Friday, September 27, 2013

Bay of Quinte Road Race, 2013 Race Report


After a promising start to the 2013 bike racing season, my Summer didn't exactly go as planned with a series of 4 DNF's, beginning June 29 with the National Road Race Championships in Megantic, Quebec, and ending August 5th with the Tour de Terra Cotta. Not a great season! So, after the Tour Di Via Italia on the Labour Day weekend, I shut down "training" for the season and embarked on a campaign of beer and comfort food. With 2 "races" remaining , the 100 mile Centurion in Collingwood and the 100k Tour de Hans in Waterloo, I didn't stop riding completely but my rides weren't so much "training rides" as, well... just rides. In fact, I dropped out of the 100 mile event at Collingwood, opting instead for the 50 mile event and that was fun. The Bay of Quinte Road Race only came up on my radar due to a Facebook posting by the OCA the week of. When Marco texted me to ask if I was interested, I decided to do it, more to get in a quality training ride prior to the Tour De Hans than anything else.

I had looked at the course profile ahead of registering. It was pretty much flat with only one climb of any significance about midway through the race. I didn't anticipate any difficulty even with the additional 7 pounds I'd gained since Labour Day (how did that happen?). It would probably end in a bunch sprint as characteristic of most Ontario road races and I figured to be able to sit "in the draft" for the majority of the race. My biggest concern was what to wear as the weather forecast was calling for morning temperatures in the single digits.

Marco Salvati, who lives just around the corner from me, picked me up at 5:50 AM and together we made the 2 hour trek to Trenton. By 8:30 AM, we had picked up our registration kits, pinned on our race numbers, attached time chips to bikes, and were out riding through the crisp morning air in an effort coax race legs into action. Race start was at 9:00 AM.

Start of the 100k race. I'm in there somewhere, off to the right, near the front.

Since this was an "open" race, I expected there to be a reasonably large field of, say, 200 or more. But as we lined up at the start line, there looked to be no more than about 30 (in fact, there were 49 to be exact). In one respect, this was good as it meant less fighting to stay near the front. On the other hand, it afforded less opportunity to "hide" in the pack as was my plan. This wasn't at all how I envisioned things (what was that saying about "the best laid plans of mice and men"?). As if to rub salt into my wound, this morning featured a stiff 25 kph wind blowing in from the NW.

The warm up

As we rolled out of Centennial Park in Trenton, I tucked myself safely somewhere around the middle of the 49-rider pack in an attempt to hide from the wind. I could see the bright lime-green jersey of Marco sitting near the front around about 4th wheel or so. I wasn't ready for that yet, content to just sit in the middle of the pack. There was plenty of space on the road and I wasn't feeling any pressing urgency to get closer to the front.

At 1.5 km, Greg Cushing (Team TDI/Zuck Bikes) attacked. This strung out the peleton but there were no gaps of any significance opened up. The attack served merely as a brisk warm up, at least for most of us. I wasn't about to look back while riding 40 kph in the middle of a cruising peleton to actually confirm that everyone was still with us. I wasn't going to be "that guy". Cushing attacked again at 5 km, this time more convincingly. This one caught my attention and I resolved hereafter to keep close to his wheel. Cushing had won the Bloomfield Classic Road Race earlier in the Spring in similarly blustery conditions (even worse, truth be told) and had started the Chin Picnic Crit similarly aggressively, going solo off the front for several laps of that race. He was definitely someone to watch out for.

Distance: 18.3 km
Duration: 27:55
Avg Speed: 39.3 kph
Normalized Power: 80.6% FTP
Average Power: 63.5% FTP

The bridge

There were a couple more burst attacks at around 8 and 10 km, respectively, but the next significant attack didn't come until about 20 km into the race. As we made a left turn at 20 km, Cushing launched a vicious attack  into the cross wind that caught most of the peleton off-guard. I was about 15 riders back when the attack came and, even though I had anticipated an attack coming, I turned the corner to find a yawning gap to the break-away riders. I didn't hesitate. I launched myself after the break-away, standing on the pedals to coax more power out of my straining legs, passed a number of riders who had been caught off-guard by the attack, and soon found myself in no-man's land between the peleton and the small break-away group ahead of me. About 3/4 of the way there, I was beginning to feel I had nothing left and took a quick glance behind me to see who might pull through. To my surprise, there was no-one behind me . It was up to me. Anyone who has done a Time Trial or, better yet, a timed hill climb knows the burning sensation in the legs from pushing oneself to the limit. With my legs screaming at me to stop, I kept pushing and after a 58 second all-out effort, I just made it to the tail end of the break.

