Follow the gravelly road: Fondon’t report part II

30 08 2016

For three years, the FR Fuggitivi has pulled the curtain down on its summer riding season with a climactic, epic ride. We call it the Fondon’t.

It has all the perks of a Fondo – camaraderie, timed intervals, snacks, beer, big mileage – but none of the expense.

The first Fondon’t was the Tour de Huit Ponts.

Last year we climbed Mt. Baker, the biggest rideable mountain in the Pacific Northwest.

This year our ride patron, and club president, @FlyingOakes, took us on some familiar roads but with fresh and fun new twists, not the least of which was a gravel climb that forced more than a few riders to unclip and portage the loose stones and rocks.

Since last year’s smokey ride up Baker, the Fuggitivi has evolved into a proper, official group. We’re registered, we have directors, sponsors and pro kit. We have numbers; 17 riders took the start although one quickly abandoned because of a recurred leg injury.

The Fuggitivi gather for their annual Fondon't, an epic group ride that heralds the beginning of the end of the summer cycling season.

The Fuggitivi gather for their annual Fondon’t, an epic group ride that heralds the beginning of the end of the summer cycling season.

Of course, big numbers bring bigger aspirations; we can no longer just slap the Fondon’t label on a long year-end ride and call it an epic day. Sunday, @FlyingOakes raised the epic bar to a new level.

The day started with a national anthem singer and only got better. (Until it got worse).

The Fondon't has all the trappings of a Fondo, including an anthem singer, but none of the expense.

The Fondon’t has all the trappings of a Fondo, including an anthem singer, but none of the expense.

The 140 km route traversed seven gravel sectors, including the 800 metre 11 per cent gravel climb.

It included three fast and flowing descents, one of which had never been ridden by most of the FRF, two sprint and four tough King of the Mountain competitions marked by signs, a lunch stop with reservations, a close encounter with a family of deer and even a champagne surprise.

It also included one total tire blowout, a couple of flats, and a shower of rain.

Most cyclists know what to expect on a long ride. It’s the unexpected that can turn a familiar route into an epic day out.

Grey skies above, grey gravel below. Sunday's route traversed seven gravel sectors.

Grey skies above, grey gravel below. Sunday’s route traversed seven gravel sectors.

 

This isn't the south of France. It's Pitt Meadows.

This isn’t the south of France. It’s Pitt Meadows.

 

One of the factors that helps create an epic ride is the mechanical challenges along the way.

One of the factors that helps create an epic ride is the mechanical challenges along the way.

 

Fuelling up for the second half of Sunday's Fondon't.

Fuelling up for the second half of Sunday’s Fondon’t.

 

For some, the final gravel sector, an 800 metre climb at 11 per cent, was a hill too far, and too loose.

For some, the final gravel sector, an 800 metre climb at 11 per cent, was a hill too far, and too loose.

 

Summiting was rewarded with points for King (or Queen) of the Mountain.

Summiting was rewarded with points for King (or Queen) of the Mountain.

 

The peloton speeds toward a tunnel of trees.

The peloton speeds toward a tunnel of trees.

 

A champagne reward awaited at the summit of the day's last climb.

A champagne reward awaited at the summit of the day’s last climb.

 

Even for the rider who had to walk the last 50 metres.

Even for the rider who had to walk the last 50 metres.

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Lament for Lapierre: Fondon’t report part 1

28 08 2016

Abandonné. Abbandonato. Abandonado. Abandoned.

No matter which language you say it in, the result for any cyclist is the same: misery, heartbreak and humility.

Today, it was my fate; 118 kms into the third iteration of the FR Fuggitivi’s annual Fondon’t, I got off the Lapierre and called for a ride.

The Fuggitivi looking pro, and optimistic, at the start of Sunday's third annual Fondon't.

The Fuggitivi looking pro, and optimistic, at the start of Sunday’s third annual Fondon’t.

It’s not that my legs weren’t willing. But my spirit was broken. So was a rear spoke. And that snapped spoke may have dealt a catastrophic blow to my beloved French mistress.

