Sunday, April 8, 2012

Good Friday Road Race 2012

The one thing I was leery about going into this race was getting involved in a crash. There had been a lot of chatter on the Canadian Cyclist Forum about the likelihood of a high turnout for this race and the fact that, due to the nice weather we'd had, that many people would have better cycling fitness than usual for this time of year. The worry was that, with the yellow line rule (riders are not permitted to cross the yellow line under any circumstances. Where there is no yellow line, riders must stay on their own half of the road), and field sizes of 100 or more, the race(s) could become dangerous as riders jockey for position, the danger being with this being the first race of the season that participants could be a little out of practice with the intricacies of riding at speed in large packs.

Larry Bradley, Phil Hodgkinson, and I would be racing in the same M3 category so we had discussed ahead of time the importance of lining up close to the start-finish line for the start of the race. After a rather brisk warmup, Jon and I made our way to the start-finish line where we met up with Phil. The Elite 4 category, which was Jon's group, were to start 5 minutes after the M3 category so Jon went back behind the M3 group to line up there. Phil and I took up positions behind a row of CHCH riders who looked to be dominating the front of the grid. I looked around for Larry but he was nowhere to be seen.

Larry lining up for the start of the M3 race.
As we waited for the start of the race, I went over all the instructions Stan had told me: stay on the side opposite the wind and "hide" as much as possible, conserve your energy, stay in the top 10-20 riders in order to "stay out of trouble". Eventually, the gun went off and we were underway. Since the wind was coming from the North, the correct strategy entailed riding close to the yellow line heading West and North but staying close to the shoulder heading East and South. The course was one big rectangle so it would be hard to mix this up.

Given the large contingent of CHCH club riders across the front of the start line, I expected them to control the start of the race but as we quickly got up to speed I found myself stuck behind one CHCH rider who seemed to be quickly slipping backwards. Because I was behind him, this meant that I too quickly slipped backwards through the field. Up ahead, Phil seemed to be having no difficulty staying near the front. It was surprisingly difficult to interject myself into the stream of riders to my left but I was eventually able to do so and soon passed the slower rider in front of me and was able to move up towards where Phil was.

About halfway along the Northbound edge of the course, there is a short but somewhat steep hill. The pace up to this point had been fairly pedestrian so I expected something to happen as we approached the hill. People around me seemed to shift into the small chain ring but otherwise we traversed the hill uneventfully. This small hill is immediately followed by a downhill and then a gentle ride towards 6th concession. The course gets steeper and more difficult once the right turn onto 6th concession is made. I stayed close to the front over this section of the course, close to Phil's wheel, half waiting for someone to attack.

The attack never came. Someone did move up on my left as we made this climb. It turned out to be Larry. As we turned East on 6th concession, I moved over towards the shoulder in order to "hide" from the wind as much as possible. Larry moved up towards the front and was soon leading the peleton. It's funny how "pack mentality" works but once Larry moved to the front, and with Phil and I both in the top 10, I suddenly found myself at the front behind Larry. It was as if the peleton was relegating control of the race to the three of us by right of us having three riders near the front. In retrospect, I think it might not have been a bad idea for the 3 of us to take control of the race but heeding Stan's instructions I dropped back a little and let others pass in front of me. To do so, I actually had to let a bit of a gap open up between me and Larry. Larry continued to pull the peleton for the rest of the lap; it wasn't until we made the turn onto 5th concession towards the start-finish line that other riders came around him.

Me and Phil staying close to the pointy end of the peleton.

In fact, one rider went around Larry quite aggressively and, thinking this was an attack, I jumped, quickly bridged up to the rider who had opened up a gap. I went around the break away rider, to let him know I was there, took a short pull and then flicked my elbow to signal him to come around. When nothing happened, I took a quick look behind me and saw that there were three of us and we had a bit of a gap to the peleton but nobody seemed willing to work to stay away and we were soon all together again.