Distance: 800 m
Duration: 0:58
Avg Speed: 49.9 kph
Normalized Power: N/A
Average Power: 188.9% FTP

The snap

Having made the break, I soon wondered what I had gotten myself into. The small break-away group of 6 had already established a smooth rotation by the time I reached the break and now I was expected to take my place in the rotation. My first turn through the rotation was brutal. I felt I was going to die. It was all I could do to pull through at the front and hold on until the next rider pulled through. There was method to this madness, of course. A high pace was required in order to "snap the elastic" to the chasing peleton. Everyone in the break seemed experienced enough to know this and were all pushing hard. But the frantic pace was such that there was not much "recovery" in the draft, especially with the strong cross-wind. After having used everything I had just to get into the break, now I was turning myself inside-out just to stay in the break. "How much longer I could keep this up?" I asked myself. I thought of dropping back to the peleton but that was not an option. The only option I felt I had was to keep going until I couldn't. But even while suffering I felt a tinge of excitement. I had made the break! And it looked like a good one. After about eight and a half minutes, the pace settled into more of a Tempo effort. We had broken the elastic.

Distance: 5.9 km
Duration: 8:38
Avg Speed: 41.0 kph
Normalized Power: 103% FTP
Average Power: 97.5% FTP

The break

Once the pace had settled somewhat, I had a chance to evaluate my break-away companions. Including me, there were 7 riders in the break: Greg Cushing (Team TDI/Zuck Bikes), Kevin Black (Octto Cervelo), Derek Harnden and Keiran Andrews (Peterborough Cycling Club), Casey Roth (Ride With Rendall), and Lucas Bent (Jet Fuel Coffee/Norco Bicycles). I didn't know it at the time but, of those six riders, four raced at Elite 1 level (Kevin Black - winner of Gran Fondo Niagara, Derk Harnden, Lucas Bent, and Casey Roth) and the other two raced at Master 1 level (Greg Cushing, and Keiran Andrews). I was the only Master 2, racing in the Senior category in just my second year of racing. I think it was fair to say I was a bit out of my depth. But, ignorance is bliss. I executed my place in the rotation like I belonged there.

The pace over the next 30 km was hard but manageable. At 45 km, we turned into a headwind and the next 15 km were very hard at the front but easy in the draft. At 60 km, we reached the only climb of the day, a 1.5 km climb averaging 6%. The gradient was not hard as climbs go but its length along with the stiff headwind proved to be my undoing. We started the climb gently enough but, apparently, this pace was too pedestrian for Kevin Black who rolled off the front. The rest of the group seemed content to let Black go, at first, but that didn't last long. Casey Roth attacked, dragging Harnden, Andrews, and Bent with him. I debated whether to dig in to stay on the wheels in front but instead chose to climb at my own pace, reasoning I'd be able to grind my way back. Big mistake! Even with my recent weight gain, the climb shouldn't have been that overwhelming but the strong head wind was like the hand of God. "No, my son," God was saying, "not on this day!" Glancing back, I saw Cushing having an even tougher time than I, probably from all those earlier attacks, and I had to sit up and wait. Four legs were better than two, I thought. There was still a slim chance that the two of us could catch back onto the break by working together.

Distance: 37.5 km
Duration: 1:02:47
Avg Speed: 35.8 kph (the wind)
Normalized Power: 95.3% FTP
Average Power: 86.4% FTP

And then there were three...

