Race Report – Paris to Ancaster 2012 a.k.a. Bike Karma
Call it statistics, call it karma, call it just plain bad luck. Whatever you call it, it results in a short ‘race report’ post for the 2012 Paris to Ancaster race.
It all began the weekend before the race, when I figured it was a good idea to get the ‘cross bike cleaned up and prepared for the race. For anyone who doesn’t know me well, I should mention that bike maintenance is not my strong point. I guess I prefer riding bikes over washing or maintaining them. As such, it came as a bit of a shock to me that the XTR pulleys that I had replaced not too long ago (no more than a year and a half?) already looked like this:
It seems to me that perhaps the ceramic bearings aren’t so useful if the pulley itself is round…
I jokingly posted the above photo on Facebook, and perhaps my race result was karma’s way of saying I’m an idiot. Note to self: never tempt fate with the cycling gods. It seemed odd that I’d ridden the bike many miles with the pulley looking like this, and it had worked flawlessly. I figured this sad looking pulley would therefore have no problem doing 60km more in Paris-Ancaster, before getting an overhaul in the fall before cyclocross season started. I put it out of my mind, and prepped for a great weekend.
Race day began early, with rain but relatively warm temperatures (12 degrees or so…) I drove to Paris and got changed/ready at Matt’s house. A quick ride to the start line, and I had time to pick a spot close to the wave 1 start, about 40 riders back from the call-ups (excited to be, I should mention, lined up behind the legendary Roger Hammond.) I was feeling strong, and I figured I had an advantage over many others, since I sometimes actually enjoy the muddy, ugly conditions. Mental advantage: Darren.
The race started off fast (as always) and I tucked into a group in the first 40 or so riders as we hit the rail trail full bore. Once we got about halfway through the first rail trail section, the pace eased as everyone sat up a bit to catch their breath and evaluate the situation. The lead riders were in sight, and everyone was just riding along. Perfect :) I was feeling good, and there hadn’t been too many gaps to close, so I was doing a good job of conserving my matches. Better than years past, I thought. The pace picked up as we neared the right turn that takes the course from the rail trail, up a steep, rocky hill, and onto a farm lane. This is usually where the first decisive split occurs, and this year was no exception. A small group got a bit of a gap as riders further back got bottlenecked. I don’t think I lost any places, but the leaders did get further away. The farm lane turns to paved road, then gravel, then the first trail section. The trails were slick. Slicker than I’ve ever seen them. But still rideable.
I was covered in mud, soaked through, but feeling good. My legs were responding well to the short accelerations, and I was taking strong pulls on the roads. Then, disaster struck. Suddenly, pedaling became difficult. In a way I’ve never felt before. Easing up and coasting to the back of the group I was in, I looked down to inspect my drivetrain. Everything looked fine, so I put in a short hard effort. Nope.. something was definitely wrong. I made the call that I had to stop and see what was up, and pulled off to the side of the road. Hopping off, I was upset to watch my group instantly disappear up the road (we had to be going easily 35?) I was in panic mode, and my quick inspection revealed nothing obvious. I pulled some mud and grass out of the cassette and derailleur pulleys, and hopped back on. A hard effort resulted in.. exactly the same weird, hard-to-pedal feeling. Irate now, I hopped off again. A slightly more detailed inspection showed that the chain had actually hopped off the lower derailleur pulley (the one pictured above) because of its lack of teeth. The chain was jammed between the pulley and the derailleur body. DAMN! My adrenaline fueled brain said “This is no big deal!” and I convinced myself that I could just put the chain back on the pulley, pick a gear, and continue riding without shifting. No problem; great idea Darren!
I manually placed the chain properly on the pulley, remounted and clicked into a middle gear on the back, mentally resigning myself to the limitations of a two-speed (big, and bigger) bike for the remainder of the race. Up a short hill, and immediately before a right turn into another section of trail, things went horribly, horribly wrong. The chain must have hopped off again, jamming itself back between the pulley and derailleur body. But this time, I was hammering a bit harder, and it didn’t just continue to slide its way through. Oh no, it decided to suck the entire derailleur up, snapping the hanger, snapping the derailleur in two, and busting some spokes as it bound itself up between the cassette and spokes. DAMN! I jumped off and pitched my bike into the ditch. A few choice words likely resulted as I realized that not only was my race over, but that this would be a costly mistake! My race was over for 2012.
It turned out that in the time I was standing waiting for a ride, four other racers had mechanicals in the same spot. Eventually a race support van came to pick us up. After driving all over the course picking up other unfortunate riders, we ended up with 9 riders and 9 bikes in the back of the van, eating cookies and wrapped up in silver emergency blankets. I got back to the finish about an hour after I would normally have crossed the line had I been riding. What a disappointing way to end the race :(
So, was it karma? Or was it statistically impossible that I could continue a ‘perfect’ streak of P-As with no mechanical or physical issues? Or was it just plain old bad luck? I’m inclined to think it was karma, and will henceforth avoid tempting the cycling gods… at least right before a race!
The question now becomes: Fix this up, or buy a new ‘cross bike? Financially prudent Darren is leaning towards the ‘fix it’ solution, while the rest of me says “Well.. that bike never really fit you properly, so now’s a good time to get something new and properly fitting.” Luckily, I’ll be on the road bike for the next months, so have some time to ponder. With all these new disc-equipped ‘cross bikes coming out, there should be lots to ponder…