This year, I’m doing a little ‘giving back’ to the bike community I love so much, and putting in some time helping with the Edmonton Canada Cup. The ECC team have it well under control no doubt, but it’s fun to lend a hand and get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes glitz and glamour. Last year, I spent the entire race watching and filming from the sidelines, and this year, again, I may end up not spending any time in the saddle, but that’s okay. This is going to be a killer race, and more than that, a killer bike event! The Bike Expo is back, we’re going to have beer gardens, and with such a massive Novice class turnout last year, we’re hoping to see an even stronger showing this July 11. More details to follow, but good times ahead. Here is an article/interview I did for the ECC website with Dana Ouellette, a local Edmonton Pedalhead Club rider and racer (not to mention my racing nemesis. He beat me by something like 11 seconds in the 2009 Perogy XC and I haven’t had a chance to avenge it yet!).
We’re going to do an article each month on a feature racer so check back to the ECC site for those. And so, without further delay, Dana is ‘Racer 1’. Enjoy!
When did you start riding ’seriously’ and what got you started?
I only started seriously mountain biking in June 2008. Back in the late nineties when my parents still lived in Edmonton, my dad got me into mountain biking. My dad and I would go to Terwilliger and just ride, not seriously, just have a good time. That was on an old Specialized RockHopper, which sadly got stolen. It wasn’t until June 2008 that I bought a new bike. I was excited because I had a lot of positive memories associated with cycling (just my dad and me having fun). So I bought a Rocky Mountain Fusion to go out occasionally on the weekends, and I got totally hooked. Then weekends turned into 4 or 5 days a week.
I don’t know why I got so hooked. I started riding with Pedalhead, and that was probably a large part of that. Once you make friends who ride, you want to get faster and be able to keep up, it becomes not just fun, but addicting. And it’s good for the self-esteem. It’s always motivating when you clean a climb you’ve never done before, or fly down a technical section you used to struggle with.
At what point did you decide to start racing?
To be honest, I really don’t know why I started racing. I started going out with the Pedalhead riders after our Wednesday night rides and a lot of them are racers and told stories about racing. That peaked my interest, but I still never thought I’d do it. Then all of the sudden, less than a year after buying my first mountain bike, I found myself buying a full suspension bike for racing. But I still wasn’t 100% sure I’d actually do it, until I found out about the Edmonton Canada Cup. I live only a few hundred meters from the Kinsmen Field House. When I heard where the course was going to be, that’s when I realized I could actually do it. Even if I sucked, at least it would be on trails I’m familiar with and ride a few times a week.
What was your goal for the 2009 race season?
In all honesty, my goal was to try and to survive a race. I didn’t even get an ABA license. I just wanted to use a day license to try a race. I decided to focus on the Canada Cup race because I was familiar with the trails. So at first, just doing the Canada Cup race was my goal. But as it got closer to being a reality, my goal wasn’t just to finish. I was worried I’d end up dead last, so I started really training so that I wouldn’t get humiliated.
So, what did you do to prepare for the ’09 Edmonton Canada Cup?
I got myself a trainer on a Boxing Day sale, and started riding in my living room for an hour every other day all winter. After the snow melted, I realized that it might be a good idea to try a race before the one I was focusing on. So I decided that I’d do the Perogy XC race as well, since you are allowed to use two day licenses. I also started going to Hardcore Bikes Tuesday night Fat Tire Tuesdays. Those were great. It’s only $5, so it’s no big deal if you crash or flat, and there aren’t a lot of people there to care if you suck. It’s a low-pressure way to get a feel for racing, to pass someone, and to get passed, and all the things I was nervous about.
And how did that work out for you? How did you finish?
Not to sound overly dramatic, but if I had to answer this question with only one word, it would be “heartbreak.” I made Edmonton Canada Cup race such a huge goal for me. I was feeling really good on the bike, and sitting about 15th or so out of sixty, which would have been really good for me, but I broke my chain on my second lap and I did not finish…
Now with a year of racing experience under your belt, how have your riding and racing goals changed? Will you prepare for this year’s Canada Cup race any differently?
On one hand, I will be racing a lot more in 2010, and I have bigger goals. I actually got an ABA license and I’m going to do all the local races, and maybe provincials. My main goals for this season are to finish in the top 10 in a race, and to actually finish the Edmonton Canada Cup. But on the other hand, I’m taking a much more relaxed approach. My situation in life has changed a bit since last year. I decided to go back to school, and I’m working part time as well, so I’m not training as much as I did last winter. But I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing. I went pretty hard last year and ended up straining my IT band. I think that taking it easy for the winter is a good idea so I don’t get burnt out.
My training is going to be very different this year. I’ve only been riding once a week, with some xc skiing thrown in there to try and maintain some fitness. But once classes are over in early April, then it will be a suffer fest and I will really start training hard. I’m going to suffer through the Perogy XC and Bacon XC races, and the Fat Tire Tuesdays, and I’m hoping that by July, I should be a good enough racing shape for the Edmonton Canada Cup, and for 24 Hours of Adrenaline.
Any final thoughts or advice you want to impart to other ‘newbie’ racers out there looking to get their start this year?
I’m not so sure I’m the best person to ask for racing advice, considering I’ve only finished one ABA race… But if I had to give a piece of advice to someone interested in getting into racing it would be to tell them to relax, and not take it too seriously at all. I stressed and worried so much about my first race. But what’s the point of stressing? This isn’t a grand tour, and you don’t have sponsors. Just have fun. It’s OK to set serious goals, but don’t get hung up when you don’t reach them. And don’t focus so much on one single goal. Things happen. Even the best pros have days where they just aren’t feeling great on the bike, or flat or have a mechanical. That stuff just happens. If you break your chain on the one event you’ve made your only goal for a year, like me, you will be really upset.
I’d also add that a new racer should take advantage of the Tuesday night Fat Tire races. They are a great place to test out what racing is all about without the pressure and cost of a full length ABA cross-country race. I learned a lot doing those races last year.