Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ontario cup 2, delayed report and more!

Been at a lot of stuff this past little while! After the camping trip, and Ontario Cup number 1 my poor bike had some scratches! Scratches just won't do on a steel bike, the bike will begin to rust. So I needed some touch up paint! Being a student, I was not in the position to buy real paint. So I got some nail polish and patched it up. This was much harder than it sounds. Gotta be just the right colour, right? So my roommie Colin and I made a trip to the mall, he wanted a yoga mat and tennis racket (I know, does it get more feminine?), and I wanted my manly nailpolish (fixin' shit is manly). Colin was a solid one stop shopper, but I dragged us all around the mall to all of the little girl stores to check for the best colour. This involved going to stores, painting a nail, and going to the next store to paint the next nail and compare them. Shoppers drugmart which was on my thumb was best.

Though there are a few problems with being a guy who has nail polish on his hands. First of all, EVERYBODY has to comment on it and ask if you know it's there.
"Oh gosh, nail polish on my hands? Well it's more likely than you think, I pissed off my girlfriend and she likes to sneak attack my fingers when I sleep."
What are you expecting me to say?
The true story of fixin' my manly was badass any way, and I just got the "you care that much about a bike" look, it happens.
The next problem being a guy with nail polish is that I really don't have any nail polish remover. So it was more than a week of comments on my nails, but I went home for the weekend and my wonderful mother commented, was concerned, and fixed it up. Good old acetone!

With the bike all set, and some *patchy* orange patches on the bike I was ready for Ontario Cup number 2:  Woodnewton. Woodnewton is a course that I had never ever been on; its debut was in the summer that I didn’t race but I heard that it wasn’t a great course. Very little flow and two big hills, bad for a 29er, but you win some you lose some. It can’t be that bad, right?
The latter bit of the week was a bit concerning. It became clear that the race was going to be a sludgefest, mud mud mud. Last time I was racing I had built a whole repertoire of tires for all conditions,  so a muddy race was uncomfortable, but if I was in the mood to handle my bike properly I could even gain an edge on the competition.  With my new 29 inch wheeled bike came new tires. I only have 3 sets. A set of Hutchison Pythons (I hate these), a set of Schwalbe Furious Freds (semi-slick and no volume, not good for mud or rocks, or wet), and a set of cyclo-cross tires (road tires with knobs). Nothing here is good for mud.  Or wet of any sort, especially wet rocks.
I thought long and hard about my tire choice, and decided to go with a bit of a risky strategy: the cyclocross tires. I could justify this decision with the idea that skinny tires will sink to the bottom of the mud, not be wishy washy through the top of the mud, seems valid, right?
Friday my buddy Alex and I went to the course to check it out, and I had a pretty ridiculous looking bike: almost the biggest mountain bike you’ve ever seen with tires from the road department. This was what I had, nothing gained, nothing ventured right? Also what are my options? None.
skinny tires, big bike!

The course was in fact pretty sweet, flowwy and lots of double track – good for a guy who is taking a huge gamble on tires, with a new bike that he’s not quite used to riding, with a 29 inch wheelset. The problem was that there were also “rock gardens” (a field of rocks put into the trails to add a tough dynamic to the trail) and I would almost definitely flat my tires riding them on this terrain, but I didn’t have a choice.
The end of the course had a 20-20 foot down hill rock garden that was convenient for spectators to watch, and had big rocks. I was terrified of knocking myself over the handlebars and hitting my head on the rocks, ending up dead. Also I didn’t want to get a flat tire (a huge risk with the tiny little tires I had on), and I didn’t want to look like a JIT (junior in training). This would be a killer for the race. 
Volkswagen van packed tight for the roadtrip home and to the races!

Saturday I got home to Bracebridge to see my family, and was relieved when my buddy offered me some tires! A knobby high volume front, and a fast rear tire. After thinking long and hard, I threw the big  knobby one up front, and decided to keep a ‘cross tire in the back. The cross tires propelled me well, they just didn’t stick in the corners, but the knobby front tire is for that.
 After a bit of a hectic weekend at home, and a very unnerving day of riding with flat tires and trying to seal them tubelessly, I was just going to take the race in stride. No expectations, I mean how could I? My tires were ridiculous, my sleep was still lacking, I felt unprepared, and it was a course that lends itself to flat tires, especially for a guy with a ‘cross tire (which is pretty uncomfortable when inflated to 60 psi). So I went with a smile on my face, got a new kit (team uniform), and even though the weather was awful,  was smiling on the start line! Who cares! It’s just a race!
An unfortunate discovery before the race that the tire choice did indeed not grip mud

On the start line, I got unlucky seating-but the false flat start should spread the group out a bit, and I wasn’t worrying about things any way. Looking around, I realized that this was my first time racing with my buddy Simon in an Ontario cup ever, and was pretty scared of his speed. Just as the race was getting started, the announcer started to sing
“Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow, back to my home, I dare not go. For if I do, my mother will say have you ever seen a _______ with a ______, down by the bay!” [repeats forever]
I was unhappy about this silly song getting stuck in my head, and sitting out in the rain and complained heavily, but that didn’t start the race any sooner..
Tucked back in there, complaining on the start line makes me happy!
The pack spread out a bit as the race started, but once we reached the singletrack, it was a major bottleneck. Slow riding. Time to sing.
“Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow, back to my home, I dare not go. For if I do, my mother will say have you ever seen a _______ with a ______, down by the bay!”
I sang for a few minutes as we went through the singletrack and jumped on the pedals as soon as we were out, making passes and smiling the whole way! By the end of the first lap I was in pretty good shape and in good position, as I came up on the big rock garden I felt like, why not? Let’s do it! Bad and humiliating idea, I messed up and had to run my bike through the spectators favourite section, lesson learned.
Covering up my folly with a smile for the people!
  On the way out for the second lap the track was slow and swampy. One precarious spot was a wet bridge over a creek that was surrounded by mud on both sides. I watched the guy ahead of me to judge where the sweet spot through the ruts would be, I noticed he was off balance. Yes, yes, come on....”YES!” [he fell in the water..hilarious!] The worst is that as the whole ordeal was happening I was cheering him into it...
The rest of the race I just kept it up in a solid groove, really enjoying the course, the conditions, and my bike! This was the first time I really felt at one with my new big wheeler.  As I passed by my buddies they were yelling at me to race and stop smiling, I just flipped ‘em the bird and told them it was a great day for a bike ride!
Smiling and speeding through the hills!
And up the hills!
There was a little mishap on lap 2, but I kept smiling and took a minute to fix my stuff, I had been riding well, so I was sure I would catch the 4 or so guys back that passed me.  I crossed the finish line not with a last effort, but a huge smile and was content with my performance, and absolutely apathetic about what my actual position ended up being. (11th though, not bad!). Tremblant next weekend, the Canada cup, May 2-4, and an epic roadtrip. Living the dream!

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