Monday, August 13, 2012

Fast enough to be last: Back 40 Recap

The rating on the package of my new 29er tires gave them a 0 for muddy conditions and a 5 for dry, smooth, packed trail. My thoughts... "Mud? When do I ever ride in mud? Achh, that's not important, what's important is that they knock over a pound of rolling weight off my bike. That's going to feel great on the climbs!" And so, the die had been cast...

I'm not sure how I can describe yesterdays race in terms that could allow you to fully grasp what it was like when the heavens opened up during lap 3 and half of 4. I felt great by the halfway point and had the energy to finish strong, but, alas, the final rain burst of the day threw a spanner into the works. It turned, what had been a slightly slick, but completely rideable, singletrack course, into a snotty, slippery trough of demoralization. Honestly. In dry conditions, my 5 year old son could ride most of the north lake shore trail. During lap 4, it was essentially impossible to ride even the most modest incline on this stretch, and getting off and pushing was equally bad. No joke. Even with four big, ol'lugs in the cleats, I was slipping out continuously as I walked up trail that is normally a roller coaster of good times. At one point I passed a rider completely splayed out on the slight, simple to ride descent to the boat ramp.(for those of you who know the trail) What was it like, you ask? You know those deep, ice ruts that sometimes develop on wintry Winnipeg roads? The trail was a bit like that, in the sense that it grabbed your wheel, spun you sideways, then dumped you to the ground. At other times I truly felt I was riding my bike on a slick, 10 inch wide, freshly iced bobsled run. The big, grassy descent towards the creek crossing, just before the 2nd stretch of roadway, was so treacherous I launched into the bush 3 times, and that was while walking! You may be thinking, "what a wuss. I've ridden trail in the rain plenty of times." In my defense, I count it a source of pride to have ridden, and finished the 2001(?-could have been 2002) cup race at Swan River in 11C temps and pouring rain. Somehow that course was still rideable, even in the rain. This trail is different. The mud on the lower sections, nearer the lake, is classic Manitoba gumbo, similar to what you'd find riding the monkey trails along the Red River.

The start of lap 4 was my lowpoint, and had me seriously considering packing it in and sheepishly accepting my non-mechanical induced DNF.  What kept me going...? Pride? Undoubtedly. But the very reason I made the last minute decision to race the 5 lap version was because RRR lacked a representative and, as a result would forfeit any chance of winning the 2012 version of the coveted Butter Belt. Sacrelige! I had to push on. I knew the Jonny G was a little behind, so in order to restore the belt to it's rightful home, I had to keep slipping and sliding my way towards the finish.  Well, the good news is that I was fast enough to make the last lap before the cutoff time, the bad news was that I was the last racer fast enough to make the cutoff time and as a result finished last place. It was a lonely last lap, and my crossing the finish with arms raised in victory was met by a chorus of soggy crickets, as by then the staging area resembled a ghost town. Ah well, at least Tim and Kevin were there to make the prize presentation that mattered most. The Butter Belt is back where it belongs. Rumours swirl that this could possibly be the final BB awarded, as the formation of Dark Red Racing makes the intersquad rivalry somewhat of a moot point. Or is it? Guess we'll have to wait until next year to find out. Now, how do I convince my wife that the belt is beautiful and should grace the display on our dining room buffet table?

As always, big thanks go out to the Tinker team that joined forces in making a the 2012 Back 40 another stellar event. Thanks guys/gals!


  1. Mmmmm....Butter Belt. A job well done on successfully completing your mission to usurp the Dark Side's VP of Good Times. By all counts (3:1), gooder times are to be had with RRR.

    Congrats also to Michelle for winning the women's short race. Though small in numbers, RRR took home its haul.

  2. Good description of the Carnage at Colert Beach. Or Maelstrom at Minnewasta.