Singletrack 6 – Stages 5&6

As the final two days closed in the body was still hanging in strong and better than I thought it would. Doing a multi-day race for the first time had a lot of question marks, but I was having so much fun that those questions were never worried about. That week of racing, hanging out, and sharing the experience with others will be remembered forever. It was the other racers the event, and the volunteers that made it a highlight race of my year. 

Lining up with my Pivot Cycles crew before the final stage. Photo: Russ Baker

I will 100% be back for more stage races and to ST6 in the future. This event brought me back to my roots of racing and I think the most special part was the types of people who came together because of their passion for riding. It was contagious and I caught the bug!

Day 5 start in Kaslo. Photo: John Gibson

Day 5 we visited the Kaslo for what was, in my opinion, the best course of the week. We left with a Police escort and headed for the mountains. After a long firewood climb to split the field up we began the real climb on an exposed sidehill. It was so steep that if you fell down it, well, you would probably would never be heard of again. The uphill switchbacks were so tight that we had to run around then. Then came my favourite pat: the descent. It was exceptional and crafted in a such a way that the speed was kept up but the flow of trail maintained that speed to the absolute perfect amount. The trail weaved all types of terrain from the peak down to the valley bottom. It was the one unfortunate day I took a wrong turn and had to backtrack. I was pushing it on the descent and trying to get a gap and once I did I pretty much tossed it away. 

Bridging back up to Justin after he attacked the final days climb in Kaslo. Photo: John Gibson

Justin caught back up to be me and we rode the rest of the stage together and I took the win but wasn’t able to get anyway GC time on him. After we snacked on Party Mix, drank water and coke, it was time for a swim in Kootenay Lake. We then cruised back to basecamp in Nelson before the sixth and final stage. 

Day 6 Started in downtown Nelson with a police escort and we were led out with our Captain who was honouring Pilsner and Kokanee. Photo: John Gibson

Day 6 began and ended in downtown Nelson. The town welcomed us with open arms and shut down the main streets. We rolled out behind our “Beer Captain” and a Police escort. This start was the most mellow of them all and you could see riders feeling the previous five days. Eventually the fireworks went off. I went into the timed descent leading the GC for it and needed to be smart and not risk too much, but also not slack because Alex is quick! I also tailed 3 riders after the 1 hour climb to the top. I pushed hard in the descent and ended up catching all the riders and getting a gap on Justin. I had 3.5 minutes to make up if I wanted any chance for the overall. It was now or never. I climbed with everything I had and he closed it down after the next 45 min climb on the flat/downhill fire road. I burnt all the matches beforehand. Hats off to Justine. It was a pleasure to race against him all week and it sure was exciting. We each won 3 stages, and I was able to take 4 descent stages and the overall. So its not a bad week with 7 first places finishes and 5 second place finishes. I’ll take it. 

As much as Justine and I battled for the overall, we also raced like gentleman. Here he let me pass just before the timed descent so I could go for the seconds, and in return I waited for him at the bottom before we got back to racing. Photo: John Gibson

For my first stage race I was very satisfied. I kept wondering if a bad day or meltdown day would happen, as it’s a part of stage races I hear about. There was never a bad just day, just a little off day 4 but Justine I think was just that much stronger. Big thank you to Transrockies and the ST6 crew for having me and putting on a top-notch event. 

ST6 was a major accomplishment for every rider, volunteer and staff. It was a big week on all levels. Congrats to everyone who took part. Photo: John Gibson 

Spent the week going back and forth for the timed descent with Alex “Krunk Shox” McGuinnes. Photo: John Gibson

First stage race is now in the books. Photo: John Gibson

Day 6 in Nelson before the fireworks began. Photo: John Gibson

Fellow Pivot Cycles rider Taylor Lideen finished 3rd overall. Photo: John Gibson

On The Edge-Pivot rider Mathieu Belanger-Barrette finished in 5th overall and was the defending ST6 champion. Photo: John Gibson

 

Photo: John Gibson

Photos from here down by Russ Baker

 

Stage 2 podium at Red Mountain in Rossland. 

