El Bandito : by Dave Wall

In Blogs, News by Dan

Congratulations Dave for winning the Pearl Izumi Elite prize from the El Bandito StuporCross race on July 22.

Woke with a feeling of apprehension of what the day’s event had in store. I hadn’t “raced” 70km in a very long time. Arriving at the site of the El Bandito, my apprehension ratcheted up, this time due to the humidity in the air and general concern about what I had gotten myself into. After I signed in and warmed up (well, at least my head was warm, legs not so much!), I lined up near the back of the pack, as I was not confident that a quick start would make this race any easier.

From the get-go, I was anxious to find my pace, but that had to wait given the long line of walkers in front of me on the ski hill climb. Once I remounted my bike and completed the first rocky descent I felt OK. Too soon! The pavement-chunk hill awaited me! No falls up to that point, but I was starting to lose the wheel of my race partner. A quick energy surge on my part, coupled with a supportive slow-down on his, and I was back up riding with a friendly face.

The next parts of the course were more to my liking: a little dirt, a lot of pavement, and then the first big dirt descent. My descending was OK – better than the poor guy lying on the ground with lots of supportive folks helping. Nerves once again began to show their ugly face. Breathe, breathe, you’re OK. That was the mantra I repeated while we pushed on.

Then, more pavement and a cooperative pace line that I felt good in – YES! Dan had warned of a “run up” and there was video, but somehow when I arrived at his “run up” I found a goat path with excessive elevation. Now, I know run ups in Cyclo-cross: hop off the bike, shoulder your rig, take a 100-metre dash, and jump back on. This was not a run up. It was more of a hike-a-bike in a long conga line of weary folks looking for the plateau.

Still, I made it, and my heartrate was only Zone 4. Some of the weary hikers stopped to take in the truly magnificent view of Lake Ontario, how many miles away! Yep, when my legs said I had climbed a mountain, my quick survey of the distant landscape confirmed I was indeed VERY high up. (Did I mention that I’m from Kingston and we have only one road with hills, or, as I call them now, “bumps”?) OK, what goes up should go down, and with my downhill gravity assist (better known as extra weight), I was looking forward to some recovery on the descent.

Riding for a bit with a good group over rolling hills, I was almost feeling strong. Then it rose into view! A hill of epic elevation! (Again, I’m from Kingston.) I saw folks crisscrossing the face to get some relief, and my legs screamed, “You can’t do this!” I thought I had sufficient bailout with my 40-tooth single ring up front and a leg-saving 32 on the back. WRONG AGAIN. Halfway up this monster, I jumped off and walked – no sense blowing up completely when I knew there was more to come.

Once over Mount Everest, it was rolling hills again, and I was almost back to feeling good. An aid station came into sight, and I figured that meant I was getting close. Close, yes. Easier? Now that is different issue. The Ganaraska Forest was now in play! Who would have thought I would be riding my Cyclo-cross bike on single and double track? Certainly not me, but here I was. Plus, I had strong motivation to ride this section well, because my nemesis from the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series was just ahead of me. Still, riding MTB trails on a Cross bike? Yikes! Not my best performance – though at least I did stay upright.

Once out of the forest I thought, “Yes! This is almost done and I still have some legs!” Oh yeah, did I mention that Dan has a talent for crushing your optimism when you least expect

it? To be fair, Dan had told us to save some for the last part of the race, but I did not expect what I saw when I crested the hill to the parking lot. Hill climb again! What!?! Up a loose gravel road with a barking dog at the top telling you to get going! Ouch. Never underestimate the degree of “challenge” Dan can conceive.

Finally, I was on the descent into the finish line, and I was ahead of person I was hoping to beat. YES. Cruised over the line, grateful to have not crashed or punctured – just tired with a sense of accomplishment. Would I do it all over again? Well, maybe… OK, probably. But let me recover first from this effort!

Thanks, Dan, you never fail to challenge me in all of your events!