Category: News

Performance Bicycle owner ASE files for bankruptcy

Advanced Sports Enterprises (ASE), the parent company of retail chain Performance Bicycle, as well as bike brands Fuji, Kestrel, and Breezer Bikes, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company confirmed Friday.

ASE was formed in August 2016 when Advanced Sports International merged with Performance Bicycle. The company also owns Bike Nashbar, SE, and Tuesday Cycles

Performance Bicycle is a chain of 104 bike shops throughout the U.S. According to a report by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, the bankruptcy filing may force ASE to close 40 of those retail locations, given that its retail business has been in decline.

Patrick J. Cunnane, ASE’s president and CEO, said that the Chapter 11 filing was the best way forward.

“We’ve taken a lot of steps to right the business over the past 27 months,” said Cunnane. “We have conducted an extensive review of alternatives and believe pursuing a restructuring through Chapter 11 is the best path forward to ensure ASE’s long-term success.”

He noted that BMX brand SE Bikes has been a particularly successful component in ASE’s portfolio. Also, according to the ASE press statement, sales of Fuji Bikes, Kestrel Bicycles, Breezer Bikes, and Tuesday Cycles are also steady.

In the press statement, Cunnane added that ASE’s brands will carry on throughout the process but warned that layoffs and store closures were looming.

“While ASE is undergoing the Chapter 11 process, we will continue with business as usual; orders will be fulfilled and Performance Bicycle stores will continue operating,” he added. “Employee layoffs and store closings are inevitable, but at this time I do not have enough information to announce those plans.”

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Week in Tech: Cavendish’s bike up for auction, Pivot fat bike, and a bit of kit

Dimension Data auctions off pro bikes for charity

Cervelo’s S5 has had some pretty big moments in the last few years. Now you can get your hands on some of those legendary bikes, including Mark Cavendish’s 2018 race bike. Bernie Eisel, Serge Pauwels, and Edvald Boasson Hagen have also put their bikes on the block to help the Qhubeka charity reach its target of 100,000 bicycles distributed to those in need by 2020. Qhubeka distributes bikes to rural African communities where access to basic needs like healthcare and schooling is nearly impossible without a reliable mode of transportation. The auctions are live until November 23.

Place your bids here>>

Pivot’s Les keeps the fat bike spirit alive

The snow is flying and Pivot is ready with the Les fat bike. It features 27.5-inch wheels and comes spec’d with 3.8-inch tires. But it’s got a trick up its sleeve: you can set the Les to fit just about any wheel and tire combo you can come up with, from 29+ to 27.5+, or the biggest 5-inch tires you can get your hands on. You’ll have the option of a rigid fork or Manitou’s Mastadon suspension fork, but you won’t have a choice in color: It only comes in Ice Blue. You can get your hands on the frameset for $2,500, or a complete build ranging from $4,000 to $4,250.

100% teams up with Cadence on new apparel collection

Style begets style. That’s the thinking behind the new collaboration between 100% and Cadence Collection, two brands focused on looking cool. The lineup includes jerseys, bibs, and gloves, all with styles unique to this collaboration. 100% has also lent its Peter-Sagan-approved S2 sunglasses to the lineup, now with a bold leopard print aesthetic (Ruby Tortoise, if you want to be official about it). Aside from appearances, the features of the S2 remain the same as the ones in 100%’s regular lineup.

Bikepacking in black and white? Rapha’s got bags for you

Exploring by bike is so hot right now. Rapha enters the bikepacking game with its Brevet line of frame bags. In true Rapha style, there’s an element of cool aesthetics, but these bags are made to perform, too. They’re waterproof and spacious enough for long days or multi-day trips. The lineup includes a handlebar bag, frame bags, and saddle bags, in addition to Rapha’s Brevet clothing line.

Read the full article at Week in Tech: Cavendish’s bike up for auction, Pivot fat bike, and a bit of kit on

UCI bans Cardoso four years in controversial EPO case

More than one year after André Cardoso was provisionally suspended for a failed anti-doping test that indicated the presence of banned blood booster EPO, the UCI has banned the Portuguese for four years. The cycling governing body confirmed the news Thursday.

