Saturday, April 16, 2005

'05 North Shore Ripper: 7th Secret Relay

Today I participated in the '05 North Shore Ripper Series put on by NSMBA ( and NSMB ( I did the downhill section of the race and Paul my buddy from work did the up hill portion of the race. My buddy Rob and Paul's wife Sue also participated in the race as a Coed team. Basically you can ride the race solo and do both the uphill and downhill portions of the course or you can have 2 people where one does the uphill and the other the downhill section of the course. The course consisted of pedaling up to Seventh Secret on the fire access road and the second rider ripping down Seventh, Leopard ,Kirkford ,Crinkem Crankem ,Griffen to the finish line.

The weather on race day was most typical for an early spring day in Vancouver on The Shore: it was cold, wet and misty but then again if you are from these parts you are very used to these conditions. The day for Rob and I started off 7am, registration at a local school and then we both hopped on a shuttle up to the top of Fromme at the 7th switch back.

This is a picture of me helping set up the registration tent (I'm in red).

It was the very kind and hospitable guys at Bush Pilot Guides ( drove us to the top of the hill all warm and dry with plenty of time before our leg of the race started. On the way up I called Paul to make sure that he and Sue were ready to race at the start line......standing around in the rain :-)

So once we were at the top is was a short pedal to the tag off area where our leg of the race started. Rob and I had plenty of time before the race, so we pedaled a little further up the hill to ride one of the lesser traveled trails (Squeaky Elbow) to keep warm. There were patches of snow here and there when we were pedaling up the road which shows just how cold it was today.

The really cool thing about riding on the Shore is that you get to ride with and in my case race against world famous pro riders that you see in magazines and in videos. Today I raced against Wade Simmons....well kind of. Wade Simmons is easily the nicest and most approachable professional rider that I have ever met. He would have every right to have an ego the size of a mountain, but in his case there isn't even the tiniest inkling of an ego. He is just a humble cool guy that rides a bike with more skill and style than most people could ever imagine.

Another 'Pro' that was in the downhill portion of the race was Jay Hoots. He is also a pretty cool guy and very sociable. He was riding a Norco Prototype 4X bike that is a rather interesting design for Norco. It is still a 4 bar Horst link type design, but reconfigured to have a conventional front triangle and a full seat post.

Here is a drawing of the type of design the Norco 4X bike that Jay Hoots had. This is only a drawing of the frame design that I observed on the day of the race.

So once the race started at the base of the hill people really started to get excited in the exchange zone we had about 25 minutes until the uphill guys reached us and we could then start the DH leg of the race. It was interesting listening to the conversations of people, "Yeah my guy is really fast, I'll be in the top 10", "Hey look at Wade Simmons, who is his partner?", "Man I gotta go pee" etc. The top 2 up hill riders had a little bit of a gap on the rest of the field and off went their downhill partners. Wades guy was a Rocky Mountain Factory XC Team member and sent Wade off in 2nd place (he ended up 2nd in the overall finish as well).

My XC leg shaving uphill rocket of a rider came up to the exchange zone through the mist in about 12th position. I yelled words of encouragement then took off for my leg of the race. We didn't simply start off at the trail head of 7th Secret, we were about a 100m from the trail head down the hill so we had to pedal up hill for a bit. I decided to have my seat post up so that I could sit and pedal an save my legs for further down the hill and I feel I made the right decision. Lowering my seat only took a couple seconds and off I was down the race course. 7th Secret was one of the original Mtn. Bike trails on Fromme/Grouse. It has evolved over they years and is what I would consider to be the absolute poster child of the North Shore, it is a durable flowing trail that has and will stand the tests of time and is an absolute blast to ride almost no matter what kind of bike you are riding.

As I said earlier, it was cold out today especially at the top. It was so cold that my braking fingers on both hands went numb and 7th is a trail that requires allot of well modulated braking. Due to a lack of focus on the trail (thinking of my fingers), I took a spill on a corner that I have ridden many times before with ease. Basically my pedal got hung up on a log on the inside of a switch back and I went FLYING at speed. After picking up my bike and remounting I noticed that there was another rider ahead of me that I had a very good chance of catching and passing. So with reckless abandon I pursued him down the trail and caught him after a short while. It is so much fun catching and passing people in a race.

Along the race course there were people filming and photographers snapping off photos in the cool spots on the trail and vultures hanging out in sections where there was sure to be some carnage.

Someone managed to catch me coming by and this picture below shows me racing down somewhere on 7th.

Now not all the DH leg of the race was downhill. There were many sections that were either up hill or traversed rolling along the mountain side. These are the sections that absolutely KILLED ME!. I was passed by 3 guys all in these sections which is really disheartening, but they got to have cool feeling I got when I passed that guy earlier in the race. I am not sure which trail I was on but there was a section where vultures were hanging out and there was a section of larger stair like step downs to a sharp corner or and easy line down the outside of this line. I took the faster line down the bigger step downs and passed a guy like he was standing still while he rode the easy line. It was awesome hearing the vultures say "holy crap!" as I ripped a that section.

So down the hill the trails went and the last portion of the race is the best place to catch and pass people if you still have the lungs. I didn't quite have the lungs to pass anyone, but I was able to make up allot of the gap they created on the uphill portion of the race. The finish line is up an embankment that you have to push your bike up in order to cross the line.

Paul and I placed 14th in our category and 15th overall which is not a bad result at all for the competition in the race. I was tuckered at the line, but I was glad to have raced. The finish line was absolutely buzzing with activity and cheering so I dumped my bike and joined in encouraging people at the finish line. It wasn't long before Sue and Paul showed up at the finish line where we waited for Rob to finish. Paul and Sue were absolutely FREEZING because not only was cold at the top, but they had just finished an all out effort uphill ride and then they turned around and coasted down a fast fire road to the bottom. They soon both found the free coffee but had trouble drinking it due to their violently shivering hands.

Rob finished the race with a big smile on his face. You know what is really crazy, this is Rob's first ever race and him and sue finished on the podium...they came in 3rd place in their category (coed) and 39th overall. So we all chatted for a few minutes but we all could tell that Paul and Sue were suffering from the cold so we said our congrats and headed to our cars.

Rob and I headed over to our vehicles, loaded our bikes, changed clothes and talked about the glory of the ripper.

Hopefully I will be participating in a few more of these Ripper Races this year.