Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tall Tree Cycles 5-Year Anniversary Sale!


This Saturday and Sunday, Tall Tree Cycles will celebrate 5 fabulous years serving Westboro and beyond. From humble beginnings in a shed, the shop has flourished and become a hub for cycling enthusiasts of all stripes. Join the gang this weekend for a BBQ, stimulating conversation, and discounted shopping!

5% off all (in stock) 2011 bikes
20% of all (in stock) parts and accessories (including Bicycle Quarterly for your brain and DZ Nuts for your taint!)
Door crashers Saturday morning
Free BBQ action from 11:30 - 2pm

Shop hours are 10-5 Saturday and 12-4 Sunday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday Ear Worm

Riding this week? Here's an ear worm for the road. I know I'll have this playing in my head during the Mufferaw Joe on Sunday.

Monday, April 25, 2011

From the Trenches

How about a couple Paris-Roubaix videos to kick off your Tuesday, which might be your Monday this week. Except better, because its Tuesday.

These videos are incredible. The first showcases Mavic's neutral wheel support during Roubaix (thanks to Big Ring for the tip-off). Its both fascinating and exciting. From a marketing perspective, its pretty well done. A long-time Mavic devotee, I've been pulled toward other brands over the last few years: Stan's, because they are the best tubeless rims available, and KinLin, which are excellent budget tubulars. I don't need much from Mavic's range these days, but nonetheless, this video got me thinking about what I might get from them. Why? Because the video conveys the invaluable role Mavic plays in each and every Roubaix, year after year, not to mention countless other races, including a couple I've actually raced myself. Not only do they put money into this support while maintaining competitive prices, they also benefit from a heap of experience working on the wheels they carry, not to mention their new products like the M40. So I'd say this video has me thinking about Mavic more than I have in a while, and kind of eager to see how the M40s develop (though I doubt I can afford them!). 


Here's the M40 video. Roubaix was a big day for the M40; Van Summeren won on it.


Next up is the most beautiful cycling short I can recall. The super slow-motion film captures the intense shaking the racers' bodies take over the cobbles, and even more amazing, the impacts their tires make on the stones. Here it is clear why high quality tubulars are the tire of choice for the race (and just about all the other Pro Tour races). Running pressure as low as the riders are with a tubeless set-up might provide a similar ride quality, but the sidewall of a clincher rim is more prone to denting, and with such pressure there is a greater risk of rolling the tire. I believe the race mechanics set up the tires so that they just barely bottom on the hardest impacts, which they sometimes test by crushing the tire on a stair step. With latex tubes, air bleeds over the day, so they also tend to over-inflate slightly to ensure there is enough pressure for the last secteurs. Quite a delicate balancing act. Van Summeren finished on a slow leak. This video provides a glimpse of the riders and bikes at work in a way we could never see with our bare eyes.


On another note, local riders will be pleased to learn that the Gatineau Parkway is very close to being clear enough to loop without crossing snow. Over the long weekend I managed a few rides, and worked the Parkway in on both Friday and Saturday. On Saturday Rodd and I attempted the Fortune descent, and found only one sizable patch of snow/ice pack, which we both managed to crash on about 15 feet from where the pavement resumed. No problem, we've had plenty of crashing practice over the years. Unscathed. While returning from a Cascades--Wakefield-Farrelton loop today, I caught up to Tanya, and she informed me that the ice sheet had shrunk to about half Saturday's size already. So, I think the loop is good to go save perhaps a very short hike, if that in a day or two. Outstanding.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2011 Mufferaw Joe Sportif - May 1

Yeehaaaaw!
If you fancy a swell ride, hosted by the Wheelers, in the Pontiac, put your cowboy hat on and get yourself to Quyon on Sunday, May 1st. We'll have a gaggle of Tall Tree riders out for the day, and when the swelling goes down, we'll enjoy some darn fine food together at Gavans. Sankant will be aflowin, I can assure you. Here's the lowdown from the Wheelers' site:

Well, we’re off. The 2011 Mufferaw Joe Spring Sportif has us peddling up the Ottawa, not quite as far as Mattawa, on the 1st of May.
So we’re up the Valley agin’, meeting in Quyon, at Gavan’s Hotel, the ideal spot to head back to for some homemade chow and a cold brew.
The ride will be about 130 km with some good dirty sections, steady 2×2 riding and some high speed jammin’ at the end.

“Well they say Big Joe used to get real wet,
From pushing a big gear and workin’ up a sweat,
And everyone will tell you, all the way up the line,
If you’re ridin’ with the Wheelers, life’s mighty fine!”
Details:


Download the KML GPS data file
Detailed course map
Sunday, May 1, 2011
We ride rain or shine
Hot homemade meal at the end, vegetarian option
$25 for members, $30 non-members
Start/Finish is at Gavan’s Hotel: 1157 Clarendon St. Quyon, QC
No license required
08h30 registration, 10h00 start
2 groups on the road, one “steady as she goes” and the other a little peppier
be prepared for weather and mechanicals
no-one left for dead intentionally

Preregistration available via Paypal.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ottawa Valley Paris-Roubaix: A Day to Dangle

Dangle.

Ok, lets get this post going by shifting gears to another reality show:


Ricky, Julien and Bubbles (the original Green Bastard From Parts Unknown) plot to capture a sasquatch (while searching for the samsquamtch that's been destroying their weed field):
Ricky: Bubbles, hold the bernoculars. If this thing's down there, Julian, I want you to shoot him, then I'm gonna jump on top of the @#$%sucker with a net and we're gonna have to beat him with everything we @#$%n' got.
Ricky: turns his attention to the camera crew]
Ricky: I could need some help from you dicks, alright?

Turned out to be a mountain lion, but they were ready for anything.

Inspiring, Trailer Park Boys is. After getting Rendalled at the Clarence-Rockland Classic last week, we Green Bastards agreed we ought to try to shake things up a bit come Saturday in Almonte. Press the issue, along with the meat. We'd try to make a move before the first woods, aptly named Forest Road, and thin the field to form an 'elite' group out of the woods. Maybe it'd work, maybe not, but one thing was certain: the woods would be crucial, akin to the real Roubaix's Forest or Arenberg (Secteur 18), except early rather than 160k into a race that's only 85k. Similar, except for the small fact that nobody ought to be shattered on entry. 

The Forest of Arenberg, aka, the trench, traditionally falls as Secteur 18 in Paris-Roubaix. Some nice background on the Arenberg here.
Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth - Mike Tyson


So we press the pace a bit on Quarry Road heading toward Forest Road. Its windy, quite, so our efforts amount to nothing. By 'we' I refer to Neil, who is with Kunstadt/Scott for the season, Imad, of the same team, and Rob, fellow Bastard. While the pace we set did shed some riders, it had no effect on those who would contest the race, so we eased up and waited for the approach to Forest Road. Todd and Alex moved up to shelter me, which was most appreciated, and we headed onto the highway for a short transition into the woods. 


As usual, riders were aggressive heading into the woods. I headed in about 6th wheel, while Neil was right at the point. Expecting soft ground, we instead found ourselves rolling on frozen, fast dirt. I'd made the mistake of shifting into my small ring, expecting bog. Nope, instead, I lost ground and had to work hard to stay close to the front. Riders were all over the track, avoiding ice puddles, ruts, and other obstacles. Neil seemed to be driving the pace really hard, and continued as we shifted into the second secteur, separated by about 150m of dirt road. Here we found rougher conditions, and more ice. Carrying more speed than Osmond Bakker from behind, I attempted a pass through the weeds as Osmond dodged to avoid an ice trench. Our sides collided and Osmond bounced off, leaving me with nothing but the sound of crunching ice. I grimaced, hoping he did not land in the ice-water with his body. That'd be hideous. Following Evan McNeely up the right as Neil and others went hard on the left, we strung out a bit. Carnage ensued as Neil went over the bars at the stream crossing, which led to both Evan and one other down. I squeaked by unscathed, and was out on the road with Osmond, Imad, DSJ, and a few others with a bit of a gap. Aaron Fillion was back, and Osmond urged us to press the pace to keep him from connecting, knowing that Aaron would be a tough challenger to his chances. Looking around and finding no fellow Green Bastards, in addition to needing to recover from a near anaerobic effort through the woods, I was not prepared to drive the pace. Nobody else was willing to go 100% either, so Aaron and a significant number of others bridged up and formed a group of about 25. I suppose this constituted more of a front group than a break. 


Rendalls outnumbered all other teams in the group, with DSJ, Aaron, Mason, Kiernan, Rob O and Glen Rendall (at least) in the bunch. Shades of Clarence-Rockland. DSJ attacked often, and Doug VdH and Warren of Nine2Five, Iman, Neil, and I chased. Eventually, Kiernan Orange road away, looking strong. After catching him and fending off some more Rendall attacks, he rode off again. After catching him again, Osmond and Mason escaped, while the rest of us looked at each other, wondering who might go. 


As we progressed, our numbers slowly dwindled, and we approached the sandy switchback and long trail-like secteur at about 60k in, I reminded Neil to sit up and be ready for attacks off the top of the climb, and positioned myself at the front heading in. Shifting to my small ring, I pulled a Schleck, dropping the chain. As I coasted to guide it on with my hand, the pack streamed past. Fortunately, I had room to regain ground heading up, but was not about 8 back, with the strongest guys ahead. Sure enough, they drove it full gas off the top, and I chased to regain contact, ultimately following Evan with Imad on my wheel. Exiting the trail, we headed into a full head wind as the front group continued to hammer. We worked together to try to regain contact, ultimately working with Marc Boudreau and a couple others I can't recall...things get fuzzy. After pulling as hard and often as I could manage, and doing my darndest to follow Marc, I was back on the tail end of the pack. So gassed I was, I didn't even realize that a number of the other guys had not made it with me. I hung on until the attacks started flying, and being on the tail and recovering, I was completely unable to follow them. I kept it steady and watched them roll away. Ate food, drank, pedaled. My legs were ok, but I just didn't have the aerobic ability to go with them. Hang tight, try to keep them in sight, and hope to catch a few in or just after the woods. 


Windy. But not demoralizing. Just hard to see the race ride away and not be able to do anything about it. I maintained visual contact, and could tell that the attacks were subsiding, but I wasn't gaining. Getting close to what I figured had to be the turn onto the final wooded secteur, I saw a rider get dropped, and could tell it was Kiernan. He'd worked hard earlier, benefiting his team-mates. I aimed to catch him. 


The woods were once again more frozen than usual, and consequently, as rough as ever. In my small ring, my chain derailed, convincing me that a chain catcher is indeed a necessary addition. With nobody in sight in either direction, I simply got off, replaced it, and got back on. Coming out of the woods, it was clear I'd maintained my gap to Kiernan, and that he was cooked. Within a kilometer, he was sitting up waiting, and I was happy to let him take my wheel. As we headed into the twisty dirt road approaching the final paved road, I spotted a small chase group about 1 kilometer back. Warning Kiernan, I upped the tempo to solidify the gap, pressed on, sprinted out of the final turn, and crossed the line alone, ready to hear who'd taken the cobble. DSJ it was, with Neil on his tail! Second place to Neil Schiemann! While I thought I must have been somewhere between 10 and 15 in, in fact, I was 9th, since I'd actually dropped some of the guys I thought were ahead, to my surprise. So that's two 9ths in a row, and both on the Steelwool Truffle Pig cross bike, proving that it is indeed, a reliable companion. 


Rob and Jim were in soon after, followed by Todd, Mike, Alex Michel (new TT rider), Steve, Anna, Andy, Jamie - in no exact order. Turns out Rob, Alex and Todd all crashed in the first woods, and Todd actually got his head run over by another rider! And his helmet is broken! Damn! Rob dangled off the front group out the woods, but was too gassed when the pace went up to stay. Jim tailed the group, pulling like a locomotive, dangled for 20k, but just couldn't get there. Steve had the best race ever, riding smart and strong the whole way. And Anna rode into second, behind Tricia Spooner, ahead of half the pack, stoked, smiling the whole time, and proud to have ridden with a strong group of guys as an equal contributer for the whole race, dropping many in the woods!!! Alex's race just didn't go well at all, but he sure did look good in the kit! And he treated my Secteur 18 loaner right. Andy had a steady ride, but Jamie suffered all day due to illness. The one cast member who's name has been conspicuously absent all this time is Dave Stachon, who was poised to be a big gun for us on Saturday after competing in the Cape Epic mtb stage race up to the beginning of April. Alas, Dave took a puncture in the first 5k, and packed it in. Compounded by all the crashes in the first woods, its safe to say we took a punch in the mouth, but hey, we'll be back next year.


I solicited the others to send me a pithy one-liner characterizing their races, but ended up getting full accounts, so I'm hoping they'll post up such morsels in the comments.


The first and only photos I've seen so far are here, and results are at cyclocross.org.


Next up, the Wheeler's Mufferaw Joe sportif on May 1st, followed by our Ride of the Damned on May 15th. Stay tuned for forthcoming details. We're looking for a few volunteers, so get in touch if you are interested.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Paris-Roubaix Ottawa Valley Style

pr2011masterfix



Its Wednesday night, its raining, and many a rider in the Ottawa Valley is thinking of Saturday, race day. Indeed for some, Sunday's Ontario Cup road race at the Calabogie Speedway will also be on the mind. Some will race both events, but most will likely chose one or the other. For us green bastards, the weekend is all about Saturday, Roubaix. A Saturday in Hell? Maybe. Probably not, the race is too short too make riders feel like they are dying...I hope. That sensation should be reserved for Paul's Dirty Enduro and cyclocross.


Five years ago, a number of our motley crew rode the Ottawa Bicycle Club's Roubaix for the first time. In an effort to keep the mood light, and level any disparities in fitness, we all rolled on our fixed gear bikes with fat tires. We chatted, looked around, shared chocolate with some ladies chasing from the back, stopped at the store for snacks. Each year we got a bit more serious about the event. In 2009, I raced a spring classics inspired event every weekend in April, from New York state to Toronto. With all the time we'd been spending exploring dirt and gravel backroads, the classics format was becoming our thing, the sort of races we spent all winter preparing for and looking forward to. 


Kids pick up a lot. My daughter, who is 6, took this photo of Road magazine that was sitting around the house and set it up as the background on our iphone last month. She knew I'd love it. Sure did. 
In 2010, a bizarre race landed me on the podium. Every edition of the Roubaix, like its mother race in France, brings surprise and intrigue. Saturday will be no different. The rain that falls tonight will meet the frost rising from the ground and conspire to create a slurry of dark matter, laying in waiting for our tires, and perhaps, bodies. If the forecast holds, we will ride through steady rain from start to finish, unlike any Roubaix I've done thusfar. Welcome it, embrace it, use it. The rain defeats many before they take their first pedal stroke. This Saturday morning will be all about the Belgian toothpaste; circles, brush in circles. 


The route will differ from last year's edition, and the map can be found at www.cyclocross.org, along with important registration information (register before Thursday night to save $10). The route is beautiful, so even if you don't feel like you've got much race in you, pack your rain cape and come on out for a great ride. Just be sure to run tires 28c or larger, or pack lots of tubes. There's no broom wagon for this Roubaix.


