Ride of the Damned 2015: Recap

Thank you to everyone who came out to ride the RotD on Sunday! 40 teams, 205 riders, $1450 raised for Trips for Kids Ottawa. Many flats, a mix of random mechanicals, and more than a few biologicals. So…the usual!

This year’s 7th edition of the Ride of the Damned, went as well as we could hope. Beautiful weather, with perpetual tailwinds (so we were told) set the scene for a big day in the saddle for many a rider stepping up to take on the challenging 100k and 155k routes. While those with experience in the area tend to be psychologically prepared for the 2000m+ of climbing, the seemingly relentless climbs take their toll on the uninitiated, begging the question: ‘When will it end?’ For 100k riders, the turn west toward Wakefield marks the spot where things get easier, but for 155k riders, the ascents keep coming all the way to Low, and continue until after the checkpoint, when riders swing south. ‘Flat after that’ would be going to far….

Climbing aside, many a rider learned that dirt roads don’t offer up much free speed! Herein lies the particular challenge we set forth with our raudax format. Riding in a paceline is relatively easy on reasonably good pavement. But have you watched Paris-Roubaix? Have you noted how hard it is for racers to ride a paceline on cobblestones? Have you noticed how many flats they get from smashing into unseen stones? Dirt road riding in groups is the same. In order to ride efficiently as a group, a great deal of coordination is required. On top, team-mates must have similar sized tires in order to be able to hit the same obstacles and not flat. Mismatches amount to punctures when riding in a line. Does anyone recall our (actually) epic Rapha Gentlemen’s Race experience? Learning to ride as a team on tough terrain requires effort and experience, but doing it well is very rewarding.

Many riders commented after the ride, in person and via email etc., that they loved the routes. For us, this is a sign of success, because a core goal we are pursuing with the RotD is to expose riders to the beautiful terrain our region offers just kilometers away from the rides everyone knows well. We want to help expand cycling horizons. By providing routing and support on the routes, we’re creating a starting point to build on. By ‘forcing’ riders into teams, individuals have the opportunity to learn what it means to truly work together and take care of each other. These skills are vital when it comes to undertaking audacious rides whenever, wherever. Each year we see teams ‘get it,’ and others ‘not getting it.’ We’re unlikely to see everyone ‘get it’ any given year, but I can honestly say that it would truly be heartening to get to a point where we see most teams riding as cohesive units. I’m an optimist.

Thanks to our partners and supporters, we were able to hold a great raffle and raise a fantastic $1450.00 for Trips for Kids Ottawa. This was only possible thanks to those who generously donated prizes. We’d like to thank each and every one for helping us help T4K Ottawa: AbsoluteBLACK, Clement tires, Rebec & Kroes, Brodie Bikes, Mad Alchemy, Kunstadt Sports, Locomotive Clothing Co., Pipolinka Bakery, Prologue Bicycles, TheRubyDotCa, Vega, and Victory Performance Centre.

Special thanks go out to Euro-Sports for allowing us to host riders at the shop, which worked out brilliantly, and for helping out with other key logistics. Mike Bennet’s contribution of the Prologue Aspdin frame with custom paint for our raffle was icing on the cake.

Once again, we’d like to thank the Polds for ‘manning’ the Low checkpoint, ensuring all 155k riders were safe, accounted for, fed, and watered. This checkpoint is vital, and we couldn’t do it without them. Vega once again kicked in electrolyte powder, the best on the market ATMO.

Speaking of being fed, we had a great experience working with Simona, the head of catering at Whole Foods, on providing a healthy and delicious meal for everyone post-ride. From what we heard, the food went over great, which is no easy feat when it comes to feeding over 200 people who’ve just flogged themselves all day. We look forward to working with Whole Foods again in 2016.

We’d also like to thank Jackson Van De Wouw for taking the day off his bike to cover the entire 155k route with Richard and me, shooting most of the photos you see here (the good ones!). We didn’t make his job easy, as we had to chase for quite a while to get to the teams on the road, but he did a great job anyhow. The beauty of the routes and the challenge they deal out really seem to come across in his photos. For more photos, check out our RotD album on our flickr page.

Every year we try to improve the event, and we’re getting closer and closer to nailing the formula. In 2016, we’ll continue to make tweaks, and we’ll keep listening to what our riders are saying all along the way. We’re finally at the point now where I feel confident inviting riders from afar to join us, and I was happy to see the CC Croix de Fer crew get two teams into the RotD this year from Montreal. We don’t have grand designs on growing into a huge event, but we love to share our routes and host riders for the day, so we hope to entice more riders from out of town down the road.

As we build this new site, we’ll take every opportunity to share more routes in the region. The possibilities are vast….