Noble Pursuit: Team Africycle Recap.
I was more than happy to be part of Team Africycle during the inaugural running of the Noble Pursuit . . . Team Africycle was made up of a great bunch of fellows who I truly love riding bikes with. It was a slam dunk! (That was an ill-fitting Basketball reference) Great company, an amazing route, some laughs and a full day’s worth of collected stories that will last a lifetime.
Steven Leak wrote up a fantastic recap of our ride and posted it over on his blog. After a well crafted letter seeking permission, Steven agreed to also post his writings here. Thanks, Steven. Before you delve into Steve’s words, a few comments:
I have known Steven for a few years now, and we met because of the bicycle. Steven has been an inspiration to me on and off the bike since day one. I am not going to digitally publish Steven’s age, he’ll appreciate me keeping that under wraps! But let’s just say, Steven has a few years on me. Where am I going with this? When I grow up to be Steven’s age, I hope to be half as positive and stoked on life and bikes as Steven currently is right now. Even half of his enthusiasm would be plenty for the average person.
I was so happy to have Steven come along with us on this ride . . . reading his reflections on the day have brought the entire experience into sharper focus. As Steven and I were kicking electronic mail messages back and forth getting the details of his blog post sorted, Steven shared this:
I didn’t get what you were saying about the Noble Pursuit until a couple of days ago when I realized it was exactly as you described it in terms of the feel of a challenge. One that would be epic in the experiencing and retelling. Also that I would finish it and ideally have nothing left – truth – I had 1% left . . . to get me home!
Steven, let’s do it again next year!
Put the kettle on for tea, get comfortable because this is easily the longest post ptborides.com has ever seen . . .
The Noble Pursuit. By Steven Leak.
Have you ever signed up for something and almost immediately panicked? Of course you have!
When I got the offer to join a team for a new cycling event here in peterborough called “The Noble Pursuit”, I had just such an experience. The offer came from a cycling friend . . . whose comment was “We’re trying to set something up in the spirit of Paris-Roubaix” should have set of alarms of all sorts. In retrospect it did, but for some strange reason the volume was set at “mute” on those alarms!
So the morning of the ride arrived and I, armed with the knowledge that it would be “around 140 kms” ate a huge breakfast and packed all sorts of bars and gels on the off chance that I might get hungry. Just so you understand, no one but the organizers knew the route for this ride, so no one knew what sort of terrain or road conditions would feature along the way. I even thought we might stop for lunch! ha!
I rode through the empty streets of peterborough.
Until I arrived at the Silver Bean Cafe, where my friend Michael (our team navigator) was busily charting out the freshly revealed route.
There was lots of banter around the various teams as we sucked back mugs of free coffee and amazing granola bars generously supplied by the Silver Bean. I looked over michael’s shoulder several times to see what I could see, but really, the route meant very little to me other than I could see we went through towns I had passed through in cars. The route on the map worked out to be just under 140 kilometres so a bit of a distance but I’d ridden further in the past.
Team captain David Blondel, freshly returned from a well earned break in Holland checked his smart phone for air pressure, wind speed, humidex readings, calibrated his bike electronically, checked and rechecked his caloric intake over the last 24 hours, made sure the mapping software was good to go, and then checked in on his investments as we waited for the start . . . (Ed Note: All of this is true)
Moments later we were joined by one of our team members – Kris Lew – who true to his word showed up in these awesome white shorts . . .
The coffee flowed like wine but soon it was our turn to get our bikes ready and lined up for departure. Each team was released at fifteen minute intervals so as we were the third team, the first team had a half hour “head-start” the second, fifteen minutes and so on.
Here we are lined up and ready to roll.
(I’d like to credit the photographer who took this pic but I can’t remember her name. If you see this and would like credit please let me know!)
We rode north through the streets of peterborough, crossing the river on the London Street bridge and then followed the “rail trail” north to Trent after which we rode River Road North to Douro Fifth Line.
At this point I should say that throughout my riding life, I have assiduously avoided gravel and dirt roads as a matter of course. I ride a skinny tired road bike, in fact my skinny tires are summer slicks. Not even one tiny bit of tread. So on pavement they are lovely. Dry pavement that is! So I was ever so slightly worried when we found ourselves riding past signs like this . . .
No let’s go further. I was scared shitless. There had been all sorts of talk about needing wider tires, treaded tires, carrying lots of inner tubes and especially fun talk about soft gravel surfaces. Great! But there I was on my bike, and so what could I do? Just keep on going . . . and riding with great guys like these . . .
I like to think that I am a solid rider when it comes to smoothly paved roads with a tailwind. Solid, dependable, even quick. But put me on gravel, on a hill, into the wind and I become close to useless. very close! (Ed Note: Not true)
Don’t let the smile and relaxed body stance fool you. I’m hurting, and we’ve only just begun!
