Ladies and Gentlemen, I have an important announcement to make: I have retired from bike racing for the year 2014.
Unlike following in the footsteps of Brett Favre, Michael Jordan, ACDC and Lance Armstrong, I am willing to walk away whilst on top. So with my second place result, finishing behind my teammate and illustrious Kokanee Redbike team manager, Mike Sarnecki, I think it’s best for me to stop racing and savor this victory for the rest of 2014.
The Parka is making a fashion comeback at bike races
This past weekend was the first of many ABA sanctioned races in 2014: The Blizzard Race in Devon, Alberta, which for those of you not familiar, is just south of Edmonton and is also known as BikeTown Alberta. The town of Devon worked very diligently to deservedly appropriate that title from other municipalities as they have provided the province with some important bicycle related facilities and events; they have built an envious bike skills park, dirt jump and pump track, flowing singletrack in their river valley and have hosted many cycling races, most notably The Tour of Alberta.
Having a winter cycling race is ambitious and precarious due to central Alberta’s fluctuating weather and temperature, but I am so glad someone is willing to give it a go, because as someone who winter rides assiduously, I would like to frolic in the snow while racing. So, when the Devon Bike Association decided to think there was enough people like me to invest in creating a winter bike race and with the nascent popularity of Fatbikes, it was perfect timing to put on a winter cycling race.
With February 22 looming, the weather on the day of the race was becoming more and more clear, and of course, it was projected to hit the deep freeze of minus 25 Celsius. We all had a feeling of consternation towards this news as the week leading up to the race was hovering at around minus 5, but I suppose it could have been minus 35; we often have to look at things half full as cyclists. I was hoping to race with my normal cycling shoes as the Wolvhammers are designed to keep the feet warm, but they are heavy and ponderous. I bought thicker Pearl Izumi winter booties at redbike specifically for the race, but I figure getting frostbite wasn’t worth the glory of victory so I reluctantly went for the fat boots. My next angstful decision was whether to put the BarMitts on or just go with the AME heated grips. I didn’t want to put the BarMitts on because it didn’t make my bike look “racy” for the race, and yes, I know how ridiculously superficial that sounds, but it’s the truth. Being the classic narcissist, I went without it because I wanted to look fast, accepting the risk of freezing my fingers, at least only my posterior side.
Sarns leading the LeMans start
The layering of clothing is the next ponderous event. It’s going to be coldish outside, but I am racing so my body temperature is going to be running high. This is where being an experienced cold weather cyclists was beneficial, as I knew which part of my body gets hot and cold while riding. My upper body usually gets really hot, for the exception of my belly, which considering it’s surrounded by my childhood fat, gets unusually cold, so I just wore my long sleeve Kokanee redbike winter jacket with a base later. But, my arms get cold, so I like to put on my arm warmers over my base layer which was a long sleeve merino wool. With a fleecy bib shorts, leg warmers, wool socks, winter tights and finally, baggy shorts, my bottom layers were set.
With a warm up lap in the books where I hilariously saw Trevor Pombert fall into the snow on the only descend of the race, I was corralled up with the other racers in the Fatbike category for the start was a LeMans start. This is where I announced, “As the intergalactic winter interclub president of the known universe, I get to my bike first”. Obviously, Pepper and Mike didn’t hear that declaration as they quickly pushed me aside as the whistle blew. I was able to lumber to my bike, but not after I found myself behind 7 people. Curse my fat short thighs!!! I was behind Justin, Pepper and Gary, but I quickly saw that Mike and Neil were distancing themselves from our chase group. There wasn’t much or any room to pass so I was relegated to stay on Gary’s wheel and conserve energy. The course Stu designed was just brilliant as it was flowing, fast and packed down so I was already having fun racing. After a Pepper fall (extremely rare) in one of the corners, Justin, Gary and I continued on to the open road section where I was able to pass Justin and Gary. As my carbon BearGrease weighed about 10 pounds less than both of their bikes and Justin’s bike was shod with those ghastly Vee Rubber tires, it was something that I was hoping I was able to do.
Gary (Hardcore) & Turkington (Redbike) navigating the LeMans start
Eventually, I was able to bridge up to Mike and Neil on the second lap. I know we were on Fatbikes, but we were moving at a quick pace. On the open road section, Mike and I were able to pass Neil and take a pull as Neil was leading the whole race to that point. On the third lap, we started to catch up to the 4 lap Fatbikers; this is where the race started to get really adventurous, as it was tricky to pass people. I tried to sound friendly and casual about letting them know that we wanted to pass by, but I suspect that my levity wasn’t translated well. I “accidently” pushed Michelle over into the snow while I passed her, then I heard Neil yell that I was a “c***”, but then we started to laugh. My contrition was quickly dismissed by the time we caught up to Mike as he was caught behind racers up ahead. I thought Neil and I were going to be able to follow Mike’s wheel for a lap, but that didn’t happen as Mike just dropped us when he cleared the slower racer.
Winner of the Blizzard Bike Race receives a Large Blizzard from DQ!
By the time Neil and I were in the last lap, we knew we were in the clear so we just raced to the finish and crossed the line close enough to get the same time. This may be the last time I finish on the podium this year, unless the Expert field this year is poorly contested, so I’m going to enjoy it, especially since it was with two good friends.
Sarns repeat his reward
Mike & Mark – Fatbike Selfie