Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Raffle Tickets are Available to All!

UPDATE: Due to a high volume of raffle ticket sales, I switched to drawing actual names, not numbers. Many were on hand at the BBQ to receive their prizes, and the rest have been emailed directly. If you've not received an email, and were not present, better luck next time.



Raffle tickets for the Ride of the Damned can be purchased by anyone on the reg site! Alternatively, you can email me $ for tickets (msurch@gmail-dot-com). They are going for 5 for $10, 10 for $20, and 25 for $50. Winners do not have to be on site to win. The idea is to raise as much as we can for Julian, Vanessa, and Reya, so don't be shy!

The raffle will go down at 5pm on Sunday. Winning tickets held by people who are not present will be announced here and on the FaceBook page. Prizes that are not claimed within 5 days will be given away via a draw of all the event's participants. Hang onto your tickets until you hear or see the winning numbers!

Here's the list of great prizes as it stands, thanks to the generous donations from our fabulous sponsors! 

Bridgehead Gift Pack - courtesy of Bridgehead, Second Avenue - Caron Cheng; Summer Nesrellah 

Brodie Romulus frame (53cm) - courtesy of Brodie - Jenn Adams

Chris King Rasta Headset - courtesy of Tall Tree Cycles - Allan Cameron

PRO Tools - courtesy of PRO:
Chain Tool - Sean Ralph
Mini-tool - Jamie McCabe
BB Tool - Chris Mullington
Cassette Tool - Jay Heins

Kona Longboard - courtesy of Kona - Peter Plaunt

Timbuktu Tool Roll full of Filzer and Orontas - courtesy of MEC - Rob Orange

Axiom Kompressair G200A Floor Pump - courtesy Axiom - Tim Douglas 

Specialized Trail MTB Shoes (42) - courtesy of Tall Tree Cycles - WILL REDRAW

JMB Musette - courtesy of James Brooks - Rob Parniak

Bell Helmets (4) - courtesy of McCrank's Cycles
Green - Rob Orange
Silver - Jay Heins
Black/red - Louise Hine-Schmidt
Black - Sheri Jay

Pair of Dugast Pipistrello 32mm tubulars - courtesy of The Cyclery - David Wright

Pair of Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels with tires - courtesy of Mavic/OGC/Dave Shirley - Rob Orange

Modrobes base layer - courtesy of Phat Moose Cycles - Kevin Fields

Topeak mini pump - courtesy of Phat Moose Cycles - Tim Douglas

Vega Gift Pack - courtesy of Vega and Liquid Nutrition - Rob Orange

$25 Gift Certificate for Rainbow Foods - Sean Ralph

Stand Up Paddle Lesson for 2 - courtesy of Brent Schmidt - Marc Boudreau

Stevens socks x3 - courtesy of Peter Metuzals - Rob Orange

Fox Racing Umbrella - courtesy of OGC/Dave Shirley - Jamie Hopkins

1 hr Massage Therapy - courtesy of Angus Henry - Jamie McCabe

Park Tools Sweater - courtesy of Espresso Sports - Ian Austen

Specialized Jersey - courtesy of Espresso Sports - Dawn Prichard

Stevens Socks x3 - courtesy of Peter Metuzals - Rob Orange

Stand Up Paddle lesson for 2 - courtesy of Brent Schmidt - Marc Brazeau

1 Hour Massage Therapy -courtesy of Angus Henry, RMT - Jamie McCabe

Liquid Nutrition Gift Card - Erwin Baertschi ; Andy Brown

Wheelers Jersey - courtesy of the Wheelers - Lisa MeyerPhotos are up on the FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/RIdeOfTheDamned

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mississippi Mills Grand Prix: Plan, Execute, Win?

Things are hotting up as we approach the Ride of the Damned on the 23rd, and Champlain's Folly on July 14th. For those who don't know, I am part of the organizing team for the Folly. I hope you all will join us for both events! But this post is about dorky racing. 

Have you ever seen these crazy videos? Our team emailed them around a couple years ago and agreed we never wanted to be like these dudes. Ok, sure, it would be fine to be good at bike racing, but the attitude part; no thanks. However, despite the obnoxious exterior, there are some valuable nuggets embedded in the morass of ridiculous content in this series of videos. The 'concept' we tend to return to time and again, if more than somewhat ironically, is 'Plan, Execute, Win.' To date, we've done a lot of planning and executing, but not a whole lot of winning. This should not be a surprise, as the majority of others we race agains are also planning and executing. We can't all win. Some clearly neither plan, nor execute. I'm not sure what that's all about.

For the Mississippi Mills Grand Prix, from Pakenham, Ontario, the plan was simple: attack, attack, attack, try to win. Out of a field of about 100 riders in the Open A race, we were four: Alex Michel, Iain Radford, Mike Abraham, and yours truly, Surch & Rescue/Destroy. The course was 42k, two laps. Mildly rolling, with about 5km of dirt road, it would be tricky to break up the peloton. 

Execute. The fun is in trying. That is how it went down, in machine gun format:

