Queen stage makes Fondo-do-do special

4 08 2019

Hey Big Ring, it’s been awhile.

Truth is, I’m doing so much writing at work these days, there hasn’t been much creative energy left over for blogging.

But today was a special day that deserves to be commemorated.

It was the Queen Stage of this year’s Fraser River Fuggitivi annual Fondon’t, our club’s answer to the rising cost of Gran Fondos and the climactic ride of our season. Except this year our event became the Fondo-do-do, a three-day stage ride that started with a sprinting stage on Saturday, a long, rolling stage today, and then tomorrow’s climbing stage. There were also points on the line for sprints, mountain climbs and the overall leader, each of which was rewarded with a yellow, green or orange wrist sweatband. 

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The yellow wrist band holder after the first stage of the Fondo-do-do wasn’t so lucky on the second stage.

I passed on Saturday’s sprint ride as that’s Katie’s day to ride or run but I was jazzed for today’s 148km epic out to the Fraser Valley in a big loop that took us along quiet country roads, busy thoroughfares, two dikes, a stretch of rocky singletrack, over three bridges and a dam, up grinding muurs and down twisty, speedy descents. Some of the route was familiar territory, but many sections were totally new to the group ride experience.

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But this was likely the first time the group has climbed Killer Hill.

A couple of early mechanicals — a flat and a broken spoke — slowed the first third of the ride, but the peloton really found its rhythm traversing the quiet roads of Mt. Lehman. Two abreast, we were a tight bunch, our legs churning pretty much in unison, turning into and out of curves like a snake. It was one of those moments that reminds you how beautiful this sport can be, how wonderful it is to be in tune with the bike beneath you and the group around you.

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The third delay cost the yellow wrist band wearer the ride’s lead, as he had to call in a sag wagon because of a broken spoke.

Of course, that was also about the last time I was able to stay with the group.

 

As the climbs out of Mission hit, I lagged. I came to accept my position as the Lanterne Rouge, embraced it even, as I knew there would eventually be a regroupment up the road.

Flying Oakes, our patron for the day who also conceived of the stage ride idea last winter as we cast about for ways to reenergize the Fondon’t after a couple of pedestrian years, did an incredible job designing the route that offered so many challenges but never strayed too far from the fun factor, as well as targeting our lunch stop, a little Italian deli just above Stave Lake. The place, Hotties, even had an enormous communal table that was able to accommodate us all. And the paninis are huge!

 

Of course, the danger of a long break halfway into a long ride is losing the rhythm of the road, diminishing the pop from leg muscles turning over the pedals at a steady cadence. Which is exactly what happened as we clipped in again after being sated by lunch.

But a stretch of gravel road followed by a singletrack climb that linked two dead-end roads reinvigorated the group, which likely caught some residents in their yard by surprise as they’ve never seen roadie groups come their way before.

I won’t lie, the final push through Pitt Meadows — usually a speedy time trial, especially in a group — was a dispiriting grind into a bit of a headwind, with the sun beating down, and water bottles virtually empty. The probability of me making Monday’s third stage, scheduled to be a climb up Cypress Mountain, began to feel increasingly remote.

But with timely pitstops at a couple of breweries in the home stretch, I rehydrated and began to recover. We’ll see how the legs feel in the morning…


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