A RACING JOURNAL
In the summer of 2017 one of the Oak Bay Bikes’ staff, Lee, was talking to his co-workers about cross racing (#crossisathing) and everybody told him that he should try it. He thought racing isn’t really what he is about. For him, cycling is more about adventure, meditation, enjoyment, transportation and fitness. But they kept saying that it’s pretty supportive, fun, a heck of a workout and doesn’t have to be competitive.
Well, he thought about it for a bit and then convinced his fiancé Chelsea to sign up for the the Cross on the Rock series 2017 and try it out. On a Sunday in September they headed to Topaz Park for the first race of the season. The course looked interesting and there was a lot of excitement in the air. That day, they fell in love with cyclocross racing; and continued on to attend a few more races.
One year later, Lee and Chelsea are back in the game.
Follow their race adventures here as cross season unfolds.
First race of the season.
This year, I have even more stoke for cross racing.
At Topaz, we watched the beginners go and then Chelsea raced before it was my turn. This year the setup was a bit different. It was a running start with your bike from one pylon to another. The course was reversed from last year with more climbing and set of stairs to run up.
The siren sounded and we were off. The rain was falling, the grass was wet and slippery but I loved the course and was pretty worn out at the end of it. I was tired but stoked to be involved in the most enjoyable and interesting style of racing I’ve tried. The cyclocross community is pretty supportive. They cheer you on, heckle you in a fun way, give you candy and shots of all types of liquid as you race by and wear some sweet colourful clothing. I didn’t place the best but I had so much fun. You can race on almost any style of bike – and outfit!. I encourage you to give it a go. I’ll cheer you on.
Cumberland Coal Cross is always one of our favourite Cross on the Rocks races. This year it did not disappoint. The weather was grey and rainy pretty much the whole weekend, meaning perfect cross conditions. Saturday night, the one and only Biblio Taco held a fun, all ages, all level, mixed team relay to get us familiar with the course. My favourite moment was Lee being tagged off by a young girl with butterfly wings. Don’t let the sparkles, costumes and smaller bikes fool you folks, these kids are [email protected]%# and super fast! We ended the night off getting fuelled by Biblio Taco’s veggie tacos, and pints at Cumberland Brewing with hordes of other cyclocrossers cheering at the rainstorm brewing outside.
We went back to our cozy room at Stansbury’s Guest House for a good night sleep. The guest house is our go-to if we’re riding in Cumberland. The owners, Gwen and Scott are friendly mountain bikers, they have space to store bikes and have the sweetest dog, Oreo, to greet you every time you come in the gate.
Sunday morning came quickly, so we arrived early to set up, ride the course a few times, and session a few tricky steep sections. As we mentioned, Cumberland is one of our favourite courses: lots of single track, techy bits through cedar groves, pump track, and some off camber stretches. It also had the oh-so-famous pinwheel right after the second turn, to really put on the pressure right out of the gate.
Our teammate, Shannon Coutts, had an amazing race by finishing second in the beginner category. This is her first year racing cyclocross, and her skill and endurance are made for this sport. She’s such a natural.
My race was next in the intermediate women’s category. Just as we were all freezing from standing around in the rain all morning, the skies opened up and the sun came out just for this race. It was a super fun race, muddy and fast.
Lee raced next in master’s men. Again, the course just gets muddier as the day goes on, so he and his bike were covered from head to toe in mud!
Overall, it was a fantastic weekend, great people, awesome course, and mountain views. The two week “break” to rest up before Cross on the Commons at Qualicum Beach on September 30th didn’t feel like 2 weeks!
Cross on the Commons race in Qualicum Beach was a new race for all of us. We had heard from a few racers that there were a few big sand sections, some single track and a BMX track as part of the course. This all sounded very exciting.
Our team mate Shannon raced in Beginner and finished in first place. Woot woot!
Chelsea raced next in Intermediate Women’s. She finished in 24th place. Congrats!
