Letting the racers race and the riders ride at the MEC Century

For years road cyclists have complained that we don’t have mass participation events like the sort that are enjoyed by the running community, events that have something for both the competors and the completors. Marathons are tough but they’ve grown in popularity with many people now running them to complete the distance, not to win the race.

Why not something similar in cycling? Then the Gran Fondo movement got going with the motto, “let the racers race, let the riders ride.”

I’ve done two of the Fondo events, Niagara Falls in 2013 and Halton in 2014. And I loved them. But they involve travel and they are expensive.

I was super happy to see last year that Mountain Equipment Co-op was starting to organize local century events. I did the first local one in October 2014 with my friends Dave and David. For that story, see here. They’re terrific community events, reasonably priced, and a lot of fun. There’s still some tension between the language, is it a race or a ride? , but really the MEC centuries seem to have something for everyone. See MEC Century ride hits London.

This time I rode with my partner Jeff, and friends Eaton, and David. Natalie rode with her partner Michel. And there were two other local fitness bloggers there, Cheryl of Happy is the New Healthy and Zig of Three Zigs and a Dog.

Zig even blogged about the event right away. She wrote, “Today I did my first 100 km century ride at an event organized by MEC London. I had been eyeing the event for some time, but was worried about my ability to complete that distance, and do so in a decent amount of time. After chatting with the staff in the store, I decided to give it whirl.

Well, I did it….and lived to tell the tale. It was a terrific event that had a big impact on me (a full recap/review to come in a couple of days). As a bit of a newbie road rider, I have been nervous to ride distances on open roads. Today, I got a lot of practice that left me feeling more confident in my riding abilities. And tonight, I am celebrating my thick thighs, instead of cursing them. They carried me far, and in better time than I thought. Tomorrow, I might be back to cursing them when I can’t walk, but tonight I will sleep well with this new adventure under my belt.”

My gang had a fun ride, we rode for three hours and fifty minutes (moving time) plus a couple of short pit stops. My favorite bit was the lap of the Delaware Speedway. I wish we could race bikes there. I also really liked that the organizers separated out the 60 km and the 100 km starts. For the 100 km pretty much everyone had a road bike and seemed comfortable with the mass start. No crashes or low speed collisions. The atmosphere near the front was happy, calm, and controlled. My least favorite bit was getting out of the city on the multiuse pathway. (I’ve written about my woes riding on the multiuse pathway here.) Too many people going too fast, amid geese, skateboarders, runners with ipods, and casual cyclists, for my taste. But I’m not a fan of riding on the path at the best of times.

Beautiful roads and great people out there. We all suffered a bit in the heat (my suffering was “extreme” according to Strava’s heart rate analysis, see below) and with managing to eat enough while riding. That’s hard too in the heat. The last 10 km were tough and we all appreciated the lemonade and frozen yogurt at the finish. I skipped the bar where the event ended as I don’t drink but it looked like people were having a lot of fun on the patio.

Instead, I opted for a soak in the hot tub and time on my back deck with Nat, Michel, David, and our friend Rob who helped make the day possible by driving teen athlete son to Waterloo for rugby practise.

I’m hoping this is the start of a more participatory bike culture with racing and riding at all levels. Lovely to see so many people out there. Let’s do it again MEC London!

My Strava “suffer” score…based on heart rate zone analysis
Sweaty and tired post ride selfie!
Bikes at rest after the 100 km
The start!

10 thoughts on “Letting the racers race and the riders ride at the MEC Century

  1. Once again your recap always makes me almost want to do this stuff. I’d probably have been much happier with Nat and Michel, whose pace was more sustainable for me. Sound like everyone had fun!

  2. A great write-up Sam! It sounds and looks like you and the rest all had a great time at the MEC Century. Hopefully no one is too sore today 🙂

    If you are interested in more accessible local centuries in the area:

    The Tour de Norfolk takes place July 18/19 and offers 40-75-100-160km routes. Two days are offered and we’ve seen lots of families participating with the friendly shorter routes offered.

    The 3 Port Tour in Elgin County is in it’s fifth year and hosts 50-100-160 km routes – taking part the third Saturday in August (Aug. 15 this year). We get riders of all abilities and take them through the county down quiet country roads and along the lakeshore, traveling through Ports Burwell, Bruce and Stanley. Not only are we a local ride, we are entirely volunteer run and any proceeds from the ride go to the Forest City Velodrome in London and our local high school’s Environmental Leadership Program. I DO admit bias because I’m on the committee but we’ve heard nothing but great feedback from our riders and hope to see you out in August 🙂

    1. Yes, the 3 Port Tour is on my schedule! Haven’t decided on a distance yet but it sounds fun.

      1. Great to hear! It’s so refreshing to see people writing about their local cycling experiences – and from the feminist perspective. We have been happily surprised at the relatively high female turnout at our ride – not sure how to explain it but very happy to have so many strong and motivated women in what is often a male-dominated sport. Looking forward to seeing you at the ride and following along with your journeys out on the road.

  3. Sounds like a lot of fun! I’m most likely going to do my first organized century ride in September and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s taken some time for me to get used to riding with other people but now that I trust myself when I’m clipped in, it’s not nearly as nerve-wracking as it once was.

    1. But you’re likely doing an imperial century, right? So 100 miles, 160 km?

      I usually work up to that distance once each summer and then back down again.

      1. Yes, imperial. I’m going for 60 miles this weekend, so I am optimistic that I can reach it by the end of the summer.

        And if not, well, there’s one in November. Riding a century is one of my three sports goals for the year, and I’d really like to make it happen.

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