The Canmore Nordic Center never lets us down. While us Edmontonians pride ourselves in our majestic mountain biking river valley, we are always a little too excited to go race or ride in the mountains. The same way mud is to cyclocross, mountains bring all of our romantic-dreamy images of mountain biking to life. All sorts of trail option; fast, flowy, gnarly technical, pump-tracks, features, drops, coal-chutes and lung-crushing climbs. Soaking up the whoops on Soft-Yogurt, or burying my gut into the back of my saddle and nearly sitting on my tire the first time through Laundry Chutes are some of my fond Canmore memories. Even when all the racing is done, and I’m hypoxic from the altitude, beat up from the roots and sporting a sexy torn chamois (bike shorts) I feel like a champ. I don’t think there is anything more freeing for the soul than a mind blowing weekend of mountain biking on actual mountains.
So there we were again. Piled in van among gear and bikes, telling stories of past races and arguing over our opinions over which trail was the rad’est. That same buzz in the air as we whip down the QE2. That super excited, “its been too long” anticipation to be back in the mountains.
This time the Races were the Iron Maiden XC on Saturday, hosted by the Spin Sisters, and the Organ Grinder 5hr Marathon XC on Sunday hosted by Cyclemiesters. A regular XC cup and a Marathon XC Cup on the same weekend, meant boat-loads of trail time. What could be sweeter?
Well, it had been raining all week leading into these events. So much so, that there were lakes collecting under the trail overpasses, bank collapses, road-wash-outs, and culverts kicking out tonnes and tonnes of sediment and rock debris at their mouths. It looked like gravel trucks were dumping loads of mountain debris all over the lower stadium. Pictures were floating around facebook of skiers/biathletes thigh-deep in water on the roller-ski pathways that they train on. With a wet weekend forecast, we all knew that we were in for more than just a need for mud tires.
and still. There we were. Pulling into Canmore Friday afternoon in the driving-rain.
In addition to my own racing plans, I was on Coaching duty for the weekend. 5 of my youngens, two of which had never ridden in the mountains before. We saddled up, donned rain capes and layers of warm clothing (7 degrees) to make our way up to the race site. Much to our surprise the trail conditions were amazing. I was impressed at how well they were holding-up with all that precipitation. I mean they were slick/slippery, and puddles had collected in all the depressions, but for the most part the course was ride-able. When I say it was ride-able, i’m not kidding, I was riding my full Rigid chromoly Scott Adventure Peak Single Speed and managed to stay alive (see pic below). Even my two green-newbies were clearing most of the sketchy sections. Not to mention how much fun we were having. The wet trails added an extra element, and getting muddy is a good time!
The rain continued to hammer the nordic center through the night, and when we woke up… it was Christmas!
All of a sudden the racing became Epic! Lap numbers got cut, and riders switched from focusing on racing, to just surviving the conditions and cold. Rather than warm-up, people just stayed in their vehicles until it got close to their start times. It was enough to make any normal person miserable… but mountain bikers are different. Once the racing got started there were cheers and smiles coming from every direction. Crashes and laughing, and plowing through puddles at full speed. All I heard from riders crossing the finish line was how much fun it was. Everyone was cold, wet and muddy – but they were all jacked about the accomplishment of finishing. Even my two newbie mountain bikers had shivering smiles-for-days. They didn’t even complain!
How’d my riders do? Well, 3 podiums! they don’t make these kids any tougher!
My race was awesome. I thought I was never gonna warm-up or dry out before my start, but then Mangey (mom) came to the rescue with a pair of rubber-boots. Those boots changed everything as I was able to keep my feet dry and warm before my 2pm start. Dry warm feet can do wonders for your mood state. Anywho, there happened to be 2 other Elite women racing Single Speed and then the rest were on lame geared bikes 😛 . Kate Ardel took the wholeshot and quickly gapped the field. We didn’t see her again, and I was pulling up 2nd wheel with the rest of the group on my heels. What a great time. Slipping, sliding, wiping out, and slightly out of control with my limited braked ability. I even had a flat-land endo caused by a small depression on the trail that was full of water. I was uber cold on my fist lap. Frozen legs, feet and hands that felt like cement blocks. I was concerned about weather or not I would finish, but gradually warmed up heading into my 2nd lap. Finally, I got comfortable and really started having fun. I nearly forgot about my competition as the challenge was in weather or not I could ride the sketchy section on my rigid single speed. I finished 2nd!
The Organ Grinder was less like winter. In anticipation of bad weather they reduced the race by an hour the day before, only to find an improvement in weather the day of, and even some sunshine. I raced on a relay team with my mom as we thought it a good training opportunity for our planned Furious 3 Moab race later on this September. The race course was still muddy and full of puddles, but that didnt keep team Spokes n’Nipples away from a 1st place finish!!!
all in all – it was a great weekend. More fun than anyone would have expected. It was the type of conditions we’ll be laughing and talking about for years. Remember that epic race in canmore, when it snowed 6inches in June and flooded the Nordic Center?