Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another weekend, and a shot for redemtion

Here we go. Another shot at a national race; the Canada Cup at Hardwood Hills ski and bike centre. This one’s not far from home (Bracebridge home) so Alex and I decided to head up north for the weekend, to stay at my old casa. I had an epic amount of stuff to pack (toolbox, compressor, bike, one spare wheel, extra tires, food, clothes, race stuff) and he obviously had his pile too, all set to fit in an ’02 hundai accent. For those who don’t know Alex’s car, it’s know as the Red Rocket, and it’s a small coupe, without a bike rack. I had my doubts as to whether we could fit everything in, but after doing enough bike race trips we have the art of packing totally dialled.  It took almost no time and we were on our way up north in good company and with high aspirations for the weekend.
Like this!

We realized we would be cutting it close to get to the course (ETA 8:30), but as long as there was daylight, we could sneak onto the trails. I announced that it was no problem, and I knew the way to the trails – so don’t worry, we won’t get lost. About 10 minutes later we drove right by the sign for Hardwood Hills on the 400 (I’m used to getting there from hwy 11) luckily there was a great option to do an ullegal U turn, which we promptly took and sped our way to the course. When we got to the course I left alex in the parking lot and ran to the administration house to see what’s up. Riding open till 9:00, it’s about 8:20. Good to go. Registered for the race, paid the entry for the trails (at total of $67.50 together – owwie!), and went to the car to put my bike together. On the way out to the start I ran back into the building for some water, and the trail master said “Wait, what category are you? You’ve have to be out of there in 32 minutes.”
“Senior expert sir! Don’t worry, course can’t be more than 25 minutes!”
“Okay if you’re that fast then go. But you only have 32 minutes.” He said somewhat reluctantly.
Would he actually have said no if I told him I was in one of the open categories? Harsh.
Loved the course, it’s fast, good flowwy trail – and they didn’t put any huge hurting climbs in it like normally! None of this climbing BS like Tremblant. There are some definite tricky spots – that I’ll want to try again and dial them in, but for now we just had to do a quick ride.
Some aspects of my bike made this ride more “fun” than others. Firstly I was testing a hypothesis involving the ideal gas law (PV = nRT) or in layman’s terms pressure times volume is equal to a constant. Essentially, this constant is the force necessary to hold a rider off the ground and keep the tire from flatting or rolling. Since I’m on a 29 inch wheeled bike, that’s a higher volume, and if the hypothesis I was testing (H1 I will be able to get away with less air, thus more traction) is true (vs the null hypothesis H0 that I would mess everything up and flat anyway), then I should be able to rock out with very little pressure, and thus sticky tacky grip.
I let a bunch of air out and then rode, never checked until afterwards, but I was riding 17 psi in the rear, and still less than 20 psi in the front (which had a tube). For those non-cyclists, that’s about half of what most people ride at, and I’m heavy so I should actually ride higher than most. Indeed the ride was sticky tacky, but my tires were rolling a lot – I couldn’t be as aggressive as normal. But I didn’t flat, and the tires stayed on the rims, so I did prove something – just don’t ever let them THAT low. I was losing power because my bike was bobbing with my pedalstroke even.
The other bit of fun was that my front shifter actually broke off while I was riding. The metal bracket just simply broke.  This left me laughing in disbelief, and wondering what the heck to do with the flopping front shifter that was only loosely attached to my bike with a cable. Oh well, I paid to get it, it’s Friday night, and I’m finishing my ride – in under 32 minutes! I wrapped it around my handlebar and left it hanging out front and watched it like a hawk. There is very high potential that this could flop down into my front wheel and end my life I guess. (stupid head injury.) I kept one eye on that and one on the trail – it’s a good trick, you should learn it sometime.
Weak (but light!) Dye-cast metal..

Saturday rolled around and I had a list to do: fix the bike, and ride more laps of the course! Ah, life is tough.  I managed in the end to use an old brake and an old shifter bracket to secure my front brakes and shifter – it was a bit uncomfortable and tighter to the grip, but it would have to do. Riding laps was fun, I practiced some stuff and looked at the different ways to approach obstacles – the course was weird in that the most daring way through the trail wasn’t always the fastest.
I had the pleasure of hanging out with my coach, Eric Batty (who was signing autographs) and discussed the course with him. He hopped on my bike and gave me some good advice. Because I’m so lanky and my hands are huge, I had my brake levers and shift levers pointed almost vertically down. This is not good because it forces them to be flexing the whole time that I am riding, and it does indeed get uncomfortable – but I always just thought I needed to toughen up.
That night Jon, Alex and I wen’t back to my Mom’s for a great meal. She’s awesome! Shrimp and veggie pasta with baguette, guacamole, and a really nice salad with pears (not to mention some serious dessert!). Jon was a bit of a last minute addition to the crew but Mom reassured that there would be enough food. But we ate it all, and threw another pie in the oven. Gooooood pie. Gooooooood times!
Ladies and gentlemen, this is now how you treat grips. Just buy lock-on.

