With the Pedalhead Private Jet out of commision for the time being, a training camp in Arizona or California, or realistically anywhere warm without snow, was sadly out of the question. Myself and Coleman were left brainstorming with how to get a change of scenery while getting away from the usual responsibilities and distractions from home to spend a few days of back-to-back long rides.
My Uncle owns a cabin the mountains of Valemount, BC, so it was decided that we'd pack up our fat bikes and make the trek there. I was concerned about the amount of trails that would be rideable. Valemount is an outdoor-lovers paradise, but with its remote location and small population, I wasn't sure how much of the trails and forest service roads would be passable on bike. Jasper was our backup plan - a little over an hour away, we knew there would be plenty of riding to be had there if we couldn't find enough places to get the miles in around Valemount. Thankfully, it turns out Valemount has more than enough gorgeous scenery and riding available, even in the dead of winter!
Friday, January 16th. Day 1
We loaded up the ever-classic Race Room minivan (totally not a soccer-mom car) and made the drive. Aside from some white-knuckle sheer ice before Edson, the majority of the roads were clear and we made good time.
We pulled into Valemount around 3 pm, which was just enough time to get settled in, grab some groceries for the night and then strap on the headlights to go for a nightride!
I had no idea what would be rideable, so we set out for a bit of an exploratory ride, which ultimately led to us discovering the single track that I had in mind would not be passable. We ended up riding on Kinbasket Lake Road, a forest service road that borders Kinbasket Lake towards Revelstoke. Obviously there wasn't much to be had for views in the dead of night, but it worked as a nice warm-up for the days following.
After 2 hours, we called it a night in order to get back to the local craft brewery, Three Ranges Brewing for a pint. Perfect way to end a ride!
Saturday, January 17th. Day 2
This was our first day of real time spent in the saddle, and would also be our first day testing the waters of our new nutrition plan thanks to River Valley Health. I wasn't sure how far Kinbasket Lake Road would be maintained, but knowing it would at least be 20 km one way, we set out to ride the rolling hills alongside Kinbasket Lake. It was a windy day, and I quickly realized Coleman was in much better shape than me.
Our plan was to ride in the same zone that we would plan to be racing in, so approximately 70-80% of our max heart-rates. I could hold Coleman's wheel on the flats, but as soon as we started climbing, I couldn't match his speed without putting in some serious effort. I've been riding with Coleman for a long time, and I think I can safely say he had never dropped me on a climb before. This trip it was different!
Summiting an unknown forest service road. The views were great ahead of us, but even better behind us!
It would be easy to panic about my fitness, worry about the mismatch in fitness, or worry about my progression so far, however knowing my sickness had forced me to take the two weeks previous easy or off the bike entirely, I wasn't too concerned. It takes awhile to come around from a flu, and the fact that I was out riding the distances we were without feeling anhilated was a good sign, regardless of how hard I was getting dropped.
We rode along Kinbasket Lake Road until about 20 km in, where the road ended in a wall of snow - the road wasn't maintained past that point. However, we were lucky enough that a fork in the road (up towards an active mining site) went up to the left and was totally passable. It was also a wall of climb - the grades immediately jumped up to 18%. When all was said and done, we had climbed 9 km at an average of around 10% gradient! The road levelled out and started descending down into the adjacent valley, but worried about daylight, we turned around and headed back home after snapping a few shots. We rolled into the Brewery with a ride time of 4:30. That earns a beer, right?
Myself and Coleman are both self-described beer snobs, and the verdict is in: Three Ranges Brewery brews some of the best beers around! So good, we stopped in after every ride. #SorryShari
I spent the night worrying about the next day - my legs were sore and Coleman had destroyed me on the climb. I guess what's the point in driving all that way for a training camp if it's not enjoyably hard!
Sunday, January 18th. Day 3
New snow meant fresh tracks. Traffic was non-existent near the lake. Perfect for a peaceful training ride.
We mutually agreed that we wouldn't rush out the door for day 3, as well as take it a little easier and avoid any major climbing. We wanted to put the legs into distress, but not so much that we wouldn't be able to end the trip on day 4 with a monster ride. So back out we went on the usual Kinbasket Lake Road, but this time we turned at a road that supposedly led to a backcountry ski area. Not sure what it would entail, we started riding, and of course were met with more climbing. A very similar 10% gradient took us up. And up. And up.
A switchback on the way up provided a short section of reprieve before kicking back up
After about 30 minutes of climbing, we stopped to discuss whether to turn around or not. It was quickly turning into a difficult day of riding, which wasn't our plan. However, myself and Coleman both seem to have that curious mindset - once we're on a climb going somewhere we've never been, we both want to keep going. So onward it was.
Almost matching our elevation gain from the previous day, lack of daylight forced us to turn around before we made it to the top. I know the valley well, so I knew we were surrounded by hundreds of mountain peaks, but the clouds had socked in and fresh snow was falling so we weren't graced with the beautiful scenery that we could have been. The plus side of that being the fresh snow on the road for the descent, keeping things a little sketchy, yet fun on the way down! It was this descent where I learned what 85 km/h feels like on a fat-bike. Sketchy? Yes. Fun? Also yes!
On the way back down towards the frozen lake.
Guess where we ended our ride?
Yep, that's right, the brewery. The knew us by name there. This time, 4 hours of ride time was the total. Still worthy of a beer.
Monday, January 19th. Day 4
Myself and Coleman agreed, we wanted to reach the top of the climb we had done the day prior. So Day 4 would be the same ride, just with more climbing. Off we went down the very-familiar Kinbasket Lake Road. My legs had started to come around, so although Coleman could still drop me if he wanted, I could stay a lot closer to him on our way out to the climb.
Climb, climb, climb, climb. The views helped numb a bit of the pain from the legs.
With fatigue in our legs, the climbing was a little slower and a little more painful. Panoramic mountain views did help numb the pain. We pushed on before having to pull off the side of the road to allow a fully-loaded logging truck pick its way down the treacherous (narrow and exposed) mountain road. That explains why the road is so well maintained!
If the clouds would have cleared, the views only would've gotten even better. Hard to complain though as we descended back below the cloud level into a view like this.
2 and a half hours later, we were at the top, where a small logging crew was making quick work of some trees. After chatting to one of the loggers, we were informed that we had hit the end of the road, quite literally. We couldn't help but to be thankful that there was some logging taking place - it provided us some great routes for climbing into the Valemount backcountry!
We hit an inversion on the way down, which kept us freezing cold the entire way home. 4:30 ride time meant we had probably earned another beer, but this time, the brewery was closed. Forced to sulk our way home, we enjoyed a Three Ranges beer out of a can (still delicious) to end an awesome block of riding!
Heading back towards Valemount in the valley.
It was a great weekend of riding, hard to complain about the weather or the routes we were lucky enough to experience! Great practice getting some high mountain climbing in too! Although I have to say, I'm looking forward to getting back on a mountain bike. Fat bikes are fun, but they are SLOW! Lots of work hustling a pig like that up 1000 m of vertical.
Final Tally: 200.6 km, 3,135 m vertical, 15 hours, 1 fat-bike
Now that it's all said and done, I've already had an appointment with River Valley Health to sort out all the aches and pains from the weekend. Aside from a bit of back troubles, things went pretty smoothly. Big thanks to the crew over at RVH for keeping me feeling like a million bucks!
Oh, and in case you missed it on our Twitter, our Cape Epic kits were waiting for us when we got home! We'd like to take this time to thank all of our sponsors for their support! Race day is not far off now!
Thanks for reading!