cycling

Toronto’s Gran Fondo: The Halton Epic Tour

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We’d been planning this ride, the Halton Epic Tour, for quite awhile. Originally it was to be Kim, Eaton, David, and me and the 140 km distance.

But plans change. David has injured his elbow and so we dropped down to the 80 km. Eaton joined a new bike club in Toronto and had people from it to ride with so he stuck with the longer distance.

Personally, I’m glad the three of us swapped. The 80 km was fun but tough. David and I both agreed it was harder than the 125 km Niagara Falls Gran Fondo we’d ridden last year. On the Halton Epic Tour we climbed about 850 m over the 80 km. But it was pretty continuous climbing or descending, not much flat. Long slow climbs with rolling hills. That’s wearing.

At one point I saw people stopped by the side of the road, resting, and I was puzzled. These were just rolling hills, I thought. I like rolling hills. But about 10 km later exhaustion found me too. Yes they were rolling but they were trending up. I didn’t stop but I certainly slowed down.

The Niagara Falls ride had sharp steep bits but they came after lots and lots of flat so you were fresh when you got to them. That felt different somehow. These hills were more relentless.

But we kept on and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the police escort through intersections, and the lovely country roads.

You can read the Garmin profile here.

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Some further thoughts:

  • Stopping versus not: We chatted in advance about our strategy regarding rest stops. On the one hand, one of the joys of the organized fully supported ride is the fully supported rest stops. Port-a-potties, yes, but also snacks, drinks, etc. Bike pumps and bike mechanics too. They had 5 rest stops on our route. The first was at just fifteen km. We decided in advance that we’d stop just once at the 50 km mark though a flat changed things a bit. See below.
  • Cyclists can be very nice! At one point, after a hill, I lost sight of David and Kim. Both are better climbers than me. But no worries. A very nice man offered to let me sit on his wheel and draft so we could catch up to my friends. Whee! Zoom! In no time we’d found them. I like gentlemen cyclists.
  • Or not! They can also be “muppets.” That’s a British slang term, I gather, for people/men? whose speed and bike price outstrips their bike skills. This is Kim’s term. New to me. It’s just rude, in the cycling world, outside of a race situation, to join uninvited a group of riders. We were riding pretty closely as a three person pace line when this guy joined us without even a hello. Argh.All fine until David noticed a huge pot hole in the road, a wheel killer, and did what sensible other regarding cyclists do, pointed it out and went around it. So too did the man we didn’t know. That is, he also went around it but without saying anything or signaling. Kim hit and I hit it. I was thankful all I got was a flat. David’s the fastest flat fixer of us three and the man we didn’t know sped off, of course. Grrr. I got it fully inflated at the next rest stop. All fine. Just annoying really.
  • Beautiful scenery and quiet roads: Unlike the Niagara Falls Gran Fondo the roads weren’t closed for this event. That said, for much of the ride it certainly felt as if they were. There were very few cars and police shepherded us through all the intersections. Rarely did we need to stop. The roads were mostly in good shape, a wee bit of gravel, and the scenery was incredible. Also nice views of the city from the top of the escarpment.
  • Another difference between this and Niagara Falls was the range of distances. There were lots of options: 5 km for kids, then 50 km and 80 km and 140 km and 170 km, the longest. Because they all had different starting times it meant that riders doing different distances could have time together at the event. All the routes were incredibly well signed. We took one map between us but there was never any need to consult it.
  • We missed the timing chip: These mass participation cycling events are hard to define. The Niagara Falls motto was, “let the racers race and the riders ride.” It had timing chips, prizes for QOM and KOM and prizes for first man and woman across the finish. This described itself explicitly as a ride. Instructions at the start reminded us we weren’t racing. It’s tricky balancing the ride versus race. Our goal was to complete with an average speed above 25 km/hr. At least that’s the corral we put ourselves in at the start. And even with the hills we did it.
  • That last hill!: 3 km from the finish. Right turn and then, argh. A steep longish hill. The “shut up legs!” sign didn’t help. Like 90% of the people around me I walked the worst of it. Once the steep bit was over I decided it was time to ride again and encouraged the people walking with me to do the same.
  • Drones! This is the first sporting event I’ve done where there was a drone flying above our heads filming things.
  • The other issue with these rides is the expense but I’d do it again. Maybe just one a season. They’re not cheap but there’s a lot of support, some of the money goes to charity, and it’s fun riding with that many people.
  • I also want to thank Kim and David. They were both great fun to ride with. And drive with. Thanks for the yummy peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Yes, they waited for me at the top of hills but we rode together lots. I love the teamwork that comes with cycling. I feel semi inspired to go ride up and down some of the local hills now. 🙂 I’d certainly do the Epic Tour again next year.

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8 thoughts on “Toronto’s Gran Fondo: The Halton Epic Tour

  1. Join me next time, the 140 route was also good. I tried right from the start to get a group going and at one point or another had 20 or so riders in a peleton. Though as these didn’t know what “sharing the workload” meant all of them just fk’d off when I cussed at them loudly for sitting on the wheel. My workmate had a fun time laughing at a short Asian man yelling at much MUCH bigger men and women. I had good legs with me all day and stopped briefly at the last night because my rear wheel came off. For the most part, the rollers just meant we had to keep the speed going down so we can go back up. Definitely a good event and I look forward to next year.

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  2. Thanks Sam! Great post. We also lucked out with glorious weather; it was beautiful whether we were pushing or just rolling.
    Tracy: I suspect you would have learned a lot about hills, and HILLS, on this ride. The rolling bits are interesting because you can use downhill momentum to speed the next up; the tricky part is when the overall incline changes just slightly (going “up country” vs heading back down toward the lake). And that last hill… Man! My garmin says 12%, and I believe it. I’m familiar with hills like this from Surrey, south of London UK, where I learned to ride, so I got up it on my arse, but I felt major sympathy for all the walkers. It was unexpected and tough at the very end! Reminds me of the Puncheur, which I did two years in a row in East Sussex; that 105km race ends with Ditchling Beacon. Google and see what I mean – it’s the hill I can’t do without talking myself through.

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