Friday, October 28, 2011

A mid-season reflection on ‘Cross

Cyclocross season 2011 brought with it some changes, no more races in Ottawa which meant a bit more driving and perhaps (hopefully not) less participation. The first race of the season was held at the first time venue of calabogie peaks. Last event there was likely the off-road tri I did about 4 years ago. The day was beautiful and sunny, the course was a delight for most - although some professed to have a hate-on for the sandy sections, while I despised the loose hill climb with no toe spikes. I expected to have a mediocre race (and season) due to the type and amount of athletic endeavours in which I had partaken as of late. Surprisingly found myself up with the almost top guys of Belinkey and Heins only to have dropped a chain and 50 m just prior to the last lap. Somehow I summoned a suitcase of courage and bridged the gap on the flats to eventually sneak David (who did a LOT of work throughout) at the finish to take 3rd.

Race 2 was the always fun madison at the familiar and typically mtn bikey venue of Almonte. Noah and I were teamed together and we seemed to keep a great pace with some of the other Tree teams of Grant and Matt, Rodd and Alex; and while Andy took a bit out of Noah I managed to keep Jim in my sights. The weather was a contrast to the previous week, coolish and grey with a few spittles, but a dry race.

Race 3 brings us to what was last year a very bumpy frozen Renfrew fairgrounds. This year still had some bumps but was a bit more forgiving...the Clement PDX seems to have aided as well. A group of green Trees were up early to set the course. While not my favourite course I do find it fun with the spectator stands to wind up and around...and later to observe from. A great start again for me but somehow on a second lap remount my pedal came out of the crank-arm. It must have worked loose on practice laps and ....This dropped me from Jay’s wheel in 5th to about 45th place as I tried to put the pedal back in by hand then failing that one legged it along the back stretch and bumpy grass to eventually reach the parking lot where I got a wrench from Andrew Olive. A couple minutes later I was back in the game and passing people left and right....kind of a surreal experience. Managed to put in some solid lap times that would have otherwise put me into contention for the top 3 again but alas only made it to 20 or so. Another lovely day was had.

Race 4 took us to Logos Land Christian retreat....which kept me thinking of dismounting over lego barriers. Never heard of this place before but it seemed to be a hit with all who partook. This was an exceeeeedingly long course but it was shaping up to be another dry day after imminent threats of a deluge prior. The base here is very sandy which was quite forgiving and would result in a pretty manageable course even in wet conditions. The length of each lap was daunting and after a start right at the back of the pack due to an ill-timed pee break as Bob was speaking prior to the start, I had to hammer through the field in desperation. Withing the first lap I caught Dave Munden, J-C and a few others to ride with. We did a lot of leapfrogging though the course as it contained such a wide variety of open flats, twisty woods, sandy ruts and a couple of hard grunts. Dave washed out at the little stream section before the picnic table section and this was the opportunity for J-C and I to hammer some distance. Eventually we came to Chris Olsen riding backwards and the three of us did some leap-frogging over the last lap. On the last hill after the barrier then 180, J-C put the quads to the rods and rode away from me. I had nothing left to hang on and just concentrated in staying ahead of Chris for another 3rd place finish.

Finally race number 5 brings us back to a challenging Renfrew course at Mah-ta-way park. A few cool mtn bikey elements along with a lot of flat power sections were augmented with a tricky off-camber greasy ditch section. I managed to ride this one on the low part, while others had success with the top. Many had difficulties here. This time the ladies started 2 minutes ahead and as suspected we were clamouring to get space in the ditch and again at the steep dirty climb into the forest. Traffic on the first couple of laps negated riding this climb but after than it was a least for a few of us. Apparently many in the first race were not successful or not even attempting to ride it. The slick dirt however seemed to serendipitously dry out a fair bit for the second race. The forest is lovely and even though your are still hammering for the first 50 m into it there seems to be a tempered reprieve - if only for a fleeting moment - before the VERY tight switchbacks down. With the addition of Andy Leger, Marc the point, and Old man Orange the top end of the field had some stiff competition and some points defrayed. A 6th place sounds a bit slack but was actually a pretty solid race, tho with a 15 second lead on Belinkey and J-C coming down the last gravel road they almost caught me at the steep run-up to finish. This was again a beautiful warm sunny day...very un-crosslike !

