Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Centurion Ellicottville 2012

23 km Time Trial

Three of us made the drive from Brampton, ON to Ellicottville, NY, early Saturday morning. My scheduled start time for the TT was 2:39:30 pm. We were on the road shortly after 8:00 am, leaving us plenty of time to make the 2.5 hour drive. But a 1.5 hour delay at the border, a 45 min stopover at the outlet mall, and an outdated GPS that took us slightly off course turned a 2.5 hour drive into 5.25 hour drive. I had barely enough time to put my TT bike together, register, and do a quick warmup before my turn came up to mount the start platform.

While in the staging area, waiting for my turn to mount the start platform, I had a chance to chat with Bruce Bird who had asked me what my start time was. I told him I was 1:30 ahead of him and that my goal was to try and hold him off until the turn-around. He kinda laughed and rolled his eyes as if a victim of his reputation. [Perhaps, Mr. Bird, you'd prefer my reputation, having crashed out of 3 races this year] When it was my turn to start, I lifted my bike onto the starting platform, climbed the metal steps to the platform and clipped in. The person holding me was a bit unsteady so I was trying to get him to lean me a bit towards the left when I head the announcer say "Go!". "But, but... I'm not ready," I thought. Too late for that; I was on my way.

On the start platform, not quite ready to go yet.
The 15 mile course (see map and profile below) was more or less an out and back. The first 3 miles were uphill but not terribly difficult. The next 4.5 miles were descending but into a headwind. The first 4.5 miles of the return trip were uphill, starting with a nasty little climb which was not particularly long but was slow. The last 3 miles was downhill into town.
Ellicottville 15 Mile Time Trial Course

Once on the course, I made a right turn then another right and had just about gotten up to speed when ... TRAFFIC? Wtf? I thought the course was supposed to be closed. I was about to pass on the left when the car in front put his left turn signal on. "What does that mean," I wondered. I put on the brakes, thinking the car might be turning into a driveway or something. But when it appeared the driver was turning left onto the same road out of town that I was looking for, I passed on the left anyway and was finally on my way.

Away and heading into the first right-hander.

Once on the road out of town, I could see my 30-second man ahead. I was still a bit frazzled from my shaky start and the incident with the traffic. So I focused on my 30-second man and settled into a steady rhythm. Though this part of the course was uphill and into a headwind, I started to feel felt good. And then Bruce Bird passed me just as I was cresting the hill to begin the descent. So much for holding him off until the turn-around. The descent to the turn-around loop was uneventful. I watched Mr. Bird disappear into the distance and then I was at the turn-around.

On the return trip, I caught and passed my 30-second man just before the nasty little hill. I also passed his 30-second man at the same time. Then we hit the sharp climb where one of them passed me back again. It didn't take me long to catch and pass that rider again, once we crested the short but steep climb. I passed another rider just before the 3 mile descent and picked it up a little on the descent into town to try and discourage that rider (or any of the riders I had passed) from using me as a carrot. A sharp right, a left, and then another left and there was the start-finish line. I gave it one final hard effort and I was done, good enough for 10th overall and 2nd in my age group.

Final turn heading towards the finish line.

10 Richard WESTWOOD     Brampton, CAN     9556    0:34:38.8    25.5    M50-59    2/5 10/45

full results:


While I love road bike racing, an event like Centurion Ellicottville provides a better overall experience than most of OCA-sanctioned races I've done so far. Part of that experience is in the nature of the course itself. In at least 5 of the  "real" races I've done this year, the course consisted of x-laps of a rectangular circuit, usually surrounded by farmer's fields. In contrast, the course at a Centurion takes you on an adventure through some of the nicest terrain I have had the pleasure of riding. Next, there is the venue itself. Ellicottville is primarily a ski resort town and as such is geared towards entertaining visitors. "One bank, one grocery store, one gas station, and about 20 bars," Jim said. A joke maybe but the wide choice of places to eat and drink certainly made the place attractive. And finally, there are the friends who go on the road trip with you. So it was that, after my time trial, my 6 friends and I went to the Ellicottville Brewing Company for a brew on the patio. The beer there was made on premises and was amazingly good, as you would expect from a craft brewery.

At the Ellicottville Brewing Co. Left to right: Nat, Colin, Judy,  Ian, Me, Jim (Laura took the photo).
A couple of hours on the patio and we were back the Inn preparing our gear for the big race the following day. Even something as simple as preparing for a race is more fun with friends. We finished off the evening with some wine and pasta at Dina's restaurant where the food and the wine were equally delicious.

At Dina's restaurant: L to R: Ian, Laura, Me, Nat, Jim.


The weather forecast indicated cooler temperatures and chance of rain. I cursed myself for not having brought a vest or jacket. But I did bring arm warmers so I donned those before wheeling my bike out the door (Actually, it was Jon's Opus I was riding, since the derailleur hangar on my Masi had broken yet again just 2 days earlier). The scenery surrounding the Inn at Holiday Valley Resort was spectacular. On the morning of the race, the peaks were bathed in a translucent mist which looked breath taking from our vantage point in the valley. But the price for that spectacular view was a very cool ride from hotel to race site and I was shivering by the time we reached the start line.

The view from the Inn at Holiday Valley Resort.
The start time for the C100 was 8:00 am. While we stood shivering in the cool morning air, the C50 race, which had started at 7:00, did a a "fly-by" through town after a 7 mile opening loop. So we got to cheer Jim and Nat as they completed their opening 7 mile loop. After the last C50 rider had come through, we were permitted to line up.

Jim and Nat in the C50

At Centurion Canada last year, 942 people lined to start the C100 event. I don't know how many of those 942 people started in the "racer" corral with me but I was quite far back from the front by the time the race started and because of this I had no chance of making it into the front pack. This time I was determined to make that front pack and so I lined up early. But with only 209 people in this race, getting a good start position was really not an issue and I easily found a starting spot on the start line along with a phalanx of Team Sound Solution guys. Laura took up a spot right behind me.

On the start line: Me (far left), Laura in Blue, Ian in white rain jacket.

The C100 course has two cat 3 climbs, two cat 4 climbs, and four cat 5 climbs ( The first of these, a 2.53 km climb with an average gradient of 4.4 % comes just 1.29 km into the race. This climb broke up the peleton from the start, including me. Laura also lost contact with the front pack but we both were both able to rejoin the front pack of 30 or so riders on the descent. The next 20 km or so were reasonably flat with the pace not hard at all and I was content with my position about 15 riders back from the front. At a certain point, riders started moving up on the left, disregarding the yellow line rule and I quite quickly found myself drifting back in the pack. It occurred to me that we must have been caught by a chase group. I waited for a place on the course that would thin the pack out a bit (a trick I learned from Coach Kurzawinski is that there will always be places in a race where the pack would come together and there would be places where it would thin out. The best time to move up is when the pack thins out) and moved back up towards the front at the first such opportunity. Thereafter, I stayed fairly close to the front.

Ellicottville 100 Mile Course
After a 37 km opening loop, the course returned back through the town of Ellicottville in the opposite direction from which we started. There was a category 5 climb just before we re-entered town but it wasn't too difficult and I easily stayed with the pack this time. In fact, the next 40 km or so were fairly easy which gave me a chance to look around at who I was riding with. Bruce Bird was always near the front as I would have expected. There were also a number of teams in the front pack that had several riders: "Sound Solutions", "Nacsworld", "Octo-Cervelo", and "Team IFG". Interestingly, these were all Ontario-based teams which made riding in the pack reminiscent of the Midweek Tuesday night Crit. In addition to Laura, there were also a couple of strong women riders with the pack: a Team Kenda rider and a Collingwood Cycling rider. Both looked very lean and fit. There were a number of attacks off the front along this section but invariably these breaks would be reeled in. With a number of strong teams present, it was tough making a break stick. But eventually an Octo-Cervelo rider was able to stay away, helped in part by a couple of his team mates coming to the front of the pack and slowing things up Around about the 65 km mark, with the peleton settled into an easy pace, a second rider just kind of drifted off the front. I didn't think much of it at the time, assuming he would be reeled back in, but then a third rider went. I thought briefly of going with him but hesitated. And that's the thing about bike racing: a moment's hesitation can make a big difference in the character of one's race. In retrospect it would have been a good move for me to have given it a go. Laura rode up beside me to let me know she was still here which made me smile.