Cardoso’s case was controversial because the results of Cardoso’s “B” sample test, performed by the Laboratoire Suisse d’Analyse du Dopage in Lausanne, Switzerland did not match that of his A sample taken just before the 2017 Tour de France on June 18.

Although a negative B sample ordinarily overrides a positive A sample, the Lausanne laboratory listed Cardoso’s result as an “Atypical Finding.” This gave the UCI leeway to sanction the 34-year-old.

Cardoso, 34, has declared his innocence from the very beginning.

“I said it is not possible. It is not possible. Is this a joke?” Cardoso told VeloNews last July. “Then I ask [the UCI’s lawyer] what is the substance, and he says, ‘EPO.’ I’m like this is crazy, nobody takes EPO. This is crazy for sure.”

Cardoso hired a lawyer and challenged the case, which dragged on for 16 months. He was given a provisional suspension from the UCI starting on June 27 of 2017.

Cardoso’s four-year ban will likely be backdated to the start of his provisional ban, meaning he would be eligible to return to pro cycling in 2021.

Cardoso turned professional in 2011 with Caja Rural before stepping up to the WorldTour in 2014 with Garmin-Sharp. He raced for three seasons with the American team before transferring to Trek-Segafredo for the 2017 season.

Cardoso said he was tested in June 2017 shortly after he completed the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he finished in 19th place. The result earned Cardoso a spot on Trek-Segafredo’s Tour de France squad for that year, which was revoked after the failed anti-doping test.

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Andrea Tafi, 52, says he has a team for Roubaix comeback

Andrea Tafi continues on his unlikely comeback to race Paris-Roubaix on the 20th anniversary of his victory. Tafi, 52, tells the Belgian press that he already has found a team that has agreed to take him on in his quest for a return to the Hell of the North.

“I already have a team, but I cannot tell you which,” Tafi told Het Laatste Nieuws.

Tafi, who won Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, and Giro di Lombardía during his heyday two decades ago, shocked the cycling world when he told La Gazzetta dello Sport last month he intended to return to the WorldTour with the goal of racing Roubaix. Tafi said he continues to train like a pro and produces solid numbers during gran fondos and other long-distance rides.

Tafi said he believes Roubaix is the kind of race where experience and technique would allow him to stay even with riders half his age.

Nicknamed the “Gladiator,” Tafi was part of the Mapei super-team in the late 1990s and was among the top stars of the Italian generation that dominated the northern classics in the 1990s. Tafi was also among 18 riders who tested positive for EPO during the 1998 Tour de France in retroactive controls carried out in 2004.

Tafi said he rides up to 18,000 kilometers per year and still fits into his racing jersey he wore 20 years ago.

“I don’t want this to be a circus,” he La Gazzetta. “If I would do this, I would dedicate myself 110 percent. The idea is to race Roubaix. I would do everything to the minute detail. I don’t want to look ridiculous in front of the whole world. Patience, calm, serene — but let me dream. Let me taste this impossible mission.”

It remains to be seen which team might actually pick him up. It’s highly unlikely a WorldTour team with serious classics ambitions would offer up a temporary deal. Quick-Step Floors manager Patrick Lefevere, who was Tafi’s boss during the Mapei era, told Cyclingnews that he rejected an entreaty from Tafi for 2019. Tafi’s experience might come in handy to a younger rider, but there are plenty of contemporary veterans still active who could bring race savvy to the table.

It’s possible a second-tier team might take up Tafi, but that would mean his fate would depend on that team receiving a wild-card invitation. It remains to be seen if ASO would seriously consider what many might view as little more than a publicity stunt.

Read the full article at Andrea Tafi, 52, says he has a team for Roubaix comeback on

Noho CX: White, McFadden earn solo wins

Curtis White and Courtenay McFadden topped the podium in Sunday’s cyclocross races at Verge Northampton International Cyclocross in Massachusetts.

White sweeps men’s racing

Noho men's podium
White ( won the elite men’s race on Saturday and Sunday, adding another notch to his recent stretch of success on two wheels.

In Sunday’s race, White got into the front group early and made a move that saw him ride ahead of the field a short time later. Several riders in a chase group desperately tried to catch him but were unable to do so.

The chasers eventually whittled themselves down to two riders — White’s Cannondale teammates Spencer Petrov and Sam Noel. The pair worked together over the final three and a half laps to stave off the additional chasers behind them. White was more than a minute ahead of the pair.

“I could see behind that my two teammates were racing together and trying to lock up the podium for a Cannondale sweep, so [I’m] happy with that,” White said.

In the end, Petrov took second in a mad sprint to the finish line. Noel was one tick behind in third.

“Whoever led into that final corner was going to take it, so it was just a full-on sprint to there,” Noel said. “We ended up colliding but luckily it wasn’t too serious.”

White, who recently won the Pan-American Cyclocross Championship, continues to lead in the Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series through four races.

McFadden’s solo win

Courtenay McFadden
McFadden (Pivot-Maxxis-Stans-DNA Cycling) was one of four riders in the front group that formed early in the race, along with Rebecca Fahringer (Kona Maxxis Shimano), Caroline Nolan (Voler-Easton-HRS-Rock Lobster), and Crystal Anthony (Liv Cycling). But by the second lap, a crash shook things up.

After the incident that occurred in the wooded part of the course, McFadden made her move — much earlier than originally planned — and jumped ahead of everyone else on the 2.1-mile loop.

From there, it was all about keeping the pedals turning and using the wind whenever possible.

“I tried to play the wind,” McFadden said. “I would, on the tailwind, try to catch my breath and then hammer through the headwind. I knew that I was pretty proficient in the woods so I tried to stay smooth through there and put all the energy down here [in the lower section] and catch my breath a little bit more through the woods.”

No one was able to catch McFadden and she finished 29 seconds ahead of Fahringer and 45 seconds faster than Nolan.

For Nolan, riding onto the podium was an emotional result because she dedicated her race to her hometown of Chico, California, which is suffering from the wildfires that are causing massive destruction in the Golden State.

“I have big fires going on back in my hometown, so in this race I wanted to do as best I can since I’m not home to volunteer, to raise money and awareness for the wildfires back in California, so I did that,” she said. “I’m happy with it.”

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Movistar to bring Landa, Quintana back to 2019 Tour

Movistar is bullish Mikel Landa will perform at maximum capacity in 2019 following a rough and tumble debut with the Spanish blues.

Landa expressed optimism he would be back at his best next season following a string of crashes that kept him from shining at his best during 2018.

“If this year didn’t work out, next year it will,” Landa said. “It was a complicated season, with the crash at the Tour, I was never at my best and after crashing at San Sebastián, it really cost me a lot to try to get back for the Vuelta and the worlds.”

The Basque star was hampered at the Tour following a heavy fall on the pavé. He crashed again just as he was hitting top form at Clásica de San Sebastián.

“It really wore me out and I needed to take a long break to recover physically and mentally,” he said. “I’ve learned you need to be patient in these complicated situations, and next year I hope to avoid troubles so I can do what I know I can.”

Landa joined Movistar this year with big expectations of top results on the bike and intrigue off the bike with teammate Nairo Quintana. The pair ended up riding professionally and even became friends. In races, both Landa and Quintana suffered. Quintana delivered a Tour stage win but could not follow the best in GC. Landa rode into the top 10 despite injuries to his back in a spill on the cobbles.

“Mikel was never himself during the Tour and when he finally started to feel better, the race was over,” said Movistar boss Eusebio Unzue. “Class doesn’t disappear in a day, and I’m sure Mikel will be better than ever when he’s healthy in 2019.”

Unzue said he will bring both Landa and Quintana back to the Tour, but said racing calendars are still not finalized.

“With both Mikel and Nairo we can aspire for the maximum. As we’ve seen, bad luck and crashes can dash even the best-laid plans,” he said. “Everyone knows Mikel is capable of doing special things. We expect to see that even more next season.”

Landa, who resisted offers from other teams and will fulfill the second year of his two-year deal with Movistar, said his priority will be the Tour.

“I want and have to go to the Tour,” he said. “We’ll see about the Giro or Vuelta.”

Read the full article at Movistar to bring Landa, Quintana back to 2019 Tour on

Noho CX: Noble goes solo while White takes advantage of team strength

Ellen Noble (Trek Factory Racing CX) was victorious in the elite women’s field and Curtis White (Cannondale p/b won the elite men’s competition in dominant fashion on a cool, windy day in Northampton, Massachusetts Saturday.

