Three Days of Mountain Bike Nirvana

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Me and My Bike

Hey all, sorry it’s taken me so long to put words to the page for this race report. No doubt most of you have already checked out my 3-part video review of the event, but as always, I also like to follow up with a proper blog post with some additional thoughts from me on the event. The main reason for my delay was an awesome 3-week vacation with Deanna in Switzerland that we just got back from. Although I had intended to do some writing while over there, I was truly more interested in hiking, wine, cheese, and chocolate than opening up a keyboard and typing ;-). Surely you can all understand. Regardless, I’m now back, and ready to fill you all in on this awesome weekend adventure that I took part in and also covered for Get Out There Magazine. Don’t forget to check out all the pictures I took as well.

Pictures from Event

The last time I took part in a multi-day pure mountain biking adventure was when Carl and I did the amazing BC Bike Race in British Columbia several years ago. I enjoyed this format of race, but couldn’t justify the cost and time commitments to do another week-long race in a far-flung place. Enter Crank the Shield, Eastern Canada’s only staged mountain bike race, that takes place in the Haliburton hills, which are well known for their excellent network of mountain biking trails. This race is only being put on every 2 years, and I had an opening in my race calendar, so I figured I’d sign on and do the full 3-day event. They also offered a 2-day option, but most of the people I knew were in it for the full event, and seeing as that is my normal modus operandi, I also did the same. As it turns out, this may in fact be the last time the race is actually put on (read on for that), so I definitely made the right call.

Although Carl was interested in taking part and racing with me once again, he had a bit of a scheduling conflict. In fact, a pretty big conflict. He was away on his honeymoon! Rather than try to dig up another teammate that I knew I’d be compatible with for the whole event, I decided to simply tackle this one solo. I’ve really been loving my new 29er bike, and figured this would be another opportunity to spend some quality time with it. After all, next year’s Leadville 100 will need me to be one with my steed, so the more saddle-time, the better.

The race itself was set up to allow racers to stay in the same location for both nights. We were starting on a Friday morning, and wrapping things up Sunday afternoon. Each day had us riding 65-80km on a wide range of different types of trails, including paved roads, gravel roads, ATV trails, ski trails, and purpose-built singletrack trails. They did a great job with the course design and ensuring that we had a variety of riding on each day, and not too many extended road sections, which tend to take the fun out of a ‘mountain bike’ race. For the overnighting, we were staying at Camp White Pine, which is a summer camp not far fro Haliburton Ontario. In that regard, the atmosphere truly was like being at a summer camp, albeit one with draft beer in kegs available au gratis at the end of each day!

We had a mixed bag of weather over our 3 day adventure. Unfortunately, things started out wet. Real wet. It poured rain pretty much the entire first day of the event. What did that mean for us? Well, cold, wet, and totally trashed bikes at the end of that first day. The drivetrains on pretty much everyone’s bikes was completely mucked up at the finish. Luckily, there was a great bicycle washing station to clean and tune up the bikes at the end of the day. Sadly, as it was still pouring rain at the end of Day 1, most people just chose to give their bikes a courtesy rinse at the cleaning station, and instead focus on cleaning themselves up. Warm showers almost never felt so good (although they’re still even better after a 48hr adventure race!).

As to the food on offer, this was also included in the price of admission. The fare was typical summer camp food for this area I suppose, and was actually quite good (and very plentiful). There was really no reason why anyone should go hungry at this event. The deserts were also quite excellent, and I would have happily eaten 3 plates of just deserts at each meal. Get it? Just deserts? Never mind 😉

What really makes this event so great is the atmosphere. Much like adventure racing, the mountain biking community is also pretty tight knit. A lot of people there knew each other, and there were plenty of inside jokes going around. I knew probably half a dozen other riders, so at least I wasn’t completely off in my own world! I ended up bunking in one cabin with most of the people I knew, as well as a slew of other people from the Ottawa region. It was great fun, and having people to commiserate with at the end of the long days and swap war stories with was awesome. The race organizers also did a good job of creating the right atmosphere. Each night after the meal, there would be an awards presentation for the days’ winners, as well as a preview of the next days’ riding, complete with hilariously narrated commentary by slightly tipsy course designers.