Then it was my turn to race in Masters Men. I finished in 69th place. Last year my favourite courses were Western Speedway #1 and Cumberland #2. Qualicum Beach this season moved into my #1 favourite course -minus the sandy parts. I’ve tried XC racing on several occasions but it never stuck. Then a few co-workers encouraged me to try cross racing and I fell in love instantly.
I race cross for the four F’s:
————————— Fun — Friends — Fitness — Finish
————————————————————————–— and to encourage other riders of all ages and abilities to try cross racing!
Thanksgiving was a long weekend, so Lee and I decided to go up to Qualicum Beach before circling back to Nanaimo for the Monday race. This gave us time to get a bike ride in, meet some great people, see some family, and eat way too much food… er, I mean fuel up for the race on Monday.
We drove up to Qualicum Beach on Saturday and made a stop at an amazing little restaurant called Island Soda Works. They are only open Saturdays from noon until they sell out of the 2 or 3 carefully curated dishes being served that day. This place has a cult following. We arrived at 12:10 and by 1:40 they were completely sold out. So, if you ever find yourself in Qualicum Beach on a Saturday between 12 and 1… we highly recommend it! After eating a hearty lunch, Lee and I decide to find some trails to ride on. Qualicum Beach has this compact area right in town with a mix of fire roads, and green/blue/blue-black mountain bike trails that are perfect to zip around on cyclocross bikes. Feeling relieved that we made it back to the road before the sun went down, we ride along this long dirt road back to our B and B. I stopped for a photo, and Lee looks down the road to a black bear sauntering down the road. I mean sauntering, slowly, for like five minutes. We wait until she’s in the forest again and start down the road again. Suddenly, she peeks her head out again and wanders toward us. This bear was curious! So we backed up, and waited it out for about 20 minutes until we thought she was gone… It was a very neat experience, but also a little intimidating knowing we were being watched!
On Monday, we drove back to Nanaimo for the Kona Kup at Bowen Park. This course starts out with a wide open paved road which turns into a switchback climb, then up and down grass hills, through single track, and a couple of huge sand pits. Now add in a couple of flights of stairs, a gnarly downhill or two, and some off camber descents. If it sounds tiring to read, it was much harder to race. Shannon came out strong, with a second place finish in the beginner women’s category. I did not place so well in the intermediate women’s category, having crashed early in the race. Lee also crashed in lap one, and DNF’d (did not finish).
Overall, it was a fantastic weekend, and a chance to see more of this beautiful Island we call home.
After a challenging race for me at the Kona Kup (see above) my teammates and I thought it would be fun to ride in the TripleShot CrossFondo. A cycling event to raise money for the TripleShot youth racing team. We decided to sign up for the 20km route. There was also a 40km option.
We started out at Camosun Interurban campus and snaked our way through a mix of single track, double track, gravel fire roads, pavement and farm fields both on public and private land. Chelsea and I took the wrong turn and ended up doing an extra 10km. But by doing so we were able to ride our cross bikes down Torpedo Run at the Hartland Bike Park…!
When we arrived at the finish line we discovered our team mate Shannon was the fastest female in our race and our grom’s Mom was still smiling after 4 hours in the saddle. I was also able to help work on the Hector Road trail under the guidance of Dan from The Nature Trail Society and Lister from TripleShot which was pretty cool.
A week after riding in the Cross Fondo we headed out to Port Alberni for our next race. We arrived on Saturday night, checked into our Airbnb and then went looking for a spot to eat. Our Airbnb host suggested the Twin City Brewery. When we arrived at the brewery we ran into our friend Glenowyn who was one of the instructors at the Broad Street Cycles Cross Clinic we attended. At the Twin City Brewery I had a very tasty Radler and a massive pretzel. We met some locals, had some laughs and shared good stories.
The next morning we headed to the Lumber X at the Mclean Mill Historic Site. I was very excited to see this spot due to my love of history. The fog had rolled in and made the course damp. The race course was super cool and my favourite so far – a mix of single track, riding through mill machinery, over a rock covered hill, under a sawmill building and around train cars.
Our team mate Shannon went first. Shannon has a mountain bike background and commutes daily on her cross bike. She finished first out of 31 racers in Beginners Women.