Big field. Men, women, boys.
"Let's attack on the gravel, force a split."
I want to go now! No, wait.
Gravel approaches; where are my guys?
It's planned: attack.
45kph...frigg, still alone...and still...
Caught, counter.
And so on: catch counter; rinse, lather, repeat.
Carbon flying...ugh...
We're ok, rinse, lather, repeat.
Lap 2
Alex: "we have to attack before the gravel, then counter. I will go first."
Matt: "Ok, I'll counter."
Execute. Fairly feeble counter.
Iain goes; perfect.
Two companions, into the gravel. 
Gap, holding; yes! 
I don't have to work.
Some guy 15 feet away: "Hey asshole!"
Who? What?
Me: "Who's the asshole? Can I be the asshole?"
Peloton: "Haha."
Alex is following attempts to bridge while I sit in.
Carbon flying, female shriek. Ugh.
Gap is 30s. Yes! 
More sitting in while Alex is vigilant.
Mike is up there, he has done as asked, chased and countered, earlier. Up front and watching.
Gap is 40s. Yes! 
No organization, they will not pull Iain back.
We will sprint for 4th place 'glory.'
Be careful, position for the sprint, like on TV/the Internet.
3k to go.
Moving up, Alex is ready. 
500m to go.
Right up, aggressive. Just like the PROs!
Time to get gnarly.
90 degree turn into the final. Totally aggro.
Can't get all the way out, have to lean hard.
Drift both wheels. Holy f#ck.
Accelerate 'hard.' Alex on the right.
Two dudes, can't pass, not enough powa!
That's it. Third in the bunch, for 6th, Alex 4th for 7th.
Did Iain win?
2nd. Nipped by a junior.
A strong one.

2013 Mississippi Grand Prix Open A Race Podium
1) Miles Eastman 2) Iain Radford 3) Connor Byway

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ride of the Damned Registration is Live!


We're rolling, folks! One team is in already! Sign up now and spread the word for lots of FB likes! Lets get 'trending,' #rideofthedamned !!! 

Resister here: http://sportrecon.com/2013/RotD

Registration closed at midnight, Wednesday, June 19

The first 25 entries will receive free tire advice from the Bike Angel, Rodd Heino! The next 25 will receive hearty high-fives from Dave Stachon!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ride of the Damned: Its Alive!

2013 Ride of the Damned poster, by our favourite graphic designer, Greg Cosgrove!

I'm getting close to launching registration, stay tuned!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ride of the Damned Update

I'm happy to announce that the Ride of the Damned will start and finish at Bate Island on June 23rd. Smack in the middle of the Ottawa River, Bate Island has parking, a bathroom, and an enclosure that will cover us in the event of rain. It should be a great place to begin and end the ride! 

Now that siting is finally finalized, I will get registration up and running. Entry will be $40, due to the increased cost of permits and sanctioning. 

I've created a RotD page here on the blog (under the banner up top), in an effort to help make all the information riders need easily accessible. Please let me know if there is anything missing, and I'll get on in. 

I've also created a FaceBook page for the RotD. Please 'like' the page to help get the word out and catch wind of info coming through the pipe. This is the FB event page, which you can use to invite friends to the ride.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Race Report: Mont Tremblant Canada Cup #1

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Intuition; what is it? In layman's terms, intuition is embodied thought. I like wikipedia's paragraph on Carl Jung's take:

In Carl Jung's theory of the ego, described in 1921 in Psychological Types, intuition was an "irrational function," opposed most directly by sensation, and opposed less strongly by the "rational functions" of thinking and feeling. Jung defined intuition as "perception via the unconscious": using sense-perception only as a starting point, to bring forth ideas, images, possibilities, ways out of a blocked situation, by a process that is mostly unconscious.

Over the years I've gotten a lot better about following my intuition, but I'm far from expert. In the realm of cycling, I've had to learn the hard way many times. The main thing I've learned is that I shouldn't force things. For example, if I have a race planned, but I don't feel motivated to do it, I shouldn't. In the past, saying I'd do a race, to myself or others, meant full commitment. I'd make it happen. But if my head was elsewhere, I was inviting disaster. Back when I raced downhill, that often meant injury. Hard-learned lessons....

I'd planned on racing the Gatineau Grand Prix road race on the long weekend. Road racing was going well, keep it going, right? The Beachberg Spring Chicken enduro mtb race the prior weekend was fun. I came out of it saying: I want to race mtb again soon. Click. I'd not been considering doing Mont Tremblant, after a pretty unpleasant race there a couple years ago. After that race, I'd made a rule: no racing Tremblant without sufficient mtb riding beforehand. The course is too technical to do as a first mtb ride of the season. 50k of mtb racing in Beachberg set me up well. I was motivated, and confident. I had to break it to Alex that I was bailing on the GP, but I was going with my gut, my intuition, that this was the right thing to do. The fact that my family loves to go to Tremblant was icing.

Matt: "How is it? Normal, or extra gnar? Do I need a sick front tire?"

Rob: "Same as usual. Only muddy on the descent and it's no big deal. I don't think you need to bother with a bigger tread. We are not."

Rob and Neil were already in Tremblant on Friday when I checked in on tire set-up. With dry weather leading up, the course should have been mostly dry. However, melting snow was usually a factor in May. The first time I raced Tremblant's XC, three years ago, I used aggressive tires, and they worked well. The next year, I ran less tread, and almost ate it more than once. This time, I'd be on Maxxis Ikons, which I felt pretty good about. 

Arriving at 11 a.m. on race day, Saturday, the parking lots were full, and racing was underway. Rob and I would race at 12:45, Neil at 2:45, Master Expert 30-39 for the first, Elite for the second. Sunny and warm, all was good. 

Rob and I warmed up by climbing all manner of roads around the base of the hill, keen to ensure we didn't stray too far and wind up staging poorly for the start. Speaking of starts, this one has to be my least favourite anywhere. Loose gravel and uphill. Yay. 

Go time

The Senior Expert field and Cadet Experts are starting before us. Why? Expert; ok, some of them don't get caught. But Cadet? Really? 

The start is fine, though, of course, clipping in doesn't come easy. Rob and I were wary of guys taking flyers off the start, then blowing up, as this often seems to occur at the Quebec races. You don't want to blow up too, following a no-hope move. 

Its fine. One guy is off the front a bit, but Rob is keeping it cool. I'm coming from behind, working  up along the side, knowing I will be good if I'm at worst third wheel into the first singletrack, which comes after climbing for perhaps 1:30. The leader has a few meters on us as I pull up close to Rob. He's fading as the pitch steepens toward the mouth of the trail. Rob and I don't slow; Rob takes the lead into the woods, with me on his wheel. 

