Friday, April 27, 2012

The Spring Classics Roll On!

Spring Classics are in full swing in and around Ottawa, and the next three weekends are booked up with great events in three different corners of the region.

This Sunday the Paris-Roubaix flies out of Almonte. With recent rains and a new forest sector, this is bound to be one of the most exciting editions in recent years. Mount up some fat tires and get out there! On-site registration is available.

Following on the heels of the Roubaix is the West of Quebec Wheelers' Mufferaw Joe. The 130k route tends to include sections of dirt and gravel. Last year the Wheelers included a beautiful sandy old doubletrack. 28c tires would be a good choice for this one. Post-ride chili and homemade break is always one of the highlights of the season.

And rounding out the trio is of course our very own Ride of the Damned on Sunday, May 13, benefiting Bicycles for Humanity. The 130k route covers paved and dirt roads north of Gatineau, passing through Cantley, Montes Cascades, Low, Wakefield, and Old Chelsea. This year's ride will include a Strava Dirt Monster Challenge option, which will afford riders the opportunity to record their times on select dirt segments/sectors. Lowest cumulative times for men and women wins a Premium Strava membership for a year and a Strava cell phone/stuff 'jersey bin'. Remember, the RotD is a TEAM event (5 members), so gather your comrades and come up with a clever/ironic/fun name! We are working on logistics for a shorter route running from Wakefield. Details will follow. There will be no day-of registration, so please help us out and register at SportRecon at your earliest convenience. Remember to state your team name. Click the poster on the right for more info.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Calabogie Classic Roundup

The Tall Tree Cycles/Steelwool Bicycles team had a great day out at the Calabogie race track Sunday, fielding riders in multiple categories, and riding well all around. Significant winds kept speeds down a bit, and made breakaway attempts extra difficult. However, I think everyone learned a thing or two, and benefited from the opportunity to tune up for this coming Sunday's favourite, the Paris-Roubaix out of Almonte (btw, the revised course is posted). Big up to Andy for taking second place in the S4 field sprint!

The Senior 1/2 race was pretty manic through the first few laps, a veritable battle royale. After things calmed down a bit, attacks went off every lap, and by midway, I'd joined a chase group that included a few riders I knew would go well: Aaron Fillion, Michael Woods, and Ed Veal. We ultimately brought a one minute gap down to 16 seconds...not enough. I was happy to ride well with a group of strong riders, though it would have been nice to have been going well enough to help close that gap....

Steelwool bikes performed with aplomb under Dave, Rob, Jim and Matt. Following a Steelwool podium at Clarence-Rockland, Steelwool has seen a strong start the the 2012 season!

Team Results:
Senior 4
Andy Brown - 2nd
Jamie Pold - 11th
Senior 3
Alex Michel - 4th
Senior 1/2 
Matt Surch - 13th
Master 3
Jim McGuire 4th
David Stachon 5th
Master 1 Rob Parniak - 11th
Iain Radford - 26th


Here's Andy in the finish. Turn down the volume to avoid being blasted by an enthusiastic supporter.

Last second cancellation

Due to the Snow........we will begin the Monday Rides "Next Monday" the 30th of April leaving the store at 6pm on Road bikes.
Sorry for the Delay!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Classics Double Bill: New York Hills, Ontario Gravel

Act I

 Tall Tree Cycles' squad of five dwindled to three by Friday's departure for the upstate New York. Iain, Todd and myself were not ashamed to admit we were into the minivan we rented for the trip. It made a great team vehicle. In addition, it provided fodder for the 'funny' border guard who commented on his surprise that Todd, a physician, didn't 'own a fleet of minivans.' Uh, right, thanks, bye now.

Matt's Truffle Pig in Battenkill trim. Would have been two Challenge Roubaix tubulars had Clarence-Rockland not destroyed the front in our pre-ride.
Race day. After a decent breakfast at the Hyatt Malta - where Mavic neutral support stays, btw, always neat to see -  and a short drive, we were in Cambridge, the race town. Lining up behind a couple Cyclery riders with at least ten seconds to spare before the gun went off, we were dialled. Our field of Masters 30-39 dudes was 100 strong, so as expected, the riding was easy until we hit the first real climb.