Noble wins from the front

Noho CX

Noble escaped the 45 rider-field along with Regina Legge (Trek Cyclocross Collective) on the first lap. Behind them, Rebecca Fahringer (Kona Maxxis Shimano) and Courtenay McFadden (Pivot-Maxxis p/b Stans-DNA Cycling) chased hard in the strong winds and kept the lead pair close for the first three laps of the five-lap event.

With two laps to go, Noble would make her move, growing her gap on Legge to five seconds as she started the final lap. She came into the finish line solo, 9 seconds ahead of Legge, in a time of 44:47. Legge, taking her 5th UCI podium of the season would finish second, 18 seconds ahead of third place finisher Fahringer.

“With a lap and a half to go, I didn’t really make an attack so much as I think maybe Regina [Legge] made a mistake or just eased off for a second,” said Noble. “I got a little bit of a gap so I figured I’d ride with it but leave a little bit in case she pulled back. I was able to make a gap. It was awesome, I’m crazy impressed with how Regina was riding.”

“There’s one mud puddle in this course and in pre-ride I wanted to see if you should ride it or run it, and I found the hole-in root, buried my front wheel in it and completely splatted into the puddle,” third-place Fahringer commented on a stressful start to the day’s racing. “I was covered in mud, I ended up needing to cut my pre-ride short in order to clean up and I realized that I didn’t do a hot lap. And it was in my head, I was so frantic.”

Cannondale p/b wipe up as White wins

Noho CX

The race started with large groups of riders staying together, with White and Cannondale p/b teammates Spencer Petrov and Sam Noel making the front group.

By the second lap, the newly-crowned Pan-American Champion White was solo off the front, with Petrov and Noel riding like teammates monitoring Jack Kisseberth (Garneau Easton p/b Transitions) in the chase group behind. As White pushed on, the chasers raced tactically, not wanting to take the wind, allowing the leader to increase his advantage.

White took the win in 01:03:30, with Petrov taking the sprint from Kisserberth and Noel behind. Kisserbeth took third.

“The three of us and Jack Kisseberth made the selection. I pressed it a couple of times, and got a gap and left the group from that,” White said. “I got to see that the two behind were racing like teammates so that was great to see. Cannondale, one, two and four, I was happy with that.”

“It was tough, it was pretty much three to one,” said Kisseberth. “They all sat on my wheel while I tried to bring it back to Curtis [White] on the straightaways which is a difficult game to play.”

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Hincapie Racing confirms BMC, Arapahoe Resources as 2019 title sponsors

Hincapie Racing, the American team that operated in 2018 under the title Holowesko-Citadel presented by Arapahoe Resources, has made important moves to return to the domestic pro peloton in 2019 at the UCI Continental level. The team has signed BMC Switzerland and Arapahoe Resources as title sponsors for next season and inked deals with nine riders.

The team announced the news in a release Friday morning.

“We’re extremely grateful for Arapahoe Resources and BMC Switzerland supporting our team for another year,” said George Hincapie in the release. “It’s my hope that with these partners, as well as this new team of guys, we can deliver wins and have a successful 2019 season.”

The team has deals with returning riders Miguel Byron, Brendan Rhim, Andrew Dalheim, Andz Flaksis, and TJ Eisenhart. Joining the squad are Ben Wolfe, Justin Oien, Seth Jones, and Tanner Putt.

The news comes nearly two months after the team missed the deadline to apply for UCI Pro Continental status in 2019, a move that put the team’s 2019 racing plans in jeopardy. A stalwart of the U.S. domestic scene, Holowesko-Citadel stepped up from UCI Continental to Pro Continental status in 2018 and embarked on a racing campaign in Europe. The step up was fueled, in part, by the addition of oil and gas company Arapahoe Resources to Hincapie’s sponsor lineup.

In an interview three weeks after the news broke, Hincapie said that the decision to step up was “a learning process.”

“It required a lot more resources,” Hincapie said. “And if we were able to have continued at that financial level, we could have done it.”

Hincapie said the team’s financial woes occurred after a potential title sponsor for 2019 backed out shortly before the deadline to register for Pro Continental status. Simultaneously, the team’s deals with investment firm Citadel and investor Mark Holowesko, had come to a close.

