The first Canada cup of the year always happens on the May 24 long weekend, and it’s generally an awesome time to see everyone again, live in condos for the weekend, and catch up after a long winter. I had the pleasure of road tripping up with a cray half Canadian half New-Hampshirese person (not to be confused with the shire, New Hampshire is VERY different). Catherine was her name and it was her first race back after doing some serious damage to her spine in a bike race in Tennessee. It was awesome to be around someone who while being nervous, was confident and well collected – especially since she raced both the Canada Cup Cross Country and Downhill events. We had a great crew living in the (tightly packed) condo, and the course was pretty different than in previous years. There was one big change for the race as well – I was on a different bike. Rob from Mountain Bike Kingston lent me his sweet Pivot Mach 429SL. This is a very coveted front and rear suspension bike, though it’s not the lightest, raciest bike out there it certainly is a really fun ride, especially on the down portions of the Canada Cup course.
|A seriously fun bike! Thanks Rob for the trust and support!|
This course went up a gravel access road up the mountain, then essentially rode through really rocky tight trails down the mountain, and then straight back up again. 6 times. The field was elite pretty deep, with a range of riders from around Canada, and even US Olympian Sam Shultz who I met and joked around with on the start line without even knowing who he was, mountain biking seems to attract some great down to earth people! Unfortunately I ended up starting as the last guy (I guess that I wasn’t pushy enough in the corral), which is a dangerous place to be. Everything is magnified the further back you are, if a guy further up the field touches his brake a little bit, and you’re 10 guys back you’re slamming on your brakes. This causes unpredictable riding to happen around you, and of course crashes and bottlenecks.
|Awesome album from Canadian Cyclist here|
I stayed calm and rode assertively though the first few very bunched up minutes of the race, but by the time that I could really set my pace and go fast up the hill, the leaders already were a minute up the road or so. Additionally, no matter how hard I tried to go, I found myself gasping for a very slow speed up the hill – this was not the pace that I thought I could set. The race was a 6 lap race, with around 60 starters and the 80% rule in effect; those who did not come within 80% of the leader’s time (keep in mind that there are Olympians racing in my category), would be pulled off the course. No questions asked. I had a great time riding the downhill on the new full suspension bike, taking crazy and aggressive lines that I wouldn’t have otherwise been comfortable with on my hardtail, but in retrospect I don’t think that this was in my favour. Instead of taking the fastest lines down the trail I was taking the crazy lines, which though they were fast – they weren’t the fastest. Lesson learned. I was pulled after 3 laps, but had a great time watching the rest of the race – it’s almost surreal that I get to compete at this level, so when I’m pulled out of the race I can still at least watch my friends compete in a crazy course.
|Hannah Clarke is becoming my unofficial blog photo supplier, thanks!|
The rest of the weekend was spent eating, hiking, and celebrating with friends, though the race didn’t go so well, I was a step closer to feeling my legs under me and sure that Ontario Cup number 2 at Kelso in a week’s time.
|See you next time Catherine!|
Kelso would be a bittersweet day; the last ride my sweet sweet Trek Superfly (affectionately named My Sherona). It would be a great course to send her off on too, hilly and smooth – or so I thought. The course was awesome, fast and flowy, but with some pretty insane rocky features in the elite course. I was extra delicate on these because I had super thin tires on (with very little grip), but at least that means that I was less likely to hurt myself too! It was a beautiful, windy, but very hot day, and the course had some sections that were exposed to big headwinds, as well as sunny sections (notably the climb up the escarpment!), but I was feeling confident and fairly well rested. Big shout out to the Lynch family for hosting me and giving me a place nearby to crash before the race, it was pretty sweet to be able to hot tub and relax Saturday night!
|I'll miss my her, but she's being well taken care of now|
I started dead last in the corral as usual (I swear that I’m going to get there earlier next time), but made some progress through the pack throughout the first lap; it was a fast course and riding in groups was advantageous in order to hide from the wind, so I was quite happy to ride with these guys and see how the race unfolded. Unfortunately for me, my second lap pretty much decided the rest of my race, as I went through the feed zone looking for the wrong guy, and then didn’t have anything to drink for the next lap. I think had my chain drop and got passed by like 6 guys, though I normally could have gone and caught them back, I was trying to preserve my energy because a lap at that heat with nothing to drink is something that you pay for later in the race.
|Hans solo took this one of me shooting the quick line|
I rode a solid tempo for a lap and a half and then ramped it up a bit more for my last two laps. I was fighting off cramps a bit, but all things considered I paced pretty well (this is not to be confused with pLacing well). Apart from the one mishap with my bottle feed, support for the race was amazing! I had friends from university in the crowd which was nice, Matt F as event MC, and the Progressive Nutrition girls were set up giving out snacks and electrolyte drinks – I love it!
|I live for Simon's race support|
So I’ve pushed through another two races, each time feeling a little bit stronger, and now I’m ready for the upcoming two weekends of Canada Cup racing at Horseshoe Valley and Hardwood Hills respectively. I’ve got a new bike, ready for a mid-season fresh start! Thanks Muskoka Outfitters http://www.muskokaoutfitters.com/for the support with the new ride!