Broke Toe – BCBR Day 7

Today, in Whistler, was the final day of my 2015 BC Bike Race experience. The stage was 21kms with and decievingly tough 850m of climbing. 850 meters doesn’t seem like a lot when all the other stages had more than 1,500, but the trouble for me, was that a lot of the elevation game came all at once, and the opening climb up the ski hill just got harder as we hit the single track. Easily ridable on day one would be The trail ‘Yummy Numby’ but on day 7, with 300 Km’s of racing in the legs, this super technical climb proved to be very hard. I sort of went backwards today…but that’s okay. DSC 0067 Bringing it home one last time. The XC trails around Whistler are very technical, with lots of roots and large rocks to navigate around / over. I’m pretty sure I broke my pinky toe by slamming it into a rock as I transitioned from pedalling to the ‘attack stance’ of pedals at 3 & 9 o’clock. My foot began to throb and sort of distracted me from the task at hand of finishing up BCBR on a strong note. DSC 0071 Receiving my Finisher’s Belt Buckle from my lovely ladies DSC 0103 Enjoying some post race watermelon (a staple around these parts) with Women’s solo winner Katrina Nash DSC 0101 Filling Scott from Rocky Mountain in on my day. Awesome support from the Rocky crew really made a difference in my race. DSC 0106 Sharing stories with Dwayne, a local Squamish dude who still rips super hard. It was really fun racing with him all week long. This is what MTB Racing is all about. DSC 0114 My second post race staple – potato chips! DSC 0124 One last bike wash. Another routine task of racing BCBR. DSC 0117 Pro Freerider Geoff Gulevich rocked the skinsuit for the final stage. ALN and I thought he looked pretty good in an XC racing kit. I ended up loosing too much time on Day 7 as I was thoroughly punched so I slid down one spot. My final ranking was 12th overall in Solo Men covering ~322kms in a total time of 18:46:12. A super solid result that this working dad can be proud of. I learned a lot about my riding and myself and made some new friends along the way. This is such an awesome event that I encourage anyone who mountain bikes to serious consider entering. DSC 0098 Myla is happy to have her Dad back 🙂 Thank you to Tyler, Scott, & Ben @ Rocky Mountain Bikes for all the great support through the week. It really takes a mental load off by knowing your machine will be taken care of. A last minute cable change was stress free. My Element worked awesome all week. No mechanicals and my bike worked perfectly each stage. Thanks to our team title sponsors, Kokanee and redbike, for helping me get to this great event with super support and encouragement. Brent had the forethought to reach out to Rocky, and it made a big difference in my race. Danielle Baker, racer relations kingpin, keep on being awesome. You always answered my questions as if it was the only one you were asked each day. You made this experience really fun and memorable for me. Thank you. Thank you also goes out to Andreas Hestler, one of the big cheeses at BC Bike Race, for inviting me to participate and share my experience to Pedal Mag’s readers. Dre still shreds as evident by his top 10 result, and it was super fun to ride hard with you each stage. DSC 0090 A happy family at the finish And of course, a huge thank you to my family. To my inlaws who traveled to Vancouver & Whistler to help Liesje take care of our daughter. To Liesje and Myla, you ladies where so supportive. You helped me do my selfish racer thing and celebrated my achievement together as a family. It was really special to me to see you as I finished to get my belt buckle. I love you ladies! Well, that’s it. BCBR 2015 is in the books. What an awesome event, awesome experience, and awesome adventure. Thanks for reading, Mike

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Finally…Bacon! – BCBR Day 6

Squamish, the place near and dear to many MTBer’s hearts, was the setting for Day 6 of the BC Bike Race. A big day of climbing was in store, with over 1900 meters of climbing across the 53 km course.

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Wake up call via a dying chicken call (Photo: BCBR)

It was one last day of sleeping in a tent for me and by this point of the event, many racers have departed for the luxury of a clean bed and flush toilet spoils that a hotel room provides. So my tent mate and I split up (amicably at least) and had a tent each for ourselves. It was so HOT in Squamish, well over 30 degrees, so I’m pretty sure I could have cooked a mean flatbread pizza in my tent. But luckily, once the sun went down, so did the temperature, and I enjoyed one of my best nights sleep soloing in my tent.

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Pretty bikes all in a row

On this queen stage of BC Bike Race, legs really twinge and people who haven’t already, start to crack. I started out way better than yesterday, and my legs felt good again. I maintained my pace and didn’t go too hard at the start because Squamish is a long day in the saddle. Ridding ahead of a few of my competitors I’m trying to best, I ended in a good group (Andreas, Dwayne the local strong guy, and a couple of German riders from the Rocky team) and we clicked away the kilometres until the fun bermy trail called Half Nelson where I was dutifully dropped.

