Hors-Québec racing

My 2009 race season stopped in early October after getting that famous flu everyone talks about these days, and after the recovery and a few weeks of lazyness, I started to work a bit but in preperation for the 2010 season. So I guess I could say I'm not at my best or fastest these days.

But on the other hand, I had heard great things about the cyclocross races organized by the Ottawa Bicycle Club. So even though I had called my season over, a friend sent me the link to their race schedule and l started to think about doing their last race of the year, just one more for fun. So after a drive to the Ottawa area saturday, I woke up early sunday morning and headed to Mooney's Bay where the race was about to go, my first race outside of Québec.

One of the climbs where I gained the most time.

The terrain has some hills, small ones for mountain bike or road bike standards, but good ones for a cross course. The area has a few small wooden areas and a big beach, the rest is mostly grass. To my surprise, the beach wasn't used at all but they still designed a fun yet challenging (physically, not technically) course.

This is as close as we would get from the beach.

The start was uphill, then twisted back and forth before a medium climb brought us to a steepish off-camber section that dips downhill for a sharp left, then a single barrier, a 180° and a long straight that lead us to the hardest part.

Catching my breath before the run-up.

A long grass climb was quite steep, over 20% and the organizers put a barrier right when it starts. For some reason, hopping barriers is not allowed in their races (not that I would have been able to anyway) so the climb was actually a run-up.

That's the longest run of my season.

At the top, we turned back...

And headed down with a few sharp corners to keep it fun.

Then a long flat section mostly on wet/slow grass, a few twists and a far apart double barrier (again, no hopping). We then had more twists, a long straight with an off-camber first half, through a parking, up a grassy climb, back down with some corners, through the parking again with the wind in our back and then in a corkscrew. We then crossed a baseball field, a little dip down and back up the starting straight.

The start/finish climb, another place to gain time.

It was cold but still over the freezing point so the grass was not rock hard but still hard enough to shake our bodies for 60 minutes. At the same time, it was slow on the flat sections that were damped. There was some mud but it wasn't deep and actually providing a nice grip in corners. I did a few practice laps before the first race started, then rode around to stay warm and only a few minutes before the A race, my fan club showed up. I knew my parents would come but they had brought along my two nephews and their mother who all live nearby. Also there was an old friend of mine who lives in the region as well. Riding only for fun, I wasn't too stressed but I had to cut the conversation short when I noticed everyone was lined up and ready to race... so I started from the back.

With the three guys I fought the most.

I started slowly on purpose, not wanting to ask too much from my now untrained body but after a few minutes, I found a good rythme and found myself trading places with 3 other guys I had seen in mountain bike races before.

Lacking power, I lost some time in the long slow flats but I was gaining back a little bit in the twisty section and a lot on the climbs where I would pass them.

I ended up doing that almost all race long until two of them slowed down and disappeared behind me and I eventually followed the wheel of the fastest of them.

Running with the fastest of my closest rivals.

On the penultimate lap, I lost contact with him, I could see him in some sections but he was slowly but steadily getting away.

I'm not a fast runner so riding up was much better.

After running the run-up twice, I decided to try to ride it. There was a short part of the climb that eased up a little and thought I could probably re-mount there and climb the last half. The first time, I almost stalled but got going... and to the enthusiastic crowd's approval, boy was it faster than running! I was also coming much faster on the top of the hill for the few meters of flat as I could accelerate as the climb eased off. On the other laps, I just went a bit across the course to get on the bike and get going easier.

When I crossed for the last lap, I tried to climb as quickly as I could and my lap time was one of my best. I almost caught back the guy that had dropped me earlier and I sprinted the uphill to catch and almost pass another rider, only to find out he was an elite who had lapped me before but slowed down after... I only passed one rider in that lap but not from my category. It felt good though.

When I stopped, I was drained. It had been a while since I put intensity to the pedals. So it was still a nice race for the condition I was in and I met my only goal with success: have fun! I ended up in 23rd and one of the guys I rode off my wheel eventually dropped out of the race.

I must say the spectators were great! They yelled, they had cowbells, one guy had a trumpet and they seemed to know the sport as they reacted a lot when I was trying to gain time, especially when riding the run-up but also coming down the hill and trying to go as fast and take the corners aggressively. I also have to thank my fan club. Sure it's not as big and loud as the fan clubs of Sven Nys or Bart Wellens but it was there and my nephews made sure I, and everyone else, knew. According to them, I won the race... in the yellow shoes and bike category at least.

I had two little issues, a botched re-mount had my 'boys' feeling crushed for a few minutes and not surprisingly, I had one chainsuck at one point. I knew my drivetrain was getting tired and I already have a new chain waiting for a new cassette and I'm still juggling between a single ring conversion or a more cross classic sized double rings for next year.

So now it's for real, my race season is over. I had a lot of fun and I'm kind of sad that it's over but my mind is already in 2010...


Carl Buchanan said...

Awesome write up and pictures.

Good on you for riding the hill to make up the time towards the end. Enthusiastic crowds can do wonders for you motivation in a CX race, they help make it what it is.

As for the chainrings, I think that I am going to give the double another try next season. 39/46 with a 13-26 cassette

Dan Gerous said...

Thanks Carl!

Yes, great crowds do make a difference, the slow sections were far and had no spectators to cheer us up, coincidence? ;)

My chainring setup depends about if/when I get a proper road bike. I wont go with a single ring until I get a road bike as I need the bigger range on the road.

Mike said...

Way to go, riding the run-up! I enjoyed reading this post; really brought me back to when my racing days in the Killer B's. I need to get myself in shape and start racing cross again.

As for 2010: The past is prologue.