Cresting the climb, I tucked in to begin the descent. About 300 meters down the road were some police vehicles and several police officers directing traffic. This was confusing! Cushing was yelling at me to turn. I tried to see where to turn but it was unclear. There was a road coming up on the left but the police were further down, past where the road was. We got closer to the road and Cushing's calls became more animated: "turn, turn...". I didn't see the white arrow marker until we were actually at the turn. It was very easy to miss. Cushing, on the other hand, seemed to know where he was going and we made the turn without going off course. Just as we were making the turn, Kevin Black appeared, riding from the opposite direction. It seemed he had missed the turn. "That's good," I thought. "Now there are 3 of us instead of two. Completing the turn, I could make out one lone rider ahead of us. "Where were the other three?" I wondered. With that question unanswered, the three of us got a rotation going and set about chasing the rider ahead of us.

Catching the lone rider took longer than I expected and it wasn't until about 8 km into the chase before the Peterborough Cycling Club colours came into focus. The lead vehicle just a short ways further up the road suggested that this PCC rider, Kieran Andrews, was currently leading the race. Meaning the other 3 from our pack must be behind us. There was a brief discussion behind me between Black and Cushing from which I overheard something like "No, we need him." It seemed that Black wanted to "blow-by" the lone Peterborough rider with Cushing suggesting a more practical option. Indeed, Black stepped up the pace a notch as we went by Andrews. But instead of preventing Andrews from latching on, Black's acceleration instead caused Cushing to fall off the back. So instead of gaining an extra rider we just swapped riders and remained a group of three.

Distance: 27.4 km
Duration: 42:42
Avg Speed: 38.5 kph
Normalized Power: 93.4% FTP
Average Power: 87.1% FTP

The catch

The next 15-20 km were again very hard. But I was at the front of the race in a break of three! "How sweet is that!" I thought. My part in the rotation was hard but manageable. Both Andrews and myself were doing "pulls" of around 1 minute but Black's pulls were probably more like twice that long. When Andrews shouted "Only 33 km to go!", I began to believe our 3-man break would go all the way, guaranteeing me a spot on the podium. But as "best laid plans" go, my "chicken-counting" was short lived. At about 90 km, we were caught by a group of about 9 riders, four of which included my previous break-away companions. Marco shouted something like "Good job, Richard!" as he rode by which made me feel good but my dreams of a podium finish were over.

Once the catch had been made, our pace slowed considerably; the next 10 km were very easy. The makeup of our group was now comprised of the original 7-man break plus Greg Woitzik (Indpendent), Timothy Templeman (Belleville Chain Gang) and the 3 Tower/Cipolinni Racing team members: Chris Herten, Peter Chae, and Marco Salvati. I was quite familiar with the bright lime-green jerseys of the Cipolinni boys from having raced with them at the Putnam Classic which had been my hardest race of the year to date and also probably the most fun.

Distance: 10.6 km
Duration: 18:38
Avg Speed: 34.1 kph
Normalized Power: 65.9% FTP
Average Power: 57.5% FTP

The home stretch

With about 13 km to go and everyone hugging the center line away from the cross wind, Kevin Black attacked the group down the right hand side of the road. Being close to the back of the pack at the time, I had a chance to see this unfold and reacted instinctively by chasing Black down the ride hand side of the road. I was about halfway to bridging up to the Occto rider when I hesitated. "How much further was there to go," I asked myself. "Do I really want to endure more suffering?" "Surely the pack will chase the two of us back down". Looking ahead, I could see that Black was pausing, waiting to give whoever it was in "no-man's land" a chance to go with him. This was my chance to go down in a blaze of glory. In hindsight... well, same old story with me. I hesitated instead of going with my instinct. One of these days I'll learn to trust my gut more but this time, again, I didn't.

About 2 km later, Casey Roth attacked the bottom of a 1 km climb that I didn't know about. The two riders ahead of me jumped after him. I also jumped but, once again, hesitated halfway across the gap. "Why should I be doing all the work," I asked myself and eased up, waiting for someone else to come around. They did! They came around and left me behind. Now, instead of digging deep to try and bridge to the second break, I found myself having to dig deep just to stay with the rest of the pack. I did make it to the top of the climb with the rest of the pack... barely. But the 3-man break away ahead had widened the gap and were a good ways down the road by the time the rest of our pack reached the top.

