Ontario Cogal Report: Canada Brings the V
A word about Cogal reports from the boardroom – we will attempt to run every Cogal report that arrives but it will only be the main article for a day or less, depending on Cogal back log. We would like the reports to be enjoyed by all Velominati but we can’t leave them up for the usual two to three days. They will then be relegated below the original Cogal invite, on the Cogal page. Thanks for riding and thanks for reading.
VLVV, The Keepers
Canadians have a reputation for being even tougher and crazier than Belgians (and, in spite of our similarly divided cultural heritage, we even have the common sense to be able to form a government). Our national bird, the noble Canada goose, even knows to fly in V formation. The first Canadian Cogal landed on a most fortuitous date: the same day that Ryder Hesjedal powered the weight of a pretty big nation to GT victory at the Giro. Six riders set out at precisely 9:0V for one demanding ~185km parcours that included hills ranging up to 22%, dirt roads, and some stunning scenery. @steampunk
First and foremost, I would like to thank Frank and the founders for allowing us to make this online community into an actual community with these Cogals. Fucking awesome. Well done lads, and thanks. Great site, great community, and hopefully, great friends and riding buddies.
Whose idea was it to have this thing on a fucking Sunday anyway? How are we supposed to drink malted beverages after an 8 hour ride on a Sunday?
Oh, right. That was Steampunk, and me, and Will. Idiots. Well, we have families, and the velominatus paterfamilias duties extend to most of the crew on this ride, so let’s get at it.
8:30 or so, and I arrive in Dundas with one Adrian in tow. No, not THAT Adrian. Another Adrian, and a much nicer and friendlier Adrian at that. When I busted his chops for dissing celeste he quickly disassociated himself from THAT Adrian. However, he was all of 125lbs soaking wet, so I did have some concerns …
Steampunk and I had met for lunch a while back but the rest I was riding with sight unseen. Luckily, they all turned out to be good eggs. I hereby nominate Tartan1749 for the Rule V award for the day. Despite starting to cramp before lunch, he never once complained, and rode with a smile on his face the entire day. He even went to the front after well over 140k and pulled us along for a while, claiming that he had found his missing legs. Good on ya brother!
The day started with the usual once-overing everyone else, and trying to decide who was strong, and who might not be, and how the fuck will I measure up? Especially given the BFGs on Steampunk. Fuck me but that boy has LEGS.
As usual, that would all be sorted out on the road, especially with a 3k climb up Sydenham to start the day, which the aforementioned Adrian led, with youthful exuberance. Will kept us all in check with a steely glare and a frame pump.
We proceeded north east, towards lunch, and commenced with getting to know one another. Tartan1749 had driven all the way from Pittsburgh, while the rest of us were actually from southern Ontario.
And then we arrived at the bottom of Rattlesnake Point. Well. THAT will separate the men from the boys, letmetellyou. Rule #5 was in effect, and we all made it up, and some of us went down again so photos could be taken. In the big ring, of course.
While the forecast had called for rain, we proceeded merrily to lunch with nary a drop in sight, and The Shed provided a welcome respite after 85k or so. Good coffee, good company, and good Panini. Oh, and some Canadian named Ryder (Ryder FFS!) had won the Giro. THAT made everyone’s day (well, maybe not Tartan1749, our token ‘Merican).
After lunch and a photo-op, we continued on our way, only to finally get rained upon, if only for a while.
Moment of the day was just after lunch (discussing Ryder’s Giro win and Nick’s pink bar tape):
Nick: It’s a good day for pink.
Mikel: It’s ALWAYS a good day for pink.
Nick: Not that pink!
Steampunk: We are going to have to separate you two …
The Forks of the Credit River did not disappoint. What a beautiful road. It has everything. Climbs, descents, switchbacks, a river, and beautiful, tree lined scenery.
The rest of the day proved an exercise in keeping the group together and hydrated. It was hot, and the roads were long and winding, and though the group splintered from time to time, and Adrian’s youthful exuberance came back to haunt him, we always managed to get everyone back together, and Nick and I had another awesome moment at the top of the “last climb of the day”. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. We may have been a bit silly by that point.