Once the peleton regrouped, the pace slowed once again. I began to get frustrated. This was not feeling like a race at all. But I took up my place on the leeward side of the peleton and tried to remain patient. We turned North and the pointy end of the peleton were strung out along the yellow line but moving fairly slowly. With the right hand side of the lane fairly clear, other riders quickly moved up the right hand side and maneuvered their way ahead of me.Again I found myself slipping backwards through the field and in frustration I launched an attack up the right hand side of the road. After a couple of hundred metres, I looked back to see that nobody had followed me. Since it was inevitable that the peleton would reel me in, I sat up and waited for them to catch me back up. It didn't take long. Once I was caught, we resumed our agonizingly slow pace.

As we turned East onto the steepest part of the course, things seemed to pick up a little and I thought a couple of riders looked to be making a break but we were all brought back together in short order. In fact, shortly after descending the downhill along this stretch, the commissaire's car went by and put the brakes on our entire field in order to allow the Elite 4 group, who had started 5 minutes behind us, to pass. By the time the Elite 4 group passed by, we were close to Brock road where the course turns South. We made the turn and I dutifully moved towards the shoulder side of the road in order to "hide" from the wind.

Riding Southbound along the shoulder on Brock road, I again found myself slipping backwards through the field as other riders moved up the left side to take up positions ahead of me. Again I became frustrated that the riders ahead of me seemed content to allow this to happen and in frustration I moved onto the shoulder, passed the entire field and continued ahead in another solo attack on the peleton. A few hundred metres later I looked back to see I had opened up a pretty good gap but again nobody had come with me. A short while later I took another look to see that the peleton was reeling me in so again I sat up.

As we turned onto 5th concession once again, several riders appeared to attack but by now I realized they were just making it look good for the crowd of onlookers and these weren't "real" attacks. Once we passed the start-finish line, the slow pace resumed.

On the 3rd and final lap, I decided to try and attack on the gradual climb following the short hill. This section was into a headwind with a slight gradient so I though I might catch the peleton napping but, again, I was soon reeled in and back amongst the peleton.

Across 6th concession, I "sat in" and allowed myself to recover from my most recent "attack effort which, due to the hill involved, had taken my breath away somewhat. As we turned Southbound onto Brock road, the pace seemed to pick up a bit as people began to anticipate the sprint finish and began to jockey for position. Things began to get a little more hectic at this point and on a couple of occasions I felt someone lean against me for several seconds after getting too close. I wasn't too concerned. "Coach" had instructed us on how to handle this. I had my elbows out as Coach had instructed and for the most part the "touching" did not affect me.

It was about halfway along this edge of the course that the pace began to increase quite noticeably. The jockeying for position became more pronounced and I found myself needing to ride somewhat aggressively in order to maintain my position in the front 10. I'm a little unclear what happened next because I seem to have lost memory of a good chunk of it but something happened in front of me. What I do know is that the rider in front of me went down and I think I went over the top of him. The last thing I recall is some notion of going headlong over my handlebars. The next thing I remember was being loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher by paramedics with Jonathan at the rear door of the ambulance looking somewhat concerned.

On the drive to the hospital, the paramedics asked me several questions including what day it was. I was unable to tell them what day it was right way but I was able to correctly provide my home address. My stay in the hospital was short and sweet. I stayed long enough to get a Tetanus shot and a Cat Scan and was then permitted to leave. I still don't know whether or not I suffered a concussion but the scrambled state of my brain all weekend suggests that perhaps I did.

The road won!

So, first race done. Not exactly what I expected. I did everything I was supposed to do but still ended up on the pavement. Such is the nature of bike racing. Next race is Calabogie in 2 weeks. I'm looking forward to it.

Elite 4 Race:

3216374632WESTWOOD, JonKURZAWINSKI COACH/ PBNJ.CARMU23.41h 37' 22"11' 49"

 M3 Race:

Race finish - Phil came ninth.




Such a shame as you were looking awesome to score some nice points. You have an amazing resolve and your positive outlook on the sport, even after this little setback, is why you excel in everything you do.
Can't wait to see how the rest of the year unfolds!

MJ said...

Wow, Rick - not sure which picture I like better. The cyclist corning or your beat-up face. That's kind of scary!

I hope you are on the mend. Sound like a pretty amazing race up until then!