I left Ottawa Saturday morning around 8:30am with my trust feeder and riding buddy, Karl. He and I have made the trip to/from Bromont many times over the last 4-years. The weather forecast for Saturday in Ottawa and Bromont looked bad: 100% POP. Great! But, as we left Ottawa, it was still dry and the clouds looked to be thinning in the East. Hmm, weather might hold-out after all.
We finally pulled into Bromont at 11:40 (we got held-up at Tim Horton's)....just in time for number-plate pick-up. We met-up with Trish to discuss feeding for Osmond. Then, I headed into the trails (not the race course) for a warm-up.
Bromont is truly a great course. Over the years, the organizers have varied the course, but you can always count on two things: lots of climbing and the infamous "Flintstones"....a nasty rock-infested section at the end of the lap. Loose focus for a split-second, you'll go down...hard! The rocks are unforgiving and huge...definitely not skin-and bike-friendly. But, with focus and attention, nailing the Flints cleanly is such a huge rush and relieve....plus, it's nice to hear the spectators Yelling: "Oui, c'est beau! C'est beau!"
But, you can't let you guard down just yet, because at the end of the Flints, there are a few loose drops that can catch an unsuspecting racers. Then, you have an open sprint on loose gravel to the lap/finish line.
After watching the Pro Elite/Jr Elite Men/Women negotiate through theFlints (a few of which met head-on with Flint), I picked-out my line. It wasn't the show-stopper line I'd taken in the past, but it was the safest. Having not had the chance to pre-ride and since the Flints have undergone some devastating clear-cutting and rock re-arrangement, I felt the safer line was the best line. Having to negotiate the Flints 4 times during the race, I opted to take the somewhat easier line instead of chancing a race-ending crash. In the end, I came out of the Flints 4-for-4! That feels good!
After some warm-up and race watching, I was ready-to-go! I hooked up with Reese Rendall and Peter Holzhuter (Ride with Rendall) at the startline. We chatted for a while and then the "1 minute to start" announcement. "Ouch, this is going to hurt!" I said to Reese and Peter. You could tell they were thinking the same thing. With the start of the race, 46 of us crammed through the small opening in the funnel and proceeded up the feed-zone climb. We then tucked into some brief singletrack by the water-park and headed back-up for some more climbing. This repeated for 4 laps and ultimately, looked liked this:
Of all the Bromont course variations I've done in 4 years, I think this course had the most climbing. The organizers pretty much used every ounce of elevation they could to squeeze the lactate acid out of your muscles. But, what goes-up, must come down! And, man, did I fly! I'm absolutely amazed at my new Fox F80X shock. Wow! An acquaintance I know from the Montreal-area (fellow Master Expert racer) and I were duking it out for the entire race. Back and forth, forth and back. He and I would pass each other on the climbs, but I'd open the gap on the downhill sections near the end of the lap.
As the 4th and final lap started, I knew if I could catch him at the downhill, I could beat him. But, as I looked up head at the beginning of the 4th lap, I couldn't see him. I kept thinking to myself "I let him get away!" But, as the lap progressed and the climbs became steeper, I could start to make-out his bike/jersey through the trees. Before I knew it, there he was.
I managed to pass him on the last climb and I knew I had him. He knew it too as he said "Open it up, Mike!" And, I did. I knew if I could ride cleanly through the downhill and the Flints, I could open-up a nice gap on him. In the end, I managed to finish 21st/46 (12 DNFs) and managed to open-up a 37s lead over him. As I drove home to Ottawa, I couldn't help from grinning ear-to-ear. I had one of the best races of my life, survived the Flints, climbed hard, descended even faster and beat a buddy of mine. And, the weather and course could not have been in better condition. Perfect for racing.
On a sad note, Saturday was the last day for the Flints. They are being clear-cutted and gutted to make room for 500 new condos. RIP, Flints! You'll be remembered.