Ride 35 is in the books: The soon-to-be-classic Eager Beaver 2.0. This gravel grinder event, starting and finishing in Highlands Nordic near Collingwood, offered three distances: 50 km, 100 km (which I rode), and 100 miles. Dan from Substance Projects runs fantastic events and this was no exception.
I was up way too early to pick up Ana-Maria and Gaelen for our 90 minute drive from Waterloo. We kept an eye on the weather forecast and it looked like there was a good chance of some heavy rain. We got there about an hour before the 9 am start and got suited up.
Before I talk about the race, I should talk about bike selection. I’d spent about an hour the previous day cleaning and tuning up my cyclocross bike, fully expecting to ride it at the EB100. However, when I woke early on race day, I saw the forecast and at the last minute decided to ride my full suspension mountain bike, mainly for the descents and disc brakes. Turns out it was a good choice for some sections and a poor choice for other sections…
All three race distances started together at 9 am, and after the race announcements, we were off. It was cloudy, but there was no rain (a pleasant surprise). I started near the back of the group with fellow WCCers Ana and Doug D. and Dale as we made our way up the starting climb. Already I saw bro Jeff on his brand new fat bike leading up the first climb. Doug, Dale and I rode together casually for the 10-15 km. I’d fly down the gravelly descents and get a gap on them while they’d catch back up on the paved and gravel roads.
The first big test was a steep dirt road climb up the escarpment at about the 15 km point. My mountain bike has 27 gears (3×9) and I used ALL of them in this race. Specifically, I used my easiest gear on this climb (22 x 34 for those who speak this language). I was able to ride most of this steep climb (I walked one short portion because I was out of gas/lungs). Dale took off on us on this climb and I didn’t see him until the finish but Doug and I stayed together for a while longer. We hit an aid station at around 46 km just when the skies opened up and it started to rain. Doug noted that the first 46 km were without rain, and the final 60 km would be rainy… he was right. The rains came. Hard. Visibility was low, but that wasn’t too important because we weren’t moving very fast. The rain was actually cooling on my skin, and it did let up occasionally, but I was soaked in seconds.
Doug and I rode together until about the 60km mark (after a second long climb). I couldn’t quite keep up with him as I watched him slowly fade off in the distance (I want to believe that I couldn’t keep up because he was on a cyclocross bike while I was on a mountain bike, but the truth might be a little different…)
The route was fantastic. Lots of gravel roads – some were well maintained – others… not so much. I was reminded of those long days at Crank the Shield (without the singletrack). I also thought that this race was more P2A than P2A. It’s longer and has way more climbing and the pouring rain added to the epicness of the event.
A few notes:
- I programmed the route onto my Garmin so I wouldn’t get lost. It seemed like overkill before the race, but after hearing stories of people going off course by as much as 30-40 km, I was glad I did this.
- I finished 17th out of 19 in the 100 km (actually 109km) in the over 50 age category… my first race in this age group!
- As stated, the 100 km was actually 109 km (I knew this ahead of time because of my Garmin), but shouldn’t 100 km be 100 km? Who does this (right Riot?)?
- At one point around 70 or 80 km, I saw flashes of lightning a little too close for comfort. I was riding alone on a gravel road past some open fields and wind turbines. One flash was very bright with thunder following just a couple seconds later. With nowhere to find shelter, I kept riding. Thankfully, that was the last close call I had.
- My goals in this type of event are: (1) finish, (2) finish smiling in one piece, (3) finish before the organizers are taking down the timing tent. This time, I had an additional goal of finishing the 109 km before my buddy Gaelen M. finished the 160 km (actually 156 km). First I must state that had my 109 km been 100 km (as advertised), and his been 160 km (as advertised), I would have “won” comfortably. However, with the bonus distance, it was very close. I did manage to “win” by a little over three minutes. So to put this into perspective, he covered 156 km in roughly the time it took me to ride 109 km. Fast? Yeah. And good enough for second place over all (He crashed on the muddy downhill near the finish and the eventual winner passed him).
- Kudos to podium finishers: Gaelen (100 miles, 2nd Open Men), bro Jeff (1st 100 mile fat bike), Raf (3rd 100 mile fat bike), Angela W. (first 50 km), Ana Maria (3rd 50 km). And to everyone who came out to ride in miserable conditions.
- Dan and co. run amazing events and this will hopefully become an Ontario classic. We need more gravel events like this. Great people, great fun, great swag and prizes (all riders got EB100 socks from Ride the Earth and a beer glass), great food (bbq afterwards) and fully stocked aid stations that included HoneyMaxx. Huge kudos Dan!
- I’m always amazed at the camaraderie of these events. Everyone gets along so well and supports each other. People cheer when riders cross the line. The atmosphere is very welcoming and positive.
I’m sure Riot will blog about this. Here’s his webpage: http://riotonracing.blogspot.ca/
Others have posted on FB here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1410100629015709/
And there was at least one photographer and one videographer (and a drone!) around the course, so there should be some good pics coming out soon. I tried to smile when I saw them, but it’s more likely a grimace.
If you’re still reading by this point, here’s a link to the Strava Flyby. I’ve included Ana (50 km), Doug and I (100 km), bro Jeff and Gaelen (100 mile). Notice how close Gaelen was to catching me… Click Here. Hit Play. You can pause and zoom in/zoom out as well as change the play speed.