Howdy folks. Today’s blog post will take you on a wondrous journey from Ottawa to Kingston and back by bicycle. Yes, I’m speaking of the famous Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, the yearly fundraising group ride organized by the Ottawa Bicycle Club. This year marked the 44th time the event took place, which is a pretty astounding number when you stop to think about it. To properly commemorate the event this year, I dragged along some cameras and even made a video for Get Out There Magazine. You can see the video at the end of the post, if you haven’t already seen it. I also took a few pictures along the way, which you can enjoy below.
As many of you are aware, RLCT has a number of different route options and lodging options each year. For routes, there are now no less than 4 options. The Classic (177km each way), the Cruise (185km each way), the Challenge (225km each way) and the Century (100km each way). The first three depart and return to Algonquin College in Nepean, whereas the Century starts and returns at the Perth Curling Club. In all cases, your first day finishes off at Queen’s University in Kingston. Once there, you have the choice of either sleeping and eating on campus, student style, or taking care of your own accommodations in town. Since I was filming the event, and wanted the ‘Classic’ experience, Deanna and I had signed up for that route, and also booked ourselves in the luxurious dorm accommodations on campus. After all, that’s really the easiest way to make the most of that particular weekend.
My cycle training leading up to the event was actually quite decent. I’d racked up more than the minimum recommended 1,000km of training, and that, combined with my ongoing running, skiing, snowshoeing, etc. etc., meant I wasn’t too worried about the ride itself. Unfortunately, Deanna hadn’t been able to log as many kilometers on account of working from home, and she also ended up spending most of the week prior to the event sick! In spite of this, she was excited to participate, and I knew she’d push on in spite of any perceived weakness on her part. While we knew other people participating this year, the majority of them were registered in the Century ride, so we had already planned to just ride our own ride, taking our time as needed, stopping to ‘smell the flowers’ and just generally enjoy the weekend.
The promised (and delivered) forecast made that enjoyment pretty damn easy this year. Generally speaking, it’s hard to get a ‘perfect’ RLCT. Usually you’ll have one or several of the following challenges on the way: rain, cold temperatures, headwinds, mechanical issues, etc. However, upon setting out on Saturday morning, we were happy to note that we had near cloudless skies, favourable winds (mostly tail- and cross-winds), and reasonable temperatures. While it was a little chilly as we took off, it was obvious that it would warm up to a goldilocks temperature (juuuust right!). As the weekend wore on, I’m happy to report that we also had no mechanical issues at all!
We took advantage of packs of riders whenever it was convenient for us. In other words, if a group of cyclists travelling only slightly faster than us passed, we’d tuck in and join the draft. After a little way, we found a great little group that we worked together with until all the way to Perth (at the 70km point of the ride). We were in great spirits and really enjoying the day. Having some snacks and drinks, we headed back off, and the rest of the ride progressed at a nice pace pretty much all the way to Kingston. At about the 30k to go point, Deanna was a little tired, so we had a nice little rest at the last checkpoint before riding into Kingston with a group of people and big grins.
In the end, we pulled off the ride in about 6 hours of pedaling time. Not TdF worthy, but very respectable. In fact, upon checking in and heading to the luggage tent, we were shocked to see what appeared to be MOST of the luggage still there! This was a big difference from the last time we had done the tour, arriving towards the ‘back of the pack’. This was definitely another mood booster. We were so early (in our minds) that we took the time to shower, change and get settled in our dorm BEFORE going to the beer gardens.
Once at the beer gardens, we met up with a bunch of different friends to hear how their respective rides went while enjoying beer, sausages and chips. Supper wasn’t for another couple hours, so we just enjoyed the afternoon sun with like-minded folks. It was awesome! We had supper with another friend from the group who had basically ridden the Classic route solo that day, and made tentative plans to find each other in the morning to make the return journey together.
After a hearty post-race supper, I was planning on making my way downtown to meet up with others and convince them to join me at the local brewery. Well, Deanna was quite pooped by now, and decided that if she had any hope of completing the return trip in its entirety, she had to get some shut-eye. So on that, I dropped her off back at the dorm and wandered downtown alone. Before long though, I joined another big group at a restaurant where they had just finished supper and convinced 5-6 of them to join me for a night cap. After a round of drinks and many laughs, I wandered back to the campus to essentially get to bed around 10pm. I know, it seems early, but we were getting up at 5:30am the next morning again to catch early breakfast and hit the road hopefully by 7:30am after dropping off gear and getting ready.
