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.

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