Relax. Breathe. We'd talked about this earlier. We knew it would be hard to close gaps, and there would be traffic. We'd want to be at the pointy end right away, and hold that. Rob's mantra: smooth is faster. That's exactly what he's doing, no mistakes, not manic, just smooth. After a few minutes I comment on the efficacy of this approach; it's working. 

We're moving through traffic already. Careful, be patient. Everybody has to deal with getting by these guys, but they are chasing. We are leading. The pace is letting me recover, I'm comfortable, but its hard to know if this is fast enough. 

Out in the open, Rob is slowing, so I take the lead and push into the next woods. I hope he will follow, but I don't look back. Passing, passing, smooth, passing....The intensity up the toughest climb, which ascends to the top of the hill, is brutal. I stay on the gas, knowing I can't be the best climber here. I can't give them (except Rob) hope. I have to appear as though I am too strong to chase, get out of sight and mind. 

The descent is good. I haven't overdone it, so I've got my whits. Cadets, Seniors...they are everywhere. This is my first time down the descent in two years, and some of it is new. Overall, its good, I like it. I'm having fun. Smooth is fast. 

Out on the bike path I'm fooled into thinking the two Cadets in front of me are going fast enough. I pass and realized that was not the case. This is just like cyclocross, where you can get lulled into thinking the riders in front are going fast enough. Then you pass and they're gone. The trick is the passing part. 

Up through the village, my family is ecstatic, rocking the cowbells and cheering me on. I don't know whether the others will put up a fight yet; I just focus on doing everything right. Drink, pedal, shift. Just ride. 

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Lap two of four, I overcook the brutal climb and have jello arms on the decent. Ok, note to self....I'm monitoring the chasers, but its so hard to tell who is who as I pass other riders. Is that my guy? Can't tell, but I kinda think so. I'm up 45 seconds. 

Lap three. I have the rhythm down. I'm doing the climbs and singletrack fast enough that closing is not happening. I'm up 60 seconds. Atop the brutal climb, I'm behind two Cadets. I'm patient, waiting. How long can I wait? I must pass now. Off a drop, crack! Pssssssssssss.

Shit. Its over. I claw my way out of the bushes; that was close, I almost ate it. My front tire is punctured. I cross the trail to high ground and get out of the way. Cadets and Seniors I've passed are coming by. I'm getting my tube out and my chaser, then Rob come by. My race is done. By the time I fix this I'll be down three to five minutes. But Rob can still win!

I'm not pissed, not sad. I'm fine. Interesting. Why? I've never won a Canada Cup, but been twice second, and once third. I'd love to tick it off the list. Today was the day. But I'm not bummed. Why? I prepared well, I did the right things, I had the form. My focus was good, I made virtually zero mistakes. I did everything I could do, but it didn't work out. 

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This had to be the most successful 'loss' I've ever experienced. Back in April, at the Calabogie Classic, something clicked. I decided I wasn't afraid of losing, and that liberated me to put everything on the line to win. This was about taking tactical risks, not simply riding as fast as possible, as I used to do in my youth. Winning races is hard, but getting into the headspace where you can feel good about not winning has to be the secret to true success, defined as satisfaction, not rankings. Matteo dal Cin revealed this to me as his secret a couple years ago, and I didn't understand what he meant. Now I do. 

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Not sure to where to go to say I'm out....
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My kids had a great day too.
I ride in on my underinflated front tire, pull out, and refresh myself while I wait for the finish. My chaser comes in 20 seconds ahead of Rob. Second place for Rob and the team is fantastic. I wish he'd been able to make the catch, but he just couldn't close the gap, despite full effort. Congrats to Rob for a great race!

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Rob Parniak rides to a 2nd place finish.
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1) Ian Carbonneau 2) Rob Parniak 3)Eric Morneau
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I have only good things to say about my Kona Hei Hei Supreme. 4" travel certainly was superior to my hardtail here. Pilot error caused my flat; the bike was up to the task.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Root Rockin' in Beachberg: 2013 Spring Chicken Enduro

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Kona Hei Hei Supreme: XC Whip!
How long did it take to get used to +25 degrees celcius in the Ottawa Valley? About a day. Summer. In  May. Amazing. The gravy train was a-rollin. Three races down, regular Tuesday night leg-rippers going off without fail, all the guys on either refreshed or new bikes; all was aligned for the Spring Chicken Enduro in Beachberg on Saturday, May 11. Then the weather happened.

Rewind to, say, ten years ago, when Rodd, Pascal, Jacques, and I (as I recall...) fielded a team for a 12-hour race in Beachberg. Sweet little cabin, great singltrack, fun guys; we were all set for a great race. Then came the rain. Before long, the clay trails were virtually unrideable, and, eyes consuming mud, I missed a turn and rode 20k out and 20k back on a road before returning to the course. Surch and Rescue....

Summer in Ottawa, surely I'd return to the 'Berg to ride fast, dry trails! Not. 35mm of rain forecasted overnight meant it was back to tire deliberations, just like the spring classics. What to do?

If the clay would be INSANE, I'd need INSANE clearance. One option for that: my Niner, in VTT mode (drop bars), with my Clement PDX cyclocross tires. These could handle epic mud. If less than epic, and/or there would be too much rock and roots to handle, it'd be my swank new Kona Hei Hei Supreme carbon-xc-wonder-bike. Not wanting to trash the new bike, I prepared both in the event that EPIC was the order of the day.

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Niner MCR in VTT-mud-mode. Ugh...
Looking at the course map, it seemed dirt roads comprised about 50% of the race. It looked like dirt road with some singletrack, totaling 50k. The Niner could handle the roads better than anything else, but I'd have to go slower on the singletrack. In that case, I'd have to attack off the start, and repeat for every road section. If the mud wasn't so bad (i.e., not clogging in the frame and fork). the Kona would be the better bet. I wouldn't know until we got there.

