Monday 22 October 2007

The Ride of the Falling Leaves

More Ups and Downs in Gatineau Park

Yesterday I returned to Gatineau Park after a week's absence due to the rain last weekend. I expected the colours to be past their peak but in fact a lot of leaves were still on the trees. Unfortunately the weather was a bit grim: overcast, cool and an ever-present threat of rain. But my coach wanted me to do a three hour ride, so off I went. I felt surprisingly good (maybe it is because I did not have to go and lift weights as usual) and when the forecast for today was sunny sunny sunny and 21C, well, you could not hold me back with wild horses.

After doing some of the shopping necessary to sustain what passes for normal life--and I got some nice McIntosh apples for 39 cents a pound!--I rode through the Byward Market, across the Alexandra Bridge and eventually to the park entrance. The weather was excellent, although a strong wind from the southwest was not so much fun, but no matter: I was just thankful to be able to ride at the end of October in Canada.

Ian on his new Tarmac

As I was climbing I heard someone behind me and soon after another rider on a Specialized Tarmac passed me. This is the first Tarmac besides mine that I have seen in Ottawa and I caught up with him and we began talking about the bikes and cycling in general. Ian lives in Westboro so his trip to the park is a bit shorter than mine. He was a runner who has gotten into triathlons and we talked about that for a while. He has had the Tarmac, an all-carbon one, for only a few weeks and it looked great in its red and white colour scheme.

Typical Gatineau scenery, with Tarmac Guy

We rode together to Meech Lake Road and then continued on the Gatineau Parkway until we began the climb up Camp Fortune Road past the ski area. Ian was stronger than me on the climbs but I could make up time on the descents. The Camp Fortune climb is a really excellent one but all good things come to an end. We soon came to Champlain Lookout and then headed back towards Ottawa.

Although the weather was gorgeous, the auto traffic was non-stop as all the non-athletes came to look at the Fall colours. We could not ride side-by-side very much as the cars came endlessly but the descents were fun, as always. At one point I was passed by a big BMW motorcycle and had no trouble matching his speed downhill.

After we left the park, I rode eastwards and went to Orleans to drop in on some friends. The wind on the Rockcliffe Parkway was terrible but at the moment I got to the worst part, a huge guy on a Cannondale passed me and I pulled in right behind him. Working together, we were hitting speeds of 42 km/h or so into the wind. It was fun but since my coach wanted me to keep my heart rate below 75 per cent of maximum today I had to back off a bit. At St. Joseph Blvd. we stopped to chat a bit and then I continued to Orleans. The ride back was brutally hard as I ended up taking the full force of the headwind. But still, 101 kms ridden, with 1100 vertical m of climbing. I doubt if there will be many more days like this before winter comes.


Will said...

Big ride, great pics, the colours look about the same as here.

When I am elected Prime Minister, cars will be banned in Gatineau (my greatest cycling skill is finding car-free routes - luckily not too hard here)

Sprocketboy said...

That alone gets you my vote. I think at one time they closed the roads to cars and only allowed shuttle buses (and, of course, bicycles) during the peak times. It really was a circus there today--all those drivers emitting noxious fumes so that they could enjoy Nature from behind glass.