Day 1 Ride Summary

Day 1 Video Review

As mentioned, day 1 was wet. We started at the Haliburton Forest and Game reserve, and made our way to Camp White Pine. Much of this day was on ATV trails and singletrack, which was made pretty messy by the rain. We traversed a section known as powerline, which took us through a water crossing as well. There were two aid stations and they were both placed at pretty perfect locations. I was just about at the end of my rope and really needing a break when they appeared. I rode pretty much as I hoped, and the bike worked well. Well, apart from that damn flat tire I got in the last few kilometers. My tubeless sealant didn’t seem to want to work well in the wet conditions, especially given the spot where I punctured, but eventually I got things to stick.

Day 2 Ride Summary

Day 2 Video Review

The second day, things went much better weather-wise. We all got up pretty early in order to do some work on our bikes, which were in various states of non-working-ness. For my part, the front derailleur was acting up, even though I’d put on brand new cables and housings leading up to this race. I double checked the seal on my tire, and was satisfied that the bike should actually ride okay. Today’s riding took us on a range of trails all around the Camp White Pine area, and finishing back where we started from. The overall race course distance was shorter than I expected, but that was due to the neutral ride to and from the start line which was on the road and that they chose not to make part of the ‘race’. It was a rocking good day out there on the trails, and I had a lot of fun riding with a group of other riders that were in the same skill level as me. Best part of the day? Finishing in the sun, and hanging out in the sun with tasty beers in hand!

Day 3 Ride Summary

Day 3 Video Review

Before we knew it, the race was almost over! Only one more day of riding. The temperatures on night 2 dropped pretty low. We actually had a frost warning, so getting up from our sleeping bags into a non-insulated cabin and trying to get ready for the day was a bit of a challenge! Luckily, the sun was shining bright again. The start of this day involved a 15km neutral ride to Sir Sam’s Ski Hill. Arriving there, I was FROZEN! I couldn’t even feel my hands or toes. Luckily, there was a bit of time to warm up before the start, which was all uphill. After the climb, we had some amazing trails to ride back down and around the ski hill. Unfortunately, I lost my GoPro up there at some point, but was later reunited with it at the finish (whew). As a result, the rest of the day I had to shoot with my other camera, causing me to have to stop and start a fair bit. However, due to her team-mate having to bail on stage 3, I was fortunate enough to ride with and have the company of the fast and furious Tanya Hanham, so we rode together for a long chunk of day 3. That lady can ride hard!

Arriving at the finish line, we were again greeted by sunshine, and a great spread of food with all the racers hanging out watching as people finished off their journeys. Those at the front of the race included olympic riders and other pro-calibre riders. They of course finished each day hours ahead of me, but I’m betting that I got to stop and smell the roses a little more than they did, and just maybe enjoyed the course even more than them!

All in all, we had a great time up in the trails and woods riding hard for 3 days. I love taking part in races and events that I’ve heard about but never had the opportunity to try out. I am pretty sad to learn that this race is unlikely to happen again, as I truly enjoyed the 3-day staged format. It’s nice to have an event like this put on not too far from home, as the other options generally involve flying to the other coast! This was also a great chance for me to spend more time on my new mountain bike, and the more I ride it, the more I love it. Yes, I did have a few issues in the 3 days, but the conditions were pretty trying, so that’s to be expected. However, the race director was moving on to other things (namely his role in the Mud Hero events), and with registration numbers being comparatively low, he declared himself to have ‘sold out’ and probably wouldn’t put Crank on again. There were a number of protests from the crowd, and one half of the organizing duo is still interested, so I wouldn’t completely rule it out.

After this event, I was off on a hiatus of sorts. I’ve got some mountains to climb in Switzerland, and some relaxing to do before the winter season is upon us. I’ve got a couple other little events planned (including a ½ marathon in Switzerland with Deanna) for the late fall, but after that, pray for snow! Sorry for the lateness of this post, but at least I got it down on virtual paper now :-). Until next time, stay active out there people!

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