The second half of the race I spent riding on my own and with a few guys that were having really good days as they came up on me and passed even thought they’d had been racing behind me all week. I was feeling pretty good, so these guys were having really good days.

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Another dusty day in the books

Riding solo for a while, I had a chance to really reflect on this experience and re-confirm how much I love to race my MTB. Pushing myself to my limit day after day is such an awesome experience. Sadly this journey is coming to an end but there is always a new adventure around 

My family picked me up after the finish, and I gave the girls a tour of basecamp with all it’s amenities, shower trucks, water station, Bears Den, and the toilets…you know, all the necessities.

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Liesje and Myla visiting my basecamp 

The final day is set for Whistler. We have an awesome condo rented in Creekside, away from all the noise of the village, and with Air Conditioning! It is super hot in Whistler right now, so I feel like a king with my A/C.

Thanks for Reading,

Mike

Longer Than Expected – BCBR Day 4

Hump Day! The forth stage of BCBR, from Sechelt to Lansdale Ferry Terminal, is the middle stage of this week long adventure. Covering 50kms with 1500m of climbing, this new route took a few people by surprise as it took most, including me, longer to complete than expected. Yesterday was considered the ‘hardest’ stage of the race, but today’s could be considered just as tough. Although it was 10kms shorter, it featured more elevation gain.

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This week has been powered by Nutella.

I’ve been snacking and eating a lot – comes with the territory when you’re burning over 2,200 calories per stage. Nutella has been a treat of choice. On the ferry early in the week a German guy asked me if I was European since I was eating Nutella!

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Breakfasts and Suppers have been wonderful too. Check out this menu from Sechelt. The Quinoa and Kale bake was amazing.

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Today’s stage when 90% to plan. I rode the climbs super strong and was ahead of most of the group of dudes that I was riding with for most of the week. At the 1hr mark, I even had the lead group in my sights, about 20 seconds up ahead, but I was wiser to stay on my own pace rather than push hard to join the leaders for a few moments of glorious suffering. My water conservation was just about right, as I just had to ratio my water to for about 20 minutes prior to Aid Station 2. The last push to the 20 minute decent to the finish line, 4 kms of fire road climbing sort of did me in. I just did not consume enough calories in the day, and my empty tank warning light was starting to blink. Instead of railing, hooting, and hollering my way down the fun trail, I hung on for dear life just to finish in one piece.

  
Shredding some Trail 📷: BC Bike Race

I ended up 16th overall and 10th in Solo Men on the day, creeping my way up to 11th in the GC (overall cumulative) results.

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With over 200kms of hard mountain bike racing in the legs, you need to get your recovery in whenever you can. Here I took the opportunity to put my legs up on the ferry. I was able to catch the early earlier ferry, enabling me to hang out with my family for a few extra hours this afternoon / evening in North Van.

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It takes a lot of power to recharge everyone’s connectivity to the internet

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Tomorrow is going to be hard, again. The same amount of climbing as today, but in 10 fewer kilometres on the North Shore. I say bring it on, as it’s another chance for me to crawl my way up the standings.

Thanks for reading,
Mike 

It’s Go Time – #BCBR2015

Well here I am on the eve of my main target for bike racing in 2015, the BC Bike Race. Dubbed as the “Ultimate Singletrack Experience”, BCBR races over 7 days from Cumberland, to Power River, to the Sunshine Coast, North Vancouver, Squamish, & finishes in Whistler. It is an adventure and an experience; a tour of British Columbia’s West Coast – the trails, the towns, the lifestyle.

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My build up to BCBR has been solid and insightful. I trained mostly to and from work, and sprinkled in some Alberta Cup XC races to get some speed and intensity. The first race for me was the Hardcore hosted Royal River Valley Rumble. It was a great way to debut my Provincial Champion jersey by taking the win over a hard charging field. Feels good big time.

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Cool and Collected. 📷: Robert Photography

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The following weekend, hump day of the triple-header of MTB racing in May, was the Devon River Raid XC. With self-inflicted high expectations after my win in the previous weekend, I crateored hard with some bad luck combined with poor judgement. I pushed the boundary on PSI and paid the price with a couple of unfortunate crashes. The body can only take some many shots of adrenalin (post crash) and I bonked my way to an 8th place finish. Far from what i wanted, but that is racing – take the good with the bad and learn from it.

