I have to confess, I was ambivalent about signing up for this race, especially with much of the course being on gravel, but I signed up anyway realizing I could use the race experience. My objectives going into the race were: finish with the pack, trust in my fitness and ride strong, be a good team mate where ever the opportunity presents itself, and just get more race experience
Originally, this race was to have all the usual categories so I should have been riding in the M3 category but due to low registration, the organizers eliminated the usual categories and instead hosted only 3 categories, a beginner, intermediate, and open race, with the aim of increasing the field size for each race.
I had originally intended to buy some wider 25C tires to ride with a little lower tire pressure than usual to improve traction and handling on the gravel but, as with so many things these days, I never got around to it and so ended up racing on my skinnier 23C tire with the usual 110 psi.
The race didn't start until 12:30, as opposed to the more usual 8:30/9:00 AM start times I've gotten accustomed to, so there was lots of time to get ready. I picked up Larry about 10:15 and we drove down to the west end of Oakville together, found a place to park not too far from the park (I parked offsite to avoid the $16 park entrance fee ), and rode into the park carrying most of our gear on our backs. We arrived at the race site before 11:00, in time to see Coach and Wes setting up the Team Kurzawinski tent. Gotta like having your own tent at the race.
|Larry, Coach, and me chilling in front of the Kurzawinski tent, prior to race start.|
With plenty of time until the race start, Larry and I registered then went out on the start-finish stretch to warm up. I had learned from last race, Calabogie, the importance of warming up before and not during the race. After the warmup, I lined up along the front with Phil, feeling relaxed and ready to start the race until Phil pointed out that I still had my jacket on. It was too warm a day to be racing with a jacket. "Oh crap," I thought and rode back towards the car to ditch my jacket. Halfway to the car, I ran into Coach and was able to dump the jacket with him. By the time I got back to the start line, pretty much everyone else were lined up and I was stuck at the back. When Coach saw me lined up at the back, he coaxed me into weaseling my way up to the front, on the grass but just off the pavement. I felt a bit cheesy for doing that but at least I was lined up at the start.
|Larry and me at the back end of the pack for the start of the race.|
When the gun went off, I was slow getting clipped in, and with the fast pace typical of the start of these race, I dropped quickly back through the pack and was soon hanging near the back. But such was the nearly 2 km length of the start stretch that I was able to get reasonably close to the front again before the first turn
|Tour Of Bronte Race Course|
|In front of the registration area, approaching the tight left-hander.|
As is becoming a pattern, I struggled the first lap, mostly hanging off the back of the pack. But once my metabolism had gotten up to speed I began to ride more aggressively and closer to the front. By midway through the second lap, I had made my way to the front and was there when Phil made it into a break of four. I eased my pace a little to give the break a chance as did the rider on my right who must also have had a team mate in the break and it was probably a good couple of hundred meters before anyone behind us caught on. By the time other riders began to come around us, the break had a decent enough gap that they were able to stay away.
Having a team mate in the break meant that Larry and I weren't expected to take a turn at the front and for the next 3 or 4 laps, we really didn't have to work that hard. A team Novo rider who was taking turns joked about having to "bump me off". I laughed and just enjoyed my free ride while it lasted.
About lap 5, our free ride ended as came up behind Phil. At the time, I didn't know whether he had fallen off the back of the break or had an incident but it turned out that he had crashed on turn 2 with one other rider in the break and wasn't able to catch back on. Unfortunate because now it meant we had to do some work up front.
|Phil trying to catch back onto the break away after crashing in turn 2.|
For laps 6 and 7, in an effort to try and close the gap to the break, the peleton was able to get organized, thanks to a couple of more vocal riders, and we got an echelon going along the paved section and we began to make good time. Not everyone took part in the echelon but Larry, Phil, and I all contributed. The problem is that this organization only lasted for the paved section. Once we got to the gravel section, the organization fell apart and the pace slowed considerably. I tried to get something going but just ended up off the front by myself. Clearly, we weren't going to catch the break away group.
I think it was probably midway through lap 7, just after passing the registration area that Phil told me we'd lost Larry. That was unfortunate; he'd been riding strong up until that point and it would have been nice to have him for the run-in to the finish. Towards the end of lap 7, with one lap to go, I rode beside Phil and told him I'd try and "lead him out" for the finish. He replied that we could try that. I made sure to stay up at the front for that last lap and as we came onto the paved section I was in a prime position. I had taken note of a few of the stronger riders in the group and fully expected someone to jump at some point along the finish stretch. The jump came a bit earlier than I expected but I was ready for it. With about maybe 500 meters to go, a Vinybilt rider jumped. I was on his wheel right awa with Phil behind my wheel, both of us perfectly positioned for the sprint finish. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, I swerved for some reason which caused Phil behind me to also swerv and he ended up on the grass, losing his momentum for the sprint. So much for team tactics (sorry Phil!). With about 250 meters to go, a Peterborough Cycling club rider jumped strong but this time I wasn't ready. I tried to get on his wheel but his kick was too strong. ut I didn't give up and kept pushing, gradually closing the gap. Unfortunately, I ran out of road and wasn't able to close in time. I was beaten to the line by a wheel.
|Just missed taking 3rd spot but also fortunate to hang onto 4th.|
Stan was in the parking lot as I rode in and he asked me how I did. "Fourth place," I said. "No wayyyyyyyyyy," he replied. I didn't think 4th place was a good result as it wasn't a podium position but it turns out prizes were awarded 8-deep for this race so I did end up on the podium after all. Cool!
After the race, Larry and I hung around to watch part of Stan's open race. I thought, our race was fast. Those guys were even faster... and their race was longer. I've got to hand it to those Elite 1/2 and M1 guys, they race at a pretty high level.
|Stan, second from left, lined up for the start of the open race.|
We stayed for about half of the open race, enjoying the warm spring day and then it was time to leave. All in all, a pretty successful race for me. I finished with the pack, got some valuable race experience, rode aggressively, and was even able to help my team mate get into the break. Maybe there's hope for me yet!
|A little clowning around time with my team mate, Larry Bradley.|