Friday, June 19, 2015

Cambridge Tour de Grand 50k - June 14th, 2015

June is bike month, and what better way to celebrate than with a ride around Grand River country?

I think our feelings about this are best expressed in sock form.

Tanker and I were late - as always - getting down to Churchill Park to get rolling. Might have made the 9:30am start for the 50k if we had managed to pick up our kits on Saturday, but we simply had too much on the go until after the 2pm packet pickup cut-off.

To be honest, given the forecasted thunderstorms, the absolute torrent of rain which awoke us just before 6am, and the grey skies that greeted us when the alarm went off, we'd been tempted to say to hell with the whole thing. However, having done Paris to Ancaster a couple of times (including in blinding snow), cycling in the rain on a warm day didn't seem like such a bad wheeze. Apparently we weren't the only ones who were dubious, though: out of 2,600 registered participants, only about 1,600 actually turned up to ride in the event.

Just barely beating the start of the 40k.

As I was taking a break from running to try to let an injury heal I'd actually been on my various bikes all week, including 31km of hilly commuting to and from the pool on Saturday afternoon on my nubby CX tires. Saturday evening had been spent changing up rubber on both our cyclocross bikes to some road slicks, but as we finally left Duncan McIntosh Arena around 5mins to 10am after chatting with some friends, I could tell the decreased rolling resistance wasn't going to be enough to make my legs respond with any kind of snap.

40k riders waiting for us knobs to get out of the way.

The roads had actually dried up a fair bit from the early morning deluge, and I hoped they'd stay that way. I hadn't rode my ballin' white wheelset with their 23mm near-slick tires since sometime last fall, and while they'd been ok for the riot of rain that was last year's Tour de Grand, I just didn't have the time in on them recently enough to feel comfortable knowing their limits on wet roads. To make things even more interesting, we'd both forgotten our cycling glasses - Tanker had his regular sunglasses in the car, but I was relegated to letting my inner Euro take charge for the day.

Ooh, so pro.

I'm really, really glad I grabbed a cycling cap at the last minute before we left the house.

As we pedaled out of the parking lot and up the hill on Champlain Boulevard to begin our day, we quickly caught up with another couple on road bikes who confirmed we weren't the only ones a bit tardy for the 50k start. We rode together for awhile, then dropped them as we climbed a hill on Clyde Road on the way out of town.

See ya!

50k route map - full details here.

Tanker taking a pull.

The skies were still grey but the weather remained calm as we rode our way through the first half of the course. We were riding smoothly, picking off groups of cyclists ahead of us as we rolled through the countryside - every bike we saw ahead of us was a target, and there were none that we spotted that we failed to drop.

Target: acquired.

The only one I didn't drop.

Arriving at the Clyde rest stop on Village Road, there were at least 3 dozen other participants enjoying refreshments and a pause, so I assumed we must have at least caught up to one of the waves of the 50k start.

Tanker refilled our one empty water bottle each, not having touched the others on our bikes despite the sticky warmth of the day. We were about 27km in, having taken just over an hour to get there, and I took the opportunity to adjust my rear derailleur a bit to smooth out some hesitant shifting due to a difference in dishing between The Biggest Wheel in the World I'd removed the night before and the sexy white hoop I was riding today.

Our bikes getting a break.

I grabbed a couple of banana chunks and an orange slice from the lovely volunteers once I was satisfied I wouldn't have to deal with any further shifting frustrations, then joined Tanker in the line for the portajohns. I didn't need to go, but figured I'd keep him company, and ended up holding his place while he helped himself to a couple of aid station cookies. He finally got his relief, then we prepared to saddle up again just as the skies opened and a gentle rain began to fall.

Just before the dampening.

With a cooler breeze having started to blow through the fields and parking lot at the rest stop, I decided that prudence dictated donning my vest as we set off for the rest of our ride. It wouldn't keep me dry, but it would help trap some heat and keep the wind from chilling my rain-soaked chest as I rode. I've talked about my love affair with vests in the past, and my Vanderkitten VIP vest with its awesome Ophelia "houndstooth" has been a great addition to my arsenal of gear.

Soggy kitty.

Tank was pleased with his King of Lions kit, too.

For the rest of the ride, it seemed like the rain had something personal against us. What began as a light patter soon turned into a steady drenching, then a bloody deluge as we finally re-entered Cambridge city limits. We rolled cautiously through up to an inch of flowing water beneath our wheels, taking corners wide and easy to maximize traction on the sodden streets. Tanker's brakes became more and more useless with each passing minute as I watched the water rooster tail off my front wheel. Fortunately, other than a single fat drop that somehow got lucky, my cycling cap managed to keep my eyes protected from the torrent.

At least I didn't have to worry about my glasses fogging up, right?

Yeah, great day for a ride.

My bike needed washing anyway.

Exercising extra caution as we came through the Elgin Street tunnel and across the soaked wooden footbridge, we grunted our way up the final climbs before sailing down the long decline through residential streets back to Churchill Park. Drenched right to the bone, we ditched our cycling shoes for flip flops at the car and traded our helmets and gloves for dry shorts and t-shirts. 2 hours, 4 minutes and 1 second of ride time for 50.8km per my cycle computer - an average of 24.5kph/15.2mph.

You know it's been a wet ride when you can wring out your cycling gloves and socks.

We both got changed, then split up for a bit as Tanker went in search of post-ride food in the arena and I knocked back a can of coconut water and a chocolate chip cookie while I registered for some complimentary soft tissue massage provided by Peak Performance. While I had the ongoing problem in my right leg, my left hamstrings had been feeling a bit strained since my tough ride to and from the pool the day before. Fortunately, after just a few minutes, I was directed to a table and the masseur got down to work.

I had to chuckle a bit at the horror expressed by the RMT when he encountered the damage in my right hamstrings. After he did some rather aggressive work on me - even having to enlist the help of a Cambridge Times reporter to hold the massage table in place, as it was trying to slide away under his ministrations - I was feeling a little less of the annoying pull and stab in the backs of my legs. Good deal! He'd rubbed some Biofreeze gel into my hamstrings, though, and the chill from it made me very happy I'd brought a dry change of clothes and a hoodie to keep me warm.

Of course it had quit raining completely by the time we got home, and not another drop fell for the rest of the day. Just our luck.

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