The reward for all of our hard work was the descent of Sydenham at the last. THAT was fun. 80kph, two lovely corners, and NO CARS! And good espresso at Café Domestique at the bottom.
Thanks guys, that was fun. 8 hours, 185k, one new Grand Tour Champion, and a bunch of new riding buddies. An excellent day, on all accounts.
we sat at the shed in erin, talking about bikes and riding them and all that other stuff that happens between the wheels and moments and our legs and memories and right and wrong answers. i mentioned poutine as a poor fueling choice. adrian and mikel ganged up on me, insisting that such behavior is the basis for insanity. i was about to counter with the fact that i am artistic (yes, it’s a condition), and that madness and genius feel pretty much the same to me; it’s the audience that decides. problem was, my mouth was full of italian panini at the time, so i just smiled and chewed.
just to make sure that i didn’t miss anything obvious, i typed ‘cogal’ into dictionary.reference.com and came up with a very satisfying ‘0 results’. i was hoping such would be the case, as i had spent the day yesterday learning that term, memorizing it, chanting it, cursing it, and ultimately digesting it in every molecule i could still retain after 185 kilometers and 1796m of elevation gain.
a cogal is a ride.
a simple concession, to be sure, but therein lie its absolutes: beauty, truth, communion, and bare humanity. a cogal is a ride, on bicycles, among fellows committed to these two-wheeled elements, for a long, long way.
bicycle rides start out at the meeting place, or before, at the trash-talking conversation, and then at the meeting place. we watch how the others wear their caps, we note the lengths of their socks, study their angle at the urinal, and ultimately make a mental catalog of likely strengths and weaknesses, traits to be considered or discarded, who to follow when, and who to let go.
i arrived at the domestique later than planned and preferred, in keeping with my innate talent for getting lost despite every gps and printed-map auxiliary one could ask for. i was early enough to assemble my bike, find the washroom, and don my kit. i was too late to not look flustered and nervous while doing it. a girl was putting up pink balloons in honor of the last day of the giro. everyone was hoping against hope for ryder hesjedal’s win. the baked goods were stacked high. the espresso was stocked. and we were set to depart exactly an hour before canada’s original cycling hero, steve bauer, would enter the cafe to watch the final stage.
timing is everything.
next in the steps of the ride and the constant cataloguing of one’s ridemates is the inevitable equipment appraisal. old wheels. new brake pads. dirty chains. shiny cassettes. appropriate bar tape/saddle color combinations. campy or shimano. carbon or metal. 23 or 25c. it’s all there. the writing is on the wall. and one by one, we succumb to out and out classism, basing expectations on the numbers presented by the outward appearance of our possessions. there were two steel bikes, a couple of carbon bikes, and an aluminum bike or two. six of us. only two on campy. i worried that my equipment might project falsities of fitness or ability. i hoped i would live up to these.
we stood in the drizzle for a group photo, twice. i tried to relax. i hate being photographed. worse is being photographed while on a bicycle while not actually riding said bicycle. awkward hasn’t enough double V’s for the sentiments involved.
after brief introductions and briefer instructions, we rolled out from the cafe to begin the most epic ride of my season thus far. we took a right, almost missed the second right, then rolled far too briefly to the first climb of the day. sydenham.
my lady rides around dundas regularly, and has mentioned this hill to me, along with the side note that she climbs it in the big ring. i considered this for the first four and a half revolutions into the climb, then banished the thought as i shifted ever further up my cassette, taking no shame in the 27 tooth cog as i enjoyed the view and worked into a rhythm. the hill was over as soon as it had started, though not without repercussions: it was going to be a long day, and we were not all climbers..yet. (i am never a climber at only 3 minutes into any ride.)
much of the rest of the first few kilometers remain a blur. i kept confusing mikel and steampunk, as i was sure they had both introduced themselves as such but i wasn’t sure that there were two of similar-sounding names. and they were both leading and trash-talking and wearing white kit. regardless, i took some photos and worried about the longevity of the new tube in my front wheel and wondered about rattlesnake, the big feature of the day.
as we cruised along the ridgeline, enjoying rollers and shouted directions, we settled into that easy, assumed conversation: we’re both on bikes, so we must like each other, and as such, we must have something to talk about. among the members of the group, this was absolutely the case. there were conversations among all subjects, age groups, and depths. i remember talking about the states and the auto industry with tartan1749; about suburban riding with will. steampunk fascinated me with history and psychology while adrian piped in with intermittent sound bytes. and mikel, well…we covered everything else: pink, V, and that loving feeling.
