Canadian Double Header

Landing back in Canada Thursday morning from Mexico it was a quick turn around to get ready for a Canadian Double header race weekend with the Spakuwas 50 in Squamish on Saturday and the Ghost of the Gravel in Alberta on Sunday. The key was the ground support from Dik and his son Seth as they ran me around between airports, provided a base camp in Deep cove and kept the engine fed for the busy weekend ahead!

First up was the Spakuwas 50 which was also the BC Provincial Marathon Champs this year.  Trying to defend the title from last year I went out pretty hard with just Canadian Cross champ Michael Van Den Ham and young Fernie ripper Carter Nieuwesteeg able to follow.  We had a substantial gap as we ripped through some of the best xc trails in the World in the Squamish rainforest.  Riding my hard tail for the first time in Squamish, the Kona Honzo, I was breaking some old Strava KOM’s and then doing my best to ride her smoothly on the rough descents.   We were ripping but unfortunately we we ripped ourselves right off course as someone had stolen some race direction signs.  By the time we figured this out and were back on track we had lost 9.5 minutes (according to Strava) and found ourselves back in the mid 30’s.  We knew we were pretty screwed put did what we could to get ourselves back into the race.  The biggest problem was the traffic as we’d come up on lines of riders on the singeltrack which was costing loads of time trying to get through them.  Most riders were great at opening the trail for us, we tried to be polite but are sorry if we cut anyone off!   It was an interesting race as Michael and I were the two fastest riders so we were battling each other but we also had to work together if we wanted to try and get ourselves back into the race.  Unfortunately we ran out of trail with myself eventually coming in 2nd and Michael in 4th, with local ripper Eric Goodwin staying on course and taking the W.

Next up was the race to the Vancouver airport for a 6pm flight to Calgary.  Once my buddy Seth finished his race we hopped in his Dad’s truck, pit stopped at Booster Juice for some recovery fuel, the Ocean for a quick ice dip/ bath and then onwards into the Vancouver traffic.  We nailed it, arriving at 4:45 pm, and next thing  I was in Calgary waiting for my luggage and lining up a rental car.  By 11:30 pm I was in bed at my friends Wayne and Joani Worobecs in Cochrane for a little bit of shut eye to recharge the battery before Sundays race!

The  Ghost of the Gravel is Albertas premier Gravel bike race as it takes in 118 km of rolling gravel roads through the Alberta foothills.  The race started pretty neutral as 220 of us dodged around some mud puddles from an earlier rainstorm and eased into the fast and punchy course ahead of us.  My legs were feeling surprisingly fresh and my Kona Libre was feeling solid but my front tire had sprung a very slow leak which I couldn’t identify.  We had a big lead group of 30 + riders so I could sneak off the back and try to figure out the leak but this was to no avail. Putting a tube in would be too costly time wise so I used my Co2 to top up the tire and then launched an attack as I figured my day might be short lived.  Taking the KOM title up the climb of the day put $200 in my pocket and also blew apart the field with just 4 of us left off the front.  2 of them were roadie teammates,  Provincial champ Andrew Davidson and his buddy Warren Muir, while Kona young gun David Yexley was also up with us.  This essentially made it 2 vs 2 in the lead group as David and I knew it would be smart to ally up.   We worked well together helping the group stay together but eventually he would lose contact with us and I would be left to fight against the two teammates alone. 

The legs were feeling good so I figured it would be smart to attack these guys but the x factor was my front tire which kept losing air.  I would try to sneak off the back on the long climbs to Co2 it before Andrew and Warren would take notice, which worked pretty good as I could always chase back on.  My fingers were crossed the tire would eventually seal itself but this wasn’t my day.  With 15 km to go the teammates started launching some attacks which I could cover but it kept the pace up and meant there was no more time to stop to re-inflate the tire.  With 4 km to go we hit a paved climb which I tried to drop the guys on but they were riding strong and with the tire now at about 10-15 psi and slightly bouncing off the rim it wasn’t ideal.  With a 2km flattish roll into the finish the ball was in there court as the chances of sprinting to a win with a nearly empty front tire was minimal. 

Luck would briefly change though as 500 meters from the line a cowboy and his horse trailer would pull onto the road with his dog taking chase.  This added chaos which was a good thing as I had over 6 months of this sort of training in Nepal and southeast Asia last winter.  Weaving around the dog I then had the choice of going left into the oncoming lane to get around the horse trailer or to risk the inside right line.   Going right I figured it would block the other riders but the cowboy put on his brakes which meant we got around him to early which enabled Warren to come around to take the win. I would settle for 2nd while luckily managing not to crash with the front tire bouncing off the rim.  It was a pretty hairy finish to what had been a solid weekend racing bikes across two different provinces!  Next year I’ll try to refine the details of this doubleheader and cross my fingers for a  bit better luck as back to back wins in these tow great races is certainly in the cards.  

This weekend also capped a solid month long block of racing and signalled the start of some specific training for the 24 HR World Championships coming up in Brazil at the end of July.  Right now I’m taking a small break in Nelson as I head towards the Okanagan from Canmore on my Libre which is not only a great race machine but also built for big adventures.  Time to keep the wheels rolling…!


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