Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mansfield Ontario Cup, great race with some bad turns!

Things certainly have changed a lot since the first Ontario Cup, and I mean big lifestyle changes; I am now a farmer! I work on a farm doing site cleanup (so not your conventional farming), which involves any mix of things to moving heavy metal and crates, fence removal, digging, and most importantly, driving things like backhoes and tractors. I’m now living in a chalet on the side of Talisman Resort, and my road bike is basically being ignored because of the abundance of trails and dirt roads (and SERIOUS escarpment hills).  This means that my life is basically perfect, though training after working or working after training has been tough – but I just try to work hard and ride harder!

For me, the race started Thursday as my girlfriend Tori and I went to help out in building a new trail section for the Ontario Cup, appropriately named the “Exit Wound”.  With less than 10 volunteers and a day of work, we had carved the craziest trail though the side of the hill complete with berms, drops (for the expert/elite categories only). The video below is a group of us riding the lap before the race, skip forward to about 10 minutes to check out the gnarly new stuff (though the whole video is pretty awesome, big props to Scotty Toucanlife for throwing it together so quickly)! In addition to helping out with trail building Thursday, I helped the race crew Friday, made some good friends while I was at it, and got out for a great dinner in Creemore (my first date with Sean Rupple, pretty special!).

Had a great time riding the course over the next couple of days with lots of buds, and got to feeling really comfortable and confident for Sunday's race, which is 90% of the battle. The day of the race came, and I felt calm, prepared, and showed up earlier than usual so that Tori could ride (she races in a separate race two hours earlier than my own). The first kink in the day arose when I was told that Tori would be finishing in a minute, what kind of guy would I be if I went off to do my warmup and didn't spare a minute? Besides, I love to watch her ride, and to cheer her through races! Unfortunately though, I missed her finish, missed my warmup, and nearly missed my race start. This lead to an incredibly poor start for me, and to those who don't know the Mansfield race course - it's a massive unforgiving hill.

Tori, going too fast for a camera to even catch properly (Jim Cassell Photo)

What should have been a confident race quickly descended into a panicked effort not to be the last man up the hill, and an embarrassing start for me. The laps were around 25minute laps for me, with two massive climbs, totaling in 200m of ascent per lap (times 5 laps makes 1km of total gain, which is insane for an Ontario Cup). My legs took about 2/3 of the lap to really warm up and have the blood flowing through them, and I was racing recklessly for the fist lap and a half, desperately trying to gain back positions that I had lost in my poor start. As I passed my buddy Mark Winfield who said I was having the race of my life, but soon reminded me to focus my riding (thanks dude!).

I continued into my third lap at a good pace, always hoping to catch more riders up ahead, but setting my own pace. In the elite section of the race course however, things turned for the worse. This section goes down the side of a steep hill with two log drops, followed by a berm and a rolling jump, then a 90 degree corner that shoots down an 8 foot rolling drop, and a double up root drop next to a tree.

Coming into the double up roots (Jim Cassel Photo)

The course by this time was getting rutted and I was still trying to work my way through the pack, carving my way and pushing hard into corners. Unfortunately I pushed too hard into the corner before the massive roller, and the tire "burped". Because I run tires without tubes on the inside (which gives you the advantage of more traction due to lower pressures), they can come off the rim, losing all of their air. This unfortunately happened to me just as I was going through the spectator area at the biggest drop, at which time I went OTB (Over The Bars). According to the kids that were watching I flew over the tape on the side of the course, somehow not even touching it, and had to scramble to get my bike, re inflate the tire, and hope that it holds air.
Picking myself up (more of this set here)

And picking up my bike
Less than 3 minutes later my tire was flat again, and I only had one shot of CO2 left to try to inflate it; things are looking grim. I took my time this time, inflating the tire with a CO2 canister and trying to spread the inner liquid latex solution of my tire around to clog the potential holes. By this time I had lost significant ground, and figured that my tires wouldn't hold air anymore anyway. But I have an old motto, I'd rather be DFL than have a DNF (rather Dead Freaking Last than Did Not Finish), so I chugged on, cautiously, on my iffy front tire. The best part about losing ground in a race at least is that you're passing people again, which sure feels good! This particular course was one that as I passed riders, they would ride behind me and gain momentum either by staying out of the wind in the wider trails, or almost getting sucked through the trails at my speed riding closely behind and following my lines. Either way there were many gentlemen who thanked me for letting them ride my tail, but who I dropped once the big hills came by. I felt great the whole day of the race, and didn't let myself be too bothered by the unfortunate events. I rode into a solid 18th place, actually my best yet Ontario Cup result!