For your amusment, check out the set-ups I've ridden over the last four years:


2007, fixed gear on the good 'ol Cross Check. Heavy wheels, heavy tires...Grand Bois were still a twinkle in Rodd's eye.
2008, we decided to run gears and try to hang. The elastic snapped after the second woods. It was really wet, so everyone in the bunch appreciated the frienders. 
2009, serious this time. I rode this bike in three classics in April, and it was great, save for the lack of clearance for anything bigger than 28c. I used Challenge Parigi Roubaix's here, no flats...except Battenkill. 
2010, problem solved. Custom Steelwool with room for fattie fat tires, up to 32 and 35c knobbies front and rear. I ran Grand Bois in 30c here, and suffered a flat caused by a cut. Despite/because of that, I finished 3rd. I still love these puppies, they are fast. 
2011, Steelwool Truffle Pig team edition prototype. Same kit as above, but with Stan's Alpha/Chris King R45/Sapim CX-Ray wheels with Stan's Raven cross tires in 35, tubeless rear, latex tube front (blemish on casing precludes tubeless). This bike is best suited to the Roubaix of any I've ridden. I'll post some pics with more detail later on; it has a matching saddle now!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Clarence-Rockland Classic: How to get Rendalled

IMG_0484
Photo by Cam Cam


Battenkill and the Almonte Roubaix were carrots all winter for Jim, Jamie and me. I don't think I rode the trainer once without thinking about these races for at least a moment. With the poor riding weather through March, preparation for the kickoff in New York did not quite match 2010. Nevertheless, I was ready to go. Unfortunately, circumstances shifted for both Jamie and Jim, and both were forced to cancel the Battenkill plan and refocus on Clarence-Rockland. Fortunately, Jamie and I rode the course the previous weekend, and Jim had raced it in 2010. I was happy to spend the weekend with my family and still get to race. We'll hit Battenkill in 2012.


After a long winter, and a cold beginning to spring, consensus in the parking lot Sunday morning was that we deserved the mild weather and absence of precipitation. We'd start in the dry for certain, with a slim chance that it would start to rain late in the race. 85 or so kilometers of gravel and pavement to come, launching at a very agreeable 10am.


Launched by the town's Mayor, we were off at a reasonable pace, headed for the two climbs that come about 5k into the route. No one was interested in riding away just yet, so the pace was fine up these. Turning onto coarser gravel, we had our first taste of how dicey things would become. Staying up front and out of trouble was the best approach; Rob and Rodd were right there churning away.


Imad opted to ride away early on, and was joined by one or two. We didn't want to chase him down, as it was still early, and I personally was a little reticent about the wind. As is so often the case, the pace felt easy, as nobody wanted to do much work on the front. The tide turned as we rolled through a winding gravel section about 35k in. Being an open field, the whole Rendall team was present in the bunch. WIth their strength and numbers, it was certain that they'd start making moves; the question was when.  Casey Roth, Derrick St. John, and Aaron Fillion began taking turns attacking. Neil, Rob and I would chase them down, then the other would go. It was a methodical rotation of attacks we had no choice but to follow. The were wearing us down, and we knew it. 


A crash occurred right off my left elbow as Connor (I think) overlapped Aaron Fillion's wheel. I held firm as the rider toppled in my direction, but he went down and some carnage followed. Aaron was moving to the left, as one of his team-mates was 30 meters up, and another bridging. I picked my way through a few riders to follow Aaron, recognizing he was going, and this was the move that was going to stick. Plowing through soggy dirt, Aaron hit the gas, and I followed. But I just could not get his wheel. He opened a gap, then pulled himself up to the other two Rendalls, along with Warren McDonald. I held the gap, with nary a reinforcement on my wheel, for a couple minutes. Then I was done, and I knew I'd just lost my chance to contest the race at the front. Unless we could generate some team-work to drag them back. 


Regrouping, Neil and Rob were ready to chase. We started rotating through, with about 25 trailing. Duncan Beard got into the rotation, as did Evan McNeely. Once Evan got revved up he was a juggernaught, too strong for the rest of us. I tried to recruit others to do work, particularly those who had no team-mates ahead. I guess they either figured there was no chance of catching, or they had faith in us pulling it off, because they were not willing to pull. On it went. Eventually, we decided to ramp it up and try to break off the riders we were dragging around, which led to attacks and counters from some of the guys who were obviously feeling pretty good. 


Rob, Neil and I held tight and found ourselves turning the corner of the last paved section before the final climb sooner than I expected. We'd reeled in a few from the breaks ahead, and could tell that the final three or so were to far to catch, so this was it, the final group. Rolling into the base of the final climb I didn't know what to expect, from either my legs or the others, so I just kept it in the 50 tooth and churned up, legs protesting. A few came around, but we formed a group of about 10 at the top and continued on at a good clip. Martin Zollinger was off my elbow, and I knew he'd have a strong finish. We worked to Neil, Marty and I pushed the pace heading into the final two descents, and I took the lead position into the drop into the final kilometer. From here I knew I'd want to grab a wheel, and managed to get third or fourth as others came around. The sprint opened up a little early, and I had enough of my wits firing to wait. After three went I opened it up, head down. Alas, it was about 20 meters too early, and I was forced to sit before the line, which allowed a few to come around (I'd love to see this on video to compare against my memory, as its so foggy). Rob wound up right beside me without me even knowing it! So, it was a bit of a botch job with the sprint, but we managed 9th and 10th, which is nothing to be sad about amidst a strong field. 


Further back, Jim finished with some very strong riders, capping his best road race to date. Further on rolled in Rodd and Jamie, Rodd having fallen victim to the crash I spoke of. From there it was Andy and Anna, both of whom flatted, Anna twice! She took a wheel from the truck the first time, then borrowed one from Marc Boudreau, who'd broken his frame, later on. Nice sportsmanship Marc! Anna had to slog away alone for much of the race, but never considered quitting. That's a victory in itself. She didn't think about it, she just did it. Chapeau.


