|Tanker assures me it makes your bike faster.|
We were up before 7 to scarf down a couple of waffles and some back bacon, hit Tim Hortons for a couple of Café Mochas, and get parked just in time for the first wave of the 100k to leave at 8:30. I think we've actually been on time for the start once out of the 4 times we've done the Tour de Grand, so why break with tradition? We pulled the bikes off the rack, loaded our jersey pockets and completely failed to apply sunblock - hadn't even managed to bring it with us.
We pedaled over to the start area at Duncan McIntosh Arena, mixed in with some other 100k riders, and actually ended up having to wait a few minutes as there were enough people ahead of us they split us into two waves. Since it isn't a race (there's no clock involved), we were more than happy to take another minute or two to wake up - the morning had warmed up from a cool, foggy 9c to a sunny 17 or so, and we were totally comfortable in just base layer, jerseys and shorts. I set up Endomondo with the Blackberry in its Fonbag, stuffed it in my pocket and off we rolled to check out the revamped "front side" 60k that would bring us back to the arena for lunch.
|Interactive Endomondo map available here.|
We had agreed that we'd just be taking it easy today, as Tanker has been taking his usual "be well rested" approach to training (ie: not doing any) and I had gone rather far in the opposite direction. I had switched out the 35mm Kenda Small Block 8 nubbies on Tanker's bike for a pair of near-slick Vittoria Zaffiros, so we were basically using rolling resistance as the great equalizer - he'd come sailing past me on the downhills, saying "here comes my ass!" (momentum = mass x velocity, and he's bigger than me), then I'd out-climb him as the road turned up. Mostly. Ok, way more in the second half.
The day got warmer and sunnier as we pedaled along, enjoying the ride down to St. George and only mildly confused by some of the sights along the way, like the guy riding a tri bike wearing baggies, or the gentleman who elected to ride at least 60km in jean shorts. The route change from Cheese Factory Road to Branchton Road seemed to give us better pavement and fewer cars, and for once we actually managed to hit the light green on Blue Lake Road. There was an unscheduled "natural break" on East River Road, as Tanker was apparently experiencing some discomfort, but we were having a great morning and rolling along smoothly. We made it nearly to the Wrigley Road aid station at 36km when Tanker spoke up from behind me, saying his rear tire was nearly flat. Bugger.
|The devil on my shoulder.|
Of course I hadn't managed to change the spare tube in his saddlebag, so he was carrying a 700x35-43 for his Small Block 8's instead of a narrow tube for his slicks. I only had a 700x28-32 tube for my 32mm nubbies in my Race Strap II, so I asked if he thought he could make it to the aid station (we both had patch kits, but what a pain!). Fortunately it worked out ok, and we were able to get a fresh tube from the on-course support tent that Braun's had set up at the rest stop. A couple of other gents were having much worse days (one was having shifting issues and another needed something tightened), so we let the tech help them while I replaced the tube. I noticed while doing so that there was some fatigue cracking in the sidewalls of the tire, but I could only hope it would hold for the rest of the ride.
We munched some snacks - half a banana, an orange slice and some gluten free cookies from my jersey pocket for me, and a couple of aid station Voortman cookies for Tanker - then refilled our bottles with water and pedaled off again. My legs weren't very happy with the long stop to change out tubes, but they eventually stopped complaining (mostly) as we rolled up Dumfries Road on our way to the big red barn.
|He's still there!|
Tanker's rear wheel was holding air without issue and it was only 14km to the barn - formally known as the Terry Black Rest Stop - so we merely paused long enough to check in on Foursquare and headed down Blair Road back to Duncan McIntosh Arena for lunch. I forgot to un-pause Endomondo until we had already been moving for a bit, so that's why the map looks like we teleported. Off the bikes at about 11:45am with 62km done.
Once again, most of the food was off-limits for me, but I happily noshed on a chocolate chip Larabar and more cookies from my pockets (melty as they may have been), demolished another half a banana and some orange slices, and gratefully accepted the sample-size cranberry Taste of Nature bar from the lunch line. I had some lettuce and cucumber with some mustard as a makeshift salad as well (all provided as toppings for the sandwiches everyone else was eating), but with no forks it was a bit of a messy affair. We chatted with some folks from the Hub, browsed some of the vendors, filled our water bottles again and adjusted our personal hydration levels (consternation at finding a toilet paperless portajohn), and finally got moving again around 1:30pm.
|Don't try this at home!|
We only made it about 5km, sweating in the sunshine and admiring the daisies along Clyde Road, before coming to an abrupt and heart-stopping halt at the side of the road - I'd heard the distinctive tinkle of something metal detaching from my bike and bouncing off the ground, followed by more catastrophic-sounding noises and Tanker yelling at me to whoa (like I needed telling!). It turns out that some of the frost-heaved sections had taken their toll, and all the bumping around finally resulted in my Race II Awesome Strap releasing its contents all over my rear wheel. Tanker kindly picked up my patch kit, tire levers (the first metallic sound) and CO2 inflator (the second metallic sound) while I gaped at my spare tube laying on the rear cassette. Had the tube caught in the rear wheel, I might have spent another fun afternoon in emergency rooms and fracture clinics, but fortunately everything worked out fine. I rolled everything back up and strapped it back under the saddle with extra caution, and away we went once more.
