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Ever faster

Popped out for an hour again this morning.  Same route.  10 km to Parc Levesque, five laps of the park, then the 10 km back.  Another warm, dry morning that you just have to take advantage of and get out there ‘cos before we know it the ground is going to be frozen solid again and we’ll be pedalling indoors in front of a 17″ monitor.

Banish the thought!  Still at least five more months of outdoor riding!  So this morning.  31 km with an average speed of 31.7 kph.  Slightly up on yesterday which is awesome.  I think the headwind on the way out is slightly more advantageous.  Just slightly.


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Lactic spin

This morning I took an easy spin to Parc Levesque to drain out the build up of lactic acid from yesterday’s Charlie Bucket century.  When I say easy spin, that was the plan.  But the competitive spirit engaged as soon as I remembered Andy’s jovial barbs from yesterday and soon I was pushing myself a little harder than I had originally planned.  Not a bad thing, mind you, but it was not the restful morning spin that I had set out to do.

VR2 in Parc Levesque this morning.

All said and done I did 32 km with an average speed of 31.1 kph.  Morning’s that start like this are just awesome.

Ride safe.

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Mountain stage

Mountain might be a generous adjective, but we’re definitely not in the flat lands of Montreal and the surrounding areas anymore. Bring it on! Our Laurentian ride coincides nicely with the start of the three toughest mountain stages in this year’s Giro and I was hoping to somehow simulate one of the climbs and almost transport myself to Italy and insert myself at the top of the peloton with 1 km to go before the summit. Of course there is no comparison whatsoever between the climbs we have in the Laurentians and those that you’ll find in Italy, but hey, we have to make the most of what we have and they are climbs nonetheless! We knew we were going to feel the burn today.

We were five today: Andy, me and Hugo making up the boys team and Cheryl and Hélène forming the girls team. We met at the home of Andy’s friends in Morin Heights who kindly provided us access to their guest house so that we could prepare for our ride in relative luxury. By relative luxury I mean a beautiful out-house on the lake, complete with running water, bathroom and living room / kitchen area.  Like I said, it beat getting changed in a parking lot or on the side of the road!  Being right on a lake the view is gorgeous and you feel as if you are hundreds of miles from the sprawling metropolis of urban Montreal. In fact, you are only a fifty minute drive away, but it feels and smells like a different place altogether.

Cheryl & Hélène cruising down a hill, one of the rewards after climbing up the other side.

If you ever have a chance to ride in the Laurentian’s, I highly recommend it.  The roads are in remarkably good shape considering the battering they get over the winter, and for the most part there is a generous well paved shoulder that keeps you out of the line of traffic.  As for the view, well, as with any mountainous district the views are breathtaking.  Our ride featured a brutal initiation: within the first 50 metres we were faced with a decent climb up out of Morin Heights as we headed south to catch the Milles Isles road.  Yup, we soon knew it was going to be a great ride but a challenging one at times.

For every up there's an awesome down.

Our plan for the day was to break the ride up into two sections.  Our first ride was just over 50 km and focused on some lovely rolling roads from Morin Heights down to Bellefeuille, up to Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs (where Andy lived for many years), back west through Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts and finally back into Morin Heights.  A brief snack and bio-break was followed by some intense decision making on the part of Hugo as he tried to determine whether or not he was going to ride anymore.  One minute he was in, then he determined he was not, then he was again, but finally he dismounted and announced that he was going to head back into town.  So we were down to four, although Hélène was not sure of continuing herself until Cheryl boldly announced that they were coming on the second ride.  As Cheryl was the ride back into town, Hélène was left with little option but to continue!

The first 50 km loop through the hills.

The second ride took us out of Morin Heights and straight uphill, again, towards the junction that would lead us to St-Adolphe-d’Howard.  Turning right onto the road that would lead us there we were faced with three large climbs, one right after the other, that Andy affectionately called “The Three Sisters”.  Each climb was in the 8%-10% range and after suddenly realizing that Cheryl and Hélène had turned around, I also noticed that some mild fatigue was setting in.  I was further dismayed when I looked down at Andy’s crank and noticed that he was climbing in the big ring.  Now I had done many of the initial climbs in my big ring and felt pretty awesome about that fact, but by this stage of the day I felt that it was perfectly acceptable to be in the small ring.  However, I could not help but feel slightly inadequate when I noticed that Andy was pumping his way up the same climb as me in a much larger gear.  I think the word “Bastard!” may have crossed my lips.

Andy and Hugo lead the pack on the first ride.

Having climbed the three stepping stones to St-Adolphe we turned around and began the return trip into Morin Heights.  I don’t know what came over me but I was suddenly re-charged and felt a surge of energy that allowed for some exciting riding on the final 10 km.  Andy did not drop me on any of the remaining climbs, although I was admittedly glued to his wheel to take advantage of a little shelter from the cross-wind.  By the time we dropped into our home base we had covered just shy of 75 km and had good reason to feel good about the morning.  When I checked my iPhone I read the text from Cheryl letting us know that they’d turned around and headed back home.  We hadn’t worried but it was nice to know that they had not somehow made it to St-Adolphe and back before us!

The shorter, harder second ride.

