2012 was my first winter on a fatbike. I rode my Surly Pugsley two or three times a week and figured I was setting myself up for some solid rides in Maui come March. The constant tension on the legs had to amount to god strength for the hills, right? Right, I had no issues with my joints during my trip to Maui, but the climbing I did there didn't exactly set me up for the hard training rides I'd do in late March and early April as well as I'd hoped. Instead, the lack of intensity I'd done showed, and I got destroyed on our group rides. Iain and Neil were perhaps fitter than they'd ever been in the early season, and that compounded the ass-kicking. Keep on trying, it'll come. Such was my mantra.
2012 was not a year of winning, yet it was one of my best seasons ever. It was a season of satisfaction earned through striving.
Iain, Tood and I headed down to Battenkill to kick off our season. I knew I'd suck on the climbs, but Iain would be good. As expected, I got schooled, and Iain flatted. The next day, we were back home and I earned a huge boost in confidence, along with a handful of dents in my rims - through attacking the last sector of gravel in the Clarence-Rockland Classic - and fighting off chasers to grasp the third podium spot. This was certainly one of the highlights of the season, as it exemplified the confluence of preparation and opportunity manifesting success. It feels good to take a risk, dig deep within, and meet your goal. Some seem to think racing is about winning. Its not (except for PROs, for whom it is, mostly), its about trying to win, or simply trying to realize every modicum of your potential. Maybe to even transcend what you think your potential is. Every highlight from the 2012 season involved risk taking and tenacity.
Neil's ride at the Almonte Roubaix was one of the biggest highlights of the season for me. We'd planned our strategy, and Neil had committed to an early break-away attempt. He rode through the first wooded sector brilliantly, and made his escape with Osmond Bakker. He rode hard for about 50k with Osmond while the chase group, including Iain, bided their time. Despite his massive effort, Neil still hung on for 4th. This was a massive accomplishment, demonstrating formidable mental strength on top of physical ability. I'm very proud of Neil for the way he rode the race. Iain was not able to match Aaron Fillion and Doug van dem Ham for the victory, but landed in 3rd, a laudable result, nearly pulling off our plan. Rodd rode outside himself too, and I was just left wishing I'd been able to contribute to the team. 3rd and 4th felt like a victory for the team.
Things were coming along well by the time I was in New York city for the Gran Fondo at the end of May. Our Ride of the Damned had just passed, and I was too tired to ride well. But the event was a hit, and I was feeling good in the Big Apple, and eager to ride the route. As luck would have it, I flatted while riding in the lead group and had to chase back on for about 15 minutes. Within another 5 minutes, we were on the first timed climb, and the group was going ballistic. I simply climbed, then chased back on, and continued that way until I was in the lead group of 6 riders coming into the last kilometers of the route. I'd not been able to match the pace of the fast climbers, but I put in a ride to the finish that I was proud of, having tapped my ability to maximum effect, riding with the likes of Tim Johnson and many other talented riders. It was a heck of a ride, the route was spectacular, and despite being way down on the KOM scoreboard, I couldn't be happier about the day. My sealant even sealed up my tubular so I could ride back to the hotel!
Things just got better, but not because I was winning anything. Six of us drove down to the U.S of A. in June for the Rapha Northeast Gentlemen's Race. Sure, we got hassled by the cops on the way down, but that made for great story telling. In a word, the event was incredible. It might even have been epic. If it wasn't, it was damn close. It was a ride I hope never to forget, marrying camaraderie, challenge, heartbreak, triumph, apocalyptic weather, and fashion excellence. Sure, we didn't get cut into the beautiful video, but Dave and I did get props for killing ourselves on the Strava climb. One of the best days on a bike I've experienced.
Come July, it was time to crack the Masters stage race in Sutton, QC, Les Coupes des Ameriques. Again, we didn't win anything, but the weekend was incredible. Hanging out with the guys, talking bikes, racing, and Le Tour, we were in a bubble and loving it. Todd rode an outstanding time trial, Alex was a motorcycle, Jamie worked himself over, and Iain and I just missed the podium in the circuit race. In 2013 we'll aim to do better, but at the very least, we'll take risks and have fun.
"Winning is over-rated." - Iain Radford
Later in July I rode the Ottawa Gran Fondo. I didn't blog about it because I didn't want to add to the negative feedback swirling around the interwebs. I won't ride the event again, but not because I had a bad ride. On the contrary, the ride was great. It was my first day actually hitting 200k, finishing at 223k. I've come within one or two kilometers so many times, I was happy to finally hit it. But beyond that triviality, I was able to ride with many of the strongest riders in the area for the whole 223k,
Rounding out July our Hell Climb for Kidneys went down. It was incredible. The spirit of the event was embraced and taken to 11 by numerous participants. The quality of costumery was staggering, and to be honest, heartening. I can't wait to see what people go in 2013!
Into September, the Hastings Hilly Hundred was back for a rain-filled edition. Have you ever ridden for 180km in constant rain? I hadn't. Now I have. Ditto for Rodd, Todd, and Andy. Despite 50mm of rain, the ride was outstanding. The pace was mellower than usual, conversation more intense. The ride was free of drama (mostly), but at the same time, kind of illuminating to realize how riding in the rain for 6 hours can be no big deal. Its fine. Whatever. Its wet. I enjoyed learning that. I also learned to be more careful about dropping my buddies.
Double Cross, in October was a blast. Beautiful weather, great company, Pipolinka....what more could you want in October?
Cyclocross season is now a blur. It played out differently, yet the same as 2011. I finished no worse than third in every race I did, 13 of them. I was dogged by two lung infections, with one weekend clear in between, so I never felt like I was at 100%. I found it virtually impossible to beat Steve Proulx, whom I'd been able to battle in 2011. Most of the time he was on another level. I just did what I could, and I was consistent. About that I feel good. Second overall in the series for the third tear in a row, I can only hope to pull off the win eventually. Iain's steady ascent in the ranks was a consolation. His goal was to beat me, and that he did, convincingly. Neil was out for virtually the whole season with a broken collar bone, so it was just Iain, Andy, Jim, and me out there most of the time. Fewer team-mates than we'd have liked, we still had a great season.
This run down only captures the events that stood out over 2012. Interestingly, almost every big event I did made the cut. That must be a sign that I'm doing the sort of events I ought to be doing. Most of the rides I did in Maui should be on this list. The riding there was breathtaking in every sense of the word. But in fairness, the after work hammer sessions I did with the guys on Tuesday nights were amazing too; they brought us together and made us stronger. In the end, the most satisfying experiences I had on my bike in 2012 had nothing to do with winning or being better than anyone else. They were about working together; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
2013 has begun, what adventures will it bring?