Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trans Rockies photos
by Norm Thibault (with his new fisheye lens - don't be alarmed)

If my nose looks big with a fisheye lens what the hell will the Wicknasty nose look like??

Marty LOVES TRans Rockies!

Tent city at Nipika

Our super support man - Rollin. Rollin LOVES Trans Rockies! He won 3 of the 7 stages (being the first RV to get to the next site). There were rumours of a few RVs driving erratically and speeding excessively throughout the week. We are pretty sure Rollin was leading the way.

Marty got a lot of treats for being the first model for Norm to practice with his new fisheye lens

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Trans Rockies

DAY 1 Panorama – K2 ranch 52km, 2478m elevation
Day 1 is usually relatively easy. A late start and a short day so everyone can get sorted and have a warm and fuzzy feeling about the week to come. Apparently the TR crew didn’t get “the memo” as the race started STRAIGHT up to the top of Panorama ski hill off the gun. Ouch. I was suffering within 10mins and had to scale back. We tried to keep Katerina Nash and her partner Steve Wallace (Clif Bar) in sight to limit the damage but I can’t say I was moving very quickly. I recovered a bit near the top half of the climb and we caught them just as we jumped into the singletrack. They were pulled over putting more clothes on as it was pretty damn chilly at altitude. Some serious off camber traverses, hike-a-bikes, fresh cut trail and goat tracks took us even higher. We rode together for most of it, which was pretty fun as I never see Katerina off the line at World Cups. Norm and I dropped them near the top of the hike a bike and tried to keep some distance. I was a little worried when it started to SNOW as we had gone with the lightweight approach to the “easy day” and didn’t have a lot of extra clothes or food. But the hike-a-bike kept us warm and then the sun came out when we first started to descend. Norm flatted on the fast descent but even with the quick fix team Clif Bar caught us. We rode together for a bit trying to figure out a good time to stop as Norm’s tire was not holding air. No good time really so we had to stop and top it up losing contact with the small train. But we somehow managed to TTT back up to them and drop them just before the finish to get a small gap of just over a minute. Easy first day my ass….. But we got some sweet purple leaders jerseys for winning the Open Mixed category, a good start to the week.

DAY 2 K2 Ranch – Nipika
This day was insane. It was going to be a hard stage to begin with but we went and made the race even harder and longer. The source of the chaos was the hike-a-bike straight up an avalanche field. It was so steep everyone was just following the leader and putting one foot in front of the other. Everytime we looked up the hill all you could see was racers carrying their bikes so you put your head back down and kept moving forward. It got colder. The altitude started making it hard to breath for us sea level weenies and Norm was cramping badly. Everyone was hating it. We had a 5min gap on team Clif Bar but that wouldn’t last long if Norm seized up. Suddenly there was chaos and voices in the bush next to us and boulders rolling down the steep hill at us, as everyone was turning around and scrambling asking when the last time we saw an orange ribbon. Apparently we had all missed the turn off. Some people went to the very top of the ridge to look around, some people came back down and a group of us decided it was too dangerous to dislodge giant boulders on the heads of 100+ racers below us so we bush whacked back down the mountain until we hit the trapper trail. We eventually found the trail and kept riding. We kept expecting the leaders to catch up with us but they never did…apparently they had scaled back down the avalanche field and by the time they found the turn off, 100+ teams from the back of the pack had found it too and the singletrack was jam packed. Team Clif bar was in this boat so they came in an hour behind us. The TR organizers decided to acknowledge the stage results but not count it towards the general classification. It was probably the only fair thing to do since we had all been affected differently but a hard pill to swallow after putting in a hard 6+hr day on the bike with a solid gap on 2nd place before the chaos. Plus there were a few murmurings that the bush whackers were cheaters so going up for the stage win that day did not have the glory it was supposed to. If I had known it was going to end like that I would have stayed in bed. We still had the purple jerseys but my quads hurt like hell and it was only going to get worse.

DAY 3 Nipika – Nipika TTT
Last year we had a forced Nipika – Nipika stage because of the raging forest fires. Everyone loved it so much they decided to keep it again this year. It was a chance to avoid the hassle of packing up and the luxury of sleeping in! They also decided to try a team time trial format which was pretty cool. ~50km of the best singletrack Nipika had to offer. They split the racers into thirds and had 3 start times, 9am, 11am and we started at 1:00pm with 1min intervals between teams. With stage 2 results nullified we were still only just over a minute ahead of team Clif bar and one spot ahead of them on GC (18th overall) so they started right behind us. We were riding pretty well or so we thought until 25mins into the ~3hour TTT we saw Katerina and Steve RIGHT behind us! Uh oh. We better get our butts in gear. We pulled the Wicks maneuver and as soon as thy got close we charged ahead. We were running scared the rest of the race and put ~15mins into them. Apparently they had started a wee bit too fast and had a rough go after we dropped them. What was supposed to have been a pretty mellow day ended up beating the crap out of us. But we had another win and had a bigger buffer for the purple jersey.

