Today was the Eastern Townships Challenge, a.k.a. "Le Défi des Cantons de l'Est" (note the absence of hyphens to spite the twits at the Commission du Toponomie du Québec (or what ever the hell it is called) who insist on putting hyphens everywhere and were trying to add a wodge of "de"s, "la"s, and "du"s to names of Metro stations on excessively officious grammatical grounds.) Anyway, the forecast had called for rain, and I had been half tempted to spare myself the expense of renting a car to get there by not going. I would have been in good company.
"Trattoria di Mike" (formerly known as Mike's Pizzas). It began to rain shortly after I left the parking lot. I pulled out my rain gear and kept it on for most of the day. The rain was a devious bastard as it sometimes let up for just long enough for you think the day might turn out nice then snuck up on you when you thought it wouldn't. I stopped more than my parents so they were just behind me in Ste Cécile de Milton where the first extra loop began. I had stopped under the eaves of a dépanneur so we had a quick confab before going our divergent ways: they took the regular 100 km version, whereas I added 26 km to my day by going all the way to Saint Pious (St-Pie).
After rejoining the main 100 km circuit, I laboured under increasing rain towards Roxton Falls, where lunch was to be had. This involved riding up a 3.2 km hill that was covered in slick clay. Despite Leonardo's "adventure" tires, the climb was tiring and I stopped for a rest at the top to catch my breath. Another cyclist was in discussion about catching the sag wagon as far as the lunch stop with one of the "encadreurs". To be honest, I really wasn't paying attention to the discussion, partly as it was taking place in French. (While I am fluent in French, it takes me a bit more energy to understand French than English. As I was a bit tired, I wasn't sparing the energy.) So I was a bit taken aback when the encadreur offered me the chance to catch the sag wagon as well. I demurred, saying that I was good at least until lunch despite the rain.
The rain. Thankfully, the day was relatively warm (around 20 Celsius). Else wise, I might bailed.
Equally worthy of thanks was that the lunch stop took place at a primary school and there was a gym where I could eat indoors. I cadged a seat and listened to the gossip as I ate. The consensus was that many people hadn't come to the event on account of the weather. Halfway through lunch, I was startled by the arrival the sweeps. Apparently, I was at the end of the herd which wasn't a pleasing feeling. While I freely admit, I am not as fast as most of the spandex crowd, I like to think that I keep up a decent clip. I also know that while I am not very fast, I can keep going longer than many people.
The weather kept many from either starting or finishing the tour. I saw a full van-and-trailer load of cyclists leaving as I walked back to my bike. At the risk of sounding macho, I would hazard that the bulk those that remained were the "hardcore". And other these, the bulk came from my category, the one that I try to keep my parents in: the buffalo.
Years ago, I read a bad novel about U.S. Navy SEALs written by an ex-SEAL. At one point, he refers to the survivors of the grueling selection process as falling into two categories: the antelopes and the buffalo. The antelope are those that have the physique and mental capacity to be able to dash through the tests relatively easily. The buffalo, on the other hand, tend to be slower, but tougher. Rather than dashing, they shoulder their way through, enduring the elements.
I see the bulk of the spandex crowd as antelopes. They are relatively "fair weather" cyclists, typically packing minimalist rain gear. Their strategy for dealing with adverse weather, such as rain, is to push hard towards the end so they can get out of it as quickly as possible.
My parents are in their early seventies. This should not be thought as a demeaning statement, simply as a statement of fact. They are quite fit all things considered, but I don't see them as being particularly fast cyclists or ever going to be. The latter is particularly true of my Father (whom I love dearly). He is a burly individual who has never been, in my memory, slim. Fit, yes. But not slim. I doubt that he could ever be both healthy and slender. He has the buffalo physique. I sometimes describe him as a Santa Claus whom you could imagine wrestling recalcitrant reindeer into harness.
Therefore, over the years, I have endeavoured to make my parents recognise that they should bring proper rain gear along despite the fact that the antelope spandex crowd were going by them with much less clobber. Today was a day where the buffalo strategy paid off.
The ride back to Bromont was fairly tough. At some points, I might well have thrown in the towel. I should have changed my jersey at lunch. I had been wearing a spandex affair under soft shell jacket and a lightweight Louis Garneau waterproof shell. However, I had a slightly ratty merino jersey in my pannier, but it was only well after I left Roxton Falls that I decided I should put it on. It was raining hard enough at that point that I didn't want to stop to put it on without shelter and it was only about 5 kilometers further on that I found a gazebo-like structure in a cemetary where I could put on the dryish and thermally useful garment. (The structure was something of a memorial (complete with plaques that I barely read) to some Pères Demers who had been priests in the area back in the day. I am pretty sure there were more than one of them.)
The latter part of the day saw me rolling in company of an encadreur who was vaguely concerned about me, as I had mentioned that I was discouraged on account of the weather, a white haired man on a road bike and a "trendoid" on a hybrid bike with an "urban" helmet who was listening to music from his MP3 player with earbuds. I tried to distance myself from him.
I stopped at dépanneur in Warden to check for messages on my iPhone. I wasn't terribly successful as despite my efforts it had been exposed to too much water. While I was in the store, a couple of locals asked me what all the cyclists were up to? Was it a charity event? I pulled out my favoured explanation, namely that it was an expenditure reduction event for Quebec Healthcare: the more people ride, the less it would have to spend! They were amused, but one of them insisted on checking my pulse. He was satisfied and commented that I must do this sort of thing a fair bit. I didn't say that over the years I have ridden most of the way across Canada.
Anyway, I made it to Bromont and went back to the car where I was pleased to see the Parents waiting for me. After some sweet milk, we agreed that none of us wanted bother trying to find a restaurant in Granby, so we went our separate ways.
After a leisurely bath accompanied with some white wine, Mummy phoned to say that she had been surprised at how quickly I had shown up at the end. Apparently, they had only been their about 15-20 minutes despite the fact that I ridden an extra 26 kms. My stats for the day are a riding time of 6 hours and 2 minutes covering 128.59 kms for an average speed of 21.3 km/h with a maximum speed of 52.7 km/h. To this I must confess that about 3-4 kms of travel weren't covered at the start as I hadn't properly clicked my Velo8 bike computer into place. Mummy said her average speed was a disappointing to her (though understandable) 16 km/h (or thereabouts).