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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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