Whether everyone was saving themselves for the finish or they just didn't have anything left, as the 3-man break lengthened their lead, nobody in our pack (now down to six) seemed to want to take a turn at the front. My excuse was there were at least 2 riders in the pack, Andrews and Bent, who I thought to be stronger than I so why should I go to the front. Eventually, we did sort of get something organized and our pace picked up but, for the remainder of the race, the gap to the two groups ahead of us seemed to stay about the same.

Entering the Trenton city limits, our pace picked up. Much of this increase was due to the efforts of local boy, Timothy Templeman who took some monster pulls in an effort to try and close the gap to those ahead. But as strong as Templeman was, Casey Roth was just as strong if not stronger and the gap did not decrease appreciably. Templeman led for probably most of the last 3 or 4 km and I would have gladly taken some pulls myself to help out but such was Templeman's power that it was all I could do to keep pace. The last couple of kilometers were quite technical, taking us through the city center proper and here it got a bit hairy as we found ourselves racing down the center line between traffic. Nowhere to pass here! From here, we crossed a bridge over the Trent River, a quick right onto Ontario Street, a bit of a chicane and then another right (where I think I passed Chris Herten) into Centennial Park and the finishing stretch. I could see just ahead that Templeman seemed to fade approaching the finish line and both Andrews and Bent passed him Andrews taking 5th place and Bent taking 6th. I came in just behind Templeman for 8th place overall.

Distance: 12.8 km
Duration: 17.22
Avg Speed: 44.2 kph
Normalized Power: 97.5% FTP
Average Power: 82.9% FTP

Distance: 113.3 km
Duration: 2:59:04
Avg Speed: 38.0 kph
Normalized Power: 93% FTP
Average Power: 80.7% FTP

Full Results


Unless you finish in the top three, crossing the finish line always seems somewhat anti-climactic. I felt more relief that the suffering was over than anything else. What promised to be a comparatively easy training race turned out to be one of the hardest races of the year... and also one of the most fun despite all the suffering (or maybe because of it?). Following the race, the riders who had finished began to congregate in little groups, congratulating each other and bumping knuckles. It's kind of funny how out on the course we are all adversaries but once the race is over there is this high level of camaraderie and mutual respect. This was evident as we all exchanged war stories following the race. This, to me, is as much a part of the race experience than the actual pedaling. Some of these riders, I had just met. Others, such as the Cipollini boys, I had raced against numerous times throughout the year. It's this camaraderie that very much contributes to my love of racing.

After some barbecued pork on a bun with baked beans, we all gathered around as the podium award winners were celebrated. First to be honoured were 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the Youth category. Then the Adult category. It occurred to me at this point that I had registered in the Senior category (> 55). "Did I win?" I wondered. Sure enough, the announcer got to the Senior category and called out "Richard Westwood, 1st place in a time of 3:01:44". Woo hoo, I earned a medal and got my picture taken with the pretty young woman. To me, though, my real victory was making the break of the day :)

Award winners including me, 3rd from left.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

KW Classic - 2013 Report

"Were you satisfied with your race," Laura asked me on the trip home?

"Totally," I replied! "I wanted to race aggressively and that's what I did," I told her. Laura had just won her first O-Cup race in 4 attempts, finishing over 4 minutes ahead of the pack in a two-up break-away so I had a pretty good idea that she was satisfied.

A few days have passed and, with time to ruminate, I find myself still pondering the question. Given my plan going into the race, to "race aggressively", I should be satisfied. But the more illuminating question that needs answering is "Was I satisfied with my race plan?"

Ahead of the race, having scanned previous race results, I determined that this race was inclined to be yet another bunch sprint finish. I hate bunch sprints, mostly because I never do well in them. So, after looking at the course profile and reading a few race reports, I devised a plan to try and make the race hard for everyone with the expectation that by making the race hard: a) there would be fewer people to contest the sprint, and b) my fitness would put me in a better position to contest the sprint finish than those less fit than me. Chatting with Phill on the team bus prior to the race, I learned his thoughts on restraining his break-away urges until later on in the race.

On the team bus (right), pinning my race numbers on my jersey.

Sixty six riders lined up to start the 2013 edition of the KW Classic. Five teams were represented with 4 or more riders, Morning Glory Cycling Club with 8, Team CHCH with 7, and Cyclepath Oakville, Silent Sports, and Team London Cycling with 4 a piece. Team Kurzawinski Coach/ comprised a team of two: me and Phill.

Things don't always go according to plan but it's important to have them. Since normally it takes a while for my body to get "up to speed" in a race, I intended to use the first few laps of a race to warm up. That part of my plan went out the window as a CHCH rider catapulted ahead to my left, sprinting flat-out towards the first corner. This pretty much set the tone of the day, ending my plan for a comfortable warm up.

Phill (left of middle) and I (3rd from right) lined up along the front of the start line.

Not wanting to be relegated to the middle of the pack, I did my best to stay towards the front. Though still able to manage the pace, this was definitely harder than I intended to go at this early part of the race. On the first trip up the climb, I found myself in that "uncomfortable" zone. By the second lap, the climb was more tolerable. And even more so by the 3rd climb though clearly I wasn't as comfortable with the climb as Phill as he not only led the pack up the 3rd climb but crested the top with a gap. So much for his plan of restraint. Phill wasn't about to allow an opportunity go wasted and he soloed off the front for the next two or three laps.

KW Classic course profile.

Loyal to my plan of racing aggressively, on about the 5th lap I bridged a one-man break just after the turn 1 switchback. The two of us quickly built a slender lead heading along the top of Hidden Valley Road. Our lead was just as quickly swallowed up by the time we hit the "hump" just passed the second curve. Not only did my break-away attempt not work, it also help close the gap to Phill; he was brought back towards the end of the following lap. Not to be deterred I jumped on pretty much anything that moved off the front, after that, in a futile attempt join each and every break-away attempt except the one that might have counted. 

KW Classic Course Map

Attempting a break-away anywhere along the back half of the course was doomed to failure. That part of the course was too fast and the pack too strong. The best places to try and break away were on the last part of the climb, the steepest section, and along the start-finish stretch where there was a cross wind. I found out about the start-finish stretch inadvertently. Twice, while trying to make the race harder, hugging the shoulder against the cross-wind and powering down the start-finish stretch, I found myself with an unintended gap to the pack. On the second of these unintended "break-aways", a lone CHCH rider bridged up to me and passed. I should have grabbed his wheel and gone for another break-away attempt but I hesitated. Past experience had taught me that CHCH closed down break aways; they didn't initiate them. So I let him go. As it turned out, Bryan Tyers, winner of the Niagara race in his first race since being promoted from M3, stayed away on his own for at least 3 laps and it took a determined effort by Team London domestique, Joe Narciso, to reel him back in, leaving me with another "what if" to ponder during this past week.

By the time Tyers was brought back into the fold, my legs were giving me signals. Up until now, I was able to hold anybody's wheel going up the climb but with couple of laps to go I started feeling twinges. Predictably, the pace picked up on the last lap. I stayed fairly close to the front down the fast part of the course and into the subdivision but not as close as I would have liked. The pace tended to slow down in the subdivision crescent, in anticipation of the climb, and I thought I would be able to make up a few places there. But on the last lap, as we rounded the crescent, instead of slowing down, riders attacked from the front and nobody slowed down. It wasn't a violent attack but it was enough that I found myself starting to drift back through the pack instead of moving forward. To make matters worse, with the wind coming from the left, I had instinctively moved to the right side of the road to seek shelter from the wind... along with everybody else. My way forward was blocked. By the time I got to the turn into the steepest part of the climb, I was at least halfway back in the pack, probably further. I was able to make up some ground on the steep part of the climb but cresting the top I could see I had missed the boat already. I pushed on anyway because, well because it's a race. Making the final turn into the start-finish chute, a rider went down ahead of me. I went wide around him and sprinted for the line, crossing in 20th place, somewhere around the middle of what was left of the pack. 

After the race, I had a chance to chat with a few of the racers. In general, everyone's spirits were up despite the crappy weather. It had been a pretty exciting race and the time had gone quickly by. Interestingly, the average speed of the M2 race was the same as that of the M1 race held later that day. It had been a fast, aggressive race and I had been towards the front for most of it so, yes, I was satisfied with my race. And maybe would be still had I not chatted with Charlie Squires.

I bumped into Charlie after the race. "How did you do," I asked?

