Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How to get your ass kicked in an ice race

1) Make tires out of CX tires that are almost too big for your bike, and trim down the studs so they're not so aggressive.

2)Convince friend in Montreal to allow you to couch surf

3)Convince car owning New York friend that its a GOOD IDEA to go ice racing and offer to pay for half the gas

4)Have your papers in order, as well as a story about how the two of you met to not raise suspicion at the border

5)Bring lots of layers of clothing, wear ALL of them.

Saturday started out pretty good. My alarm went off, and I immediately figured out where the coffee was kept in Laura's apartment. I then got to work mounting the snow tires on my Spicer. It took a while, but I was confident that the tire liners were in the right position. A little after 11:00am, we rolled out to the Parc Jean Lance to check out the course. At that point there was only about 8 people there. One person was setting up the sponsorship barriers, and another was taking a pick axe to the ice to break up the larger jagged protrusions. We found out from the organizers that they had gone there with a shovel on the last night it was above freezing, to shovel a track in the snow. Then they dumped water on it.. then it froze and thawed again. We did a few laps. Scary!

My front tire would scratch along the surface of the ice diagonally, until I lowered the pressure to what seemed like under 20psi. Only then would it hold some semblance of a line around the icey hairpin corner. I also dropped down my rear tire so that I could sprint out of the saddle without spinning. That seemed to work well. I had pretty good acceleration out of the corner.. in practice at least. It seemed faster over the bumps too. Almost like my bike had suspension.

People were starting to fill in on courier time. Some set up a mech tent, other set up a soup station, a bbq, and even a BBQ bike. People worked on dialing their setups. Confident I had practiced enough, we went for breakfast at Patiti Patata. Poutine and grilled cheese should give me enough calories to get through the day.

When we got back from breakfast, there were a lot of people there. A big crew from Toronto had showed up and brought a portable propane heater to circle their lawn chairs about. Photographers snapped pics of bikes and racers. People dialed their setups, doing hotter and hotter laps than just an hour earlier.

You could tell the atmosphere was getting serious. People wanted to race, if only to keep warm. At the registration tent, the organizer was stoked to find out we drove up all the way from New York, and then again that we would run in studded class. I guess that was unexpected.

When the race did get started, they had consolidated all racing into two categories, and a number of heats. I guess there wasn't enough of each type of bike to run all of them together. Geared roadies vs. track bikes vs. girls vs. the extracycle vs. the cruisers. They only distinction they made was between studded and rubber class.

My friend Andras was up before me, and did alright. His Kona Paddywagon was set up with risers, single speed, platform pedals and a rear brake. He put his foot down each corner, and managed to do a complete 180° almost every time. Not the fastest way around but at least he stayed up. At one point he put his leg out and it caught on the rear tire of one of the other racers, sucking him into the rear stays. It looked a little painful, and left some marks.

When I was up I was a bit tense. I didn't ride that fast in practice. I found I had to brake MUCH sooner on the slightly downhill straight to keep a line in the corner. I made it around a couple of laps before realizing I was riding on my rear rim. I found out after losing the back end and wiping out in the corner, then trying to hop back on realizing my rim was on the ice.

Sadly, I carried my bike back to the pit and began the painful process of trying to change a tire in -10°C weather.

I missed the next few races, focusing on trying to seat the bead on my tire, cursing at mechanix gloves for not being warm enough, and hating myself for riding on my rim as long as I did. When I got the tire re-inflated, the shoulder studs would hit my chain stay every revolution. This meant I had to do a field truing. I simply wound the spokes half a turn tighter for the area I knocked out, and got the tire to clear the stay. I wasn't even finished, and I was being called to the starting line. I quickly put my mittens back on my frozen hands (over the mechanix gloves), and ran over to start my next race.

I guess I was in the wrong head space at this point. I burst off the line and kept up with the leader who was on a CX bike up to the corner. At that point he out braked me, and peeled off to my left. I went sailing straight into the barrier. I hopped back on, and kept up with the guy at the end of the pack for the next lap.. and promptly sent myself into the barrier the next time I attempted the corner. ..and I got back on.. and was now close to being lapped by the leader... and I think I may have stayed on the bike after that. It was a bit fuzzy. I could only feel two things, pain from my hip, and that my fingers were still frozen. I may have fallen a third time. I definitely finished the race though.

I limped back to my bag where my tools were still scattered in the snow, tossed my bike down, and grabbed a beer. Then I went to huddle around TonyMTL's BBQ bike. They fed me a veggie dog and eventually I started to feel a bit better. I had some ibuprophen as well.

My spirits picked up throughout the afternoon as more people asked me about my hub. That was fun. Though, every time it seemed they asked me the same question en francais. Something about whether it was a 'mountain fixie'

The sun was getting low in the sky and it was getting colder by the minute. They would run the finals with 7 people on the course, instead of 4. Once everyone was on the starting line they tried to figure out how many laps to run it. Once they settled on 10 the organizer blipped the siren on the megaphone and they were off.

The ice had gotten progressively more churned throughout the day, and all of the racers in the final had really good tires, so they tracked as though they were on pavement as they went about the course. You could see them slowing with each painfully cold lap. I was glad to not be racing this late in the day.

A compact guy named Andrew from Ottawa took La Coupe Des Glaces, and we immediately started packing up. A quick roll downhill and we were at BARFLY. A cute little place full of Canadiens paraphenalia from when they won the Stanley cup in 1986. Sonic Youth's cover of The Carpenter's "Superstar" played while the petite barkeep knit herself a sweater.

The racers filtered in and peeled off the layers. It was nice to see what everyone looked like. Eventually they got to the prizes, and amazingly enough, gave us some out of towner prizes. I got some great Netti Windstopper gloves (from Cycles Lambert!) courtesy of Le Grand Cycle L'Atelier. Andras got a nice Cocotte hip pouch.

Later that eve we bundled up again, and made our way across town to go to a quipster party. Riding dry pavement on studded tires is pretty amusing when drunk.

Sunday afternoon we did a fun lap of town with Duncan leading the way and eventually decided it was time to return home to Les Etats Unis. What a trip. Thank you for the lesson in ice racing, Montreal.

Edit: The wifey has illustrated this great MSPaint rendition of this post:

For other photos from the weekend, check out the Flickr Set.

1 comment:

MGB said...

petite and compact. ha!