That night, I got pretty jittery. Maybe because I was talking to my coach Saturday, but I really had the race on the brain. I stayed up just lying in bed thinking about the race, then stressing about not sleeping, then having a nose bleed. Well that's not ideal! 1:30 in the morning and I've got a gusher coming out of my nose! After a while it stopped bleeding and I resumed my attempting to sleep, which was more just contemplating why I had a nosebleed in the first place? Probably because I'm still so sick (spent the other night in the emergency room), and congested and I kept blowing my nose? Who knows. All I know is that there was blood before, during, and after the race.
I woke up way too early for this junk. 6:30. But I milled about the house and got bikes together and helped out here and there - always drinking water though, because I had sweated the whole night before (window open was too cold, window closed too warm...but more comfortable). Made some good old fashioned steel cut oats (with craisins in them because I was at home and had the resources!), packed up and rolled out.
Arrival to the race was a bit frantic; I had to track down my front wheel from Scotty, and only had an hour to do that, organize feeds, and warm up.
Luckily, I was told that the start was delayed 15 minutes! Yay! The only problem is that whoever told me that was sabotaging me! Start was at 1:30, and I luckily got worried that I saw nobody warming up any more, looked down at my clock, and saw it was 1:32. Better get to the start to investigate. I asked somebody along the way about the start time, and of course it was supposed to be 1:30, so I made my way desperately through the crowds and got to the start corral about 30 seconds before the start. Bad seating yes, but warm legs at least!
Guess who's not waiting for the start?? (stolen from Kyle's facebook)

Start of the race was a pretty brisk pace, but nothing I felt I couldn't handle. I was worried about the potential bottleneck at the top though, and soon found myself in the middle of a 40 person pack, riders in front, behind, and on both sides. Not good.
I made my move out to the right side, throwing accelerations, brakes, and buzzing a tire or two (not a good move). But when I got out I moved up a few spaces, and tried to get back in.
Unfortunately nobody was making room for me in the trail, so I was forced to ride in the bush beside the trail, which was soon turning left. The only thing I could do was to muscle in, and I managed to get in right beside (and into) my friend Kyle Schaltz, who asked what the heck I was doing? (He was sandwiched in between me and some guy from Quebec, the Quebequois guy fell..Ooops.
So I managed to get a spot on the trail, and to make some enemies in the first few minutes of the race...Interesting. The pace through the first few trails wasn't what I would say I'm capable of, but I wasn't about to throw down too many dirty passes, and I was working hard enough that I didn't feel like singing a song. As the group thinned out I realized how fast we were really going...FAST. By the end of the first lap there were already guys blowing up and falling behind fast, but I kept pace.
riding down the boneshaker, with my lover Anton watching (photo stole from Jame's facebook)

Lap two came with a surprise, a nice guy Alex and my old buddy Evan and I rode together, Evan stayed ahead (but not far enough that I couldn't see him) and Alex would lose me on the double track , but I was capable of catching his wheel in the singletrack. Alex is a fast guy, and I made it my goal to stick with him and see if I could edge on him by the end...I had a funny time that race in that I was always able to talk, just my legs couldn't put out the top power. It was as though my legs were not up to my cardio, but nonetheless my legs were still pretty quick. I striked up a conversation with Evan, let him know that the superior court for the guy who assaulted me and put me into the hospital for so long was the next day. He asked if I was racing angry? I just said racing stressed...Which I guess is true, but the best thing about cycling is it can take my mind off the pressures of the rest of life.
By the first big climbing section in the third lap though, I showed more power than the other guys, and that was the last we rode together. I kept an eye behind me on Alex and worried about his positioning, but eventually was at the point that I could see neither Alex or Evan. By that time I decided to ride conservatively, not taking more risks than I needed to, keeping the bike intact and not risking my head. This strategy paid off, as I placed 6th.  Even with a bit of blood coming out of my nose still, and despite dismal sleep, guess I should just not worry about that stuff anymore.
Hearing my position made me happier than ever! That is faster than I had been before the injury, without a doubt my best placing in an Ontario Cup, oh wait - this is a Canada Cup. YES!
All of the work that I had been doing paid off in when I realized how I had done, and I am so greatful of my coach Mr. Eric Batty (3rd in the pro/elite division!). I'm his athlete, just a meathead that does what I'm told, and he really deserves the credit for my outstanding improvements. Maybe I'll reach my goals this season after all. Stay tuned!


  1. Great position buddy. The shifter story is really weird... you dropped your bike and it cracked or it just went off itself?

    I do not have a bike rack on my back as well and can tell you that it is an art to sort it out to fit everything in. But after few week-ends you get used to it and begin to be a pro at it.

    Looking forward to seeing you again ;).

    Congrats again for your 6th place and glad to hear that you didn't flat this time :) not even once ahah!!!

  2. It broke as I was shifting!!
    It was Johnny's old one, scratched up, looks like it had been fallen on for sure. I'm thinking of wider bars too...But I like how twitchy the bike is with the skinnies!
    Improving in leaps and bounds right now, just tore some legs in a ride tonight! Hoping it shoes my aptitude for the sport, gotta keep working though! Not fast enough yet!

    Would Xprezo make a track bike for me this winter maybe?