Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Friday, April 26, 2013

The least interesting start to the mountain bike season ever.

No serious, this is the least interesting kickoff to anybody’s mountain bike race season. Ever. Though it did start out promising...
Ironically due to the ridiculous prolonged winter this year, the Homage to Ice (kickoff race of the Ontario Marathon Series) was put off, making it the same weekend as the kickoff to the Eastern OntarioCup series. Both of these race series are hosted by Dan Marshall, who runs very friendly, fun races at relatively cheap entry prices (and the Marathons include free food afterward!), this makes them perfect for early calendar events, or introduction to racing!
Though I am a mountain biker and not a roadie, I found myself in an interesting situation this year, in a bit of a line for my new bike, and I’m actually a mountain biker who doesn’t have a mountain bike year round. With race season coming quickly, I had to figure out a solution. Luckily my great buddy Dave always has my back, and hooked me up with this beaut.

Singlespeed (no gears), fully rigid (no shocks), 29er (big wheels). This would take all I’ve got to race...Let alone race back to back days, but I’m always up for the challenge (plus with the upcoming Ontario Cup, I’d better start practising my mountain bike skills!).
Saturday was the day of the infamous Homage to Ice, one of the tougher bike races, typically marred by bad weather, long climbs, and the typical difficulties of the first race of the season. The course format is two 25km laps with a feed zone mid way through and one at the lap area, so I did what any guy with a fantastic girlfriend would do – packed snacks and asked my girlfriend to feed me. The day itself looked like a nice day, until the snow came! As I said in the first sentence of this blog writeup though, these are the least interesting races ever – so I’d better stop embellishing the story. About 45 minutes into the race, I realized that the only possible thing to go wrong with a singlespeed fully rigid bike had – the seat was coming off. I glanced down at my cycling computer and determined that I wasn’t far from the mid lap feed zone, so I could stop, grab food/drink, and fix my bike with Tori (my girlfriend). This was a bad idea as it turns out because the feed zone was far enough away that my seat rattled right off the post before I could get there. Before this point I was actually holding my own, in 6th position or so, jamming along some sweet trails, and feeling what it is to be on a mountain bike again! The seat however left me scrambling and searching through the leaves to find the pieces of the seat post that hold it on, and my hands quickly got numb. I kept calm and fixed myself up, but this pitstop cost me 15 minutes.

All smiles at the startline of the Homage to Ice!

No big deal, best 4/5 races wins the series, and I had another race to do the next day, so I set myself to joyride pace, and had a fantastic ride on the amazing course set out by Dan. As I worked my way back through the ranks (from dead last after the seat incident) I came across a lot of riders having a great time, including cycling’s proverbial rookie, and U of G favorite Rookie Dan (no really, look him up on Facebook – first name Rookie, last name Dan). Big props to Dan for taking such a huge race on (he rode full marathon length), it was a pleasure to hang and ride with him for a bit, but after some time with Dan I continued to work my way up through to the next friend in the race, who happened to be my old boss Dave. I love seeing Dave out at races because I feel partly responsible for his love with riding. I caught Dave, shared some food and we complained for a bit together, and then I was off up the trail once again. The next person I saw was my friend Lara, who is a total trooper! Lara broke her collarbone last year, and this was the first mountain bike ride since. When I came up on Lara she said she had gained a ton of confidence as the race progressed, but it was hurting a lot. We rode together and I was quite impressed with how well she could handle her bike downhill, but she needed a break after some time (I made sure to cheer her across the finish line though!).
Props on Guelph Teammates Alex Schmidt and Alex Lefebvre for 1st and 3rd place respectively!  I can’t wait for the next marathon!
Day two presented a technically challenging and shorter course, through the trails by Kingston. These trails are almost purely rock, roots, and small bridges over bits of swamp (with a couple of stream crossings). The terrain was fully of short steep uphills and was twisty enough that I had some serious trouble getting through on my singlespeed. Unfortunately, I had the wrong gearing for the race, which made each pedal stroke very slow, and felt as if I was lifting very heavy weights. Unfortunately, I was just not geared properly, and the only time that I made any ground was on straight sections of trail (which meant I only spent 10-15 minutes out of breath). Regardless, Tori had her first race of the season, and was looking strong! We had a super great time out at the East Ontario Cup and I can’t wait to do the rest of the races in the series (with my proper new bike...which I got today!).
Thanks do Dan Marshall for organizing such great races and fostering a super friendly environment, your race courses are amazing, and so are the volunteers that help out!