Two Steelwool's in the top 10. Beauty. The Truffle Pig was awesome. 
Classic leg shot.
Up front, Aaron took the win for the second year in a row, and Tricia Spooner captured the women's victory despite a flat. Emily Flynn took home the Junior Women's win, and Karl Hoppner took the Junior Men's title. Congratulations to all! RESULTS


So overall, the Classic was great. The course was marked well, the roads were in appropriate shape, and the traffic was controlled perfectly. A bit of food afterwards was welcome, and it was refreshing to see prizes for the mid pack finishers in each category. Great event Rendall's, thanks!



Sunday, April 10, 2011

Clarence-Rockland Classic Pre-post

Battenkill out, Clarence-Rockland in. Hard race today, time to go to bed. I'll post a report on Monday, hopefully with at least links to some of the photos taken from the photo car. It was a great season opener, or perhaps for some, a season opener to recede into faint memory, the sooner the better. 


RESULTS

Friday, April 8, 2011

Green Bastards in Print and a Bit of Recon


Have you taken a look at the latest issue of Canadian Cycling Magazine? Look what's inside:




Yep, that's our  green bastard team on last year's Ride of the Damned, David, Rob, Todd and Rodd. I'm pretty sure I took the photo. I caught wind that the mag was putting together an article on cycling in Gatineau Park and looking for photos of road riding, so I sent them a couple from the RotD. I was pleased, though not entirely surprised, to see they ran this one with the covered bridge in the frame. Its certainly an iconic feature of the Gatineau Park. Grab a copy of the mag, its certainly Canada's best cycling publication. Ok, now on to my recon report.


I made it out for a ride in the wind Wednesday afternoon after two days off following the weekend's classics recon. While the legs felt fresh, I lacked motivation to push hard into the wind, so I didn't. Instead, I took the opportunity to scope out a few chunks of path and road we typically use for Cascades-Wakefield romps. 


First up was the bike/recreational path through Lac Leamy. This path allows us to avoid St. Joseph or the highway on the east side of the Gatineau River as we roll toward Cantley. Aside from a section of overflow ice under a bridge along the path, the route from Jacques Cartier Park to St. Joseph is mostly snow and ice free. It is completely rideable with treaded tires, perhaps slightly sketchy in a couple places with slicks. Totally navigable though.

I had a nice narrative drafted from here on, but lost it last night when Safari froze on me. So I'll do the rest of this quick and dirty.

The Chamonix neighborhood's dirt roads are in great shape. Oslo's steep climb is not too loose, and the descent to Clark is as good as ever. Clark usually retains ice in shady spots, but is now ice free. 

Cross Loop is undergoing construction near the entrance from the Wakefield end, but the construction seems to be around the road, not on the road, presumably for the highway 105 extension. The Loop is hardpacked; watch out for pointy embedded rocks along the way.

The trail running from Pine road into Gatineau Park is still under about 4-6 inches of snow. It'll be a two or three weeks until the trails are clear and dried out.

The bike path running from Mine Rd. toward the Parkway is partially covered in about 3 inches of snow, but was all rideable. Its going quickly. I accessed the Parkway at the bottom of Pink Lake from this path, and was not surprised to find the Parkway patched with snow. Again, it was all rideable. There is 3-6 inches from the base of Pink to the gate, with significant clear areas. Its melting well, and shouldn't be too long now. Sections on Fortune and Black usually take the longest to melt.

The bike path from the gate dropping down to Tache is still snow covered, as its mostly covered. 

Back on the Ottawa side, I was pleased to find the bike path from the Arboritum through Pinecrest Creek good to go, with only a couple tiny patches of snow that might already be gone. Things are rolling, spring is here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Big MTB Stage Race - Cherry Popped

Thanks to everyone who followed along with my Cape Epic campaign. Don't worry, I'm not going to give a detailed account of every aspect of every stage, but thought some anecdotes and some general impressions would be at least somewhat interesting.

Quick Stats:

Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Distance: 707km
Days: 8
Total Climbing: 15,000m (equivalent to twice up Mt. Everest)
We Completed In: ~36 hours
Total Cost: A lot
Ottawa to Cape Town travel time: 65 hour return trip
Overall Place: 87th out of 600
Masters Place: 16th out of 199
Canadian Place: 1st out of 10

General Impressions:

As the days went by, I couldn't help but have the feeling of a "bicycle fantasy camp". With so many top pros, the helicopters, the spectators, riders from around the world, and the pampering we received from our host and masseuse, the grim reality of daily life melts away. I believe that this is the appeal of these events, although; perhaps not consciously for some.

WARNING: This feeling is highly addictive and the "come down" not so great.

Cape Epic is a world class event. I've done one of those long triathlons marketed as "Ironman", and it's on par with that; however, the lineups for food and bathrooms were too long, the "DJ" played the same crappy twelve songs over and over again, and there were no hot podium girls. Other than that ....awesome.

Don't be fooled by Cape Epic's marketing material. I was given the impression that we'd be riding through a wild life wonderland, but all I ended up seeing was an ostrich, and many domestic cows and chickens. With wonder in my voice I would point to cows and say, "LOOK! ...a wild African cow!" ...my partner didn't find it nearly as funny as I did.