Iain's Cervelo, apres front wheel change. Light, stiff, aero. That's how Iain rolls. 
I knew I'd suck on the climbs, as I went into the race weakened by a virus. At the same time, Todd had perhaps 500k in him, and new he'd get hammered pretty hard. Iain, on the other hand, went in with excellent form. He was our guy. We kept an eye on the Specialized factory guys Iain knew would be dangerous, tried to stay well positioned, and take opportunities as they came.

Todd's Kirk is a thing of beauty, and it rides great too! He'd have had his Pave tubulars if we'd had time to pump them up....

The reality is, the shit hits the fan at about 72k into the 100k route, Wrights Road. The real climbing starts, mostly dirt, and goes for about 6k at an average of 2.6%. Sounds mellow, but big chumks of it are rough. If you've put in too much effort to this point, you're in trouble. As predicted, I'd been sucking on the climbs. Iain was good though, but he'd disappeared a short time before we hit the big climbs. Todd had been up front, but was fading. I'd let people take me on the shorter climbs, then get back on over the descent and flats. While the group was big, this was not a problem. But like I said, it gets real at about 72k, and there is no faking it.

I took the stepping climbs as fast as I could without exploding, watching riders string out ahead and behind me (Strava shows I averaged 29kph for the 6k, and that was not good enough, to give you a sense...). It was clear that a group was getting away. No helping that. Once up, one goes down, providing the opportunity to get a chase together. The group I came together with was about 10. Or something. But the climbing was not done. Another bump, 'Stage Road,'  hits at 90k, a little over 2k long. The average grade on this one is 5.6%, plenty to drop my average down to just under 20kph. This one felt horrible, but I was reeling in riders anyhow; I think the steeper grade was better for me. From there it we consolidated, reeled and skinned riders, and headed into the final. There were clearly a couple sprinters in our midst, so I hung fourth wheel, and got ready. Then I was out front with a gap. How? I don't know. Really. Heading into the final turn I had enough gap to maaaaybe hold it. But which way? Straight or right? Unclear; I was flagged right as I'd committed to going straight, so had to brake hard and narrowly avoided the curb. With that much speed scrubbed, they were barrelling down on me, and my in the saddle 'sprint' wasn't enough to hold off four or five of them. 17th place. Happy with that; it was not my day. Iain had indeed flatted and time trialled it in, and Todd finished about 5 minutes back, a strong ride, as always.

Hit Saratoga Springs for some health food store buffet, and rip home in the mini(van). No lame border guards on the Canada side.

Act II

Photo: Rober Roaldi
We had a big corps of trees out in Rockland Sunday morning to get intimate with massive gravel. Tanya, Alex, Rob, Jamie, Jim, Dave, Mike, Neil, Martin, Andy and myself were on site with all manner of tires, the hot topic in the week preceding the race.  See, the Clarence-Rockland area isn't like other places.  In Clarence-Rockland the gravel is supersized, upgraded, pimped out. Its gnarly, its gets all up in your grill. If you and your machine aren't tough, it'll chew you up and spit you out, shattered and holding the lifeless remains of your precious tires and tubes.

So I ran 25s. Wha? Good question. Tubeless. That's the important part. No tube to pinch. Ridiculously thick tire casing. Sealant. It'd be a rough ride, but Hutchinson Intensives are built to ride through the apocalypse. Others on the team were on file tread Vittorias, Hutchy Gatorskins, Grand Bois, Panaracer Paselas in 35c....generally nothing smaller than 28. While the Paselas held up perfectly and provided an excellent ride for all, pretty much everything else flatted. Scores of others flatted too, many of them among the strongest in the field.

But that was later. First came Jamie's break with Duncan Beard and another less than 5k in. Not bad, everyone had a hard time telling which of us he was. He held on up there for a while before getting pulled back, Duncan coming back later on. The most vicious gravel was removed from the route, but some good rough stuff came up early, causing the first round of flats. Unable to split the group, we rolled pretty coherently until the eventual victor, Michael Woods, rode off the front. I didn't see John Gee, time trial guru, go off, but realized later he was up the road too. The wind made breaks on the pavement difficult to stick, though many were attempted. It eventually became apparent that the gap was too large to bring the other two back, as nobody in the peloton wanted to drive the pace. We were certainly encouraged to, but had Dave, Neil and myself taken up that task, we'd have nothing left at the end, and our team-mates remaining would not consider themselves sprinters. So we waited for an opportunity.

Opportunity met preparation with less than 10k to go, as I rounded a left hand turn onto a hideous gravel road that descended at a mellow grade. I got through the turn first, saw the brutal surface and immediately sprinted. My tires hit many an ungodly rock, but held. Within a few seconds I had a gap, put my head down, and got into time trial mode. The gap increased. More tt, breath, keep the effort steady. Turning left onto pavement, I knew I'd have to get up and over the final grunt of a climb fast enough to maintain enough gap to hold on the following two short descents and slight uphill finish. Dropping into my 34t ring, I knew I was going to go slow, but too slow? Up top, my heart-rate was under control, and I still had a gap, but only about 5 seconds! I considered sitting up, as the group was small. Perhaps I could recover and take the sprint? Doubtful.

I looked back again; still 5 seconds! I was holding it, to my surprise. So I made the decision: go 100% and take the spot. And so it went. Full pace tt mode, ghost aerobar position, full tuck for the descents, I increased my gap enough to hold on despite slowing on the finishing grade...right behind John Gee! I'd had no idea he was so close, and clearly fading, but I was already at 100% effort, so there was no other gear to find. He finished meters ahead, and this is after he'd flatted...heck of a ride. My chasers were close, but not close enough. 3rd. I was ecstatic about following my instincts and sticking the move for the team. I couldn't have made it stick had I not done time trials last season; they are invaluable for teaching how to maintain steady hard efforts.

Dave climbed with the strongest guys in the chase group, and finished strong in 10th. Neil followed in 17th, Rodd in 20th, Mike 21st, Jamie 36th...full results are here. Flats were suffered by everyone else but Tanya. Its all about the tires. Overall, we thought the team rode really well, particularly Jamie, Martin, and Mike, who spent more time up front than they have before.

Thanks to the Ride with Rendall crew, all the volunteers, and all the out of town riders for making the event a success. We look forward to the 2013 edition already. But next, it's the Roubaix in Almonte, our favourite event of the season!

Photos here and here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tall Tree Club rides

Tall Tree is starting "Club" rides. These rides are for everyone. From beginner to Racer. We will be alternating between Road and Mountain bike rides. The focus will be to welcome new people to our sport and provide a welcoming, non-intimidating atmosphere. There will be a no -drop policy. And questions about anything are welcome at anytime. Riders should expect to learn to get comfortable riding in packs on the road and gain confidence on the trails.

In order to run these sort of rides, a bit of insurance is necessary. Riders who want to participate can pay $100 for the season. This includes your insurance and an awesome Tall Tree Jersey!

This also entitles you to a 10% discount in store and access to special deals first. The only other thing I ask of joining riders is that they be self sufficient. This means having the following:

1 tube


Chain tool

Alen Keys

Tire levers

Those are the bare essentials that you should always have while out alone as well. If anyone ever has a mechanical problem out there, we WILL all wait and I will either fix the problem myself or help if necessary. Every rider shall always wear a helmet and please try to have your bike in good working order in time for the start of our rides.

So here is how it will work:

Rides will begin on Monday April 23rd. We will meet at Tall Tree Cycles. I will be there by 5:00 and our rides will begin at 5:30pm. This is an early season start time and will change to 6pm in Mid May. We will do our first ride on the Aylmer bike path, keeping things fairly flat for the first one. We will move into Gatineau Park the following weeks, and our first Mountain bike ride will be Monday May 21st as the trails in the park don't open until the 15th.

After May 15th we will alternate between Road and Mountain.
If/when our group gets big enough, we can split off into 2 ability levels, to try and keep it fun for everyone. Grant will lead the slower and I, (Neil), will lead the quicker.

I encourage women and kids to come out!

Riding bikes is my life and look forward to sharing this.

See you all on the 23rd!

Neil Schiemann

Contact :

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring Classics!

Spring has sprung, and racing in Ontario kicked off on Good Friday in Toronto, where our very own Todd Fairhead flew the colours, finishing in the field sprint. On Easter Sunday, while many of us were watching Paris-Roubaix unfold, Tanya Hanham (Ottawa) and Tim Carleton (Toronto) represented Tall Tree Cycles at the Hell of the North. Tim finished an impressive 14th in a strong field. Full results are not up yet, so I don't know where Tanya landed.

Things ramp up from here. This coming weekend, a small team of Tall Tree Riders heads to Upstate New York for the Tour of the Battenkill. Jim, Todd, Iain, and I will race in the Master 30-39 field, taking on a hilly 100km route with a slew of dirt road sectors in the mix. Todd and I have raced Battenkill before, but it'll be the first time for Iain and Jim. I think we'll all be impressed by the immensity of the race, as it has grown significantly each year since its inception. For this race we'll be on road tires, 25, maybe 27c.

Heading straight back to Ottawa on Saturday night, we'll be swapping to fat tires to hit the Clarence-Rockland Classic on Sunday morning. Recon has revealed some rough gravel, so we'll go with more volume. It'll be a tough race, but we're looking forward to it! Plus, Tim Carleton will be in full effect, filling out our Green Blob!

Next up is the Calabogie Road Classic on Sunday, April 22. We'll have a handful of riders out for this one, held on the auto race track in Calabogie.

Finally, rounding out April, is the Paris-Roubaix run from Almonte on Sunday, April 29th (registration info now up, read carefully). Now, while its true this cyclo-sportif's course bears no resemblance to the real Hell of the North, it was inspired by the epic race in France, and the name continues to inspire riders to brave often harsh weather each April to take on a roller coaster over dirt roads and forest tracks, thrown in to keep things truly interesting. It is no secret that this event is the favoured be many of us flying the green garb. Its blend of difficult terrain makes for both an interesting and challenging ride, affording the opportunity to utilize offroad skills at key points in the route. Its exciting. A bunch of us first tried the event on fixed gear road bikes, and loved it, so if you are considering giving it a go, do it! Put on some voluminous tires and jump in! There will be lots of riders out for a group ride pace, so don't assume you'll ride solo if you'r not in top shape.

Update: I forgot the Wheelers' Mufferaw Joe, on Sunday, May 6...sorry! Wedged right between the Roubaix and the Ride of the Damned, there's lots of gravel on tap! This event always features great food afterwards a nice long ride out around Quyon, so be sure to attend!

So, after the Roubaix and Mufferaw Joe, we'll jump into our Ride of the Damned on Sunday, May 13th. See this post for more info, and hit this link to register. I'll be setting the new Strava Challenge sections soon, so keep an eye out for that if you are interested in competing for the Dirt Monster crown.  If possible, we'll also afford the option for riders to ride a portion of the route from Wakefield. I can't promise, as there are logistics to cover, but I will try to make this possible. Stay tuned. 

After the RotD I head to NYC for Gran Fondo New York, my first Gran Fondo. The event is huge, and will take me to a city I've never visited, so its all very exciting. After that, us Ottawa folks will get to take a crack at Ride with Rendall's new stage race, June 1-3, the Mississippi Grand Prix! Details are still under development, but we can't wait to have the chance to do a stage race close to home. Amidst all this road racing, our wagon wheel wielding MTB racers will be ripping it up in Ontario and Quebec starting with Mansfield at the end of April. Before long, we'll be at Camp Fortune every other Wednesday night for mtb racing on an improved course!

