Monday, June 28, 2010
This post really is really the preamble to the real post for the race, which will include great photos taken by not-me. For the moment, I'll just provide a quick synopsis for those who are curious about how things went down.
Going into the race, we had four teams: 1 four-man, 1 5-person mixed (co-ed), and two 5 person 150+. Right off the bat, the Tall Tree Management team, originally consisting of 5 riders - Thom, Will, Brad, Martin, and Kent, was down to 3 when both Kent and Will had to pull out due to unforseen circumstances. Lily stepped up for her first bona-fide 24hr experience: up to 4. At this point, the team was planning to approach the race with a less than full on competitive attitude; they'd make the most of it anyway they could. Well, come Saturday morning, the game changed a bit more: David was violently ill. It was pretty obvious he was not going to be able to ride, so his team, the mixed folks - Anna, Tanya, Sylvain (Neil's buddy from work in for his first 24hr experience) and Glenn, pulled Thom into their ranks from the already depleted team of 4 to reconstitute their team of 5. Now that's the Tall Tree spirit in full effect! Meanwhile, the other two teams, the 5 - Pascal, Jeff, Jamie, Mike and Mark - and the 4 man - Rodd, Neil, Rob and moi (Matt), were still whole and ready to ride. And we did.
So, being the preamble, I'll provide the punch-line now...makes sense right? In short, overall, as a team, we were successful. Because of the Management team's generosity in giving up Thom to maintain a strong 5 person mixed team, they were victorious. First place went to Tall Tree Green Crush, with a 22 laps. Awesome. Our 4-man team was constituted by veterans to the whole 24hr thing, save Rob, who'd never done a single one, nor ridden at night before! Crazy, right? Well, it didn't matter, Rob showed up totally prepared, and was super solid. Each of us showed up well prepared it turned out, and we managed to pull off a victory in our first 4-man attempt, with a total of 26 laps, just about 20 minutes or so behind Ryan Atkins' team for most laps overall. Maybe next time! Special merit points go to Neil for doing double laps twice, and Rob for doing a seventh lap to try to close the gap on Ryan's team. Talk about sporting spirit! It was an absolute pleasure to race alongside Rodd, Neil and Rob, and to share the experience with the rest of the team. A victory for one group is a victory for the whole team.
Like I said, I'll post more with photos when I have them, but for now I'll add that we really noticed a lot of folks taking notice of the team this year, asking questions about the shop and the bikes. I got the sense that folks felt comfortable approaching us to talk, and this is very encouraging, as we aim to encourage this. We're ambassadors for Tall Tree, Steelwool, and cycling in general, so we're always happy to have people come over to talk about what we're all about. There was quite a lot of interest in Thom's Steelwool Rook he built for himself a little over a year ago, likely because he was blazing on it and it looks hot! The bike's passive suspension in the rear 'triangle' was likely the ideal set-up for Albion hills, combining traction, comfort and performance in one killer package. Steve, from Toronto, asked whether I'd get another Niner? 'Well, not if I can get Thom to build me a Rook,' I replied; I can't wait to get on one! Overall, out of 18 riders on Tall Tree teams this weekend, all but 4 were on 29ers. There is no 26" bike I'd ride over my 29er for this race, none. The big wheels are unequivocally faster there, especially when hitting 45-50k/hr. At the same time, I also prefer my 29er for racing at Camp Fortune, one of the gnarliest race courses in North America. If its good here on the rocky stuff with steeps and also killer in Southern Ontario, its pretty fair to say 29ers make darn good race machines. AND they rule for long rides with pavement! Nuff said.
