I have become very used to the routine of the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. It starts in February, when my father reminds me that I had better register. He’s right, because by March, the tour is usually full. This means that there isn’t any time to contemplate whether or not I really want to do it this year, or whether or not I will have ridden enough. It’s basically a given: on the first weekend in June, I’ll be pedaling my bike to Kingston on Saturday, and back on Sunday. It’s just what I do.
Don’t get me wrong; the RLCT has a lot going for it. There is a wide variety of choice among the scenic and quiet routes which have been carefully laid out. The organization is superb in terms of transporting your belongings to Kingston and back, and providing plentiful and easily available food and beverages, well organized rest stops and mechanical support, and maybe most importantly, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
To some degree, the atmosphere is made possible because this event isn’t a race. It’s not even one of the events that “isn’t a race” but actually is. It is REALLY NOT a race. You start more or less whenever you feel like it, and you finish when you finish. You don’t have to attach a timing chip to your shoes, and there are no results to scrutinize at SportStats. This cuts down on the post event "performance in hindsight" yammering considerably. Granted, you will hear people talking about their average wattage for the day, their average speed ( which tends, of course, not to include the 2hrs of stopping to eat pastry at the various bakeries along the way), and how much they pulled their group because everyone else was getting tired while they felt like they were pedaling without a chain. Taken with a grain of salt, this can be considered good entertainment.
From a ski training point of view, the RLCT represents what I think is a great way to get in some long easy ( by easy, I refer to the intensity, not the overall challenge) distance training in a unique and fun way. It’s a chance to socialize with people that you ride with, people that you meet along the way, and people that, for one reason or another, you see once a year, every year, either while sipping something cold on the grass at Queen’s, or maybe in the cafeteria, or maybe while stopping for some lunch at the park in Perth.
To pick up where I left off with respect to the routine, it continues the day before, when normally clean my road bike for the first and only time of the year. Then, inevitably, I wind up staying up late packing my things and trying to find my chain tool. The next step is waking up early at my parents’ house, where I usually stay the night before because it is conveniently located close to Carleton. It could also be because my mother makes great spaghetti and tends to be up in the morning serving my favourite granola, strong black coffee, toast, and bananas.
After riding over to Carleton with my belongings on my back, I take a few minutes to scan the hyped up mass of every type of cyclist imaginable, searching for whoever I am riding with this year. With the sun coming up slowly, we finally get on the road and roll out of town amidst 2100 other cyclists. Everybody’s in a good mood and has lots of energy. We all know it won’t be that way forever.
The miles tick by and the scenery never stops. There are quiet country roads, quaint villages, lakes, rivers, and the occasional moron in a pickup truck driving down the road giving a permanent one fingered salute to every cyclist he passes. We will witness every type of cyclist. There are people on recumbents, tandems, mountain bikes, tourists and racers of all stripes. Some people have been riding for 50 years, and some people have trouble keeping their bikes going in a straight line. This year, a guy on a unicycle rode all the way from Perth to Kingston, including the descent of the famous Westport hill. A legend is born...
We take short stops in Ashton, Perth, and Westport. It gets harder to get going after each one. The legs get that fuzzy feeling, your neck starts to ache, and eventually, despite all the fun you are having, you start to look forward to getting off your bike, putting on some clothing that isn’t tight lycra, and enjoying one or two celebratory barley pops with your friends while getting a chuckle or two out some people with tan lines that look like tattoos.
Once that’s taken care of, we line up with our meal tickets at the cafeteria. The “all you can eat” arrangement sits fairly well who have pedaled their bikes all day and will be doing it again tomorrow. I am inevitably so full after dinner that it’s hard to get up from the table, but we manage to return our empty trays to those special tray stacking devices and head out for a short walk along Lake Ontario. Maybe we get some ice cream, and just maybe, we meet my Tony and Martin (my father and brother) for a little bit of relaxing conversation before falling asleep in the Queen’s residence.
Then, the bloody alarm clock goes off at 6. The body protests, but the brain knows that my riding partners said they would be eating breakfast now. I stumble back to the cafeteria and eat waffles, eggs, bacon, fruit, cereal, coffee and anything else I can get my hands on. At this point, the reality of having to sit on my bike again for the better part of the day starts to dawn on me. This year, the reality that this will take place in 10 degree rain was an additional cause for concern. But I look around and realize that 2000 other people are thinking the same thing, and I realize that, as always, we’ll make it home and fairly quickly forget how tired we’re feeling right now. By February, I’ll be filling out my Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour 2011 registration form.
A big thanks to the Ottawa Bicycle Club and all the great volunteers (http://www.ottawabicycleclub.ca/) for putting on a great event with rich tradition.
These pictures do not do the RLCT justice, but, given the rainy weekend, I didn’t actually take my camera with me while we were riding. The pictures include XC Ottawa team members Gavin Hamilton, Andre Marchand and Karl Saidla. We enjoyed the company of XC Ottawa alumnus Arno Turk, Ottawa Bicycle Club racer Stephanie Rees, and our friend Dave MacDonald.
The customary "before starting" shot:
Gavin surveys the scene of the "all you can eat":
If you tell them you are "double sharing" for your room, you might want to let them know if you need more than one bed...
Andre and Stephanie think this is funny....
Before Megan had her shoulder surgery, she was helping me put some miles in to get ready for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. This year she said "It's no fair! You guys get to have all the fun!". No doubt she'll be back to the RLCT next year: