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 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 (, 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.

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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:

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

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Update: photos here:

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.

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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....

Friday, April 12, 2013

Almonte Roubaix Postponed

Photo Credit
Just in from Ian Austen, route master of the Ottawa Bicycle Club's annual Paris-Roubaix race from Almonte, Ontario:

Some of the forest sections were not usable before today's storm. Given that the unpaved roads are unlikely to have cleared out by 8 am Sunday, we decided to postpone rather than substantially shorten the circuit. Anyone who can't come on the new date can get their entry refunded, but registration will not reopen as there are already 150 riders.
While this will come as disappointing news to some, its indeed good news for those who enjoy the forested secteurs of the event's route. It feels safe to speculate that they will be in full effect come April 28, the new date. If you were geared up to hit the dirt roads on Sunday, why not head North and enjoy some of the delights around Wakefield? There's no better way to sharpen up for the 28th!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Classics 2013 Part 1: CRC

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Mmmm, Saturday night's forecast was grim. My plan involved the 'bag-approach' in the event of cold rain.
Ottawa's spring classics are underway. When I say 'spring classics,' I mean two races. That allows for pluralization, we're good. On Sunday morning, a bunch of us bike weirdos gathered for the first match of the season, to be contested over rough pitch.

In case you are not on the up and up, the Clarence-Rockland Classic is put on by Ride with Rendall, a local race team/club. The roads out East of Ottawa are mostly flat, but there is some elevation change that derives from the old south bank of the grand Ottawa River, aka, the Rivière des Outaouais, Grand River, Great River, Kichesippi/Kitchissippi, or Grand River of the Algonquins. Where the race transpires, the bank is not steep, but further West its pretty much a wall.

So, flat, some relatively small climbs, and one more element prevails: wind. Obviously. The wind and relative flatness of the route makes the race more tactical than technical. I.e., its difficult for the strongest riders to separate themselves from the pack. Stronger teams can use their size to their advantage, sending off riders on breaks, and generally attacking often. 

Two aspects of today's race had everyone's palms sweating last night, and perhaps over the last few days: tire selection, and clothing. 

Tires: our online discussion on this topic was epic. Why? The unknown. Would the normal route be in use? If so, would be it be as rough, rougher, or less rough? Where? What would be the worst of the worst? I.e., what tires would be required to manage the risk of flatting effectively, while also being fast enough to hang with the guys who run 25s, and manage not to flat? Jim recon'd the route on Thursday, reported back, and we made  up our minds. Until we heard there was an alternative route in play in case of snow. Now what? I landed relegated my tubeless Clement LAS and Stan's Raven in favour of latex tubes and Vittoria Randonneur Hypers in 32mm. 

Clothing: WIth a forecast of snow/rain at about +3, we were looking at what is essentially the worst cycling weather possible. Below zero its not wet, therefore generally not hard to dress for. +15 and raining is likewise not hard to manage. Drop to and below +10 and rain, and you're in for suffering. +3? Horror show. 

My plan for that weather: the 'bag-approach.' Here's the description I sent out to our team on Saturday night, in case anyone was still looking for a horror show plan:

1) gore-tex socks over skin, then wool sock, then winter shoe. No bootie, cutting down on wind drag an sponge effect.

2) Roubaix knickers with Sugoi firewall tights over top, hot embro. Tights over top of gore-tex sock cuff.

3) waffle base layer, then wool base layer, then waterproof Sugoi jacket THEN long sleeve jersey. I will trap the heat in with the jacket, and eliminate flapping with the jersey over top. Numbers on jersey. 

4) defeet wool liner gloves under Glacier Gloves, which are waterproof neoprene. Wind blocking is not an issue with them. These are essentially bags over hands. Sugoi cuffs over glove cuffs to keep water out.

5) merino liner hat, cycling cap, helmet, glasses. Merino balaclava if its heinous.

Alternative equipment: plastic bags for feet; garbage bag for core; dish washing gloves for hands. Ideally, a thin liner would go under each, then insulation. Works for the Itidabike guys....

Evidently, my horror show preparation interacted with the Fourth Law of Thermodynamics, tweaked the troposphere, and yielded mild and virtually no rain at start time, and most of the rest of the time (depending on whether you flatted, and rode slower than the pack). You are welcome, fellow racers. Dressing for not-rain still involved some agonizing, due to uncertainty about how the weather might change, but the bag-approach was cast aside, and wool prevailed.

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Preparing in the Knights of Columbus Hall was a treat, especially since it involved seeing Dave in his skin suit.
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It was an epicmerinowool hat kind of morning. Not really, but it could have been, had I not intervened.
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Oh, that's weird, I didn't think I packed ladies underwear this morning....Hmm, this is a bit of a quandry: are they my wife's, having clung to my clothes in the dryer, OR, was it a wild night at the Hall? Uh, ok, I'm going to put these in this here envelope and see how this goes when I get home....
So, short story shorter, there were attacks, Aaron Fillion eventually separated himself, and the chase didn't happen until inside the last 10k or 82. We had a decent number of guys in the mix up to the final climb - Alex, Iain, Neil, and myself - but it didn't work out so well. I gassed myself leading into it, trying to get the pack to work with me to close on 3 guys up the road; this was a tactical error. I couldn't climb fast, then had to almost literally turn myself inside-out to leapfrog back up to the leaders, with the kind help of RwR's Martin Zollinger (who happens to take care of my back quite well at RE:FORM, fyi). 

Matt (me) followed by Alex. Photo by Zara: 
Instagram Photo by @zara_vj_ina_ottawavelovogue
Maxed out but thinking: 'Hey who knows...', I did what I could to position well for the final sprint among essentially the who's-who of Ottawa's road scene. As was the case for all but Matteo Dal Cin, the victor, things didn't quite go well, and I did more of a 'sprunt' than a 'sprint.' That means I went up, then down, and pretty much stayed seated, you know, 'kicking it old school,' really 'planing' my steel bicycle. Good enough for 8th 10th, which was a heck of a lot better than I'd have placed if I'd accepted what seemed to be utter failure as I 'climbed.' Here is Martin riding to the line before me: photo by Zara. He's almost smiling....

Iain, Alex, and Neil all landed in the top 20, with Todd, Jim, Dave, Andy and Martin (who crashed, but shook it off) scattered throughout the field of 112 finishers. 

Full results.

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Once again, my trusty Steelwool Secteur 18 came through for me, flawless. 
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Also, somehow less muddy than others....
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Not like my legs and feet. Blame it on all the jerks without fenders! Wait....
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The race: 

Lots of action! shots by Robert Roaldi here:

and Zara:

Thanks to Ride with Rendall and all the volunteers for a great race! Your efforts are most appreciated.

Next up, Paris-Roubaix, Almonte! Let the tire agonizing continue!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2013 Ride of the Damned: NEW DATE, JUNE 23

30_amenh and dave disappear

Save the date, SUNDAY JUNE 23

This year's edition of the Ride of the Damned has been pushed into JUNE! Apologies for any inconvenience, the change was unavoidable. We're hoping it will probe a better fit.

We will be starting the RotD from the Ottawa side of the River this year. Details are being worked out, stay tuned.

This year is special, in that we have the opportunity, as a community, to use the RotD as a catalyst to raise funds for fellow cyclist, Julian Hine, and his family. Julian's wife, Vanessa, gave birth via C-section to their lovely daughter, eight weeks early, on March 11, 2013. Almost immediately, Vanessa began intensive cancer therapy. Julian is caring for both mother and child, and consequently, taking a leave of absence from work at Chromag Bikes. Thankfully, Julian's sister and fellow West of Quebec Wheeler, Deb, has reached out to the cycling community in Ottawa, engaging friends of Julian (who now lives in BC), old and new, to pitch in and help out the family. The Wheelers' Roller Race in March was the first event of 2013 to raise funds for the family, and all three of Tall Tree Cycles' events in 2013 will dedicate all revenue to them as well, beginning with the RotD. We'll raise funds and FUN together!

Please visit the family's site for more info, and donation options:

The Wheelers and Tall Tree Cycles will ally at the Ride of the Damned, and provide the best post-ride BBQ to date! We'll have draw prizes for riders, and a great raffle prize (we'll open ticket sales to both riders and non-riders, aiming to bump up our contribution to Julian's family).

I'm working on the registration site now, and will open it up ASAP. NEW THIS YEAR: ALL RIDERS WILL REQUIRE INSURANCE COVERAGE. I am confirming the particulars with the OCA, but this will either mean a 'non-member event permit' or a Citizen's Permit. I'd rather avoid this requirement to maximize accessibility, but liable suits in Ontario have forced our hand on this matter, so all riders will have to be insured to protect both them and us. The necessary permits will be attainable online, and I will provide the appropriate link and info ASAP. Online registration will close on Wednesday, June19, and there will be no on-site registration.

(Following the success of our short-route from Wakefield, we will once again offer this option, departing from Vorlage. This route is 65k, while the long route is 135k.) Update: We will be working out a new short route, which will start from the Ottawa side of the river. We will use the Cascades Loop for this route, which is less technical and hilly than the old route from Wakefield. 

If you are new to the Ride of the Damned, take a look over last year's posts for more details (side bar). Here is the rundown:

The RotD is part Randonnee, part Audax (latin for the audacious). Randonnees are typically ridden solo or in small groups. Audax events are ridden in large groups with a capitaine de route controlling the pace. Our first RotD was like that. With the team format we can incorporate the "allure libre" (free speed) format, thus mixing Audax and Randonnee genres. The result: Raudax (Road-axe).
The route is a mix of dirt and paved roads, covering 130km, plus about 12km from the neutral start. Total elevation gain is approximately 2000m. The route favours tires 25c and larger; tread is not generally required.
Teams of 4-6 members (5 is the target) are free to ride whatever speed they like. Best of both worlds. If you cross racing with this format, you get "gentleman's racing," an underground, honour system format. The RotD is not a race, but competition between teams does occur.
The route features a rest stop with food and drinks provided, but is otherwise unsupported. Teams are expected to take care of each other.
All riders will be eligible to win a draw prize at the post-ride BBQ (included in registration). Guests are encouraged to attend the BBQ as well; meal tickets will be available online, as well as on-site.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wakefield 'Easy'

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Sh#t! How did we mess this up? Wrong turn....somehow.
It was supposed to be an easy ride. Four hours or so, three dudes. In reality, hour-one was teeth-on-stem-hard, as Todd and I chased Iain up Erables. Are my tires slow? Well, Iain's on the same. Todd seems to be doing fine. Is he? Turns our we were both suffering while Iain drove it into the wind. Gawd it was windy. 27kph on a descent, PEDALING! Things had eased up a little by the time we hit the Connor Rd. detour off Ch. Mt. Cascades. If only there was more of this in our Spring Classics to justify our fat tires!

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Three Steelwools: two generations of Truffle Pig and the original Secteur 18.

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Yay, lets snack before more snacking! 'I've gotta get some shots.'

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At this point, we'd moved back into Pipolinka from the hallway, and were on coffee  #2, somewhat terrified at the thought of returning to the out of doors. The temp was dropping and we were damp. WTF, isn't it April 1?
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Keep the hat on to help it dry. 
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How many papers did I stuff down my pants? Three, the perfect number. With a tailwind, I was comfortable on the return leg. Phewf.

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The Spring Classics in the Ottawa-Gatineau begin on Sunday, while Paris Roubaix is contested over in Europeland. Like Roubaix, our route will be flattish and windy. Unlike Roubaix, ours will feature sharp gravel, rendering supple tubulars inadequate. It'll be a test of will and tread, a battle of whits and guile. We've been doing all we can to prepare, and on Sunday THE QUESTION will be answered: was it enough? 

Here's Iain's trace. My Garmin wigged out, so this is better than what I've got: