In the world of cycling, there is no other race that exemplifies suffering than the Paris-Roubaix classic that occurs every year mid-April due to the punishing cobblestone sections of the race. This may sound far reaching, but I seemed to have imbued some of the feelings the racers must have felt during the Hell of the North by deciding to race the KettleCross at the beginning of September at the Blackfoot recreational area.
Sarns Preaching to Schooler the Benefits of a Single Ring (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
It’s a pretty simple concept: ride whatever bike you want 74km, 37km or 15 kms as fast as you can whichever way you can. The general consensus is that cyclocross bikes are the fastest bikes, but there is a large caveat with that choice as it¹s also the most punishing bike to ride physically and mentally as the course is undulating and relentlessly rough. Fast or comfortable is the contemplation on everyone¹s mind coming into the race.
Something was Funny at the Start (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
The Kokanee Redbike race team fully formed for this race as Mike, Shantel, Sheldon, Josh and I entered into the team category as well as our respective individual categories. I was very excited to race as I missed the Kettlecross last year due to my Whistler Grand Fondo/downhill trip, so with my naïve anticipation I lined up at the start line with the usual Edmonton racers. It was interesting to notice the relaxed, humorous atmosphere despite the horror stories of the race circulating from last year, but I suppose that was the calm before the storm. With cool fall temperatures, the race started with a panicked pace which I was startled with since it¹s such a long race, I thought the start would be more of a medium endurance pace. The next thing I knew there were crashes all around me as people were positioning themselves or were unsure how deep the mud puddles went; they were surprisingly deep. I remember yelling at Chris Hubick that the pace was ridiculously fast for an 80 km race and he responded by a sullen look of despair.
Mark & Josh Pushed Each Other All Day (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
After the initial melee, I found myself behind Chantel Widney and Pepper trying to hold on to the second group of racers as the lead group quickly separately themselves due to the pull of Aaron Schooler. I just had to hold the pace and see who will drop out of the group, and soon enough, Pepper, Chantel and I started to pass people who couldn¹t hold the pace, but at one of the wooden bridges, Pepper crashed into Jason Redfern. Mike B and I slowed down to see if she and Jason were seriously hurt. Fortunately, we heard a light gasping from Pepper sounding like ³I¹m okay² so we raced on. Soon enough, a four person group formed including me, Mike B, Rhett and my teammate, Josh. Mike B was brilliant in pulling the entire group for the entire second half of the first lap, but no good deed goes unpunished as he faded during the first part of the second lap.
Holding Off a Hard-Charging Chantel Whitney (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
For a while, Josh and I rode together taking turns pulling where we caught up to a crashed Robin Bailey, then promptly got dropped by him as he gathered his senses. As Josh and I approached the 60km mark, I started to feel horrible in every sense. My left hand started to burn, my waterbottle cage started to rattle loose, my stomach started to ache and my vision started to blur due to the inability to eat food and the redundancy of the errain. Basically, I started to bonk, crash, hit the wall. Josh sensed that and started to pull hard, and all I could do is just hold on to his wheel; a mantra that every cyclist have said over and over again, but at that time, it was survival as if I lost it, I may have fallen over and died in the woods.
Mike in the Front of the Lead Group at the End of Lap 1 (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
Nearing the 75km mark, I started to feel better and regain my senses to a certain degree where I felt I could take the pressure off of Josh. So I started off my saddle and pushed it home where Josh and I finished 13th and 14th overall. The consequences of the races were rather immediate; my back was so sore and stiff that I was not able to flex forward to take off my shoes, there was a blister the size of a toonie on my left hand and I had the most erosive saddle sore in the history of cycling. I can¹t wait till next year.
Jung Pushed to the Finish (Photo Credit: Chris Kolaczan)
Overall, our Kokanee Redbike team placed second in the team standing and I felt like Tom Boonen.