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Ethan’s Biking Comeback Year!

After my injury last summer I was really looking forward to being able to get back on my mountain bike and do what I enjoy

The winter was long and lead to a lot of pent up excitement and frustration. The first few times out on my bike came with mixed feelings; I was having fun being able to ride the same trails I usually would but I was held back quite a bit. My injury still hadn’t fully healed, my muscle was quite a bit weaker on my bad leg than on my good leg which was preventing me from being able to pedal hard and corner well in one direction. I realized that I was foolish for thinking that on my first ride back I would be back to where I left off. After a few weeks I was able to adjust my expectations and my riding, to work around my injured leg. I was eager to go back to the forest where I injured myself as it is one of the most beautiful and best looking places to ride in the area (IMHO). I wanted to do the jump that I crashed on and it wasn’t out of needing to overcome it as an obstacle or to conquer fear, although I was nervous- I wanted to do it because it’s damn FUN! Is that so wrong?!

 
 

After regaining my pace and strength in the first bit of the season I was getting ready for my first race of the year in Quebec. The type of racing I do is called Enduro; it’s a bunch on small stage races crammed into one big day of riding. How it works: there are between 4-6 timed downhill stages where your actual final race time comes from. Between those stages you have to pedal back to the top of the hill and each climb takes about 30 minutes of pedalling. The first race took place on Canada Day weekend in Camp Fortune which is near the Ottawa Valley. The terrain is vastly different then what we have here in Ontario; trails are littered with rocks and steep narrow sections. It ended up being a great weekend despite temperatures being well over 40 degrees. The riding itself was nerve wracking at points; the humidity was causing the rocks to sweat which was making them a little unpredictable traction wise. Come race day my mentality was to ride safe and focus on finishing rather then pushing too hard. Myself and four friends started the day, and of us five, only myself and one other friend finished. One of my friends dislocated his hip on the first stage and was taken to hospital, another friend retired after feeling the effects of the heat, and one more friends made it to stage 3 with us, but his bike was giving him troubles so he had to pull out.

I finished the day 6/16 starters in my category which I was more then happy with.

 
 

The week after Camp Fortune was the next round of racing at Blue Mountain. This round was going to be a bit different from the previous weekend as the trails at Blue Mountain are tame in comparison to what we were riding the week before. There was also a lot more people showing up this weekend so we were all keen to compete a bit more then the previous race. For this race we were camping at Craigleith Campgrounds. Our campsite was booked late so we had a rocky ground and me being a genius, I forgot to bring a sleeping pad so by the second night I moved to sleeping in the car. On our second day of practice the temperatures was turned up into the 30’s and the crowds of fellow racers had descended on the hill; this meant longer lift lines waiting in the sun. Nonetheless it was still a good day of riding and we were all feeling good about the race on Sunday. On the first stage I was pushing hard and had a few close calls so my strategy quickly changed from ‘go for it’ to ‘reel it in a bit’. It ended up being another clean race (no crashes) over the six stages. This time I finished 7/26 in my category. I was a little upset because it was this was my last race for a long stretch and I wanted to get a podium this year but maybe that was asking a bit much… but overall I was satisfied with the result.

 
 

The three months between the Blue Mountain race and the next race (in October!) were very fun but also left a big gap in between the two. The back to back racing weekends were such a great experience and I just wanted more. I was still getting out on my bike about 2 times a week but I craved the race environment.

Fast forward those three months and my feelings had changed slightly… The forecast was saying snow and rain for our final race of the season which was taking place in Bromont, Quebec. Like Camp Fortune earlier in the year, Bromont’s terrain consists of a lot of rock and the idea of snow and or freezing rain being on the rocks was pretty nerve wracking to me. Once we arrived on Friday a lot of those fears were put to rest: yes there was snow on the hill, yes there was some ice on the trails but the riding was so fun that it trumped all of that. On Friday night more snow and rain fell which brought back some of the fears and on Saturday the air felt a lot cooler than the previous day and the wind was blowing rather hard. We got an early start and practiced stages 1, 2 and 5. On stage 5 which was the hardest stage of the race we came to a steep corner that was completely covered in ice. I had a few tries getting around the corner without hitting the ice but I wasn’t succeeding.

On one of my attempts I had a big crash which resulted in me going over the handlebars and running down a steep slope before falling in a pile of rocks. I bashed my good knee pretty hard and sprained my right wrist. I was feeling sick to my stomach after I had made it down the hill and after the adrenaline had subsided. The next morning I was feeling stiff and my wrist was certainly not feeling good. My knee was flexible enough and not overly swollen so I decided I would at least start the race and see how my wrist was holding up. I was feeling good about the first three stages as they were a bit less challenging but stage 4 and 5 were really freaking me out. They both started all the way at the top of the hill (where it was snowing instead of raining) and they were both steeper and rockier then the other 3 trails. We were waiting in the chalet for 2 hours while the officials checked the course which allowed lots of time for stress levels to rise and fall. It turns out that i could put my fears to bed as both stage 4 and 5 had been cancelled due to there being 3-4” of slush on the trails. Before we started stage one we were all feeling a bit apprehensive but as soon as we started all of that went away. The three stages went well, no crashes and only one mistake which was about all I could ask for considering my condition. It turned out to be the most fun I’d had on the bike all season.

 
 

(First set of photos shot by Stef, second set courtesy of Camp Fortune, third set: BW photos by Ethan, colour photos courtesy of Camp Fortune, last photo (above) by Myriam Laroche Photography)

All in all this season was great considering it was my first back after breaking my knee and leg last year and I’m really looking forward to see how intense and fun 2019 is going to be!

Thanks for reading friends! Leave any of your questions (about mountain biking or otherwise) down below!