Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How else to spend May 2-4?

Well we all know our own good formulas for long weekends, roadtrips, cottages, foreign places, and to most people copious amounts of alcohol. What would an over excited newly freed from school and (all seemingly responsiblities) cyclist want to do?
Road trip to Quebec for a Canada Cup race? I think so.
There are plenty of reasons to get out to Quebec for a Canada Cup race. Firstly, a road trip, Quebec is a very different place, and for a weekend, the atmosphere is perfect! Easy living, biking, and a general binge on good times and good company. Secondly, the terrain out there and the trails that they build on it are entirely different from here in Ontario, which makes a Canada Cup a whole new beast, and the riders a different bunch to race with as well. Lastly, the big races in Quebec are sponsored by the same guys who help me out; xprezo! (the amazing deals on condo living may have also helped out too). I was excited to go talk to the boys that made my bike, show them the finished creamsicle resembling product, but pretty nervous that they might not think I would be deserving of sponsorship.
The thing about being  a student with nothing to his name but a bike though, races are great, and so are road trips, but how do I get there? The solution to this problem came with a smile and offered wonderful camaraderie.  I caught up with my buddy Dave, and we talked about bikes, our new 29ers, and I told him how my bike is so much better than his because it is hand-made, steel, and I had ridden with the guys who made it, and they were real presence at races. Like the Canada Cup that I was eager to go to! Dave admitted that my bike was smoother, and he liked the "local" aspect of it, and soon his imagination was captured by what could happen across the Ontario-Quebec border on foreign soils too.
We started working on logistics for the trip and Dave was incredibly generous. As opposed to cramming 3 people and 2 very large bikes into his little Pontiac Sunfire, we were going to rent a car. Rates are cheap, and you literally don't even have to give them back the car if you get insurance - just the keys.
Dave was willing to front the rental costs if I would help out with gas and food for the trip - and put him up somewhere - sweet. We would hang out for the weekend, ride, race, and then enjoy the festive atmosphere at what must be the best race of the year!
Tremblant is an amazing course to go to because there are multiple disciplines of bike racing that go on that weekend, the XC (cross country - my discipline) on the Saturday, DH (downhill - lazy guys who ride chairlifts up hills and then ride down them really really fast) on Sunday. The course opens up Friday, and XC riders are only allowed on the trails here for this weekend every year, otherwise they are considered too technical and reserved only for the DH riders who scream through the terrain with bikes that absorb the bumps and can take a serious beating. The attitude in Quebec is great too, people are drinking wine, watching riders, socializing, and running back and forth between condos on the moutnainside. I was also seriously looking forward to "roughing it" with some of the boys from the team at the condo. We cuddle, we cook for each other, and we share the showers...
The day before our departure I got a call from Dave - "Hey dude, we're good to go. I got us an SUV. Sweet eh? We're going to ride in styyyyle."
Whoa. That guy is stoked. So am I. This is awesome.
A few phonecalls to get some proper tires to this race, and a new tool, and we're good to go. Left Thursday night after work, got there Friday morning. We outran some thunderstorms and showed up to the village on the side of the mountain in beautiful weather, and to some cheery greetings, and new bike stuff!
The nice bikes on the back deck!

 I was seriously looking forward to trying some new tires - no my cyclocross tires for me, I have options now!
Checking out the course Friday was a blast. My kind of course! Super fun, a couple of big grinding hills, but only one was terrible (and snowy). There were some pretty technical aspects of the course, and other sections where having the guts to ride the trickier line was beneficial. I love my new tires, high volume, skinny, and a rounded profile - perfect.
Last tier of a 3 tiered climb..notice the snow to the right (sorry it's blurry, I took this while riding)

