to the museum, the rain was pretty much done. Nice timing.

It was clear that Fortune would be greasy in spots, and tacky in others. Roots were the real concern. But crash #1 came not on roots, but on the gravel road one minute into the race. I won't name the rider who dodged a pothole and took out my wheel, he know who he is. I've forgiven him. Hitting the road and rolling, I narrowly avoided being run over by the pack. The guys did a great job of dodging me, thanks! After getting back on, I chased, and was happy to see they's neutralized to let me catch up. Classy.

Racing all the way up the hill, I left me lockout on by accident and ate it again due to rider error...right onto my road rash. Ow. Ok, its not my night, just ride.

All was well-ish, until I punctured my rear tire on the third and final lap. My CO2 was innefectual, as was the pum a kind rider with a flat lent me. After more running, Rob Orange offered help, giving up a CO2, very kind. Unfortunatelty, it only held for 30 seconds, as the hole was either too big to seal, or I simply didn't have enough sealant inside. Not wanting my pain and broken shoe (BOA broke during my crash) to go to vain, I ran the remaining lap out for the points. Whatever, I need to work on my running technique, or rather, lack thereof.

$20 worth of fancy second skin bandages from a late night visit to Shoppers later, I'm on my way to a new layer of skin. The extreme technical difficulty of the expert course last night reminded me of the thoughts I had last year: its too hard for a weekly series. Fine for freeriding, but too gnarly to race all the time. I might sound like a whiner, but I'm thinking: Hey, if some of this stuff makes me cringe and go 'phewf' when I make it through, what are other riders thinking? Is this the sort of racing we really want to do, or perhaps would it be more fun, and more SUSTAINABLE, to tone it down? Perhaps some of the riders who have sworn off racing at Fortune would return? I'm thinking this would support the viability of the Series, and the hill's business in general. Am I alone on this?

Ok, so bad crashing aside, lets take a look at a few fantastic videos on the same topic, kinda. The first is about a tonne of potential crashes in New York, really neat, and the second features a bunch of hilarious actual crashes (no animals were harmed in the making of this video).  Thanks to Alex and Steve for these gems.

The Ugly

3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.

The Good

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mallorca - extra pics

People have indicated that they enjoyed the photo's I included with my Mallorca post, so now that I have many more in my posession I felt I should share. Please take note of the tiny hummingbird in the pic with the flowers....we thought this was some kind of large wasp/bee til we realised it was the smallest hummingbird I had ever seen - very cool !


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Of Truth: TTTTT

The time trial, or, chrono format in cycling is one that I am both well familiar, yet very new to. In my previous life as a downhill mountain bike racer (though once a downhiller, always a downhiller), I routinely raced the clock. Me against the mountain. Really, it was me against me, controlling my natural drive to attack courses hell for leather. In this genre, such brazen riding doesn't so much lead to blown legs as blown turns and wild flailing crash and burn ground slamming. For some, reigning in the drive to ride with the throttle wide open takes self discipline and tactical thinking. 

Back to the recent present, green bastards Rob and Dave have been speaking highly of their experiences at the OBC's Thursday night TTs for a while. Since I don't think Rob and Dave are nuts, I figured I ought to make an effort to get out and try a race or two this year. With Jim and Alex in the mix this year, the pull grew stronger. Alex has been into the TTs for a while now, and Jim has done a couple other races and a couple triathlons. When Alex sent out an email to the team on Monday encouraging folks to come out, give it a shot, and maybe ride as a team, Jim and I committed. Meanwhile, Neil the Defector (I say this in jest, honestly), and Imad agreed to pair up and take us on. Right on, some friendly competition. 

Come Thursday night, Rob, Alex, Jim and I assembled in the Aviation Museum parking lot  to register and chat with the diverse group of folks about. One OBC vet had his Cervelo P2 out with a for sale sign, $1699. Great deal for anyone about 6' tall. As Rob had told me, the group of folks out for the race spanned a broad range of age and ability, as did bikes range from full on TT wonder bikes to storied bikes like John Large's single speed track machine. Whereas one might expect  attitude and elitism to accompany such specialized equipment, I saw none of it. Just a bunch of folks who love to challenge themselves. There is no posing in the chrono, its the race of truth. As Rob put it, there's no hiding in the pack and saying you were 'right there.' No, you lay it down to the best of your ability and reveal all. 

