Two things come to mind when you hear "Bear Mountain", and neither of them have anything to do with cycling. Most people will tell you of the world class golf course, or five star resorts that reside in this scenic area of Victoria. A location that tends to draw in a very specific type of human, and I don't think any of us quite fit the description. With back to back weekends of cycling events being held in the hills of the driving range, there's a hint of change in the air and hopefully another reason for the prestigious mountain to be brought into conversation.
For most of the week leading up to Bear Crossing, rain had been dominating the forecast and it almost looked like it would hold through the weekend. Saturday arrived, and so did the sun as it dried up the course leaving it slightly tacky with no trace of dust.
Cross on the Rock is known for its slightly unconventional course design, pitting it's racers through barns, single track trails, and sometimes BMX parks. Bear Crossing on the other hand fit right in with the more standard layouts seen in other cross races, making it one of the more unique events we get to experience here on the island. I'm also not sure of the next opportunity I'll have to race through a golf course sand trap.
With 270 registered participants it was a packed day of racing for all categories, offering some exciting battles to watch as we waited for our later start. There was a definite shuffle on the Intermediate podium as Mark Nelson took an impressive win riding away from the field quite early in the race. Meanwhile the successful single speeds of Cumberland finished with well deserved top 10 finishes and kept us on the edge of our seat with a hard fought race.
Expert Women, Masters, and Super Masters raced at similar times between the Intermediate and Expert events on the daily schedule which made it tough to watch any of those bouts if I wanted a proper warm-up. Of all the fields, those three contain the most riders I'm familiar with and house some common podium finishers who have taken the time to really help me along in this sport. Little tips and tricks shared as we battled rain and snow during weekly group rides last winter and, with this new season underway, they continue to educate others and myself by means of weekly cyclocross practice. I might not have been on the sidelines to cheer them on, but I was definitely keeping a close watch every chance I had.
Pre-riding is one thing, but finally getting the chance to race this course was everything I'd thought it would be. Thanks to the firm ground, ruts or grooves never really formed throughout the day giving riders the chance to attack different lines on each passing lap. Starting with a less than desired call-up meant following a lot of people, and after tagging behind a few excellent bike handlers I was able to move on with greater confidence having thieved their entry and exit points.
By the end of the race I'd managed to exact more things I need to work on, while crossing the line ahead of the few cyclists that were acting as my reference from last season. Coming away from events like this with a specific objective for the next race is always revered as a success in my books, and if that lesson ever simply becomes "ride faster", than I'm probably doing something wrong.