Paris to Ancaster Rewind
Looking Back at Paris to Ancaster 2012
Its less than a week from the 2016 edition of Paris to Ancaster, Ontario’s spring classic. The time for training is past and all that is left is final preparations. 2016 will be my second time riding the event and in preparation I have been reflecting on the first time I did the event in 2012, looking at what went wrong in order to avoid those same mistakes.
Boy was there a lot of mistakes.
Back in 2012, I had just gotten in cycling. I had a mountain bike and I would go out for Saturday morning rides of around 20 kilometers. Some how I thought 60 kilometers would be no problem despite never riding even half that distance. I also had no understanding of nutrition and only stuck one gel in my pocket. I would later regret that decision.
As usual, I had a false sense of confidence and for some reason thought I could manage a good result. Just like before every race I do, which only leads to disappointment.
The morning of the race it was damp and overcast with a little bit of rain falling. Back in 2012, Paris to Ancaster was still on the same Sunday of Paris-Roubaix which meant it was going to be a mess on course, especially in the fabled mud shoots.
So I lined up in the middle of my wave and as we got on to the first section of rail trail along the Grand River, I found myself dropping quickly through the field. I soon realized that I was not going to get a good overall result. And that was the beginning of a long, lonely day.
Things went okay from there until around kilometer 25 where I had to stop a repair a puncture. Replacing a flat is a lot harder when everything is covered in mud. After messing around with that for a while, and not being about to inflate my tire very well with my little hand pump, I was on the move again after something like a quarter of an hour.
The next bump in my ride was reaching the halfway mark in St. George to find that all the bananas were gone. I ate a couple cookies just because they were there and grabbed a quick drink before rolling out again.
Now the course for Paris to Ancaster is a mix of roads, gravel rail trail, and some sections of single track. On a wet day, like it was in 2012, the single track becomes very muddy especially after a thousand other riders have gone over them. By the time I reached all the single track sections, they were unrideable and turned into grueling “hike-a-bikes” through ankle deep mud. And the mud shoots were a similar story. More like skiing then bike riding.
After the halfway pit stop, things started to get really bad. I had no idea how long I had been on the bike or how much more I had to go. I had only eaten a couple cookies and an energy gel. The legs were feeling tired, it was already the longest I had ever ridden.
And then the lights started to go out.
I hit the wall. I experienced the dreaded bonk. My vision began to blur and my legs started to cramp. I could no longer ride the hills and dismounting to walk my bike was painful as my legs would cramp up. After getting off the bike, I would have to wait a couple minutes for the cramps to subside so I could walk up the hill. While others who were experiencing cramps were being checked out by paramedics, I soldiered on.
Somehow I kept moving without riding into a ditch or falling off the bike. Somewhere near the 50 kilometer mark, I came upon another small pit stop and to my great joy they had orange slices left. Never had an orange tasted so good and I think that orange was enough to get me to the finish line.
It felt like forever when I finally hit the foot of the Martin Street climb and dismounted to make the final assent. After 60 kilometers on the bike, the gradients on that hill are brutal. When I eventually crested the climb, I remounted the bike so I could ride across the line. Thankfully, the hadn’t packed that up yet.
In the end it took me 4 hours, 49 minutes and 59 seconds. Almost 5 hours to ride 60 kilometers. I cleaned off some mud, devoured 2 or 3 footlong subs and went home wishing to die.
For 2016, I plan to apply all the lessons I learned from 2012. First off, I am a much stronger rider, I have ridden more than 60 kilometers now. Second, nutrition is the most important thing especially with the increased caloric demands of the tough terrain. Anyone can ride all day if they fuel properly. And third, I have no expectations. My goal is to beat my previous time which will be no problem if I ride at my own pace and stick to my fueling strategy.
So now that you have laughed at my misery, I hope you will take away a couple lessons from my experience and return next week to hear all about the 2016 Paris to Ancaster.