Monday, July 07, 2008

BC Bike Race Stage 6 - Carnage in Squamish

Some of the best 1-track I have ever ridden lives in Squamish, BC Canada. It is also some of the most demanding, well at least for someone of my riding skills. For these reasons I knew day 6 of the BC Bike Race would be challenging. It would combine the wicked courses of the Gear Jammer and Test of Metal into one brutal course.

I guess someone is a tuff guy this morning

Guess who doesn't belong in this picture (I will give you a hint...the goofy one in the white glasses) - from l to r - Me, The Andy Express, Nat Ross and Katie Compton.

Personally my mental fortitude was a bit damaged from Stage 5, but I had a good feeling about the Squamish stage as I had ridden the course several times and Andy and I had spent 3 solid days riding in Squamish over Memorial Day weekend. The stage started with another road climb and I did my best to hang with the lead group, but my legs were simply not there. Andy had to settle back with me as we took our spot in the second group of riders. It sucks to ride back in this group when you know you have the ability to ride faster. Unfortunately after 5 days of riding the chicken legs were sucking for air, as were my lungs. I was actually feeling pretty good on my descending skills until we hit a new section of Psuedo Tsuga trail I had never rode. It was extremely steep, rooted and loose. The gal rider in front of me railed the section and I was trying to follow her line, but somewhere in the midst I fell off line and hit a hole. This sent me flying in my bars and then over them. I did a pretty good job of knocking myself silly, but I did an even better job of knocking the crap out of my bike. I managed to turn the handlebars around twice, ripping my front hydraulic brake line. AWESOME! No front brakes and the hardest descents still to come.

I believe that hose should be connected to my front brake

After a quick fix we were back on our way. The infamous nine mile hill and lava flow climb greeted us next. This beauty is a real bitch when you are fresh, but when you are tired it is down right evil. Thankfully I was able to muster some energy and I climb fairly respectively. Once we hit the rip we were flying. Trying to keep in mind I only had a rear brake. The rip consists of some great open double track descending with a few rock gardens thrown in for good measure. It was in one of these gardens that a rock flew up into my rear derailluer bending my chain and breaking a spoke on my rear wheel. Again - AWESOME! Our only course of action was to remove 7+ links from my chain, which essentially converted me to a 3 speed bike. The remainder of the ride was a good lesson in patience. I spent the better part of the Plunge running and coasting my bike. The unbelievable part was we were passing teams in this section. Riders were so sketched by the Plunges obstacles I was able to run by them.

That extra spoke was only going to slow me down!

We finished the day with a romp through Crumpit Woods and then I received a push from Andy for the remainder of the road/trail section into the finish line.

Finishing the marathon stage

Stage 6 65km - 5:08:48 49th place - OUCH!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Stage 5 65km - The Wheels have come off the A-Train

Nothing happened today unless you count me riding my bike like a little boy, wrecking several times, pushing my bike and crying as something happening.

Check in before the start of the stage 5 - the pain cave

Oblivious to the pain that awaits

The pros making it look easy

Trying to emulate...not sure it's working.

Today I spent the better part of the almost 5 hours of riding in the pain cave. Every once in awhile I would poke me head out and enjoy a few brief moments of riding, but for the most part I laid in the fetal position, sucking my thumb.

It was one of the hardest days I have ever had on the bike. I guess the previous days hammerfest destroyed me. Not only had my wheels come off, but this sucker was on blocks with no engine either.

Stage 5 65km - 4:55:46 36th place

Heading to another ferry - Reservoir Dogs style with Grande Americano's (in a public display of humiliation for my riding I wasn't allowed to walk with the others)

Image links
Buffed out 1-track
More 1-track
It kept coming

BC Bike Race Stage 4 - Climb, Flat, Hammer, Blow Up

A 4:30am wake up call greeted us this morning as we would need to take two ferries this morning to get to the race start in Earls Cove. The geography of British Columbia is amazingly beautiful, but does prove a bit of a logistic inconvenience for the racers.

The support wagon

Catching a few zzzz's on the ferry ride

The Andy Express prior to stage 4 - "All Aboard"
Let's get it on!

Similar to many ferry terminals in Washington once off the boat the only way to go is up. An up is what greeted us. The start was a vertical road climb that dumped us into double track fire road climbing. Unfortunately when the fire roads started my legs didn't. They definitely lacked the spunkiness of the previous day and I was hoping they would warm up after 15km. The first single track descent was beautiful, but I was having difficulty finding a smooth line. The less attractive line was bumpier and I had two instances where my chain was jumping off the big ring. It didn't cause huge time stops, but it definitely took me out of my rhythm. The misfortunes didn't stop with the chain jumps as I flatted my rear tire coming out of a stream crossing. After a quick assessment of the damages Andy sprang into action and we fixed the flat. Although the flat only took 5-7 minutes to fix it occurred at a section that teams were carrying huge momentum and the continuous stream of riders passing us was a bit difficult for the PMA (positive mental attitude).

Once on the trail again I purchased a one-way ticket on the Andy Express and over the next 60 minutes we would drop the hammer and pass close to 30 teams. Ultimately I would pay the price and the little chicken legs blew up with around 10k to go. There was no more HP to lay down and I went into survival mode merely trying to stay upright for the final 1-track section. At 2k from the finish line I rounded a right corner and did not see the large tree hanging over the trail. The tree hit me square on the helmet and I hit the ground seeing stars. After a quick assessment of the noggin, helmet and balance I hobbled the remaining K's to the finish line.

Knuckles - eat that Obama!

Hmmm, looks like someone is cranky!

Stage 4 - 60k 4:17:20 33rd place

Image links
Beautiful BC
Aerial view of the start
Riding BC Style

Saturday, July 05, 2008

BC Bike Race Stage 3 - Firing on all Eight

Stage three marked a personal highlight in the race. It was the first time I felt I was riding to my ability, actually providing some value to our team and allowing Andy to ride at a level that pushed him a little (emphasis on "a little").

Andy hanging with Kelli Emmett before the stage start (not really but we can dream).

Stage 3 start

The stage started with a road ride out of Port Alberni and then squeezed us into a single track climb. The climb was slow as we funneled through the single track. The trail opened up into a fireroad climb and it was great to feel the diesel pistons powering up the hill. We climbed well and were able to pass several teams in our divisions. It was great to be climbing with such strong teams as Cannondale-Mona Vie (mixed team) and Kelli Emmett from team Giant (who was a great rider to draft behind - scroll down). The climb leveled out and we started a rippin 5km fireroad descent were we worked with Robin and Jay from Arrowsmith Bikes to pass half a dozen teams (Robin is a part owner in Arrowsmith Bike Shop and him and Jay are extremely impressive riders. Robin won the Test of Metal in 2007 and Jay won in 2008 finish one spot ahead of Andy - I definitely felt honored to be riding with such crazy strong bikers).

The stage turned interesting with a waist deep river crossing. I was again lucky enough to be behind Kelli and witness her beautiful single speed tattoo. We passed through the first aid station and rode the next 25km with Gary and Todd from Helly Hansen. They were riding extremely strong as well in the previous two stages and I knew if I was able to ride with them things were going well.

The last 10km would finally include some of the single track that was promised in the BC Bike Race. I was a bit hammered from the long day of riding and Gary and Todd dropped us during this section. Andy being the ultra smooth technical rider I merely tried to follow his line. Easier said than done. We finished strong and by far the best stage of the race.

Stage 3 finish - huge smile!!!

Andy and Gary discussing the beautiful singletrack finish

Stage 3 80km - 23rd place 4:33:53

BC Bike Race Stage 2 - A Boy among Giants

Stage two would be our longest day of the BC Bike race. 128km of mostly fire roads that lead us from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni. The course would suit my riding style much better than the rooted technical sections that would be forthcoming in the stages ahead. I would be able to tap out a nice cadence in a group pack and settle in for a long day in the saddle.

A quick prayer to the leg gods before stage two, "please, please provide me with some legs to power me over the next 128k"


Jay and Robbin throwing bike signs...must be a Naniamo thing.

Start of stage two

The stage started with a controlled 10km road start. The pack riding was definitely unsettling for some mountain bikers, but I felt comfortable in the large fat tire peloton. Once off the asphalt we hit the fireroad which would be our companion for the next 100km. We settled into a small group of 20 riders that worked well together and we eventually gapped up to the lead group of 50 riders that contained all the heads of state. It was at this point I realized the magnitude of the riders in this race.

Barry Wicks - Kona Factory rider, XC, Cross and STXC winner.
Chris Eatough - 7-time 24 hour world champion
Seamus McGrath - 2008 Canadian XC MTB Bejing Olympics Team
Tinker Juarez - 24 hour world champion
Jeff Shalk - Trek factory rider and 2007 BC Bike Race champion.
Manny Prado
Andreas Hestler
Max Plaxton
Nat Ross
Kellie Emmett
Wendy Simms - Kona factory rider, Trans-rockies winner, Canadian National cyclocross champion.
Katie Compton - USA Cyclocross champion, 2007 silver medal world cyclocross championships.

The huge peloton would continue to roll through the undulating fireroads for the next 40km. The riding was fairly uneventful except for two moments of sheer panic and excitement. Incident one would occur with a gradual descent followed by a right turn leading over a bridge. The corner was a bit loose causing some handling problems. In addition, the bridge was narrower than the road which causes a squeezing of the group. Similar to stage one two riders went down hard within a few feet of me. Again, bike parts, lycra, legs and arms went flying by my head. Both riders would be OK and they would eventually catch back up to the group.

The second incident was one of the most spectacular events I have ever witnessed and it defied physics (and common sense). An old white school bus approached the peloton from the right side of a "y" in the road. As we approached from the left side, the driver was hoping to jump in front of the bikers. He gunned the gas, but probably didn't realize the speed we were going. At the last moment, realizing he was not going to beat us to the "Y" he slammed on the brakes bringing the bus to a sliding stop. Unfazed, the driver hammered the gas again and slid in behind the peloton, honking and trying to get around the group on the left side. After several attempts and obvious frustration the driver "dropped the hammer" threw the left side tires into the ditch and "rallied" the 28' bus around the bikers. The bus was half on the road, half on the ditch, tearing off branches of trees and pitching the vehicle sideways going no less than 50mph. Once clear of the bikers he lurched the bus back onto the fireroad, fishtailing and leaving the group of riders in a sense of awe and lucky to be alive. You have to love the Canadian backcountry life on the island.

The first aid station would break up the lead peloton as we were forced to walk our bikes through a check-in station. The lead riders were able to get through the bottleneck quicker and back on their bikes. We hurried as quickly as possible, but the separation was done and the remaining 70k would be long, lonely and hot. For the next three hours Andy would do 99% of the work while I would do my best to latch on to his slipstream and not completely unravel. I managed to limit the damage until the final 5-7k. It was brutally hot, I was toast and went into survival mode. We finally arrived in Port Alberni and compared to yesterday's episodes of blowing chunks we managed to make up lost time.

Stage 2 - 128km 5:03:53 - 25th place

Photo links:
Heading out on a 128km day
Heat taking it toll!
Gary and Todd from Helly Hansen