Saturday, August 19, 2006

Revisited the "Worst Ride Ever" circuit

Here in Quebec every tom dick and harry municipality and region are printing up maps with bike circuits for bike riders and cyclists to explore. Some of these are great and amazing. Some are on "Quebec's Worst Road" (tm). Todays ride was sourced in the cycling map pamphlet "La Monteregie - Circuits Routier" and was "24 - Circuit de Chemin des Patriots." It does a north-south loop along both sides of the Richelieu river, between the two mountains of Mont Saint Bruno and the impressive Mont Saint Hillaire.

Earlier this year I tried to ride this circuit in the Richelieu river valley. I started from the map-indicated official starting point of Saint Julie, a starting point which forced me to use a busy road which had no shoulder and massive potholes, was full of trucks, which was 50 feet from the autoroute, and where I got two flat tires and a broken axle in the first 30 minutes. This aborted ride is memorialized in my video "Worst Ride Ever."

But I still had high hopes for this ride. The scenery potential was Excellent. The Saint Julie portion that I had such a bad experiece wasn't even a part of the actual valley loop. It was tacked on to the loop as an afterthought, and it looked like the mapmakers brother in law was mayor of Saint Julie and insisted that somehow, no mater what, the mapmaker was told to include Saint Julie on a circuit.

Now that I knew to avoid Saint Julie, I went back for another try. I drove to Chambly, parked and started the loop from it's midway point.

After a wrong turn but scenic section riding the river north from Chambly, I got back on the real route and found the road called Bellvue. It took me north, first with a paved shoulder, then some bad road, then some amazing road and I arrived in Saint Basile le Grand, close to Mont Saint Bruno. I passed through town and went to the road that travels along the foot of the mountain, going north on the mountains eastern slopes. This was on a road called Rang Vingt. THis road was TERRIBLE. TERRIBLE TERRIBLE TERRIBLE. I question if the mapmaker ever actually rode a bike along this circuit before making the map. THis road was so bad I turned around when I had ten minutes of it (enough for a lifetime) and came back to find an alternative.

This turned out to be a very good thing.

I returned to Saint Basile, and got on the major road Route 116 eastbound. This took me across the Richelieu river to the chemin de Patriotes which is the river side road which I would ride south to get back to Chambly. Riding up to the river was amazing because the steep cliff face of Mont Saint Hilaire rises dramatically a few hunderd metres from the river! Very "western."

The ride had gotten a lot better. I wasn't planning to do a complete loop, I had planed an out-and-back ride, but here I was able to cut the official circuit in half, and ride essentially the complete southern half. Excellent.

Riding south on Chemin de Patriots was great, it was rolling, with scenery and some items of interest. It was what road riding was all about. Fast, intense, and steady riding, with some threatening weather conditions (but no rain until ride was over!) and a headwind to give it some sporting challenge (wouldn't want it too easy, now would we!) . Closer and closer I got and then it was back at the route 112 which I knew was only a couple of klicks from the car.

Then, suddenly, it was over. Turning back on Rang Vingt was a great decision, so was taking the 116 to get across the river, I had hoped it would be possible, and now I know it is. Chambly is a 90 minute ride from Montreal, now I have a loop to do at the end of it to make it a bit longer.

Ride times:

Chambly to Saint Basile le Grand: 30 minutes
Saint Basile to Otterburn Park/Chemin de Patriots to Chambly: 60 minutes.

Conclusion: Visiting the southern half of this circuit is a winner.


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