Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cambridge Tour de Grand 72k - Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Fun times on two wheels!

Despite getting up at a reasonable time, my sluggishness and Tanker's burrito-ness conspired to make us late for the start. Again. It's like we're just destined not to be on time for this thing, and it seems like I'll never actually have the chance to ride down. We could probably have made one of the waves for the 72k start if we'd managed to pick up our registration packages on Saturday like we'd intended, but we missed the 2hr window of opportunity.

Time management is clearly not our strong suit.

At the start line, minus one husband.

After grabbing our gear we pedaled toward the start line, which was wide open - there may have been a crowd at 9am, but at 9:10 the coast was clear and we were told to proceed in our own time. I'd have rolled right through, except I lost Tanker somewhere in the crowd near all the bike shop tents. After a quick BBM conversation, we finally got started around 9:15am. We were pretty much by ourselves for most of the trip down to St. George, though we did finally start overtaking some small groups as we came across Blue Lake Road.

We found the dayglo paceline

Crossing Hwy 24 - the red lights didn't apply to us!

Rest stop ho!

Despite predicted sunshine and quite warm temperatures (25c/77f), the weather stayed obstinately overcast and much cooler than expected. We rolled into the new rest stop at the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead after a few tests of our legs, pleased to meet some lovely friends of ours and scarf back some bananas and cookies to fuel the ride ahead. I also got some wonderful compliments on my Vanderkitten jersey - people can't resist a fine looking kitty like Ophelia!

The homestead, containing a museum.

Rest stop #1, with Tanker in his manderkitten hat!

We didn't get back on the road until about 10:45 or so, only having rode about 20km. The long stop made my legs a bit whiny when we started getting into the hills, but the only cure is to just keep riding. As we'd been leaving the rest stop some volunteers had been prepping lunch for the 100km & 160km riders, who would be using this new aid station as their halfway point - much different than the return to Churchill Park that had been in place in prior years.

Pack of 100 or 160k riders headed toward their lunch stop.

Two way traffic.

We puttered along up East River Road, took in the magnificent view as we came screaming down across the bridge on Glen Morris Road, then made a lady's day at the turning onto Spragues Road - she'd optimistically signed up for the 100k, but had realised that her fitness wasn't up to the rolling hills and was currently just trying to survive the 60k front half.

Grand River bridge on Glen Morris Road


The poor lass didn't have a cycle computer and begged us to tell her that she was at least halfway done - I happily reported that not only was she actually just over 35km in, but the next rest stop was only a few minutes away.

It was, however, up.

We arrived at the Wrigley Road rest stop by Bannister Lake ready for a break after the hills - it was probably the warmest and brightest it would be all day at this point, and we were sweaty punks. Fortunately the aid station had provisions to keep us going: I had some banana and orange chunks while Tanker grabbed more of his own favoured fuel.

Maple cream cookies.

The goodies tent

My handsome boy.
I don't have enough headtube to hook my levers over the sawhorse.

I'd have been totally jealous of the cookiepalooza at the rest stops, except I'd stocked my jersey pockets with my own stash of dork-friendly cookies.


Almost some sunshine at Wrigley!

Having used the portajohns, filled bottles & eaten, we rolled off around 11:45am, passing Bannister Lake on one side and Wrigley Lake on the other.

Bannister Lake

Hundreds of water lilies on Bannister

Tanker is ready to rawk!

We couldn't have been more than a couple of kilometers out when we found 3 ladies on the side of the road. We asked if they were ok, and they said they were, then we asked if they needed anything like a pump, or patches, or whatnot. It turns out that one of the ladies had flatted and had a tire lever, spare tube and another of their group had a pump, but none of them knew how to change out a flat! I offered to get them up and riding again, and to show them how it's done - they'd called for a sweep vehicle to help, but were very thankful and called event headquarters again to cancel the request.

Lending a hand and passing on some knowledge

After another barrage of enthusiastic thanks from the lovely gals, we pedaled off once more - we struck north on Dumfries Road before making the turn onto Greenfield Road to see a part of the course we'd never ridden before. Our experiences with the Tour de Grand so far had been doing the 50k plus the 25k ('cause we weren't done yet) in 2010, the 100k in 2011, the 160k full-whack in 2012, then back to the 100k for 2013. We'd skipped right over the 72k in the past, and looked forward to checking out what we'd missed. The 100k and 160k routes had been re-designed for 2014, and now included a loop up around Ayr.