See, the thing with gravel roads is that there’s levels of bumpiness beginning at the relatively small level of the hard and compressed talcum powder-like dirt which doesn’t create a smooth surface as much as it mimics the form of surrounding countryside, which in this instance could generously be described as hummocky – read undulating, distorted by the ravages of passing glaciers, relatively untouched by the marks of civilization.
The next layer of bumpiness up is of course the gravel itself. still holding in all the resentment that a small rock can contain as it deals (poorly) with the forced separation of itself from its much larger bouldery origins. Each little jagged edged boulder-baby twists and turns until its most irritating self is facing upwards. Where I, the unsuspecting rider, looking down in all naivete merely see lots of little rocks, they are looking up through squinty piercing little eyes and pushing with all the nastiness their little grey bodies can muster against the relative squishiness of my skinny wheels.
Go up one more layer of bumpiness and you will meet the actual terrain of the road which has been dealt an unkind hand by sister rain, a bazillion ford f-150′s, and of course countless attempts by the county at “levelling and grading” the surface. the result is a lot more exciting and stomach dropping than any ride at Canada’s Wonderland. Just saying.
Anyhow, back to the ride itself. Road surfaces varied from the aformentioned gravel . . .
To little dirt tracks . . .
To beautiful wide paths through the woods . . . .
To some skinny single track through the woods (of which i do not have a picture as I was literally hanging on for my life and trying not fill my pants!) that part of the ride was weird because it was so shadowy, it was hard to tell boulders from mud from branches annnnnnd we were on skinny tires that somehow managed to not want to follow “the line” . . . imagine?!
Eventually we arrived in Havelock and bought water and some virulant blue electrolytic fluids which were quickly disposed of as the heat of the day had found its groove by then . . .
and then off we went, searching for the Village of Hastings where we were told to find a certain little cafe which had a pin waiting for us. And so across the river we rode . . .
Along country lanes that were so simply beautiful that you really felt compelled to slow down and chat.
And back across the river . . .
And a stop at the Bridgewater Cafe for pastries and water and a three-way shared piece of pizza.
Teams started to arrive at the cafe even as we poured water and caffeinated enthusiasm into our already weary bodies so we joked with them and let them know that we weren’t in this for money, fame, or even a podium finish – ya know – just sayin’!
Good thing actually because even if there was a possibility of any one of those three, we were not in the running . . . not by a loooong shot. and I’m okay with that actually . . . . uh huh!
So back on the bikes and away we went with a little fuel on board and sixty or more kms to go.
The roads dove and wound around and up and over and back down the other side of hills with pretensions to becoming mountains. It’s almost as if the people who mapped out the road said . . . “Nope, nope it’s way quicker if we just go right over top instead of around these durned hills.”
On the plus side of the coin, the route was beautiful . . . seriously beautiful!
On the other side of the coin, well these hills were really tough. I don’t care how strong a rider you are, these hills tested everyone. but none more than my buddy michael who developed sudden and excruciating calf cramps . . .
. . . that brought him off his bike after the really tough hills to massage his calf and drink lots of liquids. How he managed to go on and eventually finish this ride is beyond me. but he did!
Here are two of my favourite daves in the world – awesome people!
We knew we were close to home when we passed beautiful lang pioneer village.
And miraculously our pace picked up and our spirits lifted and on we rode knowing we were close to amazing food and beer! The stronger members of the team took turns giving Michael a helping hand up and over the hills. Take a look at the steepness and length of this one . . . it was typical in every way but one . . . I could be wrong, but this one looks paved!
Suddenly we were back in the city and riding along familiar roads and trails and arriving in front of Brio Gusto. Prepared for us was a magnificent feast and a few kegs of spectacular beer. We were soon sitting down, sharing war stories with others and parking back heaps of food and drink. Then just as suddenly it was time to ride home and I was left wondering how that was possible – actually riding home!
And so that’s what I can remember of an incredible adventure that I will never forget and which I sincerely hope to repeat next year – although I am told it’ll be a different route.
I am so grateful to the organizers for creating this incredible opportunity!
Thanks for reading!
Team Africycle Members: David Bruuks, Kris Lew, Kris Sieber, Michael Vanderherberg, Steven Leak, David Blondel
Number of team riders named “Kris”: 2
Number of Punctures: 2.
Number of times Kris Lew punctured whilst standing on the side of the road: 1
This bears repeating: Michael Vanderherberg had a hard, hard day in the saddle. This happens to every cyclist. There was a point in the day where things were getting pretty desperate. Michael was cramping, everyone was out of water and we were on some gravel road near Rice Lake. We had been on the road for a long time . . . Lew suggested that we check the map, pull the chute and take the most direct route home. We brought this up to Michael. “Let’s just get home Michael” His response: “No way, that wouldn’t be Noble”
And that, friends, is the spirit of the whole damn thing. Beautiful.
Great effort Michael, we will never forget it.