Nothing like making something internet official, last Sunday was most likely (never say never) my final MTB race in the Elite category. I've always loved racing bikes and everything and everyone that comes along with that. In the past couple years my passion for coaching and supporting other racers has overtaken that. I now get more satisfaction and pleasure from coaching and seeing other racers perform well, improve, challenge themselves and find their own place in the sport of cycling.
From my time spent at the 9 am races with the Rad Riders this season, and other races like the Canada Cups and Nationals where I could watch my athletes race, I know the best way for me to learn from my athletes and help them improve isn't to be on the course at the same time. It's on the side of the course watching them make mistakes and conquer new territory at the same time.
I will continue to race select races hopefully for many years to come, but its time to focus to the best of my abilities on the athletes I coach.
Lots of thanks coming up.
Big thanks to the athletes I've worked with the past few seasons for always understanding and supporting me still toeing the line sometimes even racing each other. A huge thanks to Norco Bicycles and Live To Play sports for their support the past 7 seasons. They are an amazing company and group of people who support racing in Ontario and the rest of Canada in a huge way.
Maria and Robert J Watson for always supporting my racing, driving me to countless races even across the country, buying me books on bike repair so I learned how to do it myself....but were always there to take me to the bike shop when I snapped a bolt or messed something up.
Kevin and Sue Haviland, for their love of the sport and support of the Norco Factory XC team. I wouldn't have raced for as long as I have without the support of Kevin and Sue.
My early sponsors and shops that helped me along the way, Mike Britten at Cyclepath Newmarket, Aarif Suleman and Bike Depot in Thornhill, Mike Doble at Roces/Bianchi Canada, Kevin Wallace and Ira Kargel at Gears, The Barrie cycling community who pulled together for me when I didn't have a ride in 2008.
Every organizer, club, group and individual and volunteer that put on a bike race. I know that's vague and a lot of people but over 20 years the list would be 13 pages long.
Rob Holmgren and Steve Neal my first coaches whose first/toughest job it was to convince me I needed a coach. Other coaches I've worked with along the way or on projects that have inspired me and helped me both as an athlete and develop more as a coach, Kevin Simms, Dan Proulx, Mike Garrigan, Brendan Arnold, Sean Kelly, Scott Kelly and the rest of the rocky bottom coaches.
To my teammates: Lespy sorry about the Cutlery, Haley sorry about Lespys cutlery, McNeely keep that new van fresh son, Guthrie keep the whips coming, Peter I promise (to try) to stop saying wrong all the time. Havy that well was as dry as the Sahara. Your all awesome people, I will miss our adventures in bike racing together.
To Paige you inspire me everyday, thank you for your support in life, business, adventures, riding bikes and eating really awesome food.
Two things I'll miss a lot and were always special, one is sporting that Maple Leaf and wearing it in Canada at St Anne Worlds in 2010 as a member of the National Team. And two was finishing World Cups on the lead lap. I know its not the highest bar by any means, but there's just something about it. It was a close one this year but making it through for my final world cup at St Anne where I first experienced a world cup at 18 was a nice feeling.
20 years of racing and I can even say I got to the dress rehearsal of the big show the London Olympics........... Test Event. And whatever I did on the bike I did clean and it is something I am immensely proud of.
See you at the races,
photos by Hans Clarke:
What a weekend all around, not a great finish by any means but nothing but smiles after. Having your two youngest teamates take their first Canada Cup wins helps a little bit.
Sean Ruppel of Superfly racing did a bang up job of the course, hard climbs, techincal features that required a goo deal of focus while your red-lined. Ride arounds that are perfectly timed so that its a few seconds slower but not so slow that a rider is going to walk the A line. Race courses are an art I think Sean and Glenn for this weekends race at Hardwood are right up there with Piccasso and Da Vinci.
Saturday was a busy day with several laps with the young guys I coach, 1 lap by myself to try and get a little bit into the zone, and then it was a quick change into my finest attire to head to my good friends wedding not far from Horseshoe. Congrats Matt and Hayley I'm sure Waubashene will never be the same again.
Sunday morning I was up early on the bike at 7:45 to warmup with the young guys again, it was really cool to warmup on the trails we ride every Tuesday night in the Copeland. I think it helped relax them just that little bit before their short intense race.