Stage 6’s final berm in the timed descent.

Opted for the “cooler” jersey in Stage 5’s 30 C heat. 

Singletrack 6 – Stages 3&4

Making it past day two of this race was an accomplishment itself after taking myself out on day two of the last stage race I attempted. This week has been incredible so far. I can’t explain the vibe, camaraderie, volunteer support, the faces of true grit and accomplishment. It’s been taxing on the whole body. Long, steep climbs and rugged sections of trail, where arm pump and numb hands are a given, seem to be the flavour of each day and the other parts of each stage vary with surprises. 

Day 1 neutral start with a police escort through the streets of Rossland.

After coming alive halfway through day 1 and making up a big amount of time it still meant chasing Justin Lindine in GC time. Day 2 I hardly squeaked out any time, but he did take a crash in the final descent with the time that I did gain. It was the first stage win of the race for me. I also came into this race looking to chase the the mini race within the big race, known as the “timed descent”. It’s just one downhill trail per day that we’re timed on and then like the overall race winner, a timed descent winner gets the downhill glory. On day 2 I was able to take the descent and move into the overall lead. 

Day 3 was the one I looked forward to most this race. 7 Summits is an iconic trail and we were the first group to ever race it by bike. It truly was an honour. This was also a stage I targeted for overall time, because it was a very hard climb to start, rolling ridges, then a long 15 km descent to finish. Again, Justin was too strong in every aspect he stayed glued to my wheel all day. I also won this stage and came 2nd in the descent, where Alex McGuinnis took the descent lead back over.

7 Summits. If you’re a mountain biker then this is a need-to-ride-ASAP trail.

Day 4 we transferred over to Nelson after spending first three in Rossland. This week is all new trails for me and Nelson has been on the bucket list for a while. Stage 4 may have been the hardest because it took 24+ km of climbing to finally reach the alpine summit before we descended (mostly) to the finish. I pushed hard in the timed descent after Justin had ridden away on the climb and was out of sight. Maybe too much effort on the descent as the cramps came on during the final firewood section. This day ended with the best descent of the week, so far. I finished 2nd on the stage and won the descent to take the lead back over. 

Valleluja trail summit in the alpine. 

Day 5 just finished but I’ll wait for more photos and do a recap with the sixth and final day. Photo report below.

If you’re interested in daily profiles you can check out my Strava profile and see each day: https://www.strava.com/pros/183904

 

All photos below by John Gibson

It’s been a pleasure watching fellow racers accomplish some bloody hard days.

 

Cheer squad was exceptional. 

 

Day 2 descended Red Mountain with stunning views of Rossland.

Swiss XC mafia friend, Nathalie Schneitter and her brother Michael. She is leading the timed descent category with me!

These volunteers are keeping us alive! I’ve never liked watermelon as much as I have this week!

 

Unique trails that we are all racing blind. Not knowing what the next corner holds is a large part of the excitement.

All photos by John Gibson

Canada Cup #1 Recap

It has been months since the last cross-country race report in 2016 ( 7 months to be exact) This winter brought a lot of change and the fire is burning.
 
On Saturday the first race of the year kicked off with a Canada Cup in Victoria, BC. Every top rider in Canada and some of USA’s Olympic long-list riders as well. I’m working with a new coach (Richard Wooles) and we trained harder than I’ve ever experienced this winter, with a plan to be strong, not peaked, at this first event. After 1 lap I was out chasing Canadian Olympian Raphael Gagne by myself. For 5.5/6 laps I was chasing him solidly in second place and everything was seeming and feeling good to finish there, but mountain biking has the side where it’s hard on the bike and mechanicals can happen. Unfortunately, a mechanical had me running downhill for a few minutes in that last lap to the tech zone (no, I won’t be switching to running anytime soon). Falling from 2nd-7th before our National Team mechanic quickly got me rolling. In the end I made one more pass and it was a 6th place finish, outside the the podium, less world-ranking points, and a result that doesn’t tell the story, but the hard work is paying dividends thanks to a winter of the hardest work I’ve ever done with my new coach.

