Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ontario Cup 2012 - Race #5: Naughton Trails

The fifth race in the O-Cup series (held July 7th, 2012) was the Burnt Helmet's final O-Cup race for this season. As none of us purchased a race license this year we are limited to participate in a maximum of three races in the series. For this last race, the series made its way north and the closest its ever been to North Bay as O-Cup #5 was held at Naughton Trails - a cross-country ski/mountain bike destination near Sudbury.

With such a short drive to the race, Denis and Amy opted to bring Nolan to his first O-Cup race. He's not ready to compete but it seemed to be a race just trying to keep up with him. We departed from North Bay in a caravan of vehicles with each of us in our our own trucks, just simplier with the extra cargo needed for Nolan and Dave opting to bring his two bikes (hard tail and fullie). In addition to the apparent needed space for the proposed haul of purchases the girls were discussing.

Arriving at the course we were directed to park across the highway from the trails. This didn't prove too challenging as there was a Police Officer poised to aide racers and spectators across the highway by bring passing traffic to a standstill. As we approached the new venus on foot (our usual routine has us registering prior to pre-riding the course) all our preconceived notions were wiped away. We'd all had visions of racing a course in Sudbury and of course Sudbury is known for having little in the way of vegetation including trees. This would not entirely be the case... there were trees! I had also been reading rider's recants of their pre-rides and based on those accounts had visions of huge rocky descents... fortunately my imagination had got the better of me.

Once registered and suited up for a pre-ride, Jenn and Julie watched over Nolan as he rapidly explored the surrounding areas in quick succession. Exploring the course we found it quite dry and dusty with the single-track corners being much like talcum powder but nothing overly challenging in the first half. As we came thru the feed/tech zone at the "approximate" half-way point, the last half lap would prove to be challenging but not unridable. Lots and lots of Canadian Shield rock that would prove challenging for riders; translation - high potential for pinch flats and tire gashes. Returning to the parking lot, we found Julie, Jenn and Nolan trying to stay cool in the hot, hot sun. We packed up and headed for the hotel where Denis, Dave and myself would relax and hangout with Nolan while the Ladies took to the lead looking for bargins at the "Big Box Stores".

Nolan enjoyed some hide and seek with Dave. Along with some freedom roaming the halls with myself. When the Ladies returned, shopping bags in tow, we regrouped and headed out to the Keg for an enjoyable steak dinner.

Race Day!

We enjoyed some luxuries for this race, short distance drive and premium beds at the hotel but lacked some customary features such as a microwave for preparing a quick and easy breakfast. So a stop at the nearby Tim Horton's was in order prior to making our way to the race venue. It was shaping up to be a nice day, with a cool breeze to combat some of the heat as the sun moved higher in the sky. Amy and I both had our race starts for 10am. After getting ready I headed out for a warm-up, but not before the In-Laws showed up (along with the trusted sidekick - Rudy) to see me race (their very first time). This race, I was looking for some redemption, the previous two races I failed to finish - the first due to a mechanical and the second I missed the 3rd lap cut-off time. Marginally encouraged by the noticable smaller numbers lined up in the start pens, I was also hoping to avoid having Amy (who's been faster than I on the Mountain Bike this season) pass me before the finish line. Although it has been a tough transition into Master Sport from Beginner I do believe that I'll stay the course for next year and continue in the Master Sport category. As I have enjoyed the longer distances (even as I finish DFL) and challenge the longer courses offer. So, having said that - I am pleased to say that I successfully finished my first O-Cup race in the Master Sport category. Yes, I made the 3rd lap cut-off time plus Amy did not pass me... Looking back, I might have been a little faster but again its been difficult to gauge things upto that point not having finished a complete race of 3 laps (approximately 25+ kms). Amy also did well finishing in 6th place at just a bit more than 5 seconds behind 5th place.

