Aug 24 2012

Centurion Ellicottville 2012 – Race Report

My first race outside of Canada was in Ellicottville, New York, also known as EVL to the locals, a quaint small town an hour’s drive south of Buffalo.

For this inaugural edition of Centurion Ellicottville, I signed up for the whole shebang: C25 (25 mile race), C100 (100 mile race), and individual time trial, all in one weekend.

Beautiful downtown Ellicottville All my race kits for the weekend

This was also my first 100 mile century race, so all those big hills on Highway 219 on the drive towards Ellicottville was not entirely reassuring.

The plan was to ride the C25 race on Saturday morning easy, as a warm up to the individual time trial in the afternoon, then the C100 century race on Sunday morning.

C25 Race

After having breakfast in the lounge, the temperature still felt cool (I’ve been spoiled this entire summer!), so on with the arm warmers for first time this season.

Pat LaFontaine and the Buffalo Sabres kick off the racesI arrived at the starting chute after a warmup ride from the hotel. Even though I don’t like the Buffalo Sabres for obvious reasons, it was nice to see Pat Lafontaine being introduced with current and former Buffalo Sabres, including Patrick Kaleta and Rob Ray. They were headlining for Pat’s Ride, one of Lafontaine’s efforts to get people in Western New York active.

My race started right on time, and we were met with the first hill (Fish Hill Road) immediately. This is when the trouble started.

As I was downshifting to a larger cassette sprocket, I heard a terrifying “clink” sound, immediately followed by the sound of metal bouncing on the ground, immediately followed by my chain getting sucked into the frame. My race was over after 2km.

It was a yard sale of metal and plastic pieces. I picked up all the pieces I could find and shouldered my bike to the support vehicle, fortunately nearby.

The rear derailleur hanger was completely sheared off and the chain was sucked into the frame as well. Not sure if one caused the other. In any case, it was out of commission.

The Scott booth at Centurion Expo came to my rescue. They set me up with one of their Foil Team Issue aero bikes for the rest of the week. So I got a upgrade for the time trial and C100!

Individual Time Trial

The time trial was a different experience.

After checking in with the director, I lined up at the ramp with other riders according to start time. Riders went off at 30 second intervals. My start time was 2:21:30pm.

I was nervous in line. I kept playing this scenario in my head over and over…

It wasn’t long before it was my turn. I hopped on to the elevated platform, then clipped both feet in while a guy held me up by the seat post. I was the centre of attention for 30 seconds, and that was a weird feeling…

15 seconds to go, said the director.

5 4 3 2 1, the holder gently pushed me down the ramp, and off I went, incidently free. Whew!

The rest of the race was fortunately uneventful.

I passed my first rider on the first hill in the outbound leg. There was a good stretch of false flats and uphills near the beginning, where I tried hard to maintain cadence on the big ring.

Shortly before the turnaround, I was passed by a fully decked out time trialist like I was standing still…

I felt I was starting to suffer at the point. I realized I might have spent too much fighting the headwind and false flat.

Hancyclists in custom carbon frames competing in the time trial! They would be back the next day for the C100After the turnaround, there was a significant climb, where I reluctantly switched to the small ring so I could spin my way up.

It was mostly downhill after this, so it was relatively smooth sailing, except for another guy who passed me like I was standing still, I found out later he was Osmond Bakker, who came in second behind the invincible Bruce Bird.

I was slowly reeling in the rider in front of me as I was approaching Ellicottville again, but alas, I got to the finish line before being able to catch him.

The 23 km course was completed in 40:15, average 35.2km/h. It was a tough 40 minutes. I was anaerobic for almost the entire duration, heart rate averaging 191 bpm, maximum 195 bpm.

I knew I am not built for time trials, and I may never be a good time trialler, but I might do more of these races for the experience.

C100 Race

As my longest race to date, my strategy would be to find a big group and stay at the back until the KOM close to the halfway mark. Then I would go with the flow from there.

There were 8 major climbs in the course, including three Category 3 climbs and two Category 4 climbs, according to Strava. Total elevation gain was just over 6000ft/1800m.

All but one climb occurred in the first 60 miles, so the key to success was to hang on to the pack until then.

There were rolling hills for the next 30 miles, then the last climb with 5 miles to go would be the same hill as the very first climb, but from the opposite approach. I predicted I would blow up on this hill, and it happened. More on that later.

Here’s a look at the course profile:
Centurion Ellicottville course profile

I decided to take only one bottle, and would rely on the feed zone volunteers to pass me Gatorade bottles. Hope they don’t run out!

As I stepped outside the door I felt the chill in the air, upon which I reluctantly put on arm warmers again, knowing the temperature will warm up to 20C by the time I finish.

After two big Wal-Mart muffins for breakfast, I rode my way to the start line, and tried to stay loose until the start.

Race Start

Finally an uneventful start for me. The neutral roll out took me up the same Fish Hill Road where I ended the C25 race the day before. This time, I made it to the top without breaking anything!

