Friday, April 30, 2010
Well with the agony of Roubaix over for another year, more and more I come to understand that to complete the Roubaix is feasible for many, to be competitive at the front requires both luck AND fitness.
At the RWR Clarence Rockland Classic a few weeks back, I definitely had luck. Once when the peloton shattered, I was lucky enough to be around enough guys willing (and able!) to work to get back to the group before it was too late, and of course lucky enough not to flat, which befell many of my competitors.
This weekend was the annual OBC Almonte Paris Roubaix, almost 90 km of rolling terrain, mostly gravel road and some all out trail, others have already described the course.
We arrived at the arena to a line of perhaps twenty racers, harried volunteers and the usual hubub.
Grab our numbers, get some pins, and back out to Glenn's team bus (crew cab truck with covered bed natch)
Pin on the numbers and go do some efforts
Zip to the top of the neutral section to czech out the first dirt section, and wouldn't ya know it? Fresh gravel. Knowing this is always a 55 km an hour downhill start, the thought of 140 some racers barreling down loose gravel eager to get good position gave me the willies. I vowed to be in the front to the first little climb, then settle in.
Back to the start, line up at the front, van pulls out and I hop right in behind the van. Perfect! Just stay with the van. So I do, and we make it up to the top behind the van and it's game ON!
Held my position all the way to the first climb, knowing the gravel was fresh I made sure I cut the corners correctly and stayed in the middle.
The first section is a long winding dirt road with short steep blind hills, and tricky little corners, most entertaining surrounded by 80 or so eager Cat 1/2/3s and Masters. Have a glance around and see Matt, and Neil, then a bit later David back to my right.
Remembered to ask Neil at the start when the first woods section was coming, and he reminded me. Wanted to be near the front for that section as last year I was caught behind a crash, and missed the group. Not this year if I could help it.
So left onto pavement, and the next right is the woods. Of course I am not the only one who is thinking to be first into the woods, and the pressure from behind was increasing as guys streamed by on my left. Crap! Don't get boxed in. Quick glance over my left shoulder, and slip into the surging stream like an eager salmon. Hard right into the trail, and I'm in a double line of riders absolutely pinning it through here. Most riding blind hoping the person ahead neither crashes or leaps aside to quickly reveal a sharp rock you'll pinch flat on for sure. No crashes, no flats, left out of the woods, onto a farm road and another selection as the group accelerates. No problem staying in the mix
Roll back up towards the front again, czech again and Matt, Neil and Dave and Todd are still with us. Things are looking good, but of course we're only 20 some km in...
A short while later, Matt flats. See more on his story here
That sucks, as I know how much Matt digs this race.
Roll up to Neil and let him know, he slides back into the pack offa the front, no sense pulling with a teammate out the back, we'll sit in for a while and see what's what.
Back onto a paved road, the pace relaxes a it, as Greg is long gone off the front,
Osmond is trying to muster some help chasing, but of course who is going to work for Osmond and then have him leave you behind? Being alone without teammates must suck, of course he won anyways...
Back to the race, rolling along the paved road then left onto dirt again, we get to the infamous construction zone, where not moments before, I had bottomed out both of my Grand Bois 30c tires, and didn't flat. Gloating to Chris Reid on my tire choice, what happens? Psssssst flat rear. Crap!
Pull over to the side, Doug Van Den Ham, and another are also there changing flats. I win the flat change race and am back riding before the others and start the long lonely chase back to the pack, get out to Wolf Grove road and turn left.
Just past the turn I see a Cyclery rider changing a flat tubular, looks like Steve Proulx, climb a bit, looking for black arrows on yellow signs, see a post with three right hand turn signs on it and follow it. Start rolling down a small dirt road, one lane, super fun up and down. As I start a stiff little climb I look up to see Aaron and Osmond followed by my lost packmates, approximately 20 strong bearing down on me at a great rate of speed. Dive into the bush, they're yelling wrong way, so I wait until most have passed, jump back on and chase, very confused at this point. I wonder if I have missed a turn and they are now looping back to me. What to do? Someone fills me in that they got to a dead end, turned around and Osmond and Aaron pinned it. So by the time I got back out to Wolf Grove and turned down onto Darling, an agonizingly long straight road, I could see the whole race unfolding. Aaron and Osmond way up ahead, what looked like a cluster of maybe 10 guys, which I now know contained Matt, Craig, Steve Proulx and Kiernan among others. Imad was slowly coming back to me, so I caught up with him, we started working, and we were then caught by a group of maybe 15 or 20 riders.
This is ok I think, we can catch the guys ahead, if we work together.
Nope. Never did, we spent the rest of the ride just riding hard, like an A loop in the park. Most seemed content to just roll fast to the finish, and not much rotating was done.
Ah well, good workout nonetheless.
To the end, we all stayed together, then a sprint, which I had no interest in contesting, hence 14 places behind my teammate David, who obviously had more sprint in his legs than I.
Now the Steed Report:
I rode my True North Custom for both the CRC, and the Almonte Roubaix. It has served me well since I received it in early spring 2007. I guesstimate I have somewhere near 20000 km on it since then. It handles with aplomb in all situations, yet I do not feel that I am compromised even on out Wednesday Night Worlds up in the Park.
It handles everything I can throw at it and really loves to go down, and at just nineteen pounds, with 31c tires, cages and pedals, it climbs well too.
I had an interesting experience the other week. I had been riding the True North quite a bit on fast rides in the Park, so had a sense of how it felt. I then rode my custom Steelwool cross bike, which I have sensed is quite a bit stiffer, and immediately noticed that the expansion strips on the Island Park bridge felt quite harsh. Pulled over to czech the pressure and nope, felt like the 55 to 60 I run normally. Odd. And then, once onto the parkway, I found that I was not able to stay on top of my Steelwool, I was forced to shift down and sit down, whereas with the True North, I was able to really wind it up and stay on top of the gear. I know that the Steelwool is made with relatively inexpensive tubing, while my True North had every tube optimized for my weight and riding style. It really shows.
The Mufferaw Joe Spring Sportif RETURNS WITH A VENGEANCE in 2010. This year we are adding a seven person team category for those of you who love company with your misery.So we’re up the Valley agin’, my band o’ misfits, and we’re gonna have some right good times and get sore legs and blisters and saddlesores. In fact, there’s a rumour goin’ round that Blister and The Saddlesores might be playin’ the Quyon when we get back for chow and brews.The ride will be about 130 km with some good dirty sections and some high speed jammin’.Details:Sunday, May 2, 2010We ride rain or shine$20 in advance, $25 ride-day registrationStart/Finish is at Gavan’s Hotel: 1157 Clarendon St. Quyon, Qc
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I figured that the bike I rode for the Clarence Rockland Classic and the Almonte Roubaix deserved a little write up given that it suited both races very well and that it is very different from most of the bikes I saw at either race. Have you ever been in between jobs? Girl/Boyfriends? Apartments? I’m currently in between bikes. I sold my True North Custom Club Racer in anticipation of a Steelwool all road rig sort of similar to Matt’s. While I wait, Matt graciously lent me his Pinarello Cyclocross bike, nicely kitted with a hodge-podge of parts that all work very well together. I won’t bore you with details but will just say that everything works perfectly. The shifters, brakes, wheels and drivetrain function just as they should, zero complaints. I guess this baby’s been around the block once or twice or three times or…you get the idea, handed down from cross racer to budding cross racer over the years. This gave me instant warm and fuzzies. What I love most about this bike is how old and slow it looks and how fast it can be, given the right conditions. Dare I borrow a term from the hot rod lexicon and call this bike a “sleeper”. Does the old Pinarello fit in the “Ugly” category? Some might think so, but it is certainly not in the “Bad” category. Oh no this here is “Good”. Very good.
