A Trip Report In Three Mountains

When I finally got around to writing up my Moab trip report it turned into 3 “books”. This report  is best broken down into the three mountains that feature prominently in the adventure. Which isn’t done yet by any means! I’ve only just arrived at mountain #3. Since I haven’t written much on my blog I thought it best to get a start while it’s all still fresh.

Mountain 1: Mont-Sainte-Anne

I knew MSA has been the venue for World Cup MTB events for 24 years in a row including this edition. I had the pleasure of learning a little more about what that really means on many levels as I started working on a side project that has me interviewing a number of people about the location, the history, the story. And I do mean pleasure… I love getting these sorts of insights.
More on that once it’s in the can, as they say.

I missed this race last year, as I did most of the other major races in 2013. So it felt really good to be back. Personally significant, like I really am back closer to being myself in mind & spirit if not entirely in body. Being back in a media centre, spending time talking with top athletes face to face and trying to extract the untold stories. I like that. I think perhaps my accident last year has forced me to get past a few things so I’m expecting my interviews this year may be more interesting that in previous years. We’ll see. And I look to the folks who take the time to check them out to offer up the critiques. By far my favourite so far was with Patrice Drouin. I have my work cut out fitting it all together but it’s an amazing story and I now understand why he didn’t want to just do a sound-bite. I had to add a day to my MSA leg to get it. And in the end I have about an hour of video looking back on the start of international mountain biking, where Canada fits into it, and lots of “colour commentary”. Anyone remember when Honda had a team? I’d honestly forgotten about it until Patrice brought it up in the conversation. Or how very involved Michelin was at one time (they would custom cut the tread blocks at each race based on venue, conditions and rider). Talk about evolutionary and historic!

Patrice, with some friends who were the organizers of the Bromont races

Oh ya… the 24th edition was amazing to watch! Imagine a downhill race where 1st to 6th is separated by a second. After a long run down a steep mountain with a myriad of opportunities for a small mistake to make the difference. And a battle in the men’s XCO between Julien Absalon and Nino Schurter that came down to an attack that couldn’t be closed to decide an exciting race. The women’s race was locked in early for 1st and 2nd but the last podium spot was hard fought for. 

Woven into the threads of the weekend are a series of interviews of which some happened and some didn’t (yet). I’m working on getting the loose ends woven together for Thursday here on mountain #3.

Emily Batty & Catharine Pendrel

Absalon & Schurter

Mountain #2: Mount Mansfield

A great spot to camp

As I was headed from MSA to Mountain #3 in the Catskills all of the route options had me going along the NY side of Lake Champlain. That prompted me to reach out to a friend in Underhill Vermont to see if he and his wife were around for the Tuesday evening. And Guy made sure I knew I was welcome to drop by so that’s exactly what I did. The evening was filled with relaxed conversation, the night was quiet and peaceful, the morning was highlighted with picking fresh blueberries from his bushes for breakfast. I picked enough that I should be able to have a few with my breakfast granola and yogurt for the weekend.

Guy with his blueberry bushes

I like this particular spot to camp. In part it’s the company, they’re wonderful people and they’ve established a delightful homestead in the area they grew up in.  Then again I’ve been a big fan of the area ever since my long-time friend Darryl introduced me to it. I passed through the Notch once a long time ago (before I even knew Darryl) but later memories are much more imprinted. That’s a whole other blog entry that I may write some time. Or not.

The drive west through Quebec was a very Westy-filled trip with a total of 8 VW campers along the stretch of highway I traveled. And one hell of a storm… the rain was so hard that I pulled off at a rest stop to let it pass. It didn’t last long but visibility was non-existent.  Since I left Quebec,  I’ve only seen Guy’s hightop plus one tin-top just a few miles north of Mountain #3.

Mountain #3: Windham

Getting here felt like I climbed a few mountains! I set the GPS to avoid highways and it sure did. At one point I was climbing for close to 10 minutes in 2nd gear (Babe is a 5 speed standard and that gear will get me about 20 mph at 3200 rpm). I could see all the gauges telling me it was time to take a break before something broke so when we got to the top I pulled over to let the systems & temps get back to a better state. And anyone who’s driven Babe (like Andrea) knows that 2nd has a habit of popping out of gear so I had to hold it in with one hand and steer with the other. Well that happened. Again 🙂

It was a beautiful day for a drive though. It had rained overnight on mountain #2 and was just clearing up by the time I left Guy & Joan’s place. Lots of rolling countryside and gorgeous vistas. I should have stopped to take photos but didn’t feel I had the time. I intend to not do that on the trip home, too many misdeed opportunities so I will slow down a little and add the time to really appreciate where I am. But first there are some bike races to cover!

A selfie with the mountain and the moon reflecting in the window

Breakfast before getting down to work

I have lined up a handful of interviews with people I likely won’t get to see in person again before next year. People I want to get on video talking about Mont Sainte-Anne ahead of the 25th edition. There are so many stories that deserve being told… I’m trying to capture a few. A good selection of some key people who are around this weekend. This is a bit of a distraction from Windham though so I’m trying to limit that to one day. If I don’t get someone today (Thurs) I’ll consider the window closed.

I prefer to focus on this mountain. I’ve only been here once before and the result in the women’s XCO event was one of the most dramatic and gut-wrenching I’ve seen. The finish line photos show 3 team members trying to figure out what to do and deciding “it’s a bike race!”. It was painful and eventful and will be a race that won’t be forgotten.

Georgia Gould missed winning her first world cup because of a flat

Nor will the men’s XCO. Burry Stander won it. His last UCI World Cup victory before his life was cut short in a tragic training accident early in 2013. He’s no longer with us but in the cycling community he is definitely still very much here.

Burry Stander
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Those race photos are from my Facebook gallery from that year. We’ll see what this year will bring!

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