This past weekend I did my first XC race. I was pretty much garbage but I figured I'd write this down for review later. Essentially all my failings as a rider were exposed. Those failings were:
I'm terrible at cornering. Unfortunately singletrack is full of corners and I was all over the brakes.
I'm a bad mechanic. My crank arm came off at the end of lap 2 of 3.
The first lap consisted of me moving steadily back once we hit the twisty bits, which I expected, but I lost ground a bit faster than I thought I would as I kept getting knocked off where I managed to do just fine in the pre-ride. I would then let a bunch of people past and saw everyone who was out on the course.
Most of my fellow riders were very supportive, except for one who felt the need to yell and talk trash even though he was as slow as I was overall.
Gotta keep the focus on just using these to force me to get better on the bike. CX season approaches.
What's better than a brand new carbon road bike that weighs in at just 6.8 kg? A brand new carbon bike that's been fit to me, with components of my choosing, and has my name painted on the side.
This bike has been a long time coming. I could have replaced my terrible road bike with a less terrible road bike at multiple points over the last 2 or 3 years, but I've been planning out this purchase, and waiting until I could do it right.
Julien, owner of Vitess, has been very patient with me over the years and has always had time to spend with me even when it was clear I wouldn't be a customer for a while. This personal attention is what I think has kept my interest up over time. There's a lot of sexy bikes out there but there's a lot less where you're getting help from the guy with the vision.
Initially this is what got me really interested. Here's a guy trying do bring something a bit different to the world of cycling. Building a different kind of manufacture and build model, and building a brand that is synonymous with a high level of personal attention and lots of configuration options.
Julien isn't trying to sell the most bikes. He isn't trying to be the cheapest. He isn't trying to be the the most expensive. He's delivering both a fantastic bike, and a fantastic experience that, overall, is great value. Given that that's exactly what I've been trying to do in my own business at Audaxium, it really appeals to me.
Still, the bike itself is nothing short of great just on it's own. While I've just gotten back out on the road recently after the crash, the rides I have had on the bike, including tonight, have been smile filled the entire way. It handles beautifully.
And, when I'm not on it, it's beside my desk where I can gaze upon it. I just don't get tired of looking at it. It's the only black and white Vitess you'll find. And given I had the paint scheme tweaked a bit, in all likely-hood, this bike will remain an original work of art.
I've got a new stem on order, white on black of course, and a new black on black seatpost, both courtesy of 3T. My flexibility is also getting better, and despite what Julien says, the stem will get dropped down, perhaps even to a slammed position. (He writes hopefully)
Soon I'll take some more photos of it when it's fully kitted out with bottle cages etc. And I'll post more when I take it out on it's first long ride.
My wife has kindly bandaged me up and and purchased me a burrito to make me feel better.
So this was my third year doing P2A and i'd graduated to the top 100. While still a bit sick I woke up feeling pretty good.
Tom and I warmed up in the rain, and got ready. everything was going to plan. It was going to be muddy and hard.
Off we went at the horn, a number of Lapdogs in the first wave. We went up the road, turned right and flew down the shallow gravel road, mud flying. I moved past a couple guys. and we turned right again. The pace was quick but comfortable. A few guys were being aggressive but no big deal.
I was pumped to see the leaders just ahead.
I think I remember someone swinging left, across my front. I distinctly remember my front wheel going hard left. I yelled. And I remember hitting the right side of my head.
I later learned the left side of my helmet took the impact, hard, and cracked at multiple spots.
I heard Tom telling someone to get an ambulance and felt someone holding my head. Voices surrounded me and while I was scared, I knew I was in good hands as everyone was talking like Doctors.
I have no idea how long I was in the mud. But it seemed like a couple minutes. Apparently 20 elapsed before I got carted away.
It seemed like hours until they got me off the spine board at the hospital. I guess it was as it was about 12:45 or so I think. That was nerve wracking.
I seemed to hit every part of my body. Both sides of my head, face, both arms, back , both legs, hands, hip and shoulder. It must have been spectacular.