So after five races the series seems to be going pretty good for everyone. The Wooly Trees are experiencing some great results and everyone seems happy with their new steeds. Will have to wait til next year and a smaller size to join that club....I’m having better results than expected and more importantly, a lot of fun so far. This weekend will be a Halloween break but next up will be Perth...a really fun course last year so I look forward to that...and the rest !

Monday, October 24, 2011

Renfrew Ma-Ta-Wey Park CX


Ouch. Terrific course, long laps, and a death march uphill finish. A bit of barfing, plenty of maxed heart rates, lots-o ripped lungs, and the odd heinous muscle spasm. Glad to see an extended off-camber section, a taste of Europe, and a great variety of turns to test technique. My nemesis, Steve Proulx, crashed in front of me going through a ditch, which led to me stomping on his Zipp front wheel....eeee. Steve's tire rolled, yet he still managed to get back up to me, pass me, and ride away. Respek. I'll have to get faster, maybe pedalling harder will work? Yep, its probably just that. Or more beet juice.
Aarg, I be Captain Pegleg, where be my treasure?
This is called child's pose, aka, the fetal position. Assume this and you know you've left it all on the course.  Own it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Logos Land CX

Logos Land. An odd place, and a terrific cyclocross venue. The property was expansive, and afforded Bob and company room to create a 10minute plus lap, long for CX. The terrain varied, and favoured a well rounded racer, particularly those who could climb. We'll be fortunate if we're invited back to race again, and I'm sure all will be eager to see how the course will be laid out.














Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Double Cross III Redux

The Rock, Meech Lake. We used to ride down its deadly.
Most Ottawa valley residents have likely noticed a fair bit of anomalous weather of the last couple decades. When I was a kid, the seasons seemed to turn over fairly consistently, including winter, which I tracked carefully due to my hockey obsession. Spring tended to really be in full swing around Easter, and summer was summery. Fall was nice for a bit, then gray. Then we got hit with the ice storm, a few winters with little snow, a winter with MASSIVE snow, the warmest March ever, a summer/fall with the most rainfall ever, and just this past weekend, the warmest, most beautiful Thanksgiving weekend ever. At least, that I've heard of. So sometimes climate change sucks for us in the valley, and other times it rules. This Thanksgiving weekend it ruled.

After a great CX race in Renfrew on Sunday, a bit of swapping was required to get bikes Double Cross ready. With the forecast calling for nothing but sun and temps in the high 20s, water bottle cages had to be mounted. With many leaves down, and plenty of rocks on the route ahead, carbon tubulars and the like were puled off, and aluminum rims shod with higher volume tires thrown on. Unless you are a honch like John Large, in which case 28c slicks would do. Pack the saddlebag with treats, and off to Gamelin to assemble.

The before-math.
Sunday saw an outstanding turnout for the ride. Despite many potential riders having other holiday commitments, 50-60 folks showed up at the gate, ready to donate to Bicycles for Humanity and take in a terrific ride. After pulling in an incredible $465 in donations for B4H and distributing cues to all the riders, we were off shortly after 9. 
Rolling out on the Gatineau Parkway before it became a parking lot. Maybe tour buses instead of cars would make sense?
We set a mellow pace down the Gatineau Parkway to start, and kept that up until Scott Road, when Pascal, functioning as ride marshal, let us know that the riding was getting dicey in the back, so we ought to pick it up and string it out. So we did, and I think that helped smooth things out. The front group continued a quick pace once we hit the trail, and continued on, making good progress, while groups naturally formed behind. Before we knew it, we were all reconvening at Pipolinka, and enjoying coffee, soup, sandwiches, empanadas, and baked treats. Phil and his crew were ready for us, and I think everyone enjoyed their fare. 