C'mon back for photos and testimonials!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
As my time on the bike in May was less than optimal, I decided to attend the NRC A Race on the Tuesday prior to the Preston criterium. I figured the high speed would be good training and I could also work on my cornering. I got “lost” trying to find Blair Road from the Rockcliffe Parkway in my ride to the event and as a result, I arrived about 2 minutes before the start having already spent 25 minutes riding at or above threshold just to get there. I wasn’t expecting the 90 riders that had showed up for the race and I ended up starting at the back of the group. The speed was high from the start (averaging 50 kph on the straights) and I spent the first 10 minutes sprinting out of corners and closing gaps as riders got shed out of the pack. Soon after, there was a single rider crash causing a large enough gap that I couldn’t close. I continued to ride hard with a few other Eurosport cyclists until we were lapped about 20 minutes into the event and subsequently pulled. Once I was comfortably watching from the sidelines, I realized that Neil was racing and he looked quite comfortable within the aggressive main group. I left the race with a few insights for the upcoming weekend: (1) I felt comfortable on my bike cornering at speed, (2) don’t ride crits from the back as sprinting 4 times each lap on the corners is extremely tiring, and (3) I hoped the Masters-only Preston race would be a little bit slower.
I arrived to Preston Street on Father’s day with my family and cheering section. I was happy to see David registering at the same time, knowing that I would have a teammate in the race. I proceeded to warm up with a few hard intervals to ready myself for the upcoming high intensity effort. Our race was delayed in starting and we weren’t even allowed a single warm up lap on course. About 50 Masters 2 and 3 riders lined up at the start and I grabbed a position in the second row. My game plan was to stay in the top ten for the first 10 minutes to avoid the chaos behind. (See lesson 2 above). While waiting for the pace car to start, the announcer listed off the top teams and riders. There was a large contingent from Eurosport and the West Quebec Wheelers, teams from the Cyclery and RWR, and a few racers from outside the Ottawa area. There was a shout-out to Tall Tree Cycles, “ a welcome and growing presence to the Ottawa road scene.”
The race started quickly and soon each corner and each lap blurred into the next. The course was not overly technical and each corner could be pedaled through with the right line. Riders seemed reasonably courteous of each other’s movements and it was easy to move up through the group, particularly on the backstretch. My positioning strategy was successful and I was able to maintain my position well with much less effort after each corner. I could see David was riding quite strongly and he spent the majority of the race riding near the front just ahead of me. About 15 minutes in and feeling comfortable, I decided to take a flyer to get some face time for my kids. It felt awesome to accelerate out of the group and dive into the next corner at top speed. I came through the start finish with a small lead on the trailing peloton, but I was already sucking wind and we were all back together by the start of the next lap.
Time went by quickly and soon we were at 5 laps to go. It was about this time that the rain started to fall. Quickly, it went from a light shower to a heavy deluge. With the water, the course became very slippery through the corners. The speed slowed substantially as caution seemed to prevail. Despite this, there was a small crash near the front with about 4 laps to go. I instinctively made it by the carnage, but was unclipped from my pedals and close to a standstill before beginning the chase to the leaders. By one lap to go, there were at least 6 riders who had a gap on the remaining peloton which I had re-entered. David was in the same group. I accelerated hard on the back straight even though the leaders ahead were not likely to be caught. Despite a fairly scary slip through the 3rd corner, I came out of the last corner leading the chase group and sprinted in for a 9th place finish. David was right behind me.
Overall, it was an immensely enjoyable experience and I’m considering more criteriums in the future. After the race, my wife told me that while I was off the front, the announcer remarked that I was riding a steel bike, “which you don’t see everyday!”
Monday, June 21, 2010
The next weekend was Tremblant (Canada cup #2), same old crazy course as every year but DRY! and FAST! Ended up 33rd/91. Huge field with all the usual top dogs. I was quite pleased with this result and felt really strong throughout.
On to Hardwood(Canada Cup #3) Never expect Hardwood to be very technical but they added in some good new features and alternate lines to benefit those with the skills(or the balls) to do them.I ended up 27th/67. This time the field included world cup rider Zandstra, he only bested me by 14 min. and I beat all my rivals by a pretty good margin--I'll take that and drive home with a smile(and eat Wendys without feeling guilty).
