Monday, May 26, 2008

2008 Mountain Bike Season Update # 6 - Mont Tremblant Canada Cup/Quebec Cup DH

Tremblant Canada Cup? Interesting weekend to say the least! The course definately won't fall on one of my Top Ten places to ride lists. The flow is minimal, the majority of the tech sections aren't traditinal DH in my opinion, lots of rocky pedally sections (kind of like riding XC on big bike to handle the rocks, which may sound like an odd complaint comming from someone who races some XC as well), fast sections are mostly just long wide open fire roads, minimal berms, jumps or drops? I was actually quite suprised because the hill has so much potential with the terrain and vertical that this was the course layout they choose for the Canada Cup. You'd think after apparently running the identical course years they'd build something a little more flowy, with more steep section, and do something with all the open sestions (some berms, some jumps or maybe drop vs. just hammer across a field). However, Will I be back next year? Most likely. Did I have a great time? Definately. Was the racing great, tight and filled with excitement and suprises? Without a doubt! It was a great place to hone some skills where you can't use momentum to just plow over stuff, a great environement around Tremblant and DH scene as always, and ultimately resulting in a weekend of fun riding and racing.

So what hapened? The story of this weekend was Rob comming back from his 15th place at Bromont, where he knew a mistake cost him the placing he wanted determined to show what he could do. He spent the weekend dialing in runs and lines with determination and all the hard work paid off. A time of 4:43:050, killing the Jr. Ex field and finishing 11th in Pro! I think he made his statement. Can't wait to see what this step up in confidence will do for his riding and focus over the next couple of sesaons. For myself and the rest of the poisonfrog.ca crew can't say the runs went as well. After strugling a little in most of the practice runs my last runs Saturday and Sundays went well and I thought my chances of meeting my goal of finishing about mid-pack in my class should have materialized, but the stars wheren't going to line up for me. The first singletrack sections was the smoothest I'd felt all weekend, stoked and in the zone I come out to hammer into the two berms and heard the sound of metal breaking. Thinking I just blew my dearailler I pulled over in utter disapointment, realized it was just my chain but decide to DNF instead of run the entire course chainless and risk holding up the riders behind me. Plus with so many tech sections that you needed to be torquing the pedals to get through I can't imagine the hike a bike through the rock gardens would have been any fun. As for the other riders on the team simialar runs where had. JP had bike issues off the start, and had a dissapointing run. (However I must say he was one of the fastest riders going through section just above the off camber wet rock, all the while yelling out to us "this is a shit run".), Ben blew his chain a little further down the course then I did, and Chad had a decent finish with a 6th place but he caught up to the rider ahead of him who wouldn't move and he lost a lot of time making his run quite frustrating as well. But that's racings.



All in all I was quite bummed at the end of my run and watching people run through the course. Seeing how many sport riders where bailing everywhere didn't help because I was pretty sure I could tie together a relatively clean run without bailling at least. However looking back on things today the weekend as a whole was a blast with a lot of good riding which I'm sure improved my skills riding through muddy rocks on Saturday. Some good times where had over beers with a bunch of the Ontario riders, as well as Andrew and Laura who came up for the XC Race. And Steph managed to somehow keep me entertained over the 12+ hours of driving over the weekend. Leaving me wishing the next race was comming up sooner then it was to try and forget about that snapped chain.

Last note huge thanks goes out to Kevin and guys from the Norco Factory Support team for helping us out (me and Rob) before our race runs with some tech issues. With the limited resources we had available in Quebec and lack of a shop in Tremblant (Rob busted a derailler hanger and I needed a brake bleed) neither of us would have had the opportunity get in race runs to our fullest potential without the help. It's great to see the support of the sport and sportmanship between the Ontario riders and teams.

The Blog should be quiet for a few weeks with no exciting plans over the next few weekends. See you on the trails.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2008 Mountain Bike Season Update # 5 - Bromont Canada Cup/Quebec Cup DH

Last weekend me and Andrew headed up for the Canada Cup in Bromont, which I have been Stoked about for weeks now with the DH course layed out basically the same as the World Cup course comming to Bromont later in the season.

«The new downhill course, already under construction, will be created in a hostile environment filled with rocky outcroppings, wooded sections and abrupt descents. Many tight corners, jumps and other obstacles will follow one another to create a course with a difficulty level that even the most hardy downhill kamikazes can scarcely imagine.»