At around 75 km into the race, we turned off the main road and began to climb. I didn't know it at the time but this was the King of the Mountain hill, the first of the two category 3 climbs. I struggled right from the base of the climb. I watched as the front of the pack slowly pull away. I probably could have stayed with them if I had buried myself but the climb looked long so I just rode at my own pace. Up ahead, Laura was climbing well but also losing contact with the pointy end of the peleton as were many others around us with the severity of the climb (which included an 18% gradient at one point). Right behind Laura was the Collingwood Cycling Club woman, Nancy Newman, who apparently was the overall female winner of the first two 2012 Centurion races. Nancy strategically stuck to Laura's wheel all the way to the top of the King of the Mountain climb eventually taking the top female KOM spot from Laura by 1.4 seconds. As it turned out, the KOM climb was a defining factor in the race at the front. The top 5 times were around the 7'10" mark with the 6th best time at 7'45". That's a pretty sizable gap and enough to allow the leading break of 5 to stick. I'm guessing that these 5 joined up with the original lone Octo-Cervelo rider to form the 6-man break, 5 of whom stayed away for the remainder of the race.

At the top of the KOM climb, the road leveled off somewhat but there was still more climbing yet to do. Upon reaching the top of the climb, I could see the front pack about a kilometer down the road. By this time, the pack had thinned out considerably and there was nobody with me so I tucked in and descended as fast as I could in an vain effort to close the gap by myself but as the road began to level off it became clear I wasn't making any ground so I sat up and waited for the next group to come along. The next group was a group of about 7 or 8 riders which included Laura and a very strong Nacsworld rider. Between us we managed to reduce the gap to the leading group to within 50 meters... just before the start of the second monster climb.

We rounded the turn to begin the second of the two category 3 climbs and a few of our group bridged up to the the front pack. I thought about it but had a feeling it was going to be a long climb and chose to go at my own pace once again. This turned out to be a wise choice as I passed quite a number or riders who had started out too aggressively. Though this climb was longer and steeper on average than the King of the Mountain climb, it had fewer severely steep sections and I found myself climbing well. Laura was a little ahead of me most of the way up the climb and I passed her close to the top of the climb going slow enough that I thought that she would jump on my wheel as we crested the summit. But that was the last I saw of her until the end of the race. As it turned out, Laura ended up riding mostly solo the rest of the way which is a shame because had she been on my wheel, I'm sure she would have finished with me.

The following descent was long and fast. Apparently, the lead group of riders were clocked at 100 kph going down this hill. My maximum speed was somewhere around 87 kph. I was glad for the my Swiss Stop Yellow King carbon brake pads as I had to brake several times at that speed to avoid rear ending the rider ahead of me. As we approached the bottom of the descent, I could see the front pack as they made the right turn onto County Road 18. They were perhaps 500-600 metres ahead. I made the turn and focused on a group of two riders not far ahead, bridged up to them and recovered from my effort. A Nacsworld rider, probably the same guy who had helped bridge the earlier gap, sailed passed our group of three so I jumped on his wheel and working together three of the four of us were able to bridge up to the front pack.

After the two cat 3 climbs and the effort required to bridge up to the pack, the rest of the race was comparatively easy up until the final climb. One of the 3 Nacsworld riders tried to get some organization into our pack to try and chase down the break-away group but when that fizzled the pace just seemed to get slower and slower. At about the 135 km mark, I found myself at the front for a good 15-20 minutes. I wasn't pulling particularly hard, riding at about Tempo, but at some point I had to pull over into the oncoming lane in order to get off the front. The entire pack slowed up as one as nobody seemed willing to be at the front. It was kind of bizzare. But a "Sound Solutions" guy (one of 4 in the front pack) went to the front and picked up the pace. The Sound Solutions guy (who it turns out was Ed Makarchuk, 4th overall in the TT) pulled very strong pretty much the rest of the way to the final climb. At one point, I glanced down at my power meter and I was pushing 285 watts while in the draft so I can only imagine what he was pushing. So hats-off to that guy for the epic pull.