Iain was in the same boat, kinda. His VTT had Racing Ralphs on it, and his Intense some a weird Geax and a Crossmark.

On arrival, we were lucky to chat with Cameron Dube, race organizer, and another local rider. "Which set-up, guys? Mega-clearance-ass-chapper, or uber xc bike?" "Well, there first 6k of singletrack is rocky. The wheels will turn, the mud won't be crazy." "Ok, done, uber xc it is."

What a crew we had lined up: Rob (who has been trying to get us to this race for a couple years), Iain, Marcel, Andy, Mike, Brad, Noah, and Mike. With our numbers, many of whom have been racing this spring, the plan was simple: drive a hard pace off the start and establish the lead group going into the first singletrack, 5k up a dirt road.

VonBubbles was keen to hit out hard too, as was JC (The Flying Frenchman), and of course, Iain, Rob, Marcel, and Jarrod Forrest (Norco). A few minutes into the first woods, we were four: me, Rob, Iain, and Jarrod. Talk about technical! Awesome, full on mtb, but with more flow than Kanata Lakes. How's that for an introduction to a new bike? Fun!

Iain too the lead and was riding great. Clipping a stump with the bottom of my fork, I was launched. Boo. Back on before Jarrod and Rob passed, I had to jump back off to straighten the bars (tool free, perfect!), and follow. Jarrod was leading, and this revealed his achilles heal: singletrack. With Iain pulling away, Rob and I clearly wanted one thing: to pass.

We got by as the trail opened up into a transition, and I reeled Iain in (he let me). At this point, we'd not even covered 10k. Back together shortly. Rob, Iain, and I gapped Jarrod on the narrow stuff and new we would have him off our train if we could get onto a wide open section and work together. However, some ambiguous route marking tricked Iain into a wrong turn. Rob too was fooled, so it was two against one; I'd seen the arrow. Down a hill, a marshall told is we were off, so back up it was. Jarrod entered the woods just as we approached, not just regaining, but improving his position, and leading the singletrack at his own pace rather than following. Darn!

"There's still 40k to go!" It had taken an hour to cover the first 10k of the race. Wow, I only brought one bottle.... On we went, Jarrod hiding well, knowing he was where he wanted to be, but at the same time, a difficult position.

Fast descent into singletrack. Rob: "I've got a flat." Crap. I don't think Iain or I considered stopping for longer than a split second. If Jarrod got a gap, and we had any sort of drama, that'd be it. We had to keep on, but I think we both eased up a bit in hopes of Rob catching back on.

Tenacious. That's the word that came to mind for Jarrod. We just couldn't shake him. It was clear that he was strong on the climbs, and could hang well on the roads as long as the speeds were constant. We'd get a little gap, and he'd close it, over and over. "This has got to wear him down," I thought. "He'll crack."

Obvious tactics kicked in with 20k to go. I was pulling a lot, not wanting to concede my position into any singletrack, and never knowing when it would come. With the wind picking up, there was no was I was going to keep that up indefinitely. Being 2, we could 'force' Jarrod to pull, as he knew that if he slowed too much, we could attack, and repeat. Make him work, see if we could crack him.

Onto wide open stuff inside the final 15k, it was cat and mouse. "You know what we have to do, right?" Iain asked. "Yeah." The ol' one-two. I figured we'd get it going with about 10k to go. Sat up, let Iain pull, then Jarrod. Concerned about going to hard, Jarrod brought it down. That was my cue: attack.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight; look back. No chase. Hmmm, that was not expected. I figured Jarrod would come after me, then Iain would go, and we'd have to do it a few times. But nope, he didn't "Ok, 13k to go solo, that's fine."

I think that had to be the first time I've made a move in a race that felt like an assured win. Usually, you make a move, and pray right up until the line, or close to it, that it will work. That's probably because I have not spent a great deal of time racing with team-mates. In this case, Jarrod knew that if he chased, Iain would counter if he caught me, or even if he didn't So basically, he'd have no chance of winning. What he didn't know was that Iain had something in his eye that was clouding his vision. He couldn't see the course markings clearly enough to read them. Still he would have countered, but he'd have wanted me to get back to him so I could steer. So, Jarrod didn't chase. This left it to me to simply ride smoothly, avoid crashing or a mechanical, and ride it.

Meanwhile, Iain was following, not knowing what was coming and where. With 3k to go, I heard their voices, and then saw them across a quarry, so I knew Jarrod was chasing hard. I'd learn that he was trying to shake Iain, to no avail.

I rolled through the narrow finish at just over 2:30, just shy of 50k. The only way Iain could take 2nd would be if he was leading, as there was no room to pass at the finish. Nope...Jarrod was the one, rolling through with Iain on his wheel. Well played, Jarrod!

Next up was Marcal and then Andy very shortly after, rounding out 4 Tall Tree Cycles riders in the top 5! Amazing. Rob rolled through later on, and recounted his CO2 carnage, pathetic mini-pump performance, and good samaritanism (using his pathetipump to help another racer). Then Mike, Brad, and Noah followed up, all smiles.

A half-blind, but happy Iain.
Of course, a win for the team is great, but even better is seeing that our training together is really working well. Our core group of 'race' guys have been out all spring, week in and week out, hammering each other. Now, we get to bear the fruits (not to suggest this training hasn't been fun 'cause it has!) of our efforts and race together well. Generally, mtb racing is pretty straightforward: the faster riders go faster than the slower riders, and that's that. I think this is why it it feels so much more interesting and exciting to watch road and CX racing: the strategy is there to see play out. Now that we have enough strong guys racing together, we too can use strategy and tactics on the road, and certain mtb races, which is FUN. Its a whole other dynamic that makes the race more exciting for us, rather than just a slog. Its also really nice to get to do races with the guys who don't take racing so seriously, but love it all the same. If only we'd had more time to spend after the race to hang with the team and friends old and new.