Here's a few pics from walking the course Friday

Well the course was sick and had pretty much everything you'd want in a DH course. The top section was part of an existing run (Boomerang for those of you who have been to Bromont before), with some fast singletrack strewn with rocks and roots to rip through, shooting out to a smooth slightly off camber rock face. The second sections was the tech rock section that saw a lot of bodies laying across the course, and was wicked when you tied together a clean run through it. Then the bottom third of the course was flat out, with some nice berms, a few new singletrack sections that seemed to change a little with every run ending with a gap to flat landing just before the finish. The bottom sections needs a little work before the world cup to add a little more excitement in my opinion but the course was a perfect run for the season opener. One of the highlights was watching the top 20 Pro riders rip the tech section, with the UCI points so important a lot of the top Pros from Canada and a few from the States made it out to tear the course a part. It's unbelievable how fast these guys can ride and how smooth and in control they are riding on the edge. The run that stole show for me was Steve Smith (even if he finished 2nd by 2 seconds because he bailed in the wide open bottom portion he was definitely the fastest man on the hill). Anyone who watched him rip through the tech section we where at was astounded as he killed a line the way no one else did all weekend. Airing the entry to the section, and flying through the rock sections like I would never have thought possible. I think Andrew summed it up with "Holy S$%t that was retarded."

Rob and JP from the team where rippin' all weekend. I think you are going to see these kids on a lot of O-Cup podiums this year and wouldn't be surprised if either made it on podium at Tremblant either. JP killed his race run riding on the edge, rolling the rock steps on his front wheel barely holding on and finished 7th, 4 seconds off the podium and about 2/10ths of a second out of the top five. (check out the video of him riding the front wheel out through the steps down, the crowd loved the recovery as they all though he was done for.) Rob was also killing it all weekend and finished 15th in tough field but had to dab a foot at the bottom of the off camber rock face to berm costing him 5 to 10 seconds which would have put him right with JP in that tight 5th to 10th spot. Watch out for him at Tremblant as I think he might have something to prove.

So how was my weekend. Well all in all wicked, Friday around lunch walked the course and was getting pumped, but Friday afternoons practices runs went terrible. First I put on a 38tooth Chainring for the weekend but my bash guard wasn't large enough to prevent my chain from bouncing off, and it came off 2 or 3 times per run (once in the fast bottom section which resulted in a painful bail at who knows how many KM's per hour and some nice purple bruises on my thighs). The chain issue made the first day frustrating, and to top it off a mistake in the tech section pierced my rear brake line resulting in a loss of brake fluid and my seat. So that night saw us track down an E-Thirteen chain guide and Selle Italia seat at Intersport. Installation of the E-thirteen took a little fabricating to clear the swingarm as they didn't have an SRS wide but we got it on in dark under the tent by the campsite. A new day and on run one a flat on the front tire. I'm thinking here we go again, but the rest of the day went better and ended with a few good runs and dinner combined with a couple pitchers instead of bike maintenance. Saturday also saw Andrew rip the XC course finishing 6th after 5 laps around a course with a stupid climb up the ski hill and some tech rock sections. Looks like Andrews finally coming into his own this season after a few rough starts.


Race Day, I'm feeling a little tired from two night sleeping in tents and some not so smooth practice sessions, but I'm looking forward to lining up. Around 9:30 up the lift for the mandatory practice run and hopefully to set the stage for a good day and I bail in the tech section ripping my shifter off the bars and this is starting to look like the start of my Kelso race. Thankfully the guys set up beside us, had a spare X.9 Shifter they hooked me up with and I scrambled up to the lift to hit one full practice run before the race, and to my relief it went smooth. I felt that if I could do the same on my race run with a little more pedaling, it would have got me the results I wanted. So now with some time to kill I figured I'd hike up and meet Andrew in the tech section to watch a few of the pros in the Jr. Ex/Pro only practice. Unexpectedly at this point I witness a bad crash by one of the Elite girls, and ended up involved in a back boarding situation due to my Ski Patrol experience. I want to give a pat on the Back to the Safety Crew at the race as they did a spectacular job tending to the situation. It makes you feel better lining up to race, as we all know the risk we are taking that if something does go wrong the right people and equipment is there. I usually wouldn't comment on this but everything turned out reasonably well thanks to her protective gear. If you can read French visit her site http://www.marieevemarcotte.com/index.html to get the story from her perspective. She's one tough girl and I can't wait to see her ripping up the course in the near future.