Steve was in the house, glad he made it. Jamie on the left.


Steelwools were in ample supply. Truffle Pigs flank Steve's Rover.

Aarg, the cougar was all over Buffalo Rider's back...

Ahhh, the valley....
Once all the other groups had rolled out, our green machine hit the road. Once on trail again, we were all treated to fresh sand (!) dumped on the steepest pitches. With much effort, the first few were rideable, but the last was impossible. None of us could conceive of a reason why the NCC's contractors would think it wise to dump masses of sand on steep pitches of trail. It is dangerous going down - imagine trying to steer around a family with a dog in sand - and it is generally almost impossible to ride up. Plus, it will not be a stable surface to weather rain. I hope more work will be done to these sections to make them both rideable and safe. Building them up into ridges, like on Penguin, would not be wise, so I hope that is not done. Trails like that are deadly.
Alex and Iain, soaking up the sun.
Wrapping things up, many folks caught up with each other at the gate and either rolled home or headed out for a drink on a patio. We can only hope for weather half as good for next year's ride. We'll very likely maintain the same route, as it seemed to balance all the elements we want (distance, smoothish trail surface, limited foot traffic, scenery, interesting trail features) the ride. We do have longer CX bike routes that might appeal to the more adventurous out there, so if you think you'd be interested in tackling an epic route next summer (also self supported, yada yada), let us know.
Thanks go out to Greg Cosgrove for another great poster, and of course, to all the riders (not least Greg from Kingston!) for coming out to make the ride so much fun. An extra big thank you to everyone for your generous donations to Bicycles for Humanity. The $465 will be very much appreciated by the fine folks there; shipping bikes to Africa is expensive!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Double Cross III: Thanksgiving Monday!

All right folks, bust your fattest CX tires out and get ready for the best CX ride of the season. Featuring road, trail, and Pipolinka, the route is an 85k loop.

UPDATE: GPS trace of Monday's route is up:

When is it again, where?
Thanksgiving Monday, October 10, 09:00, Gamelin Gate of the Gatineau Parkway. 09:00 is the departure time, so please arrive early enough make a donation to Bicycles for Humanity and receive your cue sheet.

So is it a race?
No, Double Cross is an un-race. Ok, so what the heck is that, you're asking? Think our Ride of the Damned format. Like the Ride of the Damned, Double Cross is all about creating the context where teams - in this case of 2 rather than 5 - can do whatever they feel works for them, be it ride full on, or more conversation pace. Its up to teams to decide what they want out of the ride. We provide the route and let everyone loose. There are no prizes for placing. Whoever finishes first will simply be finished, first.

Why teams of two?

Good question. Teams afford riders some security in the case of a mechanical, biological, or navigational. With this being an offroad ride on cross bikes, flats are a real threat. Teams of two means not too many folks are held up waiting for flat fixes, and its a lot easier to find one friend to team up with for a ride like this than more. It is fall after all, and a lot of riders have called the season a done deal. Ideally, you'll want to pair up with someone who you can ride your comfortable pace with. If your partner likes to bring along lots of spare tubes and tools, or say, cookies and whisky, that's good too.

Last year a we rolled as one big group in neutral start fashion to the Pine Road trailhead. At least that was the idea. This time we won't require a neutral start. Groups can form organically once we roll out. If teams decide to just ride their own pace, there will likely be some natural grouping along the way for various reasons. The issue with maintaining a large group is that everyone waits for every issue to be resolved, be it a flat or otherwise. So the whole ride takes a lot longer than necessary. If teams want to hang with other teams, I advise you to make your intentions very clear so everyone knows the plan.

If we have an odd number we'll form a team of three. Lets preserve the spirit of the ride.

Woods gathering

How will the route unfold?
After some route testing over the summer, we've improved on the 2010 route to reduce pinch flat areas, including some of the areas degraded by heavy rains.

