P2A Reports

Well that was a contrast from last year.

I knew I was in trouble last year when Devin told me he is racing the real race this year. Figuring I had to ride with him he was given the option of 70km on a tandem or the family ride with his Mum. I know I got a definite yes to the tandem even if he denies it.

We got to the start and once he saw his CX friends he decided we were getting to the start way earlier than required. I left him with the bike and he proceeded to tell everyone that would listen he hadn’t agreed to sign up for the 70 and his Dad made him do it. One the race started I had to remind him repeatedly that I knew how to draft and going mach 10 isn’t the solution for a longer race. But apparently I’m an idiot and not to be listened too. He quickly made us force the pace and ride from the middle of W3 to the front of it. Within 15 minutes we could see a significant number of W2, once he recognized some KW kids he made us jump across, at one point I was doing 500watts and I could feel him push through the pedals.

I knew things would go wrong, it was just a matter of time. Once we hit the hard climb on Glen Morris Rd we went backwards, tandems aren’t for going uphill. We found more wheels got stuck in the usual congestion but weas generally moving really well.

Then we hit the field of nightmares. The tandem is far too heavy to carry, the mud was stopping the wheels from turning. Devin lost his shoes countless times, and got distracted helping a LCW rider unclog her wheels. I got to the sbend in the field and then had to go back retrieve a shoe and give him a piggy back to the bike. Decided it was easiest to push him down the hill as he rode the bike, then forced him to dismount as the bike got stuck. This resulted in more stuck shoes and me having to lift the soles of his shoes as he pulled. But we could see the end and made it out. Devin was laughing and complaining at the same time.

Thankfully I was still and idiot and my recommendation to eat and drink was ignored. And now the how long left questions were coming, I was always constructive with the distance, but made sure it was getting smaller each time. But within 20 minutes Devin was pretty much done as he got colder and colder.

On the plus side the traffic started picking up as we were getting caught, so lots of positive reactions to the Tandem. Although by this point Devin didn’t care and was lecturing me about never riding his bike again, and that he never agreed to this… By the time we hit the long rail trail I was on my own so an hour of lugging a dead weight, I managed to get a couple of short burst from Devin on the climbs with a lot of whimpering. The final climb was a mixture of walking riding and pain, until we hit the final crowds.

We finished went inside to warm up, was repeatedly told about never riding a bike again. Within 20 minutes Devin had found ski friends and was on the bike trainers. In a very Igor fashion he reminded me he wasn’t riding a bike as the trainer doesn’t move, but accepted he was at least pedaling something. The last part was fitting after thinking about how all the rides with Igor prepared me for those conditions.

Devin has since told me we are doing the 100 next year, I’m a lot less certain about that one.

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I did the Classic (~70 km) route with @TommyB. It was my first time – both for P2A and for riding any kind of gravel event. For me, it was an event in two chapters.

Chapter one was from the start to about 35 kms or so. I tend to undereat and drink, so I set up reminders on the computer, which really helped. We started at the end (Start 5), so wanted to move into a group that was close to our pace before things got too narrow. The inital pace was pretty snappy for me, but soon settled into something that I felt was maintainable. The route at this point was pretty familiar from what we ride around here – bits of paved road, smooth trail and dirt roads. So far so good.

We hit that first narrow muddy bit and, though it was slow going, the bike has enough gear and grip to make (very slow!) forward progress until we go to the point where most folks dismounted and walked. So – did that section on foot, but still felt pretty good about my progress. Despite the rain, I wasn’t too cold and regular eating/drinking meant I was ready for the rest of the race. Or, so I thought!

Chapter 2 started a bit after that section. We were coming along a wider path and came to a downill section. I squeezed the brakes and slowly went down. Oh well, I was told a fall was kind of likely and it happened pretty slowly and didn’t hurt me or the bike, so no biggie. I assumed, based on how much lever I grabbed that I simply locked up the wheels, which seemed kind of dumb of me, but didn’t really think anything of it until a bit later down that path on a downhill section when I went to slow down and realized I hardly had any brakes!

The bike (Kona Rove) runs TRP Spyre C Mechanical brakes and I’ve never had any issues with them – until now. With the rain and the grit, there was regular sound of grit rubbing up against the rotors/pads, but on the paved sections it went away and I didn’t really think anything of it as I’ve heard that periodically on club gravel rides this winter. Usually, brake application wiped the rotors clean and the noise temporatily went away and the brakes came back. Not this time! Once I got to the bottom of the hill, I used the water bottle to flush the muck away from the brakes and did a quick adustment of the pads and got some braking back, but they felt very gritty still.