Up the lift for my run and it went well but not great. It was clean, no falls, no feet coming off the pedals, but I'd guess my last practise run was about 5 to 10 seconds faster and I should have been able to shave that 5 to 10 seconds off my race run. My time of 3:43 saw me come in at 40th out of I believe 65 riders (58 who finished) which is about where I thought I'd place however I was hopping to place closer to the middle of the pack for my first Q-Cup race i.e. top thirty in this large field. All weekend I felt best about the top section but after a few hard bails in the practice runs I was little shaky off the start and lost some time through that sections before I settled down. I would have been happier with a time around 3:33 to 3:35 but hey that's racing. If you can't get focused and push yourself on your one race run you won't be seeing the results you wanted. However the race run and the weekend was still awesome, with support and cheering all the way down and the end of my run felt good as I caught the rider who left ahead of me at the bottom of the course and felt good about how I rode the bottom third of the course. Now it's back to work for 3 days and off to Tremblant Canada Cup/Q-Cup #2 (I've had a few questions about which pics are of me since we're all geared up, I'm in the last two above)

I'll leave you with a bunch of pictures from thedave on DHRACER.COM who had some great shots giving you a good feel for most of the course.


video

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reversal of Globalization?

For my birthday a couple of weeks ago I received, Let My People go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard that I look forward to reading. Yvon is the founder of Patagonia (an outdoor clothing and gear company) and has strong views on corporate/social responsibility and protecting the environment and ethical business practices. His book should prove to be quite interesting as he essentially covers three topics, creating a successful company you are passionate about, being environmentally and socially responsible and it is also kind of an autobiography about an interesting life following his passions. Skimming through the book (I still have to finish my book on Marco Polo before I can sit down and read it) he brought up a point that got me thinking a little and could generate a lot of discussion about the future of our economies.

In the reprinted version from 2006 he added an intro discussing what could essentially be a reversal of globalization to a certain extent, with a localization of our economy. His reasoning brings up some interesting thoughts.

"A dozen books have come out about oil, all pretty much saying the same thing: the end of the petroleum era will come sooner then later and we should prepare for a lifestyle that will be far different then what we have been enjoying for the last 150 years"

With the increased cost of energy comes an increased cost of transportation. The primary cause is the cost of oil, resulting in the cost of fuel going up, but also with the increases in energy costs results in the cost of building and maintaining trucks, boat, planes, etc. When you take the example of the clothing manufacturers they tend to follow a process similar to the following; Purchase cotton from Turkey, ship it in bales to Thailand to be processed to fabric, then shipped to Texas to be cut, next off to Mexico to be sown and finally back to a warehouse in the States before being redistributed across North America. As transportation cost are going up, they may soon outweigh the cost of manufacturing and materials in certain cases ultimately making a global economy based on cheap transportation unsustainable.

What effects would this have on our economies? Canada Exports nearly $500,000,000,000 in merchandise goods each year. Would the effects of localisation and curbed international purchase by Canadians be enough to counter these losses. How about a country like Australia that does not have the natural resources needed for food or to obtain lumber for construction? Will their economy be able to swallow the increased transportation cost? Crude oil cost have increased nearly 400% since 2003 and nearly 160% in the last 2 year! It's more than safe to say that outweighs inflation rates by an exuberant amount. Last time crude oil cost where rising this quickly it resulted in the recession in the early 80's. Now consider that many scientist estimate that our current access to oil supplies will last about 20 to 25 years before the extraction will become much more costly to get to the oil reserves that are more isolated. Will we be able to bounce back from a recession in the same way if the oil isn't as accessible anymore?

Needless to say the research into new forms of energy, hydrogen, solar, wind, Biofuels, etc. may eventually curve these increasing cost meaning business as usual but with the continuous reports how quickly our situation is decaying it leaves you to wonder, how much things will change in the next couple decades.

That's enough about the economy for now, contiue on and read something a little lighter like last weekends race stories or something.