Most of the 72k route, per Endomondo - interactive map here.
I was not always reliable about getting it started as we rolled out.

We were just coming up on Reidsville Road when we spotted a fellow on a mountain bike standing at the corner - he waved to us, and we slowed and asked if he was ok. He said his pedal was about ready to fall off; they were about 23 years old and he'd rebuilt them every year for the last decade or so to keep them going, but it seemed like the one might just have to go on the rubbish heap. I asked if he had a phone to call for a sweep vehicle since he'd said his day was done, but he hadn't brought one, so Tanker whipped out our cue sheet and we called in a request to event headquarters. John, the gent who was having pedal problems, was incredibly thankful; as if having to DNF his first Tour de Grand in 15 years wasn't bad enough, he thought he'd have to stand around waiting for hours until a sweep truck came through. We made sure help was on the way, then got back in the saddle for the ride to the final rest stop.

Riding two abreast on a wide shoulder.

Unfortunately, the weather decided to take a turn for the worse at this point. A few drops of rain began to fall just as we were reaching Northumberland Street, turning into a decent shower as we made the corner onto Alps Road. We managed to spook a deer at the roadside as we pedaled through the wet, watching our front tires turn shiny as the pavement became soaked. We were both on quite new sets of tires - mine came with the new wheelset on my 'cross bike and had only seen 2 days of riding, and Tanker's had just been put on the night before - so neither of us was entirely sure how our bikes would grip.

Angry cloud is angry over Alps Road

Still having fun!

As the wind freshened and the rain fell, we both found ourselves really thankful that we'd worn our base layers. We thought we'd need them to keep us from overheating, but the cloudy skies meant the high for the day only reached 18.5c/65f, and the system bringing the rain cooled the air even more. We stopped as we reached Dumfries Road again to turn on our red blinking taillights for safety, as the light shower had turned into a steady, soaking rain that waterlogged my shoes - there were even a few small hailstones, some of which hit my bell on my handlebars, making it ring. The precipitation, however, wasn't nearly as off-putting as nearly being blown into traffic by a couple of huge gusts of wind that hit us on Whistle Bare Road as we approached the golf course! Poor Tanker nearly had a high-speed meeting with a transport truck, and we both had to fight to keep our bikes under us. I seriously wondered if we'd have to pull over and dive into the ditch: it felt like tornado conditions. Fortunately, the wind decided to play nice again, though neither of us really enjoyed riding directly into it up Dickie Settlement Road.

Sign says "Don't wait for the storm", followed by another that said "Learn to ride in the rain"
It was raining on us as we passed them.

We made the turn onto Old Mill Road doubtful that we'd catch the final aid station before they shut down for the day - the Terry Black Rest Stop & Spa was scheduled to close at 1pm, and it was already past that as we gingerly rode through the potholed, gravelly, slippery hills to Blair Road, made the turn onto Fallbrook, and negotiated the wet, sandy curve to the big red barn...only to find that almost everything had already been loaded into vans by the volunteers. Apparently a couple of riders (probably doing the 60k) had come through about 20mins previously and said they were the last ones. Sadface.

Tanker checking if his unprotected phone still worked after being soaked.

Soggy kitten is soggy.

After a washroom break for Tanker and a jersey pocket cookie for each of us, we set off for the last leg in the worst rain of the day. We were both pretty chilled, so probably put in some of our hardest riding as we cruised down Blair Road!

Yes, that is a stream of water flowing down the bike lane.
Also a rooster tail of water off my front wheel.

Artist's conception of the final 25km

Finally reaching Churchill Park again after just over 3 hours in the saddle, we popped inside to get some post-ride food into us to try to fight off the chill. Our base layers had been just enough to keep us from freezing while we were working on the bikes, but now we were just bedraggled punks at the mercy of the capricious wind. Fortunately, since we'd only picked up kit that morning (instead of Saturday), we had dry t-shirts to change into once we got to the car!

Done our ride and ready for some inappropriate parking lot nudity!

After which, we went home and I got my new shirt soaked anyway as I took it for a run.

Because triathlon.

Despite the weather conditions in the last hour or so of our ride, we had a great time. If you're anywhere within an hour's drive of Cambridge, I highly suggest checking out the Tour de Grand. The rest stops, meticulous route markings and beautiful courses represent just about the best value in cycling in Southern Ontario, and you couldn't ask for harder working or friendlier volunteers. Bring the whole family - you'll all have a blast!

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