Monday 17 July 2023

Tour de Whitewater, July 15, 2023

With the Covid-19 pandemic basically killing all travel plans and the inertia that takes over when one is retired, I realized that it has been ages since I went riding anywhere outside of Ottawa, with the last major cycling trip being along the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2017!  Figuring that the least I could do was get to know this region a bit better, I discovered an event taking place west of Ottawa that was a reasonable drive away.  The Tour de Whitewater in Westmeath, Ontario, offered a number of different distances and so warranted a two hour drive to get there.

Of course, getting there turned out not to be as easy as I expected.  The Queensway in Ottawa, the main east-west highway, was closed as there has been major work going on in bridge reconstruction, so going that way was not an option.  Crossing the river into Quebec, there was a slow drag through Gatineau, getting every single stop light even though there was no traffic whatever at 5 o'clock in the morning, but then the road was quite pleasant and I let the Corvette off the throttle a bit.  There are very few bridges across the Ottawa River west of the city but there is a small two lane one behind a small hydroelectric plan at Portage du Fort.

The organizers had even put up a YouTube video showing the 100 km route which, while not looking exactly like the Swiss Alps, offered at least a chance to ride some new, and probably very quiet, rural roads.

I was directed to a good parking spot beside the local hockey arena as the volunteers were concerned that the Corvette was too low to get into the temporary lot they were using.  I registered inside and noted that the changing rooms were ideal for my quick-change into cycling gear.  I enjoyed a coffee and a donut and breakfast was available for those wanting it. I unpacked the bike (to the bemusement of several people who were surprised you could fit a bike into the back of a Corvette), got changed and joined the others getting ready at the start line.  I chatted with a lady from Orleans (east of Ottawa) who was wearing a jersey that indicated she had done a bike tour in Italy.

The organizers told me that they had 400 registrations, with one-quarter doing the 100 km route.  There was a group of younger riders on fast carbon bikes who were going to run a paceline from the way things looked.  It was to prove so as after the start at 8:00 am sharp I only saw them once as they passed in the opposite direction.  Slowly riding out with a big group, I looked around are realized we were all of a certain age, although I soon found myself riding beside someone in his 30s who was good company and quite proud of his new-to-him fancy carbon bicycle.  However, although I was riding a fairly relaxed pace, all those months of training in the Pain Cave were showing results as I pulled away easily on each climb and soon found myself alone.

The first part of the ride had some nice rolling climbs but I was surprised when at around 25 kms we came to Beachburg and the first rest stop.  I didn't see much point in stopping so just took a photo and headed onwards.

Although I had loaded the course onto my GPS unit, I was somewhat confused when I saw the fast people riding back along the road I was going down, not realizing that the course ran down one road and then up another that was parallel.  So after reading down the long straight and rather boring Queen's Line Road, I turned right at Chenaux, following Chenaux Road east but then got confused at Magnesium Road, which led me to Mine View Road.  At this point, I could not figure out the way so just rurned around and went back--realizing later that if I followed Mine View Road for its full length south I would have been on the right track!  

No matter.  After the long drag back along Queen's Line Road, I turned right onto Foresters Falls Road, which soon enough took me to the small town of, yes, Foresters Falls.  Here was the second rest stop and it was very busy.  I took a short break but really should have joined the long line and filled up my water bottles but my Tommasini attracted a great deal of attention and being the proud owner I had to answer lots of questions.  

The next stretch along the Grants Settlement Road was the best part of the ride, going for around 15 kms alongside the Ottawa River.  There were some sharp little climbs and I paid the price as I seized up with bad legs cramps.  Luckily I had brought my Hot Shot stuff with me and that took care of the problem right away, although it tastes pretty terrible.  I continued along the edge of the river, rejoining Lapasse Road, which was part of the outgoing route, then turned left onto Gore Line, which brought me on a very straight course back to the finish line in Westmeath.  Of course, the few little hills on this road were enough to start the cramps up again but I persevered.

After getting changed and packing up the bike, I enjoyed a simple lunch in the arena, and was particularly happy to have something to drink, going through several bottles of water.  It had not been a very hot day or very windy but I was definitely dehydrated.  

Returning to Ottawa, this time I drove along the Trans-Canada Highway, stopping at friends in Carp where I had arranged to use their shower as I knew it would be a long trip home.  In fact it was pretty bad as all the alternative routes to the Queensway were completely snarled up and instead of the usual hour to get home from Carp it took closer to two and a half.  But arrive I did in the end.

The ride itself (except for getting a bit lost and having cramps) went well enough.  I ended up adding 12 kms to the official route, making my Tour de Whitewater 116 kms long and there was around 500 m of climbing involved.  I was surprised that my average speed was 29 km/h since I rode almost the entire course alone but the Tommasini is such a pleasure to ride quickly once you find a rhythm.   It would have been nice to work with a group but I could not find anyone riding at my speed so perhaps my next ride does not need to be an official event I have to pay for since I ride alone anyway!  At the arena I did see a flyer for a ride near Eganville, the Tour de Bonnechere, in August and that looked interesting as I heard someone say how hard it was!