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Thanks BORCA!
The consensus seems to be that we'll make the Spring Chicken a regular race on our schedule. The course, mostly build and set by Cameron Dube, was excellent. There was literally nothing that screamed: 'wack feature,' which is quite a feat for a 50k loop. In contrast, we were treated to many kilometers of superb singletrack, varying from rocky and rooty to smooth and piney. Diversity: check. Sure, there was some boggy stuff on account of the rain, but we were able to ride all but a few steep slick climbs; no problem at all. The best section of all was a contour trail that was literally perfect. We were hooting it up, it was so fun. Just outstanding, this is the stuff that makes us want to ride and race mountain bikes. Cameron should be commended for his design; thanks Cam!

While commendations are flying, thanks to all the volunteers who were out along the route keeping us (mostly) on track and safe!

Congrats to Iain and Jarrod, and thanks to Iain for being a loyal team-mate and covering me. It is time for me to set you up! Thanks also go out to the rest of our Tuesday night leg-rippers for helping me and each other get into race form. Bring on the Sunset Series at Camp Fortune, May 22!

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Bike path ripper! Thankfully, the bike cleaned up well, and looks like this once again.
On the tech front, for those who are interested, the Kona was indeed a supreme machine. This was my first ride on the bike (beyond a bike path shakedown), and it did not disappoint. On the contrary, it was flawless. I set up the suspension to balance the road and trail sections well, and that's exactly what it did. The rear end was so effective, I barely noticed it. That's a sign of an excellent design. The drivetrain, 2x10 SRAM XO was spot on, never missing a step. And the tires sure did impress, Maxxis Ikons in 2.2", which miraculously hooked up well on all manner of surfaces (literally!), AND rolled fast on the dirt roads and pavement. Yes, that is possible! Wow. I'll get into more detail on the bike over the summer, but initial impression is WOW.

Friday, May 3, 2013

What to do on Sunday: Da Mufferaw Joe!

Fancy a scenic ride in good company on Sunday? Look no further than the Mufferaw Joe! Great company, great food, beer (carne and veggie chili, and John Large's famous bread). What more can you ask for? Its going to be a glorious day, c'mon out!

Tires recommended are 25mm or larger. There are some hard-packed dirt roads and some rail trail on the route, which are part of what make it special. The Tall Tree Cycles / Steelwool Bicycles crew will be out in force, both racers and ramblers. Ditch your aero gear and get on a comfy steed with a bit of volume, and lets RIDE!

Monday, April 29, 2013

2013 Almonte Roubaix: Yes!

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Photo by Larry Hagar, via John Large.
Act 1

"Dave says he's fighting a cold, but I think everybody else is good."
"Yeah, too late for anything to kick in now."

Its lunchtime on Friday, April 26th, 2013. Iain Radford and I sip kombucha in the spring sun. Winter has flicked its tail for the last time, and we've arrived on the doorstep of the race. THE race, that which we most desire to win: the Almonte Roubaix. There is no other word for what we've been up to. Training. But we've had fun doing it, going out on Tuesday nights with the guys, streaking green across the landscape like a burnt eastern green mamba. Doing the right things, the little things, to be ready. Dreaming of winning...finally.....

My gut sinks at 2pm when I realize I am sick. To any other person in the office, the signs would go unobserved. I observe. Sub-optimal. No, sub-sub-optimal. 

In years past it would be over. I'd stress so much about illness I'd be sure to work it deep into my body. Two kids later, I'm more composed. I have moves. I have potions. I have hope. 

On the way home, I hit the store and restock. Vitamin C, North American Ginseng, more kombucha. Lentil dahl from the 'Oat. Relax. Mega-dose. Sleep.

Its Saturday, and I feel well enough to trek downtown with the fam. Energy wanes, and I'm back home mid-day, quality nutrition in hand, ready to lie down. My bike can wait, I'm sticking with my fatties: Clement LAS on the front, and Stan's Raven (custom shaved) in the back, both tubeless. Ready for anything. More mega-dosing of potions. Tune the bike, lay everything out for an early morning, and sleep.
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Roubaix stylee: 50/34 - 11-28, mtb pedals, tubeless tires.
Awake. Checking in: how am I? Mmmm, not sure. Wait, I have a rule for that: if not sure whether you are sick, you are not sick. Ok, good; I'm not sick. I'm fine. Lets move on. Todd arrives on time, we're off, and I'm eating my buckwheat breakfast of champions while we talk about resolve. 

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06:30, and lovin' it.
Act 2

The air is buoyant. Seldom do we find ourselves preparing for the Almonte Roubaix in comfortable conditions. Pushed to the end of April, and falling on the the most beautiful day of the year, its all rainbows and unicorns. No hurry, everyone's here from our spring classics team - save Alex - and seemingly at ease. Are all the big guns present? Derrick: check. Osmond: check. Doug: check. Warren: check. Aaron: not sure...is he here? Guess we'll find out. 

Unlike in 2012, my legs don't hurt as we roll the neutral start. Excellent. It feels easy, the pace is slower. We pause for two minutes before being set off. I feel jittery. Must be adrenaline. Better put that to use.

Warren goes hard out of the blocks. He's on 28s and I'm pretty certain he wants to see where he's going. I follow, pass, and drive the pace. I'm on big tires, I'm not going to make it easy for anyone on skinnies. String it out, be disruptive. Keep them on their toes. 

Not intending to ride away solo, we come together, and roll on. The first sector will be CRUCIAL. It is  a crux, which means we go all-in and make the split. Because there will be a split, and we will be part of making it happen. I push off into the dirt road I think transitions to trail. But it keeps going. And going. And going. Iain has come up and is with me, but why is it still going? Did Ian Austen actually change the course? I'm confused. I don't want to go on and on off the front. Have I already botched this thing?

I swear, and Neil thinks I'm pissed at him for some reason. Just confused. We turn and there it is, the entry to the woods. I was wrong, just wrong. Idiot. Wasted energy.  Don't squander it, go in on the front and hold it. 

Iain's in front of me, Osmond ahead, Neil's right there. Marc Boudreau, Derrick St. John, Doug Van den Ham. I have no idea who else is where; I'm looking forward. Iain's on slick 32s, and slides off the narrow ledge alongside the puddle. He's off the bike, runs a few steps, back on, barely slows. I dab, dab, push, still moving, fine. We both launch our sole bottles off the same bump. Shit. 

This trail is awesome. I love this stuff. Its so FUN. I wish the whole race was like this. Ok, not the whole race; that'd be a mtb race. Just enough to require a CX bike. Yeah, I'd like that. Pa-paa-pa-pa-paa. This rocks. 

We're out and its playing out as planned. The split is solidifying, we are peeling away as 7, just the right number. Osmond Bakker (OCCTO - Cervelo), Doug Van den Ham (Nine2FivePro.com), Derrick St. John (Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery), Marc Boudreau (Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery), Neil Schiemann (Tall Tree Cycles / Steelwool), Iain Radford  (Tall Tree Cycles / Steelwool), and yours truly, Matt Surch (Tall Tree Cycles / Steelwool). Osmond and Derrick are the strongest, then Doug, according to our experience. All of our opponents are wily.

Collaboration is the best approach. We will work together to lock in our gap, and sort things out down the road. The priority is to stay away for the first hour. These guys are smooth and smart. We function as a well-oiled machine, pulling through like clockwork as we tick off the kilometers. 70k to go with the pack chasing; we can do this as long as we work. 

There is little to think about. Its simple: ride as smoothly as possible, waste as little energy as possible. Don't work more than required, focus on the rhythm. This is like tunnel vision: focus is narrow and determined. There is no, 'Is that guy gonna go?' 'Can that stick?' 'Why are we braking?' 'Is that Dave?' Internal dialogue is quiet. There is no need to waste energy with mind-words. Iain, Neil and I barely exchange any, except communicating our lost bottles. Neil wasn't taking chances, he brought two. He unselfishly gives me one. I share with Iain. With so little water, we don't dare eat. Shouldn't be a problem, I'm fat enough to ride 2.2hrs without bonking. 

"They are coming! Lets work!" 


"He's getting close! Lets make him work for it!"

The chase group, containing our guys, Dave Stachon and Rob Parniak, has been putting up quite a fight. Aaron Fillion, a man who can time trial with the PROs, is driving it. Aaron (Ride with Rendal), has no team-mate up the road. Warren MacDonald does, Doug. He won't help Aaron chase. Likewise, our guys won't contribute to the chase, but they will remain poised to attack if the catch is made. That leaves The Cyclery and Euro-sports in the chase group to do the work. Aaron has broken off, desperately trying to bridge the gap. He won't. Its too much.

We all know where the next crux will fall: the switchback. Why doesn't it have a cooler name? I'll propose one: The Axe. One mistake, a lapse of power, and your life-line is severed. We won't know unti later how Neil comes to grief, attacking the inside of the turn, losing traction, and scrambling on foot. Chopped. Cut. He is gone. We are two against.

Derrick and Osmond attack, trading punches, feeling each other out for weakness. Iain follows closely, while I see them pull away. This energy-sapping double-track is both aged and undulating, ravaged by years of cart traffic and weather. Power is the only answer to the sandy surface that sucks wheels like a plecostamus. Doug comes up and I latch on. From here its all about smooth lines and power transmission. We regain contact and I've recovered enough to be able to meet any more accelerations. All good, except Neil is gone....what happened?

Now its down to one final gauntlet, the final wooded sector. It always comes down to this one, the third crux. We roll fast on pavement, and we all know. The woods. Go in gassed and its over. Severed, there will be no getting back on. Falter and its over. There is no room for mistakes. 

I've been thinking I don't care, and this is exactly where I want to be. This is fun. We are 6. We've executed the tactic we wanted to, and it has worked almost perfectly thus far. I have no idea how we can win, but that doesn't bother me. Could we realistically have hoped for a better scenario? No. We're where we want to be, and that fact has to be respected. Negative thoughts have no place. I don't know how, but we've still got a chance. Just hang on through the woods and see. 

I'm on the front and the others want to keep me there. I'm confident we have enough of a gap on the chase to soft-pedal and try to recover before we turn off into the Sugarbush sector. I turn in and I know its coming, just not when. Right at the entrance to the trail is when. Osmond goes, followed by Derrick and Iain. I go, and its a gong show. Bouncing off rocks, its frantic, desperate. I am forced to the right and launch off a rock, boosting what has to be 3 feet into the air. My bike holds, I'm fine. I know how to do this, I can be there, just focus. Nothing else matters; later doesn't matter. Now matters. Get there. 

I have closed the gap to Osmond, and I am second wheel coming out of the woods. He takes the turn fast and pins it. I'm not sure whether to go or wait. I don't want to go with him alone; I don't think I can survive that. Derrick is coming, and he suckers me into pulling. I get low and claw us up to Osmond. Osmond has every interest in going hard from there, but I only wanted to neutralize him. I won't work. I want Iain to come up. 

Doug and Iain struggle to get to us, Marc in tow. They are gassed. Less than three kilometers to go, it will be over soon. Switching across the road, Osmond is itchy, but knows he can't just ride away. Nor can Derrick. Chess. 

