5 Lessons Learned at the Quebec Singletrack Experience
It’s been two weeks since I returned from the inaugural edition of the Quebec Singletrack Experience, a seven-day mountain bike stage race modelled after the BC Bike Race and Singletrack 6. Leaving from a basecamp next to the old town in Quebec City, riders get shuttled to a different trail network within the region each day. Over seven days of racing, finishers covered 225kms of trail representing some of the best riding in eastern North America.
My experience at the “Experience” left me with a few key takeaways.
1. Quebec has some amazing trails – The people behind the Quebec Singletrack Experience wanted an event that showcased the best trails surrounding Quebec City, and what we rode did not disappoint. Each stage had its own character, and over the span of the week we rode everything from tight, technical rocky and rooty singletrack, to fast-flowing descents that would fit right in on the west coast.
My own favourites included the Mont Sainte Anne stage, which included a mix of old and new school trails, and finished on the XC World Cup course, finishing under the same arch as the world’s elite. Lac Beauport hosted Day 5, and offered up some fantastic trails, thanks to the co-operation of 68 different landholders. Some trails were only open for the event, so if you want to ride these locals-only gems, you’ll have to sign up for the 2018 edition. The Queen stage held in Vallée Bras du Nord was breathtaking. Descending along a river for most of the day, we enjoyed some of the best trails I’ve ever ridden. I’m already planning a return trip for the fall.
2. Poutine is recovery food – Really and truly, I read a study somewhere that proves it. Well, maybe not. But after doing my post-finish routine as directed by Peter Glassford (my recovery drink, clean the bike, clean myself), I was free to do what I wanted, including eating poutine. Of course, at feed stations throughout the week, there were surprise treats that were well worth the time taken to consume. After the timed climb on day one, we were offered s’mores while the breeze wafted the smell of campfire across the trail. Yes please!
Day five was especially memorable. Kids saluting Steve Smith by revving chainsaws while I downed a shot of maple syrup with a slice of bacon won’t soon be forgotten. Exiting the final section of trail only to be asked if I would like some ice cream left only one possible answer.
Every stage ended with a BBQ meal and beer with proceeds supporting the groups that maintained the trails we had just ridden. I made sure to support every trail builder to the very best of my stomach’s ability.
3. Prepare ahead of time – All kidding aside, the best thing I learned was not to procrastinate. Between all of the riding and the food, I was pretty tired. It became important to make use of what little energy I had to get ready for whatever was next.
I was careful to stick to my post-finish routine, and each night I organized all my gear for the next morning. That included packing snacks, spare parts, toiletries and clean clothes into my musette bag, which was at the finish of each stage.
4. Learn some French – Let me be clear. In no way do you need any knowledge of French to enjoy the event to its fullest. Staff are careful to present everything in both French and English, and pretty much any volunteer I met was happy to speak in either language.
Still, it’s nice to be able to say “thank you all” at a feed station with, “Merci, tout le monde.”
It’s also really important to understand what you’re being asked when you come out of the woods and someone says “Veut-tu un creme glacée?” (Do you want an ice cream), to which the answer is a resounding “Oui!”
5. Traveling light does make a difference – Initially, I arrived at the event planning to take a pretty full amount of kit with me each day. Some of the stages left a real possibility of being kms from support if something went wrong – though the event had roving riders called the S’Quad who could help with some basic stuff.
As a result, I was carrying a 25l pack, with some spares, tools, 3l of water, snacks, and on one day, a DSLR. I wasn’t used to riding with so much stuff on such long days, and my back pretty quickly decided I ought to know how stupid that was.
I thinned things out, even buying a smaller hydration pack to carry just the minimum required equipment, and using a bag under my bike seat for heavier items like tools. The DSLR stayed in camp and I relied on my iPhone for photos.
With all of these lessons in mind, I am already planning to go back next year. I want to be fitter, faster, and strong enough to finish in the top half of the field while still taking time for maple shots, s’mores, ice cream and photos.