- we did rattlesnake and no one walked though several returned to get photos of the last 100m push.
- rattlesnake was not the only hill with switchbacks.
- we had some gravel and lots of chipseal but no extended grange road.
- steampunk successfully unloaded his jersey cargo at the shed, only to be saddled with a jersey for the return trip.
- ryder won the giro by 16 seconds, and i told everyone as we waited for a light. we stood in the middle of the road, clapping and cheering.
- we continued to revel in ryder’s victory intermittently throughout the rest of the ride, somehow sharing in something so monumental that we were a part of it, whether we could even pronounce hesjedal or not.
- mikel at the hill on the terra cotta course: race ya. me: yeah right. subsequently: my ass kicked as mikel rode away.
- steampunk and mikel pulled all of us, most of the time.
- never let a gap open.
- have you seen my horse?
i posited long ago that a good ride must, at some point, be so hard as to make me want to quit the sport. i posited that alone, somewhere on a road, suffering by myself. such a conclusion would never occur on a cogal, surrounded by gentlemen and nature and the opportunity to bury oneself on an ascent, skirt one’s fears on the descent, and take an honest pull every once and again. the cogal showed some of the best roads of the country and county, for terrain, challenge, surface quality and utter lack thereof. there is no pulling anyone up a hill. at 22% gradient, the truth is distilled and even if it burns when it goes down, it tastes good. and then at the top, everyone regrouped after their honest efforts, happy to have buried themselves and to be with others to tell the tale in a double paceline at 38 km/h to the next climb.
when i got back to the house and was recounting different parts of the ride to my lady, she asked what my favorite part was. i sat there, confused, and unable to come up with any single moment where i could really pin down any favoritism. then it hit me: mikel. besides the two of us having to be separated by steampunk for bad behavior and filthy humor, we had a tendency to ride off the front while conversing deeply about childbearing and rearing or movie quotes from the eighties. so, two favorite parts: unintentionally pulling away up a gravel road while recklessly recounting all the pros who crashed, sustained broken clavicles, and continued to race (sometimes for weeks); AND riding off the front, up a hill, into the golden part of the afternoon as it rested on the tops of green fields, singing You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling much too loudly for the crest of a hill more than 100km into a ride. a cogal is for the people. we happen to be on bikes, but what we are is so much more complicated than the circles we spin. there are stories there and manners and mannerisms, sweat drips and drink drips, clicking cleats and inappropriately long track stands. we are supersaturated, making our way through most days condensed and solid and stoic. only when heated by that hill or that effort or the sun or a hand on a back at just the right time do we spill forth all that molecular adhesion, coating the moment and remembering it with flavor.
my dad always told me that a good party is one where everyone gets to bring something and participate, and then leave wanting more. on sunday, we all brought something, left it all on the road, and departed wanting more. i can’t wait til the next one, if only to know more, get more than a glimpse, of the people who came together to make it happen. it’s always a good day for pink.
When the first discussions of an Ontario Cogal began last November, May seemed a long way away. The route was developed, spearheaded by Steampunk. As the date approached, the weather was carefully watched. Driving to Café Domestique on Sunday morning, there was a modest sprinkling of rain. Upon arrival, introductions were made and final fueling took place. We were told that later that morning Steve Bauer would be in attendance in anticipation of a winning ride for pink by Ryder Hesjedal. Following the obligatory picture taking, we left promptly at 9:0V. Within three minutes, we were toiling up the escarpment on Sydenham Street in Dundas; a brash beginning to the day. One of the great benefits of the ride was that although I live in the general area, the route took us on many enjoyable roads which I did not know. We worked our way over to the Appleby Line climbing by Rattlesnake which could be likened to one of Belgium’s bergs. Round about this time, we learned that indeed Hesjedal had indeed won which given that he appeared the strongest was more than justified.
