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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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Droplets the size of golf balls

We don’t get very extreme weather.  Well, some would consider -35c in January and +35c in July as pretty extreme, but it’s not an aggressive climate, and by that I mean we are fortunate that we do not suffer from tornadoes and hurricanes and other very destructive phenomena that afflict so many different parts of the globe.  All that being said, the rain that came down last night, and then again this morning when I was out on the bike, was heavy!

Last night’s rain was part of an extremely loud thunder storm.  It had been brewing all day with the 100% humidity and a ‘feels like’ temperature of close to 40c.   When the clouds finally burst at around 7.00 p.m. it was a veritable cacophony of thunder and pounding rain.  At times it looked as if it was simply falling in sheets and the wind was pushing it through the shrubs and trees in the garden leading us to worry that nothing was going to be left standing by the end of it all.

Today’s rain, which lasted all of five minutes, was big and heavy and very, very wet.  Yes I know all rain is wet, but let me tell you not all rain is created equal.  No, this rain was the kind that landed heavy on you and went through your clothes almost instantly.  In no time my tyres were sending up the dreaded rooster tail of dirty wetness right up my arse and my feet were starting to feel the chill as the water seeped in through the many aeration holes on my Sidi’s.

And then just as soon as it started, it tailed off and then stopped completely.  Within two kilometres the road was completely dry which led me to the conclusion that had I ventured west instead of east I would not have encountered this mini-storm at all.  By the time I got home, the bike was dry, I was almost dry and if it was not for the tell take drying watermarks all over the frame you would never have believed that it rained rain the size of golf balls.

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No chain

Seven whole days it has been. S E V E N! Even I can’t quite believe it has been that long off the bike. First couple of days are not bad. Day three you start to get the itch, and by day five it feels like a five alarm rash. All you can think of id that you have to get out there and pedal. But day five comes and goes and you find yourself entering rarely charted territory. How are you supposed to feel? What are you supposed to do? Nobody has ever come back from days six and seven and ever been the same.

Dramatic? Perhaps. Let me just say that when I rolled out of the driveway this afternoon, I was on a mission. To ride and to ride hard. The conditions were near perfect: almost no wind, drying roads, a pleasant 24c and no aggressive sun to sap the energy from you before it made it to the pedals. Let’s go!

One of the pleasant side effects, probably the only one, of being sans saddle for so long is that you’ve given your legs a chance to rest. They’ve completely recovered from all that commuting with a 25lb back pack and that hill climbing while standing in the pedals. They are ready to remind you what it feels like to ride fast. Today they did not disappoint. Lance once described those rides where you feel invincible as having “no chain”. Of course, turns out that he may have had additional assistance rendering the chain as the least of his worries, but still, I have always liked that expression. Today was one of those days. No chain! By the time I got to Parc Levesque where I planned on doing some intervals I was feeling very Graeme Obree half way through the one hour world record. That is to say it felt as if nothing was going to slow me down.

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I underestimated the power of the “bike path rollerblader” in my calculations, however. Have you ever come up behind a rollerblader and wondered why they have to take up both lanes of what is ostensibly a fairly wide bike lane? The swooshing from side to side that almost deliberately consumes the east-west axis is infuriating. You watch them closely as you come up from behind and try and time your arrival to coincide with the far swoosh, but the problem is that you’re not dealing with people who are generally aware of their surroundings. The tell tale white wires hanging from their ears identify them as Apple shareholders which means that at that moment in time they have absolutely no idea you’re charging up behind them at almost 40 kph. Adding to the mix the seven straight days of rain which means a trip onto the grass would be certain disaster, and you’re left with no choice but to call out to advertise your impending arrival and if that fails hit the brakes!

Fortunately all interactions with both joggers and rollerbladers were successful, which means there was no interaction, or collision anyway. Unclipping in the driveway at home I was keen to check the stats and I was dead chuffed to see 37 km at an average of 32.2 kph. I know my time should have been quicker than that, but when you opt to hit the path on a Sunday afternoon you know you’re not going to be the only one.

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This is one of my favourite rides and it is one that I do regularly. Always surrounded by water it’s almost perfect. Now if I could only find a way to dissuade others from using it! 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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