After pushing the bike through the mud field – and spending a lot of time trying to get the muck off the bike I almost immediately threw a chain (and had to use some more water to get the worst of the much off the drivetrain), then shortly after again had hardly any brakes, and had to repeat the clean and adjust to get back on the bike.

The rest of the ride was a fun game of “will I have brakes?” The muddly chutes were pretty crowded, with a mix of people walking and I mostly didn’t try to ride a lot of them – my mud bike handling skill are pretty rudementary and I never was sure how much brakes I’d have. So they were … long!

The second half of the ride involved a lot of stops to clear out muck from the drivetrain (so I could shift!) and brakes (so I could stop). When we got to the rail trail near the end and I could settle in without needed to stop or shift much, I actually still felt pretty decent. Physically, the final climb did break me a little (I walked the steepest section between the two bends as my quads were starting to cramp). And, I have a lot to learn on how to handle a bike in that kind of pudding-like mud. But, the ride was defined for me by the challenge around brakes and a drivetrain that sounded disconceningly like a glass jar full of bolts by the end.

So – fellow P2A riders – is that just part of the ride? Does the grit just chew through brake pads and I should have swaped to new (probably metallic) pads before the ride and just expected to make a few in-ride adjustments? Hydros would be better (they are self adjusting!) but do those riding hydros still find P2A chews through pads? What about drivetrains – I used a ‘wet’ lube the night before, but shifting was pretty inconsistent once the drivetrain was coated in mud! Cleaning off the muck with water mostly brought shifting back, but probably meant little of that lube survived the ride. What do people who know what they are doing do? Do people lube mid-ride?

Totally understand that mechanical discs and SRAM Apex are not going to perform like top-shelf components. And, I overheard others with braking/shifting challenges. But, since there’s a lot of P2A vets here, I’m wondering how much is normal – and what the usual tactics are to mitigate these issues. Noob questions, but when it comes to P2A, I’m a noob!

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Hey Tony,

Sounds like an awesome ride! I’ve done P2A 5 times or so and have never heard so many people talk about spent pads. I think it was primarily the wet and smooshy sandy-gravel roads in the area that did it the most - it’s not normally that wet and gritty. I have GRX hydros so probably lucky that I didn’t notice my front pads were totally gone until cleaning afterwards. My rear pads were brand new, so still have life. I also used wet lube, but I’m not sure what the wise move is there.

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Here’s my report:

Mud. The end.

That sums it up, but I’ll elaborate: for me, it was a wondrously fun ride that was somehow possibly enhanced by the terrible conditions. Being wet and dirty right from the start meant there was no avoiding the grime, just embracing it.

After my warmup to the start, I was already wet and could hear my drivetrain cringing; the sandy gravel in the area seems to be particularly prone to gritting up a chain quick. True to form, I arrived at Wave 1 of the Classic distance with three minutes till go-time. Not ideal, but I managed to prepare myself and have a gel. My tardiness meant I didn’t have a great spot to start the wave and found I was further back than I wanted once we got rolling. It didn’t help that I forgot to remove my headband and had to slow down for a minute to get that off.

My goal was to try to hang onto the front group of W1 as long as I could; that went out the window pretty quickly as I saw the lead stretch out down the road and I didn’t muster the courage or strength to bridge those gaps. In hindsight, I think I wrongfully assumed there would be a larger group staying together initially and there wouldn’t have been so many splits within 5 minutes.

Oh well. I jumped around small groups for the first half of the race. It didn’t seem like groups were working very collaboratively, or if one did, the sectors were really breaking things up. I probably spent too much time in the wind trying to close gaps, but it felt good and I had fun doing it.

I’ll call it “Farmer’s Despair” Mudfield. Last year, that field was ridable with large stretches of mud we could try to fly through. I’m sure none of us realized the extent of sorrow we were entering until cresting the rise before the s-bend. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the sight of this ridiculous situation. I tried riding again down the hill after the bend, but endo’d in slow motion, and slammed my bars into the ground, throwing off my stem alignment and knocking my shifter siding. A little bit of elbow grease set that mostly straight, though I was a little off balance the rest of the way due to the crooked shifter.

On the pavement before the the rail trail, I swapped turns with a rider who went on to win the women’s Classic cat, and then we were joined by another rider to rotate with down the rail trail.