We had no more issues, but due to our multiple stops and long lunch we didn't arrive at the Clyde Park rest stop until almost 2:15pm. Fortunately there were still two volunteers there, along with more cookies for Tanker, a whole banana for me (plus the last of the GF cookies from my jersey pocket), and a refill of water for our bottles. We actually passed 4 riders on the way in, and they arrived shortly after us, much to the surprise of the aid station volunteers - they had been packing up, as a police officer had come through and told them there were no more cyclists coming! Tanker was in much better shape arriving than he had been last year, but we still enjoyed the shady reprieve from the hot sun. The other riders were rather the worse for wear; the gent was definitely walking a bit funny and said he desperately needed to sit on something that wasn't a bicycle saddle, and the ladies kept repeating "just 20km more to go" like a meditative mantra. All of them were heartily sick of climbing, and I reassured them that once they got back into Cambridge it was almost all downhill. I may have neglected to mention that there are several rolling hills in between, as well as a couple of nasty little grades in town.
|That's a Fonbag stuffed in my jersey, but I'm still happy to see you.|
We set off for the final leg of the tour, first turning away from town to head out Gore Road and then enjoying the smooth roll up Wellington County Road 35 to Paddock Corners. Turning West onto the crappy, patchy pavement on Concession 2 we groaned a bit at the short, choppy hills and looked longingly into the cool shade of the hardwoods at Puslinch Tract. I asked Tank if he wanted to go jump in the pond, but he said he'd rather just get back to the arena, as I'd promised to take him to Cafe 13 Main Street Grill after the ride for a beer and one of their in-house smoked meat sandwiches. I wasn't going to push the matter.
We actually encountered another young lady riding by herself in a TdG jersey on Concession 2, so of course I ended up playing chase and started to leave Tanker behind a bit. I put it together that I was dropping Tanker on the climbs and eased up a bit, but we both passed the girl before hitting the junction with Lake Road and finally getting some smooth, flat road to lead us up to the climb to Townline. With a huff and a puff, we were back in town, showing 94.8km on my cycle computer. Looking around, it became apparent as we waited for the traffic light to change that we had seriously ditched the solo rider - she was nowhere to be seen!
It's too bad we had the wind in our faces as we pedaled across Can-Amera Parkway; it's a great bit of road to ride, but we were tired and sunburned and ready to be done. The last bit always seems to play tricks with me, as it seems like you spend 15mins or more being "almost there". We found the strips of graded pavement on Elgin that we'd been warned about at the beginning, dodged a wee girl on a tiny pink bike, an elderly gentleman in a mobility scooter and a little boy who couldn't make up his mind which side of the path he wanted to be on as we ducked through the rabbit hole, then tackled the last leg-busting hill before the long descent through the residential neighbourhoods around Duncan McIntosh Arena. I was actually able to point out to Tanker the spot not even 3km from the finish where I nearly bonked last year after not eating anything for 2hrs, then just like that we were gliding into the driveway at Churchill Park and bumping over the grass of the sports fields to the car.
|100k done and still smiling!|
Our final total for the day was 106.3km per my cycle computer in a total time of 4 hours 20 minutes exactly. When we did the 100k in 2011, we both had slick tires and were only able to average 23.6kph (for 100.4km by my computer), so this year's 24.5kph average on a hotter day definitely shows some improvement - I guess the Darth Misfit decal really worked! We may not be the quickest out there, but both of us thoroughly enjoyed the day, and I'm incredibly proud of how well Tanker hung in this year for a strong finish. We also gave a big round of applause to the tired crew we'd met at Clyde as they rolled in about 10mins behind us, completely exhausted but triumphant nonetheless! With bikes back safely on the rack we scuttled off to Cafe 13 for a well-earned sammich and tasty cold beverage, then home to unpack and slather some aloe on our deeply sunburned arms and legs.
|It was really only about 24c, but in that sun..|
If you own a bicycle and live anywhere in Kitchener-Waterloo, you owe it to yourself to come out and try the Cambridge Tour de Grand - there are routes of anywhere from 10km up to 160km, with the 10k, 15k and 20k all being on wide, flat rail trail that is extremely beginner- and small child-friendly. You'll get a tech shirt if you sign up early, a free lunch, and a great experience with fellow cyclists! The longer routes provide a challenge for those who are more comfortable in the saddle or looking to push their limits while marvelling at the beauty Grand River country has to offer.
Noone says you have to go for a run afterward. You'd have to be some kind of idiot to do that, wouldn't you?