Do I have everything? Helmet, check. Shoes, check. Water bottles filled. Extra layers if it’s cold… I laid everything out last night so I should be ready. Bike on the roof of the car. Cat5Gear bag packed and ready. Drive to Tim K’s to pick him up. 10 minute drive. Do I need a coffee? Nah. Do I have to pee already. Yep. I’ll ask Tim to use is bathroom. Load up his bike and gear. Off we go to bro’s in Ancaster. Drive goes quickly, under 45 minutes. Do I have to pee again already? Yep. Bro and buddy Rob are ready and waiting. Where’s Michelle? She was supposed to meet us here. Message from her… her dog stole her car keys? That sucks! Load up the pickup and drive four riders and four bikes to Paris to the start. Park, get out and get ready. Damn it’s cold. Line up for another pee. OK, I’m nervous.
Before the race
I’m not wearing WCC colours today so hardly anyone recognizes me. I’m too cold to even warm up. Moving fast on a bike makes me colder. I’ll warm up in the first 10 km of the race. I’ll just stand here, out of the wind, and not move… I’m warmest that way. We have how long before our Wave 2 start? An hour? That’s a long cold wait. Say hi to Taryn, Trevor, Chris Y., Bill F., Larbi, Phil and a few others. Chris is hanging out with Tim and I. He’s in our wave and wants to start with us. Good, more people to draft! I hear a gun! There goes the VIP wave…. Hope Gaelen got a good position. Wave 1 is in 15 minutes, then us in Wave 2. Hey Tim, let’s go wander over to the start corral and get in the Wave 2 area. Hey, there’s Doug, he’s in our wave, and Ana Maria. It’s not as cold now, maybe I don’t need this vest. Too late now, nowhere to put it. Five of us here starting together, Tim, Doug, Ana Maria, Chris and I. Mike O. is right behind me on his fat bike. He’ll pass me soon enough. Tim and Chris are in their first ever P2A. Ana’s a veteran in her second. Doug is a vet too. Ok, we’re up next. Let me take a couple of pics of our wave. OK, ready everyone?
Bang, we’re off. Up the paved hill. 400 riders in Wave 2, and I started near the front. Rhythm, settle into a rhythm. Let them pass. That dirt road is coming up and there’s always pot holes and water bottles that bounced off of bikes ahead. Oh, look, it’s been graded. Not pot holes this year, but it’s so dusty. Settle in… settle in. There’s Tim up ahead, and Chris next to me. I’m not going to look back, but I know Doug and Ana are there close behind. Keep Tim in sight as we turn and head to the rail trail. Wow it’s dry and dusty. I’ll stay right behind Tim and let the crazies pass if they want. This pace is good to warm up. Heart rate is 140… good, not too excited, not too high yet. Saving matches. Hey, there’s a WCC jersey walking along the side… it’s Blake! Oh shit. Can’t stop to help… going too fast in a long train. He did NOT look happy.
Staying on Tim’s wheel. Getting passed, passing others. Tim’s strong, trying to keep him in sight. Oh here’s Doug. “Is Tim way up there?”. Yep, not far ahead but he’s up there. Here’s the first challenge. Loose gravel, people walking, no room to ride. Grab the bike and jog… OK, walk fast… OK, walk casually. There’s Tim’s white jersey. Don’t sprint though, it’ll burn a match. Keep him in sight. Here’s Chris, he wants to work with me. Good, the company is will help. Chris is asking how far we’ve gone. 14km. “Is that all?” Yeah, P2A distances are about half as much as they feel. He’s leading, I’ll draft a bit. We’re at raised grass on Hwy 24. Chris, there’s a hike-a-bike ditch coming up, prepare to unclip. “Ok thanks Steve”. Left into the forest. Oh look, it’s dry! And ridable! Still soft and slow, but it sure beats hike-a-biking. Where’d Chris go? I think I lost him. He’s beside me again in the farmer’s field…. It’s dry too! Working with Chris now, trading pulls. Finding other wheels to follow and lead helps as well. Look, this forest is dry too! This is very un-P2A like. More pulling and grabbing wheels, then a muddy trail. People are walking, I might as well. John L. from WC and Strava Ray… where’d you guys come from? Didn’t you start a wave or two behind me… you guys are fast! Half way point is coming up Chris! “Only half way, that’s it?” Yep, lots of race to go. Topping up a water bottle in Harrisburg and grabbing a banana. Whooosh! Who was that in the WCC jersey that just whipped past me? Doug! I’ve got to go keep him in sight. Tim’s way ahead now, haven’t seen him in an hour.