Pro Continental teams often require an operating budget that surpasses $1 million. UCI Continental squads, by contrast, can operate on a budget half that size.

The team’s new additions come from across the domestic and international peloton. Oien raced with Spanish squad Caja Rural in 2018. Wolfe raced for Jelly Belly-Maxxis, and Putt raced for UnitedHealthcare. Jones joins the squad from the North Carolina-based amateur elite team Dornier Racing.

Read the full article at Hincapie Racing confirms BMC, Arapahoe Resources as 2019 title sponsors on

Week in Tech: Continental goes tubeless, Silca gives back, new Bkool trainer

Continental finally offers a tubeless road tire

Continental launched two new tires earlier this week. The new GP5000s has a whole host of advantages over its predecessor, the GP4000sII, according to Continental. Those include 12 percent better rolling resistance, 20 percent more puncture protection, 10 grams of weight savings, and more vibration absorption. That’s all well and good, but the really exciting news is the addition of the GP5000TL to the lineup. It’s got even better rolling resistance numbers (5 percent better than the GP5000s, in fact) and more puncture protection. The best part? It’s tubeless. The non-tubeless GP5000s costs $79 and the tubeless version runs $94. The GP5000s is available immediately in 23mm and 25mm widths. In six weeks, the non-tubeless tire will also be available in 28mm and 32mm widths. The 25mm tubeless tire will also be available in six weeks.

Buy Silca, give Silca on Giving Tuesday

Photo: Silca

Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Silca’s #Pumps4Programs initiative is all about Giving Tuesday. On November 28, Silca will donate 10 percent of purchases from its website between $0-$100 and 20 percent of purchases from $100-$200 to a bike community organization of your choice. Purchases over $200 means a Pista Floor Pump can be headed to a bike community organization of your choice. So while you get fancy goodies from Silca on your doorstep, an organization in need of dollars and pumps gets a treat too. Win-win.

Bkool ups its virtual game with Smart Air trainer

Photo: Bkool

With the explosion of indoor riding’s popularity, it’s no surprise Bkool is back at it with a new smart trainer to pair with its virtual environment. The Smart Air direct-drive trainer offers a realistic ride, according to Bkool. It’s got 6 degrees of side to side movement for a more natural feel when you’re pedaling out of the saddle. It also uses infrared sensors to gauge power and maintain a 2 percent accuracy. It also simulates up to a 25 percent grade, and it offers 3,000 watts of power. Also neato: It sorta looks like a real bike. Hey, appearances matter too.

Want to be a Scicon Ambassador?

Photo: Scicon

You know what’s a silly word? “Influencer.” But if you happen to be one, Scicon wants to make you a brand ambassador. You can apply up until November 25, at which point Scicon will choose its final ambassadors. As an ambassador, you will receive cycling products, exclusive offers, and priority access to new products before they hit the market. You’ll be responsible for representing the brand while you’re cycling and traveling, so if you’re good at living that ‘gram life, you might be a good fit.

Magura’s Vyron wireless seatpost gets a makeover

Photo: Magura

Magura made waves with its Vyron wireless seatpost, with the promise that you’d never have to worry about cable routing ever again. The updated version integrates a new remote cap that has a larger selection area for ease of use. The Vyron comes in 150mm, 125mm, and 100mm travel options and weighs 595 grams. The earliest versions of the Vyron faced speed challenges — the post changed height very slowly when compared to cable actuated posts — and there’s no word yet if that has improved with the updated version.

Read the full article at Week in Tech: Continental goes tubeless, Silca gives back, new Bkool trainer on

Bikepacking to worlds: Rob Britton’s 1,000-mile journey across western Canada

Earlier this year, several pro riders embarked on multi-day bikepacking adventures across Europe to escape the stress of pro cycling. Not to be outdone, Canadian pro Rob Britton completed his own multi-day adventure across a rugged and wild stretch of western Canada as preparation for the UCI Road World Championships. Below, Britton recounts the highlights from his trip.

I am soaked and chilled to the bone. The sun went down an hour ago, the rain is still falling, and right now, my body temperature is plummeting. I dream of a hot shower and a dry change of clothes. Yet my friends want to go straight to the pub to eat dinner and celebrate the end of our epic journey. I am on the verge of losing it.

I think about reasonable ways to protest this situation. Why aren’t we checking into the lodge?

