My “first” gravel ride

Ok, let’s be honest here, this was not my first ride on gravel but it was my first on a newly set up “gravel bike”, which is just my ‘cross bike with some 38c Schwalbe G-One All-Around tires set up tubeless. 

I must say that these bikes are a lot more capable than one would think. Basically I ride my mountain bike when I want to be on dirt, and never even think of exploring the thousands of kilometres of forest service roads (FSR) that start behind my place. For some reason I always felt that why ride gravel when there is sweet single track to be shredded? Well, there is and it adds another element to the already diverse nature of cycling. 

Moo’ving along

Today I had a new excitement rise over me as I rode this rigid bike, over questionable terrain, in the mountains, having only just quickly looked at google maps the day before. A sense of exploration and freedom came over me as I pedalled into the mountaisn and around lakes that I fished at over 20 years ago. 

The route went up Princeton Avenue in Peachland and toward Headwaters Lake. Once reaching the lake the trick was going to be finding the correct and small FSR that led over to Peachland Lake before continuing on to Brenda Mine Rd. After getting onto a questionable “road” that slowly became washed out and turned into a nothing more than a quad trail, I kept exploring on and eventually rounded a corner and was overlooking Peachland lake. 

Mission accomplished. Sometimes I don’t realize  the routine of rides I’ve built until planning a totally different one like this. Within 20 minutes of setting off I almost talked myself out of doing it, but once making that turn and starting this ride, there was no turning back. I foresee more of these happening in the near future to explore the backyard more and keep that sense of freedom alive. This whole ‘gravel bike’ bug might just be worth catching for a while. 

It doesn’t look steep, but was it ever! Need smaller gears.

Brenda Mine Rd

Cairns WC recap

After a successful Sea Otter trip it was time to head down under. Cairns, Australia was host to the first World Cup of 2016. I travelled down with my Norco teammates Evan M and Andrew. Haley also came but was with the national team for this race.

Air New Zealand – fantastic airline and I highly recommend to anyone travelling down this way.

The temperatur in Cairns, well more the humidity, was the craziest I’ve ever experienced. I used to think the east coast was bad but this took it to a whole new level. I think I was sweaty the entire 9 days. No complaints of nice weather though. We experienced wind and rain storms that hardly seems like storms because it just felt like you were standing under a warm shower stream.

The course was unbelievably amazing. I love riding mountain bikes and I can hardly contain myself when the trails get that good, especially for a bike race. Not often do we race really fun trails. This one was hard with one main, long climb and one long descent with a flat loop at the bottom. The start would prove to be crucial in the race with the long single track climb.

In the days leading up we enjoyed riding the course, relaxing by our pool and sharing the excitement of being in this tropical paradise. We were full privateers at this face; supporting ourselves in everyday but also enjoying having just our races to focus on.

Come race day the teams spirit was high and on a personal level I was ready to rumble, in the jungle of course! My world ranking still isn’t quite where I want it to be and that means starting 71st of 90 riders – not great. I wasn’t worried about that as I felt good and the course was going to be a good one for me. Unfortunately after 250 meters of sprinting from the start a crash happened and after cruising through the dust I rode right into my teammate Evan who was on the ground and I went down too. Not the way anyone wants to start the fastest races in the world. After getting up, dead last with Evan, I got on the bike and was back at it. My bar was twisted sideways from the impact, so I stopped quick and forced it back into place. Once rolling again I caught the pack in the first bottleneck section and start the “let’s see how many people I can pass” game.

The adrenaline is pumping hard at that point and you’re just seeing the tunnel vision. IN the beginning you pass a lot of riders but as you get in to the field the riders are faster and faster, which means less passing and then finally you reach a point where you’re in with the pack. I didn’t know how far I could push back through, so to finish 57th is decent, but knowing that I did that after a crash and being way off the back and the field out-of-sight in the beginning is frustrating. I don’t know how the race would have played out otherwise but I do know the placing would have been a lot higher.

The race, once I got into my rhythm, was good. I was happy with how I rode, happy how the body felt and happy with my technical ability out there. That is what I take home for the next two weeks of training before heading to Europe for the next two World Cup races in Germany and France. To get some redemption.

Post race I decided to stay an extra 3 days for a mini vacation. Something we don’t usually do or even think about but after flying half way around the world for 5 days I felt like an extra 3 was necessary. On day 1 I did a Cairns exploration ride then went to a crocodile zoo in the afternoon with other friends who stayed. We watched crocs, pet koalas and wallabies, and learned about all the dangerous Australian animals and insects that don’t actually kill many people..

Day 2 was a 13 hour jungle tour and waterfall exploration with a friend. We rode the bus out into the old volcanic lands, swam in volcano lakes and waterfalls, saw the world largest fig tree and saw hundreds of kilometres of beautiful rainforests and jungles. Day 3 we took a boat out to a little island that backs on to the Great Barrier Reef and we snorkelled around. It was an action-packed few days and I am spent now. Playing tourist is hard! I did my last ride up the coast to Port Douglas. I’m not in the airport and heading home.

Thanks to everyone who made this trip happen and supported me along the way. It’s a big year and I’m looking forward to the races ahead. Here’s a few links to race reports, photos and results:

CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/summer/fleury-pendrel-mountain-bike-world-cup-1.3550844

Pinkbike: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/rise-of-the-olympians-cairns-xc-world-cup-2016.html

Pedal Magazine interviews: http://pedalmag.com/uci-mtb-world-cup-xc-cairns-elite-mens-results/

Canadian Cyclist photo gallery: http://canadiancyclist.com/photos.php?cc_event_id=563&title=cairns-mtb-world-cup

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Mid race. Photo: Antoine Caron

Photo story from the trip

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