What makes it sing is the frame. Standard diameter Columbus Nemo steel tubing (according to Matt) rattle-can painted bright orange. It’s a titch big for me; I’m a square 56, this is a 57 TT, 58 ST. I guess I end up with what Competitive Cyclist calls “The French Fit”. Hey I’m French (mostly) so why not? With a 100mm stem this suits me fine. What is striking at first glance is how steep the head angle is. This scared me a little at first being a timid descender. I was afraid that this combined with the flexiness (is that a word?) of the skinny tubes would cause the handling to be too quick and wiggle on fast descents. I was half right. The steering is so quick that you only need to think about turning in any one direction for the bike to instantly dive into a turn. This proved to be VERY useful for avoiding potholes and rocks that suddenly appear when racing in a pack on nasty gravel roads. But what about the high speed wiggle? Well, it does wiggle but not at speed. I have not been able to ride this bike no hands for any length of time and I have to be going fairly quickly to ride with one hand. Otherwise I get a wicked side to side shimmy that amplifies the longer I let it go. (it’s kinda fun to watch and is always a crowd pleaser) But surprise! I have found my downhill wings on this frame. I was able to fly down all the descents at both races with more comfort than I ever had on my old road bike. I can just let it go and feel good about where it will take me. Why is that? I’m guessing it’s due to the skinny, thin walled tubes matching my skinny thin walled body. Maybe also because the frame is slightly big for me? I wish I could elaborate. I should add that I am running 28 Grand Bois tire in the back and a 30 in the front. The larger front tire has added a small but noticeable amount of pneumatic trail which has added to the stability at speed.
Steep! But in the end not scary.
Plenty of clearance Clarence
Matt mentioned “planing”. This bikes planes in spades. Someone (I forget who) noted that during the Clarence Rockland Classic I looked totally relaxed on the rough roads. (true dat) In fact, the moment whatever group I was in would transition to gravel, the others seemed to ease the pace while I felt perfectly fine going the same speed. I made my biggest gains on the gravel where I often pulled away in comfort from riders on carbon cross frames with whom I could just keep up on the road. As for climbing, during the Roubaix Recon ride, I noted how if I grabbed and pulled onto the front of the bars with my thumbs around the hoods and moved my butt forward on the saddle, I would fly up the steepest climbs the course had to offer. I could leave the bike in a medium gear and just row the bike up the hill- in a sort of half-seated, half-standing position on the nose of the saddle, pedaling smoothly and slightly rocking fore and aft. I wish I had the same legs for the race the following week (alas not so).
I wouldn’t call this a sprinty bike but I am not a sprinty rider so it suits me fine. Yes it’s flexy, but who says that is a bad thing? The woods section at the end of the
I can’t say that I am much of a cycle racer, but I rode both races as hard as I could and this bike was never the limiting factor. Sure my legs were hurting at times of extra hard effort, but I am familiar with frame induced pain and that wasn’t it. My back and arms felt great the whole time and I always felt totally in control. I would have to be twice as fit to tell you if this old sleeper really isn’t suited for racing. It’s plenty of bike for me. I certainly haven’t felt that I was missing something by riding this over anything else. We’ll see how the season goes, but I am likely going to try this frame in a cross race - what it was designed do in the first place! Can’t wait.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
- The first step is determining how and where you ride. One rider might ride the Gatineau Parkway and never get out of the saddle. S/he would not need or want the same sort of tubing as a rider who spends a lot of time out of the saddle, and goes for the sprints. The roads are relatively smooth, so comfort would not need to be addressed to the same degree as a bike being ridden around Wakefield, for example.
- The next step is determining how much emphasis you want to put on comfort/efficiency. Do you want the bike to feel fast or be fast? There is a difference. 23c tires feel fast, but they are usually slower than 25s.