 

HUGE heartfelt and sincere thank you to everyone helping me this year to get this program off the ground. It’s a been a heavy winter and I couldn’t be more excited with how things turned out and it’s because I’m surrounded by so many wonderful and selfless people. I wanted to get that podium finish for everyone supporting me as a thank you, but I might have to wait for the next one now.

Pre-race media:

http://www.timescolonist.com/sports/olympians-ready-to-hit-the-trails-again-at-bear-mountain-1.10933456

Post-race report:

http://canadiancyclist.com/dailynews.php?id=32216&title=pendrel-gagne-win-opening-round-of-canada-cup

 

Photo: http://www.canadiancyclist.com

Thanks to Mike Garrigan – Canada MTB team technical coach. He helped every rider over this two week camp refine and improve skills.

 

Cycling Canada MTB Camp update

On Sunday Feb 19th I travelled down to Victoria to kick off the MTB race season. Firstly, I caught up with the brother for a day before arriving at Bear Mountain Resort for the Cycling Canada National MTB team camp on the 20th. This group is like a second family and I have many good friends here, so that makes this trip special. 

Training with a group of motivated, inspiring and like-minded riders is special. We’re fortunate to be staying at Bear Moutain and having accommodation and food supplied while we put in work on the bike and “classroom-style” learning and work each day. We were greeted with the snow the last three mornings and today it was actually quite fun to be sliding around in it. 

Saturday is when the season kicks off with a Canada Cup. I’m excited to see how well I did my homework this winter. Until then, we’ll keep on keepin’ on, and make snowmen of course. Photos below from the trip so far:

Love new bike day. New Pivot Mach 429SL showed up the other day and it felt fitting that its friends, NEXT crank and Turbine dropper by Race Face, kept it company. 

Bear Mountain Resort is embracing cycling quite heavily and making us feel at home

Those Schwalbe Tires are loving the Victoria trails, I mean mud, I mean hero dirt.

Photo: Kevin Light 

Photo: Kevin Light

Surprise snowstorm on Day 6 couldn’t keep us inside.

We’ve been given the “Player’s Lounge”

Our team room is in good company with Gretzky jersey on the wall.

Front door view at Bear Mountain

Team rock climbing evening. Booked in for 2 hours and all the weak upper bodied cyclists were tired in about 15 minutes. We pushed on and made the most of it watching the chameleon Evan Mcneely in the picture above. 

 

Off-Season Recap – Pinkbike

We’re already well into training again for 2017 and this past fall was one of the best off-seasons to date. With the season going late, school not starting until November and friends travelling out to Peachland from the east coast, it was a fall to remember. Full recap in a Rider Perspective piece on Pinkbike: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/rider-perspective-off-season-camp-guthrie-2016.html

 

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EWS video

Flashback to my last race in Finale Ligure, Italy. Enduro is a totally different animal to cross-country and I love them both for being very different. 

 

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03zPL9AADo4[/embedyt]

Hardwood Hills Canada Cup

The fourth round of Cycling “Canada’s Canada Cup Series” took place yesterday at Hardwood Ski and Bike near Barrie, Ontario. This venue was the host of the 2015 Pan American Games MTB race and it’s one of the longest standing Canada Cup venues.  Pulse Racing puts on a great event and it shows what hard work and a good course can bring. Fields were filled with National champs, ex-national champs, Olympians and future Olympians.

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3 inches thick and that size, let’s just say they were really, really good. Thanks Marc-Antoine!

This was the end of a four week racing trip that covered Germany, France, Horseshoe Valley and then Hardwood Hills. I was aiming high for this race after pulling out one of my better races of the season last weekend. The past two weeks were filled with a ton of training hours to start building for the second half of the season and it just so happened that not only did I end up really needing those hours, it just helped improve the racing. Go figure, when you focus on the training and let off the racing stress a touch the improvement skyrockets.

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As always, the Trillium kids event kicked off the racing weekend on Saturday afternoon. Us “old” riders were doing the final race prep before taking the line on Sunday.