Frigg. Osmond and Derrick look primed. They are masters of acceleration, and they are cunning. We  crest the final slight ascending grade, and I know it will come to the sprint now for sure. The final 2.5 or whatever kilometers are slightly downhill, turning 90 degrees into the final straight, which is uphill. Uphill sprint...not good for us. What do I do?

Ok, hang back and be the last wheel. Hope that nobody is in the way when the sprint winds up, and try to get a good wheel. Back. Everyone is looking at each other, not wanting to make the first move, as we approach the turn. Iain is saying, 'C'mon guys, lets do something!'

It hits me. Yes! That's how, I CAN WIN!

I brake to drop further back, now 10 meters off the pack. Dropping to a higher hear, I explode from behind, aiming for the outside of the group, where there is room, setting me up for the right hand turn. I blow by without looking across and I know I have taken them by surprise. This is my chance, all in.

I am going fast enough to be wary of the turn and brake slightly, but don't scrub too much speed. This is 100% effort now, and I self-believe beyond reason. This is THE move, I see the line, I CAN. I go to a higher gear to try to change the effort up, but I am fading. The cones are coming, I'm veering, head down, looking between my legs. 

Now I am close, but I can't go faster. This is it. This is me, everything I have. I hear them. Every muscle, every sinew I can control is in on this. It doesn't hurt, I just can't go harder. The line approaches, so close, and there it is: Derrick. He is passing. He got me. I stop pedalling as Osmond follows on his wheel, coming by as we cross.

Its over. Iain couldn't see, but he was hoping....nope. He's 5th, Doug ahead, Marc behind. 

I am happy. I didn't win, but it feels like I kinda did. Why? 

This is why I race. Not to win; its not about that. Its about the trying to win part. Just pedal harder? If it were that simple, we'd have been bored years ago. Its chess, gambling, psychologizing, meditating, thrashing, and striving, all wrapped up into one ball. A ball that, from the outside, looks like a caricature. 

WE, our team, did what we set out to do. We had a plan, and we made it happen. Neil, Iain, and I were committed to being up front, and we did it. Rob and Dave were where they had to be to cover us. Jim, Andy, Jamie, and Todd wanted to step closer to the front, and they did. Marcel flatted. taking the bad mojo for the team. From my perspective, we succeeded. Heck, we got 6 guys in the top 15, and four in the top 10. Solid.

Camera Roll-499

My personal satisfaction comes from making the best decision I could, at precisely the right time, under pressure. I can't ask more from myself, nor can I magically make myself into a rider with the ability of Derrick, Osmond, or Doug. All I can do is try. If stronger riders beat me despite my best efforts, as did Derrick and Osmond, chapeau, respect. No victory will taste sweeter than one that comes from besting my betters. I'm going to keep on trying, and I have a feeling my team-mates will too. We live for this stuff, it is the glue that binds.

Full results: http://cyclocross.org/page5/files/PR2013GC.pdf

I'll leave you with the song that I had pumping in my head for about 60k:

Friday, April 26, 2013


It seems some have not heard about the date change for the Ride of the Damned, so I will keep trying to get the word out. It is no longer on May 19. The new date is JUNE 23, an that is where it will stay.

The date change was forced by the FQSC's inability to insure the event, because, according to them, we are raising money for a third party. We are not going to give up on the opportunity to raise money for the Reya Sunshine and family, so, we have to adapt the event. This means launching riders from Ontario, and being sanctioned by the OCA.

I am presently working on the new start/finish location, hoping to land on Victoria Island. I will confirm this detail at the earliest possible time. It'll come together, I promise. I'm mainly trying to avoid adding any unnecessary kilometers for riders to take on. Due to the Ottawa start, the short ride from Wakefield will not be possible. Instead, we will route riders who don't want to do the full loop through Cascades and Wakefield, our typical 'Cascades Loop.' Hopefully, the extra month of riding will enable some would-be short routers to take on the full route instead. Registration will be up once I work out this and a few other details.

Please do what you can to spread the word regarding the date change. The sooner folks know, the better they will be able to plan. Remember, this is a team event (4-6 riders), so now is the time to start engaging your comrades!


Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring Classics 2013 Part 2: The Calabogie Classic

Camera Roll-658

Update: photos here: http://www.pbase.com/robert_ottawa/calabogie2013

What should have been the cap to April's three classics wound up being the monkey in the middle on Sunday, the 21st. After a blizzard bumped the Almonte Roubaix to April 28th, the Calabogie Classic waltzed in as the go-between, the bridge to the ultimate match, Almonte. At least, so it was from the perspective of us odd men in green.

After racing Calabogie for the first time in 2012, I knew what to expect: wind, nervous riding, mixed abilities, and crashes. In 2012, I raced the Senior 1/2 spectacle, which proved breakaways are indeed possible on the race-car track. It also demonstrated that I was ill equipped for the sprint. However, while isolated then, the scene was different for this edition; Iain Radford and Alex Michel, fellow Tall Tree root-rockers, were also in the M1 category I'd joined. Meanwhile, Jim McGuire and Todd Fairhead set up for the M2 race, and Andy Brown struck off solo in the S4.

Camera Roll-660

News came in just before our 14:15 start that Todd and Jimbo had struck out in their race. Bunch sprint, no dice. They stayed safe, but that was about it. Hmmm. Andy was already on his way home, having missed the break and finishing in the pack. Could Iain, Alex, and I salvage Tall Tree's honour? We were embrocated, we had matching helmets (mostly), arm and leg warmer (mostly), and I even had coordinating shoe covers on; no excuses. Except Iain had been sick for the last few days, and resorted to one of my potions: Kombucha....

Lets enter the danger zone.

