Hoowah! Welcome back race fans. Yes, I know that I’ve skipped days 4 and 5, but the fact is, Day 6 is done, and I’m only finding time to write now! It’s been a pretty long week over here on the West Coast, and it’s amazing to think that we’ve been riding all week on some of this country’s best mountain biking trails. We were blessed yet again with an amazing day weather-wise, and yet another great physical challenge was put before us. However, ActiveSteve and Carl overcame the challenges yet again, and were in fact in fine form yet again today. The course for today was set all around the stunning scenery of Squamish. I’ve never been up here, and boy was I impressed. This place is probably best known for its rock climbing, but the biking was also very impressive. Have a look at the Google Map that I put together to get a sense of where we were riding, and then come on back to read the rest of my tale of how Day 6 rolled out for us.
The 30 minutes in the hot tub that I sprang for the night before were put to good use. My muscles, although sore and tired from a week of riding still felt relatively good, and willing to do my bidding for me 🙂 Wake up call was 6:30 am this morning, and race start was slated for a leisurely 9:30, on account that we didn’t have to get here from anywhere, or deal with any major prep work. It was a nice break from the hectic rest of the week previous. I had a pretty good sleep, and was ready to hit breakfast when I rolled out of my cocoon. Early in the week they said this would be a lot like summer camp, and it really is. There’s also a lot of waiting. In fact, as I write this, I’m in a room with 200+ hungry racers waiting for their meal sitting. Crazy times here.
Before getting in the start chute, I gave the ole bike a quick once over and lubed it. I’ve been lucky with my bike this week. Apart from the earlier derailleur hanger bending, things have been running quite smoothly. In the chute, we got down to the business of staying hydrates, as there were going to be a lot of climbs again today, and Mr. Sun was out in all his glory, with another cloudless sky greeting us. Another difference with Day 6 is the fact that our numbers were augmented by about 50-60 “guest” riders and VIPs, which were all stacked in our start area. They were put there so they would intrude too much on the pros going for the win. However, a lot of these guys wanted to go for it and strut their stuff, which meant that early on in the race, there was a lot of jostling for positions. Not the funnest, but we’re pretty used to it by now.
As with most days, they started us off pretty much right away with a nice long climb as we made our way to the start of the singletrack for the day. This is meant to string us out a bit, and Carl and I tried to push pretty hard right off the bat to try and avoid any major traffic jams further on. It was tough work, but we thing that it paid off in the end. Once the big climbing was done, we plunged right into the gnarly stuff. As you will have noticed lately, my maps have been rather devoid of many pictures. This isn’t by choice, but of necessity. It’s just impossible to take pictures on those trails, and you can’t really stop for fear of losing momentum. I think I’ll just have to rely on some of the photos taken by the pro photogs instead. Trust me, I wanted to take you all on my adventure, but I just couldn’t!
Although the day wasn’t supposed to be the hardest of the week, it certainly seemed to be taking its’ toll on the racers. There were a lot of big crashes, and a lot of people commenting on how the course kicked their asses. In one particularly nasty section, poor Carl took a pretty bad tumble as well. No major damage, but his shoulder was certainly not feeling 100%. I kept on using my unconventional downhilling style of hanging my ass off the back of the seat to avoid too many mishaps, but I had my share of tumbles and close calls. At one point, I was doing a log crossing on the side of a steep hill, and just totally bailed. I fell about 5 feet down, luckily into soft brush. It was a bit scary, as you’re never sure what might be down there, like sharp point sticks, etc.!
Carl’s crash came at a very hairy point in the course. A section so steep that not even the motocross guys dared descend it! It was also fairly early in the day, which made Carl pretty bummed out, but we kept pushing hard. After that section, we had some more long ascents to help get our legs and arms back. Ironically, in a race like this, the downhills are just as hard as the climbs. It was getting to the point that we were looking forward to long climbs, because as hot as they were, we could get through them. As per usual, there were 2 aid stations along the course, the first of which we felt was a bit further than it should have been. On the terrain map, it was supposed to be at the highest course point, when in fact it was not 🙂 I checked my pocket for my camera, and lo and behold, it was gone! Yup, I’d lost it somewhere in the really steep stuff, which meant that I’d no longer have pictures for you all.
I resigned myself to this, and didn’t let it bother me too much. I let the Aid Station folks know, and they put out the word about my loss. I didn’t hold out much hope, but much later, I got really good news. Another racer stopped and picked it up when he came across it, in a really dicey part of the trail, sitting there gleaming in the sun. What good fortune! My saviour? None other than Fred Drier, a writer for Velo News who was racing and covering the event too. How cool is that? Very cool, I assure you. At least it means I’ll have it to take shots tomorrow on the final day of our odyssey 🙂
After the initial technical downhill, the next couple seemed tame by comparison, but were still challenging nonetheless. One of theme was quite rocky, so you really had to be bringing your A-game to the table once again. These descents were complicated further by the fact that there seemed to be a constant barrage of riders trying to get by right when we hit the hairy stuff. As it turns out, Carl and I seemed to be stronger climbers, whereas the downhillers take longer to get up but then they just fly. So basically, we spent the day cat and mousing with a big group of riders. Kinda fun, but kinda not 😉
The total distance was about 50km, ending back at basecamp. Once again, we were surprised when we finally popped out of the woods, only to find out that the final 5km or so would be a combination of roads and commuter paths. It was a welcome thing, and allowed us to open ‘er up a bit to try and get things done in a hurry. In this section where I had my stupidest accident of the day. We were screaming through the woods, and had to cross a pedestrian bridge. I somehow managed to cross my handlebar, and went down on the metal-grate covered bridge. Yeah, a lot like a cheese grater! Luckily, I had taped up my knee that morning, so the tape took the brunt of the damage, rather than several layers of my dermis. Whew!
We finally rolled under the finish line around 4 hours and 50 minutes. Just slightly faster than we expected. Nothing wrong with that. We later learned that we’ve moved up to 32nd place overall in our category. Double sweet. As a reward for a job well done, I took a stroll to the river to give my legs some ice therapy. Given that the river is glacier-fed, that’s pretty much what it was. Super cold, and just what I needed to reduce the swelling on some of my aching joints. After that, bike clean up, tune up and check, so that it can be whisked up to Whistler for Stage 7. I’ve just eaten, and we’re waiting on the awards ceremony, and some other fun stuff, like a chainsaw carving thing. How fun is that! Off I go to enjoy that. Ride hard friends.