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We make great babysitters. Our business will be “Laying on bikes by EvanSquared daycare”

Sunday the crew showed up at Hardwood and everyone was in a good place. We did our new team Norco warm up as a group. It seemed to work last week so keeping the fun alive was once again important.

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1,2,3, let’s crush it! Team support, mentor and pal Andrew Watson leading the cheer

Our man Kevin took care of us after spending the previous day doing tech support at the Ride to Conquer Cancer in Toronto. His family was out in full cheer mode for the team after his wife Sue raced earlier and crushed it! Haley wasn’t racing this weekend but was also out in full cheering mode for us.

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Haley is cheering with Kevin and Sue’s girls: L – Nicole, R – Alexa

From the gun I tried to go for it and hit the front after about 30 seconds of racing. From then on I kept the pace up and established a little gap that held all the way to the finish. Derek Zandstra was breathing down my neck all day but I was comfortable and confident with how the body was rolling. I knew what I needed to do and rode smart. I also had my teammates (reinforcements) just behind.

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Start

Mcneely was following Derek for half the way race and Peter was Shake’n and Bake’n through the group after an issue on the first lap. Lespy was rolling just behind them.

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Mcneely following Derek for reinforcements.

In the end I was able to take my first Canada Cup win in 5 years. It felt like forever since that last one and this one was even sweeter feeling. I’ve had some tough luck this year (which is part of the process so no excuses) and wasn’t fully satisfied with my form after some sickness and off races but training and everything just clicked these last two weekends. It’s what you chase as an athlete.  Derek is a force and a racer I respect. I believe he will be, and should be, going to the Olympics for Canada this summer. I have big respect for him so it was an honour to finish ahead.

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Photo: Antoine Caron, Pinkbike 

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Photo: Antoine Caron, Pinkbike 

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Photo: Antoine Caron, Pinkbike 

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Mcneely came in with 3rd, Petey D came charging back to 4th, and our Norco teammate Andrew Watson’s athlete – Davis Ross – finished in 5th. Lespy rolled in with 8th. That marked the third Canada Cup win a row for the Norco men (all separate athletes have taken wins). Mcneely still leads the Men’s overall and we’ve again pushed forward in the Men’s Team ranking.

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This Pugsley climb hurt the big boy in me today. Steep climbs are tough on us Clydesdales

Emily Batty, our other Canadian speedster who will be going to Rio for the Olympics this year won the women’s race. BC’s Emily Hanford won the Junior women’s race and our boy Quinton Disera (Pete’s younger brother) won the Junior men ahead of BC’s Sean Finchman. It was great to see such a large group of  young BC athletes out with the provincial team. The first 4 times I raced Hardwood starting back in ’09 were all done with the BC Team.

I’m proud to be apart of such an amazing group of riders and staff from Norco Bicycles. More importantly they’re my friends and I wouldn’t be able to be doing this without all of their support. Our team has something special brewing right now and I’m excited to see where it leads.

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The Disera bros grew up racing Hardwood and this section is called “Disera Drop”

This upcoming weekend I’m very excited to be back home in Kelowna racing a BC Cup! I haven’t done a BC Cup in a while, and we have not had a BC Cup in the Okanagan since my very first race in 2003 as a 12 year old. I came dead last then, let’s hope for better luck this time.

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No words needed.

Our racing pal and now writer/photographer/videographer Antoine Caron is recovering from an injury and covering some of the races now. Pinkbike article here.

Canadian Cyclist results, pictures, and interviews.

PedalMag results.

All results.

Strava

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L to R: Peter Disera, Derek Zandstra, myself, Evan Mcneely, and Davis Ross.

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Team

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Cooling down and laughing with our boss man Kevin last weekend.

 

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La Bresse World Cup Recap

World Cup racing is savage. No matter where you are in the field it’s a fight – sometimes literally. Not that I can account for racing anywhere near the front end of an elite men’s WC, I’ve just watched them and been beaten by them. Albstadt and La Bresse marked my twentieth and twenty-first WC races. I’ve raced multiples as a junior, under-23 and now elite; the races have only gotten harder and somehow that continues to lure you in more.

