Cyclocross Race Report: Ma-te-way Park, Renfrew

Boom! Less than a week after Double Cross saw us riding at 23 degrees Celcius, and LOVIN’ IT, Sunday morning flipped the scrip: a high of 5 for the day? WTF? Thankfully, we’d just received our new pop-up tents, and our bakers, Maja and Jean-Yves had produced a bunch of fabulous goodies for us to sell to cold, hungry riders! Coffee was lined up too, essential stuff.

SNOW! Maja and I are en route to Renfrew at 08:00, and it’s snowing hard enough to take care with the ol’ auto. We arrive to one of two tents up, thanks to Pat Kelly and Dom Fontaine (not to mention their family members!), and Pat’s girls are selling cookies and coffee. Incredible! I freeze fingers getting the other tent up, creating additional space for warm-up. Space heater anyone? Yep, next week. Outstanding!

Jean-Yves and Maja are masters of baking destruction. They won’t tell you that, but I will. Both are formally trained and have worked professionally as bakers. Both make amazing stuff. Maja, recovering from a broken and reconstructed collarbone and concussion, whipped up a whack of nut-laden brownies. Jean-Yves threw down croissants, chocolatines, two kinds of muffin, and two kinds of cookie, the latter four all vegan. And delicious according to all, make no mistake. Our aim was to at least break even, which we did, have enough coffee for all who wanted it – fail – and to start to suss out whether we can pull off making and selling Belgian Liege waffles later on in the season. I mean, what goes better with cyclocross than Liege waffles? Beer? Sorry, we can’t. Frites? Yes, it’s possible to entice a fry truck. But what can we do? Coffee, treats, and maybe waffles. So we tried, and it went great, mostly. Unfortunately, the 40 cups of Bridgehead coffee we bought lasted about an hour once riders got onto the scent, and we ran out far earlier than hoped, which was not at all. Apologies, folks! For this weekend, we’re working on another solution, which we hope will completely cover demand.

Treats were a big hit, though Jean-Yves noted that chocolate was the most sought-after element, so he’ll work on tweaking quantities in favour of that lovely stuff.

The first race starts and ends in snow, grass having turned damn greasy. Those who started with file treads suffer…. I get onto course after the race and ride little more than one full lap, keen to avoid collecting too much mud to have to clean before my race, the third. My son isn’t old enough to work on my bike, you see. I don’t need to ride to confirm that leaving my file treads at home was the right call; it’s clearly a mud or intermediate tire day. My pressure was firm at home, but in the 15 degree colder air they’re soft enough to easily bottom with my hand, and thus perfect; there are very few rocks or harsh edges to avoid.

I’ve warmed up on the trainer in the tent for a solid half hour after cleaning my bike. It’s hovering a little over zero, and all it took was the sun to peak out to burn off the snow on the ground. A little wind has dried out some of the slime coating the track, which means the third race will be the least slippery. However, the steep bank we’ll have to ascent will be maximally chewed up. I rode it during inspection, but would it work during the race? We’ll see.

I have no clear idea how I’m about to feel as I line up. On Saturday I was clearly getting sick again. My son had just started up another cold on the heels of the one he’d yet to recover from, which I was still clearing from my system. Whomp, freshie. I felt ill all day, trying and failing to keep negative thoughts from my mind. “Sick again! Frigg!” This is why I decided a few years ago I can’t ‘focus’ on cyclocross. It’s just too hard to stay healthy through the fall, especially with kids at home, and it SUCKS been miserable about colds that are otherwise no big deal. I did what I could, thought some positive thoughts, slapped some dōTERRA essential oils on my skin, and went to bed on time. Sunday morning, I couldn’t tell whether I was sick, which tends to mean one isn’t too sick to race.

Go. I get the holeshot at full gas…too much gas, evidently: I spazz out and unclip my left foot, leading to a near self-inflicted crash and massive cluster-f#$k. I’m still up, but now way back from the front in something like 12th. There’s little I can do as the guys on the front attack, string it out, and pull away. “Is this a blessing in disguise,” I wonder? “Perhaps taking the edge off in the first 5 minutes will be for the best? Cause, I’m not at 100%, right?”

It’s 20 minutes into this thing, and I feel awful. Yet, I can’t tell what sort of awful this is. Is it normal ‘racing feels like shit’ awful, or ‘sick to some degree’ awful? “Man, I want to get out of this race, this sucks! Maybe it’s better if I stop, so I don’t get sick. I’ve got my french exam tomorrow, I don’t want to be mangled for that…. But maybe I’m fine. It would be really lame to pull out for this reason.” I make a deal with myself: try to focus on doing things right instead of how fast I’m not going.

Things are going better after 40 minutes, Steve Proulx having caught and dropped me, Doug Van den Ham and Raphael Colutier having also caught me, and maintaining a gap. They are not pulling away, and I’m starting to feel reasonably ok.

Two laps to go, Doug pulls off for some reason (to fix his glasses, which he needs for seeing) as I’m drawing close, leaving Raph alone ahead. I close on him quickly and tail him, sussing him out. Earlier I’d wanted to quit, but I’ve just taken back a spot, am inside the top-10, and now have a shot at another placing. “Things have turned around!”

Raph eases up as we approach the end of the second-last lap; I attack. He’s tenacious, closing each gap I open, fighting to stay close. I’m looking back every 5 seconds to gauge how my efforts are doing, and he’s closing gaps constantly. The final will be on a climb that is steeper than ideal for me, so it occurs to me I ought to try to make a separation on the shallow grade leading into it. Success, it works! Raph snaps off, leaving me to climb to the line with enough daylight to avoid puking. I’ve finished ahead of a couple guys who beat me the previous week, despite feeling worse on the bike; perhaps the training I’ve been able to fit in recently is working….

Here’s how I ranked the course; you can drill down more on crossresults.com:


Sunday was a good test for my Absolute Black narrow-wide chainring in mucky conditions. No issues whatsoever, all one can ask for. I’m using a 42t round ring for now, with a 12-30 cassette, which has been great so far. I look forward to trying their oval ring as soon as the 40t option is available. If you’re interested in trying one, AB is offering a 30 day trial on the oval rings.

Congrats to our young riders, Mia Grieve, Amelie Kelly, and Trey McGuire for each of their 3rd place results in their races! All the results are found here.

Check out David Charles’ video footage from Sunday’s first race:

This weekend’s race is in Cornwall, and thanks to the popularity of the series, a fourth race has been added to the schedule to provide more riders the ability to race without mixing with other categories. Considering the series began with one race, years ago, this is a sign that the sport is thriving in the region, and notably, there is a solid infusion of young riders creating that growth. Brilliant!

The Lamouroux Park venue in Cornwall is fairly demanding, as you almost always seem to be doing something beyond simply pedaling. The running climbs are not long, but always hard, and there will be a fair number of accellerations. This is a race where you definitely want a solid warm-up, and might be wise to avoid going to your limit at the start. Should be fun, see y’all there, don’t forget to stop by for treats, coffee, and Mad Alchemy chamois cream samples!