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Hit the Dirt – A couple of times!

There is always next weekend, and the trifecta of races took place in Alberta’s mecca of MTB, Canmore. A double header weekend with the Iron Maiden XC Saturday and the 5hr Organ Grinder on Sunday. Good friends Josh & Stef surprised us with a place to stay in Canmore, so instead of commuting from their house in Calgary for each day, we were sitting pretty in Canmore (literally, look at the view!).

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I dialled in the Organ Donor drop (slaying one MTB demon of mine) and was ready to go for race day.

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Riding the Organ Donor. 📷: Masa Higuchi

But life is a funny thing. I’m a family man now, and super pumped about that. 3 weekends of racing was just too much for this family man, and I really lacked the killer instinct at both days. I lost the sprint for 3rd in the XC to fellow Dad Jamie Lamb, and Sunday I decided to end my race at the 3 of 5 hr mark since it was too nice of a Canmore day to not be hanging out with my girls.

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Charging Soft Yogurt in Canmore. 📷: Ken Anderson

So a much needed mental break for competition leaves me here – well prepared, well tapered, and mentally sharp for BCBR. I’d really be happy to finish in the top 10, and that’s my goal. But more importantly, I really want to enjoy the adventure, live the experience, and enjoy life!

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I’m going to try my best to always be my little girl’s Champion.

 

310kms, 10,000 meters of climbing, 600 racers, 24 different countries represented. BC Bike Race is going to be a fun adventure!

Thanks for Reading,

Mike

Gravel grinding – Ghost of the Gravel recap

A new addition to the ABA racing calendar is always welcome in my books. Especially when it’s a bit different from a standard XC mountain bike, cyclocross, or road event, I’m typically keen to give it a try. Anyone that had the pain and pleasure to experience the Kettle Cross bicycle race will tell you what a unique and great event it was, and it also was able to attract a large number of cyclists not part of the regular licensed racer crowd. This is a win in my opinion, since it gets those who cannot be coaxed to line up to an ABA race to come out and see what it’s all about.

Sadly, the Kettle Cross is on hiatus this year, but the Deadgoats threw in a late edition to the calendar of a comparable flavour – the Ghost of the Gravel road race/fondo. Promising to be something completely different and targeted at racers and non-racers, and also an area I haven’t had a chance to cycle through, I signed up and put some 28mm slicks on my trusty Van Dessel FTB cyclocross bike as suggested by the race organizers to tackle the various types of road surfaces and 1500 m of climbing.

The 144km route was a challenging, yet enjoyable and very scenic mix of rolling pavement and gravel/dirt roads that looped through the foothills northwest of Cochrane via Water Valley and Waiparous Village (Strava route here). 28 mm slicks were perfect even along the wet dirt roads, and none of the climbs were too steep or long for my single ring cyclocross 40/11-32 set up to manage comfortably. Two neutral feedzones were provided at 70 and 94 kms, which were well stocked with basic cyclist-style energy products like Clif bars, bananas, and water or Gatorade. Weather was a mixed bag on the day, starting out on the meagre side with rain and strong winds and audible cursing by some, but there were eventually a few sunny moments in there and luckily some sweet tailwinds most of the way home. I started the day off with a rain jacket, which I was glad I packed, and it was shed and re-donned during the day with the variable weather conditions. I’ve left the rain jacket in the car one too many times, and now don’t mind dealing with the extra pocket bulk in exchange for the chance to stay a bit warmer when the rain hits. The roads were essentially quiet, with the exception of a few over-aggressive redneck Alberta land trains, appropriately named by Katy Curtis, who couldn’t get their ATVs and dirt bikes to the various trailheads along Highway 40 fast enough. I’m sure most of them had never witnessed that many spandex-clad men in all their lives and were concerned if they didn’t drive fast enough away it may affect their masculinity somehow.

Interestingly, although not really pushed heavily by organizers as a race, the event was part of the ABA Road Cup points series. Unfortunately for me, this made the start way too fast on a day that I was more interested in a pleasure cruise, and after a few kms of trying to sit in riding a tempo that clearly wasn’t sustainable for 144km and getting constantly sprayed with water and road grime on this particularly rainy and windy day, Katy and I settled into a much more enjoyable and civilized pace that allowed for conversation and to enjoy the magnificent views. We happened upon more than a few riders along the way who had cracked from starting too hard, and even witnessed one overly dramatic bike toss at a feed zone. There were a fair number of DNFs, which I will tentatively blame on the weather conditions and under-preparedness, but for those that stuck it out, finishing times ranged from 4:30 hours for the Cat 1/2 winner to around 7 hours for some. This made it hard to coordinate any of the podium presentations, and maybe next year it would be worthwhile to reverse the staging and start the slower groups first so the race ends more or less at the same time of the day for everyone.