Unfortunately, I missed the start of Dave and Denis' category as I had not yet crossed the finish line before they left. From the reports I'd received it was a fast start but not the blistering pace of O-Cups past. Both Dave and Denis found themselves amongst the pack. Dave said he was feeling good and as the pack sped down the doubletrack start when a gap would open ahead of the rider in front of him - Dave thought to himself "Oh no you don't" and leapfrogged that rider to close the gap. Doing this two or three times Dave found himself in the leading pack heading into the single track with Denis not far behind. Coming into the first pass of the feed/tech zone it was Denis leading Dave. Oh no, what happened?!? Well, unfortunately one of Dave's tires burped in a corner causing it to lose air and the few seconds Dave took to stop and send a couple bursts of CO2 into the tire to re-inflate cost him those places. Denis continued to press onward but Dave was holding that original gap and at the last lap Dave was about 2 minutes behind Denis as they came thru the last pass of the feed/tech zone. Not long after, Denis crossed the finish line and we expected Dave to do the same at anytime. Sadly, our suspense grew to dismay as Dave gallantly sprinted out of the wooded doubletrack towards the finish line with his bike in tow. He had gashed a tire on a rock in the last quarter of the 3rd lap. He was unable to repair it and thus forced to run the last 2 or so kms of the lap. Dave finished in 14th and less than 2 minutes behind 13th! (Dave, you should consider switching with Denis to do the run for next year's Triathlon!) Denis finished in 2nd, recapturing some of his racing form of 2010 - when he finsihed 1st overall in the O-Cup point standings, Denis was also less than 3 minutes behind 1st place held by an old rival from previous seasons.

You can view the full race results for O-Cup #5 by clicking here.

We topped off the day with an impromptu stop at the Riv.

Thanks for spending your 30 seconds with Scott!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ontario Cup 2012 - Race #3: Hardwood Hills

DISCLAIMER: Yes, this race report is late. O-Cup #3 was June 3.

The third race in the O-Cup series, Hardwood Hills was the Burnt Helmets second race this season. A bit of a slower start for BHR this season, but that was the plan.

We departed on Saturday morning (June 2nd) as per our usual routine - with some carpooling involved. The resulting drive south was uneventful as usual and upon our arrival at Hardwood Hills we headed to the Chalet to register and browse the wares at the onsite Bike shop. After some window shopping we headed back to the vehicles and prepared for the pre-ride. It would be an interesting course, as some of you might know I took a header during the pre-ride which left me shaken but unscathed. Being not just an Ontario Cup race, but a Canada Cup race - the course would be challenging... Hardwood has always been my nemesis dating back to my first ever race in September 2007 (which was also in the Master Sport category).

After the pre-ride we packed up just in time to avoid a lite drizzle of rain and headed to Midland where we would be staying at Grandpa Campbell's House (Dave's Grandfather has always been a gracious host whenever we've been racing in the area). A few of Dave's relatives joined in for what was to be another impressive BBQ feast. Seriously, we just don't take photos of the food - cause you'd simply wanna eat the photos!!

It was an early night, but thats only because some beverages were consumed earlier in the day. I must confess that racing at 10am has been a refreshing change - that extra hour of sleep has been joyful.

Arriving at the course, the weather was overcast. All four of us (Dave, Denis, Amy and Myself) would be starting at 9:30am. This is due to Hardwood being a Canada Cup series stop. This results in the Senior Elites required to ride an UCI approve course length of approx. 6km per lap (instead of the usual 8-9km) but of course they do more laps with totals between 30-36km depending on gender. Anyway, as we all started at 9:30am it was important to have support in the feedzone. Jenn and Julie were instrumental in fulfilling this requirement - with out which we racers wouldn't have succeeded as best that we did. Unfortunately, the rain only held off for so long as a light drizzle began around the start of lap #2.

Everyone persisted, and Denis achieved a top 10 finished (10th place) in the MasterSport 35-39 category with Dave, in the same category, just 4 minutes behind to finish in 13th place. It was a deep field of racers with 32 competitors of which 6 did not finish (DNF). Amy, racing in the Women's MasterSport 30-39 category, finished in 7th place. The women aren't as well represented with a field of racers totaling 9 racers of which just one did not finish. Great job Denis, Dave and Amy!

As for me, well Hardwood continues to be my evil nemesis. Prehaps I was spooked from crashing during the pre-ride or just an overall head game that Hardwood has over me. I did not make the cut-off and finished just two laps, which placed me DFL. So that's two O-Cup races down, leaving just one last O-Cup race this year in which to achieve redemption...

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