One last mention goes to Ottawa's innaugural gran fondo....GranFondo Ottawa, July 21! Three distances are on offer, 100k, 170k, and 220k, posing opportunities for cyclists of many stripes to take in a tour of the region west of town. I'll be doing the 220k route with at least a few other TTC riders, while we'll have a few more doing the 170k. I hope the event goes well, its a treat to have big events being thrown in town, rounding out a great season of cycling events. Naturally, we'll be hosting our Hell Climb in the summer too, so get your costume ready!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Good Friday Road Race

This weekend marked the opening of the 2012 Ontario cycling season. The first event, The Good Friday Road Race, was a circuit race held just north of Hamilton. As I was in Toronto for family-related Easter festivities, I registered for this, my first ever O-Cup event.

The first race of the year always leads to reflection. Fitness level, season goals, even motivation for racing are all considered. Truth be told, I'm somewhat ambivalent about the season and racing. Racing is certainly a luxury. The commitment to prepare and compete requires sacrifice from family and other social pursuits. And yet, as a Masters racer, one never seems to be able to devote enough time to fully commit to reach their peak athletic potential. Races are won by those with a supreme genetic advantage, or those that have more time to train over their peers.

I went into the first race of the year with guarded expectations. My fitness level has increased over the past two seasons, but as usual, early spring training has been less than what was originally envisioned. I petitioned the OCA this year for an upgrade to the M2 category. While I didn't have any upgrade points, I felt capable of competing at a higher level and in longer distance events. Thus, I had a bit of anxiety about this choice and whether I was going to embarass myself in a category I hadn't really earned.

As it turns out, the race was well within my capabilities and even on the tame side. The 23 km/lap four cornered course had a few rolling hills, but nothing resembling the sustained climbing or relentless rollers of the Outawais. The biggest environmental factor was the wind, with a significant headwind-crosswind every half lap. A full 80 riders set off from the start in sunny, but cool weather and I spent the first lap re-learning how to maintain pack position. With 80 riders and the yellow-line rule in effect, moving forward in the peloton required some skill. I rode in the top third for the first lap and felt surprisingly comfortable on the hills. By the second lap, I had figured out how to hide in the crosswind and I defended my position against the yellow line, forcing those next to me to shield the wind. By half way through the third and final lap, I realized I was a bit further back in the peloton than I desired, although still nicely protected from the wind. As we approached the set of hills, I slowly inched up. A bit surprisingly, I was moving forwards rather than backwards as we started going up and I moved up into the top ten riders as we crested the final hill, with about 8 km to the finish. Three riders had slipped off the front during the ascent, but I had been too far back to participate in the break. I quickly joined the chase from the head of the peloton and even counter-attacked twice. Two of the three original escapees were quickly brought back to the main group, but one lone rider stubbornly remained 300 m ahead. And then no one wanted to chase. I'm not sure if everyone was counting on our sheer size to swallow up the escapee on the final run to the finish, if people were already conserving for the final sprint, or if people were truly tired, but we made no headway in catching the leader. I remained in the first five riders and contributed a few efforts to the chase, but when it was apparent no one would come around and maintain the momentum, it seemed rather suicidal, especially when I had no teammates in the race. So that's how we approached the final corner, with only a 500 m straight to the finish. I was nicely set up in about fourth wheel as we approached the corner, but as the pace inevitably slowed, we got swarmed and the peloton swelled from single file to four accross. I exited the corner in about 20th place and that's where I finished, not getting passed, but not passing anyone else. The lone escapee ended up taking the win, a lead that had shrunk to a 2 second advantage by the finish line.

So in the end, the race ended with my ambivalence. I still felt relatively strong and hadn't pushed myself to the limit nearly enough, and I didn't have a result to show for it. Perhaps better pack positioning for the final climb or a concerted time trial effort in a quest to catch the leader would have felt more satisfying, even if ultimately unsuccessful. The M2 category still felt a bit amateurish and filled with negative tactics. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that I'm strong enough to race M1, nor will I likely ever earn enough upgrade points.

The race was well organized and I met many friendly southern-Ontario racers. The steel bike was an anomally, but not unique, with a few Marinonis and a Colnago spotted. The Tall Tree kit was instantly recognizable and I received many complements. I'm excited and nervous for a more significant challenge next weekend at Battenkill.