Stud Race

Although I am steadfastly doing my best to deny it, February is here, and that means my first masochistic adventure of 2012 will be taking place in a couple weeks when I head down to Arizona and ride through cactus infested single-track for 24 hours with four other like minded team mates. With such a feat now looming ever higher on the horizon, I accepted an invitation to experience my first ice bike race. Not to be confused with snow-biking, which involves balloon tyres and soft snow, ice biking require a little more in the way of traction.

(Andrew) Shep(herd), Wayne and I spent Friday evening in front of the wood burner with a drill, 500 sheet metal screws and some de-comminsioned tyres, and the end result was a rather intimidating looking device! The joy of tubless made the whole thing even better – I inflated the tyres first time with a hand pump, and even though the screws were sticking clean through the casing, they still sealed up and didn’t loose any pressure. [end stan’s commercial]

So leaving town at 8am Saturday morning, the 2 feet of snow made itself felt as we got stuck in the driveway – the short delay was soon dealt with however and we drove into the great beyond. Shep’s tiny car was skillfully piloted up some questionable terrain and we found ourselves in the middle of a winter festival in no time at all.

On the list of things that are enjoyable, getting into lycra in a car park when its 20F/-7C is not near the top:

We rode over to the course, which had been plowed across the lake into the 3 feet of sitting snow. No course markings needed here as any deviation lead to a abrupt stop and a powdery landing!

As we lined up, the sun finally made its appearance, and although the high mountains weren’t visible, the sheltered wooded valley looked amazing under the fresh snow.

As the race got underway, we realised that this little gathering was rather low key. The organisers were completely thrilled to have us out racing, and every spectator and helper was smiling the whole time. There was no timing system (that I saw anyway). The race was started by a guy with a temperamental microphone, and the melee of abilities on the start line made for an interesting first lap!

After a couple ‘dismounts’ into the snow, I got clear of the field and set a steady pace around the tight course.

The next 45 minutes were a balance of finesse and power supplemented with some drifting and a lot of hanging on for dear life. Shep’s smile pretty much sums it up:

After foolishly taking the bacon and vodka that was being liberally handed out in the start/finish area, I held on for the win. I enjoyed every minute.

The small town feeling of the festival; the friendly people; the ice hocky being played alongside the course all added up to the best Saturday morning of this winter so far. Although a cycling race, it was so far removed from the cycling community that it was refreshing and humbling. We had people taking photos of our bikes and our ‘special shoes and pedals that are like ski bindings’. I got asked multiple times how my wheel stayed on with only half a fork!

the podium was promptly held after the race, and we were handed envelopes with actual prizes in them. If a small town winter festival can hold the best organised bike race in Colorado, then there are some promoters out there that should reconsider their future.

We left smiling and happy. We were also treated to a fantastic view of the flatirons on the way back into town

Peer Pressure

He looks at me with an expressionless stare, then turns away and shakes his head.
“Well, I gotta train”

Those are the only words spoken. I know he’s right.

This short exchange happened an hour into my ride today. I was hurting. I’ve ridden hard all week – pushed myself through trainer sessions that I didn’t find fun (going against my golden rule of never getting on a bike unless I’m going to have fun). I even enjoyed yesterday’s hammer around the plains on road bikes – even though I was bonking and the roads were straight, the views up to the divide were phenomenal.

Today was a different story. I felt sorry for myself for no good reason. It was a Sunday morning after all, and I’d just eaten a bacon and egg sandwich. There was no reason to be feeling bad. I pedalled my monstrosity of a training bike down the road to meet Bryan and Sam, already knowing that Bryans’ proposed route severely exceeded my three hour energy limit. We headed North. It was windy. We went a little bit west. Still windy. The brief sections going east were literally a breeze, followed by some tactical bike-sailing to get around the corners.

We’d ridden for an hour on dry single-track when Sam peeled off to go ride the road – he is a soft roady after all. Bryan and I continued to the Reservoir. It was beautiful – the sun has just escaped the high cloud, and with the wind picking the milky blue water up towards us, it was creating a fantastic shimmer on the surface. The trails at the res’ are short with a few fun turns and some punchy climbs. I certainly escaped Boulder county for a couple of minutes. It was just after this section that we stopped to eat, and I said “I might just spin home”

This is where Bryan stopped and Stared. All the powers of peer pressure were channelled into that stare. He knew he didn’t need words. He knew that look would penetrate through my facade of tiredness and self pity and hit on the true facts below.

That stare said to me “CALL YOURSELF MOUNTAIN BIKER?” more eloquently than words could have managed. I responded in kind. I saddled up and shut up. Man the fuck up and pedal your bike.

Barely five minutes later, cruising down gravel paths on a meandering path south; I was smiling in the sunshine as I watched the squall of snow and wind blowing off the top of Longs Peak high above us. I was pedalling hard and eating the half stale mini kit kats which I’d found in my room earlier, and which comprised the entirety of my sugar supply left after a hard week of training.  In between dog-walker slalom and gate-opening skills practice, I realised that things have to be a little tough to be worthy, and that any form of inside activity on a sunny weekend would be sacrilege to the reasons I live in Colorado.
OK, so Boulder country gravel paths aren’t  an awe inspiring adventure of the greatest kind, but its where I want to be, and its also the path to where I want to be in the summer – the recurring thought in the back of my mind; I will call it the August feeling. The feeling of being so all-conqueringly fit and healthy that nothing can get in your way. You can ride your bike all day to the highest mountains and the coolest trails; you can explore from sunrise to sunset, and do it again the next day.

As it turns out, that little path goes further than its meandering 5 mile length – its goes to all the places I want to go, and all those places will lead me to my next dreams of adventure. Sometimes adventure starts in the most unlikely of places – so you better get pedalling.