Friday, September 30, 2011

Cross Mountain Ride - Epic!

Taking in the last hot forecasted day of the year, I "had" to go for a ride in the mountains. Luckily I had the company of blazing cross racer Katy Curtis and TransPortugal/Furious-3 winner Kate Aardal. The planned route was Big Elbow Little Elbow loop out in K-Country. Myself and Katy were on cross bikes while Kate on her 29-er had no problem keeping a quick pace.
Katy scouting the best line
It was a tricky ride on the cross bikes with lots of dirt-embedded rocks jutting out everywhere on the trail which I remembered as flat and fast many years ago when I last mountain biked it. I was the first to pinch flat, then Katy, then me again towards the end. Kate had the bike of the day with the 29-er.
Kate wondering where she dropped Marg & Katy - photo KC
Scenery - outstanding! Long ride as we had a slow start bogged down on horse trails following a river route before venturing on the open trail climb. I enjoyed the loop clockwise with rolling up & down the first half before the monstrous painful climb on the small cross gearing. The last 1/3 was pretty much all downhill back.

Katy & Kate far in the distance - awesome autumn scenery!

shadows came quickly that afternoon - mostly downhill to the trailhead
That night I visited adventure teammate Jeff Hughes and his family in West Bragg Creek. Caught the family off on a night bike ride and joined in.

It was an adventure morning with the girls (Sasha-10, Riley-8, Piper-6) all either riding the unicycles or practicing riding the narrow planks with their mountain bikes while Jeff was trials hopping a bench with his new trials bike.
Piper, Sasha, Riley, Sidney the Border Collie, and Jeff
I tried my hand at a 20-inch unicycle. It was frustrating to fall over and over again. Seeing the girls keep riding and trialing, I kept at it. First I went 2 feet, then 3 feet. Jeff gave me tips to lean further forward almost falling as a pedal stroke would naturally balance it out. Once I did that, I went 10 feet. Then when almost no-one was watching, I rode 20 feet. Fortunately Piper saw me and pointed it out to everyone - thanks Pipes!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hot! Cross Season

Probably our hottest days of the year this past weekend for our cyclocross race. Sat at School of Cross, the temp was only 19C at the start so not within the limits for a feedzone. Sunday, for the Hop & Hurl Cross, temp was already 22C and climbing to 26C so we were allowed a feedzone. Same course, just in reverse direction with a few minor changes.

School of Cross, Marg being chased by Calgary racers Caeli Barron and Sarah Tomassini - photo Andrew Barron
It was the first time I`ve been "allowed" a feedzone in a cyclocross race. Previous years races usually have been pretty cool temps (knee warmers/arm warmers) and the races are short 40-50 minutes so no real need to feed. The feed had to be in the designated zone area. It worked out quite simple to ride into the zone, grab a bottle, sip, toss and exit the zone within 25 feet, losing no time at all and the sip was refreshing. Thanks to Tim for passing me water!

In the first loop of Sat's race, my bike and I had three entanglements with the yellow tape, then faired well the rest of the race. Sun race, all went well except for one misjudged remount on the bike after the sandpit. I overshot my landing... ouch, nice bike tire track burned into my thigh as the shorts moved up landing on the moving rear tire! The crowd "oohhed"! Next loop at that spot, I had an awesome remount with extra cheers from that same crowd knowing what had happened the previous lap.

Running through the double sandpit, easiest for me to grab the bike under the small toptube and run freely. I'm height-challenged to just lift the frame up high off the ground. Small-person Technique!! Bummer with the saddle hitting my helmet! - photo Gordon Brenner
Lead Guys up a steep dusty weed-wacked section - photo Gordon Brenner
The course was designed by crazed talented-cross rider Aaron Schooler and set up by my club ERTC. Clubmates had to weedwack through thigh high grass and shrubs to make the epic course made up in Aaron's evil mind! The descents and ascents on the latter half of this course were rugged, challenging and fun in a crazed way.

Awesome video coverage by ERTC clubmate Jon Wood.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Aussie Will`s Video of Haute Route Pics

Wish the time frames were slower though awesome photos of 7 days riding in France! A note that Will took alot of his photos WHILE racing on his bike!  Will`s video

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Photos from Haute Route

Check out ALL my 2011 Haute Route posts

Photos from friends from the 2011 Haute Route:  
Waiting for the start of Day 1, mixed team racer Andrea looking back. Racers were encouraged to wear the Haute Route jersey. I prefer the uniqueness of the racer's kits - photo Helena Darvelid

Day 1 peloton leaving Geneva behind the pace vehicle - Photo Helena Darvelid

climbing Day 2 - photo Helena Darvelid
on-route to Bourg-St-Maurice via Cormet de Roselend - photo Helena Darvelid

First climb up Madeleine on Day 3 - Marg grinning because #171 had no idea he was dropping Stephanie #382 in the far right of the pic. Stephanie was glued to Cedric`s wheel the first two stages. I was surprised they were registered as solo racers
- wicked black & white photo from Aussie Will Levy
I purposely rode behind #171. It was funny when #171 Cedric Laurent mistakened me for Stephanie Gros and we both rode off together. Cedric was unaware Stephanie was getting dropped! "Solo" male #171, Cedric, is "solo" woman #382 Stephanie's husband. Why did they not register as a DUO team?! Stephanie won the solo women category following Cedric's wheel on the descents and flats the whole race - fair... or NOT? Thanks to Aussie Will Levy who caught this photo as he was taking happy snaps while racing.

