Jul 28 2014

Off the Back – 2014 Provincial Road Championship

The 2014 Ontario Provincial Road Championship was held near Lincoln. The entire loop was on top of the escarpment, so there is very little elevation change, except for one downhill section leading into a 90 degree right turn followed immediately by a sharp kicker.

Obviously I was not going to race with the elites, so I lined up with the Sportif starters along with Midweek teammates, Chris, Steve, Joe, and David.

On the first left hand turn after neutral rollout, I was also gapped at the back already. Not a good sign! I should really stay away from the back…

Then on the first time up the sharp kicker portion, there was a crash just after making the right hand turn. I did not need to unclip but slowed down quite a lot, which made the climb slower than usual.

There were a few other guys with me, so we managed to close the gap, but heartrate was nearly maxed out at this point.

Next time the peloton accelerated, I started drifting off the back for real…

I rode with various stragglers who were all caught up in the crash. Many of them pulled out early. I pulled out after 4 laps.

Consolation was some pretty good shots from the photographers on site.

Steve managed to win a podium spot in his first ever race; Chris was involved in a crash. He has since recovered and is back on the bike.

May 23 2014

The Effing Wall – Niagara Classic O-Cup #5 Report

I must really like getting spit out the back and riding by myself, because here I was in Pelham getting ready to start the Niagara Classic, a week after Grey County Road Race.

Finally, there was good weather AND no wind! Hallelujah!

I rode the trainer for ten fifteen minutes after pinning race numbers on the jersey, and then it was off to the start corral.

After the short neutral rollout, we were immediately hit with the steepest part of the Effingham St climb. It is a wall, briefly touching 20% incline, and long enough that I could not stand for the entire climb. Once again, I am thankful for my compact cranks.

The first time up was no problem. Everyone has energy to climb, and then settled down for a relatively slow pace. 3 or 4 guys did break off from the front, but they were brought back into the peloton with little effort before the second lap.

If I can't win, at least look good suffering, right?The second time up felt little tougher.

Before the third time up, no one wanted to work and the peloton slowed right down. Someone did not pay attention and went down and caused a slow-motion domino effect for riders at the back. The peloton was still moving slowly, so everyone caught back on after the climb.
We were so slow that we had to neutralize to allow the Master 3 peloton that started 3 minutes after to pass.

Legs were getting tired on the fourth time up. I got gapped a bit after the climb, but managed to chase back onto the peloton with the help of 3 others.

I probably didn’t have as much time to recover as most of the riders in the peloton, so the wagon did unhitch on the last time up. I ended up trading pulls with one other rider, but then he blew up completely before the final descent, so I rode the last 2-3km to the finish.

So I almost stayed with them the whole way. Maybe next time…

May 18 2014

Rollercoaster ride in killer crosswinds – Grey County Road Race O-Cup #4 Report

It’s a rare event for road racing in Ontario: a challenging point-to-point course on beautiful side roads around Blue Mountain, and top it off with a summit finish on the toughest climb in Southern Ontario – Scenic Caves Road.

I arrived the evening prior and settled into a hotel in Collingwood. The wicked thunderstorms convinced me not to do go out for a light spin. I’d rather stay in and watch the NHL playoffs anyway.

Early next morning, the sun was shining, a good sign. But wind was howling though, so I went with arm and leg warmers in case the windchill became in factor.

Lined up at the start corral in Blue Mountain Village. Oh yeah, that's snow on the slopes.After registration at Blue Mountain Village, chatting with some teammates, and doing some warm up loops, I lined up in the corral, also right in the village.

The neutral rollout was led by a moto that kept the pace below 30km/h as required, but with strong tailwind at this point, it was almost braking all the way.

At some point, the race actually started but I was not sure when exactly. The pace was kept easy to the first major climb, and stayed that way through the entire climb. I was relieved that everyone was content to bide his time here, so my fear of getting dropped early did not materialize.

All alone nowFrom this point until the bottom of the second major climb, it was mostly flat or downhill sections, with the tailwind becoming wicked crosswinds.

The winds themselves did not bother me much, but I had my hands full with the gusts that seemed to pick up my front wheel and throw it off line. I had to stayed on the drops basically for the rest of the race.

At some point during a long descent close to the second climb, I noticed I was off the back of the peloton. I had almost made it back, but they were gone again.

So I ended up on the second climb by myself, through the feedzone, and then was passed by the Master 3 peloton that started from Blue Mountain village 5 minutes after us.

A few stragglers from that M3 caught up to me, and we swallowed a few more guys shortly after. We ended up settling in a pretty good looking double paceline.

We kept this up until the descent on Route 19, where everyone held their positions and tucked in, hitting over 80km/h. I made sure to not get gapped this time.

Slow grind up Sceni Caves Road.  Photo by Jeremy AllenAt the bottom, our little group did a few more paceline rotations to the base of Scenic Caves Road, and then it was every man for himself.

I spotted another Elite 4 rider in the distance, and ended up pacing him to the top, but he was too far to catch.

So I finished behind the peloton again, 18:48 back to be exact, but at least this time I generally felt good. Too bad I did not hang on in supposedly one of the easier parts of the race though. I’m starting to get a better idea on what I need to work on this year and through the off season.

Great job to the organizer and volunteers. These kinds of events are not easy to pull off in Ontario, so they deserve our support. I hope it returns next year!

May 18 2014

Getting Lost and Getting Dropped – Good Friday Road Race O-Cup #2 Report

My first ever Ontario Cup race experience was definitely memorable.

The start from Ancaster Fairground was without incident. Until 2km into the race. While the peloton had no lead vehicle in front (only one commissaire vehicle following), the police directed us to go right when we were supposed to go straight. This went on for another 4km or so until we were finally told to stop and no one really knew what to do.

After some deliberation with race control, we were led in a neutral ride back on course, where we waited at the side of the road until race officials could locate the lone breakaway rider and restart our race.

Meanwhile, the peloton of Master 3 men and then women came by. While some of us took the opportunity to do a number 1, the rest had nothing else to do but to cheer. We loved the look of confusion of those riders!

Finally, our race was restarted. Everyone was fresh and the pace picked up fairly quickly.

I wasn’t feeling great at all, and found myself yo-yoing from the back already.

Returning to the fairgrounds for the next lap, I was hanging at the back. While I could only maintain a steady pace in the gravel section, the peloton accelerated, so I was gone by the time we turned back on the road.

Still feeling lousy, I had nothing in the tank to chase back to the group, so I solo time trialed to the end of the race.

So this was somewhat of a reality check. I’d likely fall off the back anyway even if I was 100%. Work in progress.

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