Wasn't long before it was my time to get dressed up in the Norco skinsuit, let Havy finish up his magic to the Revolver 7 Full Suspension we are doing some race testing with this year. I headed over into Copeland myself had to keep an eye on my watch to make sure I didn't get to far away and sucked into the beauty of that place.
The vibe at the start was fairly relaxed, I think everyone was mostly nervous about the first left hand turn. If we made it through that without crashing each other out we'd be good....... well the pack safely got around it but on the nice open straight away a racer forgot that two objects can't occupy the same space and time #science and started a Domino effect. I was able to just squeak by as riders tumbled to the side. I know its weird maybe my luck is changing. I was able to make up the gap to the two leaders E Guthrie and another rider. I took over the lead for a bit, before being overtaking by Cam J and Guthrie but Guthrie was leading into the first ST so all was well. Hung into third with Petey D on my wheel trying to stay in contact and not open any gaps he would need to close.
Warning graphic content:
By the long fireroad climb I knew I wasn't gonna hold that pace for 6 laps, Guthrie and Petey were right up there. I settled into my own rythem and a few riders came by but I stayed calm and trusted my gut. Partway into lap 2 I was with Lespy around 10th thinking this was good we could shake and bake a couple guys over the next few laps. But then had a bug, a spider, a june bug a object of some kind get caught in my throat. Attempted to cough it up, drink it down, a choking/coughing fit ensued and I had to pull off the course and let the good times roll. Made about 5 trail side stops in the next two laps, good news was I was about a KG lighter but any nutrition I had in my stomach was now gone. As always I got to the end of the race as fast as I could but we'll file that away under it'll go better next time.
Horseshoe is such a nice venue I really hope they continue to host races in the coming years, with a few course upgrades there is no reason why it couldn't host a world cup. Next up there is Marathon Nationals in September.
Gigantic congratulations to the whole Norco team, it was great, and I think this weekend will be even better.
Had the pleasure of racing at home this weekend in the Homage to Ice. A race put on by Dan Marshall of Substance Projects. I've been trying to get to one of his events for a while and finally got the chance. It was worth the wait, great organization, great course considering the conditions which were a mix of everything from snow, ice, sand, gravel.
Arriving to it felt like going to a race from days gone by. The setup was simple and functional just the essentials for a fun MTB race. These kinds of races used to populate the race calendar like weeds. Bike races for the sake of bike races. Don't get me wrong the quality and level of racing going on at the o-cups and canada cups is awesome but its nice to know there are still semi grassroots events happening and being supported.
The weather has been just nuts the past couple winters and these early season races are a challenge for sure. The course was designed to keep the volunteer built singletrack from being destroyed so it consisted mostly of double track and a good solid chunk of gravel road. With one really nice south facing buff dry piece of singletrack.
Which lent itself to some road esque type pack racing. Ergo, it lent itself to me showing why I shouldn't be a road racer. After the 1st lap and everyone settling into their paces and shaking out the cobwebs a group of about 8 formed up for the 1st 8-9 km's of gravel access and gravel road. After one lap of about 46 minutes, I found myself out front with a gap after the piece of singletrack. Contrary to the advice I gave to my athletes before the race about not dangling off the front, I proceeded to sit out front of the group of 6-7 guys heading onto the faster open sections of the course. This early in the season I knew it would be a long shot but opted to try to make it work.
Managed to stay out front and felt pretty good till about 4 km to go when I hit the proverbial wall, hung on to 3rd as I got cobbled up within about 750meters to go by 2 riders. It was a really good test of my early season fitness and gave me a lot to consider in getting ready for the upcoming season.
Good first race on the new Revolver, it rode as expected and I can't wait to get it onto some more singletrack..... if the snow ever melts.
Thanks to Dan Marshall and Substance Projects for hosting an awesome event.
Wanna go for a ride?
No its too cold.
A common response to seeing if someone wants to go for a late winter or early spring ride. And hey everyone has their comfort zone and I'm not here to judge that, but the saying there is no bad weather just bad clothing rings true here.
