Nobody will believe me if I say today was the hardest day on the bike ever because I always say that. But it seems we have once again taken our cycling adventures to an entirely new level, starting with some double-black MTB trails on the course today! 🙈😱
Even before the double-black super technical downhill (and to think the announcers were taking the piss out of some guy wearing a full-face helmet at the start!), I had my most dramatic crash ever, fulfilling a recurring nightmare I have of me flying off a cliff!
It wasn’t five minutes into the race on some gentle flowing singletrack when I clipped my right handlebar on a tree and we (bike and me) flew through the air to land in another tree down a step embankment on the left side of the trail. I quickly got myself disentangled from my bike and did a quick inspection of the bike before remounting and continuing on.
It’s funny because when I woke up this morning, I was reasonably relaxed and relieved to find that John and I still have our morning race routine dialed in - even before coffee! I had no idea what we were about to experience!!
We knew the climbing on this 40km stage would be a killer with over 1,000m of vertical elevation. On a tricky and very technical MTB course. The climbing was rough, but I’m a workhorse on the bike and generally speaking I find the physical effort of tapping out long climbs very rewarding (at least that’s what I say when I’m not grinding up a hill!)
But today’s climbs were rocky jagged forest trails on which you have to power your bike up over roots and sometimes tangled root networks with some big pointy rocks thrown in. All while balancing yourself precariously on the bike, pushing the pedals at exactly the right speed, unweighting your front, then your back wheel, again at exactly the right split second.
All this and more is happening as you scan the trail ahead to make sure you’re ready for what’s coming next, which may be another tricky obstacle to climb. I was enjoying it for awhile but my hamstrings started burning and tightening up, and the trail got more and more demanding as I was getting more and more fatigued.
This is not unusual on many MTB trail ascents, but today was exceptional, as evidenced by my taking more than 5.5 hours to complete 40km! For non-cyclists, and for comparison, I can usually do 100km on my road or gravel bike (solo riding) in around 4 hours or less.
In addition to my high flying crash at the start, I was off my bike seemingly every few minutes once we got to the steeper downhill sections. Big rocky shoots awaited us after both massive climbs today, as if once weren’t enough of a challenge! With steep drop-offs immediately to our right or left, there was little margin for error. One mistake unclipping a shoe from the pedal or turning the front wheel a little too aggressively could mean disaster.
I relied on my brakes to allow me to sight upcoming obstacles, but riding these trails blind was crazier than I could have imagined.
Braking too much on some of these steep downhills means either going over the bars (which I nearly did several times) or having your back wheel slide until you find yourself careening down the slippery gravel or powdery sand sideway. This meant even more hike-a-bike for me.
Speaking of which, walking with your bike on these trails can be nearly as dangerous as riding them. Using my bike as a kind of crutch, I had to apply the brakes and brace my front wheel to stop myself from falling down some of the near-vertical drops. My leg muscles only got tighter throughout the day.
As with JoBerg2c, they like to have riders smiling as they cross the finish, so they often make the final kilometers a pleasant and easy singletrack so most of us can float into the finish line.
Today ended with a dark lush forest descent that indeed left me smiling and nearly forgetting the other terrifying events of today. If I were to do this day over, I would wear knee and elbow pads, if not full body armour!
I wrote this on the bus to Cumberland post-race and hoping for some very precious WiFi when we get to camp!
Note to BCBR 2019 hopefuls: splurge for a stupidly overpriced Canadian SIM card, as the race only provides a very limited time for fairly unreliable WiFi and you probably won’t be able to do FB live ;)