The Route:

Holy climbing! We sure do miss out in Ottawa not having mountains nearby.

Most of the route was on double track, dirt roads, and lots of slow grinds up some seriously big hills (a.k.a. "mountains"). Occasionally, they'd throw some single track at us. I know it sounds biased, but if you're used to riding Fortune, or Kanata Lakes you'd be amused at what they call "technical" sections. Unfortunately, there were some seriously long bits of hike-a-bike. Not because they were too technical, but because they were simply not rideable (too sandy, too loose, too steep, or too many riders sharing not enough trail).

Non Sequiturs:

On one particular climb in which a huge group of us were slogging our way up single file in granny gear, I dropped a bottle which caused a domino effect of toppling over about 20 riders behind me. It was funny to hear swearing in so many languages and accents at once.

Current world champion Jose Hermida had a mechanical failure early on during Stage 5 and worked his way up through the field. We rode together for a good 2 minutes! (out of a nearly seven hour day). It topped that time at an OBC cross race where I had to leave early so I went to the front and was briefly ahead of "to be national road champion" Aaron Fillion.

I met a fellow who had done Crank the Shield (CTS) back in September. It was very cool to hear about how well he thought CTS was run. Chico Racing has some international cred it would seem.

Some European dude at supper grabbed salad with his hands at the buffet. WTF?!

By Stage 3, a Pavlovian dog response had set in at the sound of the helicopter's engine starting 5 minutes before the start. (no drool, but stomach butterflies)

At the medical tent, there was a special area called the "Bum Tent". My partner Brett was anointed after Day 3 as having the most badly damaged butt! (fortunately for me, I had absolutely no problems in that regard).

Going against my primal instincts, I left my Tall Tree jersey at home and rode for Brett's shop in Cape Town called "Olympic Cycles". I was pretty stoked that they'd be there to support us and take care of our bikes at the end of each day. I was less stoked when they handed me quite a substantial bill at the end when all they had to do was apply oil to my chain and check my tire pressure. Out of principle Brett resigned the next day. What a wing man!

Final Thoughts:

A truly amazing experience, and I would recommend it to anyone. I'm not sure I'd do it again while living it Ottawa. The training was just brutal in our climate (although, with a snow-bike, that might change). I'm thinking La Ruta 2012 next (but don't tell my wife) ....anyone?

Some pictures.

Next up, Almonte ...and the smack down on our arch rivals from the Kunstadt squad. You know who you are.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Classics Weekend Roundup

Spring.

In case you missed it, I posted up a short report about our ride on the Clarence-Rockland Classic route on Saturday. On Sunday, many of us reconvened in Almonte to ride the Roubaix course, formally knows as the Ottawa Valley Paris Roubaix Cyclosportif. I met up with David, Bernard, Rod, Jean-Christophe at Euro Sports just before 9am to ride out to Almonte for 11. The 50k ride was windy, so we all got pretty worked en route to rendezvous with the rest...at least I was working hard. Green bastards joining the ride were Rob, Neil, and Jim, and Tricia, though not a bastard, was also present and ready to unleash some serious early season fitness. Another gaggle of riders, including Jay, Imad, and Peter Conn, to name but a few, were ready to roll.


Clarence-Rockland mud, of the concrete dust variety.

I'd heard from Ian and Timothy Austen that the route was pretty dicey in the woods on Saturday. Rolling up to the first wooded sector, the dirt roads were in excellent shape. However, as expected, the coniferous tree cover in the woods translated into hardpacked snow/ice cover through much of the double track. Though my knobbed tires were certainly a bit slow on smooth pavement, they shone in these woods, as I got through clean and carrying good speed. However, those on slicks had a lot of trouble with the ice, which is to be expected. No crashes, though, so all was well. 


Stan's Raven in 35c. Tubeless rear, latex front...argh! Both rolled well.
Almonte's gentler, kinder mud.
The second sector, which follows the first by only about 500m, was a little softer and sloppier. Nevertheless, it was rideable at good speed with treaded tires. Jim made short work of it on his hot carbon 29er! 


The proto Truffle Pig will see a short spring classics season, then rock out on dirt roads and trails full time. So far, its been stellar everywhere I've taken it.

From the second sector to the third flowed many kilometers. Many commented on the fine condition of the dirt roads. Most were hardpacked and fast rolling. There were indeed some wet spots that produced a good bit of spray, but overall, the roads were great. Heading into the switchback doubletrack sector, Dave Bilenky rode ahead to scout it out, and found that there was too much snow up on the plateau to be worth slogging through. The climb was fine, being hardpacked snow mostly, but up top was exposed to the sun more, and too deep and soft. Bypassing that sector, we headed onward toward the final woods, which fall about 3k from the finish. 


After waiting for Imad to search in vain for a dislodged bottle while the rest carried on, Rob, Neil and I headed into the final wooded sector together. Full on trail, this sector is my favourite; its fun. With complete confidence in my tires, I attacked full bore, and managed to get through with only a dab of a foot. Conditions here were varied more than any other sector on the route, ranging from packed dirt to deep mud, soft snow, packed ice, puddles, and just about everything in between. Some of the narrower tires ahead had punched through snow, and I could tell from the scarcity of tracks that many had walked through most of the trail. This sector is always forces a final selection in the race, which is why I find it so exciting!

Classic.