For a first time event, it was well organized and attended, and I hope the Deadgoats bring it back next year so a few more Edmonton riders make the trip down and try something different out. It’s the kind of riding that we certainly don’t have around here, and an event like this makes it easy to get a flavour and taste for long and epic gravel grinds.

My favourite way to end a big ride day - pizza from Leva

My favourite way to end a big ride day – pizza from Leva

45NRTH Fatbike Triple Crown Round Deux

Well, Round 2 of the 45NRTH Fatbike Triple Crown is in the books! Yowzers, what a week it was leading up to race day. Fatbike mania! Chilly temperatures and a heavy snowfall can’t keep Edmontonian’s off of there fat bikes. IMG 0041

Alfred H. Savage Centre and Fatbikes 

First off, it was great to see a peaking interest from the local media in fat bikes and our race series. Both Mark and I were able to squeeze in a couple of appearances on TV in the week leading up to the race. Now Mark, know as Mr. Hollywood, is a seasoned veteran in front of the camera, as he has appeared on the news many times to talk about cycling in Champion City, but I was able to hold my own and not sound like too much of a nerd on TV.

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Sarns talking about the 45NRTH Fatbike Triple Crown

We got the word out about the series on the CBC evening news sports segment, a Global News lifestyle piece, a blurb on CTV Edmonton Morning Live, and a radio spot on CBC Edmonton AM.

CTV Edmonton Morning Live

Global TV

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Locked and loaded for Round 2

With 10-15cms of fresh snow on the course from the Thursday night and Friday morning snow storm, the original Round 2 course had to be redesigned, as sections were literally untracked, and totally unrideable. Mark and James did an excellent job re-routing the course, and it was still both challenging and fun. The name of the game was definitely risk versus reward. Risk pushing the speed at the reward of speed, however, if you didn’t hold that 5″ wide line in the fresh snow, you’d be dabbing at best or going down at worst. I did a lot of both! My right calf and butt check were screaming by the end of my 2+ hour race. Making the situation worse was the flat light and shadow that covered most of the tight-rope lined single track as I found it tough to see the line to stay on. IMG 0018

Smart took advantage of the on-site fat bike demo from Cranky’s (Photo: Greg Loveday)

Sheldon, who is fatbike-less for now, decided at the last minute to hope on board one of the demos from Cranky’s and ripped  lap in just under 44 minutes to a 3rd place finish in the 1 lap race. IMG 0021

Conditions were tough in spots – faster to run rather than ride (Photo: Greg Loveday)

Off the whistle I’d figured it would be a race from the front, so I was happy to oblige as I set the pace for the 1st half of the lap. Mitchell, who won last round and is the Full Crown overall leader, was glued to my wheel as we motored through the opening lap. With 30 less pounds to haul up each climb, I slowly eased out a gap on each lap on the climbs, only to have Mitchell bring it back on the single track that I struggled to see the line. IMG 0022

Mr. Hollywood loving the conditions… quintessential Fatbiking 

It was an easy course to achieve an ‘out of sight out of mind’ position, and that’s what I did. I rolled into the finish just under 2 hrs and 10 minutes, holding off series leader, and pro motocross rider Mitchell by less than a minute, with my upper body frozen with sweat ice, happy to call it a day. IMG 0019 1

Winner winner chicken dinner

It was really fun to race the race I organize, and I’m excited to see so many people on fat bikes out ripping it up on a cold, but sunny winter day. Thanks to everyone who made it out, braved the conditions, and tested their fat bike handling skills. I really think we’re on to something here, and I can’t wait for the next round on March 15th. For more info about the 45NRTH Fatbike Triple Crown, head on over to redbike.ca.

Cyclocross: A Season of One-Night Stands

The ABA cyclocross season is like a one night stand; It’s hot, sweaty, quick, awkward, bloody fun and a wicked story to tell your friends.

I suppose a few days before the Nationals in Winnipeg and with the majority of the season over; this is a good time to reflect on this year’s cyclocross season.  I’m not going to regale you with my own stories of racing agony, but I’m going to try to explain the general atmosphere of the cyclocross scene.  It’s just not a coalescing of roadies and mountain bikers, it is something quite unique and rather odd.