Yet another weekend on the road --this time north of Quebec city--Lac Beauport- beautiful place amazing course, until it started raining and my race turned into cyclocross which would have been ok if my mud packed tires weren't so damn heavy....-Despite it only being a Quebec cup--All the top Quebec guys showed up and dropped the hammer pretty good. I ended up 13th/34 I almost beat ex national Champ Eric Tourville but his skills and experience roll where I slide. Lesson learned (follow Eric rather than spazz out in front of him).
After one weekend in town, I decided to do the Preston Street Crit. So I went and did my first NRC crit on the Tuesday before as practice, felt good and familiar.
I didn't have many expectations--last year I finished 20th in a bunch sprint.
The race was delayed due to a terrible crash in the women's race by Allison Lampi who broke her pelvis.(Wish you a fast recovery Allison).
So we started at 4:10pm reduced to a 1hr + 5 LAPS.
There was no warm up -I didn't even do 1 full lap before they blew the gun and we were off...fast from the get go. I tried to spend as much time as I could near the front, but apparently I was on the front too much as Rodd kindly yelled good tips to me on corner 3 like GET OFF THE FRONT and RELAX..... and ITS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO CLOSE THE GAP...advice taken for a couple laps but then things started to happen. I just thought hey I feel good so if something goes I'm going with it with everything I've got.
So it did go and I went with it we were 4 pretty strong guys co-operating fairly well. I even won 2 primes while in the break!
I gave it everything I had and more in that final sprint but was only enough for 5th...I'll take it.
Felt like a win for me!
Thanks to all who cheered me on.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
3.4 Vehicle Control
Re-designing the entrances to Gatineau Park should help to control the number of vehicles entering the Park. Other proposals include the imposition of fees, the introduction of a shuttle system from the Park’s main entrances and the evening and overnight closing of certain access points.
NCC Response: The primary goals of this project are to indicate to visitors that they are entering the Capital’s conservation park, clearly define its boundaries, indicate via brief messages our conservation and cohabitation objectives and inform visitors of occasional special events. Where applicable, vehicle access control will rely on the system of barriers located at the entrance of each parkway. Fees are not part of the current study. The Gatineau Park Green Transportation Plan will address the issue of evening and overnight
3.6 Closure of a Section of Gamelin Street
Close the section of Gamelin Street between des Fées Road and the Gatineau Parkway, as recommended in the Gatineau Park Master Plan. NCC Response: As indicated in the Gatineau Park Master Plan, the NCC intends to close the section between des Fées Road and the Gatineau Parkway to vehicle traffic after reviewing this option with the City of Gatineau. The Master Plan action plan recommends that this take place over the medium term in order to coincide with thedevelopment of the Gatineau Park Green Transportation Plan. This plan is currentlyb being developed and will be through to Spring 2011. This project’s various consultation stages will be posted on the NCC Web site.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
The day started in true Mike fashion as I awoke to the sound of the doorbell at 5:35....shit...turns out I set my alarm for 5 pm not am....typical for the few times a year I use an alarm clock. After about a 7 minutes turnaround we were on our way...till I realized 30 seconds later that I forgot my food and bottles in the fridge - I don’t think too well in the mornings. Finally we were on the road by 5:50 and facing a 3.5 hr drive which actually went pretty fast.
At the race site teammate Tanya was there with Joanne Thompson and Kiwi Lisa Morgan who had spent the night partying with CN workers at a local motel. Ottawan David Wright was there as well as our local boy speedster Ryan Atkins along with a few various elites and super fast old guys.
The race started out hard and fast on a wide trail where I managed to get into reasonable position prior to entering the single-track. Stu and I leap-frogged once or twice and he ended up just ahead of me in the first bit of single track when his chain slipped off on a short little climb, I skirted by as nimbly as I could through the thicker growth but got one pedal unclipped leaving me trying to one-leg it and got bumped by the next guy behind (a single speeder tying to keep his mo going). This pushed me off the bike and I had to run the last bit losing at least 3 places.