Monday, May 5, 2008

2008 Mountain Bike Season Update # 4- Kelso DH O-Cup (Race Day)

Well where to start, first I want thank Lee and the rest of the guys from the team (Poisonfrog.ca) for an awesome day. It wouldn't of materialized the way it did without their help. (Especially Chad's who bailed me out with a fork when mine seized up). So how was my first DH Race? Things didn't roll as smooth as I would of liked but all in all the race was awesome. After Saturday's mudfest I didn't get in the practice runs I wanted but I wasn't in a hurry to get up the hill first thing in the morning either. I was hoping after a few riders rode the course it would dry up a few lines. So I got there around 8:45 with the goal of hiking the hill between 9:30 and 12:30 and hopefully getting 5 or 6 faster runs to get comfortable with my lines so I could pin it on the race run.

Well turns out the old Manitou Stance that was filling in as I'm waiting for my Boxxer decided it had had enough with yesterdays conditions and seized up on me. Thankfully Chad felt pity on me seeing the condition of my old Stance on the new Banshee and brought a Sherman in case I wanted to swapped them up. It was no longer a decision between more practice runs or a better fork, but a necessary change. After all was said and done I only managed 2 practice runs, and a hike up the bottom section for a third run through the bottom third of the course. So not feeling like I was comfortable enough to run at 100% of race pace as I probably would have made a few errors (whether it be the rock drop, the jump to log drop, or one of the off camber corners) I changed my game plan to running about 90% and just hitting a clean run on Sunday to help clear the nerves for the rest of the year. I also figured if I can make a clean run through the top rock section and then just flow through the rest I'd stay above the bottom third because the course is to short to make up the 5 to 10 seconds for bailing or uncliping somewhere. So what was my first race run like? Lets take you for the ride.

Lining up was a nice change from the XC scenes mass sprints, a lot more chill, more like buddies about to hit any other run than in intense I'm have to blow you away of the start. Then you're up, with a 30 second gap between the last rider. Right gear selected for the start? Check! Deep breath, focus, 5, 4, 3 ,2, 1 clip in and go. 3 or 4 smooth pedal strokes, try and pump down the first jump getting as little air as possible to pedal into the first small rock garden as fast as possible, pump, pump into the first two undulations, hop the last rock, turn right, pedal drop two gears to pedal through the flat between the first and second major rock sections. I'd been taking the right line over the second rock garden which meant going up the straighter but rockier/steeper line to the right where you used the first portion of the rock to hop up the rest of the rock garden. (Since I didn't have time to get comfortable with the rock drop in practice it left you a better line into the B route around the rock drop so I didn't feel the "easier" option to the left was the right choice). Tight left out of the rock garden staying on the rock around the tree for a clean line into the B route, shift up two gears before dropping down and into the flats and I've cleared everything that was "technical" using the lines I wanted and a few cheers coming over last garden and down the chicken run that I was looking good had me off pedaling the flat section.

Flat section, 1) remember to breath (thanks for the reminder Stephie, I probably would of forgot till I was half way through and breathless), coast through the last turn and catch your breath at the end, pedal, pump down into the jump (i.e not doubling over the log drop), off the little drop, take the high left line, pedal, pedal, jump through trees over the little gap and clear the roots at the bottom no problem, oops no a little to far to the right, slide the back end out and get back on line lost a few more second there, damn it. OK focus, through the trees, take the left line off the last log drop, hold a line as far left as possible, then down and I didn't get up as high on the off camber as I would have liked to carry more speed, jump to berm, hammer through the bottom, through last rock sections, and hammer to the finish line and done, gasp for air, gasp again.




A time of 1:52, 21st out of a field of 42 so bang on Mid-pack leaving me stoked for the next race knowing I could have shaved a few seconds off that run by simply pushing a little harder if I was confident and I'm pumped for the next races which should be a alot tougher running the Q-Cups/Canada Cups in Bromont and Tremblant, but also alot of fun running the Quebec terrain.


A quick congrats to all the racers, as a team the guys well, Rob cleaned house, Kristen looked great, Jer and Chad laid down good runs, Matt was killing it all weekend, got unlucky with a flat but still rode the whole course faster and smoother then I did with a flat tire. I now know I have to chase Grant down in the practices runs if I want to set sights on a podium as he was one step away, and JP was looking good all weekend but had some shotty luck on his race run. Can't wait see everyone out at the second Kelso race and thanks to Pete and the rest of his crew for a great event, Cycle-Solutions for all their support, and finally Jaime (dropmachine.com), as well as Lee and Greg (www.poisonfrog.ca/Photo_Gallery/p17_sectionid/15) for the images on the last two posts. (In case you are trying to decipher who's who, I'm plate 335.)