“Dude! Are you serious right now?” My protest falls on deaf ears. I am voted down, and we head to the bar in our wet clothes to drain a few pints. My friends are patient.

This was the final ride of this journey, and the rain fell all day, for all seven hours of our ride. The temperature hovered around eight degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit). At one point I put on all of my riding clothes to stay warm. After a few hours, every layer was completely soaked. And then, perhaps to add insult to sogginess, my Di2 battery went into sleep mode. So for the final 70 kilometers, I pedaled along in my 34-tooth chainring.

We shuffle into the Port Renfrew Pub and slump down into a seat. Slowly, our shivering transitions to a mild tremor, helped along with each sip of Dude Chilling Pale Ale, the local brew. With every sip, the reality dawns on us: we are done. Our nine-day bikepacking trip from Calgary to Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island’s southwestern tip has ended. I have pedaled 1,650 kilometers and racked up 90 hours of ride time in two weeks.

For weeks, this ride had seemed like an epic trip worthy of tall tales, not something you actually finish. I smile. This was an extremely unorthodox way to prepare for the UCI World Championships.

Damn, this first beer tastes good.

Origins of the journey

You may be asking why I chose to prepare for worlds with a bikepacking trip across some of Canada’s most rugged terrain. Normally, this type of adventure is for the free spirits and weekend warriors of the cycling world. I’m a professional cyclist, after all, and my world revolves around watts, kilojoules, TSS, and, generally speaking, very little unadulterated fun on the bicycle. Cycling is my job. I love my job, but like any job, there are both good and bad days at the office.

Usually, the end of the racing season brings fatigue and general a general feeling of malaise. Worlds was all the way at the end of September, which meant several additional weeks of training. In my eyes, the bikepacking adventure was the best ticket I had to enduring a massive training load while also keeping myself happy (and keeping my TrainingPeaks account active).

I got the idea the morning of the Canadian national time trial championships. I woke up with a clear thought from that night’s dream. I wanted to ride my bike from my home in Calgary to my former home in Victoria on Vancouver Island. I had never ridden my bicycle that far, and I hadn’t slept in a tent for years. And, if I’m totally honest, a long-distance cycling trek with tents and campfires is something I’d make fun of.

Plus, I wanted to coordinate the trip with my own personal dirty fondo, The Last Ride, which I hold on Vancouver Island in late August. If I could ride to the Last Ride and completed it with my friends, I figured that would be all the worlds prep I would need.

I spent two months planning my route; my effort verged on the edge of obsession. I researched gear, read and watched everything I could about bikepacking, and messaged friends who had embarked on similar adventures.

After I finalized my route I had a big first step to accomplish. I needed to recruit some friends to accompany me on this journey. To give you an idea of my friends, let me just say that a two-week bikepacking trip across mountains, forests, and rivers is hardly the most reckless thing we’ve done. Not by a long shot. After a few email conversations, I recruited three: Nic Hamilton, Jamie Sparling, and Taylor Little. None of the three were in the least bit prepared. Bikes had to be sourced, time off from work needed to be secured, and bags needed to be packed. Also, their legs needed to be able to withstand between 7-10 hours of riding time each day over hard, mountainous terrain.

Other than that, Nic, Taylor, and Jamie were good to go.

Photo: Rob Britton

Of course, my three buddies weren’t the only ones with homework to do. For weeks I researched the various ways to pack gear onto a bicycle watching videos and reading blogs on the subject. I learned that there are two basic types of bikepacking bags: fully integrated one-piece bags and the two-piece variety. Each bag type had its advantages. Knowing that we were bound to hit wet weather and face long, rugged days, all four of us opted for two-piece bags. We each chose bags made by Revelate Designs.

But what to put in these bags to help us survive two weeks of adventure? The answer, of course, is plenty of gear, tools, and food. The above photo will give you a sense of the massive amount of gear we brought.

