Marie-Pierre Savard and Cory Ostertag hold both the men’s and women’s FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Log Driver’z Watlz race which was first held in July 2022. Cory won the race in all categories, completing the 800 kilometers and 9500 meters of elevation gain in just 2d 1h 43min, and Marie-Pierre was the first woman to cross the finish line in 3d 15h 41min, setting both new records for speed.
Two impressive performances, and yet achieved with very different approaches, whether in terms of preparation or strategy during the race.
Let’s take a look at their experiences!
Part of me was thinking that this was going to be easy, but I was so terribly wrong.Cory Ostertag
First of all, could you introduce yourself in a few words and tell us about your relationship with cycling
Cory : I currently live in Squamish, British Columbia, with my wife, son and soon to be second child (they will probably with us by the time you read this). I have been biking in some form or another my entire life and consider myself to be an interdisciplinary cyclist, having participated in road, mountain, track, cyclocross, gravel and now bikepacking. I’ve spent a good chunk of my adult years racing bikes and as a result I generally approach bikepacking with a competitive mindset. I enjoy the training process, the logistical puzzle of bikepacking races and often set out on these long distance rides with performance goals. On top of that, being a parent and employed full-time also influences this approach as my time is restricted and I need to complete routes as quickly as possible.
Riding day and night to finish a route as quickly as possible isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s something that I’ve discovered I’m good at, and I enjoy the experience.
Marie-Pierre : I’ve been cycling for 20 years, but it was in 2011 that my relationship with the bike changed with a bike touring trip in Central Asia. Since then, my life is oriented towards cycling! From daily commutes to trips and vacations around the world, and through my involvement and commitments in the adventure cycling community in Quebec.
Surprisingly, even with this experience I don’t consider myself an expert or an athlete! Yes, for me cycling is a sport, but it is above all a way to discover the world (or my own city), off the beaten track and pushing my limits. This is also why I don’t have much experience in racing and ultracycling… Above all, I am a contemplative person who doesn’t pedal very fast but who has a lot of determination and a very good sense of adaptation!
Can you tell us a little more about the specifics of the race and what made you want to enter it?
Cory : Despite living on the West Coast, I grew up in Ontario, and I did my undergrad at the University of Ottawa. It was during that time when I really started to bike more frequently and to this day I still have many fond memories of riding around the capital region. When I learned about The Log Driver’s Waltz and saw that the route weaved together many of the places that galvanized my love of cycling, I decided that I needed to ride the route. Coincidentally my wife was planning a trip back to Ottawa right around the time of the Grand Départ in order to visit with family for the first time since covid restrictions were lifted.
It seems that cyclists from central Canada are always drawn to ride in the mountains of BC, but for me, the pastoral landscape of eastern Ontario and the rolling hills of the Outaouais offer something different from what I see every day. I had already ridden in the Buckshot and the BC Epic last summer and wanted to experience a different landscape. This route was exactly what I had in mind. Kudos to Jen and Eric, the organizers, because they’ve really done an impressive job at piecing together an amazing route.
Marie-Pierre : As someone who is always looking for new places to ride away from paved roads, I was first attracted by the wilderness of the Log Driver’s Waltz, despite its proximity to Ottawa. Riding through towns I had never heard of (Almonte, Sharbot Lake, Lady Smith, Campbell’s Bay, etc.) I wanted to discover a new part of the country while taking on an endurance challenge.
As a first experience of “Grand Départ”, I also wanted to participate in something accessible. Easily accessible from my home in Montreal, but also with a trip that could be done in less than a week and where the pre-departure logistics would be relatively simple. I was also attracted by the unpretentiousness of LDW and the way Jen and Eric were able to introduce the event to people of all levels and backgrounds. I felt like I belonged there despite my lack of experience with long distance or bike racing. The fact that the event was free was key, as it allowed me to gain experience, with less expectations and pressure!
The fact that the event was free was key, it allowed me to gain experience with less expectations and pressure!Marie-Pierre Savard
Once you have registered, how do you prepare yourself physically and mentally for a challenge like this?
Cory : As mentioned, this was the third Bikepacking Grand Départ I lined up for in 2022, so I was coming into it with a good amount of fitness, and maybe even a bit of overconfidence, which I’ll explain later.
I was, and continue to be coached by someone who helps me get the most out of my training. Being time-crunched, I don’t necessarily ride as much as some people, but I ride frequently and consistently. The consistency has helped me to adapt my energy systems to always being under stress, so to speak. I’ve also trained to be efficient on long rides. This includes how to eat while moving, how to resupply quickly and generally spend as much time in the saddle as possible without stopping.
That said, I did come into the event underprepared mentally and lacking local knowledge. First off, I wasn’t exactly sure how I was planning to approach the event and whether I was going to fully ‘send it’ and go for the FKT, or if I was just going to enjoy it and do a fast touring pace. Once I got out front and lost perspective into where my closest competitors were, I just started to go, go, go, but in doing so, I totally underestimated how challenging the route would become and how much the non-stop climbing would wear me down. I was prepared to ride steady for a long time, but there is no “steady” riding on The Log Drivers Waltz. The steepness and quick succession of the climbing was much more physically demanding than I had expected and I wasn’t prepared for the short and punchy climbs coming from BC. I saw myself as being fit, but this terrain shows no mercy and I was forced to take more rest than I anticipated.
Marie-Pierre : My preparation was quite simple, because I first approached the Grand-Départ as an opportunity to have fun by getting out of my comfort zone, and not as a race.
In my daily life, I ride my bike a lot for transportation and pleasure, and at the time of the departure, I had already ridden a few thousand kilometers during the year. On top of that, two weeks with the same bike and gear, on sandy mountain bike trails in Central Florida, and a few long 200 kilometer days of gravel riding. So I knew I was comfortable on the Taiga EXP, in the woods and on long rides.
Since my initial goal was to complete the 808 kilometers in less than five days (a realistic goal for many intermediate cyclists), I was confident that I could do it without changing my routine (cycling every day and weight training at home once or twice a week)! But if I had worked more on my muscular strength, I would certainly have seen the results on the road, with a faster pace! Luckily I have stamina and a very good mindset that likes to reach goals, because that’s what allows me to succeed in this kind of challenge!
Regarding the logistics, the fact that the course was already very well documented, with many relevant points of interest, made my preparation easier. All I had to do was to identify in advance the best places to sleep and get supplies, allowing me to have a more defined game plan each day. Roughly planning ahead helped me, as I felt I was able to structure my days better, although in the end, I did better than I had thought!
This race offers a lot of challenges : an important difference in altitude, a technical terrain and the fact that you have to ensure your autonomy in terms of food and sleep. What was your set-up to deal with all this?
Cory : My bike set-up and packing for The Log Driver’s Waltz was basically the same as I had run for the BC Epic earlier that summer. I used the Panorama Taiga EXP. It’s mostly stock except for the Vittoria Mezcals which I find to be the best option in terms of rolling resistance, durability and grip. The mountain bike gear range and the big tire clearance on the Taiga EXP makes it a perfect bike to comfortably and confidently handle the rough and steep terrain. Most of the other fast guys were riding gravel bikes with ~45c tires. They were quick on the pavement and flatter terrain earlier in the route, but as soon as we hit some unmaintained trails in Lanark County, they quickly fell behind.
While my equipment choice may have been smart, I really struggled with nutrition on this route. Resupply points are quite spread apart and especially so when I was riding through the night and most businesses were closed. I resupplied at Sharbot Lake, then again in Renfrew at 320km and then not until Gracefield at 500km. That was it. 800km, 3 resupplies and a lot of junkfood. My stomach hated me. I think this was the most challenging part of this ride for me; being repeatedly unsatisfied with my food options.
Marie-Pierre : For the bike, like Cory, I rode the Taïga EXP (with original parts including WTB RANGER 29 X2.25 tires). It’s a bike I had ridden a lot before and I loved the comfort and versatility of it. Both on the mountain bike trails of Gatineau Park and on long, straight bike paths, the EXP was perfect.
My gear consisted of a single tent, a sleeping pad, a summer sleeping bag and about 3.5 liters of water. No cooking equipment, but a good stock of jujubes, nuts, jerky and other delicacies, even if I crossed several supply points in 4 days. Added to that, clothes to brave the cold and rain.
For me, the fact of being autonomous was not a difficulty, because this is how I do most of my adventures. The challenge was rather to reduce the weight and the volume of the luggage as much as possible. I already travel light, I found it difficult to reduce even more! If I could do it again, and knowing that I was able to sleep in covered places every night, I would leave with a bivouac rather than a tent and with much less clothes!
Taïga EXPAll Terrain Bikes2023-04-28: All 2023 units are sold! Thank you!! Please contact your closest PANORAMA CYCLES dealer to know what they have on hand. Or, subscribe to our newsletter to be the first informed of when the next pre-sale will be launched. *** *Please refer to the component list for 2023 specifications. Selected as one of the best off-road touring bikes by the renowned blog Cyling About, the Taïga EXP is the dropbar version of the Taïga mountain bike. This makes it ideal for long-distance off-road tours and mixed terrain bikepacking expeditions. It was also the bike that led Cory Ostertag to first place at the 2022 BC Epic, and the same bike that helped Marie-Pierre Savard and Cory Ostertag set new record times (FKT) at the 2022 Log Driver's Waltz for women and men respectively. The Reynolds 725 frame is packed with useful features: adjustable rear sliding dropouts, seat stay opening for use with belt, compatible with 100mm suspension fork, compatible with dropper seat post. The carbon fork has internal cable routing for dynamo hub usage, and all the necessary mounts for your equipment. A true 'mullet' setup with Gevenalle GX or Rival+Ratio Technology shifters controlling a 12-speed SRAM Eagle mountain drivetrain. Hunt XC Wide MTB wheels fitted with WTB Trail Boss 29"x2.25" tires are fast and comfortable. The Ritchey Beacon 52cm wide handlebar gives enough space for a bulky handlebar bag, while providing excellent stability when the terrain is more demanding. *Frameset comes with wheel axles, headset installed, seatpost collar and frame protectors. *Rohloff option comes with the black Speedhub 500/14 A12 DB PM, 180mm rear rotor, the shifter and all the hardware for the hub installation. Option with Rohbox system and SRAM Rival shifters available.1,649$ – 3,949$ (CAD)
In what state of mind were you at the start line? Did you have a strategy, especially regarding sleep?
Cory: I was just so excited to be there, about to ride in a landscape that is vastly different from where I live and with a big group of friendly and like-minded individuals. I will say the the Grand Départ of The Log Driver’s Waltz is truly something special. Eric and Jen has gone above and beyond to make everyone feel welcome.
I was feeling pretty relaxed and the distance didn’t frighten me too much as I had already ridden a longer route earlier in the summer. Part of me was thinking that this was going to be easy, but I was so terribly wrong, haha.
I didn’t have a sleep plan as I was thinking that I could potentially ride straight through without sleep. However, the physical demands of the route forced me to concede to sleeping, not because I was sleepy, rather because my energy was drained and my body needed a chance to rest and recuperate.
Marie-Pierre : In Almonte, at the starting line with about thirty other people (including about six women) I was feverish, motivated and confident that I would be able to complete the route in less than five days, despite the heat wave that was slowly setting in. I had already established a rough itinerary, but my only strategy was to do my best while respecting my limits, having never participated in an event of this kind before!
Quite often on this type of event, the only thing you can predict is that there will be unforeseen events! How did the race go, did you have to change your plans?
Cory : I definitely had to adjust my expectations when I discovered how hilly the route was. The first section to Sharbot Lake is fast and relatively flat which gave me a false sense of confidence that I would be able to fly through the route quickly. But once I started hitting all the climbs my impressions changed. I started looking at the resupply options coming up and wondered if I would arrive in time before they close. I was really hoping to resupply in Calabogie but I arrived too late. I needed a pick-me-up, so I stumbled into the Redneck Bistro and chugged 3 glasses of gingerale at the bar to give me enough calories to make it to Renfrew where I’d find a 24-hour gas station.
Overall, everything went smoothly, but I did feel like I was driving on empty for much of the route and that started to affect my mood, especially when it began to thunderstorm. It poured rain for a good chunk of the second day. Again, this lowered my mood especially as I was labouring up some of the biggest climbs of the route, around Lac Sainte-Marie and Denholme. Fortunately the weather shifted and I had a dry sleep while wild camping on the edge of Meech Lake in Gatineau Park. This was a highlight.
