Monday, May 7, 2012

Springbank Crit 2012

Five O'Clock in the morning was early to have to be up for a race. I've certainly been up that early before for running races and especially triathlons but it had been awhile. It was probably harder on Jon as he often doesn't even get to sleep until much before then. Shortly after 5:30 we had the bikes loaded on the back of the Hyundai and were on our way to London, with a brief stop at Tim's along the way for breakfast and a coffee.

By 7:30 AM, we were at Springbank Park in London, picking up our race numbers with enough time for a few laps around the 2.2 km course to warm up. Martin and Phil had arrived earlier and were already on the course warming up when we arrived. We did our final warm up lap together with Martin and I couldn't help but note that, judging by the sheen on his face, Martin appeared to have been working very hard during his warm up.

My goals going into this race were pretty much the same as for Tour of Bronte: gain more race experience, ride aggressively, help team mates where feasible, and finish with the pack. A fifth goal was to get some good training in. I had done a solid 100k ride with my FMCT buddies the day before, with plenty of Tempo riding, so I was treating this as a training race of sorts with no expectations of a top placing.

Martin and I lined up along the front row of the start line (just below and slightly to the left of the 'A' balloon in the map above) with Jon just behind me. Phil was also on the front of the start line but further to the right. The "gun" went off, and as is becoming a habit, I didn't get clipped in right away during which time at least half the field passed me... again. The same thing happened at Tour of Bronte but there I was able to get back to the front without too much difficulty.  At this race, not so much. There are 2 corners on this course that were tricky. The tight left-hander at corner 1 was one of them and I had to brake going into the first turn, braking hard enough that my rear wheel slid sideways which apparently unnerved Jon a bit. I think he found somebody else's wheel to follow after that. This slow down was followed by a brutal acceleration as the peleton raced onto the fastest part of the course, a sweeping left-hander that descended towards the river. Here, I had to dig extra hard due to the accordion effect which tends to exaggerate deccellerations and accelerations for riders at the back, I thought to myself "this is not where I want to be". With speeds close to 60 kph, this section of the course is very fast but also narrow, making it hard to move up along this section. As if the downhill wasn't enough for pushing up the speed, we had a tail wind all along the section which made the top speed even faster. There was little chance of moving up along the section by the river; the speeds were just too fast and the course too narrow. The uphill at the end of this section was one place where it might be possible to move up but everyone was digging deep at this point so you'd have to burn a lot of matches to try and move up there. The steep uphill is followed by the second tricky corner on the course, a sharp, narrow dog-leg that turns away from the river and begins the return trip towards the start-finish line. From here until the start-finish straight, the course sweeps left, uphill and again I found myself having to dig deep following the predictable slow down at the dog-leg. Just before the start-finish straight is a chicane which is the third tricky place on the course as 50+ riders vied for the best line through the chicane and. again, I was subjected to accordion effect. I managed to get through the chicane successfully but still near the back.

Lap 2 was more of the same. I was at the back and working hard because of it but experience told me that things would begin to settle down in a few laps after which time I should be able to move up. By lap 3, my patience was beginning to run thin and I began to actively look for places to move up. As we sped down the fast, narrow part of the course, I did manage to move up a few and was positioning myself to move up around the sweeping left hander when suddenly the pack slowed quite dramatically. A rider in front and to my left swerved across my line, forcing me to change and just like that I was heading for the curb. Maybe I panicked a little but I have been in enough motor cycle crashes to know that if you're going to fall it's better to do it on your own terms. I braked hard just before the curb, practically dove over the handlebars, and did a rolling Judo roll onto the soft grass, bringing my bike safely along with me and managed to come out of the incident completely unscathed. In hindsight, I could have tried to jump the curve, which I'm sure is something Stan or Coach would have done, but I didn't think that fast and my bike handling skills aren't yet at that level. As I righted my bike at the side of the road, the peleton rode away without me.

For the next lap and a half, I chased the peleton and it wasn't long before I began to pickup some stragglers. The first guy I picked up was a Reynolds Cycle rider and the two of us began to work together. We picked up another couple of riders in short order and about a lap later, I saw Jon who had been dropped from the peleton somewhere before the chicane. I yelled at Jon to jump on as we went by and then we were five. I figured with 5 riders, we should be able to get a decent rotation going and actually entertained some ridiculous illusion of catching back onto the peleton. But our rotation wasn't very organized. Two of the riders had clearly been dropped from the peleton for a reason: they were weak riders and they frequently abstained from taking their turn at the front. This tended to affect the rhythm of our rotation. To make things worse, the Reynolds rider, though strong, wasn't very experienced in echeloning and would frequently pull to hard when it was his turn at the front, instead of easing up, causing the rest of us to have to dig deep to catch on. The end result that, as a group, we disorganized and not really moving that fast. It wasn't long before we were caught and lapped by the peleton. I tried a few more times to get our group organized but in the end determined that I was better off just taking long pulls at the front. After a few such long pulls, there were three of us left: Jon, the Reynolds rider, and me.

With 5 laps to go, I'd had enough with the futile attempts at echeloning and just stayed at the front, put my head down, and went into time trial mode. It wasn't long before I was alone, having lost my 2 remaining companions, including, unfortunately, my son, Jon. I covered the last 5 laps pushing 288 watts at an average of 37.2 kph. Compared to the 41.5 kph at 270 watts I output while with the peleton, I was fighting a losing battle but I'd signed up for a race and was determined to put in a race effort. I finished 6:19 behind the peleton. As it turned out, Jon had slipped off my wheel because of a gap left open by the Reynolds rider but he continued to work hard and finished only a minute or so behind me. I kind of wish now that I'd sat up and waited for him. But one thing I've learned about cycling is you do a lot of second guessing yourself after the fact.

Phil accepts his 4th place prize.

Phil and Martin both each had a good race with Phil taking 4th place of the M3's and Martin coming in 8th spot. After the race, the four of us, Martin, Phil, Jon, and I, compared notes. I expressed my frustration at once again having difficulty during the early laps of the race and received some helpful advice from both Phil and Martin. Martin's advice was to get in a really good warmup. I thought back to the sheen on Martin's face prior to the race and realized that this was advice he himself heeded. And it seemed to be working for him. Phil's advice was to practice clipping in. This definitely is one source of my poor starts and something I'll consider going forward. Phil also mentioned using Speedplay pedals which he finds easier to clip in and this may be something to consider going forward also. There are so many things to learn in cycle racing. Every race is different and many factors can affect one's race outcome.

I didn't do so well at meeting my objectives at this race. I didn't finish with the pack but I did ride aggressively. I didn't exactly help out my team mates though I did help Jon for awhile until dropping him with 5 laps left to go; that part wasn't much help, I'm sure. I did gain more race experience, to be sure and I definitely did get in some good training. Next race is the Niagara Classic, the third O-Cup race in the series where, once again, it will be back to the drawing board.

1 comment:



You are a warrior! I know the results are going to come in a big way with the work ethic and skill you have! Just hope to be on your wheel when it happens.