Mile 2 to 45

A sizeable group formed after that climb, It was a strange that a few guys kept pulling at the front. Someone eventually tried to organize a rotation, but that didn’t quite work. I eventually made one pull, then slid to the back and stayed there, just the way I wanted at this stage.

At the first feed zone, I grabbed a bottle from a kid, ate some Clif Shot Bloks and I was set. I quickly made my way back to the peloton, and that’s where I stayed until the KOM.

At around 23 miles, the route somehow took us back towards the start/finish line in downtown Ellicottville. It was really cool to roll through the line with lots of people cheering.


Today’s feature climb was Dutch Hill Road, 1.7 miles of pretty much continuous incline that doesn’t flatten out until reaching the top.

I built up some momentum at the flat section on the bottom, then tried to spin as much as I could, but the cadence only got lower and lower. I ended up alternating standing up and pedalling seated until the top.

I managed to drop everyone in my group, but I burnt a lot matches in that climb, and now I was all alone. There was no way I want to time trial the last 50 miles to finish, so I basically sat up, had some food, and waited for someone to catch up.

Mile 50 to 65

Eventually, another dude caught up, and we started working together, but Chapel Hill was immediately upon us. This climb was not as steep as Dutch Hill, but it was way longer.

At the top, I was alone again, so I sat up and did tempo riding to recover. There were two guys ahead who were not really getting away from me, so I decided to bridge up. By that time, there were another half dozens riders closing in.

I was still feeling good at this point, and I ended up doing a few good pulls at the front. By the time I rotated back to recover, the group has grown to at least 15 strong.

The guys at the front started picking up the pace. I was struggling just to stay on the wheel at the back.

And so on the next climb up Drake Hill, close to 100km mark, the guys kept up the pace and I was dropped, along with Steve, with whom I would ride for the last 40 miles.

Mile 65 to 90

Steve and I started trading pulls for a bit. Soon after, we picked up Patrick, who was also spit out from the group I was in. The three of us took equals pulls in the 20 miles or so of rolling roads after Jarecki Road climb. Steve could have been doing slightly longer pulls than the two of us.

Mile 90 to 100+

At Mile 93, riding along Route #353, there was a fork in the road. I did not see any signs, so I naturally continued along the same route by taking the left branch. Unfortunately, we knew we were in trouble when we were greeted by a stoplight at the village of Little Valley, with no police controlling traffic.

We turned around and asked a few local folks, who pointed us back to that Y-junction. Apparently we were supposed to take the right branch, which connects to Route #242 taking us back to Ellicottville. That’s an extra 2.5 miles. Boo!

I made the strategic error of taking a long pull towards the base of the last hill, which is the opposite approach to the very first climb out of Ellicottville. As I rotated back to recover, I could no longer keep up with Steve and Patrick. They slowly got away while I officially blew up at this point. It was a real struggle to keep those legs moving – definitely the longest 2 miles of the course!

At last, I dragged my sorry butt to the top, and started the final decent of Fish Hill Road back to town.

Race Finish

Coming across the finish line, all spentWith half a mile to go, I could see the finish line straight ahead. I shifted to a harder gear, got down as aero as I could physcially get, and powered the Scott through the banner. At least that looked go in the pictures, I hoped!

After the finish, I went straight to lunch. This time, they served burgers and pasta. That’s more like it! None of the wussy pancake business from Horseshoe Valley.

After lunch, it was back to reality: time to return my super loaner and pick up my broken bike carcass.


I got to know the Foil Team Issue really well to write a proper magazine review: its lightweight, stiff but compliant frame, smooth sailing Zipp 404 carbon clinchers, and even learned to tolerate SRAM doubletap shifting. The only thing my butt complained about was the Fizik Arione saddle. I think it might be a touch too wide for me.

This inaugural event was successful largely because the town and its businesses and residents were fully supportive. Not many places would shutdown the entire main drag in the downtown core for an entire weekend. There was little complaint about traffic inconveniences, like some big city races close to home that shall not be named.


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  1. Hong

    Sounds like a lot of fun buddy… sorry to hear about your new bike but i’m sure the owners will replace it.

  2. Cherry

    Don’t think I’ll ever have the guts to try TT. Sounds painful. I realize Centurion likes to position their neutral rollouts on hills. KOM here sounds a ton more intense than Horseshoe.

  3. Paul Radcliffe

    Thank you for sharing this. I don’t know much about cycling, so it’s nice to get a first-hand play-by-play of how it goes.

    Too bad about the bike breaking 2km in. And that wrong turn sounds like it was really bad news. But everything else sounds fantastic!


  4. Craig Auwaerter

    Your diary was particularly interesting to me as you had just passed me on Fish Hill Road in the 2012 C25 EVL race when your rear derailleur exploded just a few feet in front of me. I swerved to avoid the parts but I had wondered ever since if you had been able to get back in the race or not (and likely pass me again…). I tell an exaggerated version of the story in trying to describe how awful a climb the hill was: “the guy in front of me’s derailleur exploded!”. Glad to hear you got to race some more that weekend.

    1. Henry Lo

      Glad to provide you with comic relief!

      1. Craig Auwaerter

        Not comedy…pain!

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