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Log Driver’s Waltz sets tune for 2023 after inaugural Grand Depart

Ottawa Valley bikepacking route celebrates celebrates first mass-start with FKT's and community

Photo by: Bob Woods

After crafting the Log Driver’s Waltz, an 800-km bikepacking route in the Ottawa Valley and Outaouais, Eric Betteridge and Jen Adams had to wait to invite riders together for a first Grand Depart. Riders could take on the route alone, and many did, but one mass start was not possible.

That changed in 2022, as over 30 people gathered in Almonte, Ont. for the first Log Driver’s Waltz Grand Depart.

“We were thrilled to have people come to Almonte to ride our route,” says LDW co-creator Jen Adams, who also rode in the Grand Depart. “It was fun to go out on our own route with tire tracks out in front of us and people pushing behind us. It was very gratifying to host our own Grand Depart.”

Many of the riders were experienced bikepackers, but, says Betteridge, “there was even a few that were newer to the sport. There was a great diversity and range of excitement at the breakfast get-together.”

While the Grand Depart isn’t as splashy as the Great Divide in Banff, which Betteridge and Adam’s spent 33 days riding earlier in the summer of 2022, there was a get-together at a local micro-brewery the night before and a pre-ride breakfast at a local cafe.

“The cafe we had the breakfast at organized a special for the racers, entirely on its own,” says Betterridge, adding that many businesses along the route, which crosses from Ontario into Quebec and back, have already give positive feedback on the riders.

Cory Ostertag

Grand Depart and really fast FKTs

While most of the 30-plus riders at the 2022 Grand Depart were from Ontario or Quebec, several travelled from farther away. Among them, Squamish, B.C.’s Cory Ostertag, who set a new FKT on the route. While he’s an experienced bikepacker, also completing the BC Epic 1000 this summer, Ostertag said the Log Driver’s Waltz route profile is deceptively difficult.

“I like climbing, and coming from British Columbia, I do a lot of it. But the climbs on the Log Driver’s Waltz route just hit differently,” says Ostertag. “They are steep, relentless and simply drained my energy in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I totally underestimated how difficult this route is and have a new appreciation for how challenging bikepacking can be.”

Ostertag lowered the LDW FKT to an impressive two days, one hour and 43 minutes. Adam’s and Betteridge expected to have a few people chasing new FKT’s but, even after a few seasons of watching the speed increase on their route, were surprised by Ostertag’s time.

“We thought the FKT that was in place was pretty darn fast. But three years ago, we thought four days was blistering fast. Now it’s a shade over two days,” says Betteridge. “Every time, you don’t think it can go faster.”

Marie-Pierre Savard

“We were very pleased that we had riders come to challenge the FKT times,” adds Adams, “And delighted that we had Marie-Pierre put her name on the women’s FKT.”

For Marie-Pierre Savard, the Grand Depart’s community vibes added to her own FKT experience. The Montreal rider set a women’s record time of three days, 15 hours and 41 minutes.

“Being used to riding solo, over middle distances, there is something about this type of group event that motivates me not to give up!” Savard said of her ride.

Betteridge, Ostertag and Adams.

Community and coming back for more

Log Driver’s Waltz is set up a little differently than the standard bikepacking ride. The route’s website records FKT’s and leaderboards, like many routes. But it also celebrates different intermediary points along the route.

“People say when they can’t complete a route, that they scratched. We’re of the opinion that anyone that shows up to the start has already put in a great effort. It’s so hard to get to the start these days, let alone complete these things. Ideally, we don’t hear the word scratch,” says Adams. “We have different levels and awards on our website because it’s not possible for everyone to complete the route. But they’ve still gone to their fullest extent. If I ride 200km in two days and that’s as far as I can go, that’s just as valid as someone who rides 800km in two days. Although the route isn’t easy, we want to have different ways to make it accessible.”

After a successful experience at the inaugural Grand Depart in 2022, the LDW co-creators already have their sights set on year two.

The second annual Log Driver’s Waltz Grand Depart will take place July 29, 2023 at 8:30 a.m. Like this year, it will start from Almonte / Mississippi Mills in Ontario. There are already several riders signed on to take part.

Betteridge and Adams, as mentioned, are thrilled to have riders of all abilities come out and try the route, or portions of it. But they do advise that it is more difficult than it looks on paper.

“There are no soaring mountain peaks, so people don’t think there’s that much elevation. But people are finding it’s around 9,600m of climbing on rolling, steep climbs,” Betteridge cautions. “We’ve had, without exception, feedback from riders that the route is more challenging than anyone expects. There’s no way of getting around that. We’ve let people know and said they should consider a mountain bike.”

Bikepacking is all about a challenge, though. If you’re interested in joining the 2023 Grand Depart or riding the Log Driver’s Waltz on your own schedule, check out the route’s website for more information.