Next up was Chelsea racing. Chelsea also loved this course due to how much single track there was. Chelsea finished 13th out of 16 racers in Intermediate Women.
Then it was my turn. As I was at the start line the fog cleared and revealed the mountains right in front of me. The buzzer blew and we were off sprinting down a road and across the train tracks and into a sweet technical course. I finished 58th out of 66 racers in Masters Men (40-54 years of age).
Port Alberni is a town surrounded by wilderness and friendly residents. We enjoyed our stay and will be back again for a gravel bike adventure or some kayaking.
Cross on the Rock was brought to a brand new course in Lake Cowichan this week, for Psycho Cross. This race was held at Lakeview Campground and it used every feature possible – a long dock over the lake, single track, woodwork, steep descents, beach sand stretches, long uphill climbs and mud past your ankles. And now add in a torrential downpour, and you have yourself a good ol’ cross race.
To get into the spirit, costumes were highly encouraged, and there were some great ones: Chickens, Thing 1 & Thing 2, Robin, a pumpkin, and a shark! Lee was Mitch Buchanan (The Hoff, yeah) from Baywatch, which turned out to be perfect for this course on the lake in the pouring rain. I was Wonderwoman, complete with a cape and helmet crown.
It was an incredibly hard course, which made it even more satisfying to just finish! Unfortunately, our teammate, Shannon, had a mechanical difficulty on the first lap and was unable to finish. She’ll be back next week at Beban Park in Nanaimo, and we know she will come out strong.
The second last cyclocross race of the season was Hot Cross Bunnies, held at Beban Park in Nanaimo. We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day for the race, but last week was seasonably rainy meaning the grass had a nice sponge to it, and puddles were deep. This is Cross on the Rocks oldest location, so the course is dialed in – through grass, through barns, some techy downhill, and using the BMX track.
Fun fact: Since 2006, Beban Park has been used almost every year of Cross on the Rock with the exception of two, making it the longest standing and most used Cyclocross venue on Vancouver Island and in BC!
Shannon came out with a first place finish in Beginner Women’s, which made her happy after having a bike failure last week at Lake Cowichan. Lee was looking strong in Masters, and loved the course’s techy bits and BMX track. I came down with a chest cold (aka cross cough) this week and didn’t race, but was the lead cheerer/dog whisperer. I was extremely bummed to not race, but health comes first and I want to get healthy as quickly as possible.
We have two weeks before the final race weekend, Days of Thunder at the Western Speedway in Langford. For anyone wanting to try cyclocross or watch some races, this is your opportunity to try it on a super fun course. Saturday is the final Cross on the Rock race, and Sunday is the 2018 BC Cyclocross Provincial Championships (open to anyone). We would love to see you there!
As soon as the Hot Cross Bunnies race ended I got stoked for the Day of Thunder race at Western Speedway in Langford, our home race. The course last year was extremely fun because it was a wet and snowy and on a motocross track. We headed to the final 2018 Cross on the Rock race on Saturday, November 17th, the skies were sunny, it was little brisk and the course was classicly deep mud and small ponds in spots. The difference with this year’s course, it was in reverse, which made it slightly more difficult.
Our teammate Shannon won first in Beginner, and she loved this techy course, which she was completely comfortable with.
Next up was Chelsea racing in Intermediate Women. She also loved this course, especially the turns.
Then it was my turn. The horn blew and we were off. This is the biggest category of most races, with 77 men between the ages 40-54. As I raced around the track I started to get gassed after the first lap. The course had less flow than last year and more uphill in my opinion. On my second lap I thought I was going to self-DNF. And then a few of my friends cheered me on saying, “Come on Lee, keep going.” That’s one of the reasons I race: the positive encouragement from ALL racers. When I finished 70th out of 77 racers I was stoked that I even finished what I thought was the hardest race for me in the series.
After the race was over we cheered on all the remaining races and then headed to our teammate Shannon’s house for dinner and drinks to celebrate.
As the season ends I’m already thinking about racing next year and what training I need to do.