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(Photo: Mystique photos)

The race schedule is very short and condensed with a race on the Saturday and Sunday of every weekend starting in September and ending in November, so you get to see/race the same people within a very short period of time.  It’s sort of like moving in with someone after a month of dating just because you really want to know if it’s going to work out.  This is a strategy which I normally dissuade people from utilizing as I’ve tried and failed numerous times (I’m a hopeless romantic and a huge John Hughes fan).  You go from, “Who the hell is that guy?” to “Hey Brad, how are your kids doing in math”, quite quickly at the start line.

After having my cross season shorted early last year due to a knee injury, I was looking forward to traveling to Calgary a few times this year to make up for lost time.  So between all the Edmonton and Calgary area races this year, I’ve collected some interesting observations from the cross scene.

First of all, people are here to race.  Hard.  Even though most people spent the summer road or mountain bike racing, this is no half exerted venture.  Most people have cyclocross bikes that are, at most, 2 to 3 years old reaching into the $5000 plus range.  If you have an older bike, like Ryan Hopping and his Salsa Con Crosso, you will receive constant lighthearted derision from other racers.  The days of piecing together a cross bike for racing is over.  If you don’t have a carbon frame, hydraulic disc brakes and carbon wheels with tubular tires, you may as well just show up on a Huffy wearing acid wash jeans.  Yet, despite the haughty bike snobbery, people are genuinely encouraging and inclusive.   They want you to buy a new bike because they just love cyclocross.  With everyone reloaded with new bikes, the racing is intense, short, frustrating and climactic.

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(Photo: Mystique photos)

After race-to-race and weekend-to-weekend, you get to know or get familiar with people who frequent the races.  It’s like homeroom from the beginning of the school year to the end.  You get to recognize where people sit in class, who the class clown is, who the popular kids are, who the wallflowers are, etc.  Because you see the same people in such a short period of time, you can’t count on small talk to get you through the day.  You can’t say, “How are you doing?” or “Nice weather we’re having this fall aren’t we?” when you just saw them yesterday.  Well, you can, but you would be the weirdo everyone makes fun of.  You are basically forced into some kind of meaningful conversation whether you want it or not.  Because of this, you actually get to know people over the course of the racing season or, in some awesome cases, you become friends.  Yes, it has been reported that there is a flutter of new Facebook friending during cross season.  At the beginning of the season, Shantel and I are constantly trying to remind ourselves who is who, but at the end, I’m telling those same people that we should go on an All-Inclusive Mexico vacation in March.

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(Photo: Mystique photos)

These same people are also usually the ones who stay after the race and help out with taking down the racecourse.  We had our redbike race at the beginning of the season so when we started to take the racecourse down, it was mostly volunteers from our own club.  As the season went on and people started to get to know each other, we all started becoming accustomed to helping out with the tear down.  At the Pumphouse race in Calgary, I remember the horde of people who just started to help Synergy with the clean up.  The kids and parents from Juventus,  Marg from ERTC, Kyle from DeadGoat and others all stuck around and helped out Marcus with pulling up the stakes and collecting the tape.  Even my buddies from Pedalhead supervised the clean up from their cool down routine on their trainers.  It takes a village to raise a child as they say.
Now, you would think that the frequent cross racing would create animosity, enmity and segregation amongst the racers, and it kinda does, but just during the race.  Once it’s over, there is this sense of admiration for the other racers because they just went through the same hell you just did.  The acknowledgment of your similar achievement kind of creates a bizarre unity with racers, and with the repeated frequency of cross racing, it magnifies the phenomenon.   While I’m sure some people just straight up hate me and my racing, I’d like to think the feeling is mutual.  Right after the race, we all shake hands (or in some cases, uncomfortably side hug or gymnastic hug each other) and share stories of the race.  It’s like the old cartoon of Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog.  They are good buddies and punch in their timecards and then once the whistle blows, Sam proceeds to beat the shit out of Ralph.  At the end of the day, they punch out and become friends again.

By the end of the cross season, you know oddities about people like: Andre likes to collect ceramic unicorns, Marcus has an amazing beard grooming routine involving a picture of Prince, Janet can do a wicked “Carlton” dance, Shantel can put 8 pickles in her mouth at one time, Stu has a tattoo of PeeWee Herman covering his back, Katie purposely unzips her jersey for a certain someone, Kyle’s nickname of “Chocolate Rocket” has nothing to do with his bike racing, Pepper’s real name is Petulia, the entire Juventus junior squad’s collective age is still less than Peter Lawrence’s and Shawn Bunnin is a foot model in Japan.

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Cyclocross: Bringing strangers together to race so they can ignore each other, then eventually become friends since 1902.