Monday, April 26, 2010

Ottawa Valley Paris-Roubaix Ride

I all started at 4:30 in the morning. My memory is fuzzy, but I think I was changing a diaper. My wife knew I was going to ride the Ottawa Paris-Roubaix and, thoughtful as she is, did not wake me up at the usual 2:00 AM diaper-changing and did it herself. Hence, at 4:30 I was relatively bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but still fuzzy.

Coffee. Oatmeal. Drive.

Out west of Ottawa, over the Mississippi river (the Canadian version), past the cultivated pastures, to Lanark county, Ontario's maple syrup region, apparently.

Register. Tire pressure dialled.

I have no further pictures. Cameras don't work well at 180 beats per minute.

The course was incredible: 87 km (~55 miles) of mostly hardpack dirt and gravel roads, some tarmac, a bulldozed torn up rock field that passes for a road, rocky 4-track, and ankle-deep sand-traps that you hit at 20 mph.

You know, road biking.

The region is beautiful. Ancient log cabins abound. Small wedges of tilled spring earth are tucked amid the pine forests and beaver dams. Farming done here is fringe. Not much further north is the literal edge of civilization. And at 8:00 on a Sunday morning, about 175 riders had it to themselves, wending from the town of Almonte up through the Canadian shield escarpment and back on rolling terrain, totalling 1200 feet of climbing.

The event is technically not a race, but for many here, its the premiere road cycling event of the year. I'm not a road racing type of guy, especially in the shape I'm in now, but I played along. For about the middle fifth of the race I ended up in a chase group of very strong riders that, for reasons mostly related to flat tires, were trying to claw their way back to the pack. This was great fun for me. I grabbed a wheel and tried to hang, and by mile 27 I had gone anaerobic, right calf cramped, and then peeled off. For awhile I was thinking how stupid I was for blasting my legs when I had so much distance left to go. I'd do it all over again though, and my legs came back eventually. As for the chase group, they were blessed with the good fortune of having the entire "race" peloton take a 6km wrong turn. I arrived to see them cussing about the mis-marked arrows as they double-backed, and was able to again hang with the pack for about a femptosecond.

My target was a 3-hour ride. I came in at 3 hours 5 mins, which is close enough, although I think I could have hit my 3-hour time if was more prudent with my legs. At the end I found a two-person group that I worked with, including the Women's 3rd place rider, who kept looking back at number four 200 meters back. Eventually I peeled off that group and at 3km to go encountered 4th place, a Tall Tree rider (check out their race report, quite exciting), and I said "there's a woman in that group up there who really wants to stay ahead of you." She said she was hoping to catch up, but that it was probably too late. I told her she was probably right, but to grab my wheel anyway and I'd try to give her a few more seconds at least before I blow up.

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