Sunday 31 August 2014

The Nutbrown Century

Jon had us over for a barbecue.  The only condition was that first we were going riding.  We were told portions of this were impassable, but we had high ambitions.  As it turns out, that advice probably is correct if given to the elderly, french poodles, and those lacking stamina, fortitude, and the company of good men.  Horses nor dirt bikes nor Land Rovers nor men on foot could have spanned this route today. But guys with cyclocross bikes was a different story.

After getting to bed after midnight from a half Chinese wedding on Saturday, I was up at 6:30 to get ready and get Shawn.  He, Pat Dodge and I were meeting at Chez Nutbrown for a little pre-bbq appetite whetting.

So here's the deal.  Let's say you want to circumnavigate half Kananaskis on your 'cross bikes, bring a nice picnic, and head off into the flood ravaged lands where there were once trails… on a beautiful August day.  We did dismounts, shouldering, tricky climbs, sand, descents - but none of this manicured course and spec height on barriers.  Anything from ravines to fresh trees felled to knee deep ice cold river crossings.  The ice water actually felt good on the legs that somehow logged 2,500m of climbing.

It's hard to generate enough superlatives for the day.  Gorge Creek, the old abandoned road was beautiful.  The Sheep River road approach was great.  We encountered our first slow moving further up on the Sheep River where the power of water slowed us to trying to cross broken bridges, scrambling washed out canyons, fording rivers, riding rubble that was once trail, etc. 
This one is where the trail was. 

We picnicked on sausage and cheese at the half distance mark, but more than half way by effort. We started to descend, before climbing up the Little Elbow pass climb from the south, which was a grunt of an effort.  First flat (mine) and only one of the day was there, then eventually made it out.

Naturally we rode a high tempo on the Elbow Pass climb on highway 66.  How tempo?  Compared to our last "long ride", we hit the base at 9h into the day then took 2 minutes off our prior best time... then raced each other on the hills home just for good measure.  Elapsed time: 9am departure from Nutbrowns to an arrival just before 8pm.  Shower, BBQ, then I had to nap on the couch a bit before driving home.  Big day, great ride, great group, and lots of calories slayed in the name of adventure.  

Input water for the Camel Bak All Clear. 

A home cooked BBQ after 11 hours of adventure is hard to describe in earthly words.

Pictures to follow, I think I left my phone at Jon's when I had to wake up off the couch to get myself home.  Left house at 6:30, returned at 11.  Jon, Pat, Shawn - thanks for the well executed mission!

Thursday 28 August 2014


Shot a 64%. But was 0 on one and 1/ 5 on another. Getting the brain to figure out a couple stations would really help!

Monday 25 August 2014


I've wanted one of these since junior high. They're simple, inexpensive, elegant, and 100% perfect at what they do. And best of all, I got this one in Savoie, France, their birthplace in 1890. St. Jean de Maurienne is also, logically, at the base of the Col de la Croix du Fer and is in a historic and current mining area. 

Sunday 24 August 2014

Cyclocross bike. Explore. Enjoy.

Like the Blues Brothers, today was the day we put the proverbial band back together.  The 4 of us haven't ridden in unison for a while.  This flat is proof that barbed wire is treacherous to tires. And that Alberta is beautiful this time of year.

Shawn had a plan, and it was a good one.  Hang up those smooth tire UCI weight limit road toys and get out the real deal - the 'cross bike.  Then scan the map and connect things we haven't connected before, since 'cross bikes are all terrain vehicles.  On top of that, we linked in some extra single track, which earned quite a few WTF looks from mountain bikers out observing a bunch of drop bar bikes… "on these trails?"

Kate glided to glory on the smoothness of the Boone.  Shawn navigated, railed the downhills.  Craig railed the downhills and attacked every climb completely unlike a guy who's been on a reduced vs. historical levels riding routine.  Despite the fondo yesterday and soreness as we started out, my legs functioned.  I'm feeling good this time of year, and I'm sure a fall work schedule will begin to erode that.  There's a high percentage of rides where I'm spit out the back or clinging for dear life, last on hills.  Today was the other end for once, where I wasn't the boat anchor.  

Saturday 23 August 2014

Banff Gran Fondo 2014

Although forecasts had people worried of ominous weather, it turned out fine.  I think they only people uncomfortable were those without proper clothes.  I was happy from start to finish - all dry and about 7C - in booties, knee warmers, long but not really thermal gloves, arm warmers, wool t shirt under my jersey and a synthetic cycling beanie under my helmet.