Check out Will's awesome blog and photos.

Will did interviews with various cyclists each day. Here's mine after Day 4.

#270 and Marg about to crest the first Col of Day 3 - photo Will Levy

A lonely ride up Galibier in the headwinds, I caught up to another cyclist with about 4 km to go. He couldn't understand how I kept positive while the riding at the time was pretty hot and challenging in the headwinds... Other than my aching feet swollen in teeny carbon bike shoes, I told him I had to go back to the Prairies and I was here to enjoy the Alps! - Photo 

Marg going up Col du Granon 12-km Time Trial Stage 4 - photo
I was pleased about my effort on Day 4 for the Time Trial stage finishing at least 3 minutes ahead of Stephanie. Funny that her husband Cedric who is the calibre of a Cat 1 racer had seconds off Stephanie's time. He started 30 sec ahead of her. Abit suspect... would they really ride "together" on the time trial?! Good thing it was a 12% grade as drafting on that wicked climb would not help!

Everyone waiting at the top of Col du Granon at the end of the Time Trial. The view was outstanding riding the majorly 12% grade up!! Photo Helena Darvelid
Taking the opportunity to chill at the restaurant at the top of Col du Granon while the neutralized caravan of cyclists head down
- Photo Phil Domville-Musters, cyclist from Britain

Brothers Mike & Lenny Engelhardt.
I met the boys at TransAlps 2006 and again at TransAustria 2008
Day 6 - After a 19-km neutral start, the peloton is set loose to go up the climb to Cime de la Bonette, from 1220m up to 2802m... 1600m elevation at one go!  I caught into the 2nd formed chase peloton. - Photo Helena Darvelid
The climb to Cime de la Bonette goes on... - Photo Helena Darvelid
... and on... with gnarly headwinds... must keep with the pack... - Photo Helena Darvelid

This was the shot where I was worked over. I was in the chase peloton of about 15 riders. The climbing pace was tough though the headwinds were brutal. Every so often the peloton would drift apart. I cried with lactic acid pain to accelerate back into the group. I did my best to get sheltered from some of those taller riders! Ouch - this photo has memories for me with the intense effort put in - Photo 
... and on... still gusty winds... - Photo Helena Darvelid
The chase peloton being lead by Italian woman Dorina. I was with this pack just out of the pic. We were all crying and working together! - Photo Helena Darvelid

Not my usual smile for Helena at the crest of Cime de la Bonette!
It was a hellish 1600m elevation climb in the headwind! - Photo Helena Darvelid
An amazing background landscape the National Park - Photo Helena Darvelid

What is around the corner...? - Photo Helena Darvelid

Cresting Cime de la Bonette! - Photo Manu Molle from Haute Route
awesome candid shot of Gabi at the feed station - Photo Helena Darveid
Mario from Germany who I had met at TransAustria 2008, making his way up. Tough to have one of the strongest women teammates Andrea to chase up the climb! I like how this photo shows his effort - Photo Helena Darvelid
Hanging out at the ski resort Auron post Stage 6 - Photo Helena Darvelid
Helena with her World Class group of Sailors
Day 7, alot of shade sections in a canyon - Photo from Phil
Just finished! - Photo Helena Darvelid

Check out ALL my 2011 Haute Route posts

Monday, September 12, 2011

Haute Route Day 7 - Finale into Nice

Best sleep my 6th night! It was now a routine getting ready for the morning starts.
Saint Etienne de Tinee - photo Helena Darvelid
I rode with Gabi 9-km down the hill to Saint Etienne de Tinee for the neutral start. It was a cool shaded 6C for the first 31-km neutral section. Everyone was shivering as we rode in the shaded valley, unbelievably cold. The sunlight was welcomed as it peaked out above the mountain briefly, until we descended deeper into the shaded valley. Sharp right turn and the timed race began up Col Saint Martin. The pace went hard. I clung onto a similar group as the previous day with the Italian woman Dorina leading us out. The grade was a calm 7%. Towards the top I dropped back of the group about 100m, just a little weary at the tough pace.