After some dirt road experience we came to Erin for lunch at the Shed. While it is hard to imagine southern Ontario roads requiring hairpins, we did get to enjoy one outside of Belfountain. There were times when our group worked together well although the hills tended to split people up. We came in different shapes, sizes and ages with Seth coming the farthest from Pittsburgh. All major frame materials were represented. On the way back there was discussion about timing to judge liquids and whether this was the last uphill. A lasting image was that of strongman Mikel riding no hands stretching out his back with a four by four stewing behind him. To close things out, Steampunk took us back down Sydenham with a great view of Hamilton if one could take one’s eyes off the road. Finally, in discussions with the barman, I decided to forego the sweetness of the seasonal raspberry beer in favour of a conventional ale. A great time was had by all.
After convincing the wife that a Memorial Day trip to Canada via Niagara Falls was a good idea so that I could meet some internet cohorts for a short 200km ride, the weekend was upon me. We set off for the 475 km trip Saturday on our way to the hotel in Hamilton, Ontario. Along the way, we stopped and saw the Falls for a few hours. We arrived at the hotel in downtown Hamilton and I proceeded to wipe it down one last time and apply some grease to a squeaky pedal in order to invoke the Principle of Silence for the next day and get the kit in order.
As the fam slept, I set about and rolled out of the hotel for my 8km ride to the starting point, Café Domistique. As it was mostly downhill and city riding, it really didn’t count as a warm-up – but I arrived about 20 minutes prior to roll-out. While enjoying a cup of Earl Grey, Steampunk introduced himself and the other riders (Adrian, Mikel Pearce, Nick, and Will) starting arriving. Other than Adrian making a ‘Holy shit, that’s a lot of seatpost!” comment about my ride, there seemed to be an unspoken agreement that Rule non-compliance would not be brought up and I won’t start here, BUT in the spirit of the Giro and it’s hopeful Canadian Champion-to-be, Adrian showed up on a Pink steel steed and Nick showed up on a black machine with Pink lettering and bar tape. That just had to be mentioned.
I climb poorly for someone twice my weight and I knew I wasn’t going to be in the front since my longest ride so far this year is about 100km – little did I know! The cogal started out with the Sydenham Road Climb (another view), which is an ascent of the Niagara Escarpment. This is the same geologic formation that creates Niagara Falls and I think we wound up ascending/descending the face about 6 times Sunday – some steeper than others. Needless to say, the nearly 120m of 8-10% climbing without much of a warmup was tough, but I was trying to pace myself given the overall distance of the day.
32km in, and we hit Rattlesnake Point – a short climb of about 100m vertical, but an average grade in the high teens and a max of 22% and a nasty hairpin 2/3 of the way up. Not the worst I’ve done, but hard enough. Going down the other side was great and I reached 78 kph (fastest ever!). A few miles after that, I felt bad for slowing the group and did a decent pull at the front of the line for about 4 km. Unfortunately I think I stayed on the front for about a km too long as after the next climb, my quads started to twitch with cramps. I was able to easy-does it to lunch and downed some Gatorade and a sandwich. Luckily the cramps did not return.
Lunch at The Shed in the small town of Erin was welcome and delicious, then we hit the Forks of the Credit at km 114 – a beautiful park with a couple of good twisties (again, on the face of the Escarpment). Going back up the same road was not horrible as it was not as steep as Rattlesnake Point. That was it for the big climbs of the day and the rest was mostly rolling hills with a couple of smaller climbs. Despite holding everyone back most of the day, I found my second set of legs later and would up doing another pull at the front with Mikel.
Thanks to Steampunk for the organization, route, and continually saying either ‘This is the last climb of the day’ or ‘We’re almost there’
Thanks to Will for repeatedly waiting for me a key intersections/turns
Thanks to Mikel Pearce for driving the pace – along with Steampunk
Thanks to Adrian for feeling sorry for me at the back and creating autobus noises
Nary a complaint was heard from anyone the whole ride, Rule #9 made empty threats, good times and good people all around!
I am typically in full compliance with Rule #74, but a buddy let me borrow his Garmin for the occasion knowing that a phone battery wasn’t going to last the whole ride. Note that I did an extra 16km more than everyone else in my round trip from the hotel, so I successfully did the double metric century!