My neck and brain seem fine but tender, and I've got an AC Seperation I've just Googled. The usual road rash will heal.
I really should shave my arms too. It would have been nice today. Hair sticking everywhere!
The Bike? Shifters both turned in with some serious grind marks and dents. A bent derailleur hanger and, strangely, my rear skewer, non-drive side, has been ground down at least 5mm! Fork and stem are twisted and basically the whole deal needs to be stripped down to look for damage.
Special thanks to Giro for protecting my Melon. I've not personally seen a helmet look so bad
Biggest thanks go to all the people who stopped to help. I didn't see any of you but heard about it after.
5 or 6 people from the Lapdogs gave up their day to make sure I was ok and did a fantastic job. Adrian from another club also quickly stopped to attend to me. Thanks to everyone. I'll thank you all in person as soon as I can.
And next year I'll be pushing to the start of wave 2 to earn my way back into wave 1.
Now, I am tired on top of tired. But the bike is clean and the recovery tights on. After running, of all things, with the kids on Friday, and killing my legs, I'm looking forward to a day off.
The race started at a farmhouse near Uxbridge. A quick sign-in, no numbers, just coffee, a photocopied map, and a mad panic to get changed and say hello to the usual suspects. A large contingent from Quebec gave it a nice feel.
Going into this I had checked out a quick online map of the route, and it indicated there were two rated climbs, and I knew there was at least one section of mud and some gravel road. I mentally planned on a long flat day sitting on a wheel.
I should have done a little more recon prior.
The race started with a neutral start, which I thought was a great idea, up a gravel road. A civilized start. Then, after the first rise, the horn went and and the watts went up.
I had illusions of getting on the back of the lead group at least initially. I think if I was warmed up, and better rested, I might have stood a remote chance. But the lead 30 or so riders slowly opened up the gap while my legs begged for mercy.
I think I was that guy who lost the wheel.
At the end of the first 5 km or so, my pre-race wish was granted and a group of 5 or 6 of us got into a group including a couple guys I've raced with in CX, and a strong female francophone who deserved to be farther ahead.
We hit the paved road, and got into a great paceline, and because we were all of similar ability, and moved along at a steady rate between 30 and 40 km/hr. Really a good bunch.
We picked up Mr Dermont, who'd been dropped, by the main group and picked up the pace.
The first section came up as a surprise to me and fortunately I was 3rd wheel at the time out of roughly 11. It was 3km of sandy single track, with a few twists and ruts and some downhill bits where apparently Dermont had a spectacular crash. I hope he's ok. We went through at just under 30km/hr.
A smaller group formed, of about 7 guys after slowing up a bit and got back into our rhythm, flew through Musslemans lake, and on and on.
First though a short downhill sand and rock section where I gave up braking and just crossed my fingers and let it run.
Then on to the Marsh.
The marsh bit was about a 2 km section of very wet trail with some large boggy puddles and deep mud. One gent from LFG - Spidertech? rode the whole thing. I did not, but I did get through fast enough to take a pee and jump onto the back of the group which had split up. We reformed and kept up a good pace, not quite as quick as before.
Riding riding. Still heading away from the start, me fucking with my brakes as I now had a bit of brake rub that was annoying me.
Through the somewhat undermanned aid station, where I HAD A COKE! It tasted amazing. First time in ages but I had zero hesitation in grabbing it.
We then made our way to the "Hell" section, having eaten some extra food and fuel on the advice of Mark M who informed us it would be hard to drink.
We turned up the section, but before doing so, I decided to lose my mind, misinterpret the signs, and crash into another rider and lose ground.
Nothing broken, and my brand new kit didn't seem to suffer any major damage.
I chased back on, sat in for a while, and made my way up 14 km, yes, 14 km, of loose gravel "rail trail". It was unrelenting. It went on and on.
In the last 3-4 km or so, the terrain switched to dirt, sand and rock, and I moved up a bit.
And then there were 3 or 4.
