Sep 10 2014

Meet My New Friend

2015 Giant TCX SLR 2

My new TCX on the Etobicoke Creek trailI originally wanted to look for remaining 2014 stock on clearance, but ended up getting a good deal on a brand new 2015 model, hot off the container ship from Taiwan.

So it’s a purpose built for cyclocross, and generally getting dirty and stuff.

I usually don’t like getting dirty, but I watched some cyclocross last season and looks like a ball, so I will give it a try, at the Midweek Tuesday Cross at Centennial series.

It’s also nice to be able to roll over potholes and cracks on downtown streets, so when outside of cyclocross, I will slap on some road tires and use it as a super commuter.

This could be a start to a beautiful relationship!

Thanks to Jeff and the guys at Cyclepath Oakville for setting me up.

Sep 03 2014

Labour Day Weekend, Super Crit Weekend

I realized it has been a while since my last nice road trip. So what better way to cure that than a road trip to Windsor and Michigan, while racing 3 crits to end the road cycling season?

Provincial Criterium Championships – Sportif

The race was hosted by Ciociaro Club of Windsor, which apparently has a private, purpose-built cycling track outside. The club house is is a really fancy looking banquet facility. We almost thought we were in the wrong place when we arrived.

After registration, I got on the track to do few laps. Of note, there was some weird man-made hill, which isn’t really a hill at all, but nonetheless should be the source of some action.

The wind was quite strong this day. There was crosswind on the final turn towards the finish, then head wind on the finish straight and around the next corner up the hill.

As it turned out, there were 9 pre-registered racers in the Sportif category, including myself. This could end really well or really poorly; there could be no middle result.

There was enough room for everyone to start line abreast, and then we were off.

I was mostly in 3rd or 4th, watching closely for any action. There was none until a prime lap. A few guys took off on the back stretch and I was caught out in the crosswind part of the course.

Maybe I didn’t eat enough for this late race start, maybe it’s the wind, I was feeling lousy even by my standards. Once they were gone, I could not catch them again.

There was no real point continuing, except being angry at myself and decided that I was going to finish this frigging race. So it was solo time trialling in shame, while only getting lapped once!

If there is a forgettable event, this has got to be number 1.

At the front the peloton, for the first and last time Won't be with them for much longer On the At least I got a potential new profile photo out of this mess

Tour di Via Italia – Elite 4 / Master 3

On to event #2, the Tour di Via Italia on downtown Windsor.

This race has just become one of my favourites. It is right in downtown, Little Italy, with large crowds of spectators even for our crappy Elite 4/Master 3 race. The atmosphere was fantastic for the Elite race, cheering on an absolute beast of a rider, Bobby Lea, who solo’d to victory by almost lapping the field. A strong chase group that included Jeff Schiller and Ed Veal had nothing on him.

After the forgettable thing the day before, I was determined not to be at the back and stay with the peloton, and that I did.

Gruppo compacto on the finish straight, Erie St.There was room to move up at many places along the 1.8km circuit, so when I did look back and see daylight behind on several occasions, I picked a fast line out of a corner and moved up from the sides.

This race developed as a typical E4/M3 race (ie: everyone stays together until a final sprint). There was a breakaway in the earlier part of the race, but that last no more than a few laps.

There was another group that got a gap on a prime lap, but they were brought back together without much effort required.

At exit of corner 1On the final lap, on a straight and smooth section before the last corner, I heard a loud pop up ahead. Someone got a flat, no big deal. But next thing I knew, I came to a complete stop and then landed on top of a clusterfuck of a pile up. There must have been 10-12 people in that pile. It was ugly. Fortunately for myself, my only problem was putting the chain back on, which took me forever in my state of panic.

At the end, over half the field did not finish. A few were pulled after getting dropped but most were involved in the crash. I wish them speedy recovery.

The race itself did not seem fast for me. If only I had the courage/confidence to move up further when the opportunities were available, I might have even avoided getting caught up in the carnage, and then a good chance at a top 10 prize.

Debaets-Devos Pro-Am Memorial Race – Cat 4

For the grand finale, I head NORTH of the border to the USA. Destination was Auburn Hills, Michigan, in suburban Detroit, for the 50th annual Debaets-Devos Pro-Am Memorial Race.

The Pro/Elite race was on just before my Cat 4 race. And who would have guessed, it’s the same Bobby Lea from yesterday, who actually did manage to lap the field this time! Doubly impressive!

Then it was my race. The local Team O2 was very well represented. Almost half the field was dominated by Team O2, a but ridiculous actually.

My strategy was to watch Team O2 and follow any moves they made.

It turned out O2 did not plan on making any moves, while everyone else seemed to have the same idea as me.

In the final few laps, gaps were starting to form here and there and no one was enthusiastic about chasing back on. I was the one who bridged back to the peloton on several occasions, dragging the rest of the bunch with me.

Last lap, I was still in the front half of the peloton, but lost position between corner 2 and corner 3. I was no longer in a good position heading to the last turn, then I was cutoff by someone who then sat up. I still ended up mid-pack, 21st to cross the line.