The final climb of the day was the same climb with which we started the day but in reverse. A couple of riders (Octo-Cervelo and Sound Solutions) shot off the front at the base of the climb followed by a few others. As with the previous climbs, I elected to climb at my own pace. and eventually caught and passed those who had gone hard early. I was feeling good and as we crested the summit, I was in the second position of the pack. By now, there were only about 20 riders left in the front pack. With 5 riders in the break-away group (it had been 6 but we had swallowed up one of those 6 prior to the final climb), I was pretty much ensured a decent overall placing. All that was left now was to fight for an age group spot. We reached the bottom of the climb just as we entered town. A Sound Solutions rider sprinted by me. I gave chase but eased up as I reached his wheel. Several more riders sprinted past and, still recovering from my effort, I let them not realizing how close the finish line actually was. A couple more riders sprinted past. I followed. We turned a corner and there was the finish line. I sprinted as hard as I could pushing the rest of the way until my front wheel crossed the timing line. Finally, it was over, I thought. Now I could rest.

My sprint finish (center)

As it turned out, our group of 22 splintered a bit on the final climb. So, out of the 10 who made it over the final climb more or less together, I came 7th in the final sprint. Not a great showing. I definitely still have a lot to learn when it comes to sprinting. But 12th overall and 1st in my age group. I can't complain about that.


All in all, it was a pretty good weekend for our entire group. Colin placed 3rd in his age group in the C25 while Judy placed second in her age group. Nat placed 3rd in her age group in the C50. And Laura was first female overall in the C100. But more than that, there's something about working really hard at something and achieving a goal that leaves a "glow" that lasts for awhile. It could have been the beer at the Ellicottville Brewing Company that gave the glow but I think it was more than that.


7     1:06:19.6 1:06:19.6 22.6   3079 MOORE, Colin 7/57     3/22   M50-59   
19     1:17:43.0 1:17:43.0 19.3   3065 KUBAN, Judy 4/28     2/12   F40-49     

full results:


101     3:17:34.9 15.2   2319 DALZELL, Natalie 17/32     3/5    F35-39    
102     3:17:35.0 15.2   2318 DALZELL, Jim 85/121   18/25   M50-54    
full results:


12 4:32:56.4 22.0   1215 WESTWOOD, Richard  12/179    1/15   M55-59 
full results: 


Here is an interesting alternative perspective from one of the IFG riders in our pack. Interestingly, I was one of the two riders who jumped on his wheel near the top of the final climb. But I passed him before the top and it was the Octo-Cervelo rider and I who were the first two on the descent and not the Sound Solutions guy. Otherwise, his recount is similar to mine with a few additional details I didn't know about.

And another perspective from the front of the race by Bruce Bird.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Wheels of Bloor Road Race 2012

This was to be my 3rd race in six days. After the Tom Jehlicka Memorial Crit last Sunday followed by the Tour de Terra Cotta, I was dead for Tuesday and didn't make it to the Tuesday Midweek Crits, electing instead to take a much needed rest day. My legs were dead for Wednesday's hill repeats so I took Thursday off as well. With only a short workout on Friday, my legs were feeling great for the Wheels of Bloor Race on Saturday and I felt good about my chances.

Coach Krzysztof picked me up at 11:15 Saturday morning and we made the drive to Barrie in good time, arriving just before 1:00 pm. The forecast for the race was not all that great but for the start of the race, at least, the rain held off. I got registered, promptly lost my race numbers and got a new set of numbers (thanks OCA guys) and was ready to go with plenty of time to spare. At 2:09 pm, my race started.

The course consisted of a 4.75 km neutral start followed by 3 laps of a 21.4 km rectangle, finishing off with a 4.3 km finishing leg. I used the neutral start in lieu of a warmup and to look around to size up my competitors. There were two teams who seemed to have more than 2 riders: Dark Horse Flyers and Team CHCH. One of the CHCH riders was Andrew Auld who I knew would be a factor in the race. The problem was, I didn't know which of the four CHCH riders was Andrew. I would just have to try and figure that out during the race.

We made the turn to start the first of 3 laps of the main circuit and I still was not yet warmed up. The peleton picked up speed rapidly and I and struggled to hang onto the back, having to dig surprisingly hard to to stay on. But by the time we reached the first turn, I had warmed up enough that I was feeling a little more comfortable and was able to make my way closer towards the front half of the pack. Still not where I wanted to be but, with the yellow line rule in effect, this would have to do for now. I waited patiently in the pack for an opening. On the drive up, Coach Krzys gave me a few pointers one of which was to show patience and wait for openings rather than try and fight for position when no openings were there. There would be places on the course where the peleton would string out, he said, and that these would be good places either to move up towards the front or to launch an attack. He said I should watch for these places and make a mental note for future laps around the course. Sure enough, the pack got strung out at certain places and I found it quite easy to move up towards the front at these sections.