The first part of the race held a lot of pump track type of whoop-de-doos, and was fun. I was basically riding with a single-speeder and a guy in a yellow-jersey (mentioned in Stu’s report here) who was a 40+ and apparently a roadie. He was very strong in the open sections but left a bit to be desired in the single-track. Now I am not making that an assumption, after we had lost the SSer, another guy appeared in our mix, it was Terry Vanden Heuval who I did not know but as the three of us chatted in an open section easing up a bit he asked (noticing the TT jersey) if I knew Rob Parniak, and asked the other dude if he was a roadie. Me, and SS and yellow jersey guy had hammered past the first aid station in a furious attempt to bury each other. I had one bottle and a mini-camel-back which holds about 1 litre, and it was cool so figured I would be Ok til the second feed. We played cat and mice for a while but with the undulating terrain lost SS guy, then I dropped off on a longer road section feeling a bit spent, but eventually caught yellow-jersey joined by Terry VdH in the next single-track after which the three of us rode together for some time. About 1.5 hrs into the race I started feeling my body come around a bit as the initial pace was quite fast. As I had done very little in the previous week I felt I needed to do something before the race to shake up my stale fitness.....lets just say that running speedwork on Friday evening is not the best way to wake up the body...at least not if you want to keep the legs fresh!! My engine was fine but the legs had nothing for anything resembling a hill.
So after having dropped Yellow-jersey my mission was to try and keep Terry in my sights....it was a tough mission, he lives ½ hr away so rides these trails like a god and has the fitness to back that up. Being one big loop there is basically no one passing and with all the twisty stuff you never really see anyone in front or behind. At the second feed I stopped to fill my bottle. I figured I was in 4th place 40+ (not sure why but I knew there was one guy well ahead, plus Terry, and I thought another that had passed me earlier). I was wrong tho - unbeknownst to me at the time I was actually in 3rd only 1 minute behind Terry.
The single-track really is relentless, it is hard to find a good place to feed and drink and even when things look like they straighten out for a bit and you think you can put the hammer down....all of a sudden screech....gotta slam on the brakes for a hidden corner. As I was getting tired and dopy there was a lot of either scrubbing too much or too little speed going into corners. At about the 3 hr mark my stomach started to feel a bit woozy and I had to try and manage my energy as well as the upset. I was looking back on every straightaway to see that I had no one in any kind of sight and hoped I could simply hold a steady pace and my position....if I was currently in 4th that would be the best I could do. I passed the third feed-zone at about 60 km on my odo and asked about the remaining distance as I had expected it much sooner, they yelled 15 km as I blew by.....WTF, it is supposed to be a 67 k race !?! I’ve had this experience before so thought ok maybe they just don’t know, but then shades of Intermontane 2009 crossed my mind when one day they were off by like 12-15 k on a 80-90 km day.....this does NOT impress anyone when the temps are running close to 40 degrees and racers rely on reasonably accurate distances between feeds and finish.
I figured even if it was 15, I should be ok with half a bottle and a few gulps left in the camel. At one point in some really back and forth single-track I even saw Terry, still about 1 minute ahead only. Having been regularly looking back and never seeing anyone I thought great...but the end needs to come sooner than later ! My stomach was not helping the situation tho and finally one guy caught and passed me, and he was a single speeder, so while I felt demoralized at least I had not lost a position. Those SSers are amazing - major props to them ! Then shortly after another guy came up and he unfortunately was a 40+, I was doing all my body would allow but it just was not enough. The odo kept ticking away, the sun started to heat things up and I just needed to be done. Finally some buildings came into sight, but with a cruel twist the race organizers sent us past the staging area and away from there to another gravel road, then down though a huge mud puddle and finally around the outskirts of the buildings and then into the finish. 74 km and 4:10 for a race that was supposed to be 67 km with an expected winning finish time of about 3:15 ! Well Ryan was about 3:45 so nuff said on that prognostication !