So, with the rain that's coming down now, and will come down, along with the sun that will follow, I'm personally confident that all, if not almost all the snow on the route will be clear come April 16th. I suspect there will still be a fair bit of wetness, but hey, its spring classics season! Whatever the weather delivers, I'm sure it'll be an exciting day. I can honestly say that even if I had no interest in riding hard, I'd be more than keen to ride the route. Even in the brown and grey of early spring, its a beautiful ride.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cape Epic: Stage 7

Riders descend towards Grabouw during the final stage
Photo: © Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS (cyclingnews)
After riding out to Almonte, then riding the Roubaix course hard, I'm tired, so I'll hold off reporting on that until tomorrow, and just convey the info about Dave's final stage of the Cape Epic for now. I don't have much to say about today's stage, because, frankly, I don't have time to read up on it, but at just under four hours, I suspect it was no ride in the park. Dave and Brett managed to secure 16th overall in the Masters category, just about 9 minutes off 15th, which is no small feat. And Dave is indeed the top placing Canadian. Finishing this race alone is a massive achievement; I am proud of Dave for taking on the challenge and riding strong start to finish. Chapeau. Hopefully Dave will have enough energy to write a few words about his experience once he's back home. 


Here's the spiel: 


It's the same every year - the last day of the Absa Cape Epic might be short but it is never easy. Old Viljoens Pass and Nuweberg reminded the remaining 1 064 riders that it wasn't over just yet. Dr Evil had warned riders of a final few surprises before a traditional finish at Lourensford Wine Estate. There they were reunited with their loved ones - a life's task accomplished and an experience they'll never forget. This year's route took riders through some of the most breathtaking scenery thanks to Cape Nature Conservation.



David Stachon achieved the following results:
Stage Time:3:43.49,2
Stage Position:37. in Masters category and 148. in general classification
Overall Time:38:26.11,3
Overall Position:16. in Masters category and in 87. general classification








Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tales from the road

Hello folks in TT blogger land...alas I have been remiss all winter in posting to the blog. Matt has been doing triple duty keeping the blog fires burning while his home life is expanding. I had started doing a Winterlude Tri race report ...but that never got completed with too much work and life stuff getting in the way. Point form deets: Very fun The sunrise (which I almost never see...unless I am just going to bed) was spectacular...I can understand why triathletes appreciate those early mornings...but a few times a year is enough for me ! Skate was not as hard as I thought - borrowed long clip-on blades, managed to stay with the lead pack and avoided a couple of falls in front of me. Entered the ski in about 15th...left the transition in about 5th but took a while trying to get my pole straps on while skiing and lost some places. Finished the ski about 10th - some real hard short uphill grunts - especially the second loop with all the others on the course. Had to climb past some essentially classic-ing on my skate skis. The run was short which was good for me as I was spent....lost some time and paces in the second transition. Ended up in 15th overall (I think 6th masters) just behind some Ottawa elite types such as Fortin, Woodford and Dev Paul. Fun event - I loved it.....Neil..next year - get your running legs on ! So I've been in South Carolina for a week now...the weather has been ...um... less than desirable for the first week - but made the most of it with some good mtb rides and only 2 road rides totaling less than 200 km. First week is just to loosen up the legs and get them used to the bike again as I do not spin in the winter and commuting on the winter beater just does not really do anything for cycling fitness. (I did one Computrainer race and my avg watts was down about 25 to 209.....sucky)! First day here was a great 4 hr easy pace fun mountain bike on the Foothils trail near Georgia. Next day was an ungodly early (10 am) road ride up to Whitewater falls in NC....it was cold and misty up there even tho the weather was supposed to be clearer and warmer. Was riding with a old dude who shredded me up the hills....I was cursing his need for early morning starts....unless one is doing an 8 hr ride there is zero need to start before noon...and it warms up significantly after noon...my kind of timing !! Third day was a sleep in and a solo mountain bike at Issaqueena about 20 minutes from Ben's house. Awesome trails, was a bit wet but drains really nicely...like Albion with a bit more twists, turns and roots...no real rocks to speak of. Thursday was a huge sleep in (til 2), went for a road ride about 5 pm - was only planning a 1.5 hr spin but it became sunny and beautiful with the Georgia mountains to the west and the NC mtns to the north I stayed out exploring some delightful paved road and even some fun zippy scenic gravel road....awesome ! Friday was nice but did not get out til late - a long drive with Ben and Scott to Dupont state park. A short (2+hr) but fun ride complete with VERY COLD slippery river crossing.....Mike got wetter than planned on the second cross back... : - ( Today a new crowd arrives including Tanya and a bunch of her friends....(Alex should also be at Table Rock with the Wheelers). Great bunch of people and did a 3+ hr ride at Issaqueena. I am now feeling the winter rust come off my legs - and while I am still not in the shape I was last year at this time, and still waaaay too heavy....I'm looking forward to some FANTASTIC road rides this week including Caesar's Head, Blue Ridge Parkway and the tri-state loop. Will probably only mtn bike 1 or 2 more times....depends. Weather this week is supposed to be mostly warm and sunny (in the 20's) so just perfect for high mtn rides up at 5600 ft where it is much cooler. Oh ya - and a friend (competitor?) of Rob's is staying here too....Yan.....He was asking about you. That's it from South Carolina today.....looks like you guys are enjoying good weather rides up in O-town. Maybe be out for the CR classic if I get back in time...if not - see you at Almonte !