It was another one of those races where there were opportunities, especially since everyone was for Team O2 to do something, but I did not take advantage. O2 protected their sprinter and got what they wanted. In hindsight, it would have been fun to talk a couple other guys into taking turns attacking O2 and see how they would respond. It might not work but would at least make them work!

The 90% POP did not materialize for any of the races! I had almost whiteout conditions on the way to and from the race, but miraculous none during. The wind was stiff – it was a very strong headwind on the finishing straight, but this time I did not feel its effects nearly as much as in the crit provincials.

So that is a wrap for the 2014 road cycling season. I’m happy to get through it rubber side down, but definitely did not progress as much as I wanted. There are things to work on in the off-season.

I do have a final Centurion gran fondo ride coming up, but aside from that, onwards and upwards to cyclocross season!

Aug 06 2014

Hot and Bothered – 2014 Tour de Terra Cotta

On the Monday of the Civic Holiday weekend, it turned out to be even warmer than Saturday at the Tom Jehlicka Crit.
I did not even bother taking out the trainer from the car trunk.

After signing in and pinning on numbers, I rode most of one lap of the race course while the Beginner race was happening. The rest of the time was spent riding up and down one of the side streets near the start/finish line, and chilling with buddies from the Midweek team.

We have a large contigent in this race – seemed like almost all club members are in. Cool, the more the merrier!

Close to 10 of us, along with 200 others lined up for the Intermediate 52km distance, 6 laps of the course.

Compared to last year, the pace was a lot faster right from the start. I had expected this though, since some of us had talked about attacking the hill right off the bat, and I am sure other teams would have similar ideas.

Feed zone at the top of the Heritage Road climbClimbing the hill feature on Heritage Road was usually not a issue, but I was vulberable in the false flat that immediately followed. I was close to getting gapped there on the second lap, and stayed on by burning more matches than I wanted

On the third lap, the pace seemed to have picked up again, and this time I was undone by the false flat.
I had almost caught back on, but got gapped again at the next right hand turn. I was maxing out, it was hot, and I probably didn’t drink enough (little chance to drink when I was chasing all the time…)

A train driven by teammate Dan showed up, so I jumped on the back to recover. That took almost half of the 8.5km lap…

Finish line in sightKendra and Will were also on this chase group. I rode with them until the finish.

We were picking up stragglers who fell off the lead peloton as the race went on, so our group had become quite sizeable.
If we had organized a chase, there’s a chance we could close the gap to the lead peloton, but no one really wanted to do anything. Though I suspect a lot of them were spent, like me, and just wanted to get this over with.

The last two laps were conducted in a leisurely pace, only increased at the end for the sprint finish.

I am not at all happy with how I got dropped. This seems to be an ongoing theme. Nothing off-season training can’t fix, right?

Aug 05 2014

Beginning to Enjoy Crits! – Tom Jehlicka Memorial Crit

On this Saturday of the Civic Holiday weekend, it was turning out to be the warmest day of this summer yet.

I arrived early, almost an hour before the first race (I am in the second race), took my time to register and pin on race numbers. I tried to jump on the trainer for some warmup, but I could not last more than 5 minutes before overheating and soaking myself in sweat.

Fortunately, the schedule allowed for 10-15 minutes of buffer time between races, so I was happy to do a few laps of the race course before lining up at the start.

The main concern with this course is the fact that it is completely open with no protection against the wind. As everyone knows by now, I have a history of getting beaten up by the wind. As it turned out, there was very little that day, so it would not be a factor for any racer.

The pace was kept easy at the beginning, and everyone stayed together.

Soon after, there was a break with a few riders. They were not able to get any significant gap, and the peloton didn’t feel the need to chase them down right away. They were brought back after be allowed to dangle out front for a few laps.

There were a few other attempted attacks, but nothing stuck.

At 10 laps to go, there was a cash prime. I followed a rider to the front, and I was in 3rd coming into the finish line, but I forgot about the prime.
My teammate Dan didn’t! He had started his sprint but was cutoff. He continued his sprint anyway, and managed to get himself a sizeable gap on the field, while no one reacted at first.

I stayed at the front to do some blocking, but the peloton came around me soon after.
Then it was teammate Joe’s turn to do some blocking. The gap to Dan seemed to be holding at this point.

There was another prime with 5 laps to go, and at this point, there was also a small chase group that broke away from the peloton trying to catch Dan.

The gap to Dan appeared to be getting clawed back at this point. I thought he might get caught.
However the chase group lost steam, and was caught by the peloton. With only a few laps to go, no one wanted to do any work, so Dan actually starting to gain on us again!

A small crash at a corner at this point did more damage to the peloton, and it became clear that we would not catch the Danimal.

While he solo’d across the line, the bunch sprinted for 2nd and 3rd. I came in right after, maybe around 10th place.

This course in Cobourg is fantastic because you can see the entire race from any vantage point, useful for keeping track of breakways and chase groups. It is also a very safe and smooth surface loop. I highly recommend it to everyone! Wish there can be more done to promote this race.

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