It all began last year when long road rides started to feel a little mundane. A new cycling season is here and it is time to try something new! After intensive deliberations, I registered for the Tour of Bronte Dirt Dash for my first ever race on mountain bike, my first race with laps, and my first ride with a dorky camelbak. The route is 5 laps of 6km (in reality, closer to ~4.5km per lap) on mostly hard-packed dirt with short double tracks and a climb on the toboggan hill in Bronte Creek Provincial Park. The course is not meant to be technical and is relatively flat for the most part.
Pre-riding the route the weekend before the race scared me. It confirmed the double tracks are muddy, the toboggan hill is more menacing than it looks, and I am totally out of shape having had no riding time this year until now. This will be fun ……
I woke up to flurries the morning of race day. It was a cold Saturday, close to 0°C with high winds and gusts at 60 kph. With 3 baselayers, a long sleeve jersey, and a windbreaker, I braved the cold outdoors. The turnout was small with only 23 people in total, and only 16 people riding the same distance as me. It was a mass start and I started at the front row. Everyone went off hard at the start. Without much confidence riding on anything unpaved, I carried a slow pace on the dirt road. The headwind and the cold air entering my lungs were tough to endure and I couldn’t feel my fingers.
Shortly after, the rider in front turned right onto a double track. Ugh, that wasn’t part of my pre-ride. I dropped down my gears, sighed, and continued. The mud section didn’t help me stay upright. I eventually dismounted until the mud portion was over. A little more double track and I was happy to be back out on the dirt road. Several km later, the dreaded left turn arrived for more muddy double tracks, but manageable, until I reached some sort of large sewer pipe. I dismounted again to get over it and there stood the base of the toboggan hill. I dropped down to the smallest possible gear and focused on keeping a rhythm, reminding myself to power up a bit whenever I saw uneven terrain and at the steepest portion of the hill near the top. Gasping heavily at the top, I descended the hill before reaching the dirt road, a short grassy area, and finally back to the dirt road all the way to the starting line. All that remained was to repeat this 4 … more… times ….
After the 2nd lap, I basically had enough. I am simply not a big fan of lap rides. After the 3rd lap, I was told to go for my final lap. I took that as positive since I wanted the ride to end although it basically meant I was slow. After the 4th lap, I was partially relieved and headed to the warm cabin. The provided lunch was decent – unlimited Mr. Sub sandwiches with timbits and coffee from the morning.
And because there weren’t a lot of riders especially females, I scored this ….