I’m not sure what your experience has been with bike riding in Vancouver this spring, but I know that mine has been almost unpleasant. It seems like every day that I have off it has been pouring rain. If I didn’t like riding my bike so much, I might even take up golfing. Oh right, I suppose it is just as miserable golfing in the rain.
As could be expected with a wet spring like the one we’ve had, the 17th?? annual ritual known as the Test of Metal occurred in the middle of a downpour. I think this is 8th TOM that I’ve done, and this one had to be the wettest, most slippery of them all.
I woke up at six o’clock on Saturday morning, looked out the window, and basically made up my mind to be bail out on the race due to the horrible conditions. Unfortunately my daughter also had an entry in the race, and when she got up she said, “Let’s just go up and just see what’s happening in Squamish. If the conditions suck, we can bail out there.” My response to her, “If we drive up there, we race up there”.
And, into the car we go, after searching around for the warmest, most waterproof clothes we can find! Arrival in Squamish revealed what else; more rain, but surprisingly, most of the people walking around the start area had big smiles on their faces. While avoiding puddles, the usual camaraderie occurred, as fellow riders unseen for many months arrived and registered.
The kids and I had been up to Squamish the previous week, riding in exactly the same conditions. With my attitude of a questionable nature, and the experience of the previous wet week in mind, I decided I would just ride a steady race and not aim for potential glory. For these reasons, I chose to seed myself farther down the start chute in the 4+ hour area, a time I should have no problem obtaining.
After the usual festivities, the race started off in the pouring rain. The initial climb, up to the top of Garibaldi Heights, was its usual pinner self. I had thought that with the dreary conditions, that starting farther down the start chute would not make that much of a difference as to where I slotted in when we hit the single track. Boy was I ever wrong! Apparently cool wet conditions do not have much of an effect on a testosterone charged pack of mountain bikers. Once into the single track, the conga line started. I enjoyed a rather leisurely cruise through Jack’s trail, up the Alice Lake service road, and along Bob McIntosh. In fact, when I got into Dead-end loop, I even got to walk a while. That’s the first time that is happened to me in the last five years. The climb up Rock ‘n Roll allowed me to pass a few individuals, but I quickly was slowed up again as we carved up Robs and Cliffs corners.
I’m not sure why the logging companies have been allowed into the area around Mashiter, but they certainly have made a huge impact on the area. And when I say impact, I don’t necessarily mean in a positive sense. I understand the need for jobs, but the devastation they have wreaked will be seen for a long time to come. What do we want, short term gain, long term pain?? Can they not log a little bit farther away from an area that is a major part of the recreational attraction that Squamish has become?? Can the companies not see that the visual impression that this leaves in the minds of those riding in the area may change their vision of logging for the worse. The companies won’t gain from that!
Roller Coaster was again packed wall-to-wall with cheering spectators. SORCA members have done a lot of work on Roller Coaster rerouting it to avoid a lot of the water erosion that had occurred. Unfortunately, this work was recently done, and with the number of riders and the pouring rain, I’m afraid a lot of their hard work was undone in a few short hours. The riding in this area required some deft bike handling as the trail was extremely soft with significant mud holes developing. I imagine by the time the 500th rider had gone through the conditions would have deteriorated a great deal more.
The ride down Perth allowed everyone to recharge their batteries and then cruise over to the Powerhouse party for their first ride through. The usual crowd was there, although this year I saw no bikinis.
As I rode through the plunge party and grabbed a bottle from my support crew, I must admit I felt surprisingly good.
I’m not sure if this is because of all the spring training, or because for the first time in five years I wasn’t completely pinned for the entire first loop. Whatever the cause, it allowed me to attack 9 Mile for the first time ever. Instead of trying to conserve energy and prevent cramping, I finally could get out of the saddle and push the pitches. It was nice to watch a lot of the riders around me disappear behind me never to be seen again. After the climb past the water tower, I even managed to big ring it all the way to the bottom of Lava Dome.
The climb up Lava Dome was uneventful, and we were soon onto the Ring Creek Rip. On days like today, with the rain pouring down, local knowledge of the trail makes all the difference. Once again, I was able to pass multiple riders as we descended toward the Powerhouse Plunge. Along the way, there were at least three huge mud holes that required you to get out over your back wheel and surf the bike through. If you made it through the hole, not only did you keep your shoes clean, but you managed to gap riders who could not.
As I rode into the beginning of the plunge, I actually thought that I might end up with not a bad time. Realistic thoughts or brain anoxia, I am not sure but unfortunately, the plunge was at its absolute worst. With all the rain, and the accumulated mud from previous racers tires, you might as well have been riding on ice. I have a lot of big plans for this summer, and a broken arm or a fractured clavicle is definitely not part of them. Sometimes at my age, discretion must be the better part of valor, and on this occasion, I ran at least three quarters of the plunge proper.
Exiting the plunge and heading to the Powerhouse party for the second time I noted that my shifting was not quite right.
Despite running a good portion of the Powerhouse plunge, I had still managed to bend the rear dropout. A quick stop, while sucking a goo, allowed me to straighten the dropout and continue on into Crumpet Woods. The rain continued to pour down, making Crumpet the muddiest part of the course. Or perhaps it just seemed that way, because by now I was starting to feel pretty tired. At least this time the ride through Crumpet Woods was uneventful. The last time through, my BC Bike race partner ended up needing 25 stitches to close a laceration on his chin.
The finish soon arrived, and a quick look at the clock confirmed that I wasn’t half as fast as my anoxic brain had convinced me I might be. I have always said that early seeding in the start chute, as well as riding the first climb to the top of Garibaldi Heights on the absolute rivet is what guarantees you a good time in this race. And, this year proves it.
This race will go down as one of the toughest TOM`s ever. I would like to tip my hat to any racer who finished last Saturday. As is usually the case, once you finish an event like this you are always glad you competed, and this year was no exception. Now, will I sign up again next year? Only time will tell.
Steed riders did very well this year with Justin Mark winning his age category with a top 25 overall, and his wife Carey Sather won her category as well. Andy Traslin cracked off a 20th in pro elite, top 45 overall. John Rozelle and Mike Murphy were both inside the top 150 overall.
Congrats to all. A very successful weekend!