It also surprises me sometimes that people will spend over $5000 on a bike but not a few hundred dollars more on clothing to enjoy that bike more throughout the year. When you can nail your clothing a 5 degree sunny late October or early November day is Beautiful. Spring and Fall are almost my favourite times to ride as there is next to no traffic. I avoid places like Wasaga beach and certain roads in the summer like the plague but in the “off season” its great to visit those places.
First thing to realize about the gear you wear when its +30, is that its designed by brilliant engineers to keep you cool. Helmets, jerseys, shoes etc. So we need to modify or change stuff out when the mercury drops.
Starting from the bottom up at below zero you NEED either winter cycling shoes, or insulated windstopper booties. 0-10 You can switch to lighter windstopper or wool overshoes, 10-15 a lightweight shoecover should do you. And thin wool socks are also a great addition below 10 degrees.
Moving up the money makers you gotta keep those joints warm, talking ankles, knees, and hips. So again below zero, ditch the leg warmers and get a pair of insulated tights. Drop your saddle a mm or two as you'll wear them over your shorts. 0-5 Insulated, fleece lined leg warmers and maybe some embrocation. 5-10 lighter leg warmers, 10-15 I like to let my shins breath a bit and switch to a knee warmer.
PARENTS of young riders: The most common people I see under dressing are the youngest people in our sport. Watch the elite riders warming up for an event, even at 20 degrees you'll see them wearing vests, long sleeve jerseys, if its cloudy and windy knee warmers.
Torso: Two best items you can get are a good windstopper jacket and a vest. Underneath that experiment with wool undershirts, long sleeve jerseys. As it warms up you can ditch the windstopper and just wear the long sleeve jersey and vest, then jersey, arm warmers, vest, then jersey arms etc etc.
Head, below zero and Id almost say 3 degrees, a cycling cap with ear protection, and a buff around your neck that you can pull up over your nose and cheeks as you hit the head winds. Also dermatone is a great product for sun and wind protection. Helmet covers like what Lazer has for their helmets are also great. As it warms up a cap is always a great thing to start a ride with, and they are easy to take off.
Gloves: Build an arsenal of gloves, From insulated lobster mitts for winter, insulated windstopper full finger for 0-5 degrees. Windstopper full finger, even lighter full finger, all the way up to road gloves. I have about 6 different glove types I wear depending on weather.
Start a clothing diary, before and after each ride, log what you wear and the weather. And how it went, did your feet get cold, did your hands get cold? Did you eyeballs freeze? After a while it will become second nature but you need to experiment a little bit.
Build that arsenal of clothing and you'll never regret it. We live in the great white north but even with the harshest winters lately,(global warming??) The roads are still clear enough to ride 8-9 months out of the year. That's where I hit my limit its usually not weather but when the roads ice over and cars are sliding into ditches every couple hundred meters.
If you simply don't enjoy riding when its cold out that's A- OK no judgement here, just sayin its possible to be comfortable with some smart gear choices
Next blog- How to build the ultimate kick ass winter riding machine. You know your doing it right when it looks like something out of Mad Max.
What “success” means is open to one’s own interpretation, but hopefully it means you will love to ride your bike for the rest of your life. We gotta set one thing straight right off the bat, bike racing is HARD and becoming a professional bike racer is even HARDER. I've heard bike racing compared to slamming your hand in a car door for “x” amount of time. And as Greg Lemond said, “it never gets any easier you just get faster”.(hopefully)
When it comes to being a professional bike racer (on the MTB side in Canada and at any point in time), there have been more people walk on the moon than spots on teams that will allow you to race and have something in your pocket when you finish the season. Being a professional rider means way more than just riding and racing your bike and could be whole other blog post but in short you are a salesman/woman.
Not sure why but there is just something I love about the Sudbury race weekend. Its really nice to get up to race in some of that terrain again that feels a little like the glory days of Elliot lake and Calabogie but with a bonus of having lots of accommodation options.
They changed up the course a fair bit this year, it used to feature one big climb and one big decent this year it was a little more broken up, they also filled in a couple rough spots and smoothed it out a bit. But its still a very rough course.
Weather was threatening all day for the race but the rain held off for a fast race. Had a good start for once just missed the traditional Sudbury start crash. I was in a fine position heading into the climbing but the legs just didn't back that up and I fell back a few spots. Mainly to my teammates Guthrie and McNeely so it wasn't all bad.
