Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Le Tour de la Montérégie

Despite the french title, no, this is not a stage of the current Tour de France. It's the name I gave to my ride to Fort Chambly, which got quite extended. My goal was to ride a total of 100 kilometers during my day. Not only did I reach my goal, but I exceeded it by 15 to 20 clicks. ZOMG, what a ride! Let's do this in typical AAR fashion:

Pilot: Benoit "Cozmik R5" Gauthier
Ship: Trek 6000, 2008 model (black)
Kills: none (yay!)
Losses: an obscene amount of calories, a few brain cells, one unit of sunblock spray (more on that at the end)

Let's do this!

After taking things easy on a day off and going to bed extra early on Friday, I got up just before my alarm clock went off at 0330 Saturday morning. I wanted to have plenty of time to shower, prep up and have breakfast because I wasn't about to attack a full day of cycling on an empty stomach. So at 0445, about 45 minutes before sunrise, I hit LaSalle's deserted streets and headed towards the St.Lawrence river, or rather the bike path that follows it. The weather couldn't have been more perfect: cool, no wind, chirping birds and a full moon. There was an insane amount of mosquitoes on the river shore but I was in such a good mood that I didn't mind 'em. I did swallow a few of 'em so apologies to various mosquito families! My first destination was a bridge we call L'Estacade, a small bridge whose sole purpose in life is to break up the ice floes when the frozen St.Lawrence starts thawing in spring. There is a service road on it but unless they are public works vehicles, cars do not take this bridge. But this makes it the perfect place for bikes. And this is where I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I've seen in a long time! At the end of this bridge is a bike path that follows the St.Lawrence Seaway from the town of Sainte-Catherine to Notre-Dame island, notably the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. The latter is the direction I had to take but I would exit this bike path just before reaching the race track, crossing the Victoria bridge and arriving in St-Lambert. I had just landed on the South Shore.

Sunrise on Champlain bridge

The next part of the trip was fun because it was through very familiar territory, but it was still very early so there was barely anyone on the streets. To get to the next bike path I had to pass right next to the place I used to own which was a funky feeling. I did stop just a bit to check what they had done in the 4 years since we sold the house and I was happy with the results. When I finally got to the bike path I aimed at the first park bench I saw and stopped for a quick snack; I was carrying some trail mix bars and some molasses cookies for some on-the-road calorie intake. Not perfect but this did the job. A few minutes later I was back on the bike, and my next stops were simple: refill my water bottle a second time (the first time was just before crossing the bridge) and physically touching Fort Chambly and the Richelieu bassin. But I had a very nice surprise on the way. I knew the bike path would pass next to a BMX track I used to visit in the late 80's/early 90's but what were the odds that it would still be there 20 years later? but Lo and Behold, it was still there !!! Some guys have kept working on a few jumps; sure it's not exactly ready for an olympic level race, but the fact that there still were jumps amazed me. I really missed having a BMX bike all of a sudden! But although I know I can jump my mountain bike, I didn't want to ruin my legs before a huge ride, so I said goodbye to the track and kept on going.

OMFG it's still here !!!

The bike path went through one of the really big parks on the south shore (think "Central Park" big) just before I hit the main road to Chambly, and finally after about 2.5 hours I arrived. Primary objective complete! I was feeling way pumped when I got there, but I knew that trail mix bars and cookies wouldn't be enough if I wanted to reach my 100km goal. So I stopped at this very nice restaurant right next to the fort for a big lumberjack style breakfast. I was early enough that I got a deal off the menu prices, and I had plenty of time to relax before hitting the road again. And the weather was still beyond extremely beautiful, but I knew that as time went by this was going to be a scorcher. So instead of doing a there-and-back bike trip, I decided to do a massive triangle of the Montérégie region. I first followed the Richelieu river for 5-10 clicks Northward and took a left turn towards the very bike-friendly town of St-Basile-Le-Grand. I say bike-friendly because in this small town there were bike paths everywhere. Other towns need to pay attention! But it wasn't long before I would take one humongous detour.

