Report Written By Jenn Ryan, LDCC MTB Team (newly out of retirement)
This January I decided to return to doing a few mountain bike races after a 9-year hiatus. Anyone who raced with me in 2008/2009 knows two things about me: 1) I’m more of a slow and steady kind of rider, and 2) any race that I show up for will likely have questionable weather. I believe I lived up to my reputation this past weekend at H2i. As race day neared, the weather forecast became progressively more disastrous. But really, how bad could it be?
Even with freezing rain in the forecast, I planned on doing the race. Rule #9 of cycling states, “If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are badass. Period.” I’m not sure I was channelling my inner badass, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to take my new Cannondale Scalpel-Si out on its maiden voyage. Over the years, I’ve seen many debates about tire choice on the Lapdogs Facebook page. I’m no tire expert, but there was really nothing for me to consider since the only 27.5” tires I own came with the bike!
The night before the race, the laps were reduced from 25km to 17km because of conditions. The day of, driving to and from the race was a bit of a marathon itself. As we approached Mansfield, there was more snow than ice, but the snow was the consistency of large sugar granules. A total of 89 racers with questionable judgment also braved the drive to show up at the start line for either the marathon (2 laps) or half marathon (1 lap) race.
My race plan had always been to take a slow and steady approach. When I started my warmup I quickly realized that slow was really the only way I could keep control of the bike. I purposely started the race at the back of the bunch, with some distance in between me and the rider ahead of me, so I could see my line. This tactic paid off as I had to stay in a tire track to prevent my wheels from sliding out from under me. The double track was covered in this sugar granule snow but was mostly squishy underneath with puddles or leaves. The tracks I followed zigzagged all over the place- there were no direct lines from point A to point B!
Fortunately, the single track was way easier to manoeuvre through. The main challenge, however, was climbing. Traction was a big issue for me and based on the number of footprints on the ascents, it was for the people ahead of me too. Once I got back on the bike at the top of the climbs, I wrestled with clipping back in as my cleats were full of snow and mud. The log-overs and roots were icy but manageable if you could hit them at a 90-degree angle. There was mud and puddles on low sections of the course that were surprisingly easy to move through relative to the snow. The most fun was descending. The full suspension of my awesome new bike made relatively quick work of the descents.
As the race progressed, the conditions seemed to get worse, or maybe I was just getting tired. There were times where I thought I had a flat back tire but the terrain was just that squishy. I passed a few people in the beginning of the race and eventually reeled in another woman on a fat bike. Otherwise, I was on my own. When the serenity of listening to the snow granules bounce off my helmet started to get old and I seemed to be spending more time off the bike than on it, some of the full marathon leaders began passing me. One of the riders was very encouraging and told me I was almost at the end. I realized he was telling the truth when I saw a car on the driveway to the finish line. From there, I just kept my bike upright and rode across the finish line to a hot bowl of chili!
Congratulations to the LapDogs who braved the conditions.
Here are their results:
- Matt Saunders (35-49 Men) - 3rd
- Barry Cox (35-49 Men) - 8th
- Jenn Ryan (35+ Women) - 2nd
- Neil Gold (35-49 Men) - 6th (honorary LapDog, P/B Cannodale)
- Parsa Meioni (U35 Men)- 11th
- Gus Ryan (Singlespeed)- 5th