|INDi2010 Update: Just Me and My Bike|
- By: Gordon Jewett
As the 2006-2007 racing season came to a close at the end of March, I was firmly planted in front of the porcelain goddess with the latest nasty stomach bug to make rounds. It's always expected that you'll be pretty sick the morning after the last race of the year, but you are supposed to have inflicted this state on yourself voluntarily. No such luck for me! Being sick and scarcely finishing a race at Nationals was hardly a motivating way to wrap up the season, but I had more important things on my mind.
The pressure was on to get healthy after the races wrapped up not only for my wedding, which was 10 days away, but also because the boys were "dragging" me off to Whistler for a three day bachelor party (read debauchery festival) immediately after I got home. It's amazing what a little motivation can do, because I seemed to make a miraculous recovery and resume my nice normal shade of pink skin colour just before the bachelor-mobile rolled up to my door. Off to Whistler, where unfortunately I was barely able to touch a drop of beer before being back in front of my newfound deity, bowing to the stomach bug once again. The good news was that I was able to drag myself up and down the alpine slopes for two days, and my friends apparently had no need of my presence to have a great party each night, so I was left in bed.
The week of festivities had just begun when I limped home from the coast to finally prepare everything for the wedding. As most of my friends can attest I possess nary a shred of luck (being born on Friday the 13th might have something to do with it) and by the time the week was over (and I had added a new Jewett to the family) I went straight to the hospital to confirm my suspicions that I had pneumonia. After an amazing week of weddings and parties my new wife's vow to care for me "through sickness and health" were being sorely put to the test. I'm happing to report a very high passing grade.
So, after dutifully spending two weeks lying on the couch and getting intimate with my laptop, television and wifely service, one might assume it was time for a honeymoon. I guess you could call it that, although I'm not sure that a week of riding my bike in New York and Vermont with some friends quite counts. But hey, Mrs. Jewett had to work, so what was I supposed to do?
Getting reacquainted with my bike in May has become somewhat of a tradition. It's a great way to get back into shape after a rest in April, and it's also my favorite way to train. Two years ago it was a ride from Whistler to Canmore in four days (putting my alpine colleagues who took 10 days this year to shame), and last year it was a few mini-trips closer to home. So this year I packed up my bike and flew to Toronto with Chris Jeffries to meet up with his brother Matt for a week of punishment.
First stop was Lake Placid, site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. You'd think that living in the Rockies I'd be well acquainted with serious climbing, but the northeastern US had some surprises in store for me. Gone were our normal 32km/h average speeds during long rides. The area around Lake Placid is very hilly, and you rarely get more than a few hundred meters on a straight, flat road. A cyclists dream, and an average speed junkie's nightmare.
The road up to the top of Mount Whiteface above Lake Placid was one of our targets for the weekend, but never did we think getting to the top would be such a challenge. This is one steep mother of a mountain, at about 13 kilometers with an average grade of nearly 10%. Not your friendly neighborhood hill.
On our first evening ride after the drive down from Toronto we made it within about 4 kilometers of the top of this behemoth, but daylight forced us to tuck tail and race for home before dark. This was our first night of dinner after 10pm and it kind of set the tone for the week. The second day we had planned to hit the mountain again at the end of our 200km ride, but we misjudged, had to head for home before the summit, and arrived at the hotel at about 10pm after 45 minutes of hammering all out in the pitch dark. The third day we got going earlier (which is a relative term) and finally had the Whiteface lined up in our sites. Of course the pouring rain and 5°C temperatures should have warned us, but this mountain was really starting to piss me off and I wasn't going to leave Lake Placid without it. We made it, and then paid the price as we descended for 30 minutes in gale force winds, pouring rain and scarcely positive temperatures. We beat the Whiteface, but it beat the hell out of us. After arriving at a general store at the base so frozen that we had to peel our hands off our brake levers, we tucked tail and called a taxi to take us the 30km home in the dark.
After four days of pounding the pedals and just over 600 kilometers in New York, Matt headed back to his real job and Chris and I headed to Burlington, Vermont few more days of suffering. Vermont is truly a cyclist's nirvana, and I can't believe I've never ridden my road bike there before. With the help of the greatest website ever, www.northeastcycling.com, Chris was planning epic routes left, right and centre. The highlight without a doubt was the "Six Gaps" ride (www.northeastcycling.com/six_gaps.html) that we did on the last day of the trip.
This was an epic in every sense of the word: 213km, 6 serious hills, about 14,500 feet of climbing, and Queen's Bicycle Race playing in my head the whole way. My legs were pretty trashed when I jumped on my bike for kilometer one, and by the time we hit the Lincoln Gap I was a shell of a man. This beast starts out nice and easy on some gravel, but when you hit the pavement again look out. It's paved because if it wasn't a car wouldn't be able to get up it. The last 2 kilometers average over 20% grade and by the time I got to the top I collapsed in a heap of pain. Never before have I been going as slow as I can without falling over sideways, and also being absolutely "à bloc", full out. By the time we descended the other side by brake pads were toast.
So all the fun and some serious vertical aside it was time to come home to reality and start my real training as a ski racer. I mean, if it's that fun it can't be good for you right? So I now put my bike away more often than I'd like and I'm learning to roller ski and run again. I'm almost back to feeling like a ski racer, and by the time we head to New Zealand in five weeks I should have it dialed. Although I may have to sneak out for a few more epic rides too.
Dan is probably one of the most natural coaches in the world, and we're really happy to have him standing behind the team. Dan gave team skier Gordon Jewett his start in the sport and launched him to his Olympic dream. We all live by Dan's famous saying (being featured in this year's Project Podium Calendar) that "Athletes should only be proud of how hard they worked to develop themselves; they can take no credit for God given gifts and capabilities", and his rather more paraphrased version: "Talent and a token will get you on the subway".
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