It gets a bit fuzzy at this point. There was still 40km to go, heading back to the finish. There were a lot of hills. 34-27 kind of hills.
We stuck together for quite some time, picked up a rider, making us 5, and were closing in on another, when we followed him through an intersection. I had lost the wheel, but I was pretty sure we should have turned. I yelled, chased and yelled and we turned back and checked the sign. Yup, I as right.
We yelled but the rider ahead didn't hear and kept riding. I'm guessing he made it back.
We picked up a rider we dropped, who had made the proper turn, now about 25km left, 5 of us rolling through, keeping it easy on the climbs.
At around 20 to go or so, Mr LFG kept the pace high up a hill, and I stayed on his wheel. We could see what was probably Mr Moote far ahead, and we rode together up a few hills until the elastic snapped and I was on my own.
Those last kilometers were quite tough. Three guys about 200m ahead and lots of rolling hills. My legs kept going but only under duress. I eventually lost visual contact but passed two guys who were absolutely shelled and looked like they had just ridden RAAM.
This post doesn't really convey how I feel about this race. There were some fairly boring road sections, but being in a good group was loads of fun. The tough sections were tough, and the hills were great. It was what I imagine a classic spring race to be given we don't have any cobble here. The length makes the 60km P2A seem easy although the pace is somewhat higher there.
My only disappointment was how only 2 other teammates showed up. Easter/Passover surely tied up quite a few with family obligations, but it's a race that should be supported and was by others as apparently it was a large number of entrants. Crazy road O-Cups with entire fields being DQ'd don't hold a candle to our local Hell of the North.
We live in an amazing world. Computers connect us, virtually, to almost all human knowledge. We can send robots to other planets. Our cell phones are made on the other side of the planet. So why can't I buy a car with a custom paint colour?
Most customized bikes you can order have a finite selection of colours and schemes to choose from such as the Trek Project One custom bikes.
Fortunately that's not the case with my bike, currently on order from Vitess. For a few extra bucks I don't have to suffer with some smashup of colours some designer dreamt up in some corporate cubicle hell, as you might with a mass produced bike.
In fact, I want just the opposite. Simple. No colour. Something that only I'll be riding.
I could have gone to town with the paint. There's no limit on colours, or paint schemes. But I decided to go with the "original" Vitess paint, with a few small tweaks.
Below is the concept emailed over by Julien. No need for a Rev 2
I'll keep this short. Mainly because I need to down a Cognac and go to bed to get ready for a busy week.
Today the usual suspects were up at Hardwood Hills for what was for most people their 7th or 8th race, my 4th this year. It seems like a big gap. Perhaps not, but I'm sad I missed those other races.
The race today was better than last year, and I liked last years cours a lot. Varied and quick, some twisty bits, and a couple small hills to shake things up. This year had a sand pit that was awesome!
So, the race.
I got out front off the start, and almost lead the entire field off the course and through the tape. HA!
I kept it steady for the first 500m or so of the prologue lap and came through the start/finish in front and got to hear my name on the PA. I almost pulled over right there.
At that point, on the climb, about 8 guys went by me. Fast.
The rest of the race was fun. I rode the sand pit every time, and made up a couple of spots there. I went by a couple guys on the climbs. I slowed down on the corners and everyone caught up.
But I DIDN'T FALL! That really helped.
On the last lap, a trio of us reeled in third place, who promptly threw himself on the ground.
We wound around the corner to a long shallow decent. Guy tries to pass on the left. I hammer and shut him down just prior to slamming on the brakes and taking a sharp corner like a snail.
Next corner, same thing. Slam the door!
We pull out onto the flat section and I feel someone, who turns out later to be a grey haired gent, pulling up along side.
Hit the gas, go for the big ring, jam my chain, un-jam it, and stomp as hard as I can to take 3rd. My season goal of "A couple of podiums" is complete.
Good times were had by all. Jack Sassville and his team put on a great event as usual, and the other races were loads of fun to watch.
Recently I've been super busy, and not recording my thoughts here, thus causing it to be even less regularly visited by readers than usual. I suppose it's a good problem, but really need some breathing room.
