The 2016 XC Mountain Bike race season kicked off with the Homage to Ice (H2i) on April 16 at Dufferin County Forest. Even up to one week before the race, it looked like snow storms were going to leave the trails a mess. However, the organizer, Substance Projects, along with an amazing crew of volunteers (including members of Team Van Go), worked some trail voodoo miracles and had the race route almost perfect by race day. And the day-of 20-plus-degree temperatures brought out record numbers of participants. Rider Ondrej Benjik summed it up well: “Man! Substance Projects’ races are always so challenging and fun, but add these conditions and it’s through the roof!”
The race route covered a 15 km loop, with the Marathon racers doing four loops and those for the Half Marathon completing two loops. The race started on a lengthy section of gravel road that was actually so dry, racers found themselves battling through a thick cloud of dust. Next, riders headed into a grassy descent, through one of the few mud sections, up a climb, and then into the first bit of single track. This portion was tight, twisty, and included a number of challenging log hop-overs.
After passing the mid-way station, racers negotiated a kilometre of icy double track that turned up the Amsterdam Brewery Big Wheel Ascent – soon to become known as the “Grassy Hill of Death” – a long section of steep, mushy double track that had racers’ heart rates through the roof.
Returning to single track, the trail included a steep, fast, rolling descent with a log drop that, if not negotiated carefully, threatened to land racers in the bush. The final leg of the course climbed up a former downhill course and on to one last section of double track before reaching the start/finish station.
Sarah Caylor, who races for The Bike Zone and took first place in age 35+ female riding a singlespeed, commented, “Perfect conditions, beauty course, and so great to see many friends after a long winter!”
Post-race, finishers enjoyed a much appreciated bowl of fine homemade chilli while attending the podium presentations. The event ended with a round of door-prize draws that handed out some very impressive loot, including pro kit from Pearl Izumi and high-end mountain bike shoes.
Robin Kay, a Team LapDogs racer, said, “Homage to Ice done and dusted. Dan Marshall and his Substance Projects team did an amazing job of putting together a course full of fantastic dry single track. Best prizes of any race around!”
Alexa Storoniak, racing for Cycle Solutions and second-place finisher in the Marathon 35+ women’s category, mentioned that she was using the H2i as part of her training for a 100-mile mountain bike race later this month. On the topic of ultra-endurance races, Substance Projects is preparing a 100-mile gravel race (the Eager Beaver 2.0) for August 13. This event will feature 100 miles of gravel and rocky doubletrack along the Niagara Escarpment, giving you awesome climbing, in the Duntroon, Ontario area.
In the meantime, the next XC Marathon Cup race is the Long Sock Classic in the Ganaraska Forest on May 19. It’s sure to be a great mountain bike challenge for riders of all levels of riders. See you there!