Marie-Pierre : In summary, I have incredible memories of the race, with many moments of wonder and great joy, but also with areas of despair, pain and extreme fatigue! That’s the beauty of such an event, it was trying, but rewarding and so positive.
For this Grand-Departure I used an InReach beacon that allows the public and other participants to follow each other in real time. I had never used this before and it completely changed my way of doing and reading the race. It was quite unexpected and it immediately gave me a lot of motivation to persevere, despite the heat wave, the storm, the rain and the mud… Until day 4, when I hit a big wall.
Indeed, the last day on the LDW was one of the hardest of my cycling life! Starting at 5am in Denholm, with wet and uncomfortable clothes, I rode with the hope of a coffee in Wakefield, 65 kilometers away. Then came Gatineau Park, phew! I hadn’t done my research properly and therefore, I wasn’t expecting a 60 kilometer ride mainly on mountain bike trails of various levels. Normally, this section would have been my favorite, but already very tired, I didn’t have the mental capacity to ride these trails still very slippery from the previous day’s rain. I still don’t know how I got through this section without getting hurt.
By the time I got to Ottawa, I was still in a lot of pain, seeing Jen Adams catching up with me. I was not ready to give in to the only other woman left in the race (who I knew was faster than me)! So close to the goal, I gave it my all, with an endless sprint on the last 70 kilometers, in order to maintain this very slim lead! My body suffered, but it was incredible and intense to challenge myself until the last few kilometers like I had never done before!
Finally, what did you learn about yourself and your experience through this adventure?
Cory : I definitely learned that just because there aren’t mountains, doesn’t mean that there won’t be climbing and that it will be easy!
I also learned about the impact of hearing from loved ones and seeing familiar faces. When I started feeling down in Gracefield, I called my wife to explain how I was feeling. Minutes later I started receiving all these notifications on my phone. Family members were sending me messages of encouragement, and this helped me pick myself up and get back to riding. Similarly, I have a group of friends that live in Wakefield and they surprised me at the entrance of the covered bridge. After toiling away for hours in the rain, it was incredibly uplifting to see some friends on route. I know “visitations” in these self-supported events have been a very controversial topic lately, and I can understand why as they do provide a boost, especially during hard periods of a ride.
Marie-Pierre : Considering that I am not an expert on long distances, I was proud and impressed with what my body and mind were able to do for 4 consecutive days! I also learned about my limits in ultracycling (which must be around 250 kilometers per day!), as well as the importance of good nutrition and hydration during long efforts (I didn’t manage these aspects well the first two days and felt the consequences afterwards).
I also found that I am more competitive than I thought, especially if I think I have a chance to perform well! And with family and friends following me and cheering me on from afar, I had extra motivation. I wanted to make them proud, so I gave 100%, until the last kilometer.
In general, there is an addictive side to this type of bikepacking race. Do you have any other bike adventures planned for 2023?
Cory : I do! I’ll be riding in the Grand Départ for the Cross Washington Mountain Bike Route at the end of May. It’s 1150 km and crosses the entire state from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the state line with Idaho in the east. Then in October I’m planning to ride the Arkansas High Country Race which will be the longest route I will have done at 1600km. I have no plans for the summer in between as baby is due in June and I want to spend the summer surrounded with family and friends.
Marie-Pierre : Having just come back from a month on the Baja Divide in Mexico, I still have my head in the Sea of Cortez and so making plans is difficult! But concretely, for the 2023 season I will co-organize about ten adventure bike trips with the collective Les Fines Garnottes, in Quebec. Unfortunately, with my atypical work schedule that requires me to work most of the weekends, in the summer period I have less vacations and less availability. However, I hope to be at the start of the Alberta-Rockies 700, in the Canadian Rockies, next August. This winter, I would love to participate in the Florida Divide, organized by SingletrackSamurai, or go back to ride the Baja Divide in Mexico.
To follow Marie-Pierre and Cory adventures :
Marie-Pierre Savard : Compte Instagram
Cory Ostertag : Compte Instagram
Photo credits : Marie-Pierre Savard, Steve Smith, Dylan Davies (@shredordead)
Special thanks to the Log Driver’s Waltz organizers, Jen and Eric!