Turned out I finished 4th (not 5th as I suspected after getting passed in the last 10 km), still just one minute behind Terry. The guy that passed me put 2 minutes on me and 1 on Terry to take 2nd place - good job to him. Me - I was a bit disappointed to have lost a podium spot so close to the end and by such a narrow margin : - ( All in all, not bad, could have been better but as someone said, “You can’t complain about 4th”. At least this time I got to have a post-race burger : - )
Stu finished well, just 5 minutes back of me on his first mtn bike race of the year. Tanya had a rough day (her story here) but I bet she would have kicked my ass if I had subjected myself to the 7 consecutive days of punishment that she had just one week prior. Joanne and Lisa both got on the podium and Ryan...well he won the day of course.
The marathon day was not yet over...there still remained the long drive home, which seemed a lot longer than the way down. Perhaps the various stops for chip wagons, ice cream, pee breaks and Wendy’s contributed??
Next up - 24 hrs hammering on a team as opposed to the usual solo plodding along...should be an experience !
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
This video tells the story of the South March Highlands in four minutes. It is the combined effort of Paul Renaud, Steve Hulaj and Gord Stephen, and is quite compelling.
The David Suzuki Foundation is supporting us! The Director of their Terrestrial Conservation and Science Program has written a letter to the Chair of the National Capital Commission, copied to Mayor Larry O'Brien. The letter makes an excellent case for why these lands should be protected.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
I always consider the weeks from mid-April to the first of June to be my Season One each year. It's the first big block of racing. This year it kicked off a little earlier with my first trip to Battenkill. That was one of the most enjoyable races I've participated in so the next few weeks of familiar races maybe seemed a little too familiar. Still good times though.
We're a proud bunch of nerds!
A week later and Trish and I made the journey to Midland Ontario for the last Spring O-Cup. I love the course in Midland. It's on a ski hill so it has a lot of steep climbing on technical singletrack, some tricky descents and good flow. I think it's the best of the series now that Elliot Lake is off the calendar. As well, Midland is a nice area to visit. In addition to racing Trish and I shopped at the local Giant Tiger, visited a marsh where we manhandled some turtles and also found an all-you-can-eat beef deal at a local diner. Nice.
This year the course was very greasy from overnight rains. Everything was rideable. But barely. The conditions rewarded those who could clear all the tech bits without resorting to cyclocross techniques. I hate cyclocross so I did everything I could to keep the big wheels rolling. Once our group was clear of traffic from other categories this was not a problem. Again, Barnes and Eric rode away and I battled for 3rd. Despite crashing and smashing my knee up I held onto the last podium spot. Eric finished about 30 seconds ahead in second and Barnes won a minute earlier. They're within reach - but not that day. I had a lousy 2nd lap pushing my bike around lapped traffic that really set me back physically and mentally. And that was that.
People are so used to seeing Jon Barnes up there that nobody even noticed when they replaced him with this floor pump.
See that shirt? It allows me to boast that I am: The Fastest Guy Between the Ages of 30 and 39 Who Does Not Race Elite and Showed Up and Did Well in the Most Ontario Cup XC Races So Far This Year.
The ride of the day belonged to Trish anyway -- 3rd place in the Elite Women's race! She was beaten only by superstars Emily Batty and Amanda Sin fresh off their Spring European campaigns. Trish is fit and can ride difficult singletrack better than most. She worked her way through the field all day and landed right on the podium. Awesome.
And that was a great way to end Season One. Three O-Cups, two Canada Cups, one Sunset Series race, Battenkill, a couple of road time trials, Ride of the Damned, Mufferaw Joe... I'm tired and need to recover and train. Season Two starts in July.
Despite seeming to have a melon for a head, Derek Zandstra, one of the fastest dudes in Canada, crushed the men's Elite field at Midland.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Photos, photos, photos.
Check in to the same flickr page for Will's shots, soon to be up. He was shooting from his oh-so-sweet Steelwool Porteur he crafted in 2009, perhaps the ultimate bike for shooting from the hip? Lets hope Will does a feature on the Porteur soon, it certainly deserves the air-time. Hopefully it will be the first of many 650B Steelwools; I know I want one!