Whether it’s the optimum time of the year, its positioning as the second XC race of the year or the fact that it is held at the much loved Canmore Nordic Center, The Iron Maiden seems to bring all the awesomeness of mountain bike racing to a perfect pinnacle moment. I don’t mean to disparage the other races in the schedule as each one has its own unique flavor and fun, but people really do show up for this race. The local hermetic Canmore racers love to defend their home course, the Calgarians love to congregate close to the mountains to race and Edmontonians treat the race as a road trip to an exotic cycling Mecca. Essentially, everyone has a good reason to sign up and throw down at the Iron Maiden.
The Spin Sisters once again organized and ran the race that used to be called the Iron Lung. Maybe it’s because I grew up in North East Edmonton in the 80’s, but I really fancy the newer name of Iron Maiden as I can just imagine Eddie on a mountain bike holding a bloody scythe scaring the shit out of teenagers around the world. Anyways, The Spin Sisters always have a great grab bag of swag in which the best was their wonderfully colored racing sock, but alas, it was missing from the sign-in table. I lamented my disappointment, and the lovely ladies from the club were equally apologetic to its absence. Apparently, they didn’t have enough stock to supply the entire racing list so they had to withdrawal it from the swag list. What a pity. The grand news to assuage the sock disappointment was the fact that they kept the exact same course from last year which was a brilliant cloverleaf design. It included Soft Yogurt, Devonian Drop, FYI, Drop In, Drop Out and Baby Baluga. You ride back to the Start/Finish area three times during each lap which allows for some great spectator cheering and viewing.
Photo: courtesy of Caitlin Callaghan
So there we were, nearly 300 local and not so local mountain racers (I raced against a 16 year old kid from Saskatoon) in the backdrop of the CNC on a beautiful sunny and warm day. There were plenty of reunions as people started to show up for their pre-race routine. In some cases, like Shantel Koenig to Andrea Bunnin, you ask the often stated, “How was your winter?” during the first climb of the actual race. Bizarrely friendly we mountain biker are sometimes, aren’t we? I saw so many familiar faces from past races, and I had my mental Rolodex flipping around like it was being blown by an industrial fan. “Hey, buddy…..your name is Rob, right?”- “Are you still racing for (insert club here)?”-“Did you buy a fatbike yet” etc.
Photo: courtesy of Caitlin Callaghan
I suppose it was business as usual in the Expert category. Nearly 30 fit skilled cyclists lining up for a painfully fun hour and a half of racing on fast yet technical Canmore trails. The most amazing sight of the weekend, besides Karen Martins doing a ride-by chamois cream reapplication, was the horde of 70 Sport men. It was a majestic sight of which hasn’t been seen in years of local ABA racing. I know very well how competitive that division is as I spent time there fighting it out with other Sport racers for the precious Upgrade Points and receiving derision from the Expert and Elite racers. I also know how many fast riders reside in that category so I knew it was going to be hard to keep ahead of them during the race. To make the race more exciting and simplified, the race organizers decided to start the Elite men, Expert men, Elite women, Sport men, Expert women and Sport women all together in a staggered start. I still don’t know how this affected the other racers due to the course congestion, but fortunately for the Expert men, we didn’t encounter too many lapped racers. I’m sure watching so many racers at once made for some exciting spectating for the crowds.
Mark broke his $350 carbon saddle during the first lap of the race due to his atrocious mounting skills.
To make my race as succinct as possible, I will describe it like this: Clipped into my left pedal at the first try; the race is already a success. Crashed descending the A line on the second lap causing my left brake/shifter lever to point straight up in the air. Not good. I was out of breath, having fun and got elbowed out at the finish line by a boy who probably hasn’t kissed a girl (or boy) yet. Regaled with fellow racers about the glory of finishing the race. I love Canmore.