Jim, Alex and I set out about 20 minutes after the first rider, aiming to simply ride as well as we could as a unit. Jim knew he'd be in for a lot of pain hanging on, but he was up for the challenge. No shame, no ego. Just a drive to push hard and improve. And I think that's what we all did. Communication was challenging above 40kph, as the wind noise is so loud. We set out fast, and managed an average right about where I'd hoped we'd be, 43kph, for 21:10 over the 15k out and back course. We were far from a well oiled machine, but for a first attempt, I think we did very well technically. While Jim was put into a spot of bother at a few points, it never crossed my mind that he ought to have been faster or anything of the like. Instead, I took it as Alex and my job to make sure that we paced properly to ensure that Jim's strength was best utilized. So if he was dying while I was pulling, that was my fault, not his. Teamwork is the name of the game. While I see the appeal of hitting the course solo, I think mixing in team efforts will pay off in dividends. For one, any of us can go out and hit the Parkway solo whenever we want. Easy, just do it and time yourself. Sure, its hard to push as hard as race day, but that's part of the mental training. On the other hand, there are not so many opportunities to unleash on the road with a team of 3 or more. Taking up this opportunity achieves a few things. 

First, it builds the ever important bonds of trust and mutual consideration between team-mates. These bonds not only benefit the team out on the road, but also transcend the practice of riding and permeate the other aspects of our lives. Second, riding as a team is an opportunity to learn the subtle techniques of effective drafting and rotation. The Aviation Parkway always features tricky wind, and with a team its vital to read it, despite the stress, and adapt. This skill building will certainly translate into smarter riding with any group, and be of particular value in breakaway situations. Third. the team format might effectively counter the pull of the ego to prove oneself. Its not about individual glory, but group effort and success. While I feel like I'd certainly like to find out how I might fare solo, and I will, at the same time I feel like it would be better if, on the balance, if I ride as a team-mate. I feel the allure of the TT, as people predicted I would, after just one race. There are two ways to channel that. I can either start scheming a TT bike, which I really don't want to do, OR, think about how I can encourage other team-mates to come out and ride as a team. As I've stated above, I think there is a lot of merit in riding as a team more often than not. Who knows, perhaps Dave, Rob, and Alex will join some of us non-TT bike riders for a big group effort. I'll put clip-ons onto my Steelwool cross bike. It'd be fun.

If you are reading this going, 'Yeah right Matt, TT might be kinda fun for the really fit folks, but a surely a big sufferfest for the rest.' I really don't this this is the case. Based on the diversity of folks out there, this just can't be true. Everybody feels the effort the same, people simply go different speeds. Vytas, randonneur master, was out there tonight mixing it up, working on recovering from his broken leg sustained last fall. If a randonneur can have fun at a TT, I think there is hope for just about anyone who likes a bit or racing. 

So how bout it? Shall we see if we can get a bit of a club/shop/team TTT competition over the season? 

Tanya's Transylvania Epic: Stage Three

Team CF's Selene Yeager is keeping a second Trans-Sylvania Epic title in reach with a second on the Coburn stage.
Photo: © Zachary Repp/TSE 2011 - (
Tanya's holding strong in 7th spot overall after three stages. Here's her rundown, followed by an excerpt from cyclingnews.

"While most of today was spent on gravel roads, it wasn't an easy ride with almost 6000ft of climbing in hot, humid conditions. I've always considered my roadie skills to be a little lack luster, but I pleased to end up closer to the podium times today than yesterday's singletrack intensive course (thank you Tall Tree for all that gravel riding!).

Stage Four is 40 miles of swoopy, buff singletrack awesomeness but will still be very tough with more climbing than any other day."
Another hot, humid day greeted riders at the Trans-Sylvania Epic during stage 3. Both the men's and women's class got off to an exciting start but the biggest change happened in the singlespeed category where Team Dicky's Rich Dillen had a heroic day, upsetting leader Rich Straub (Freeze Thaw/NoTubes/BikeFlights) by five minutes to take both the day's contest and the overall leaders jersey by a mere 35 seconds.