The start is mellower than 2012's S1/2 race. That's ok with me. In every turn riders seem to brake and steer unnecessarily. I note the guys who are proving to be dangerous, not in the bike race winning sense. In the crashing sense. John Gee, having won the M2 race in 2012, is in the field, looking to score another notch. Wheels of Bloor have about 6 guys, and there are about 8 Rouleurs, including Marc Brazeau, who always packs juice. 5km/hr wind? Not. Its windy. Riders are clearly labouring up front, while we hide and feel out the changes of wind direction in the turns. Plenty of time to work out the details.

John Gee is aggressive within a few laps, as is Brazeau and other Rouleurs, not to mention other guys we don't know. Lots of wild cards in the bunch form our perspective, as we don't race road around Toronto enough to get to know the guys. But we do know the WoB guys are good.

Plenty of dodging required to stay on two wheels, attacks are amounting to nothing, and its getting boring. Then not. Carnage unfolds on the back half, riders and bikes hurtled into the air. So many bodies in the way, its hard to see where riders are splaying. I overreact and lock up my back wheel as I slow, and feel a rider's bar hook onto my bike somewhere, somehow. Gawd, I hope he doesn't go down...I hear nothing more behind me, and all is well. Two seconds have passed. Alex is already standing, while his bike still bounced sickeningly across the grass. Iain and I agree he is ok; we can continue.

It seems like the pack is halved, but in reality, we lose something like 10 riders. Focus resumes. Only about 50 minutes have transpired.

Iain and I are both getting antsy, I can feel it. Nothing is happening. John Gee can't do it alone. Nobody else is showing the vital combination of aggression and power. With only 45 or so kilometers down, it still feels too early. I don't care about winning anymore. I'm riding at bike-path pace, if that. I just want to ride hard, somehow. Alex is out, we can't leave it to the sprint and roll the dice. 2 in 70 chance? That's crap.

A nonthreatening break is reeled in a lap later, and as I crest a rise, at the front, one of the guys remarks on the the pack's lack of attentiveness. That felt like the perfect segue into a full scale attack. No deliberation, pure pre-cognitive, reptilian reaction: GO. I skip my back wheel twice, holding back nothing, hoping only the strongest will follow. None do. Wider, wider, wider, the gap grows to 25 seconds as I realize my heart is pounding and I have to calm down. Breath. Breath. Just ride. Time trial mode is where I need to be; I tighten up my position, get narrow, and try to ride well. Not ballistic-fast; well. Tight lines, smooth effort, no braking, steady breathing. The little things. Nobody still after a lap, same gap.

After two laps I begin to understand nobody is coming up. It will be the pack or nobody. I feel good, smooth, but its still windy, and I'm averaging 42kph.  How long can I hold this? Unknown. How long should I hold this? I can't lose here. There are better and worse ways to play this. I can bury myself and hope to hold on for the 30 remaining kilometers. Odds? Not great, this is work. If I let them catch before I'm cooked, Iain should be able to counter, and I can recover in case that doesn't work. I don't want them to think I'm letting them catch me, so I stay low, keep my cadence up, and hide.

The catch is made after either 15k out alone, I can't tell. Iain goes right away! Perfect! I sit in while others make the chase, watching. The catch is made again, and my chat with Robbie Orange is over; I counter. Once that's caught, Iain goes with John Gee, three in tow. I bridge up, smack Iain and John on the ass, and hope they can accelerate enough to get on. Nope. Sitting up, things come together again, and before we know it - like, seconds later - we attack again. Neither Iain nor I know how it happened. We are in the flow state at this point, totally focused; reptiles.

We are three, and four are latching on. This is it! Lets Go guys! We have willing wheelmen, and we work together, 25k to go. The gap is 25 seconds and holding. I don't expect the pack to get organized enough to catch if we don't slow. Our comrades, two WoB, three other one-offs, are of mixed ability. The largest man, well over 6'3", had the power, but the rises hurt him. The man with the fashionable hair is good all around, while one of the WoB guys is putting in strong pulls. Iain and I want it, and they know it. We pull hard, but as smart as we can.

The gap is holding. Two laps to go, the others are trying to avoid work. They are smart. Iain and I will not accept the possibility of a catch, and they know it. We hold.

Final lap, 5k. Negative tactics are on tap, as one would expect. Iain and I, perhaps through naiivete, think a catch is still possible. But it is unlikely. We pull hard, the others hide. With 2k to go I am unwilling to leave it to the sprint, feeling I can ride away. I try: overconfident. I tow one WoB with me, the stronger. Naturally, he is disinclined to work, as would I be in the same position. I force a pass in the fourth-to-last turn, which requires slowing. He accellerates, and I wonder whether the twinges in my hip flexors will culminate in seizure. I follow, but as he kicks into the false-flat straight, I have no punch, and am forced to sit and roll it in. My fate was sealed when I failed to shake everyone in my final move....perhaps.

I roll across the line and gain a good vantage point to see the resolution for Iain and the others. Iain kicks hard against three, and takes it at the line for third spot. Excellent! He thinks I pulled it off, but alas, not this time. No regrets, rounding out the podium is an excellent result in contrast to the likely outcome of a field sprint. Not to mention, we got a quality hour of riding in, and learned a thing or three.

Congrats to Chris Firek of Wheels of Bloor for the victory, and gracious conduct. Big up to Iain for riding so well right out of illness. You are welcome for the Kombucha tip, Iain. Thanks to the CycleLogik organizing team for putting on the race! And my best wishes go out to all the riders who hit the deck. I am aware that one of the women was airlifted, which caused all of us concern. Yariv Wolfe (RwR) suffered a punctured lung, and I know we are all wishing him a full and speedy recovery. Kris Westwood and Alex Michel both knocked their heads, but I think both are ok today, which is a relief.

This Sunday will deliver the culmination of our spring classic 'campaign' (I wish we really did have a campaign...) in Almonte. The route should be splendorous in its fullness, and provide a true test of resolve, skill, and cunning. To say I, and we, are pumped, would be a gross understatement. Tire talk consumes us....