Tuesday, June 19, 2007

La Bataille de la Mauricie

A few days ago I picked up the new Velo Mag summer issue. It has some great Quebec riding destinations in it.

These include the Beauce/Etchimins area south of Quebec City, the Sherbrooke area's surplus of great destinations in the Eastern Townships (Cantons d l'est), and some special riding north of Trois Rivieres in "le parc national du Canada de la Mauricie."

The beautiful Mauricie River

This picture is not from the park!

On September 22 Velo Mag is organizing with Cyclomauricie "Le Defi Velo Mag" road cycling ride through parc national de la Mauricie (en francais) for a total distance of 125 km of, get this - car free roads. These roads will be closed to cars for the day of the ride. Limited to 600 riders, the Defi offers 3 ride-length options: 30, 53 or 105 km distances. The first two distances will have shuttles, the last one is the complete out-and-back ride between the two park entrances.

This ride sounds like a a lot of fun.

I heard a voice deep inside me saying: go there, ride it, pack your bag, go there now...

OK, I obeyed cuz simetimes the voice has some pretty good ideas. This was one of the best.

The result: This is one of the GREAT RIDES OF NORTH AMERICA!

Some park facts:

The parc de la Mauricie has a perfectly paved road between the two parc entrances. These two entrances are 62 km apart. The round trip is about 125 kilometres (78 miles) in total length.

The VeloMag feature gives the following very interesting statistics. Note: The VeloMag Defi will not go all the way to the St-Mathieu park entrance, so it is a slightly shorter ride than riding entrance-to-entrance.
  • One way length - 53 km (NOTE: complete entrance-entrance ride is 63 km)
  • Roundtrip length - 105 km (NOTE: complete entrance-entrance roundtrip is 125 km)
  • Total distance Uphill - 36 km (that's 21 Camilien Houdes)
  • Number of uphill climbs (roundtrip): 54
  • Total elevation gain (One-way): 1128 m (3700 ft)
  • Total elevation gain (Round-trip): 2256 m (7400 ft)
There were some scenic spots: the Le Passage parking has the views from "the top of the park" and should not be missed. The bridge just north of the Esker camping road has great views and lots of canoes.

Canoeing would seem to be the other main reason to visit the park. Parc de la Mauricie is one of the worlds greatest canoeing parks. Canoeing lac Wapizagonke would be a good day's fun in a totally spectacular setting. Shorter or longer trips. with or without portages are also possible.

lac Wapizagonke from bridge near Esker

Other activities include hiking and mountain biking. There are trails for each. The winter has cross country skiing, both classic and skating. And there's always snowshoeing. For the less robustly uphill there's also fishing.

Getting back to the bike ride...

With the car parked the car at St-Jean-des-Piles entrance, we investigated the Acueil (Welcome) building, paid the $6.90 entrance fee, and got the free map of the park. This an excellent map.

Please note that there is no food of any sort at this entrance and very few services along the way. The park entrances only have a Pepsi machine. You can glycogen replenish after the ride with a delicious refreshing Pepsi, but you have to head back to civilization to get some real food. (Or plan ahead and have food in the car.)

Also worth checking out, perhaps once you finish the ride and need a place to sit down, is the dock located on the other side of the Welcome Chalet, on the St-Mauricie river. When I finished the ride I relaxed and stretched here, basking in the late after noon sun (almost napping, but not quite!).

There are great views of the St-Mauricie river from this spot.

View of the Mauricie River and dock from behind the Welcome chalet

Here's the ride report:

Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill.

Arrive at the other park entrance (St-Mathieu). Fill up water bottles and camelbak. Eat bagel.

Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill. Try to get the ride's average speed pushed up on the last few kilometres of descent, arrive back at car.


With the exception of the first couple of miles near either of the park entrances, the road quality was completely excellent. (Completely perfect is another description).

Although there were lots and lots of climbs, none of them were sick crazy steep. But let it be said: there were alot of climbs. There were more, and longer, climbs than I would have thought was possible. The steeper climbs saw my speed drop to 8 and 9 km/h. (I was still able to climb sitting down with the 39/28 bottom gear)

There were a lot of descents. with excellent pavement and no crazy steeps, the descents were fast but stable with plenty of fast corners, and even some long series of fast downhill corners, one after another, There has to be some reward for the pain of all that climbing!

Here are my stats:

Direction: St-Jean-des Piles -> St-Mathieu
Distance: 61.89 km
Time: 2hr 55 min 30 sec
Avg Speed: 21.1 km/h

Direction: St-Mathieu -> St-Jean-des Piles
Distance: 61.44 km
Time: 2 hr 43 min 35 sec
Avg Speed: 22.5 km/h

Total Ride (Round-trip)
Distance: 123 km
Time: 5 hrs 39 min
Avg Speed: 21.8 km/h

Talking about average speed, the application for the Veo Mag "Defi" ride asks if my average speed is above or below 30 km/h. Ha! I congratulate anyone who does this ride at average speed over 30 km/h, because they will have worked really hard all year to be able to achive this.

One interesting and unique aspect to the ride is that the distance in kilometres is painted on the road. So about every three minutes another number rolled under the bike wheel. I knew exactly how far I was from the halfway point or how far I had to go to until the end of the ride (15, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1-Woohoo!).

This was a great "introduction to the parc de la Mauricie" ride. This first trip has shown me scenic beauty and the many great attractions this park has to offer. I'll be back!

Watch out for Canoes!

Bikely map (Link): This map shows the Defi 52 km ride, the St-Mathieu park entrance is ten km further south at the lower-left end of the ride. Todays ride, rode from this ride in both directions (i.e. an out and back ride), starting at the right side of the map.


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