The Last Race

The traditional last race of the OBC Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series is at Mooney's Bay in Ottawa. A gigantic (to the gravitationally challenged) hill dominates the park while most of the rest of the park is fairly flat. Being the last race of the year, in Ottawa, in late November, early December, there is also often snow.

Last year, there was about a foot and a half and I took the path of cowardice and stayed at home. It seemed a good idea at the time, but a couple of months later, I found myself regretting it. Races like that are the stuff legends are made of. At the very least, they make decent war stories to tell and re-tell. I made a vow to myself that if there was a snowy race this year, I would definitely do it.

If I haven't mentioned it in the past, I am a fair weather cyclist for the most part. I feel no shame in admitting this. I do not gain enjoyment from going out for a long ride in the rain. Even in the summer, if the weather is terrible, I am more likely to ride on the trainer for an hour or two than go outside. This is mostly pragmatic. My wrenching abilities are horrific and I have a general lack of manual dexterity. Bad weather almost always means you have to spend more time re- greasing and cleaning all sorts of fun parts of the bike. Since I like my gear to be at least in decent shape, I feel that the wiser course of action is generally to keep my bike out of the worst of the rain and it will generally last longer.

The point of this is that as a fair weather cyclist, I spent my few training hours in the last week or so indoors. Not outdoors in the snow. And in previous years, when I wasn't going to ride in the snow anyhow, well, I didn't ride in the snow. Today, there was somewhere between 6 and 10 cm of snow on the ground, this was far more than I had ever ridden in. This snow covered the entire course, save for a couple of very short sections in the parking lots.

I was able to come to the following conclusion: riding in snow is very difficult.

That is, of course, when you can ride. Much of the first lap was spent running. Later laps riding the entire thing was in order, but still. The bike does not go where you point it. If you get off balance slightly, the bike washes out from underneath you. You can actually go pretty good when you are on the hard pack snow in the middle of the course, but if you veer off that 4 inch wide trail, watch out. In terms of time, one section that I was clearing in about 45 seconds when I stayed on the little packed down bit took me nearly two minutes when I slid off of it. In hindsight I should have just stopped and put the bike back on the narrow bit, rather than try to ride back onto the hard-pack ridge, but at the time I was in pain and not thinking too terribly clearly.

Ah well. Last race of the season. I have some epic blisters on my hands from something, my lower back is basically locked up from all the pulling and pushing trying to mash the bike through the deeper bits of snow. But the bike is cleaner than it was before I started, so that's good. I used some good old MEC brand cold weather chain oil and there is still a nice thin film of the stuff, so that's awesome. I'll just have to pull apart a few other bits of the bike, regrease everything and let it collect dust for a couple of months.

Probably my last OBC Cross race as well. Though if we end up coming out this way some fall, I will without question bring my cross bike out to enjoy the series again.