The Thursday before the Ontario Cogal, I bonked. Badly. Just turning the cranks became a virtual impossibility. About 30k from home, the Man with the Hammer had sidled up behind me and delivered a two-handed blow to the back of my neck with a sledgehammer. I was a total mess and was left struggling for more than an hour. Which is to say I was a little worried about the Cogal.
But what a day we had picked! Sunday, May 27, 2012. The Sunday of the American Memorial Day weekend, designed to entice our southern neighbours to V up (we got one); the last day of the Giro d’Italia, so there would be ample talking points; and the end of May almost guarantees good weather: hot but not yet humid. What we couldn’t have planned for were the variables therein. First, a Canadian was poised to win the Giro. Second, a long run of good weather was forecasted to break on the Sunday; a week out, thunderstorms and 10-15mm of rain were predicted. So we would have a Giro party and celebrate it with one hell of a Rule #9 kind of day.
Finally, the course. E-mails between Mikel, Will, and I determined the more intricate features of the route. Starting at Café Domestique was a given. So were the local climbs out of the Dundas valley (Sydenham and Snake Road). And, of course, we couldn’t contemplate a southern Ontario Cogal and not include Rattlesnake Point. From there, I wanted to get to Caledon, which is a little further afield than I would typically ride on my own, but is home to some of the finest roads and terrain, not least the Forks of the Credit Road, which is unparalleled in these parts in its beauty. In addition to this being the first Canadian Cogal, it was also the first local espresso post ride. Krys at Domestique encouraged us to make the Shed Coffee Bar in Erin our lunch destination. The Shed was owned by friends of his, but was also a cycling friendly place. On the morning, Krys would supply me with one of his t-shirts and a jersey to deliver them to the Shed and bring back one of their jerseys in return. Nice idea. Also, this: when hosting a Cogal, you want to make sure that the route offers a unique experience for the participants. After all, it’s like inviting guests into your home: you want them to have a good time. We had some big climbs (Rattlesnake tops out at 22%, on which, we discovered, Will does hill repeats); we definitely needed dirt roads. Added. 186km in total. This was going to be a long ride, but I also took a certain pride in the route details. These were excellent roads””most of them quiet””and they offered a lot of variety.
As the day approached, I kept an eye on the weather forecast. We’d spent the week in high 20s and low 30s””brilliant sunshine””what would the day yield. The heavy rain predictions moderated themselves and so did the chance of thunderstorms. Rain we could handle (the lone question would be whether to don the swarte or witte kitte), but do you rind in thunder and lightning? Especially going to the highest points in the area? I’ll leave that to the community to decide. Morning of: grey skies, but nothing untoward. I breakfasted at home””about 1.5km from our starting point””eggs, bacon, black tea. Then bread and nutella. Bagel lathered in peanut butter and nutella went into my back pocket (congenital optimist that I am, I went with the witte). Then dried figs, because if they’re good enough for Tim Krabbé, they’re old school enough for me. Energy drinks and bottles prepared. Camera and card. Spare tube and CO2 canister. And keep in mind I collected a t-shirt and jersey at the café. Out to the garage to give the bike a final once over. Tires inflated (latex tubes). As I finished the first wheel and carefully lined up the valve of the back wheel, so that it was positioned the same as the front, I heard the patter of rain on the driveway. Of course. Job done, I wheeled out of the driveway, up my street, and then down the hill to Café Domestique.
In the parking lot, Mikel and Adrian had just arrived (not THAT Adrian, and not the one from Singapore either). Quick greetings and pleasantries, and I went into the café for an espresso. Sitting on the front porch with my espresso, everything was tranquilo. My mid-week bonk was forgotten. Will and Tartan1749 arrived. The five of us congregated and chatted as the magical hour””9:05″”approached. At 9:00, Nick arrived. Quick photographs and we were off. Even Mussolini couldn’t have got the trains to run this punctually. An hour after we left, Steve Bauer would be arriving at the café. And the CBC, and Sportsnet, and the local station. We were missing a big party, but we were also embarking on one.
