Monday, July 30, 2012

2012 Road Provincials

Through April and May of this year, my training had been centered around the many races dotting the calendar throughout that period, allowing few opportunities to build up any significant mileage. So, with fewer races on the calendar in June and July, I looked forward to getting in some long distance rides or "putting some money in the bank" so to speak. The Ontario Road Provincials, held on July 15, was to be my first race since June 3 (Mississippi Stage Race) .

The morning of July 15, I picked up Stan and we drove together to the race site. Normally, Stan would race much later in the day than I because he races in the M1 category whereas, as a newbie, I race in M3. But Provincial and National races use age based categories so Stan and I, being in the same age category, would be racing together. I was happy about this because it meant that Stan and I, being on the same team, would be afforded the opportunity to work together.

The Master C/D men's race consisted of 6 laps of the 12 km course for a total of 72 km. The course itself was a large rectangle of roughly 3 km per side. The "left" edge of the rectangle was characterized by a fairly long and fast downhill. The "top" edge of the rectangle was characterized but a longish but not overly challenging uphill. This was also the roughest part of the course in terms of road surface. The "right" edge of the rectangle was characterized by a 750 m climb with an average gradient of 8% but which was 12% in places. From our recon ride the week before, it was evident that this is where any selections would be made. The "bottom" rectangle of the course was flat and featured the start-finish line about 1 km from the "left" edge.

Because it was the Provincials, I treated this race as a 'B' race and used the preceding week to taper for the race. The effect of my taper became immediately apparent as the race started; there was power in my legs and I had little trouble staying near the front of the pack. As I had expected, Stan was also a prominent fixture of the front end of the pack. For the first few laps, I watched and took notes. Wheels of Bloor also had a couple of riders in the race, including ZbigniewAnuszkiewicz who I recognized as a strong rider from previous M3 races, but Team Zuck were the strongest looking team with 4 riders in the race including Don Zuck who had won the National Championship a few weeks previous. Clearly, this team was one to watch out for.

The first couple of laps were uneventful. One rider from the Newmarket Eagles went off the front of the pack and was "allowed" to stay out there but other than that, no serious break away attempts were made. On the third lap after the steep climb, I found myself in front of the pack along with peter Kofman from the 'Erase Cancer' team who I knew from our recon ride was a strong rider. He asked me something like "was I ready to go?" but I replied "too early"; Peter agreed and we rode tempo until the pack caught up. But by the start of the 4th lap, I found myself again in a break, this time with more riders. Looking around, it appeared that this break could work and I put in a half decent pull at the front when it was my turn but with some riders in the break not really committed, we were brought back by the bottom of the descent along Sideroad 5. Through the middle laps, Stan also tested the waters with several forays off the front but, unlike some of the other solo break away attempts, Stan's moves were always marked. He was given a short leash which I took to be a mark of respect for his abilities. In a similar vein, Don Zuck made a couple of threatening moves during these laps which I quickly marked, recognizing the strength in the Zuck team.

On lap 5, during the steep climb, my effort level for the climb increased noticeably with the effect that by the top of the climb a selection of 9 riders had been made. We quickly organized and were easily able to consolidate our advantage over the main pack. Looking around, it was clear that this was a strong group which included both Stan and me, Zbigniew from the Wheels of Bloor team, Peter Kofman of Erase Cancer, and three Zuck Team guys. Going into the last lap, we had a 20-25 second lead. Nobody did anything crazy and we worked together well leading up to the last climb up the steepest part of the course.

Approaching the final climb, we received updates from the motorcycle marshall that the main pack was eating into our lead such that, by the base of the climb, our advantage was reduced from 22 seconds to just 5 seconds. But, just as the original selection had been made on the steep part of the course, we were able to build on our advantage the final time up the climb. Zbigniew, in particular, did a fantastic job of leading the group up the hill. I stayed glued to his wheel and took my turn from the top of the hill until the final corner.

Leading the pack into the final turn.

The last couple of kilometres were into a slight headwind. Realizing that it was going to be a sprint finish and with Stan having the stronger sprint of the two of us, I stayed near the front doing what I could to give Stan the best chance I could. I looked back a couple of times, trying to get his attention and left a bit of a gap on my right side. As I was getting prepared to give Stan a leadout, a red blur shot by my right side. It was Stan and he was gone like a rocket. I stood on the pedals and moved a little to my right side to try and throw off the chasing riders. On both sides of me, the rest of the group raced by and sprinted for the finish. I tried to follow but, being the last one to go, the sprint was pretty much over for me before it began so I sat up and raised my arm in victory as Stan took the sprint for the win.

Stan takes the win.
Stan Blazek: Ontario Provincial Champion.

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