The next step was to load all of this gear onto a bicycle. How do you make a Ferrari feel like a Panzerwagen? Strap a swimming pool to the roof; now, drive it across the Canadian Rockies in a rainstorm. This illustrates how my cyclocross bicycle was transformed from a 16-pound racing machine into a 67-pound behemoth. While Taylor, Jamie, and Nic opted for bikes designed for gravel and adventure, I decided to modify my racing bike for this trek. Gone were those 33mm tires and 40-tooth big ring with its 11/28 sprocket. I replaced those with Kenda’s gravel-specific 40mm Flintridge tires and a spintastic gear ratio: 50/34 up front with a huge 11/32 in the back. Surely, this was enough gear to propel me over the steepest climbs I would see. (Hint: I was wrong.) Luckily, my over gearing simply served to level the fitness gap between myself and my companions. Who likes riding more than 50rpm on climbs anyway?

Photo: Rob Britton

The journey begins

The first few miles of our 202km journey from Calgary to Elkford, Alberta, were some of the most stressful of my life, far more stressful than the start of a pro bike race. Why the nerves? My experience in bikepacking was going from zero to 100, so the possibility of failure was very real. I knew I would not be back in Calgary until my flight to Austria for worlds. And, the very real thought of being eaten by a grizzly bear in the Canadian wild was particularly concerning.

A few hours out of Calgary my friends from 4iiii intercepted me in the town of Bragg Creek to deliver me a power meter for my journey. This was my worlds prep, after all, so no kilojoule would go uncounted, no rpm unregistered.

In those opening miles, Jamie and I began to grasp the scope of our big ride. We repeated a few phrases to each other: “Wow, look at that!” “Dude, this is amazing!” “F—k this washboard is brutal” and, finally, “These bikes are slow.”

Photo: Rob Britton

Near the day’s highest point we connected with Nic Hamilton, who lives in Canmore and rode out the day before to meet us. Near the summit of the climb, we saw Nic sitting under a tree. We linked up, pointed our bikes west, and rode downhill for nearly 70km, which took nearly four hours to complete on our heavy bicycles.

We reached our campsite for the evening, and my lofty position as the strongest rider in the group quickly evaporated. Within five minutes my two companions quickly unpacked and built their tents, inflated their air mattresses, and changed into warm clothes. Meanwhile, I stared at my girlfriend’s tent, trying to reverse engineer its construction. It took me 45 minutes to get the thing up.

That night, I felt confident about my bikepacking adventure. It was a huge day on the bike — our ride time was nine hours — but we felt decent at the end. How hard could the next few days be?

Days of suffering

As it turns out, the next few days served up plenty of suffering. We rode over steep mountain passes, hiked our bikes up and over rough double-track that was best suited for mountain bikes, and pedaled over lots of washboard dirt roads. During our 200km ride from Elkford to Cranbrook, a missed turn and lost time meant we had to pedal along the highway and adjacent to semi-trucks, in the dark and rain. When we finally got to our destination, we learned that Cranbrook had been taken over by the BC Senior Games, and thus hotels were in limited quantity. We finally found a $200-a-night room that was a theme room. Okaaay?

What was the theme? New York, New York — the room had shag carpet, an extra-large jacuzzi tub, and vinyl furniture.

The famous New York-themed hotel room. Photo: Rob Britton

During our 165km, eight-hour ride to Nelson, British Columbia, I started to feel the deep-in-your-bones fatigue that sleep simply cannot erase. Partway up another burly mountain pass, we rode up next to a guy in a Hyundai Accent, who asked us if the rugged road we were on went through to the town of Kimberly. Given the off-road capabilities of that car, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is still out there.

By day four, which at 6.5 hours was our shortest, it was just Jamie and me (Nic departed on day 3) and we received a much-needed boost of enthusiasm. We rode on smooth pavement for much of the trek from Nelson to Castlegar. We found a strip mall with a full bakery that had delicious sandwiches, great pastries, and pour-over coffees. Then, the recently lifted fire ban in the area allowed us to enjoy our dinner by the warming glow of the campfire.

The nutritional low point of the tour hit on day five, which featured a 195km ride from Christina Lake to Keremeos. Jamie and I were met by our friend Taylor, and we chugged along for 12 hours or so on a mix of paved road. The evening we were treated to an amazing descent into Keremeos. After one final climb we layered up, switched on our lights, and let the send flow down a twisting and fun road. We rode through vineyards and lavender fields under the light of the stars, which is something I will never forget. Unfortunately, our late arrival time meant all of the restaurants were closed. After some begging, the local pub agreed to serve us dinner off of the appetizer menu. So after 12 hours of riding and 6,500 kilojoules, our recovery meal consisted of beef nachos, a hummus and pita plate, and a couple bottles of Kokanee Gold.

