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 But a 1.5 hour delay at the border, a 45 min stopover at the outlet mall, and an outdated GPS that took us slightly off course turned a 2.5 hour drive into 5.25 hour drive.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.

1 comment:

Judy said...

Nice memories!