I quickly figured out who I thought to be Andrew Auld as the CHCH rider seemed quite active towards the front of the peleton. I tried to stick close by in case he decided to launch an attack. He would be a good person to get in a break with. But as it turned out, the rider I had marked was not Andrew at all but one of his team mates.

Going into the second lap, my legs felt strong and I was finding it quite easy to stay near the front. The last leg of the circuit consisted mostly of a long but gradual climb and it was along here that the Dark Horse Flyers team moved to the front and picked up the pace so that going into the last lap, the pace had gone up a notch and I found myself working a little harder to stay near the front.

Just prior to the second leg of the 21 km circuit, there was a nasty descending S-bend and, wanting to stay out of trouble, I moved right to the front close to the front such that I was second wheel as we made the descent. It had been lightly raining off and on throughout the duration of the second lap which made the descent a little trickier than the first time but I still felt comfortable with the speed at which we took the second bend; the lead rider was going at a pretty good clip but not overly fast. Halfway around the bend an oncoming car seemed to spook the lead rider. He braked and as he did so drifted towards the right hand side of the road. I braked also and tried to steer around his right side. Unfortunately, by the time I got there he had moved over so much he was practically on the shoulder. We bumped elbows and I ended up on the grass. I might have been able to save the fall if the road had been straight but once I hit the grass I was unable to steer. I hit the brakes hard and went over the handlebars and into the ditch. Fortunately for me, it was a soft landing. I pulled my bike from the ditch, got quickly clipped into the pedals, and gave chase once again but by the time I made turned the corner to begin the second leg of lap 3, the peleton were a good 800 metres down the road. I had nothing to lose really so I put myself into time trial mode and gave chase anyway.

For the next 16 or 17 km, I chased the peleton. I thought about just calling it a day but there was something I learned at the Tour de Terra Cotta and that was that my mind will usually give up before my body. This made me more determined to push on. Along the way I passed several riders who had been dropped from the main peleton. One of them even latched onto to my rear wheel for a time but he wasn't there when I made the turn onto the final leg of lap 3. I caught the peleton just before they made the turn onto the 4.3 km finishing leg of the course. This was just about the time that the peleton really kicked things into high gear in the race towards the finish and no sooner had I caught back up to the peleton than I was promptly dropped once again. I crossed the line in 32nd place, 1'21" behind the winner: Andrew Auld.

Tour de Terra Cotta 2012 - Elite Race

This race was neither an O-Cup points race nor did it qualify for upgrade points yet for me this race was special. The participants in this race were drawn from among the best amateur racers in Ontario, including categories Elite 1 and 2 as well as Master 1. It was a fast race and in my previous 3 attempts at this race, I had failed to finish with the main front pack. My goal therefore was simple: to finish with the main pack.

The course for this race consisted of 12 laps of an 8.7 km loop for a total distance of 104 km. The main factors of this race that made it hard were a 50 metre climb over 700 metres which we encountered 12 times, the fast pace (avg speed > 40 kph), the longer distance (104 km) than races I have typically participated in, and the number of riders participating in the race (172 riders started the race).

Because of the number of riders in the race and the fact that the climb came less than 2 km from the start of the race, it was important to be in a good position at the start. In my three previous experiences with this race, the main selection was made either on the climb or immediately following it and though the organizers had promised a neutral roll-out to the top of the first climb, I nevertheless wanted a good starting position this time around. With this in mind, Phill and I both went to the start line 20 minutes before race start and even this early, we were half a dozen rows back from the start. Stan, on the other hand, had arrived even earlier and was parked comfortably in the first row.

Stan (front right) parked comfortably on the front of the start line.
The race started and I got clipped in fairly quickly (thanks in part to my new Speedplay pedals) and was able to make my way closer to the front such that, by the time we hit the first turn and the base of the climb,  I was very near the front of the peleton. Once we hit the steepest part of the climb, the race was on.