- The third step is deciding where you want your handling bias to fall: should the bike be optimized for moderate speeds, or should all out speed on descents be a priority? If you like to plummet descents at maximum velocity, you might want to forego a bit of pedaling efficiency in favour of front end accuracy (read, stiffness). So while a 25.5 top-tube might provide better suspension, it might not feel precise enough in the turns. This is a tough one to get to the bottom of, as suspension and precision cannot be taken separately. Companies like Specialized are using oversized head-tubes and steerers and focusing the flex in the fork blades like suspension on mtbs. This can be achieved with steel forks too, but whether oversizing the head-tube and isolating flex to the fork would be optimal is unknown to me.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
3rd Matt Surch
14th David Stachon
28th Rodd Heino
37th Todd Fairhead
91st Anna O'Brien - 4th Woman!!!!
48th Steve Bosworth
59th Jamie Pold
70th Jim McGuire
71st Pascal Marais
74th Mike Abraham
74th Thom Johnson
96th Neil Scheimann
132nd Mark Carver
133rd Jeff Ryan
134th Glenn Murray
136th Chris Simmons
Neil got the jump below and posted about today's Paris-Roubaix from Almonte. Great to read his account of the bizarre series of events that transpired today. I'll elaborate a bit.
I share Neil's affinity for the Almonte Roubaix. It would not be unfair to say I put a lot of my eggs in the Roubaix basket. Its my favourite local 'race,' but it comes early in the season, so it can be difficult to prepare for it. Four years ago a group of about 9 of us rode the event for the first time, on fixed gears. To the oganizers' delight, we returned the following year with gears, and finished about an hour sooner I suspect! That was a tough one, I didn't prepare very well and could not hold onto the lead group. In 2009 I had many more miles on the road in advance of the race, plus two hard races under my belt in the weeks prior, so I was able to ride a good race. I chased a break and managed to finish in 15th with Neil, only a couple minutes off the winner. I learned a lot, as I do each time I race on the road, so I immediately looked forward to the 2010 edition of the Roubaix.
As Neil writes below, we talked strategy this morning. We knew Osmond and Aaron would be the major protagonists on the road, so all we really had to do was stay with them. We felt pretty confident that a number of other Tall Tree riders would put in strong rides; Rodd, David, and Todd were quite likely to be in the mix, and Jamie, Mike, Steve, Thom, and Pascal all had form to draw on. It would really be about positioning for the guys with less power to call on. Our wild card was my long-time friend, "BMX" Jim McGuire, soon to be Tall Tree club rider, and strong ally.
As Neil and Jay detail (see Jay's great report on www.ottawabikes.com), the start of the race was pretty quick, like last year. To my chagrin, the beautiful buff dirt of last week was now covered with a thick coating of gravel. Wheels churned the surface into a broiling froth, spraying chunks in all directions as wheels flailed through shifting furroughs. Carnage was avoided...somehow. I staged well enough to move close to the front before hitting the gravel, then followed Oz up to the front with Neil close-by. Stay up front and out of trouble was my aim, which led to a good bit of riding on the front. I was keen on seeing what was coming.
After the fresh gravel subsided we had a short respite before heading into the woods. I moved to the front for the 90 degree turn and rolled in third or fourth wheel. Not willing to follow a wheel into a rock, I move forward and assumed the lead position, keeping my pace consistent. I'd focused on this sector during our pre-ride, knowing it is always decisive. Smooth lines were at a premium, and I was happy to find that I was able to come out of the first and second sectors in the lead position. Safe, and not blown up; excellent.
Oz was knocking on the back door, followed by a couple others, but there was no point in really trying to get away. I knew I was by no means strong enough to go away with a small group so early. Neil was with us and a selection of others, including both David and Rodd, within a minute or two. Excellent. As Neil writes, Greg rolled away without a response, and slowly built a gap. Neil and I were not keen to thrash ourselves to reel him in. Then I flatted.
