25 September 2010

The Long-Awaited Worlds Pictures...

...All five of them (in no particular order):

Here we have the "chicken line" on the XC course. So-called by the course official, in heavily accented English. I fell off my bike about a foot after that last pointy rock.

RACHEL! WOOO! She may not have claimed a podium spot but she claimed my heart.

The 4x finish line. Please note the oodles of people, if you can note anything in such a poor-quality pic.

Lookout tower on the top of MSA. Dramatic clouds, scattered showers, panoramic view of the St Lawrence River and adjacent mountains. Delicious.

Trials is weird. And fascinating.

07 September 2010

So, Worlds

[I promise there will be pictures, as soon as St Marie gets his rear in gear.]
We took a much less stupid way back so the drive home was quiet and uneventful. Not a moose to be seen. It was still eighteen hours in the car though, and when I wasn't listening to old mix CDs from high school, eating goat cheese, or guffawing along to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, I thought about the weekend. And concluded that it was kind of the most awesome thing ever.

Friday saw lovely weather and a sprinkling of rain, just like I'd hoped. Suddenly traction everywhere was tacky and ideal. Armed with a map and several sandwiches, we set out from the B&B for a long ride. A bike path, the wonderfully named Marie-Hélène-Prémont Trail, connects the town to the mountain. Once there, we were expecting more of the same thing we had ridden Thursday: tight, loamy, challenging, delicious. Turns out the trail rating system at MSA is a wee bit perplexing. Sometimes "Très Difficile" means tricky singletrack and sometimes it means brutal fire roads that go updownupdownupdown without providing any real sense of accomplishment. Regardless, it was a good ride and left us time to watch some XC and some trials (weirdest discipline ever).

On Saturday the weekend's festivities were amping up. The crowds were huge to watch the elite XC races. As we wandered through the pits we brushed by a veritable bevy of big names in mountain biking. I feigned nonchalance when I saw Melissa Buhl, Aaron Gwin, and Irina Kalentieva, but when Gee passed all I could do was stop and stare. St Marie regretted not wishing Adam Craig and Carl Decker good luck as they stood beside us to watch the ladies blaze through. I probably won't ever be inured to celebrity spottings--it took me hours to recover when Steve Martin stopped by the bakery, and he doesn't even ride bikes!

The women's XC race got me more worked up than anything else, I think. Watching Willow duke it out with the Euros and Pendrel was crazy intense and St Marie had to chase as I sprinted all over the course trying to get the best views. The best part was yelling "North Carolina" at Willow...I got to say hi to her after the race and through the red mist of competition she actually heard the shout-out!

The men's race was a success because Burry got a medal, but the US guys sucked it up, and anyway I was saving my voicebox for the night's 4X race.

Oh. My. God. Most insane awesome bike race ever. Words can't even express. The best part was watching chicks hit the huuuuge doubles, and seeing the Czech edge out Jared Graves in the final stretch to take the win. Then we watched the music from a hillside overlooking the venue as the light show illuminated the low-hanging clouds.

And there was still more. On Sunday we elected to ride the entire XC course to see if it really was that gnarly. And yes, yes it was. At the Rock Garden (which everyone spoke of as if it were capitalized, because it was so ridiculous) I took a hard tumble on the chicken line and struggled with the tech stuff for the rest of the ride. I do not envy the racers. Then we splurged and got lift tickets up to the top so we could scope out the whole DH course. I yelled for Rachel like there was no tomorrow, but the crowd saved its loudest love for Steve Smith, the Canadian who took a surprising second after Sam. Then, suddenly, it was over.

At frequent intervals during the car trip, unable to contain my glee, I would turn to St Marie and say, "That was the coolest thing ever." Pause. "That really was totally awesome. What a good freaking idea." He offered little in the way of disagreement.

And that was the story of my trip to Worlds. Soon to be augmented with pictures.

04 September 2010


We're staying in a bed and breakfast in Sainte-Anne de Beaupré and ever since we booked a room, I had been looking forward to it. Working at the Red House gives me a peek into a magical world of luxury where other people stay in clean, beautiful rooms, return every evening to fresh towels, and enjoy delicious breakfast served by a charming, sunny woman and her tall English husband. And entry into this world is only around $100 to $200 a night.
So I kind of assumed all B&B's shared these fantastical qualities.
But in Beaupré we were greeted by a fat, sweaty-looking woman cradling a shivering rat-dog named Yoda. Without offering a smile, she informed us that we could not check in until five and had to find something to do for the next two hours. Fair enough. Then it got worse.
The house was filled with kitsch and clutter. At breakfast (a tawdry spread made better only by coffee and homemade crepes) the proprietress laid down some more laws. We had to pay for a three night stay in (foreign) cash. We had to vacate the house from one to five, which required that we kill a whole lot of time in chamois up at the mountain. One to five in the afternoon was her "cleaning time" and yet upon our return our room was untouched--no fresh towels, unmade bed, no trash removal. We shared a bathroom with the second floor guests, accessible only by a creaking attic staircase. And when I fearfully requested an earlier breakfast on the final day, I was shooed away with a brusque "non".
I am not really, really complaining--after all, we still had a nice bed, edible breakfast, and a place to shower after each day's ride. But at the ATM, withdrawing a wad of Canadian twenties, I reflected that I don't usually pay to be bossed around. At the Red House we are flexible to the point of obsequiousness, but here the Saint and I found ourselves trying to placate this large, unpleasant woman. It has been une expérience étrange.

02 September 2010

Up North

Aside from an unplanned detour through Manhattan (and yes, we played "Empire State of Mind" like the dorks we are) the drive was uneventful, if excruciating.
On Tuesday after three hours of sleep at my grandparents' lovely New Hampshire estate we ventured out to Bretton Woods in the hopes of riding some good singletrack.An hour later, hopes shattered, we reemerged from the network of cross country ski trails--rough, weedy doubletrack--and investigated the resort's ski slopes. Two fools on bicycles, we climbed the never-ending and painful service road up the slopes and found nary a trace of the "black diamond bike trails with manmade features." But as we bitched and braked down the mountainboard course (stupid), a ladder ride tucked in the woods caught St Marie's eye and we had finally found singletrack. Tight, rooty, loamy. Very much like the slopes down south. We returned the next day and St Marie applied his big bike to the job of finding more black diamond rides.
While not biking in the great white north, I've been trying to recreate the summers of my youth--cookouts at Camp Jack, swimming in Burns Pond, shows at the Weathervane Theater. Unfortunately, it was difficult to fit six summers' worth of nostalgia into two days...and so we headed north again.
Pancake breakfast at camp, just like the good old days

Mont-Sainte-Anne was everything I had hoped and more. The venue is crawling with competitors, vendors, and spectators speaking not-American and riding around anything from massive DH rigs to tiny alien trials bikes. We rode a few trails and part of the XC course and I loved it! The mountain is covered in a foot of moon dust and corners are loose as poo. Perhaps racers will escape without experiencing that wonderful east coast mud...but I'm hoping for rain.
Now I understand when people take pictures of Euro-drops and then say "It's a hundred times worse than it looks." Because they are.