The first four laps were very hard but the pattern on each lap was similar and I was able to endure. On each lap, I would move up along the start-finish section towards the front of the pack.After the first turn, I would lose some ground on the climb but was still able to maintain a good overall position in the pacl. Then it was hammer like hell from the top of the hill until just before the second turn. There was usually a bit of a breather  before the second turn until the pack got strung out again in the cross wind heading towards the third turn. Heading north into the headwind, the pace of the pack would ease somewhat. Here I would typically try and move up a bit as well in order to be in a good position for the downhill leading into turn 4.

The fast pace of the front pack combined with the number of riders who were able to stay with that pack made for some harrowing moments as everyone tried to maintain a favourable position near the front of the pack. At one point, my front wheel rubbed against the rear wheel of a Wheels of Bloor rider after he had to brake to avoid crashing into someone who had cut across his lane. Several expletives were bellowed out but everyone stayed rubber side down on this occasion at least. But at the top of the climb the second time around, I noticed the ambulance parked on the right shoulder and inferred that that someone else had not been so lucky.

With the fast pace of the main pack and the shear number of riders, maintaining one's place in the pack was scary at times.
For the first several laps, I hung on and counted down the laps but after awhile, I wasn't counting laps to go so much as "climbs" to go. It was the climb on each lap that made this race tough for me. And it wasn't so much the climb itself that was tough as I was able to pace myself up the climb and still maintain a reasonably good position but, at the top of the climb, the main pack would hammer down the road with the tail wind and even the slightest of gaps could be the difference between staying with the pack and getting dropped so it was important to keep that gap closed and that was the tough part.

Pacing myself (front left) up the climb.
On lap 5, the pace settled down a little bit as the leaders slowed a bit to take on water (the bottle exchange was closed the first four laps) but it picked right back up again the following lap and that was probably my lowest point in the race. I felt like quitting. Gaps were starting to open up in front of riders ahead of me and I found myself having to dig even deeper than previously in order to stay with the pack. But though I felt like quitting, I stayed with it focusing on riders around me who I knew including Phill and Stan thinking that they must be suffering as much as I.

Stan (left) in tight in the main pack.
After lap 6, things got easier for me. In part, this was because the pace eased up somewhat but also I found myself adjusting to the rhythm of the course. The climb seemed a little easier but now the challenge was in safely passing lapped riders and I touched elbows more than once trying to squeeze by slower riders on the climb. But before I knew it, we were on the penultimate lap with just one more lap to go.

Phill (right) near the front, making the climb look easy.
On the stretch before the downhill, things began to get a little more frantic as the front pack jostled for position ahead of the final lap. It could be that a break had gotten away along this stretch as well. I was a little further back in the front pack at this point and didn't notice when the break was made but a few riders had gotten away off the front and this served to stir things up a bit. A few more loud expletives were heard,  some sudden lane changes, and the coming together of bikes and a rider was down to my left. As I went by, I glimpsed a Team Zuck rider skidding across the road. Ouch! I stayed to my right and picked up the pace to try and avoid any fall out from the crash and made it onto the final lap unscathed.

As expected, the pace quickened for the final lap and though I tried to maintain a high pace up the final climb this was a fast group and I lost a little ground. As was the pattern, I basically hung on down the stretch to corner 2 and again into the crosswind up to corner 3. Making the turn at corner 3, the pace quickened. More loud expletives and veering bikes ahead of me and I thought another crash was imminent this time including me. But again I got through unscathed. I pedaled hard up the right side, trying to improve my position ahead of the downhill knowing it would be important to be near the front going into the final corner and the start-finish stretch. I tucked in behind Stan going down the hill. I could see ahead just past the bottom of the hill, three lapped were riding three abreast along the ride hand side of the road. With 40+ riders jostling for position at 70 kph, it was inevitable that there would be a coming together as the front pack tried to squeeze by the lapped riders. There were the familiar loud expletives just ahead of me and a sudden slowing of the pack. My wheel rubbed against Stan's and I heard what I can best describe as scraping carbon  Stan veered off to my right and I assumed he crashed. I somehow managed to navigate my bike between bodies and bike parts, dropped down several gears and sprinted to catch those riders ahead of me who had also made it through. From here it was a sprint to the finish.

