MTB Kingston: The Kingston Snophy Fatbike Race
I love the fatbiking. Conditions? Pfft. Weather? Pfft. It doesn’t matter, especially when I’m on my Cannondale FatCaad2.
Sure, when the weather and conditions are perfect, which rarely happens in Toronto, it’s a sustained fatbikegasm. But racing in less-than-perfect conditions is STILLSOAWESOME.
When it’s too warm–as it often is–it’s slush and ugh, but still so cool.
When it’s too cold–as it also often is–it’s brrr and frozen extremicles, but still so very boss.
When the snow is deep and powdery–which it rarely is–it’s ugh and ugh, but still very very wicked.
Even when the snow isn’t set, or if the trail is wet, or if hikers ruined it when it warmed for a minute yesterday, or if a billion things, it can be a challenge, but still…
Each condition is different, but each condition is rideable–especially on a fatbike. In fact, the rougher the weather, the better the story…
So, as I often sometimes never do, I checked the forecast leading up to the Kingston Snophy (race #4 in the Substance Projects 45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Series, presented by Cannondale). Snow on Thursday (race on Saturday). Awesome! MTB Kingston is renowned for being wicked, and fresh snow would just add to the fun, so I was eagerly anticipating a good rip. Also, since my last fatbike race was, um, I want to say really really really bad, I needed a proper rip to exorcise the demon.
And, just as expected on Thursday, it snowed.
Except the snow came down from the sky in what I think is called “not-snow”. It rained.
It rained, but then it got cold. Wohoo!
Wait, that’s not good.
All conditions are rideable…and fun…and wicked…and then there’s ice.
Yup, Elsa visited MTB Kingston after the rain, and she must have been really really really upset with her sister, because she let loose with ice, ice, and more ice ice baby.
By the way, it’ll really help it you read all those “Do do do, d’d’do-dew” lines like the bass at the beginning of “Under Pressure” by Queen. Maybe I should have written that earlier.
Anyway, between the ice (and a 2.5 hour drive to Kingston), the outlook for the day was bleak. Lying in bed, nursing a cold that had nipped at my resolve for a few weeks, and suffering the achy pangs of a fitful sleep (and with my horrible performance at Georgian Nordic still fresh in my mind), I almost thought about ditching the whole thing. (Un)Fortunately, I have this Team Colin Ethos thing. Rule #Something is: never cancel a race or ride while still in bed. My body rarely cooperates with me, it cooperates even less when I’m tired (and I’m always tired), and the cozy comfort under my blankets is ALWAYS better than the first creaking and grunting steps of a new day.
Stupid Team Colin Ethos….
I got out of bed.
With a brrrr and a groan, followed by much creaking and even more groaning, I made my way to the kitchen. Damn, I was tired.
I just didn’t want to be up.
I thought to myself “Hmm, what does the Team Colin Ethos say about ditching a race AFTER getting out of bed?” Sadly, it says the same thing.
I dragged my heels, pouted a bit, and searched for valid reasons to stay home, but within the hour, I was awake (well, sort of), packed (yes, actually), and ready to go (in the most hesitant and petulant way possible).
On the plus side, I wouldn’t be alone. My family came with me so they could spend the day with my mom, who lives off the highway enroute to Kingston, and it was nice to chat with them about their week. My family is so much fun. When I dropped them off, mon ami Simon (he’s French) was waiting for me so that he could come to the race. Simon is fun too. Hat buddies!
On the not-so plus side, with the ice, there was no way I was going to be able to mitigate the colossal awfulness of my last race…that time everything went wrong at Georgian Nordic.
Mon ami Simon (he’s French) wasn’t racing. He just came to spend the day with me and bask in the glory of a bike race. Awesome. We chatted on the drive, hoping for the best, and when we arrived at MTB Kingston, we weren’t disappointed. It was the best possible worst conditions I could have imagined. There wasn’t a shell or a skin of ice. There was a thick, impossible-to-crack-layer, of skatable ice. The Substance people at the Registration Desk were cautioning riders without studs (read: telling them not to race).
I was faced with a decision: To race or not to race?
Crap. Team Colin Ethos…
Plus, I didn’t drive that far to complain about the ice.
The Kingston Snophy was either a 1.5 hour, or 3 hour lap race (do as many laps in the allotted time).
I registered, and used Simon’s presence as an excuse to ride the short course (“Well gee, I can’t make mon ami wait around all day…) but really, I was just super scared of the course. Ice hurts, especially when you’re delicate like me.
Simon and I greeted our peeps.
Then I set up the audio system (BTW, who brings Wham! to a bike race? Me, that’s who), and I got ready. The talk around registration was about one thing: Ice. I was too busy getting ready and grooving to my playlist (that, I’m just sayin’, was decently loaded with lots of 80s tunes).
Also, I was terrified. I imagined myself slip sliding all the way back to Toronto.
Race Report: Kingston Snophy. February 9, 2019. (Glenburnie, ON @MTB Kingston)
If ice was the word before the race, what was the word during?
Wait for it…
Damn, it was fun. Like, seriously perfect, awesomely wicked, fatbike fun. For everything that went wrong at Georgian Nordic a few weeks ago, it all went right at MTB Kingston.
The START was almost a kilometre away from the Registration desk, down in a valley, and barely visible. Everybody was there. Except me. Dan was giving his final pre-race instructions to the racers, and I thought I’d just sneak into the back of the pack.
Um, no. I rolled in with a distinctively loud “plucka plucka plucka” as my studded tires echoed off the ice and trees and ice. It’s always nice to have a subtle pressence. Or so I’ve heard.
The race started with a spin and a slip, but not for me. I was rocking my loaner 45NRTH Wrathchild studded dreams, and they were spectacular. I can honestly say that I don’t remember losing purchase once throughout the race.
The usual snarl of the first lap was kinda fun. With the slow pace, there was a relaxed banter between the racers, and it was awesome to have absolute confidence in my tires. There were several times that a roller coaster of riders ahead of me were tackling a short dip, each of them gingerly spinning and/or falling, while I held a track stand and waited in queue, before hitting the dip and nailing it.
I beat myself up a lot, but thanks to many many many hours at Joyride 150, I’m almost a decent technical rider, and the race buoyed my confidence for the spring race season that lies ahead.
Despite the slow pace at the start of the first lap, I was booking it, and my lap time was fast (like, probably top 10). Unfortunately, I paced myself behind some fast riders, and nearly blew my lungs through my back.
I took a minute to find some oxygen. Then I took a few more to finish my heart attack.
The second and third laps were just as awesome (although a lot slower). The course was a sweet mix of the usual MTB Kingston tight singletrack, some open areas, and a grunty climb out of the valley to the LAP/FINISH. By the middle of the third lap, the sun was high above and shining through the trees, and I even heard a few birds chirping in the sunlight. Spectacular.
End of Race Report.
Before I end, I need to talk about MTB Kingston. Simply put, Rob Sangers and the rest of MTB Kingston are just amazing. They love the sport, they have an awesome facility, and their trails are a thing of beauty. The love and care they take in grooming and prep is apparent everywhere, and I’m awed every time I ride their trails. Honestly, they just keep getting better and better. So awesome.
So that’s it. The next–and last–fatbike race of the season is at Hardwood Hills, on March 10th. Given the past two races, it’s anyone’s guess what Mother Nature is going to throw at me, but whatever it is, good or bad, ice or rain or snow, brimstone or hellfire, I can’t wait.
A few more shots from the day: