We have been hearing about it all week. The Nielson trail in Shannahan was going to be the most scenic stage of the Quebec Singletrack Experience yet. We boarded a school bus instead of our normal coach because the road to our start was far too tight and twisty for the luxury vehicle. Instead our school bus driver rallied us to the start on dirt roads reaching our destination beside a beautiful lake.
We began the stage by charging down dirt roads, which spread the field apart nicely before we entered our first piece of singletrack: the Neilson trail. It started out really nice and flowy taking us through the woods before delivering us to the rivers edge and some pretty spectacular riding.
The Neilson trail uses the landscape in a very unique way. It follows the bedrock along the river like nothing I have ridden before. At times there is no obvious line to take. In other sections dozens of bridges would link different rock lines together presenting a challenge to keep your momentum and stay on line. The rock was a little wet from previous days of rain so, depending on the pitch, you could never be sure of traction.
Even though the trail presented a technical challenge you couldn’t help but look up and soak in the surroundings. Giant moss covered rocks and huge slabs of bedrock cover the landscape. I counted at least three waterfalls on our ride and couldn’t help but stop for a moment and soak it in. That didn’t last for too long however because there was still a bike race to finish.
As I arrived to the bottom of the only major climb of the day I settled into a rhythm climbing through switchbacks and over more rocks for 4 kilometres. Even though it was one of the longer climbs in the race I really enjoyed the ascent because it was well balanced between technical steep switchbacks and some longer sections of a lesser grade.
By the time I reached the summit I was tired, but also ready for the decent. As thunder crashed and the rain began to fall I started down what was my favourite decent in a week of racing at Quebec Singletrack Experience. An excellent mix of smooth flow and natural technical sections made this super long decent one to remember.
We finished the ride with 10 kilometres of super buff and flowy trail which delivered us to another rivers edge and the finish of Stage 6. The rumours are true, the Neilson Trail in Shannahan is one for the bucket list.