Monday, May 25, 2009

Race Report: Canada Cup #2, Tremblant

Race Day: Course runs right through the village on a "cobble stone" climb

If you have already seen the results for the Canada Cup at Tremblant, you may think that perhaps I didn't have a very good day. And that's just not true. It's also not true that I "Did Not Finish" because I sure remember churning out a very challenging 5 x 6.7km laps. So that's the short of it.

The long of it is that there is a "cut off" rule in Canada Cups. Meaning if you do not make it in for your last lap by a certain time, you are listed as DNF. Of course, you never know for sure until the results are posted, so off I went to race a final lap in vain. I don't think I missed the cut off by much and I know I won't let it happen again. That bit of administrivia aside, I actually had a pretty damn good day.
Course Map: 5 x 6.7km laps
When I woke up, I thought I could hear dripping outside my window. Panicked I jumped out of bed and threw back the curtains to see if it had rained on my Quebecois parade. It hadn't. The drip was just a red herring and the sun was shining in a clear blue sky. Perfect race conditions. But, that burst of energy confirmed that my knee was a-ok, so I was stoked.

I packed up and headed down for a scrumptious breakfast at Catherine's, where I ate every morning the last time I was at Tremblant (I was 18 on a ski vacation ... been awhile!) I think crepes should be the start of every race day. Actually, they should be the start of every day, period.

After a few last minute preparations, I crawled back into bed for 40 minutes to calm my thoughts and rest my legs. Before I knew it, it was time to warm up. I put in a good hour spinning before the race to help deal with the nerves. I went to check on the feed zone, the start area and double checked the rules before doing a couple hill repeats and lining up.

Quebec racing is all about rules. And the consequences for not abiding are dire. It seems the recourse for every violation is "Off with his head!" DH-ers have it especially bad. In Ontario, you throw on your shorts, jersey, armour, helmet and giv'er. In Quebec, no skin can show. Not even peeking through the gap between your armour and your shorts. Not even fingerless gloves are allowed. If you don't folllow this rule, you are DQ'd. If you don't check in, DQ'd. If you are caught riding your bike in the village, DQ'd. The best part is, you usually don't find out until the race is over. A guy on our XC team raced an expert race in Quebec back in the day. He raced really well, came second but found out he was DQ'd because he didn't answer "here" loud enough when the commissaire called out the racers' names at the start. So you can see, it's very important to mind the rules.

Anyway, I was well within the rules and all was well. The start was a very aggressive elbows-out affair and the course pitched up immediately and stayed up for a long, long time. The climbing was mainly gradual and then spiked into some steep loose sections to keep you honest. By the time I got into the first single track, my vision was getting shaky from the exertion. But then the flow starts and you get a bit of recovery before the next climb.

Here's a video of the start from ... see me?

The climbing was tough, it's true, but by the 3rd lap, I was treating the climbs almost as a break. My body was taking a real beating through the single track. It was very rough, with tons of rocks and roots to throw the bike around. Riding a good line was challenging but as things went on, I felt I was getting smoother and smoother. Arm pump was making it difficult to hold onto the handlebars and the rough course combined with oxygendebt-influenced-vision made it delightfully challenging. And I'm not being sarcastic here at all. The course was tough enough that it kept my focus right where it needed to be. My mind didn't have the lee-way to wander into negative territory so I just kept hunting and pushing.

Coming through the village

I admit I'm not the strongest technically, but I was pleased to see I was reeling girls back in on the flatter sections and the climbs. It was a really fun day out there and I finished feeling like I'd raced to the best of my abilities. I'd kept crashing to a minimum, and I felt like I'd emptied all the gas from the tank. As soon as I finished, I happily plunked myself down in the team tent where Carly handed me an apple and a Lara Bar and I smiled at what I felt was a great accomplishment. Just because the results don't agree is no skin off my back. Can't wait to try again.

Here's's race video: I'm in there somewhere. I think around 3:49. By way of explanation, this is right after the big climb at the start of the lap. Don't worry, as soon as my vision returned I passed that girl.

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