Ride #10 of my “50 in 50” was the Tour of Pelham – another of southern Ontario’s Spring Classics – on Sunday April 10. This was my first time entering this event, which was shorter than the other classics at just under 35 km, but still very challenging and enjoyable.
After the 90-minute drive from Waterloo, I met up with riding buddies Kevin, Mark, Gaelen, Bob and Alex as we prepared ourselves and our bikes for the 11 a.m. start at the Merrittville Speedway in Pelham. For this gravel grinder, I’d be riding my cyclocross bike, rather than my fat bike, which I used at the Steaming Nostril race a week earlier. Riding those fat tires on pavement and hard-packed dirt roads was a lot of work, and I was hoping that the thinner CX tires would provide more speed in this event (I was partially correct!).
The ride started on a gravel road and quickly turned onto a muddy path with deep puddles. Riders were already dismounting to get past these puddles (except Bob, who rode his fat bike!). The rest of the first half of the course included roads (paved and gravel), a couple of tunnels and bridges, some soft grass and some muddy trails. The singletrack was very muddy and many parts were unrideable (for me, at least). About 8 km into the race, I caught up to my friend Gaelen, who had flatted (having finished third at Steaming Nostril, he was one of the favourites for this race). I stopped for a moment to lend him a tube and my pump, knowing that he’d catch back up to me soon enough (he still finished nearly 20 minutes ahead of me).
The event had about 100 entries, so it was much smaller than Paris to Ancaster, and even noticeably smaller than Steaming Nostril. As a result, I spent most of the second half of the race riding completely alone. Although I’d prefer riding in a group to save energy and go faster, I enjoy the solitude of moments like this when I can enjoy the scenery, ride hard if I’m feeling good, or back off I’m in suffering.
The farmer’s field was about 2 km of soft, muddy, strawy hills at a local farm. When I got to the farm, I saw other riders ahead of me, and the ride didn’t look too bad. On the road leading into the farm, I saw WCC rider MarkW leaving, and I asked him what it was like – his reply… “the straw and mud sticks to your bike”. Great, I thought. More mud!
The farm course was set up like a CX race with off-camber turns, switchbacks and steep up and down hill sections. I rode what I could but carried my bike in other sections… all the while questioning my choice of bike (my friend Bob rode the entire farm loop on his fat bike). Still, despite the length of time it took to complete this portion of the course, I remember thinking that it’s sections like this that make this spring events “classic”. Paris to Ancaster has mud chutes and a huge climb at the finish. Steaming Nostril had “The Longest Kilometre“. Now, Tour of Pelham has the race within a race: The farmer’s field. Once I exited the field, the marshal told me it was mostly road to the finish. He was correct, but didn’t tell me about the soft, sandy climb on McSherry Lane. I rode up part way, but had to hike the rest before riding a few km to the finish.
It was a cold day for April and the wet/muddy conditions made it tough, but that’s why we do it. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be a challenge. Thanks to the organizers (905Racing), sponsors, volunteers etc. for a great event that will hopefully grow next year (and how about this: finishing the race with a lap on the Merrittville Speedway?).
Here’s the Strava FlyBy (scroll the time bar to 11:00 am to see the start of the race)
After a short visit with Tom from Honeymaxx (who lives in the area), I made the short drive to Niagara Falls. As commercial as this place is, the falls is still a natural wonder. I saw the usual sights and walked around for a while before heading home in a snowfall.