Ended up in a bit of no mans land between two groups as we hit the long flatish start straight. Just rode a high “tempo” and didn't fight the inevitble catch from an aggressive group behind. The pace eased a bit after and the group in front was still in sight so I went out again to try and bridge up to Guthrie and Mitch. The legs were coming around and I felt a little more confident riding on my own. Traffic was playing a bit of a factor and timing was key. But can sometimes come out in a wash.
On the 5th lap called a “on your right” and sure enough the rider veered to the right and put us both into a pile of sharp rocks. And ppsssssssttttttt right away I knew Havy wasn't gonna be stoked with that.
I didn't loose too much time riding and the wheel change was quick but its tough to make it back. Did a little battling with Antoine he was crushing the DH's but i was able to edge out a lead on the final climb to hold onto 10th.
3 for 3 for something at this race but again with some awesome teammates and support from Paige I had nothing to be upset about.
Its nice to be healthy again, racing somewhat consistently and the knee hasn't felt this good in years. Its weird but without last years tangle at Sudbury and Nationals to really knock it out maybe I wouldn't have got on a path to figuring out what it was that has been causing the problem for so many years.
We'll its been a peach, the past few weeks has been great thanks to a long break in the calender. That all wrapped up today with a nice group ride over to Creemore to the coffee shop which I have little doubt cyclists help keep in business.
Paige pipped us on her home town sign, I'm very disappointed in myself for not seeing that one coming. We rolled in after her with our heads low. The coffee was great I had an Americano in Gainers honour as he had to call for a pickup outside Angus after rolling over some tornado debris. #topgearrules
Of course the biggest climb of the day is right after the coffee shop, up fairgrounds road not sure if T Glass still has that segment but it wasn't in any danger today as we stopped for pics and I took the opportunity to photo bomb not one but two selfies. Your welcome guys for you making your pics awesome.
We finished the ride with a strong tailwind back through Phelpston and into the big C. But not before a wee bit of a close call on flos 4, genius driving a black 4 door decided it was a wise decision to pass on a blind downhill corner? Would have been fine if a 2 door coupe wasn't coming up said blind hill. Some screeching tires and “oh shit oh shit” later and somehow everyone rode/drove away intact. You win sedan its your road from shoulder to shoulder we'll just get out of your way.
A great couple weeks of riding, BBQ's, friends and a few beers
On deck for the week is bringing down the mileage a bit to get ready for the next few weeks of racing.
Sudbury Canada Cup July 13th
National Championships Eliminator July 17th – XCO July 19th – Team Relay July 20th
Ontario Road Provincials July 26th
And a river runs down it
The weather held up its end of the bargain this past weekend here in Tremblant, they had been calling for some rain for a while and it came down nice and steady for about 24 hours. Pre-riding was a little moist but small blocks seemed to still be a good tire for the course.
Fast forward to the morning of the race and one look at the bikes and overhearing the stories from the the earlier races it seemed obvious a tire change was in order. A new addition for the race this year was some new routing in the village as well. With the start located at the bottom near the cabriolet and some new roll overs and a stair set to spice up the village section for spectators and racers. Tremblant is a rarity in that the race is brought to the general public and is highly spectator friendly with the sections through town.
Start was what was to be expected on paved windy course, lots of pinching, shifting and locked wheels but i think most people made it through. Had to get off a couple times and hoof it before joining the course at the old start and got into a chase group that was trailing off by about 50 feet going up the long gravel access road to the first single track.
With a gap to the group in front it didn't bottleneck as bad actually but we soon got our first look at the “course” which had a few little streams and rivers running down some sections. Which created a couple hike a bike sections/try not to step in a deep puddle.
I was feeling good but not great and closing down gaps was a challenge but I was able to pick off a few racers and also try to ride smooth and keep it upright on the big decent. I had young Disera in my sights and was thinking if we could get together we could shake and bake pretty good. But he had other plans and on lap 3 decided it was time to crank it to 11. And he says its my fault we never ride together back home.
Squeezed into the top 15 for a UCI point or two and a couple bucks, tough race but a clean race. Baie st Paul is another good course next weekend so we'll see what I can manage to do there.