Keeping it clean through the finish line turns

Blowing a kiss to my lovely girlfriend across the finish line.
Because in the end, this matters the most.

By the way, Tori had an outstanding race, coming in 3rd place in her category, and she's talking more and more about upgrading to the elite category and racing in the 1:30 race too!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Long Sock Classic

Weird name for a bike race, right? Why name a bike race the “Long Sock Classic”? Is it because only those with long socks are allowed to race? If so, how long must these socks be? Well, as anybody who has ever visited the Ganaraska Forest knows, there is a good reason for long socks. This venue is home to a thriving population of poison ivy, so in your complimentary race package is a set of excessively long bike socks, sweet!
The race itself is a 2 lap, 65km mountain bike race that spans the sandy, hilly acres of Ganaraska Forest, just south of Peterborough, Ontario. The race start shot us straight into a corner, then maybe a hundred metres before being shot into a twisty uphill bit of singletrack. My best buddy Alex Schmidt led out the race with his series leader jersey, and I was happy to catch his wheel after the singletrack. The next section was wide trail with lots of gradual uphill and Alex and I gapped off of the front of the pack. Alex set the pace so high that I couldn’t keep up, and soon found myself in a group of riders working with another guy to set the pace while Alex and one other were up ahead. Things were going well, and I was in front of the train controlling our pace through singletrack (still in the first 20 minutes of the race) when my shifting stopped working properly.

Sadly this is the only photo I have of the race, thanks Tori for everything else though!

I was confused, my bike is *perfect* and has had no problems whatsoever, then I realized it – my rear axel had come loose which meant that my derailleur had no solid point to pull from.  I had to stop and tighten everything up, by which point the guys that I was leading through the trail were gone. In my haste to try to catch back lost ground, I went flying off my bike and over the handlebars – resulting in a cut bleeding from my knee down to my socks. It was this point that I realized that though I had lost some ground, I have a long race ahead, and can’t afford to race and keep falling like that.

The next half lap was spent catching the guys back, with concerted efforts on all hills and conservative efforts in the technical bits. By the end of the first lap I was sitting comfortably in 4th. I maintained this position comfortably throughout the race, keeping a conservative pace, as it is the first long race this year.
Congratulations to Alex, you beat me fair and square in a long race!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Ontario Cup 1 - Woodnewton

This weekend was the first Ontario Cup of the season – a very nervous time indeed! The course was amazing with just the right amount of double track to space out the amazing singletrack. The venue was at Woonewton, and elite category is 5 laps with added technical sections; it’s a good thing that I got my new bike! This is the best partner someone could ask for during a race; the new Trek Superfly Elite SL (more on that later).
It was super nice to be back with my buddies that I haven’t seen since last season, and to really flex my legs for the first time this season. After pre-riding the course with the local legend Kelsey Krushel and following team Ontario Coach Mike Garrigan I felt confident in my handling abilities and my new bike.
The race itself was unlike any regular Ontario Cup - stacked category of 52 people, and pretty much a Canada Cup full of Quebecois racers. The start was hairy, I was stuck at the back, and as you could imagine the back of 52 super fast guys flying off into the trails. 

The race started out with a sudden burst, and I tried my best to make up because I was frustrated about starting at the back of the pack. I wasn't feeling great, but I thought that was all just me trying to find my race pace again. Unfortunately I was a little wrong. The first lap I threw down the effort that I would have been able to put out on a good day in Arizona, which I paid for dearly. Laps 2 and 3 were rough, I seemed to have no punch to my pedalstroke, and it hurt! Half the way through my third lap I threw the hail Mary - a double espresso caffeinated gel with 50mg of caffeine, just enough to get me through the race! 
I had always known that caffeine is a performance enhancer, but man does it have a strong effect on me because I don't drink the stuff.  Being my first mountain bike race (and one of my first rides) of the season, I found difficulties handling my bike with the speeds that I had even the day before.

Big congratulations to all the brave riders that went out to the first Ocup, and thanks for the Quebec guys for coming and making our Ontario Cup series a bit more fierce! 
Also big ups for Jon Slaughter, who really rode well in his first Ontario Cup since his broken neck (you may remember this post).

Never, Ever sprint with your tongue out like this...However you will win sprints if you do...(Jim Cassel picture)

Barrelling into a rock garden in the lap area, thanks to Lori Bailey for posting online

Great photo thanks to Lori again for posting online.

Spectator section rock garden, this claimed some riders and wheels. (John Fisher photo)

It's always great to see my longtime buddy John cheering me up the hill,
thanks for the photo and giving me something to smile about!

Kelsey's section of the course, gnarly stuff! (John Fisher photo)

Roller coaster ride! (John Fisher photo)