Canadian MTB Races just kick ass. This is my second attempt at the Gearjammer since moving to Vancouver. The weather was perfect and like I had mentioned in my Test Of Metal post I was way fitter than 12 months ago. So the aim for this race was to improve my time on 2012 and try get inside the Top 50. After riding Squamish a good bit over the last few month I knew what to expect. This is a totally different race to the ‘Test’ and is mostly Singletrack (80% at the least) so I feel the shorter course is way tougher. Last year I finished around 3hrs 30mins and wanted to beat 3hrs if possible.
The race starts in Alice Lake and makes its way across some of the best trails in Squamish and finishes off at the far side of Valleycliff. After a neutral start on the road we made our way onto the first gravel road. Immediately the pace kicked in but some people at the front struggled with gears and traction. This lead to a massive slow down in the midpack and and I swerved to avoid tail ending some riders. As I moved over to the left of the track I caught the front wheel of my team mate Branden Grass and he went down onto the gravel hard. I knew I had clipped him but couldnt look back as I was still trying to avoid the slower riders in front. After the first climb I was feeling pretty wrecked and my lungs could not cope with the dust being kicked up by the tires. I could not wait for the first single track to get a break. As we dropped in I started to catch groups of riders and really pushed it to try get back onto a large group that was up ahead. By the bottom of the ‘Dead End Loop’ I had made my way past a good few of them and sat inside the Top 35. But myself and 5 other riders took a wrong turn coming out of the trail and started climbing up a fire road. Just like sheep we all followed..haha. When we realized we turned back and I lost about 20-30 places. I had to do all the hard work again.
I pushed hard with the other riders and gradually picked off a few by the time we got back up to Cliffs Corners and started on the second half of the start loop. The next part of the course involved a long service road that brought you to the steepest climb called Skookum. It was full on Granny ring, on the nose of the saddle kinda climb. I felt good by this part and really pushed hard to catch the next group infront of me. By the end of this loop and over the bridge toward ‘Recycle’ I had caught them and made the pass on the way to ‘Recycle’ and ‘Pseudotsuga’. Once I got down the descent it was a sharp left turn and up the ‘Legacy Climb’. This is another very tough steep climb and was out in the baking hot sun. This is the part of the race that I knew very well and is a turning point as you reach the final half of the race. From here you hit ‘Fools Gold’ and over to the ‘Powerhouse Plunge’. For some reason I dont seem to fear the Plunge the way others do. I have seen grown men struggle with this trail and see it as a mental block because it is so ‘Gnarly’. I actually think it is great and the best place to make up time on people.
Once out of the Plunge it was onto ‘Crampit Woods’. The Wednesday before the race I had ridden this last piece and I am so glad that I did that. It was using some old trails that had just been re opened for the race. It was a long looping trail that seemed to go on forever. And just when you thought it was over you popped out onto another trail. I had planned that if I was with anybody here that I would make an attack on the last climb and sprint that last part through the ‘Smoke Bluffs’. Just like I planned I pushed on and got away from the group I was with right at a part with two line choices. I had been stuck at the back of the group by a slower descender and knew this difficult part was coming up. All the riders went left and I rode the ‘Black Diamond Line’ up onto a rock slab and dropped off the other side. I passed all the guys and put the hammer down on the downhill. I was ready for the next steep climb and upshifted to the right gear. From then on I didnt look back. There was no noises behind me so I kept going. Eventually I got to the road and sprinted the last part back to the finish. As I rounded the last corner I could see the clock. It was reading 2hrs 59mins and 52 seconds. I sprinted to the line and managed a time of 2hrs 59mins 56sec. I was under the 3hr mark…..just. And finished in 50th overall. 15th in 30-39. I had reached all the goals I had set so was very happy.
Once again as always Thanks to Steed Cycles, Giro Sport Design and all the sponsors of our team. Special Thanks to Kim and Branden for a great day and a dip in Alice Lake afterwards. Sorry Branden for taking you out 😦