Friday, May 4, 2012

Ontario Cup 2012 - Race #1: Mansfield

The drive down south to Mansfield was quite enjoyable being such a beautiful day. Upon arriving at the course we did the usual routine of heading to the registration tent to acquire race plates and pre-ride passes. We headed back to the vehicle and quickly readied for the ensuing pre-ride. The starting climb would prove to be a challenge with its gradual slope and slightly steeper kick near the top. However, once mounted the remaining course would prove to be fun with only a couple more challenging climbs presenting themselves.

After the pre-ride, now back at the vehicle we cleaned up and chatted with a couple racers who had parked alongside our vehicle. Once we were packed up, we left the course and headed for the Schneider's house. Family friends of the Van Meirlo's, the Schneider's were kind enough to open there home to four wayward racers. Of course, we Burnt Helmet racers were prepared and presented our lovely hosts with a impressive feast of BBQ Chicken in a creamy gravy that would make you go Buckwild, Peppers loaded with a Broccoli, Cauliflower, Bacon, and Cream Cheese stuffing, in addition to several vegetables dishes that included Carrots, Zucchini and Rose-Marie Potatoes. All of which began with a tasty Greek Salad starter.

Casual banter followed the Pre-Race feast with a re-run of Blood Diamond to cap-off our evening. I should also note that our journey south earlier in the day included a stop a the Muskoka Brewery where we picked up a few bottles of MB's latest seasonal offering - Spring Odditiy in addition to a few bottles of our individual favorites. So our evening did involve the consumption of a few alcoholic beverages!

The morning arrived as usual, or so I thought... I awoke to the sunlight peeping in thru the window blind and thought to myself 'Gawd, it begins!' as I waited for the inevitable alarm to sound. After waiting about 5 minutes and no alarm, I reached over and picked up my blackberry to check the alarm only to find it was 6:30am! Yes, 6:30am... typically this would be the waking hour, however, following some friendly ribbing and genuine pleading I finally decided to take the big step and move from the Beginner category to the age-specific Master Sport category.. yes, particularly the 40-44 age group. So I'm no longer racing along side young adults, but rather guys in my own age group. Now, 'Big Step' you ask.. Well, yes - the Beginner category races 2 laps of approximately 6km/lap for approximately 12km in total. While the Master Sport category does 3 laps of approximately 8km for a total of approximately 24km in total... So yes, a big jump that basically doubles the race distance.

Anyway, as I was saying 'I got an extra hour of sleep'... which was awesome! After a pre-race breakfast, we packed up the gear and said some good-byes to our fab hosts, the Schneider's, and we were on our way back to the race course. On route I felt the usual pre-race jitters which continued while I prepped my bike and during my warm-up. I wasn't so confident in my warm-up, with having raced very little last year I still need to get back into that racing mindset. I rolled into the start pen and being the new guy I didn't really know or recognize anybody. There was a bit of mindless banter amongst the racers during which I tried to pick out a rider to mark. I didn't do such a great job of that either, as I lost my marked rider's wheel as the slope began to gently increase. At the top of the first climb I caught my breath and set into the single track. I could hear the fast riders from the next group closing in on me and it was about then that I noticed my chain had derailed. I jumped off the bike and quickly when to guide the chain back onto the crank only to find the chain had actually broke. Panic set in, as I scrambled to get the bike off the trail and flip it over to assess the situation. I continued to panic as the racers zipped by with some inquiring if I was okay.. as my surroundings became eerily quiet I finally got the chain fixed and was able to jump back in the race. As I continued thru the course I debated with myself whether I should abandon the race having lost so much time attempting to fix the chain, however, as I approached the start/finish line my bike instinctively guided me thru and onto lap #2. I was glad to see Dave waiting for me in the Feed Zone as I grabbed another bottle. Continuing on I mounted the start hill again and on into the single track upon reaching the top. Sadly, not far from where my chain had snapped on the first lap it again let go and without another quick link to repair the chain I was forced to finally abandon the race. Without a chain it was a bit of a hike to the Marshall station where I reported by abandonment and continued onward to find my way back to the Chalet area.

Returning to the vehicle, I found Dave and Denis preparing for their race. I felt bad that my mechanical failure had prehaps left Dave to scramble abit having waited so long in the Feed Zone for me.
I was quickly updated on Amy's status as I began to clean-up and get ready to support Dave and Denis' in their race. Strangely, while I struggled to fix my chain I never saw Amy pass by nor did She see me. I do recall some of the Sport Women category zooming by as I worked to repair the broke link in my chain but none among them as I recall were Amy. Anyway, Amy finished her race just slightly over 1hr 9min to finish in 10th place. Good show Amy, as this is a noteable acheivement in my book having taken upon herself a new role as a Mom!

As the next race's start time approached, I headed towards the starting pens and quickly located Dave and Denis. I gave them the nod and continued walking up alongside the start of the course. Seeing Amy with Camera in hand I congratulated her on her race. We heard the starter yell 'Go' and the ensuing thunder of riders charging forward. Dave and Denis were riding together near the latter half of the pack and they were out of sight just as quickly. Amy took the first feed and handed me the camera.. I headed up the hill towards the fast double track I knew they would be riding down as they neared the end of their 1st lap. Denis was first to emerge from the cluster of trees which hid much of the course from my view. I snapped a few photos (Yes, Amy it was more like ten shots) as he zoomed by. I then turned my attention back to the top of the downhill and waited for Dave. He was about one minute behind and I snapped a few more photos of him as he burned up the course around the corner and out of my sight.

In anticipation of their 2nd lap, I headed over to the start climb and waited at the crest of the first plateau - knowing that I would get plenty of photos as they grinded up the climb on their 2nd lap. Sure enough Denis appeared in the distance and I shouted phrases of encouragement. As he passed by, I could see he was holding a comfortable pace which I would again be able to confirm whilest I took over duties in the feed zone. Dave again, was just back about one minute or so and although sweating heavily looked comfortable and riding at a good pace. Again I had several photo opportunities as Dave ascended the hill. What followed was a quick switch with Amy to allow her an opportunity to snap photos of the guys elsewhere on the course. In the Feed Zone, Denis was first thru on his 3rd and final lap and opted to pass on a bottle exchange. Dave appeared not long after and still looking strong as we fumbled on the bottle exchange - leaving me to think we're all a bit rusty.

I caught up with Amy at the Finish line to witness Denis cross the line in what would be 17th place with a time just over 1hr 23min. Dave was again only a few minutes behind and crossed the line in 24th place with a time just over 1hr 27min. Overall, a fantastic weekend for racing and yes, I will be seeking redemption at our next race - Ontario Cup #3 which will also be third race in the Canada Cup series. This was a longer post then usual so thank you for staying tuned.

As always, thanks for spending your 30 seconds with Scott!