I recently did a 500 km ride along Vancouver Island and it got me thinking about how, when I was younger and racing downhill, I would tease my older friends.
I’d tell them they were too old to be fast anymore so they had to ride further to make up for their diminishing speed.
For me, racing downhill was about precision and perfection. Every corner, every rock and every rut had to be committed to memory. You had to push at 100 per cent from the start line to the finish line. Your composure had to be bang on, because the smallest of mistakes could cost you half a second and the entire race, all in a blink of an eye. I looked at it as a great challenge, combining body and mind, fitness and skill.
In my mid-thirties, I was still racing downhill when I was invited to do a seven-day cross country race. The BC Bike Race travelled around Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and through the Whistler Corridor. I went from racing 4 or 5 minutes at a time to racing 4 or 5 hours at a time…day after day. It was a life changer to say the least.
Maybe I was just getting old and slow so I had to go further to keep the fire burning, or maybe I just grew up and realized there is way more to riding than just speed.
Through multi-day races, big epic rides and amazing road trips over the last 10 years, I have experienced as much as I ever did racing DH. Yeah, it’s way different and that half second turned into a half hour, but one style is just as challenging as the other. Riding at 100 per cent for five minutes is extremely painful, but riding up the Malahat at the end of a 500km ride hurts pretty good too!
Thirty seconds before a DH race I would feel like puking, and the night before a seven-day cross country race I am in the exact same spot. It might sound odd, but Its a great feeling – anticipation, fear and excitement all mixed together and overwhelming you.
I still love to go as fast as I can and the steep downhill sections on the big epic rides are my favourite by far, but I feel like a more balanced cyclist these days. I’m happy to do a weekend in the mountain bike park, or a four-hour road ride, or a seven-day mountain bike race. Each of these are a big challenge, a great experience and a true adventure. I’m just a bit slower when I do it now.
Maybe I should start teasing some young fast guys about their lack of endurance…
I’m James Durand and I’m Goin’ Ridin’…