After that, the race seems to blow apart as riders try to survive the last 10km and scatter across the gravel roads. Coming out of the Mineral Springs mud chute, with the wide-open view of the wetland and turning up Slote Rd on the right, is always a moment when I soak in the beauty of this race. I had long become used to having zero visibility with muddy glasses, but finally realized I still had my headband to wipe off my glasses. I could see! (although I realized today that my wiping attempts have left scratches all over my lenses). One more hilarious wipeout on the Powerline slide punctuated an otherwise clean run through the final mud sectors. I absolutely love the final twisty road sections on Mineral Springs as we brace for the final push - so epic!

I went a minute slower up Ol Martin this year than last, probably due to the conditions and also working harder throughout. I just barely avoided grinding to a halt on the steepest grade, but stayed on the bike and found some strength to finish it off.

It was nice to see Andrew L afterwards and grab some food, but I had to ride 20k back to my car, so didn’t stick around for long. I warmed up after a bit of riding, but the first few shivery minutes hitting the road again were not pleasant!

Already looking forward to next year.

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The mud and grit trashed brakepads, type wouldn’t have made much difference. Sure hydros would have adjusted but you may not have been better off.

Conditions were only superceded for me by the sir sams mtb ocup last year where i ate through a set of metalic pads in about 8 km.

As it stands I owe Alain a set of brake pads and maybe more for the tandem. My gravel bike made it on the podium courtesy of Larrisa, but it needs a new propietary seat post.

As for shifting the conditions were disasterous, but the tandem handled the muc surprisingly well, although we dumped the chain off the two cranks once. In terms odlf drivetrains the only things that really work when gummed up are single speeds and di2. Axs seems less reliable in the muc amd mechanical is less predictable once mud coats the cables.

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Thanks for this and Mark’s comment. I really had no idea what to expect and kept wondering how I went wrong! It feels better to know that the conditions were tough on equipment and part of the point is figuring out how to manage the challenges as they come.

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Experience also helps.

I saw Ryan De Groote (if you race you know the name) he was advising everyone to run a section of downhill trail. I asked him if he was sure, to paraphrase the look and response " you would be fine on a CX bike but not so sure of the tandem"

Races like these are always a learning experience and a little luck goes a long way. Best part is you will be retelling the stories for many years.

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Great write-up Rob! Get it in writing while you can (the 100 commitment!)

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I can’t remember much of the race but my skin feels beautiful this morning. What do they put in that mud?

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Photos are available now (pay to download): FinisherPix | 6509 | Paris to Ancaster 2023

They managed to get me when I felt pretty good and when I was struggling, so pretty representative!

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2023 marked my second year riding the Breve iteration of P2A on my single speed cross bike. Although Strava told me my fitness was on par with last year, my ‘build up’ to this year’s P2A wasn’t where I wanted it to be. If I couldnt be as fit, I thought this year I could be more prepared, which was a pretty low bar. Last year I showed up at my designated start time to find myself leaving alone and playing catch up all of wave 1 and 2. Hey, if it could happen to Pedro Delgado I must be in good company.

This year I vowed to be early so I lined up in the rain, spotted @Brian at the start and soaked up the atmosphere (sorry, not sorry). Last year was an adrenalin filled pursuit cursing my tardiness. This year, with questionable fitness, my plan was to ride my own race and not push too hard, too early. I quickly lost sight of Brian as everyone with more than one gear (or more fitness) slowly rode away from me.

Last year there was a lot of congestion at some of the pinch points on the course where people got stuck or opted to walk rather than riding through the obstacles. Maybe it was because I started so much earlier (aka on-time) but I was able to ride into each section with minimal delay. I expected the muddy sections to be unrideable, especially on my well worn and over inflated tires and 2:1 gear ratio but I decided I would attempt to ride each section before bailing out and soldiering through the mud. I fully expected to make it on to someone’s Instagram blooper reel but much to my surprise riding through Powerline mudslide and some of the other mud pits went better than I thought.

I was definitely faster through the messy stuff (even riding half the farmers field), but my lack of conditioning caught up to me on the rail trail. I was attempting to keep up with a fellow rider on a single speed but he was a little too fast (or I a little too slow) and I decided to stay with my plan and ride my own race and keep something for the final climb.

Once again I questioned my life choices over those last 2km’s. 36-18 was too much gear, and I too heavy to try and muscle up that length of a climb. I took solstice in the company of fellow racers with geared bikes having also to push their bikes up the steepest parts of the final ascent.

My wife and daughter were tracking my progress and thought I must have crashed. Nope, thats just how long it took me on the final 2km - a whopping 25 minutes!

So next year I may invoke N+1 and purchase a gravel bike with one of those new fangled derailleurs. Or not. There is something freeing about riding a beater of a bike not having to worry about my rims/frame/fork. Then again, upgrading from cantilever brakes would seem so 2000s.

Till next years P2A

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