I gave Rodd notice as I pulled to the side. Jim rolled up within a minute as I fumbled with my tube and CO2. I was panicking, think Lance in Ride Across the Sky. I can normally fix a flat rather quickly, but not so well when my hands are shaking with adrenaline coarsing through my veins. Tube out, tube in, CO2 on...not enough gas...seeped out sitting around. Canister two, gas in, unthread, valve core comes out with it!!! Swearing. Extract valve core with much effort. Replace. "Pump Jim?" "CO2." On it goes. "How does it work? Uh, I can't get it to work." Pascal, Jamie and Thom now stopped with us. "Pump?" Pascal delivers. Frantic pumping. Pathetic wheel intallation. "Ok guys, team time trial." Off I go, trying to gradually wind it up. I look back, I've opened a big gap. Damn. What to do? Better keep the hammer down. Time trial, five minutes to make up. Good luck.... Better to try.
One simple word describes the next 15-20k: pain. That's it, pain. Mostly in the legs, then in the lower back. It seems riding hard into head winds hurts my lower back. Must be the stupid hard pedalling. Many carrots dangled for a while. Mostly solo riders, then a group, the one Jay was in. A couple from his group tried to latch on , but I just couldn't slow to collaborate. I had to go as hard as I could if I was to have a chance to catch the second pack, the one with Steve in it (and maybe Todd). I thought of slowing and letting the others catch me so I could ride with them. No, what if the next group was around the next corner....it was possible. I had to remain in the hurt locker, keep stretching the back out and pedal.
I passed a rider who could hang for a bit. He put in a great pull for me and I bridged up to a friendly face, David Bilenky. It was a good time to ease up for a minute, we we rode side by side. Approaching an unfamiliar turn option with three arrows pointing to it, I mentioned it to David. He wasn't having any of it. In no uncertain terms he told me it was definitely not the turn; the correct one was a little further up. I remembered the correct turn up the road from last weekend, so I didn't put up much of a fight. But the arrows were there.....they were. Surely others would be confused?
David let me go soon after and I got back on the gas. Wouldn't you know, Aaron and Oz approached from behind a few kilometers down the road. What the? I surmised they must have taken the wrong turn and been spit back out on Darling after a lengthy detour. They were maching, and I knew there was NO chance I'd be able to hang with them for the next 40k, but there was a small chase group approaching! I was back in the game! Near despair morphed into hope; perhaps I could salvage this ride. Nobody knew whether others were ahead, there was no way to know. We were now three Cyclery riders, a Brockville rider, Keirnan Orange, A Scott rider, and me....I think. One of the Cyclery riders, Steve Proulx, had also flatted and avoided the detour. We made for a pretty able group, and shared the work well as we marched on...and on. Aside from the fading dots of Aaron and Oz, we saw no one.
Attrition hit with about 15k to go when we shed the Scott rider. I was watching the others closely to gauge their condition. Keirnan was riding well, and I contemplated seeing whether he'd want to try to work with me to counter the impending Cyclery attack. Would they have the juice to Domo us? I wasn't sure. Approaching the final Sugarbush wooded sector, I knew I'd have to be very observant and look for an opportunity. I felt confident that I could open a gap through the woods. If the others got through close together, they could counter on the final road section of 3-4k, but I had to go for it. Last week I rode the sector twice at full speed, so I knew what to expect, and I was ready. Approaching the climb into the woods, I attacked. We're not talking fireworks here, just the best I could muster. I got in with a clear path ahead of me and pressed the meat. With only a few minor mistakes, I came out with just one Cyclery rider, Craig "Smoking Gun" Hawkes, in pursuit, with perhaps 20 meters between us. But I let up before the exit, and then accellerated again. The gap grew. I hunkered down and drove it hard. The gap was growing. I didn't allow myself to let up, I couldn't leave anything to change. Go. I was not confident enough to keep from looking back every 30 seconds, despite a growing gap. The final stretches felt far longer than they should have.
