Saturday, June 13, 2009

Country Roads, Take Me Home...

Having just spent the week at the factory, checking samples, approving colors and generally being a thorn in people's sides, I'm relaxing in the country at my parent's place. The pace is slow, the weather is fine, and I've got a bike with me. So why not go 'splore the backwoods? Loaded up my Ipod, pumped up the knobbies, and off I went.

Don't get roads like THIS in Vancouver...

With a little Townes Van Zandt playing, I went, over hill and dale. Makes me wonder: why would anyone ride a proper road bike around here? There are scads of them around, "big city folk", who come down to the Townships to pose down in their finest lycra, wailing around in a peloton like it's a Tuesday night crit. People. This is the Townships. Chill out. I prefer a more sedate tour on my 'cross bike, and should I see some old dirt lane through a field, I'll head down it just to see where it goes. Like this. It lead nowhere... But at least I rode through cow shit, so got that going for me...

I soon ran out of pavement, and the best part of the ride started. You see, around here the "dirt" roads get so hammered that you may as well be on ashphalt. The stuff is rock hard. Proof? I was holding 32km/h with 35c knobbies without effort. And if you think that's nothing, CLEARLY you have no idea what kind of fitness it takes to be a product manager.

Ok. So I was breathing a little bit hard. But hey, that was uphill. All this dirt road riding has kinda gotten me somewhat interested in giving the Trans Iowa a go. What is the TI? Well, glad you asked. Straight from their site:

The technical hard data on this event barely scratches the surface of what takes place out there during a Trans Iowa, but it is important to realize what the challenge is that is faced by anyone that pulls up behind “The Dirty Blue Box” at 4am on Saturday morning. Trans Iowa V5 was a 314 mile long modified loop course run out of and back in to Williamsburg, Iowa. Along the way each rider had to navigate themselves using cue cards provided at the start and at each checkpoint for the following sector of the loop. No one knew where they were going until the evening before when they received the cues for the first 40 miles in to check point #1 at Washington, Iowa.The course must be completed within 34 hours and each checkpoint has time cutoffs. Riders often do not have time for anything other than a quick stop to refuel or exchange clothing layers. Checkpoints are at convenience stores, and convenience stores are on the route, but the riders must use their own judgment to resupply or not. No services are supplied by the race promoters.

The roads are mostly crushed limestone and are dotted with sections called “B-Maintenance” roads that are usually nothing more than a dirt slot graded into Iowa’s rich soil. Hills and flats intermix to create a mosaic of pain that many riders find not only a great challenge, but a surprising and intoxicating mix.

Last year's winner took 25hrs to complete the course. DFL? 33:45. Ouch. Ok, maybe we just need a shortened version here, call it the Trans Townships.

Pics from TI 2007: HERE

Anyhow, I digress. So I keep riding past all the old haunts.

Ye Olde Swimming Hole

Yes, Knowlton is old. "Died 1880, aged 60"

Clean livin'

So 40km later, a little thirsty, a little tired, and a little covered in dust and cow shit, I end my cross country adventure for today. With any luck, more tomorrow.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Triple Crown: Done and Done

Ouch. Good times.

We pulled it off on Sunday. Rolled into ParkGate with Vinnie and Mike from Whistler, to discover a crowd 40 deep for the ride. Awesome! Was not expecting THAT kind of turnout. We obviously had Spicer, but also local tough guys Andrew Shandro, Andreas Hestler and Dave Norona. Joining us were a bunch of vets who tore our legs off all day and led the charge on hardtails, and crushed the racer-boi types. Unreal. We also had industry hacks such as Andrew from Brodie Bikes, Andrew and Johnny from Orange Sport, Ron from The Cove and yours truly.

After a little coffee and good cheer, we rolled out at 9 am sharp at a, shall we say, "aggressive" pace, up Old Buck. While the big engines were pulling hard at the front, the rest of us tried to settle into a comfortable pace and hang on. It was amazing to get the testosterone going, and wound up riding Seymour twice and fast as usual: we were all railing each others lines, trying to stay ahead of the next guy, and were done before we knew on, and on our way to Grouse.

We regrouped at the Lynn Valley general store, and picked up a few stragglers (Steve from NRG, etc) and grabbed some refreshments. From their, headed up King of the Shore trails where we suffered our first mechanicals: 1 sheared derailleur hanger, and Vinnie blew up his freehub body.

Lynn Valley Store + Bike Dorks

Out of options, I rode down to Bruce's with Vinnie, in an attempt to pick up a spare wheel and keep riding, but no dice. We called him a cab back to Seymour, and hoped he could catch us later. Now I had to get back to the pack...

I charged up Fromme as best I could, and wound up burying myself. Each pack I passed, I would gasp through chapped lips:

"Gaaahhh.... huuhhh... anyone see.... uuurrrggg... a group of xc dorks???"

Inevitably, the answer would always come back:

"Ohh yeeaahhh. They're WAY up there."

View from Grouse

So up I went, past 7th Switchback, praying I would catch them around ever corner, and finally found Billy with a flat near the very top of the climb. Success. Now if I could only stop shaking, things would be ok. Get some food. Drink something. High point: 1200m.

We regrouped and had a bit of lunch (which I almost barfed up when I hiccupped...) and headed down the most sustained fall line trail on the Shore: Jet Boy / Jet Girl. It just goes and goes and goes. Holy arm pump.

Story behind the Jet Engine

After we worked our way down, we regrouped once again with all the fast guys, grabbed some fresh drinks and Vinnie, and wound our way up through the British Properties, to the Brothers Creek climb, the last serious challenge of the day. And man, was it rough. 35 mins of chicken heads and baby heads, plus skidder roads. Did I mention we were punched at this point? We picked up Leslie Tomlinson and Elladee Brown in the woods, and they joined us for the final push. We eventually hit snow, and I think it was a blessing in disguise, since we had to get off and hike-a-bike the last little bit, giving chapped butts a break.

Vinnie in the snow

Down we went, ripping Big Eye and The Fleshy Wound, to the "last" trail of the day, and caught up with what was left of the group. From 40, down to about 15.

For whatever reason, Spicer and Flex thought it would be a good idea to add one more little trail to the mix, so a vote went out, and everyone headed for the bar except the two mentioned above, Vinnie and Mike the Whistlerites, and myself. We had another 35 mins of riding... A 15 min traverse along Cypress to the access road, down a few trails, then Urban Assault to Park Royal. That's it. No more. Finished. Burgers and beers all around.

Thanks to Dave Norona for this video of the event...

Some stats:

-7.5 hrs
-2800m climbing (that's 9240 feet for the Yanks)
-More shore singletrack than you could ever know what to do with
-3 flats
-1 hanger
-1 freehub body
-6 liters of water
-2 Gatorades