2009/05/25

Tremblant XC report



Well, the first race is in the bag. I wasn't sure what to expect as my training and preparation had been broken up leading to now. I had a good base done during winter, a nice start to the build-up earlier but then training went down the drain for a few weeks. I got back to do some trainings about two weeks ago but I really lost some ground and last week's ride at the Kingdom Trails left me without too much hope for a good result. I wasn't that slow but I certainly wasn't fast, I really lacked top-end power and speed, as if my Turbo never kicked in. Add that the ride in Vermont was my only ride on trails prior to the race and they weren't very difficult trails either, nothing technical, no long climbs, no difficult sections and you gotta wonder how I would be able to simply follow the usually fast fields of the Quebec Cup races... From what I remembered, the Tremblant course wasn't going to help my case with many technical downhills, lots of bumpy rocky and root filled sections, I'm not a great descender...

But, the best training for racing is to actually race so I went to the Tremblant Quebec Cup with that in mind, get a good training at race pace in a C-priority race, check where I stand, what to work on and get a feel for riding in a pack. So I lined up with not much sleep, legs still feeling a bit heavy from the week's trainings, chest feeling a bit nervous and hoped for the best...

I got a bit late to the start line for the 3 laps race so my plan to start from the second row was a no go, I was pretty much in the back of a forty something field, saw some familiar faces and asses and before I knew it, we were racing!

The starting grid is right on a slight uphill and from there, you climb for a while with some harder pitches here and there on a wide dirt smooth section. I passed a few there until we turned right in the woods on some nice singletrack, still uphill, but with more twists, rocks and roots. I surprised myself feeling pretty good and not going too deep into the red zone. Positions changed there since many got stuck in big rocks or roots but we were all still close together. I felt realllllly rusty and not confident in technical parts but I still managed to keep going, handling slow tricky parts pretty well, zig-zagging my way up rocky and rooty parts. So far so good.

The first half of the course is going mostly up, then it's some technical up and down then it's going all down fast until we get out of the woods onto a paved flatish section that leads back to the village we climb through and then to the finish area. The down section was what slowed me down all day long. I didn't feel in control enough and you know when you just let go and it all flows down well? That didn't happen for me. So I got passed by many there as I was sketchy, going slow and too carefully... Once out of the woods, I was big gearing it all the way to the start, hoping to get some time back.

The second lap was more of the same, except that we were all further apart. I passed riders on uphills, shuffling positions in the twisty up and downs and again losing ground on the way down. The difference from the first lap is that in the second half of the lap, I made some stupid errors and bad decisions. I first crashed on a slick flat rock, quickly going down on my left knee and thigh, got passed in the process, then moments later in the spur of the moment, I opted to take the slower option of two in a descent (you could either slowly walk down some stairs or go much quicker on the bike down a steep wooden structure that wasn't even hard to do), got passed again by a few. Then I crashed again on a high speed descent when I sketchily jumped over a dip but landed in a soft loose patch, my front tire slipped out, too close to the edge of the trail, hitting my right knee on the ground... Gotta focus back now, I'm riding like a roadie! Again, I tried to go as fast as possible out of the woods and passed some riders back on the village uphills and tried to get myself together for the last lap.

Again, I'm re-passing some on the long uphill first section but this time, I can see people are getting more tired and not climbing as smoothly, their energy levels are getting low. I usually get faster after an hour so it was the time to use that in my favor and use my strengths while I can, I don't need to conserve too much energy and my legs are feeling good. I'm turning the screws deeper and for the last lap, I dropped the riders I passed for good, climbing well and smoothly. I was still not too quick on downhills and overly careful but I was going better than the previous lap for sure and nobody came back on me on the descents. After cautiously but surely going down the long descent that was giving me the most trouble, I got out of the woods with an official shouting time splits and encouragments. "Go! You're 10 seconds back!" So I put the gas on, passed someone from another category, two girls, caught and passed the 10 seconds guy, passed others through the village although I'm not sure if they were in my race or not (it still felt good) and hammered through the village to cross the line...

I ended up in 34th place out of 41 starters, two guys didn't finish... I thought I'd be a bit higher and I'm not too pleased with the result but I think I should be happy about the race anyway, it gave me good indications that my legs and heart are getting good but that I still have work to do if I want to be higher up. My main problem is obviously the technical downhills. It's never been my strength but it's something I'll need to work on. It's kind of hard to work on that living in the middle of a city with no real mountain bike terrain to train on around but I'll have to maximize the few and far between chances I'll have to hone my skills. I'm also thinking that this was probably the course that would show that weakness the most, from what I can remember, this is the course that my lack of descending skills translates into lost time the most, I knew that before the start. I also knew before the start that with my on-and-off training now aiming to be at my peak in July, I wouldn't be at my best. For a first race, a training race on heavy legs and not enough sleep during the week, I'm happy about how I raced anyway, I was much more aggressive than I was last year, I'm getting stronger and now know where I stand. I'm getting better at racing others, reading when they're in difficulty, figuring out when to attack, and the first race nervousness is now dealt with. I hadn't set myself precise goals but I did what I wanted: I gave it a good go, got a good training and most importantly, had lots of fun.

I should have some pictures eventually, VVM president and training partner was there with his camera, a few other friends came to support me and enjoy some racing on a beautiful day.

The next planned race is pretty far, July only so that gives me over a month to keep working on my skills and improve my motor, which should get better if I can keep training consistantly and with one week of riding in the Pyrénées to come, it looks like my main concern should be the technical skills...

1 comment:

Pete said...

nice work! in the immortal words of biggie smalls: "if you don't know, now you know..."