Made it. I'm awesome.

At some point I stopped in St-Basile to call my sister; I knew I would eventually be going back towards Montreal and I had planned to stop by her place for a bit. But she told me she was busy as she was about to go see our dad who was working at a drum & bugle corps practice in the town of St-Bruno. Awesome, that was on my way! So I rode the 15-ish clicks to St-Bruno before I phoned my dad to tell him I'll also be there because I'm a crazy psycho nutbar and rode my bike there. But not long into the conversion I noticed that my dad had gotten the city wrong; the place the drum corps was at was actually in St-Basile. Awesome. So yeah, I proved I was even more psycho nutbar than I thought by riding back there. But as much as I love my sister and dad, I shouldn't have done it. The break I took was too long, the ride there was almost all uphill, and by the time I had to get back on the road towards Montreal the scorcher I had predicted was in full effect, and the wind had started blowing. The wrong way. What followed was 30 kilometers of pure masochism. To make things worse, I almost ran out of water so I had go real easy on it for the first half. But I was going to pass by the St-Hubert skatepark and not only was I able to refill and refresh there, the guy who worked there gave me 2 extra bottles. This is also where I wolfed down the most cookies and bars in one sitting because of all the energy I had used up. I was over 3/4 of the way into my ride now and I was starting to feel it.

Ah, la Montérégie :)

But I had to leave the skatepark and get going because there was one massive obstacle I had to climb on my way to the Montreal meet: Jacques-Cartier bridge. Unlike the Estacade bridge which had no hills to speak of, JC bridge is one massive mofo even when your legs are fresh, and mine were anything but. But at least I knew I could cheat a bit and not do the full bridge; I could get off on St.Helen's island and ride to a smaller bridge that lead West and more towards my ultimate destination, Brutopia on Crescent street. And finally just before 1800 EDT I arrived, and though I was extremely hot and sweaty I didn't pass out! But thank God I thought of bringing a fresh T-shirt and that we were sitting on the terrasse! I know that beer is probably not the best way to rehydrate the body but Goddammit did that first sip of IPA feel good !!! The only bad thing to happen on my ride was when I left Brutopia; no it wasn't the slight drunkenness or the building fatigue, but somehow my can of sunblock spray had gotten squeezed while we were on the terrasse and its contents flooded the side pouch of my backpack where the can was located. Messy.

So there ya go, a short account of the biggest bike ride I've ever done in one day, and not the last one for sure! But I did notice a few things I have to change on my bike to make big rides easier. First my knobby MTB tires have to go; the back one is finished anyway because I've been riding so much this year. Second, a touring saddle. A race saddle is nice and comfy but after about 80km I didn't know how to sit on it anymore. And third, spongier grips. I had bought new gloves just before this ride and they helped, but at the end even these didn't help the fact that my grips are pretty much like a coat of paint on the handlebars. My ride to Mont-Tremblant may become a ride to Val-David because there's isn't enough time for me to make all these changes, and anyway I'm also a bit short on funds, but still I just may reach the big mountain as there will be no surprise drum corps detours! But yes, I can see myself riding a bike from here to here, the long way round.

Once again I must thank Letrange for that quick talk when I needed it the most. And in the same vein, thanks go to the nameless kid at the skatepark. You saved my ride !!!

Enjoy a few more pics from the early part of my ride !!!

Le Parc de la Cité
Chambly canal rapids
Did I say I made it? I made it :)
Me, feeling awesome.


Druur Monakh said...

Woot! Riding a century puts you in the league of serious cyclists!

I would suggest that you either mount more water bottle cages on your bike, or (my preference) invest in a Camelback-type backpack. Usually on long hot days like that I also dissolve some electrolyte tablets in my water.

Benoit CozmikR5 Gauthier said...

There are quite a few things I have to invest in and yes, a Camelbak is one of those items. I don't have eyelets for a second water bottle cage. But the most urgent things are the tires, grips, saddle, rack and panniers.

Thanks for the comment mate :)