Photo: Rob Britton

Unfortunately, my personal low moment of the trip hit the next day. I felt like a head cold was creeping in. I bashed my knee into my can of bear spray. And the road was nothing but washboard for hours. It hit me: I was sore, dehydrated, tired, and grumpy. And while some might argue that this is my regular demeanor, my attitude that day made me not fun to be around. Again, my friends were patient with me. Of course, they had to be, as I was the only one with the route in my GPS and access to the campsites!

Our spirits rise

The final few days of this trip taught me an important lesson about bikepacking. Simple things like a sunny day, a tasty meal, a beautiful sight, or some unexpected humor can lift your spirits. I awoke one morning in a beautiful farm field surrounded by cows and chuckled as I watched Taylor fumble to pack his tent. Later that day the sun came out. Our route was a fun mix of smooth dirt and pavement, and we also had a ferry crossing and a great pizza dinner. My batteries were recharged.

My recharge came at the right moment because I had some intervals to accomplish. This was, after all, a training trip for the world championships. During the 190km ride from Lillooet to Squampton I had to ramp things up and pedal some unannounced hard tempo. Taylor was the casualty, and when we regrouped a few kilometers later I asked him if we were still friends. “No,” was his answer.

Photo: Rob Britton

That evening we descended from Whistler down to Jamie’s house in Squamish, where a treat was in store. We had real beds to sleep in, a hot shower, and a home-cooked meal. Jamie’s girlfriend Lauren made a feast for our arrival.

Day nine, our grand finale, was another monster. We faced 200km of riding, a ferry ride, and rainy, cold weather. To make matters worse, the first half of the journey was along the famous Sea to Sky highway from Whistler to Vancouver. Now, the Sea to Sky is world famous for its gorgeous views, but it is not the best place to ride due to cars and trucks. It felt an aerobic version of Russian Roulette, even if we got some friendly honks.

The ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Vancouver Island delivered us into the rain and cold. And seven hours after disembarking the boat, we finally made it to our final destination in Port Renfrew. We had completed nine days of riding. Just like that, it was done.

My next adventure was the Last Ride. A quick word of advice: if you organize a participatory bike event, I would advise against doing a 10-day bikepacking trip beforehand. I’m certain I lost a few years of life due to stress while pulling it off.

The world championships test

It took five days of recovery from my trip until my heart rate returned to normal. By that time, I had boarded a flight from Vancouver to Munich and met my teammates for the world championships.

During a recon ride before worlds, I rode with Mike Woods up the brutal Holl Climb in Innsbruck, which hits sections at 28 percent. My heart rate was 200 bpm as I chased Mike, who just floated up the climb. I remember thinking that he had a shot at something special.

Many people thought that my bikepacking preparation would be detrimental to my form at worlds. Even I was uncertain about it. But 27km into the road race I had my answer. I attacked into the early breakaway and spent the next six hours chugging away in the front group in a tactical move to take the pressure off of Mike.

I was eventually caught by the group, and I nearly stopped in the feed zone on the final lap. My teammates and friend Zach Bell encouraged me to keep going. I debated quitting perhaps 1,000 times — but turning around would look stupid. I made it this far, so I should finish, right? All I had to do was climb the Holl Climb and it would be over — that’s easy, right?

Riding up that final climb, about 150 meters from the finish, was perhaps the hardest moment I’ve ever had on a bicycle. I dug into dark places just to make it to the top, and still wonder how Mike was able to sprint up it.

I descended and rode across the finish line, and when I looked up, I saw Mike standing on the podium in third place, representing Canada. I was proud. I had never started a world championship road race, and I had my doubts that I could finish a 280km race. I also never thought Canada would step onto the worlds podium. The day changed my expectations forever.

My journey was over. I had huge thanks for my riding partners, Jamie, Taylor, and Nic, and to Mike Woods and the Canadian national team for creating some lifelong memories.

Two days later, I woke up in Calgary to freezing temperatures and fresh snow on the ground. I wondered, had the last three weeks been a dream?

It was real, and it was time for the offseason.

Rob Britton’s route through Western Canada.

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