Great day and fun riding.  Fun to see everyone out.  We had an easy time waking up early from still being a bit on Euro time.  Roll out was motor paced for quite a while.  It wasn't long in until we all started asking ourselves what on earth the lead motorcycle was doing.  I'd be interested to know if the duo of driver and guy on back had ever moto'd a race before.  They drove erratic, stopped in random spots, used highly animated but non-specific hand signals that confused people.  We theorized at one point that we were being warned an octopus was swimming near a certain section of road.   They'd slow down at the bottom of hills so the peloton would hard brake into the back of them which is just sketchy as the peloton would compress.  For the lead group they were stopped in the middle of the road 50m from the finish line in the middle of the sprint lane faffing around with hand indeterminate hand signals.  Anyway…

So I felt on fire through the paced section and was having no issue at all staying in the first 10 riders on any climbs and such.  Great!  Then we came back through town, out Vermilion lakes road, and the need to pee was building.  Not such bad timing I thought, we're on this sketchy bike path section with a straightaway down hill, and there's a gate up ahead which will bunch everyone up.  I do a rolling pee and am 10m off the back.  Now, I'm not usually this good at reading minds, but today it was clear.  Nick Hamilton, the pro who ended up winning, as he passed through the gate, thought "hey, now it's open road, and I can drill it on the front and drop all these local yocals, including that middle age guy in his lawyers team kit back there peeing!

So I look up and think the gap is only 10m, put my head down and drill it.  Legs feel great, I accelerate, I look up, and… uhh… now I'm more than 10m behind.  Uh oh.  Repeat.  No luck.  Pass a couple being dropped from the acceleration.  Still no luck.  Geez!! I'm off, and we haven't even started.  Shoot.

After that, I settle in with a group, and after the airplane reading of Jens' retirement, I figure this is great, I'll just expend energy with wonton abandon and see how it goes.  That's fun.  I don't do it enough.  I pulled.  But we rotated, and when it got slow, I launched and would see who would come with.  I drilled the hills and made gaps, seeing who would come along.  On the return last 30k or whatever, every hill I launched an attack.  Nobody followed, they were half smart I suppose.  I'd get like 30 seconds up, a big gap.  But the group of 12 on what is say a net 1-2% downhill road in a headwind would reel it back in five minutes.  One guy asked me if I was frying myself for the finish; I said no, I'm doing this all the way home, better than a boring finish!  Anyway kept it going, rode through the sketchy bike paths they had a the finish, then it was 100m or whatever to the finish line.  I led out and sprinted for all I was worth.  Of course one of the Edmonton Road and Track guys who's like 6'4" with these giant legs sat on my wheel an pipped me at the end.  Oh well.  It's not like it was for a place that mattered.  I might care about sprint finishes from time to time.  But I think there's more pride in an approach that isn't dictated solely by leaching as best as one possibly can.

At least we are a great looking team with the sharp Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer kit and great ancillary support all season!

I like supporting events that bring people out riding. This one has pros and cons like any other. The riding is great. I'd ask the organizers to consider the following if they can to keep the event quality up: reconsider the quality of your lead sketchiness master, err Moto. Reconsider your announcer whom I'm guessing is adept at rodeo announcing primarily. Reconsider your extensive pre race requests for volunteers - yes manpower is needed. But you're a for profit organization solely asking for your margins to be improved by free labour.  Lastly, I could care less about another bike t shirt, but a lot of people only do an event like this. The steep entry fees this year got entrants schwag of exactly zero, which was continually echoed through the peloton.  On a notable mention, I suspect it's Banff more than the organization, but the route quality is deteriorating with all the reroutes around town on paths that don't fit this quantity of riders.  

Thursday 21 August 2014


Today we drove up the Col du Lauteret, then Shawn and I kitted up to ride the short side of the Galibier.  Not because we're weeny, but because we have rental car timelines!

It's a beauty climb.  Nice grades.  Majestic high alpine.  We rode together for the first third, then we realized that somehow Old Fashioned's were better recovery nightcaps apparently than French Connections. 

View from Col du Lauteret climb up the valley (we drove this section). 

Galibier climb action. 

Bunnin crests. Just fill in with your mind the screaming fans, 2m wide corridor and the newspaper handoff to go in the jersey. 

The "been there" shot. I don't think it's the last col's we'll ride together!

So on top of this we make small talk with a guy in a Defender 110 at the top. He tells us that Valoire, the next town down the valley which we'll be driving through, is holding a 4x4 convention right now. That explains all the awesome rigs. I was in heaven driving through and seeing them all! Had two hands on the wheel when we drove through Defender wonderland in Valoire, but when were changing from riding this guy was stopping for a snack. It's a Nissan. 

