It's hard to believe we actually made it this far without racing in the rain. Maybe I'm just a pessimistic grump but call me old fashioned, I like to race in the sun! Sure rain and mud call for mental sharpness, determination and advanced skills… but they are also synonymous of muddy bikes, cold weather, dampness, drenched shoes and bucket loads of mud in the washing machine (just ask the condo cleanup crew…yikes!). So I stand behind my statement: I like racing in the sun!
So after driving almost 7 hours due north, coming across some pretty impressive scenery, we arrived in Anse St-Jean a little after 9pm on Thursday. This year we decided it was worth the extra night if it meant skipping the early wake up (4am) on Friday to make it on time for practice. For once we got to check out the view on the way up. Usually we're driving late at night or in bad weather so it was a pleasant change. We even stopped for a few photos making us official tourists.
This past weekend was all about good weather and hanging out with the gang. The absence of any cell phone signal whatsoever is the main reason we started talking to each other rather than texting one another. We even broke out the old deck of cards one night and taught our “young gun” JuniorX racer how to play poker. Turns out he's not just good at downhill riding. That little thief cleaned us out as if he had been playing the game for years. I say it's beginner's luck and we'll have to settle this one at a future race. In Chelsea maybe… but then again we'll be sleeping across the street from one of the nicest strip clubs in the province. OK, poker has been bumped down on the list of things to do in Chelsea ;)
Friday was pretty laid back. We got up when we felt like since practice started at 2pm. So after a big breakfast we set out to set up the pitting area. Once that was done it was time to eat again. Next step was to walk the track and get this: Dom Ménard and I decide to take the lifts to the top and walk down…shirtless! Bad idea! The sun was out and we were working on our tan all right but we were also a walking "all-you-can-eat" buffet for black flies. They devoured us without mercy even though we were drenched in OFF DEEPWOODS and MUSKOL. On a side note, clever sales manager at the local (and only) general store marked the cans of bug repellent at 12$ a pop! Smart cookie that one.
Friday evening was blessed with version 2.0 (with béchamel sauce) of the chicken pie that Ben's mom had prepared for us. Version 1.0 was a little dry so we submitted an upgrade request. Things worked out.
Practice was open until 6pm so we got a couple of runs in on Friday afternoon even though the chairlift was slower than the t-bars at St-Mathieu du Parc (remember?). We noted a few changes on the track keeping our visit to this neck of the woods interesting. Obviously the dry weather contributed to the riding speed but the track itself was altered to increase speed. One steep new section quickly named “the mud chute” was pretty sketchy until Saturday when a few of the volunteers spent quite some time fixing the problem. Good job by the way!
Saturday was a full day of practice but it seemed endless getting to the top, not to mention making it through the lift line-up. A part from Guillaume who tried to drop into the high speed wood section with no brakes and ended up in the ditch with a fir tree up his nose (don't ask), no one had any impressive spills to report. This overly abusive track combined with our racers pinning it kept the team mechanics busy fixing stuff all weekend. They do a great job, I must say. Prop.
Seeding runs, in my opinion, are great. They allow you to put together the track you've been working on all weekend. They also allow you to get a good idea of who is going how fast and if you need to step it up a notch or not. In my case, well, I got a flat on the front half way down so you can chuck all that good stuff I just wrote in the garbage! Seeding runs went well for the team as the guys rode the track at near race-pace allowing them to evaluate where they need to speed up and where they need to remain cautious.
Now Sunday was a big day, with mandatory practice runs between 7:30am and 8:30am (don't forget to get there around 7am since the lift takes 30 minutes minimum…yawn!) and 2 races scheduled there wasn't much time for mucking around. Bikes were washed and tuned, riders patiently waiting until it was time to gear up and head for the top.
For more about the team and full results of the race visit LamaCycles.com
Photos by Gabriel Distilio