Harrisburg trail is good, dry, fast. Uh oh. Everyone’s come to a dead stop. Did someone just say “the leader of this group stopped to take a pee and is holding everyone up”. Wow, we’re not moving and I can’t even see why. Walking slowly now, rail trail full of people ahead. Dude behind me swearing. I guess he’s a podium threat. Oh, there’s a tree down. Ice storm maybe? Organizers must have checked this before. The ice storm was weeks ago. Ok, clip in… wait, another tree? And another? This is very strange. Finally the last tree… let’s ride. The pavement is fast! This is a good group. There’s Doug. Hi Doug. Bye Doug. Gotta hold these wheels, sorry. Up this hill…. OK, they’re too fast but these other riders will help. They’re too slow, I’m on my own for a while, that’s ok. Here’s Chris again! Good, let’s help each other.
That muddy farmer’s field is coming up. Last year it was soft and slow. Really slow. Oh, it’s bone dry! Might was well hammer it. Wow it’s short. It felt 10 times longer last year. OK, rail trail, feeling good, strong. Can’t quite catch that group ahead, riding alone. There’s a guy drafting off me. That’s ok, I feel good, but won’t be able to catch that group. “Hey, feeling strong enough to catch them”, he says. Yep, but can’t pull by myself. “OK, follow me”. Bam, this guy was saving energy to pull me up to that group! Thanks buddy! Now we’re going faster and my HR is going down. Feels good.
First mudslide already… Great, it’s mostly dry too! A couple of short hills then the big mudslide. Here come a couple fat bikes… It’s bro Jeff leading another guy. They’re duking it out for the FB category for the 40km! Up ahead, there are some kids handing out Timbits. I could use some energy, I’ll grab one. Ooops, bad idea, dry timbits with a dry mouth. Chew slowly, wash it down. Powerline mudslide is coming up. Yep, it’s muddy. It always is. Riding slowly, one foot unclipped, delicately. Ouch that guy went down hard. He’s now running out of embarrassment, I believe. I better dismount and … walk this now. There’s Neil taking photos. Hey Neil, why aren’t you riding? “Gotta take pics for Apex”. Yeah, that sounds like a better idea right about now. Bottom of mudslide, ok, the home stretch, fast downhill and that tunnel…. Uh oh, a little too fast, can I make that turn after the tunnel? Braking…. Phew, lost speed but only slid out a bit.
Here’s some pavement then the rutty dirt before heading to the Martin Road climb. Andy has caught me from Wave 3, so he’s already 10 minutes ahead of me, officially. We approach the climb together. I feel pretty good so I challenge him to the finish. He’s cramping and says he can’t keep up. Riding alone to the sound of the cheers. Many are walking. There’s Dawn, taking pics! And Christian and Iggi. They don’t recognize me at first because I’m not in WCC colours. That’s OK, I’m DONE! It’s always hard, but I climb up all the way, as I’ve done since 2002. Did I finish under 3 hours? Barely. 2:54:55 And here come’s Doug, just a couple minutes behind in 2:57. And Chris in 3:02, and Ana in 3:06. We started together in Wave 2 and finished pretty close to one another. There’s Tim, he came in a couple minutes before me in 2:52, looking energetic and remarkably fresh… and best of all, smiling, having completed his first (but not last, right Tim?) P2A.