I took a lap, went to register and do another lap - this time with Dave. At the top of the mountain it started to rain. No problem - I was going to wash my bike anyway...Just hope the cell phone in my pocket is ok. Then I got to the top of the bone jarring mega-long descent. And it poured. Hard. Uh oh.
Suddenly I heard all around me the squeak of people breaking, then no more. Everybody was off their bikes walking, the trail was a bit more like a stream, the wood bridges were more slippery, and I couldn't see through my glasses. And I had a cell phone in my jersey pocket, and I didn't want to miss the team dinner. Time to get out fast!
After that descent, I was confident for the race, loved my new tires, and had adrenaline surging through my body, a very quick shower and then I got to choose my dinner attire for this fine evening of condo living in Mont Tremblant. How about....My favourite suit? Tighty whities. Nice. Those may have been a bit too much? Or just a promise of how awesome the rest of the weekend will be. Everybody knows there's a direct correlation between tight men's underwear and awesomeness. It's why I'm such a champ! Food was great, company was weirded out, and I was treated like a garbage can who just eats everything nobody else wants, that's ok though!
The morning of the race started out with a small issue - we had not gone shopping, so I had no breakfast. Oh well, at least the weather was beautiful! No rain like last night, and the trails were likely to drain well. But good weather doesn't feed me [directly]. So I went knocking on condo doors. Oatmeal? Cereal? I heard that frosted flakes are great! How about waffles? Pancakes? Sausages rolled in pancakes fried in bacon grease? And baconaise? You never know what you'll get knocking on doors asking for food! Oh the possibilities!
I got quinoa. Plain quinoa. Well it's high in calories, protein, and quick to eat. Nice!
My breakfast campaign up the street

Still nervous for the race, I was feeling pretty primed up. Sitting front line at the start I made friends with a random guy from Quebec! Pace was pretty quick off the start up the mountain, and even though we bottlenecked into the first singletrack, I couldn't sing a tune this time, trails are tough - not like Ontario. I was sitting comfortably in the second "train" of riders through the singletrack, squeezing passes in where I could and getting upset that the front train was gapping us. At the top of the hill we came up to a muddy corner, that if you cut to the left, there was a drop of a few feet into a mud puddle - but a more direct line (I had done it the day before no problem). Everybody was taking the wide line out to the side, which made me more confident in my standing in the long run for the race, and I figured that cutting the corner - though more dangerous - would gain me at least 3, maybe 4 positions.
On the line

As I was going down the mucky hill to the drop, I was leaning my bike, and looking at the landing - a pit of unknown depth and composition. Taking the risk did not pay off. I went down a drop at an angle into a mud puddle, and flatted my front tire. The first thing that I thought was that I "burped" my tire (the bead of the tire had come out of it's place in the rim). This should be fixable...Just need to reseat the bead and get some more air into the tire! So I popped open my CO2 canister, was thankful for the ideal gas law, releasing the compressed CO2 into the tire – with no luck. Either mud had gummed up my tire, or my problem was bigger than I was hoping. That’s okay though, I always have a backup plan. I reached into my pocket for my spare tube, rolled it out, and then went to get the tubeless valve stem out of my wheel. It was stuck. I had jimmied it together to hold the air in properly before the first Ontario Cup, and thought nothing of it – proud I was able to get everything to seal up properly. I spent a good 5 minutes trying to get it out, then realized that I needed some better grip on the valve stem from behind. Some quick thinking and I remembered about a skinny L shaped allen key on my nice new tool, and after another minute of trying to jam and grip the valve stem but I got it out, and changed the tube just as my friends were coming up the hill to spectate the race. Luckily I brought two canisters of CO2, and cracked the second one to fill up the tube...Which didn’t fill up so high. I would guess at 15psi in my front tire. Oh well, just ride much more conservatively than I would have before, and try to somehow not flat out in Quebec – somehow.
See the guy bent over in the mud not racing? Yep..that's me.

This poor underinflated tube lasted about 10 minutes – just long enough for me to do all of the climbing of the first lap – until I popped it. I had no resources to fix my bike and suffered the second DNF (did not finish) of my life, after going all of the way to Quebec for the race.

It’s not as though the trip was all for naught though! A great time was had doing way too much fun stuff that I could never dream of putting on the internet - but I’m just that anybody who asks would get some pretty good stories! 
A real broment with my buddy John, there were many, many more that weekend 

There’s nothing quite like a good road trip or a race in Quebec, and last night my buddy called me up with the idea of going to Mont St. Anne on Canada day to race the relay (DH rider and XC rider, doing as many laps as they can in an allotted amount  of time). Last time I checked that race had a $1000 purse to it...Hmmm.

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