Approaching the last turn I spied Oz backtracking, obviously winding down after finishing. He gave me an inspiring thumbs up. "Huh, that must be a good sign," I though. Turning the final corner I scanned ahead for other riders. There were none. Zipping up the jersey I unceremoniously crossed the line an still saw no one but Aaron. "Where is everyone?" "Its just you guys." "Am I third" "Yes" "Oh. My. God."
I still can't believe it. What a roller coaster ride of emotion and pain the race was. I'd resigned to the fact that I'd finish wayyyyy back, only to find myself far exceed my top-10 goal, and secure my best ever road result (not that I've raced a tonne on the road!). I'd been hoping for some time while labouring on the bike that Neil would salvage a result for Tall Tree today. But as fate would have it, he'd double flat, Rodd flatted, and I had the good fortune to be in the right place in at the right time. On the one hand it feels odd to celebrate the placing when many of my competitors were sidetracked. But then, I did suffer a great deal today as I fought to salvage my ride. I never gave up, and I worked hard with my group and executed my plan through the final sector. I'm proud of today's effort, and finishing 'on the podium' of the Roubaix will be an accomplishment I will draw on for years to come. It'll make a great story too.
Thanks to all my team-mates, official and unofficial, who sacrificed their race to help me today. Tall Tree pulled out a terrific result today. Many thanks go to David Bilenky for his guidance as well; Guiness to come. And a big thank you to the event organizers for their hard work putting on the event, always a highlight of the season. Saboteurs may have thrown a stick in the spokes today, but this was one for the books!
Going into the first forest section Matt was leading followed by Osmond Bakker and myself--We came out in that order and shed a lot of riders.I'd estimate the pack was down to about 30 at this point. The attacks started going- Oz went first, when we caught him Greg Reain countered and was gone far off the front shortly after. No one seemed to care that Greg was slowly turning into a speck of dust in the distance. I then got word from Rodd that Matt had flatted-S%*t! Finally we organized a small chase group rotating at the front- Imad El-Gazel, John Fee, Oz and myself-We drove the pace for a bit but then everything started going wrong....The course was marked incorrectly and approx. 20 of us(the lead chase pack) went right for about 3 kms to discover a dead end and where I also discovered I had a flat tire.
Everybody sprinted out of there while I put a tube in my tubeless tire.--Jumped back on the bike prepared to time trial for 50km, but wait, here comes Greg Reain out of the bushes covered in mud. apparently he took the wrong turn too.
He and I worked together right to the last Forest where I had a catastrophic tear on my rear wheel which went off like a gunshot.--Fixed it with a Cliff shot wrapper, then slowly and carefully rode the last 3 km to the finish line--Very anti climatic, Way she goes sometimes I guess.
But wait, there's more!
Matt Surch, after fixing his flat tire, didn't take the wrong turn---he was actually leading the race for a while until Oz and Aaron Fillion caught and passed him.I won't give away too much but Matt got third!!
Podium for Tall Tree at the Almonte Roubaix,(the most prestigious race in all of Ottawa). I'll be marking this one down as a great success for us all!'
Road season over, 364 days to go to the next Almonte Roubaix. Next stop Baie St.Paul XC Canada cup.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Go here for the OBC's map for Sunday's Roubaix, and here for the map I made, which will provide a bit more info about elevation, etc.
So we’re up the Valley agin’, my band o’ misfits, and we’re gonna have some right good times and get sore legs and blisters and saddlesores. In fact, there’s a rumour goin’ round that Blister and The Saddlesores might be playin’ the Quyon when we get back for chow and brews.
The ride will be about 130 km with some good dirty sections and some high speed jammin’.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
We ride rain or shine
$20 in advance, $25 ride-day registration
Start/Finish is at Gavan’s Hotel: 1157 Clarendon St. Quyon, Qc
No license required
Online registration via Paypal is available on the Wheelers' site.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Spring Classics are undoubtedly BIG.
In Europe, they virtually comprise a season unto themselves, and here in North America, they are more popular than all other disciplines; the Tour of the Battenkill in New York is America's biggest one-day race. In Europe the Spring Classics span two months, but around these parts they get packed into one, on account of...winter. Obsessed with Spring Classics and rough roads in general, the Tall Tree clan decided to extend the Classic action into May in 2009, inaugurating the Ride of the Damned. In its first installment, the RotD was a group ride over challenging terrain, passing up to and over the Paughan Dam, North of Wakefield. On Sunday, May 16th, Tall Tree Cycles will host the second annual Ride of the Damned, utilizing the 'gentleman's race' (or, preferably, gender neutral 'gentlefolk race') format. This format was employed in our Quintuple Pave Classic last August with resounding success.
Teams of 5 start en masse to tackle the 145k route of paved and dirt roads, passing through the Monts Cascades region and North of the 366. This format is an un-race, meaning it is a glorified ride with friends and perhaps...rivals. The spirit of the event is spirited riding, working together, and enjoying the challenge of the terrain; its a 'challenge ride,' not a 'victory ride' (more on this distinction soon, I promise).
The route map will be posted in advance of the event, and teams will be provided cue sheets. The course will not be marked. There will be no technical support, but there will be at least one stop where water and food will be provided. Teams must finish together in order to qualify as finishers. A BBQ post ride might occur, weather permitting, otherwise, we'll work out an alternative. We will really push to make the BBQ happen.
Cost for the event is $10/rider, registration will run from 07:00 - 07:45, start time 08:00.
Team captains are asked to RSVP to email@example.com by Wednesday, May 12th. For additional details, including confirmation of route, please visit http://talltreerides.blogspot.com/ Please feel free to share the poster around, the more the merrier!
This info is also posted on ottawabikes.com, your one-stop shop for cycling news in the National Capital Region. Visit often to keep up to speed on rides, races and non-competitive cycling events in the region, and more!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
So as per usual I’m always a little late going and mentally and physically challenged in the morning. I was the last to get out for a warm-up and while it was sufficient with a couple of intense pushes it really was not ideal in length.
Lining up at the last minute beside Dave about 50 back we were chat chatting and Dave mentions that we were kind of poorly seeded should have talked strategy prior....oh well, we’ll just work our way up close to Rodd, get him to the finish and let him go. I’m thinking...there is no way in hell I’m going to be anywhere near Rodd at the 85 km mark !!
The weather stated a bit chilly but in the end I was dressed ideally with two undershirts, jersey and arm-warmers.
So 50 back is not ideal but I know both Dave and I will move up on the first two climbs, which we did, him on the left and me on the right sometimes, on road sometimes on shoulder. I was feeling my lack of warmup on these pushes but knew (hoped) that I would have a chance to settle in and recover a bit before any real attacks happened. I love Rodd’s audio descriptor “a cacophony of missed shifts and dropped chains”. Yup it was cacophonous !
The pace stayed reasonably high for the flat straightaway but in the pack I was able to recover enough and respond to any accelerations. Dave and I were bobbing back and forth and at some times could even chat a bit with friends and competitors. There were a few little accelerations but nothing crazy...couple of guys of the front early but no interest in chasing them down it seemed. Eventually at one point I no longer noticed Dave bouncing around for a while so with a couple of looks back and seeing no green I decided to move up to Rodd (if I could). There wee a couple of pushes into some turns that make moving up and hanging on in some cases a bit of work but made my way up to Rodd and bounced around beside and behind him for a while. As Rodd mentioned, at about 30 km in there was a sharp right (west) turn onto a fairly soft gravel road. I felt OK for a little bit but must have been more drained than I thought as I lost my grip on Rodd and others, and started to get passed by Alex Michel and a couple others. Usually I will turn myself inside out to stay on Alex’s wheel but in the soft gravel and headwind my spindly legs just did not have the power. The back of that group was splintered and there were a 2 or 3 guys strung out over the next 50 meters or so ahead.....but as much as I worked to bridge to a wheel, they all worked at least as hard and after 10 minutes of gradually losing a little ground I had to call a truce with myself and think a bit more strategically. While feeling a somewhat dejected at having been shelled, I was at the same time happy to have stayed with the lead pack of uber-fasties for that length of time, and I knew there would be good groups behind to jump on with....the question was “when”?
It felt like a looooong way on my own through both gravel and headwinds and tailwinds and pavement. All the while I could see the few riders off in the distance ahead....so close, yet so far ! Eventually after about another 10 minutes I noticed 3 guys 100 m back so started to soft pedal and sit up. Unfortunately right before they caught me I threw off my chain (the second time in the race - the first was near the start and I was able to shift it back into the ring), this tmie however the shifting was not working. In a panic I hit the breaks and jumped off the bike to manually put the chain back on the ring but it was too late.....whoooosh they went by as I jumped back on the bike. There was NO WAY I could catch on to the 3 of them from a dead stop and gave up after a couple of minutes. I was cursing my stupidity.....I waited so long for this opportunity and blew it ! So on I went for the next 10 minutes or so with the idea that there is no point in expending too much energy now, just wait for the next group and be satisfied with that. Eventually a large group of about 20 came into sight of my rearview mirror on a paved headwind section. I was glad to join them and the pace seemed surprisingly slow even tho there were some strong riders in this group, Greg Zuliani, Chris Mullington, David Bilenkey, Stu Blunt, Jason Cheney, Jon Gee, Chris Olsen and uber-triathlete Cynthia Wilson. I guess only a few of the 20 were actually working so I ended up joining the 6 or 7 that were rotating through. I did have a chance to chat with Cyn and Greg and commented at how fast his brother Chris had gotten. At one point in time Cynthia decided she had enough of this pace and put it into overdrive and steadily rode away. Shortly after that we came to a small gravel downhill and bridge. Some of the guys in the group were clearly not as comfy on the gravel and while they were not necessarily sketchy, they were kind of “blockie”. Coming around the left side at the bottom of the bridge I pulled around and ahead standing on the pedals uphill, I had no intention of jumping and really just wanted to get in a stretch and in front of the “blockies”. Well in my inexperience I guess I opened a gap and that ruffled a few feathers as about half the group came along behind me and subsequently passed me 30 seconds later as I tired out a bit and had to work to hang on to the last wheel of this group as apparently the other half of the 20 or so splintered off the back. Jason C. made some kind of remark about my move but I didn’t hear what is was exactly...nevertheless it was clearly an expression of displeasure. I think in the end it all worked out for the best as we had some strong riders that kept the pace high. Chris Mullington was an absolute fiend as he time trialed off the front a few times, sometimes pulling us along, other times flying on his own !
Back onto paved road and a bit of the last climb hurt spreading things out a bit but not too much that the group broke up...no big attacks there, at least not that I remember....maybe there was a few who flew off. Anyway there was still a group of 8 or so that savoured the flat pavement and then the sweeping left downhill, (me off the back as always on downhills) but caught back up in a couple seconds. As we made the last turn toward the finish some of the group sprinted. This cowboy is NOT built to be a sprinter and I simply savoured the reasonably good finish rolling in moderately just ahead of Craig Hawkes. About 1 minute behind the previous group, 5 behind Rodds and with a few others in between.
I was glad to be done and chatted with Greg who looked destroyed, Rodd and Marc Lapointe who looked fresh and Alex.
It was a good race - a sufferfest for me at many times but it all goes in the bank and I was happy with my top 25% placing which was better than expected. Stu came in a few minutes later with some bad cramps, then Pascal brought it all home having left everything out on the road after playing good samaritan.
The hamburger helper “meal” was rather below standard, but the race organization was quite good and it was awesome to see 140+ races and a virgin event.
That’s long-winded enough...see ya in Almonte !