DAY 4 Nipika – Whiteswan Lake
Hump day. Today Rollin won the support crew race! It is a competitive scene, with the support crew and Rollin is probably one of the most experienced. He packs up and moves the Rv to an easily exit-able location, cheers us on the start line and then hightails it out ahead of the RV train that moves too slowly for his liking. He likes to arrive first and get a sweet spot for camp and brag about his race to us when we arrive. Ah Rollin! For us it was a long day too. Lots of road and lots of climbing. We were in a great groove riding along well 15km from the finish on a fast road with super strong teams when Norm flatted. Damn! So much for our free ride into the finish Norm tried to refill his tube with a CO2 cartridge but it wouldn’t hold. So he went for the full fix but when he tried to get the valve out it was seized. Sticky Stans is good for some things, not so good for others…Uh oh. Ring a bell Stefan? We tried a sealant cartridge to see if it would seal but he just managed to get it ALL over him. I couldn’t help but laugh! He smashed the valve with a rock for a bit and got it off. Shoo. We got a tube out and did the change and although a whole whack of teams passed us, we were on our way. But the tube wasn’t holding air. So we had to stop again. Tried another tube but it had a hole in it. Our third and last tube was an ancient old school green latex tube that had been kicking around for about 10 years. It held! But just as he fixed it, the single speeder open mixed team passed us. We got back on our bikes and charged so hard. We caught and passed them on the downhill (they were spinning their one gear out so fast it wasn’t that difficult). Norm nursed it to the finish but it was a bit sketchy. Another first and more purple jerseys for the collection.

DAY 5 Whiteswan Lake - Elkford
It was a clear blue sky at 8am when we started today. Of course the sun hadn’t gotten over the mountains surrounding our campsite. Whiteswan Lake is one of our favourite stops on the TR tour. It is absolutely gorgeous here. The stars at night are incredible. But we were too tired to enjoy them for very long….sleep was more important. Today the group stayed together for a bit longer as there was about 15km of fireroad off the start. Nice little warm up as each day our pre race “warm up” was getting shorter and shorter. 5min spin in the sunny part of the field was about as good as it gets on day 5. We had a great ride today. Really steady climbing and stayed with fast teams at pretty key times. Norm had a bit of an energy dip with 20km to go. He shoved a whole bunch of wagon wheels in his mouth at the last aid station and took a few chocolate bars for the road. I tried to encourage him – only 20km to go! But realistically it was 15kms straight up that was granny gear climbing or hike a bike ending in a really long rocky rocky descent that ends in the dreaded “rock garden”. But his sugar rush helped him get through it and we rolled in first again. We have a 40min buffer on the Open Mixed lead but you never know what will happen so we have 2 days left to survive.
Day 6 Elkford to Crowsnest Pass
I am not going to lie to you, today was bit of a bitch. 100km of riding with 3000m of climbing. Ouch. The worst part was the first 5km of teh race climbing up and out of Elkford. Normally this would be fine. Hide in the group and get pulled up. But at the top of the climb was tight singletrack so the pace was furious as everyone tried to get their first. I managed to stick with the top men until about the last km when I popped off the back. I was bogged down by a few guys who forgot how to ride a bike, but not as many as those behind us. Unfortuantely we popped out onto the fireroad in no mans land. The fastest mens teams ahead and our normal group behind. We should have eased up until they caught us but no, we decided to chase down Garrigan and the leaders of the Master category. SOOOOOO close. We got within 5ft but missed the boat. It was too long of a day to kill ourselves so we settled in with Team WORC. Until I flatted. I was pissed off! We had worked so hard to get ahead of all those teams in the singletrack and they all blew past us while we fixed my flat on teh side of the road (including Team Clif bar). The only cool thing was I saw a marmot trying to cross the road between all these teams. Funny! He had no clue what was going on. We caught up to Katerina and Steve and rode with them for a big chunk of the day which was pretty fun. It was obvious they were getting stronger. That was until Steve crashed hard on a rocky descent and broke his thumb. Ouch. Norm was there when it happened so he made sure they were Ok but they decided to keep riding. Hard core. We felt a bit cheezy winning the stage against a broken thumb but Micaal and Dallas were riding strong so we had to keep racing.
Day 7 Crowsnest Pass to Fernie
Last day. I am usually a "cracker" on the last day of these multi day stage races. Norm gets stronger mentally and physically as the race goes on whereas I seem to start strong and deteriorate. I think its mostly mental. Its not that I crack completely and lose the race on the last day, but moments of weakness show through that could potentially unravel all of our hard work. So I told myself all morning: "dont shit the bed, don't shit the bed". The stage "only" had 2500m of climbing. After yesterdays stage it sounded easy. But it started straight up the local ski hill and Team Clif Bar was on us immediately so we knew it wasn't going to be an easy day. We got a bit of a gap and found a solid group of mens teams to work with. But everytime we looked back on a big climb we could see the yellow Luna helmet coming for us. Both Norm and I had mixed feelings. Part of us (the tired part) didn't really care too much if we lost the final stage as long as we kept our overall but this stubborn, hyper competetive voice kept reminding us of our winning streak. If we won today we would have won every stage of our last 3 stage races (TR 2007, BCBR 2008 and TR2008). That was a pretty strong voice so we pushed on and kept the winning streak alive. 21 stage wins in a row. Not too shabby.
-Marty is having a great time! Lots of time in the creeks and rivers, road trippin’ with Rollin, the occasional leftover steak thrown his way (special occasion) and lots of buddies to hang out with
-we have been riding the Hei Hei Supreme’s all week. The 29ers hardtails are on standby but our bodies are beat to shit so the full suspension has been pretty sweet. We actually don’t even lock out the suspension on the climbs all the time…..too bumpy!
-Kona Team mate Kris Sneddon (Mr. Five) took the stage down today ironically the 5th stage……
-The race is taking a good toll on our equipment so far we have thrashed: 3 tires, 3 tubes, 1 FR DR, 1 chain, grips, cassette, shock lock out, brake pads…..that is all I can think of right now but I am sure there is more things that we have killed now.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Future

So the best part of my 2 weeks in K-bec was meeting these 2 little rippers – Marine and Ariane Lewis. I spotted them decked out in full KONA gear on matching Kula Supreme hardtails so I rode by and gave them a big thumbs up and yelled something at them to acknowledge their KONA loyalty. Jerseys, gloves, sox, stickers, they had it all. Nothing is cooler to me than seeing little girls on mountain bikes and if it’s Kona’s they choose all the better. Little did I know that gesture would get me two superfans for life. 

I was racing the Nationals course the next day and there they were, the two of them, screaming my name on the steep climb. Cheering for me madly. And after the race they came over looking for my number plate and Kona water bottles to autograph. I chatted with them in my pigeon French for a bit and found out they were racing the “kids race” the next morning. 

Well, I called it the “kids race,” but as we watched the call up for the Nationals races the next day I soon realized this was no follow-the-wicknasty-circus-clown “kids race”. Marine and Ariane were the real deal. They were called up 1-2 for leading the provincial series in the Pee Wee category (under 13). And their faces on the start line said it all: they were fierce! I gave them a quick wave but I didn’t want to throw them off their game. My brother and I rode around cheering them on at different sections of the course (I think he was checking out the competition for Hannah). They were flying! Picking off boys every lap and ripping up the downhills. When they heard us calling their names they would go even faster (a la Sneddon). The two sisters were battling back and forth for the first 2 laps. Blood meant nothing when they were racing. It was going to come down to the last lap to see what sister would take it but unfortunately Marine flatted and had to run. She looked pretty upset so we encouraged her to keep running and finish strong. Her sister Ariane pulled into the lead and won the race with a big grin on her face. Marine ran it in and finished in top 10 but on the verge of tears. We found out from her dad that she had been sick that morning but still wanted to race. Tough cat! 

We got some photos together because I figure the Lewis sisters will probably be taking over Marie Helene Premont’s spotlight in the future. Kona should keep these 2 on the roster. 

The whole Lewis family came back the next week for the World Cup at Mont Saint Ann with custom coloured signs saying "Go Wendy". As much pain as I was in on that steep climb, I HAD to look over and check it out. And the whole family showed up again in the POURING rain in Bromont to cheer me on again. Wow. That is dedication. Unfortunately I didn't put on much of a show for them on that day but they still cheered me on. Thanks guys!

Rain, rain, rain.