The rear wheel’s issues date back a couple of weeks when I noticed a curious pinging noise the day before the Cypress Challenge. A spoke was loose and the wheel a little out of true.

A few turns with a spoke wrench got me on my way, and a visit to the mobile repair guys at VeloFix prior to the Challenge seemed to correct the problem.

Today, early into our official season-ending ride, the ping returned. Again, a few turns with a spoke wrench seemed to straighten things out. But I was nervous.

I’m not a heavyweight, so I’ve never had issues with spokes before; but two wobbles in two weeks seemed a little odd, a portent of something serious?

I listened carefully for further problems. As I rode, I checked the back wheel incessantly. I dialled back my descents.

But it was on a descent, at about 72 kph, the problematic spoke finally snapped. I stopped as quickly as I could fearing a total collapse of my rear wheel. The twisted spoke clung at odd angles to the nipple, its wild flailing having inflicted a major divot into the top of a stay.

The damage to the Lapierre's carbon stay from a flailing broken spoke that snapped on a 72 kph descent.

The damage to the Lapierre’s carbon stay from a flailing broken spoke that snapped on a 72 kph descent.

Carbon fibre doesn’t take kindly to cracks and heavy blows. Any deviation in the layers of fibre and resin weakens the whole structure. Repairing broken carbon fibre is complicated and costly. There is a local shop that’s done some renowned work, and Lapierre will be paying it a visit for a thorough assessment.

With the offending spoke removed, I limped slowly, and somewhat wobblingly to a bike shop along our return route. As if the cycling gods were having a lark, it started to rain.

The shop fixed the wheel, the wrench said the damage to the stay looked worse than it likely was. But deep down I fear the worst. I called for a pick-up, my heart heavy.

Lapierre is bowed. Let’s hope she’s not broken.





Rising to the Challenge

15 08 2016

Five years ago, Fondos were everywhere.

The big, organized group rides offered growing legions of cyclists the chance to attain personal goals, compete against others, visit new places, commune with each other. Signing up for a Fondo became a kind of affirmation of your dedication to the sport.

I did two myself; the inaugural Whistler Gran Fondo and the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo in Santa Rosa, California. I loved both experiences. I enjoyed the training, the camaraderie at the start line, the legions of helpful and cheery volunteers, the snacks along the way, the reward of the finish celebration, the settings. It felt good to be king of the road for a day.

Warming up for Sunday's Cypress Challenge with the Just Giver crew from Coquitlam on Saturday.

Warming up for Sunday’s Cypress Challenge with the Just Giver crew from Coquitlam on Saturday.

But Fondos are expensive. All that organization, security, traffic control costs money. Sign on for a destination ride and you’ve also got to factor in travel, food and accommodation expenses. Even a relatively local Fondo like Whistler can set you back $1,000 for the weekend when you add up the entry fee, an overnight stay at a decent hotel in the village, dinner, breakfast the next day, maybe a celebratory beer or two, gas to get home.

On August 28, the Fraser River Fuggitivi will be holding its third annual Fondon’t.

It’s our club’s own modest attempt to capture some of the qualities of the Fondo experience without the hit to the wallet.

We’re promised an epic route by this year’s organizer: the first Fondon’t traversed the eight major bridges in the Lower Mainland; last year we climbed Mt. Baker; this year’s plan is still a mystery.

There will be snack stops and some sort of post-ride celebration.

Most importantly, there will be camaraderie.

But there’s a third option.

Modest charity rides to support a cause or organization may not offer all the bells and whistles of a full-blown Fondo like police escorts and a beer ticket at the end. But they do give cyclists a chance to gather for a ride en masse, share experiences on the road, and support a worthy cause. All for a fraction of the entry fee to a Fondo.

Sunday I did my third such ride this season, including the Canada Day Populaire.

The Cypress Challenge for Pancreatic Cancer was my chance at redemption for the beat down the 11 km ascent of Cypress Mountain administered to my wearied legs a month ago when it was the third climb of the Triple Crown For Heart to support the cardiac ward at Children’s Hospital.