As it turned out, Stan was alright. He had not crashed but the crash ahead of him had cost him several positions. Myself, I had managed to cross the finish line in 40th place but 3rd in my age group. But, more importantly, I had finally finished a Tour de Terra Cotta with the main front pack, one of the more satisfying races of my short racing career.

Thrilled (right) to be on the podium of what for me was a great race.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tom Jehlicka Memorial Criterium 2012

I was uncertain about driving all the way to Cobourg for a 45 min Crit, especially with the weather forcasting an 80% pop, but thinking the race would be a good "leg opener" for my big race, Tour De Terra Cotta, the following day, I elected to make the journey.

Though the weather looked a little sketchy at times during the 1.5 hour drive to Cobourg, by the time we arrived, the skies had cleared and the Sun actually came out. I registered, changed the tube in my front racing wheel, and did my warmup while Wes and Marek did the early race. They did quite well, actually, with Marek taking the final podium spot for 3rd place.

Marek took 3rd place in the early race.

My race started at 10:15. About 20 riders lined up for the start of the race. My plan for the race was to sit in the main peleton for the duration of the race and do what I could at the final sprint. I would watch for any breaks but, though I wanted a good workout to prepare my legs for the following day's race, I didn't want to overdo it. Looking around at the start line, I noticed quite a few cyclists from the Peterborough Cycling Club (PCC).  I guessed that they would some riders to watch.

The race started on time and, sure enough, from my vantage point at the back of the peleton I could see that two PCC riders had attacked right away and quickly established a gap. I went to the front and closed the gap to the attacking PCC riders. No sooner had I closed the gap than an independent rider in a white cycling jersey attacked along with a Beaches Cycling Club (BCC) rider. I jumped on their wheel right away this time but once we had established a gap, it became clear that the other two riders weren't committed enough to maintain the gap and our break was shut down. It wasn't long again before another attack was made from the PCC team. I looked around to see who else was willing to close down the gap but, again, nobody seemed willing or able. I wasn't sure which so, again, I closed the gap myself. This became the pattern for the duration of the race. The net effect of the continuous attacks was that the main pack was split fairly early on leaving only about 10 of us in the front group, four of which were of the PCC team.

Keeping a close eye on the pack. Four of the five riders to my right are PCC team members.

As it turned out, both the independent and the BCC guy were part of the PCC team; they just had different jerseys. In other words, of the 10 guys in the front group, six were from the PCC team and working together against the remaining four, including me. You can imagine how that went. After a time, I figured out that the independent was of the same team but it wasn't until the winning break was made, which included the BCC guy, that I figured out that the BCC guy was also of the same team.

The front group. The first 2 and last 2 in the photo are PCC members. Another 2 PCC guys are up the road.
The net effect of the PCC-dominated break was that I pretty much wore myself out trying to close gaps. But the two PCC guys wearing the different jerseys was even more of a factor . If they had been wearing the proper team colours then I would have matched their attacks the same as I matched any PCC attacks. But the fact that I thought they were on different teams affected my decision making such that I let those attacks go unchallenged. Ultimately, the "independent" and the BCC guy were part of the winning break along with one other PCC member. What made this all the more frustrating was that, of the other 3 non-PCC guys in the break, only one was willing to work with me and, unfortunately, he was not as strong as he would have liked to be as he admitted to me after the race.

For the last 4 laps of the race, I pretty much shut it down. I had worked hard enough already and had no interest in pulling the rest of the way for the non-PCC guys who were not willing to work. The race had gone nothing like according to plan and it left a bad taste in my mouth learning of the two PCC decoys.

I sat at the back of the pack for the last few laps.
On the drive home, I tried to think if there was anything I could have done differently, what mistakes had I made. But I could think of nothing. I was foiled by a team that basically cheated by having two guys "undercover" [edit: I should add here that I don't think the team intentionally "cheated". They were executing a team strategy very well. But having 2 guys "undercover" took away any chance I might have had and that's what I was bitter about.]. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter and my beef is quite trivial. But at the time it didn't seem so. After the race, a few of the PCC guys came up to me with "good race" and "sorry to do that to you out there" so I can't be too bitter about it. It's just in my nature to be bitter :)

Having some fun after the race and trying not to take myself too seriously.