Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eastern Ontario CX#1: Calabogie Peaks

The drive to Calabogie was beautiful. If the road was wider, this would make for gorgeous riding. With no shoulder, its a little risky with a group.
CX season arrived on Sunday in the Ottawa Valley with our sojourn to Calabogie Peaks for the first race of the Eastern Ontario cyclocross series. Traditionally a predominantly Ottawa-based series, 2011 marks a departure from the norm, due to the City of Ottawa's opposition to cyclocross-induced 'damage' to city parks. The epic rain the region received last year set up the conditions for a couple muckier races than usual, and the City responded with the revocation of the Series' permits for the rest of the season's races. Bob Woods and Ian Austen worked hard to salvage the season, and their admirable efforts kept us racing without a single missed race. This season, after a summer of being ignored by the City, the Series resumes at some of the venues that have welcomed us for years, along with new ones that are happy to have cyclists visit. It feels good to be welcome.

Welcome indeed we were at Calabogie Peaks on Sunday. After a beautiful leg from Highway 17, resplendent with fall colours, we arrived in time to join Thom and Will at the Steelwool tent to see the first race get underway. A very large field impressed upon me the enthusiasm for CX the region. While I am aware of a number of people who have to abstain this year due to the lack of time to spend on the extra travel, there were still many, many riders out to race. The accessibility of the Ottawa venues have been a big part of why CX has grown so vigorously in Ottawa over the last 5 years, so it would be a shame to see that momentum lost due to the biased perspective of a City official.

Steel with a pinch of carbon. Mmmm.
On to the racing. The main feature of Sunday's course was sand. In addition, rocks were strewn throughout, which led to a few flats in the first race. Seeing this, we added a bit of extra air to protect the tires, which provided a rougher ride than usual. The sandy turns required aggressive technique to muscle through, and rewarded commitment. The tarrain at the base of the hill was well utilized, featuring a good mix of long straights, tricky loose turns, a quick uphill barrier, a barrier to run up, a sandy double barrier, two climbs, and a sand death spiral. Laps were perhaps medium length, about 7 minutes, so we races 9 laps.

.the scene
Despite the drive, a number of kids made it out to race, and the first race was a large field of 80 or so riders.
The first race featured four Tall Tree folks: Anna, Alec, Grant and Mike. Alec and Grant were newbies, Anna and Mike vets. Both Anna and Mike were up in the mix dicing it out. Anna battled Jenny and made her move at the right time to take 3rd spot, and Mike was poised for third (by my estimation) until he dropped his chain on the death spiral. He fought back though and caught back up to Bilenky and Heins, a valient effort. His last lap was lost into the ether though, so its hard to say where he actually landed (edit: 3rd). Grant and Alec had a great first race, with perhaps a few foibles. Alec started out mellow, but impressed everyone with his hard charge over the last couple laps, throttle wide open and flying. I can't wait to see him out there on Sunday with a faster start.
low angle
Perfect fall weather, plenty warm for short sleeves.

anna and her sweet NOS Michelin Mud 1s on her brand new Truffle Pig
Anna starts her run to 2nd place on here NOS Michelin Muds, possibly the best CX treads ever.

The A race begins. Rob leads Todd into the double barriers, technical due to the sand.

Race two featured a big field as well, and lots of talent. The opening straight was long enough to get into the tiop 6 without much fuss, and I settled in there approaching the uphill barrier. After remounting, Neil crashed directly in front of me, and I could only ram his front wheel. Apparently, this drove his big ring into my lowe leg, and tore me up. The pain was not over the top, but as I took myself off the ground, and tried to bet racing again, I wasn't sure whether I'd have to stop for stitches. I figured it wasn't bleeding enough to really worry, so I concentrated on regaining my position. Obviously, this required a lot of effort, but I managed to get back to the top 7 or 8 before too long and focused on keeping the pressure on despite feeling the urge to quit. With the course doubling back on itself many times, it was easy to see our other riders and give a smile when possible. Many of them were able to actually speak words of encouragement to me, which was certainly appreciated. On top of that, many others were out to support us, and their words of encouragement helped every time. Ultimately, I ended up duking it out with Duncan Beard, my main rival from last year. With about 4 laps to go, Duncan made a good passing maneuver and gapped me. I was still recovering at this point from earlier efforts, so I had to sit tight. I held the gap, but his body language showed he was under pressure. On the second last lap we were together and Duncan was sitting on my wheel, ready to pounce. I attacked the descent after the longer climb, hit the turn fast, maintained the gap on the run up, then hit the bunker turn full pin, solidifying the gap. Then it was full gas to try to increase the space between us, and careful riding from there to hold it. Thinking Duncan was the top Master A rider in the mix at this point, I thought I'd pulled off the win. It wasn't until after the results were posted that I saw Steve Proulx is also racing MA now, and he was up ahead. Steve's really fast, so I will have my work cut out for me chasing him around! I love a challenge.

Jamie motos the technical descending sand turn, a great feature....

....while Matt stays in the pedals. I found the drops worked best to power through this later on.

Todd prepared to dismount for the barrier and run-up.

Pascal powers out of the tough sand trap turn.

Rodd heads into the tricky sand left hander. There was  one packed line here on the inside, and lots of deep stuff everywhere else.
The rest of the Tall Tree racers put in good races, though Rob suffered a pretty debilitating mechanical when his front brake lever slid down and pulled his cable enough to lock up his front brake. OTB (over the bars). Iain was out for his first CX bike CX race experience, and he was mighty quick. With a little time he'll be gunning for the front of the MA field, I'm pretty certain of that. And he's already keen on tubulars!

On the tech side, a bunch of us were rocking the new Steelwool Truffle Pig frames with ENVE forks. These frames are the production version of the green striped one I races last year (Andy is on it now, and Todd still has his with the same paint). The new frames feature tweaks to the geometry, fittings, and tubing to optimize performance out on the cross course. So far so good, everybody is LOVING the bikes, and they look mighty fine too. Steel is indeed a competitive frame material! Come check them out at the Steelwool tent on Sunday in Almonte. We'll have free coffee and food too!

Results @ http://www.cyclocross.org/

More photos at our flickr site

Double Cross rolls Thanksgiving Monday, Oct 10, @ 9 AM. Poster and more info to come.


Anonymous said...

Great write up, Matt. I think the word you're looking for is 'resplendent'. M.

Matt Surch said...

Indeed, thanks M.

BTW folks, Double Cross will roll on Thanksgiving Monday, Oct. 10!!!

9am, 80k or road and trail.