Day Three – Invermere. 46km, 1200m.
Riding in Invermere is all about the excitement and anticipation of early season riding with friends, and the joy of being back on a bike on dirt after a long, long winter. Trails there are dry and dusty when the Canmore trails are still packed with ice and snow, and 15oC in Invermere seems more like 20oC… while 15oC in Canmore seems closer to 10oC. It’s like a little magical mountain bike world we can escape to while winter still has Canmore in its icy grip. So I enjoy riding the trails there, and after Nipika I was really looking forward to racing something a little smoother with a little more flow.
We caught the bus out from Radium to a staging area just past Lilian Lake. The start today was in waves as well – six waves this time? I think I was in the second. Later in the day we were going to be riding my old friends, Kloosifier and the Johnson, but first up was a mix of newly built singletrack, and re-purposed dirt bike trails. It was dusty, and a little rough, but I was having a great time!
There were some steep, sandy hike-a-bike climbs (here’s hoping the guys at the front couldn’t ride them all, they were tough!). But the skies were wide open and blue, and the views were fantastic, and I just love the Invermere riding for some reason.
After a good 20km or so on the new trails, we ended up on roads for a while, cutting through a small town before climbing up and up and up on a dirt road. Past the scene of some nefarious course tampering – thankfully it was all properly marked again by the time I got there – and onto the Kloosifier. Except we were doing it backwards! Oh well, still fun. Just… not quite as much fun as it should have been. Also my gears were getting a little weird. I stopped and checked my rear skewer. Nope, still good, wheel not about to fall off. Oh well.
I was flying along and having a great time as we hit the Johnson, and was really looking forward to hammering the final 10km of fun and familiar trail. And then I didn’t have any gears all of a sudden. What?! I stopped and looked. My rear derailleur cable was snapped. This had never happened before, and I wasn’t sure if there was anything I could do to improve the situation. I tried manually pushing my chain over onto an easier gear, but thanks to the lack of cable tension, it just flopped right back onto my hardest gear. Damn. If only I was a better bike mechanic! Oh well, looks like I’m single speeding the rest of this. Damn damn damn! Could be worse.
And so I sadly stopped then fun game I’d been having of gradually reeling people in and overtaking them (these trails really suit my riding apparently … or perhaps it’s the advantage of a familiar course … or more likely I was just riding strong because I was enjoying myself so much). I rode up what I could, and ran my bike up what I couldn’t. And there’s nothing like restricted gear options to stop you from braking too much on the downhills.
I rolled into the finish line a little disappointed, but glad my bike had still been able to keep going – there were worse mechanical issues I could have had.
From there it was straight to Lilian Lake for a soak. Chatting and hanging out with other fellow bike freaks. Then lazing on the grass in the shade. Then hopping back into the lake again. Life is hard.
That evening I dropped my bike off to the race mechanics, had a nap, then icecream, and caught up with an old friend for some tasty Mexican in Radium (who would have thought it?). Fun times.
Day Four – Golden, Mountain Shadows. 28km, 1000m.
I caught a ride with some of the support crew to get from Radium to Golden this morning – no coach rides for me today! We pottered around Golden, I helped unload bikes from the truck, then gradually got organised and rolled the couple of kilometres over to the starting line in the middle of town. My bike was fixed, and today was a short one, on trails I’d never ridden before. With a timed descent that sounded potentially epic. I was a little afraid, but what could possible go wrong?
The tunes of Highway to Hell played us out of town, as our police car escort led us to the base of the climb. Oooh, a climb! I wasn’t feeling warm, but that changed pretty quickly. Every day so far had been reaching 30 – 35oC, and it was warming up as we slogged our way uphill in the sun. Pleasantly we occasionally dived off onto tracks in the trees, before re-emerging to keep climbing on the baking hot road. Brief conversations of few syllables as we climbed. Dust. Sun. Sweat. More climbing.
And then it was descent time! It was all pretty rideable, nice. But a proper descent this time, in a rugged, sandy, rocky, rooty kind of way. There were a few moments of doubt, and some things that I might have walked if I wasn’t racing, and was feeling more timid. I was overtaken by some… overtook others… and then a few of us reached a knocked over course marker. Which way do we go? No idea. We yelled out, and a photographer lurking downhill a little told us to head left. Right. But 20 seconds or so of indecision meant that a big group of us had formed, and so we all headed off downhill together in a pack. Oh well.
From there it was onto the Mountain Shadows trails – which were kind of rocky, rooty, technical and fun! I was enjoying the riding, gradually catching and overtaking some of the downhill speedsters. Past an aid station with bacon (I didn’t partake). A too-sharp turn off double track onto single track, and I ended up side-swiping a stump, which gouged my leg. Blood!
It wasn’t a long day though, and before long we were heading back into town. Spectactors were hanging around, someone sprayed water on me – oh thank you! It was getting warm by then. A final swoopy descent through lovely cool deep forest, and then out onto the river trail through town, trying to reconcile racing as fast as I could with avoiding being too much of a menace on a public trail… then done! And into the river to soak.
I settled in at one of the bistros downtown, joining a Canadian couple who were racing as a team, having a delicious lunch and a very tasty recovery caesar.
It was after that everything started to go pear-shaped. I caught the bus up to the Glacier Mountain Lodge, along with a few other racers. We’d arrived 15 minutes before official check-in, and found the lobby strewn with Singletrack6 folk who were waiting to check-in. Apparently they were short-staffed, and were still cleaning the rooms. I settled in to wait. Tired and hungry. Apparently my room would be about 40 minutes. 2 hours later, I finally got into my room. I’d missed the first bus back down to town, but made the second which was running late.
Now, the downfall of not signing up for meals was that I was then stuck a 25 minute walk from most of the restaurants in town, and the bus driver had said he’d be back in an hour to run us back up the hill. Still tired, still hungry, not thinking clearly, I just walked to the supermarket for food. Nearly melting in the heat. I panic bought a few random items, then headed back to catch the bus. Which wasn’t going to leave for ages yet. Argh!
On the bus ride home, the driver had played us some music from the band of the bus owner. From the poster on the bus wall it looked like death metal. In reality, it was more like the ‘Sesame Street on acid’ that the driver described. Thoroughly hippy, wildly bizarre lyrics, it lent the evening a perfectly surreal tone, as we sat on a school bus, driving up a mountain at 9pm, listening to music that told me that I shouldn’t cut trees down because the squirrels needed them. I really wish I could remember the name of the band, just so I could confirm with myself the whole incident wasn’t just a hallucination.