We then drove up and over.  Cindy was impressed that the road got down to approximately bike path width. It is high enough elevation that some chips we bought at a gas station in Albertville popped. 

Descent towards Valoire side. 

Then one last dinner in Geneva!  Unsurprisingly, walking the streets of downtown Geneva at night is not sketchy. I think the bad neighbourhoods are the ones where you can't hear live violin music being performed at night. I was afraid that instead of being mugged for my watch, someone was going to come up and force me to put on a Swiss watch instead of a Timex.  The morning commute to the airport by train took about 10 minutes, and the airport flow from rental car area to train station to flight checkin is easy. And yes, the trains run exactly on time. As does the little rental car bus that takes you to the parkade they're in.  No Swiss stereotypes were invalidated on this visit. 

Wednesday 20 August 2014


So one of our dinner conversations last night was "what were you thinking going up Alp d'Huez".  I was thinking enjoyment, riding, not really pinning it, and about Thomas.  The night we parked under the bridge, right when we finished dinner I started walking up to the free concert.  They played a respectable rendition of this.  It was timely, I sat down for a little think.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Alp d'Huez, Col de Sarenne, Les Deux Alp loop

Beauty day.

Coasted downhill to Bourg d'Oisans. Here's my semi sketchy one handed descent rolling photos. 
Cindy was glad she still had a husband after this one. 

Bill Quinney is immortalized in Bourg d'Oisans. Top left.  Amazing coincidence of spotting it - good eye Bunnin!

Then got fired up for the climb. Sort of. I paced. I brought a 39x25 which is tough for me to push up the first half hour or so. I sort of knew that going in. So I paced. Pushing that gear had me at threshold just to stay rolling, so I pulled back when I could. Middle was moderate, last 5km I went a bit harder. It's interesting to look on strava after. Of 18,000 people my overall time was like around 6,000. But for some segment a guy made as last 7 switchbacks I was 1,000 and change of same total amount. Took a few shots in way up while riding!

Near top, waiting for Cindy. 

Turns out Cindy took another route up. So we eventually all regrouped at top, had a snack, and went over the Col de Sarenne to loop back. Beautiful small road. Crazy little mountain towns in the valleys. Near Alp d'Huez. 

Top of Col de Sarenne. 

Photo stop on way down next valley. 

After that I had to have hands permanently on brakes. I knew what I was getting into with gear choices (or lack of time to change them). What was news to me was how much less stopping power carbon wheels have. Shawn and I did a side by side test on the flat canal at the start of the week. On the descent today I was just hoping like hell for enough speed to scrub off before each corner, and arcing to the outside near the clover praying for my traction to keep me on the black stuff at that speed. Ha. Glad it worked out. Cindy saw me outrigger one corner near the bottom, her brakes are way stronger plus she weighs less anyway.  There's two lessons in this:  we can corner harder than we think, and carbon rims aren't the best alps wheels, unless there's some pad trick I don't know. The wheels are tough as hell, but unless I should be using something different than Enve pads, lose 40lbs, or just like thrills, they probably aren't the best choice. 

Cindy loved stage whole ride and thinks France just is so beautiful, and loves the climbs. Fast defender too!


Le Bourg d'Oisans has lots of cycling stuff. 

Tube machine!

We pre-drove the first couple turns so Cindy could get a feel for the grade. The message was "we can do it" and "it does moderate after the fist bit". But the first bit is steep. I have entirely the wrong gearing for alp riding but figured I could make it work for a couple days. Their are half cooked reasons for not changing them besides just lazy-ness and time constraints... and I'll try to remind myself of that on those first half dozen switchbacks. 

We are staying at les deux alp and glacier skiing is open. I'm tempted. There are cows with bells on, and we feel the elevation at nearly twice Calgary, especially after our last week at low elevation. 


We drove from Auxonne to Annecy through Oyonnax where the tour stopped one day this year. Beautiful foothills with twisty roads. 

Annecy is busy but nice.  


Small hotel rooms. 

More canals. 

You aren't allowed to leave Annecy without eating ice cream. 

We went for a ride around the lake. The bike paths are awesome. 

Then up the col de la Forclaz. 

View was worth it!

Ps. Citroen C3's (I think this is the C3 platform but the DS3 sport model) are cool. 

We have a little 4 door hatchback and magically can put two bikes, two suitcases and one Evoc bag inside (two, one inside the other). I wonder if I'll ever learn that small cars work. We also saw, among many other small car towing things feats of strength, and Audi A4 convertible pulling an RV.