Cape Epic : Stage 6


It's why they call it Cape "Epic"
Before getting to Dave's exploits down south, l'll provide a quick run down of today's ride on the Clarence-Rockland Classic route. A group of about ten of us assembled at Walmart this morning, and headed out to ride the 86 or so kilometer loop. I'd not ridden it before, as last year I was racing Battenkill on the weekend of the race, as I will be this year. However, I was interested in the ride after hearing tales of rough gravel and high winds from last year's racers. 


Today I was testing my Stan's Raven 35c cyclocross tires on my Stan's Alpha/Chris King wheels I build last weekend. I'll do a separate post on the tubeless road experience after I've had a bit more time on the tires, but let me just say the Ravens are not easy to air up. The folks at the Cyclery put up with my mess and compressor noise Friday night for about an hour, and I only went home with one aired up. This morning I hit a gas station, where the compressor would likely deliver more air, faster. It did, but the front still wouldn't go. I returned home, made breakfast for the family, put a Challenge latex cross tube in (for testing purposes), and was out the door. 


While I was on high volume 35s, other were on anything from 34c cross tubulars, to 25c tubeless, 28c tubed, and 34c cross clinchers. I quickly decided I was happy with my tires. Most of the route is rough, be it gravel or beaten pavement, so the high volume was a boon for certain. I did not feel beaten after the loop, and the tires did not seem to suck much on the smooth pavement. Unfortunately, Neil, on his 25c tubeless broke a spoke and wound up with a wild wobble. Hard to say if the tire size was to blame. Winds were high, at times allowing us to sail, but mostly providing much resistance. Very Belgian. Very spring classics. 


So, despite what appears to be a tame course on the map is in fact pretty technical. Many rough spots will slow riders who take poor lines, wet spots will suck wheels, and winds will force selections. This race will require vigilance and smarts. There are a couple short climbs shortly after the start that will lead to selections. Positioning is key, and it will be worth it to push hard to maintain contact; the wind will make it hard to bridge gaps. The final climb, which is descended on the way out, will feel long for those who are beaten, but short for those who have conserved energy well. The strongest riders will certainly make their moves here and break off those who are at their limit. From there its a relatively short straight to a right turn that leads to a flat and descent into the final flat to the line. Good luck!


Ok, so now for Dave's progress. Looks like he and Brett did in fact manage to claw their way back to 15th in Masters; nicely done guys! Sunday's final stage will be 79k, and hopefully, a sweet finish to the week's racing. Here's the spiel:



In the penultimate stage competitors were wary; the route profile and the total ascent revealed how they would be tested right to the end of the challenge on this brutal Oak Valley loop. Again, the riders headed over Groenlandberg, for the second time in two days, this time following the 2010 route in reverse. After crossing the R43 came a tough sandy climb, nicknamed "The Beeatch". A short section on Highlands Road was a relief before more loose and partially sandy climbing - which was rewarded with a dramatic view over the Indian Ocean, the Botriver mouth and Kleinmond. One last climb led participants through another Cape Nature area featuring some rare fynbos. Shortly after riders got to enjoy the flowing single tracks of Lebanon, before they dipped under the N2 for more fun single track through Thandi and back home to Oak Valley - a great way to finish a strenuous day in the saddle.


David Stachon achieved the following results:

Stage Time:6:48.00,8
Stage Position:19. in Masters category and 102. in general classification
Overall Time:34:42.22,1
Overall Position:15. in Masters category and in 84. general classification




Friday, April 1, 2011

Cape Epic: Stage 5


Leading Masters team begin the descent down Groenlandberg
Photo: © Sven Martin / SPORTZPICS (cyclingnews)

Man, sounds like a hard day today. Here's hoping Dave and Brett bounce back and work their way back to the top 15. Again, good coverage on cyclingnews.



The spiel: 

It was a real classic Absa Cape Epic day out, the longest stage in years. With fast open roads, marked by 3 obstacles along the way, riders were advised to save their strength and cooperate with other teams to form larger groups, to take turns at the front to lighten the load. The first climb of the day was a shock to the system, not only from the gradient but also the track's surface. In parts, the climb was rideable, barely, and only the fittest and best bike handlers were able to make it up without dabbing a foot. As with everything, what goes up must come down, and those with full suspension bikes were grateful for their weapon of choice. More open roads helped get some kilometres under the belt before the radio mast came into view. Down the other side of this deceptive climb was a fast chute into farmlands and waiting for riders was a set of rolling hills that deadened the legs of even the most hardened campaigner. At the 100km mark, riders reached the foot of the exquisite Groenlandberg, the grand old legend who invited the Absa Cape Epic back in 2011 thanks to Cape Nature Conservation. The 15% gradient on the concrete path should have been paced conservatively, with the remainder of the climb taking most riders well over an hour to complete. The north-facing slope made for a challenging ascent but the rocky downhill sections led to the famed Oak Valley singletrack to make it all worth it.


David Stachon achieved the following results:
Stage Time:6:41.17,8
Stage Position:21. in Masters category and 98. in general classification
Overall Time:27:54.21,3
Overall Position:18. in Masters category and in 85. general classification



Spring classics preparation this weekend: Clarence-Roackland Saturday and Almonte Roubaix Sunday. First time on tubeless Stan's Raven 35c cyclocross tires, woohoo. Will report back on conditions.