It was a fast furious descent with twisty corners and then major straight-aways. I finally latched onto a good group of 5 guys. I got cheers of “Go Canada” from a French master racer when I pulled through on the descent. We passed thru a section of canyon similar to the one near Radium Hot Springs though this one went on for many kms.
riding towards Vance - the boys in white shorts!
With 15 km to go, a few new guys came blazing by to the front of our peloton. Yikes, it was #171 leading, no doubt pulling Team SOLO woman up to us. I was impressed with how strong #171 rode. He showed the strength of a Cat 1 racer. Either that or he was so well rested from riding at our woman’s pace the whole week. We stormed around a few round-abouts. Before I knew it, in the middle of nowhere we had crossed the indiscreet finish line, hearing the blips of our time-chips over the timing mat. After the 31-km neutral section this morning, the actual timed section was 72-km. We still had another 37-km of neutral to get to Nice (total 140-km day).
arriving to Vance
After a few hugs and cheers amongst the riders, we rode easy to the next village Vance 14-km away.

Marg telling Dorina from Italy how awesome it was to see her ride! - photo Helena Darvelid
happy! - photo Helena Darvelid
bikes awaiting, with another amazing strong woman Andrea from Germany - photo Helena Darvelid
Marg with amazing photographer and World Class Sailor Helena!!
happy with real food at the Vance Market
There, we received our finisher medals and shirts, and hung out for a couple hours to wait for all the riders to arrive. We finally left as a marshalled group to ride the final 23-km to Nice. The pace was ultra painful at 16 kph downhill! My hands and wrists were aching from braking. Chatting with riders took my mind off the slow descent.

Riding our slow pace to Nice
Gabi by the beach!
Arriving to Nice, the many tanned bodies on the beach stood and cheered as we coasted in. It was a hot day.

My 2nd time with my bike at the Mediterranean - 2011

My first time with my bike at the Mediterranean - 1987!
The finish was chaotic on the beach promenade. It was a rushed atmosphere finding baggage, packing the bike, and taking a moment to jump into the beautiful aquamarine salty Mediterranean (it was wonderful!), before heading to the uneventful awards announcement at the trailer on the promenade.
taking in the water & beach at Nice - photo Helena Darvelid
3rd place woman reacted like she won the lottery! I went up for my 2nd place solo, more out of obligation of being a racer. Enough said about how 1st place was won following a domestique male rider the whole race! Would that not be called a "mixed team" effort?! As an alternative to saying “cheese” for the cameras, I was saying “domes-teeeek” as we were smiling for women’s solo podium.

Gabi was disappointed she came in 4th by 8 seconds over the 7 stages. She was getting stronger the last few stages. One of my prizes was a large package of a French brand of energy food products. I’m happy with Vega products from Canada. I asked Gabi if she’d accept the prize for coming in “3rd place and 8 seconds”! It was awesome to see her smile and we both laughed!

walking towards the Ascenseur du Chateau (the tower in the distance)
Going up up up the many stairs, 90 metres elevation
I eventually walked up towards the edge of town. The final aperitif party was to be at the top of Ascenseur du Chateau. There was an elevator though I was adamant to take the stairs on the side of the cliff. When I saw the sign that said the top was 90m up, I cried a little as I was tired and heat stricken. I trudged up sweating profusely.
view from the top
The party was a welcome sight with a beautifully catered local meal of “real French food”!! Everything was dainty and super appetizing. It was a feast! I had some nice last chats with awesome riders I met during the week.
In the main plaza at night
Gang from Zurich trying to make me feel taller!
Night soon came. Gabi and I walked with two riders from Zurich (Gabi is from the Black Forest in Germany though lives in Zurich). We strolled through the piazza area until we needed to jump on the bus back to Geneva at 10:30 pm. The squeezing of bikes into one storage trailer took time. We got to squeeze our gear into the buses empty space underneath. After a long sporadic unrestful bus ride with many stops, we arrived to Geneva by 8 a.m.
Mary picking me up in a very snazzy sporty Audi
Mary and her orange beetle when she lived in Edmonton - 1988
My friend Mary from my track running days, now living in Geneva, arrived to pick me up. I finally had a nice “holiday” day with Mary. Gosh I must rave... Mary went to the 1987 World Track & Field Champs in Rome and was on the 1988 Olympic team (Seoul) for the 800m. It was awesome to have been one of her training partners!!

We went to the local farmer’s market, drove to France 20 km away to her partner’s renovated barn house for lunch. Dominique apologized for “France” for the race not feeding us well! He certainly whipped up a marvelous meal. It was fun to pick plums, apples, grapes and berries in the yard - a great relaxing day for me!
tart grapes growing beside the dinner table
teeny tree though we picked tons of yummy plums from it
Nigel (now just as tall as me) making a stop for the best Pain au Chocolat
Keep posted for more amazing photos and a synopsis of the event! Lots of riders at home are interested in 2012 Haute Route!