After the Eroica, my “Year of True Cycling” moved to Canada for a few events that collectively are called Hell Week. They embody everything I like about cycling.
Decades ago Mike Barry Sr (yes, the father of) started organizing a winter race for die-hard cyclists in Toronto. Randonneurs, semi-pro riders and other people with more guts than common sense would show up to ride 140km through gravel, mud, snow and ice. It was aptly named To Hell and Back.
Although nominally a race (then again, not really, to avoid insurance issues), I don’t believe first prize was ever much more than the entry fee. Showing up, experiencing the elements and if possible finishing the darn thing seemed to be more important than racing. You can read about my first experience with the race in 2000 here.
Mike has since stopped organizing the race due to a combination of insurance issues and retirement, but my friend Nigel Gray, whom I had convinced to come along that fateful day in 2000, decided to carry on the tradition. It is now a ride among friends, no entry fee, no organized support, only a starting time & place and a course map (we kept using the original Mike Barry maps for a few years, although nowadays it’s all on the Garmin of course).
Enthusiastic about the ride, another friend Lorne Cunliffe decided to scope out unpaved roads and trails around where he lives, which resulted in the Pancake Ride and Durham-Roubaix. Finally, Nigel created the City Loop, 95km of trails, paths and quiet residential streets that you would never expect to find inside a large city like Toronto.
Put together, they form the Hell Week. Most use cyclocross bikes for the rides, but obviously I used the OPEN mountain bike. I did switch the tires to cyclocross for a few of the rides (one more advantage of 29er wheels, the rims fit 28″ road and cross tires perfectly).
So how about you, are there events like this in your area? Do you participate in them or even organize one? Let me know in the comments section below!
Coming up next, a report and some video from Hell Week. You can subscribe here to get notified of that automatically.