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There’s always a lure to come back and conquer when races don’t go well. The racing is crazy at the back of the field. Apart from from the speed there are bikes, fists, feet and people flying all the over the place.

Start

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

A WC start goes something like this: gun goes off, front guys start, back guys wait about 5 sec to even clip in, 150 guys are sprinting around you, one guy brakes and a chain reaction begins and someone usually crashes, everyone come almost to a hault swerving around a wrecked person or stand-still, guys are sprinting into or over you, some guy always goes for a stupid pass and catches his bar in the fencing and eats $hit, hopefully you swerve around him, then comes the bottleneck at the first single-track. Now you’re walking, running if you’re lucky, bikes are above rider’s heads to tomahawk past everyone else, then you get in a pushing battle with some other racer (yes, aggression in spandex), and now you get back on your bike and start riding again. That’s only the first 5 minutes.

Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory Team)

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

If you’re like me, you get past by 125 lbs dudes floating up the climbs – only to then catch them on the descent and get held up. It’s ends up being an uphill battle both ways. Sometimes you get a clear trail for a bit and ride your rhythm, which is hopefully at your potential. Usually there’s 5-10 guys just up the road to chase and the same amount just behind chasing you down. Every inch is fought for in these races. In North America someone can crash, flat, mechanical, and dab all over and usually still be in the race. In Europe or at a WC you can be passed by 4 guys by simply dabbing. A flat tire can mean not finishing the lead lap. A chain break or a start crash, well I can tell you all about that.

Bouchard beats Vogel for 20th

Congrats to Canadian Leandre Bouchard for 20th

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

The first finish of the day is making it through the start loop unscathed with a working bike. There isn’t any friendliness in the back of the field to other races, unless maybe you’re country mates or proper buds. I’ll always give riders the respect, as we’re chasing the same thing, but as soon as someone gets out of line and tries to get physical I’m confident my clydesdale weight and size will only backfire their plans.

At Albstadt I had the unique opportunity to, once again, be DFL after only 100 M when my chain broke. Whatever it was I was ready to take on the ‘how many people can I pass game’ again. I hate quitting and will do everything possible in a race to continue. This was just a test of that. It was a 400 M run to the pits while being cheered on by fans with pretzels in their hands (which I was jealous of). I was reminded with this scenario that the bike community is amazing. People from Scott/3Rox, the Canadian National Team, and Aaron Schooler (my personal helper for the day) all came to help once I ran into the pits. I set a new personal passing record of 53 riders. $hit happens sometimes and you just have to make the best of it. I really wanted to workup the appetite for my post-race schnitzel and Milka bar.

Bike racing is tough. Winning the personal battles for me means just as much on days like that.

Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory Team)

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

In La Bresse I just needed to get past 250 M without issues and that was a win. That happened. The legs didn’t show up this day but with one of the best courses to date. This course had people in, on, and around every nook and cranny yelling and screaming. It was only natural to to get buck wild on the descents with chains saws revving (Long live Chainsaw) and bells ringing. Make sure to check out the women’s race – it was incredible to watch those ladies throw down. The Frenchman – Julian Absalon – schooled the men’s field to win on home soil.

All smiles, Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing XC) and Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team)

Both Emily (L) and Catharine (R) had amazing races to finish 3rd and 2nd.

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

Now I’m back in Horseshoe Valley, Ontario for the nest two weeks for some Canada Cup races. More updates to follow.

 

Photo essay from the trip:

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Victoria Canada Cup Recap

The 2016 racing season has officially begun. This past weekend the first Canada Cup took place at Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria, BC. In the two weeks leading in I was staying at my brothers in town and doing some training rides with the National Team.

It was a special race for me because my parents, brother, and friends were out to watch. Many fellow racers and their families were also out, my Norco family was there as well and it meant that I had a ton of support on this day – something I cherish. Not often do that many of my friends and family make it out to a bike race and even though this is a “home” province race it still takes 7-8 hours to Victoria from Kelowna area.