I’m typically a slow starter. Living in a valley, the system gets shocked into action almost immediately anyway, so what’s the point of racing out of the gates? So I lazily started at the back of the pack, chatting with Will. Of course, when you’re hosting a Cogal and you’re the only one who knows the local roads, starting at the back isn’t the best practice. The front riders almost missed the first turn. And then we were on Sydenham hill. Less than 500m into the ride, we were starting on the first climb: 1.3km @ 10%. Not an impossible hill, but it would sort out who had the legs and who didn’t. The other feature of hosting a Cogal is that you don’t want to struggle on your home roads. Adrian, who maybe weighed as much as my left BFG showed good form on the way up. Mikel, too, was going to be strong. Playfully, I put in a dig near the end to be the first one to the top. This was stupid, and I knew that it was invitation for Mikel to respond in kind for the rest of the day. Nick wasn’t far back and clearly working his way into the day. As was Will. Tartan1749 struggled a bit, but recovered quickly once past the worst of it. He and I took up the rear as the group rode together across the crest of the escarpment. Still at the back, I realized I was poorly placed to deliver directions. Quick sprint to the front before the turn, down a winding descent and then a left turn.
The pace was good. The conversation was friendly. The bikes were beautiful: Mikel’s BMC, Will’s Canadian-made Argon 18, Tartan1749’s Merckx. The group accordioned in and out over the rolling terrain and I took special pleasure in chatting at the back of the group and then jumping forward to provide directions. The magic of the Cogal is conversation. So much fun and nice to ride with good folks. After 35km, Rattlesnake Point lay before us. From the back, I did my best Carlos Sastre impression to start late and try to catch the leaders. Like many of Sastre’s efforts, it was too little, too late, and I was still just off the leaders’ pace at the top. But that didn’t stop us from rolling back down to the last bend to get some pictures (Mikel and I had pre-arranged this). Another twenty minutes down the road, we learned in a text from Nick’s VMH that Ryder Hesjedal had won the Giro. Much rejoicing.
Past Milton and onto less familiar turf for me. Out towards Terra Cotta and then, after a deceptively long and tough climb, onto the dirt. Before too long, we were descending into Erin for lunch and nice meal and coffee at the Shed. Good coffee, good food, good service. The owners weren’t there, but the staff was expecting us, and arranged for pictures of the riders and jerseys. Rolling out after lunch, the rain began to fall, but not for more than five minutes. After that, we were back to mild and overcast, which was pretty much the order of the day. Forks of the Credit Road was beautiful””out and back. As we took the lead up the hill and past the hairpin turn, I suggested to Mikel that maybe the route best suited us, since we were clearly puncheurs””in the Philippe Gilbert kind of mold, I had the audacity to say. At which point he dropped me like a bad habit. He just went. For a split second I thought about following, but I couldn’t get out of the saddle (I got my own back at an unannounced town limit line sprint later on). And then we were on our way back to Terra Cotta. Up Heritage Rd., we started a rolling paceline. It fell off a bit after the turn onto Old School Rd. Down the long hill into Glen Williams; tucked and gaining on Mikel in the lead, I braked slightly to avoid a gravel divot in the road. Bombing past me and Mikel was Tartan1749, who had been cramping before lunch and still working on recovering his form. Fucker. Thoughts that he’d been rope-a-doping us the whole time, as he forged to the front, looking very comfortable indeed. His lead was short-lived, but he also put in some very strong pulls in the final hour, an impressive ride and recovery after early difficulties, and definitely the V-ride of the day, especially after having come all the way from Pittsburgh (wife and toddler in tow) for the Cogal.
Over a ride this long, you either crack or a calm descends upon you and the rhythm of the stroke takes over. The latter was the case for me. I felt strong, but also didn’t think I was exerting myself. As we approached the end of the ride, I felt as though I could have kept going. The day’s finale was a fast descent of Sydenham hill””where we’d started””swooping into Dundas and back to the café, where a white and pink Cervélo was already on prominent display, draped in Canadian flags. It was a good day. Other stories are recounted by others here, so I’ll leave them out. This was one great ride, made all the better by the stellar company. These Canadians are crazier (and harder) than Belgians, by the way. And now we even have a Grand Tour winner. We’ll have to repeat this next year. Start training.
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