Sunday, May 31, 2009

Race Report: Canada Cup/Ontario Cup #3, Hardwood Hills

Last weekend's clumsy attempt at riding after racing the Tremblant Ccup and then driving all the way back to Toronto was not enough for me to consider myself prepared for the Hardwood race. So, Saturday morning I got up early, collected some riders and headed up for a more focused preride. It was a perfect day at Hardwood. I turned 2.5 laps, had some help finding some more direct lines and confirmed for myself that yes, I can in fact ride the infamous "boneshaker"*. Last Sunday, I managed to go ass over tea kettle not once, but twice! And with an audience too so I felt like I had to give myself a littler refresher on how to properly ride the rocks. A photographer was in attendance, so here's a little number from yesterday's practice:

After a successful preride, we rushed back to Toronto so we could get a good start on relaxing. Pre-race Saturdays are my favourite: my only job is to eat as much as possible and lay around all day. Gerhard and I went out on the Danforth, got some snacks, did some shopping for the prerace meal, got some more snacks (ice cream!) and then went home to eat some more and watch movies until bedtime. When we went to sleep, the rain was coming down and the thunder was rumbling. But when I woke up, the sun was shining, and the temperature not-too-cool, not-too-hot. A perfect day for a race.

G decided to come along this time to see what racing is all about. He also volunteered to be my "water boy" so that was a big help. We left Toronto with lots of time to spare and arrived at the race course around 9. As soon as we stepped out of the van, we were rudely awakened to the fact that weather in Toronto is not the same as weather north of Barrie. It. Was. Freezing. And with a strong gusty wind to boot.

We both brought layers to accomodate a warm day in the sun -- not a wintry-weather relapse. I was wishing for a skullcap and extra gloves on the warm-up (so-called). G had to make do with my hoody and jacket. Not every day the boyfriend asks his girlfriend for her coat. At least the sun was shining.

At the line, I struggled with what to wear for the race. KK suggested that if you're cooler you'll go faster to keep warm, and then in the next breath decided to wear her arm warmers anyway. But her armwarmers were nice and thin, whereas mine were a bulkier, cooler-weather design. I decided to ditch it all and race shorts and jersey. Just as I threw my extra gear to G, it started to snow. Wtf. The brief snowfall actually broke the ice though; a little laugh at the weather went a long way for my nerves.

The race started a touch on the hairy side. There were thirty riders vying for position and twice I was almost in a crash. Wheels crossed wheels, elbows mashed and we hammered on. The beginning of the course was wide for a long spell before kicking up in the first of the ups and then bottlenecking into a short bit of single track. There was a little tussle to get in there as I arrived at the same time as two others, but a stumble from one blocked the other and I was through without incident. From start to finish, I just felt like I had the go I needed.

G wasn't the only fan that came today -- my parents also made the trip to show their support. Always great to have friends and family at the race and I think I definitely pushed a little harder just for them.

The course was only better for the moisture we've had this week and I was loving the fast, flowy singletrack. I attacked all the climbs (and there was a ton of them!), nailed the boneshaker every lap, and looked forward to every section of the course. I thoroughly enjoyed a couple bike races, backing and forthing with girls from all over Canada.

Making faces on the Boneshaker (photo: D'Amico)

But with two laps to go, my bike started to handle a little funny. Traction was getting skittish, and any time I went over braking bumps, roots or rocky sections, it felt like it was getting jangled more than usual. The suspension just didn't feel as plush as when I started. I couldn't figure out exactly was what going on while I was sitting on top of it, but I dared not stop, so every time I came up to a technical section I'd say a little prayer that things held together. Maybe it was all in my head because once I finished, I couldn't figure out what had come loose. It didn't affect my performance at all so no worries in the end. It was a great positive race, and just what I needed.

I ended up finishing 18th of 30 but since today was also an Ontario Cup, the Ontario Cycling Association awards points for the O-cup series as well. I was the 6th girl over the line from Ontario -- pretty stoked about that!

Cap off all that with a nice lunch with my parents, a nap and a sushi dinner with my boyfriend and I'm about ready to call it a day.

Just before the last corner (photo: D'Amico)

* Boneshaker footage taken by my dad in 2006 (?) ... so not from this weekend.

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