We will all roll from the Gamelin Gate to Mine Road. We'll work our way over to Scott Road, then Highway 105, which we will follow until the split to River Road. At this point, we'll continue on the 105 to Pine Road, turn left onto it, and continue straight onto the trail (#50). We'll take the 50 all the way to Lac Phillipe, then ride along the lake to P19. From there we'll take the 51, followed by a right onto the 53. This will lead us to the 53/52 junction, where we'll head left and downhill under the Highway 5, past Le Moulin, and deliver us to Pipolinka's door. Think of Pipolinka as a lunch stop in a randonnee or century ride. No rush, enjoy it.

Tanya's awesome socks

When each team is ready to roll, head toward the Gatineau River and turn Right on River/side Road. Ride toward the train tracks, and as you reach them, head up to the Right on Rockhurst (stiff climb). Stay on Rockhurst, cross the 105, and continue straight as the road becomes Chemin du Lac Brown. From the Brown Lake cabins, head up the 57, and connect to the 52; turn left. Follow the 52 to the 50, turn Left, then follow back to Pine Road, and retrace your track back to the Gate, or wherever you need to go from there.

Rodd in action

Now, there is an option for more dirt that can be exercised if desired. Rather than taking the 50 all the back to Pine road, teams can opt to head right, onto the 36. This section is rougher than everything else, so know that. It spits you out at O'Brien beach. Rather than having everyone take this route, which would simply be too much for many, I've factored it as optional. There might be faster teams and groups who'd like to meet up with slower ones at the end. This is totally doable by taking these two different last legs.

Please familiarize yourself with the map. We won't be providing any. Like a randonnee, some preparation is required on your part to know, as a team, where you are going. If you are not familiar with the trails in the park, this is a good opportunity to put your navigation skills to work. Its very hard to go wrong with this route, and there are maps around in the park to refer to. You can print the map above, or purchase one from any of the NCC information centres, or World of Maps on Richmond Road.

What happens at the end?
Nothing is prescribed here, many will be heading to Thanksgiving dinners. Those who don't have commitments after the ride may want to catch a drink and food afterwards. This will likely largely depend on the weather. In the event of rain, most will likely want to get home and into warm clothes. Its probably best to play it by ear and make plans on the fly.

If you bring a camera along, be sure to send a link to your photos afterwards. We'll put those up on the aftermath post.

Please remember that this ride, while free, is also an opportunity to devote some dollars to a good cause, Bicycles for Humanity. At the gate, Tall Tree Tanya (The Vegan Vagabond), will be collecting donations and handing out cue sheets. This will be your opportunity to make a donation. If you want to make a donation that is sizable enough to require a receipt, don't expect one, I won't have any. Such donations can be made online. Bring bills if you can, they're lighter!

Please feel free to post questions in the comments, or email me:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Eastern Ontario CX #2: Almonte Madison

Sunday's Madison in Almonte featured a challenging course with many difficult turns. While the typical wooded sections were left out, the course was far from easy. The classic off camber hairpin on the 'big hill' was perhaps harder than other year's I've ridden it, or perhaps I was simply lacking poise. Off the start I led the pack into it and promptly slid out…

Will and Thom were out with the pop up tent and hot coffee for all. If you missed out, make sure you find them next time. Will snapped a slew of great photos, while Jamie christened his new Truffle Pig team bike. It was also a first time out for our new Steelwool jerseys. Our official Steelwool CX team consists of Anna, Jamie, Rob and myself, so all but Rob (who was out of town for the weekend) were flying our blue steel kit. Fingers crossed that our skinsuits will show up soon, for full race effect…and warmth.


About to slide out...

Radical Iain Radford!
Anna and Andy
Jim and Rodd
Kim, first CX race evaaar!
Katy's first race evaaaar too!
Jamie's Truffle!
 Matt's TP, long!
Improved mud clearnace over the prototypes, excellent!
Clement PDX tubulars mounted to carbon rims; light, responsive, and grippy.
Kent's outstanding handmade out for its first ride.