We met our buddy Paul, and the three of us started the long journey home after a quick tire pressure check with the fine folks at Velo Fix, who were lending support to the tour. Although the legs felt a little stiff starting out, it didn’t take too long to work out the kinks and fall into a decent rhythm once again. Paul and I did the pacing by swapping leads, while Deanna drafted off us and conserved a bit of energy. As it turns out, she was quite tired still, and uncertain whether she should have simply jumped in with the century riders that morning. Either way, she was stuck with us until at least Perth now :-). Her spirit was willing, but the body was not convinced. Being sick the week before had caught up.
We kept a relatively relaxed pace, and took a few extra breaks along the way on the second day. The three of us chose to just ride together, and not try to join any other groups as they went by. Once again, the weather was remarkable. Amazingly, overnight, the wind actually changed directions so that once again, we had tail- and cross-winds. I can not stress just how unusual it is to have two completely perfect cycling days at Rideau Lakes. While it was quite as sunny on the 2nd day, it was still comfortable temperatures the whole way. For the most part, I was completely comfortable in my shorts, jersey, and keeping the arm warmers on. We never really needed jackets or anything.
Another bonus of the extra stops was that it gave me the chance to take advantage of some of the road-side rest stop offerings. Namely, tasty home baked goods like chocolate peanut butter rice krispy treats and date squares. YUM! Nothing better to power you through a long ride than home baked goods. I also managed to get some good footage for the video. In fact, I had so much good footage it was hard to cull it down for my summary video!
As the kilometers racked up, Deanna became increasingly frustrated with her lack of pep, and was worried she was holding us up (which she definitely wasn’t). As a result, she pushed herself a bit too hard, and was pretty wiped out when we hit Perth. At that point, a difficult decision was made by her. She opted to stop her ride there, and make her way to the curling club to meet up with the group of friends that were riding the century route. They had already offered to take her back to Ottawa if she didn’t feel up to the whole ride. Honestly, that’s the most difficult thing in a situation like this. You KNOW you have a way out, and can stop the ‘suffering’. I personally fight against that instinct, but I know it can be tempting. She was a bit disappointed in herself, later admitting she is pretty sure she could have ridden the last 70k with us, but the temptation was just too great. I still think she did an amazing job, and we kissed and parted ways at the Last Duel Park in Perth.
This left Paul and I. Paul also admitted to being a little tired, and requested we didn’t take off like madmen from there. Ironically, I felt amazing. This was the strongest I’ve ever felt at an RLCT. I credit this to the fact that 2 weeks before, I had been racing in Pennsylvania, where I had spent 35 out of 40 hours (31 hours of which were non-stop ) on my mountain bike with a LOT of climbing big hills. As such, I was happy to lead the whole way if needed. Sadly, my slight frame does no provide much relief in the form of drafting to anyone following my wheel. So rather than a 20% benefit, I’m guessing folks only get a 10% benefit. Regardless, Paul is far too nice a fellow to suck a wheel the whole way, and we got into a nice little rhythm of trading leads. Then, at one point, we were passed by a quick group of guys, and decided to hop on the caboose.
ZOOOOM! We were making amazing time with this gang. Over the course of the next hour, we covered roughly 40km! It was awesome, and put our time back on track. We stopped at the final rest stop and had an extended break to re-fuel, allowing our group to leave ahead of us. We rode the final 30k as a duo once again, finishing up at Algonquin College once again in the top end of riders. It was still relatively quiet at the BBQ and beer gardens. Paul hung out with me for a while, then headed off as I was left to wait for Deanna’s return. Unfortunately, they had decided to go for a meal in Perth, which had slow service, so I ended up sitting around alone for a couple hours waiting alone. I filled my time doing a little filming and sorting my gear.
When all is said and done, this was my most enjoyable RLCT in memory. I felt strong the whole way. I got to share most of the ride with the love of my life, laughing and talking the whole time. I met up with good friends and shared more laughs and beers in Kingston, and the weather was perfect. What more could I ask for in an early summer active weekend? Nothing! Even my bed and shower in the dorm were great! With this ride out of the way, it is now time to focus on the next big challenges of the year, including a 1/2 and full Ironman triathlon in Muskoka! So with that, I must bid you adieu and get back to training! Now get out there and enjoy the summer!!