Bromont World Cup
It pretty much rained ALL week in Bromont, K-bec. Not just drizzly rain but mighty east coast thunderstorms with torrential downpours, crazy lightening and hard core thunder. When it wasn't raining it was humid. The course was a bit of a mess so we didn't ride it very much. Huge bogs that you couldn't ride through, giant puddles that could swallow your front tire whole and lots of sklick off camber roots and rocks. It did more damage to the bike (and my ego) so it was best to just stay away. Everyone was sick of the rain and a bit cranky as we had all been away from home for close to a month and wanted desperately to wrap this trip up. It didn't help that everyone was raving about the weather back home. It wasn't the best attitude to have so we tried to stay busy. We went go-karting, outlet shopping, ate local pie & poutine and we watched a LOT of Discovery Channel. At least it was Shark Week.

Wicknasty ready to rumble

When the race did finally come around it rained all morning. Surprise surprise. At least there was no question what tires I would run.... I had an OK start. For what the start was worth. 10m through thick awkward mud than a left hand turn and start climbing a looooong steep climb. I rocked the first 10m. And apparently the first couple minutes of the climb as a whole bunch of girls got bogged up in mud and had to get off their bikes and run. It wasn't because I had rockstar legs it was because I stayed on my bike. And that first few minutes was about the highlight. I climbed sloooowly and everyone passed me and I rode what I could in the mud and ran the rest but not fast enough to make up too many spots. I seemed to find a groove on the last lap but it was too late. I passed a couple of girls and ended up 20th in a slow motion mud sprint against a Japanese girl. However I WAS told that I won the muddiest person award. Thats worth something isn't it??

My slow motion sprint finish for 20th. That is me in the "white" kit (#23). They are still not clean. photo by Lizzie

Lizzie and Geo were my saviours and took me to the airport right after the race so I could jump on a plane and get home that night. So good to me! Norm was kind enough to plan a 4hr mountain bike ride coined "the impossible ride" the next morning at 8am. But it was a blue bird day so I could not say no. It wasn't my smoothest, fastest ride ever but it was one of the grandest. Nanaimo's best trails, great friends, and hot summer sun. Exactly what I needed.

Mont St Anne World Cup

It was pretty sweet not having to travel after Nationals. Too bad the week was full of rain. I get enough of that on the west coast, no need to throw more at me on the east coast. Lame. So the big debate (for a tread nerd like myself) was tire choice. The course was sloppy and wet in the woods but as soon as the sun came out it would dry up pretty quick in the open sections. Lucie from Kona brought in some new tread for me as my old tires were not hooking up. After testing them out I had my mental flow chart established. No rain: small block 8. Rain: karma. Rain the night before but dry when I woke up: half and half. But at 11pm the skies opened up and absolutely dumped its load on us. I hadn’t added “tropical monsoon” to the flow chart but my guess was no morning sun was going to dry that up by 11am. Go with the karmas. I turned my brain off and tried to go to sleep but the postDH “Bleu Nuit” rave in the village was going strong and I could hear the DJ until about 6am. 

Everyone had assumed that they would shorten the number of laps from 5 to 4 with the downpour the night before. Even 2 mins before the start girls were whispering about it. But they stuck with 5 laps so it would be a long haul. I had a great start! Almost no effort and I was sitting in 5th on the first start loop. First climb a few girls were starting to swarm but I was still top 15. When we hit the first singletrack and it was a mess. A long line of girls in the mud. Georgia Gould (Luna) snuck by on foot but then everyone tried to duplicate and the holes closed up. Once the course opened up things started to move a bit better. I was riding the technical pretty well and climbing steady, working hard to make up a few spots and ride in 9th. But I must have burped my front tire at the start of lap 4 because I started to feel it fold in the corners. I checked it on the run and it felt like I had enough air to get to the pits for a wheel change. But then I hit a rock on the descent and flatted. I ran to the bottom pulled over and got out my air cartridge to try the quick fix. Amanda Sin (3 Rox Racing) passed me. Damn. But the quick fix worked and I was on my way. I passed Lucie on the course and told her I would need a new front wheel. Not too bad. Not much time wasted and still top 10. I was feeling pretty smug but then I could feel that the tire wasn’t holding air and I rolled it and ate shit on the fast bumpy downhill section. A small hole in my knee, bruised ego and then 4 girls passed me. Not so smug anymore. I just needed to get down the hill to the pit. Alive. So I scaled back my speed and limped down. I made it to the pits and pulled into the Shimano neutral support and got a new wheel. At this point I was pretty bummed because I had worked hard to get past all these girls and now I needed to repeat the effort. I didn’t have that much energy left in the tank so could only muster 13th. My best world cup finish to date but hard to choke down as I was hoping for a top 10.