Well there's nothing quite like a good kick in the teeth like Sea Otter to jump start the race season. I've done this race after a couple races and like this year a first race of the season. Both are hard but oh boy the legs like to be warmed up first.
Smooth travel down and got reunited with the Norco Factory team in Monterey. Been a while since most of the team had been together so it was nice to get right into the team bonding rituals like trying to outdo everyone else's meals and outlining our many first world problems.
I was also happy to just be riding a MTB outside on trail even if the race course consisted of paved road descents and singletrack climbs. It was still nice to get aboard the new revolver, the biggest change this year has been the full parts swap out to Sram XX1. Not to shabby I love single rings and riding a groupo designed to be run as one is a nice treat.
Day 1 of racing was the short track, an even better way to start the season. Got an good callup to be 2nd row for the start which is always nice. Guthrie got into the lead group off the start so i hung back in the 2nd chase group (thats my story) it was good I rode smart and clean. And ended up in a sprint with MA Nadon. Probably my best sea otter short track to date so ill take it.
Off the race course Sea Otter is its own trade show with all the big companies coming out to unveil their latest and greatest bikes, gear, gizmos etc. 2014 also marks Norco's 50 year anniversary which they celebrated with a display of bikes over the years. My personal fave is the 3 speed cruiser with the shifter on the top tube.
Always a pleasure to spend time in the Norco pit with some of our Gravity brothers and sisters. Learning we aren't that different afterall.
Day 2 of racing was back to the old school 2 lap XC, though on a shorter course than "back in the day" either way the 2+ hours caused quiet a stir and riders organizing picket lines and sit ins on the start line.
Actually this turned out to be a blessing for me as the start did not go as to planned and before we hit the third turn on the race track i found myself with my rear wheel locked alongside 3 other guys doing the same thing not sure how but none of us went down but this shot us right to the back of the 70+ field of riders before exiting the race track onto the course. I put down some hard efforts but barely managed to get back into the low 60's before the first singletrack climb where naturally everyone decided that climbs aren't a place to go hard or race but to relax and cruise till the next open paved descent.
Eventually we hit the open climbs at the end of the lap and I was able to start picking of groups of riders. By the end I managed to gather in a few numbers but finished up wishing for more time.
Sunday was a day off for us XC'ers but the Dher's had a go of their course while we had a little fun. I finally after 6 years a factory Teamates got to meet a legend Ryan Leech. Not sure if i was more impressed with is skills on the bike or the super dialed custom show pieces that all fit into a 8x10 trailer.
A composite Nortrekluna team got challenged to a game of hockey, they had some skills but i have a feeling our Dh'ers hit harder. We'll say it was a draw.
Weekend was capped off with a sand bag highland games, not gonna lie i felt like a bit of a target but thanks to my cat like reflexes i avoided any direct hits.
Heading back to the great white north, heard there was some snow or something?? naaaaa im sure people are just joshing me.
There is no doubt my annual trip to South Carolina is mainly to escape the doldrums of March, but this year it was especially pleasant to escape the never-ending polar vortex of 2014. Once again we loaded up at 4:30 AM to head down to a little nook in the South Carolina mountains for 9 days of riding with Ontario's finest young cyclists.
This years camp would have the youngest group down by far, but as we have seen these younger riders are being schooled and have some great support structures that foster them quicker than in the past. The idea of a 14 year going to SC for a training camp 10 years ago was a laughable notion now its accepted and a great tool for exposure to older riders and coaches alike.
It was also my first time taking a Norco Tactic down into the hills of the area, there is probably no better place to push a road bike to its limits and see what it has than in the twisty climbs and descents in the area.
The first four days of the camp were better than expected with beautiful sunny days and high temps. Our weather reports from back home reinforced how lucky we were to be down there.
After a rainy rest day we had clear blue bird days but the temps were a little lower. Still a beautiful way to finish off the camp.
The Tactic Di2 didn't disappoint the feature i noticed most was the confidence inspiring front end stiffness. There was never a doubt it was going to hold a line when needed.
Back onto the trainer for a bit, in preparation for Sea Otter in a few weeks. Hopefully we'll get a few trail days before heading down.