Sunday, September 30, 2012
Race Report: Tour de King 2012
Fun day! I think. Stuff went wrong, a bit went right, and I finished with a smile on my face.
They neutralized the start, so the first 2km or so were behind a pace car.
We hit the point where the pace car pulled off, and I quickly jumped on a good wheel. I was glad to have the cross bike to battle the wind when I was pulling, and we were moving really good in some of the groups I found myself in.
This went on for the first 9km, which was great - I was way up with some really good riders, thanks to the bike and some drafting. This was really the only time when I felt the cross bike was a big advantage.
I find this one to be the toughest. The hills are steep, the trails are grassy and slippery, and it really just cooked me. The gearing on my bike just isn't suitable for this section - brutal grinding at a low cadence and major lactic acid build-up.
Note to self for 2013 - bring some climbing gears! That is all.
By the time we hit the road again I was just looking to recover.
On The Road Again
I was labouring, trying to spin and just get in some fluids. A group caught up to me (including my buddy) so I stuck with them for a bit, started to feel a bit OK.
Nasty Road Allowance Thing
I don't know what you call this... it follows the direction of the road, but a road it is not. When we did this last year I probably came pretty close to killing myself riding down this crazy trench - this time I walked up it, along with all the folks around me.
Nothing makes you feel lamer than walking your bike, but even the mountain bikes weren't riding this one!
On the Road Again #2
Next up was a pretty short road section between road allowances, and this time the enemy was some very loose gravel on a windy downhill. I had a few slides that I caught without too much trouble, but people did go down here... it was scary stuff.
Not As Nasty Road Allowance Thing
Next up was a trail section, pretty straight and not too bad. I was starting to feel a lot better by this point, so was able to push up the little hills and such.
I was fast! Passed a few mountain bikes, had my spin on, it felt great. Again, one of the few sections where the cross bike paid off...
This one is a series of real mountain bike trails. Flowy singletrack with some technical turns and such.
I was doing pretty good, though. A few mountain bikes caught me and went by, but mostly I held my own. I was really feeling strong!
Until... I missed a corner and smoked into a tree! I didn't hit it that hard, but what it hit was my brake caliper... which it pushed into my wheel, which now couldn't spin! I pulled off to the side (more to the side than the tree!) and tried desperately to free it, but the cable was stuck in there. Finally I grabbed a branch and pried it loose, and miraculously the wheel actually turned - no permanent damage. The brakes even worked properly!
Hilly, but much nicer in this direction (the opposite of last year's direction). Again, passed a few of the mountain bike guys that had just passed me, so hit the next off-road feeling pretty OK.
This is the Seneca property, and the trails aren't as groomed and nice as the previous ones. Lots of roots and rocks, the odd log, and way more climbing than I remembered. I had a tough go, started to cramp up a bit, but still managed to keep pace with those around me. This is definitely the section where the mountain bikes have the advantage - which I had probably put out of my mind by the finish time last year! It went on and on and I got picked off over and over by mountain bikes. They can carry much more speed in the corners, and don`t have to be quite as tentative on the downhills.
When I saw the 1km to go sign I was a bit surprised... by my watch I figured we had another 10-15 minutes left! So I started to hammer it. There was a guy who'd been swapping places with me all day, he was just ahead of me, and if nothing else I wanted to get him!
I hammered it up the grassy knoll that is the end of the race... and pipped him at the line! Turned around and we both laughed, it was one of those funny moments in a race that make it all worthwhile.
Final result: 105th place of 278 finishers, 2:10:54. Last year I finished 104th of a bigger field, so definitely not as good. Wasn't in as good of shape, hit a tree, and the reverse course really didn't play well with my strengths, so all in all a lot of room to improve for 2013.
As for the bike debate (mountain bike vs cyclocross) - well... it's tough.
Last year we started near the back and in offroad, so I had the perception I was keeping up to the mountain bikes. Truth is, the only ones I was seeing were the ones that were falling back in the race toward me, so they weren`t the best riders.
This year it was the exact opposite - we started closer to the front and on road, so I had a lot of very strong mountain bikers behind me! That meant when we were off-road I was getting passed a fair bit, and didn`t have as many guys to pass later in the race on-road.
I have to think that the right bike is probably a hardtail 29er... with tires that aren't so gnarly that they suck on the pavement, but have enough grip for the sometimes tricky trail stuff. They would pay a price on the road sections, but there`s a lot of trail and those road allowances where they make up for it.
I don't have a 29'er, my MTB is a 26'er, so next year I will still do the cyclocross thing, with some bigger cogs on the rear so that first off-road doesn't kill me. Even if it's not faster, it's a lot of fun!