Anyway, I've actually had lots to talk about, but I'll focus today on rambling about my return to the rough and tumble world that is Masters cyclocross racing in Southern Ontario.
Last week I decided that my recently separated shoulder was feeling ok enough that I should try and race during the weekend. I'd been on the trainer for about 6 hours since my crash 4 months ago and I wasn't expecting to much. Perhaps a top 10 if I was lucky, considering that a couple of the faster riders have moved up to M2 after winning pretty much every race.
Baseball CX up in Barrie is very very flat, except for a small steep bump that looks like it's a topsoil storage pile. So that's not my strong suit, but it's also not too technical and twisty, which is better for me.
I showed up, family in tow, and went through the usual routine, thankful that it wasn't as cold as last year when I wore two pairs of gloves and still couldn't feel my hands.
I rolled around the course with Mathew, and Edmond, who was aggressively re-riding every corner to get the best line. I was just keeping warm and hoping that nobody would notice the terrible leg shaving job.
The race pretty much had 4 phases, which was great, cause they usually only have two; the start, and the rest of it.
The Start. I started second row, rolling through the start gate in something like 10th or so. It was a tame start considering the 38 rider field. The next 500 m was a game of follow the leader and then get cut off by some dude who was even worse in the corners than me, slamming on the brakes. Or maybe that was his tactic 'cause he slammed the door on me several times.
The Chase. I was happy where I was, but there was so much drafting going on I was only about 30 ft back from the lead group of about 6. I managed to push the pace through a few of the flat sections and worked my way up to them. I was on the limit, certain I was going to be shed any moment. But there were no attacks, no crazy antics, so I passed a couple guys to sit in 4th.
Glory. I think it was on 3, I don't really remember how it happened, but I turned on the gas and went up to the leader. It was still very close. We sprinted towards the dirt pile, which I had ridden up for the first time the previous lap, although not well. Really, it was full gas. Up he went, up I went, and then he bogged down a bit and I hit his rear wheel and fell in a heap. My falling managed to make everyone else run up, and I was in 4th or so.
My calf cramped like crazy, but I jumped back on to the wheel and hammered it. I went by the leader and took the lead. Such a cool feeling, even if it was the slow, old guy race. I urged him to go with me so we could work together and put in some distance.
No sooner had I stomped on it I hit a corner and showed why I'm the worst technical rider on the planet. The wheels went out and I hit the deck. It was flat, grassy, no excuse.
I was in 4th, and feeling good about being up and the head of the race. So I chased and chased and eventually rode by 4th.
The final lap. As first and second slowly rode away I did what I could to stay away from a group about 10-12 seconds behind me, but then, looking back, I could see riders catching me, at a steady pace. I couldn't stay away.
First, one of the beginner men passed me, then another. They let me know that they weren't in my category so I moved over.
Then, I looked over, and a "kid" maybe 16 years old, pulled up beside me. "I'm trying to catch my Dad" he said. And he rode off like I was riding a rusty commuter with panniers on the back.
The finish. I rode, as best I could, trying to be cautious enough to not fall but not lose too much time. Crossing the line felt great except for the burning sensation in my lungs that made me want to puke.
The goal the season was a couple of podiums and a move up to M2. At this point I'll take this result and call it a success. 1, maybe 2 races to go where any actual performance is just gravy.
For those that somehow think I'm deserving of some kind of congratulations, my laps times are such that I'd be in the bottom third of the next masters category, and dead last in the M1 group by a long shot. I need to improve my lap times by more than 10% to be close to respectable.
Still, I'm happy to have the photo above even though some guy jacked me up about wearing my hat.
Tonight I got on the bike for 30 minutes and watched a bit of the Vuelta.
I learned that it's tricky, and a bit tiring to ride with one hand, but it was good to spin the legs a little bit. The arm is feeling somewhat less painful and I'm looking forward to at least being back into things by ski season.
On another note, my kids are loving cross country practise. 3 days of early morning running per week is wonderful for them.