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Steven, Lucy, Tomas – bro, myself, Kim – mother, Owen – one of best friends, and Erika. Father missing from Picture!

The Norco Factory Team with Evan McneelyAndrew L’esperanceHaley SmithPeter Disera, Jonathan Duncan, Kevin Havilland, and Pete Stace-Smith were out.

Haley rode impressively through the field to a 4th place in her first official year as an elite. Evan and Andrew took two podium spots in 4th and 5th, while Peter and I followed up with an 8th and 10th.

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My bros

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been 5.5 months since my last race and I had only been “full-time” training on the bike for two weeks leading into this race, which was noticeable in the end results. I finished in 10th; my worst Canada Cup result in 5 years. The field was arguably more stacked than usual but it was still a poor performance, though many positives were taken. Things can definitely only go up and that’s all the motivation I need as of now.

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Photo: Jay Wallace – Island Images 

Racing is something we do a lot and always have the opportunity to do, so leading into the camp and having Canada’s best riders all on the island and doing workouts together is something I take more from. I’m fortunate to call these riders my friends and I’m always looking forward to riding and hanging out with them all. I have unique stories and experiences with each of these riders.

Someone like Catharine Pendrel who I met riding in 2006 when we were sponsored by the same bike shop; Derek Zandstra who took me under his wing a bit in 2008 at the World Championships and rode me as a 17 yr old; Emily Batty who also hung out with me and I think pushed one of my first cups of espresso on me in Italy at the 2008 World Champs; Raphael Gagne who hung out and rode with my as a junior and was also my teammate in the team relay – along with Catharine and Geoff – World Champs in Australia where we won a silver medal.

That’s just the beginning, each of the riders these past couple weeks brought something to the training, they’ve brought a lot to the racing over the years and I’m looking forward to hanging out with all these fellow Canadian racers in the years to come!

This year it was the first fundraiser gala for Cycling Canada MTB as the “Road to Rio” gala took place the evening after the race at Bear Mountain. Many supporters and racers showed up to celebrate mountain biking and support the National Team’s quest for Olympic glory. It was an honour to sit at the table with Cycling BC – who have been instrumental in my cycling development – along with my family. Thank-you Cycling BC for bring my family and I.

Big thank you to Bear Mountain Resort  and everyone involved for bringing a Canada Cup to the west coast. It’s a start to a bright future for mountain biking in Canada with Victoria to home to Cycling Canada’s National Mountain Bike Team.

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Photo: Jay Wallace – Island Images 

Evan Guthrie

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Fisherman’s Wharf

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Big baby bro and I 

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Post-bike race fun in the boardgames cafe. 3 hrs of Risk has be buying the game now. Photo: Catherine Fleury

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First time seeing a seal..what a weird mammal/animal/creature thing

 

 

Season opener this weekend

With the first race of the season approaching this Saturday March 5th, its been crunch time on the bike in Victoria this past week. I’ve been down training while at my brothers place and joining the national team on some rides. After an amazing winter at home it feels good to be back on the bike. Its been rewarding feeling the benefits of all the winter cross-training on the bike so soon.

With only 3 days on the MTB this year, before last week, it was great to sharpen the skills and get used to going hard again(race pace) – something I haven’t done since last October at the final Enduro World Series. Not saying I haven’t been training hard, because I’ve been training really hard since November, but not having done that race-specific high end work yet.

The whole Norco Factory Team is in town and we’re on our new Revolvers and looking to shake things up at this Canada Cup. We’re excited to be showcasing our new bikes, new sponsors and long-standing sponsors to start off this 2016 Olympic season.

Here’s a few photos below from the past weeks training:

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Ross Durance rd is in my top-5 best roads to road ride
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Legs are out of winter hibernation. Leg hair replaces leg warmers here.

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Team Norco: Peter “Petey D” Disera, Evan “Mcsneaky” Mcneely, and Andrew “Lespy” L’esperance. Missing our gal Haley “Hunter” Smith in this photo.