Saturday, July 25, 2015

L'Alpe de Grand Blanc - Big White

click to watch VIDEO recap of 2015 race

Cool first time local event starting in Kelowna, BC and travelling up some 5500' to the ski resort Big White 58-km away was held July 25th. Prior to this, the weather had been scorching hot.

Race day - unexpected rain!

From past experience if the rain was to continue, the first half of a hill climb event will have warmer temps and the second half will be survival temps. It was 18C and humid at the base.

I decided to go with unusual extras for a summer race - an undershirt, knee warmers, cold weather arm warmers, a goofy hat underneath my helmet to prevent rain from hitting my eyewear, bootie covers, with my lightweight rain jacket in my rear pocket. Not ideal setup for racing though I was taking the chance for a gnarly day as we were going up to 1800m.

all photos courtesy
Small crowd of 60 eager riders lined up. Supposed neutral vehicle pulled away quick with 3 guys on its tail.
The rest of us sauntered not knowing where the neutral part ended. Still not sure, we all sort of went a little harder once on the main Hwy 33.

Even though the rain felt light, I was getting soaked by the rear wheel spray from the bike in front. Clothing choice so far, pretty good, as I was keeping warm while wet.

Legs were a little rigid from doing the Thursday night crit 36 hours ago. Jeff Innes from ERTC was hanging with me for awhile, though we wondered where Terra Manca, a fellow ERTC-er was.

Once my legs loosened up, I clung onto the wheel of a tall guy's bike at a good pace. We both drifted away on our own when I took a pull at one point up the first 12k climb section.

At the top near Goudie road, I said to my riding buddy that we either bridge to the group of 3 riders ahead or he was stuck with me for the flat section, as the next group was abit further back.

Both of us worked together and caught on to this group of three guys in the photo. Once we did, the pace of our group was a little slow. Whenever there was a longer climb, I took a pull up the climb hoping to get the pace going a little quicker.

The roads were rough when I noticed my rear tire was flat. New tire, so bummer. As I stopped to change it, a truck immediately stopped and two guys, Shaun and Caleb, helped me. I assumed they were with the race. I quickly shifted the rear derailleur to the small cog, and attempted to ignore the extra click that did not sound like a clean shift.

I was anxious to be losing time so was chirping for the guys to be quicker. Their help was appreciated so I hate when I lose perspective like that. The peloton with the next woman & Jeff just went by.

I put the rear wheel back on and was dismayed when I could not shift the rear cable to larger cogs. Doh, it was true the shifter had broken in the front. The gear choice of a 50/34 with an 11 cog would not be fun for long. I had to bail.

With my warm clothes bag already at the top, the guys suggested I jump in with them to get a ride. They were watching friends of theirs in the race.

As we drove past the racers, it was cool to see the little groups and the odd singled out person. This was a great race course!
On the turn to Big White, I noticed Terra and was confused to see her there. She mistaken the start time to be 1 hour later so managed to get into the half distance race which started at this turnoff.

Dean & Todd, the guys in 5th & 6th that my truck was following.

Cool scenery!
Roger Sherwood who solo-ed the whole race into 2nd place, an ERTC rider favourite!
ERTC Jeff incognito in a very large blue rain-cape that a volunteer lent him. Jeff said if it was not for the volunteer's help at the feed zones, that he likely would not have finished. The cold rain was an unexpected extra element.

It was 5C and close to sleeting at the top!!
Volunteers at Big White were excited to put on this 1st time event. The support at the top was great with warm blankets and hot packs, and food.
kids raced up the hardest last 2 km of the course!
The organizers are excited about the turn-out and have proclaimed their interest in putting on the event again in 2016, and possibly a series of hill climb events.

I'd like to give it another go!

Later in the week, Jeff & Terra joined me on my favourite route up to Crystal Mountain and back through Boucherie.
Marg & Terra on Boucherie Road
Jeff, Marg & Terra about to descend Gellatly road
Wildfires within 5 km where I stay at Mike's chalet circled in green - abit scary especially when we went through an evacuation one night