Here it is the long overdue race report. Me, NewfieSteve, and EnglishJim headed up to Ganaraska on Saturday to camp for the weekend while racing on Sunday; Fig and Centurion ventured up early Sunday morning. (I was absolutely astounded that Centurion entered this race. He had an unfortunate, very nasty crash mountain biking last October and has not been on his mountain bike since. However, I am not fool enough to think this should give me an edge on him...OK maybe I was hoping a little. Centurion has been on his road bike, and he is a world class road rider. Seriously, he is a machine on the road; Ryder Hejdal looks to Centurion for pointers. Well, if he doesn’t, he should!!) Anyways, I digress. So to preserve your sanity, I will avoid all of the adventure, and histrionics of the camping (except to say that I am sorry that I now know that Jim is neither Catholic or Jewish, and that Steve tells his deepest, nasty secrets on his Facebook status) and focus only on the race highlights.
Sunday proved to be great weather...if sunny and hot is
great weather. We lined up at the start
line in our very fashionable long socks; provided as a form of protection
against the rampant overabundance of poison ivy in the area. Fig lined up at the very front, right on the
start line. I was several rows back,
with Steve and Centurion next to me, and EnglishJim somewhat farther back. So with the start gun, we were off. Fig took off like a rocket! I set off to try and keep him in my sites,
however, I am a notoriously slow starter and within several kilometres my legs
and lungs were complaining of the too-fast start pace so I settled in to a more
moderate pace to gradually speed up to my race pace, figuring that I had 60 kms
to catch Fig.
I need to make mention of the sand. This particular area of our country is very
sandy (according to Centurion it is the result of our glacial moraine). There were sections of the race course that
were extremely sandy, deep beach like sand...several inches deep; making for
brutal climbs that had the sand sucking the tires in, and dangerous descents,
that had to be taken at speed but was like riding on ice with the bike going
where ever it drifted. And it was on one
such descent that I almost bought the big ticket, almost bit the last
scruncheon, met my maker (and I don’t mean chief Big-Feather). Me and two other riders were cresting a very
sandy fireroad which then fell to a long steep descent. As I was passing the other two riders on the
descent (one of them was extolling how much he love sand, beaches, and bikinis
but I think he was cracking under the heat and effort), two ATVs driven by kids
were speeding up the hill. (We were
warned before the race that part of the course was on public trails that were
often frequented by motorized trail vehicles).
I, passing my fellow racers on the left, was directly in the path of the
ATVs coming up the hill on their right; I was descending at 40 – 50 km/hr, the
ATVs were flying up the hill at a similar speed. I don’t know if the ATV drivers did not know
any better, or just didn’t care, but they were not slowing down or making an
effort to avoid me. I struggled to coax
the drifting bike enough to my right (and well in front of my fellow racers),
to miss the ATVs by mere inches. It was
close enough to scare any excess nutrition out of me, and to realize that Heidi
had come dangerously close to becoming a millionaire (which I would normally be
happy about, except that I am sure EnglishJim would be stepping in like a dirty
shirt...or at least like the funky British shirts he tends to wear).
So back to the race. I
was settling in, well into the race, powering up another sandy fireroad when I
hear coming up behind me, “Nice bike”.
WTF!! I know that voice! It was Centurion! How the heck did he catch me?? As I mentioned that man is a machine. He is one of the most efficient cyclists I
know. His lack of Mountain Bike
handling skills (he did manage a couple of unscheduled dismounts) is more than
made up by his steadiness on the fireroads and double track. I continuously dropped him in the single
track and technical descents, only to have him catch me and work his way past
me on the fireroads and double track.
And it was on yet another sandy fireroad climb, with me on Centurion’s
wheel, when my bad luck hit.
I suddenly heard the sound “whish, whish, whish!” behind
me...this is not a sound you want to hear on a mountain bike. It means you have a tire puncture and it’s
the sound of air and Stan’s sealant escaping as the wheel spins. But I was on soft sand! There must have been a piece of glass or
sharp metal buried in the sand, as there was a significant gash in the tire. So, it was off my bike, to position the
tire/wheel and wait several minutes to give the Stans the best chance to seal
the puncture. After several minutes I
spun the wheel to check the puncture, but the gash was reluctant to seal. So again position the wheel and wait as I
watched Centurion pull away into the distance and several riders we had
recently passed ride by me (all offering assistance but I defer, thinking I am
OK). After several more minutes I again check
the tire and it has sealed! Whew!! Lost about 10 minutes in total, so back on my
bike and race off to try and catch Centurion again! Pass a couple of the riders who went by me,
then the course takes us off the sandy fireroad diving into some more rooty and
loggy singletrack. A couple of kms into
this bit of single track I jump one of the larger log-overs only to hear the
damn ‘whish’ return! The jump has re-opened
up the sealed gash!
So I find a relatively poison ivy free spot in the woods to
pull over; again positioning the wheel to seal.
After a couple of tries again, it does seal; but there is hardly any air
remaining and the tire is too soft to ride.
So I fire in part of a CO2 cylinder and the tire re-inflates enough to ride
it, but the pressure opens up the puncture again. Now the puncture refuses to seal. So I resign myself to the fact that I need to
put a tube in. At this time Fig rides up
behind me...what the heck?! Me: “How did
you get behind me?” Fig: “I got lost,
went 1.5kms off the trail before I realised it.
Do you need help?” Me (dumbass
me): “No, I am OK, just repairing a flat.
Keep going!” and he was off. So
now I need to get the tubeless valve off the wheel to get the tube in...but the
valve nut is seized to the valve, and
won’t budge! Dammit!! After a couple of more minutes of struggling
with the nut Steve rolls up, looking very exhausted. Me: “Hey, Mr. Steve, any chance you want to
give me a hand?” Steve: “I would LOVE
the excuse to stop! I am so done!!” But after many attempts to get the nut loose
we can’t do it without a pair of pliers (we have mult-tools but no pliers, and
the multi-tools prove useless). We know
Jim will have pliers (he carries an entire 500 pound mechanic set in him!) so
we continue while we expect him to pull up...but he doesn’t show. Many riders pass and offer help, but no one
has pliers (who would?). In a moment of desperation
we fire in a couple of CO2 cartridges to re-seal the tire, but it doesn’t work. Then Steve mentions that he wished we had a
tool to push the valve through the wrong way and I have a flash of inspiration. I pull the pin out of my chain tool and Steve
grabs it, pulls the tire off the rim, positions the pin in the inner opening of
the valve and leans on it hard! The inner
rubber valve seal tears off and the valve pushes through and out!! Hooray!!!
At least an hour off the trail, but we are now inserting the tube and
re-inflating it. It is now that Jim
pulls up. Me: “Hey, Mr. Jim, where have you been?” Jim: “I got off the trail and lost...twice!!” (Ones spot was the same place Fig went
AWOL) So tire repaired, wheel
re-installed and we are off. The hour
off appears to have given Steve a second wind and we finish off the last 25km
or so in good time, but we are now so woefully out of contention that it does
We finish to huge fanfare, cheers, whistles, confetti, kisses
and hugs from cheerleaders (OK nobody but the guy in the timing tent noticed,
but I like the idea of the cheerleaders...).
We ride up to the campsite to meet Centurion and Fig, to hear their
stories, recover, and wait for Jim.
Now this weekend it is off to Mansfield for the Spring Epic
8 hour Race. And I am praying for a
mechanical free race where I can truly test my fitness.