They’ll be a lot more hills to come this year.  I know we’ll be up in the Laurentians again soon simply to make the most of the scenery as well as the opportunity to get some real hill climbing in.  So to Andy, Hugo, Cheryl and Hélène, thanks for the awesome ride!

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Bicycle. Bicycle. Bicycle.

Charlie Bucket Cycles rode their first official century of the season this past Friday.  What a glorious occasion it was.  Well, it would have been if we had all finished together, but although we did clock the 100 km necessary to qualify for the metric century, we finished in two groups.  One group of two, and then one on his own.  More about that later.

The author, Andy and Paul on the cable ferry running between Île Bizard and Laval

The ride started as it usually does with the three of us trying to casually mumble such things as “Got to take it easy today lads, no racing“, and “We need to save energy for the last 25 km, so no freight train on the way out, OK?”  without sounding like the wimp of the group.  I don’t know why we even bother going on like this because we all know that as soon as we’re on the road absolutely nothing that was stated before means anything.  Case in point: we were taking turns pulling each other as we headed west towards Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue when the relative calm and order of our ride was shattered.  I was leading at the time and we were keeping a comfortable 33 kph into a headwind when a cube van drove by us.  Before I had even completed another full turn of the crank I saw Paul go past, standing in the pedals and seesawing his Cervélo back and forth with the aggression usually saved for the final 250 metres of a flat stage in the Tour de France.  It took me a second to realize what he was up to, but when I did I also jumped up in the pedals and tried to join the rapidly disappearing back wheel of Andy who had been able to react faster than me.

By this time Paul had reached his goal and was tucked up behind the cube riding in the vacuum that is created in the zone about two feet off the rear bumper.  Andy had almost reached him and I was still a thigh-screaming ten metres behind them.  The bastards had out wit me, and not for the last time that day.  No matter, the advantage, as sweet as it was, did not last long as the cube van took a left turn about half a kilometre later.  It had served as a reminder, however, that I need to work on my ‘bursts’ of power, so I took a mental note that I would be needing to schedule some tedious and painful interval training sessions in the coming weeks.

Soon we were on the north shore having traversed the rapidly moving river between Île Bizard and Laval.  The seasonal ferry takes about 90 seconds to make the crossing and literally pulls itself across on a cable that is suspended 30 feet above the water.  Every time I cross this section of water I am convinced that if I was to fall in I would find myself in the Old Port in a matter of minutes, so rapid is the flow of water.

We were reminded that it was Good Friday shortly after arriving in the first town as a long procession, complete with police escort in mean looking black Dodge Chargers, went by.  The 100 or so people were obediently following a Christ-like figure hunched over under the weight of an enormous cross.  A re-enactment of sorts, it cut a dramatic if not slightly disturbing image.  Actually, I think that the most surprising element was the very dramatic unmarked police cars that seem to the norm on the north shore.  All black, no exterior lights and no markings whatsoever.  Is the element of surprise that essential when you get away from the relative sanity of the island of Montreal?  Perhaps it is.  Better keep pedalling.

So you may recall the throwaway comment I made at the beginning of this entry about finishing in two groups.  Here’s how that happened.  We were driving hard through Senneville down the three 1 km straights that take you from the northern edge of the island and bring you south-east to the autoroute 40.  Each kilometre stretch ends with a 45 degree turn that leads onto another long straight, and if the wind is going in the wrong direction this can be a tortuous ordeal.  Taking turns at the front we were maintaining an impressive speed given the late stage of the ride.  I finished my pull, drifted over to the left to let the others through, and then blew up.  I couldn’t hang onto Paul’s wheel and get onto the train and I suffered both the ignominy and frustration of seeing them slowly pull away.  My legs were not responding to the urgent and imploring messages from my brain, urging them to pull out one more burst of power.  They simply had had enough.  When we got to the T-junction that is the autoroute 40, the boys were politely waiting for me.  Turn right and you head west again for the roundabout way home.  Turn left and you shave off about 15 km on the return run.  I made it clear that I had to go left, even if that meant riding solo the rest of the way.  I could see the boys wanted to take the long way home, so I bravely encouraged them to go their own way (cue Fleetwood Mac).

By the time I rolled into my driveway I had completed the 100 km I set out to do, just!  I got a text from Andy shortly thereafter asking if I had made it back in one piece (what a super fellow!) and he confirmed that he and Paul had ended their morning at 115 km.  All in all an awesome day for the three of us and one that bodes well for the upcoming season.

I did record the route on the iPhone using the trusty MapMyRide+ application.  I find this a fascinating thing to do and it never ceases to amaze me when I review where we went on a fully interactive map.  It also helps with planning future routes because you can look for roads or climbs that you did not find the previous time out.

The 100 km I completed. Paul and Andy completed an additional 15 km at the end of the morning not reflected on this map.

Guess what!  I also recorded on HD video portions of the ride and yes, I have completed another short film of the day to share with anyone who cares to spend 3 minutes of their life watching it.  This time I selected ‘Bicycle Race’ by Queen and attempted to re-create the cheesy days of early music videos that those of you who watched MTV in the early 80s will surely remember.  Good times.

Click on the image to watch the video.

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