Both rides were organized entirely by volunteers; most of the modest entry fees went directly to the rides’ causes. Both rides enjoyed support from sponsors that supplied snacks like power bars, energy drinks, at the start, along the way and at the finish. Both rides attracted plenty of like-minded cyclists keen for a big day out.

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The support of sponsors like VeloFix give charity rides like Sunday’s Cypress Challenge some of the trappings of more expensive Fondos. They also give me a chance to get a wobble in my rear wheel fixed for free!

While the Triple Crown was held on a dreary, cool day, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the Challenge, sunny and warm all the way to the summit.

Five of the FRF rode all the way from New Westminster; a sixth joined us at the mountain. All but one achieved new Personal Bests going up the mountain; I bettered my time from a month ago by 19 minutes, last year’s effort by seven minutes.

Five of the FRF roll to Sunday's Cypress Challenge.

Five of the FRF roll to Sunday’s Cypress Challenge.

The FRF is ready to rise to the Challenge of climbing Cypress Mountain on a warm, sunny day.

The FRF is ready to rise to the Challenge of climbing Cypress Mountain on a warm, sunny day.

At the top, in warm sunshine, we snacked on fresh bananas and peppers, breakfast burritos, cinnamon buns and even cricket protein bars. I wasn’t in a buggy mood, but one of our members assured us it didn’t taste anything like cricket (not that anyone would really know).

Trying to decided who's going to brave the cricket protein bars.

Trying to decided who’s going to brave the cricket protein bars.

With no washed-up ex-Grand Tour winner to keep us around for photo ops and idle chitchat, we quickly descended – quick being the operative word – then rendezvoused with the rest of the FRF contingent that timed their Sunday route to intersect our return so we could ride home together.

A dozen FRFers strung along in a pace line in the bike lane may not look quite as impressive as a few thousand roadies crossing the Lion’s Gate Bridge. But it is a heck of a lot cheaper.





By dawn’s early light

12 08 2016

The early bird gets the… waffles

My late push to exceed 1,000 km for the month of July came at a price. I didn’t get back on the bike until the ninth day of August. It was the first time since Christmas I’d gone an entire week or more without at least one ride.

So my legs were fresh for Tuesday’s FRF climbing ride up Burnaby Mountain that even included a little pump track action in the dirt.

In fact, my legs were so well-rested, I signed on for a dawn ride the next morning.

I’m an early-riser; I maintained my 5:30 a.m. wake-up call even when I wasn’t working.

But I like to ease into my day, sort through the garbage emails that hit my In box as I slept, catch up on the overnight news on the internet, maybe find a streaming feed from a European bike race. By the time the rest of the loft awakens an hour or so later, I’m showered, informed and relaxed.

The prospect of being astride the Lapierre by 6 a.m. so we could pedal a solid 65-70 km AND stop for breakfast before everyone’s workday officially began was a little daunting.

It's not yet 6 a.m. and we're already rolling for waffles.

It’s not yet 6 a.m. and we’re already rolling for waffles.

It’s incredible how busy the world already is that early. The bus stop outside our condo building already had a queue. Trucks were rumbling along in the dawn gloom. Flaggers were putting out barriers for some road maintenance project. The sidewalks were bustling with dog walkers, none of them looking particularly pleased about their pooch’s preferred bowel habits.

The air hadn’t yet had a chance to be warmed by the sun, which was ducking in and out of a morning cloud cover, so the arm warmers stayed rolled up.

Morning over the Burrard Inlet.

Morning over the Burrard Inlet.

Five intrepid FRFers reported for this mid-week dawn patrol. The pace was determined, singular in its determination to reach our destination, Café Orso in Deep Cover, with plenty of time to enjoy their sweet Liege waffles, sprinkled with icing sugar, swimming with fresh strawberries.

FRF early risers.

FRF early risers.

 

The ride IS worth the reward!

The ride IS worth the reward!

The calories we consumed probably exceeded those we expended to get there and back. But it didn’t matter. It wasn’t even 8 a.m. yet and we’d have to quicken our return pace if everyone was to get to work on time; we’d earned our 15 minutes of breakfast debauchery!