"Second place," he answered.

Somewhat surprised, I shook his hand and congratulated him. I was surprised because I hadn't seen Charlie throughout most of the race and yet he had seemingly appeared out of nowhere to take second place. Moreover, the same thing had happened at Niagara; he was all but invisible until the sprint finish where he again took second place. The thing about Charlie is he's over 60 years old. Talking with Charlie after the race, we talked about what attracts him to Road Racing. "It's the strategy," he said. "You conserve, conserve, conserve... and then you go."

So this week I've been thinking... In two races this year in which I raced aggressively, I finished back in the pack whereas in the race in which I was obliged to "conserve, conserve, conserve..." on account of my team mate, Phill, being in the break, I placed top ten (6th). It's fun to race aggressively and be in the mix, but I've been asking myself this week: "Was I satisfied with my race plan"? I'm inclined to think, no.

Charlie Squires (left) takes 2nd place at the KW Classic

Monday, May 13, 2013

Lake of Bays Road Race - 2013 Report

In 2005, I participated in my first "Muskoka Chase" triathlon and fell in love with the Muskoka region. I've been coming back each year since that race to ride my bike at various times ranging from late Spring to late Summer. This was the first time I'd chosen to ride my bike here this early in the year.

Had the inaugural Lake of Bays Road Race been held the previous weekend, I'd be writing a different race report. That was the weekend we'd finally turned the corner out of the miserable Winter weather we've been experiencing all Spring into suddenly Summer-like conditions. But Old Man Winter returned with a vengeance with a sub-zero windchill, rain mixed with sleet, and winds approaching Gale force strength. The question of the day prior to the race was what to wear. On the one hand, I was inclined to stick with the more aerodynamic tight fitting race kit and layer up underneath to add extra protection against the elements. But after witnessing some of the early finishers of the morning races as they came shivering in from the cold, I chose discretion over valour and dressed for protection over aerodynamics adding a rain jacket, team jacket, leg warmers, a second pair of booties, and my thick Winter snow gloves to what I had initially chosen to wear.

I dressed warm for the start of the Lake of Bays Road Race, including my thick Winter snow gloves.
Even dressed as warmly as I was, the stiff 30 kph West winds made the wait for the race start an uncomfortable one. Only 2 teams were reasonably well represented on the start line: Team London and Team CHCH, each with 4 riders. Beaches Cycling Club had a roster of 3 but any of the other teams had at most two members, including Team Kurzawinski. The Team London guys had all been in M1 last year and had chosen to downgrade to M2 this year so I knew they would be strong. They had been a presence already at the Good Friday Road Race and Bloomfield Classic. I knew also that Team CHCH had some strong riders but I knew from Calabogie that they tended to chase everything down so while they were probably not a break away threat, they made the prospect of establishing a break more problematic. Eventually, 10 minutes after the M1 wave started and five minutes after the Juniors, the M2 wave rolled off the front to cover the 1.5 km neutral start distance. A few minutes later, we made the left turn onto Canal Road East and my team mate, Phill, shot off the front. The race was ON.

Trying to stay warm (front right) while awaiting the start.
It was a small field of 25 that started the M2 wave. Phill had mentioned on the drive up that he might try and break early if his legs were willing and apparently they were. But attempting a solo break this early in a long race is rarely a good idea and when nobody responded to Phill's attempt to initiate a break, he sat up and waited for the rest of the pack to catch back up.

The pace over that challenging first section of the course was hard. I think everyone just wanted to get warm and riding hard was the best way to do that. Knowing the technical nature of the first 18 km, I worked hard to stay at or near the front, particularly on the descents where I was always at the head of the peleton. There had already been some crashes in the M3 race and I didn't want that happening to us. And if it was to happen, I didn't want any part of it. Staying at the front kept me out of trouble. Still, I managed to lose my only water bottle on one of the fast decents from South Portage into Dwight. Once me made the turn onto HWY 35, I slipped back from the front and settled in somewhere around the middle of the pack. Losing my water bottle was a bit of a concern but I did notice that opening my mouth while following other riders provided an alternative source of fluids should I get desperate. I quickly learned to ride slightly to one side. I wasn't that desperate yet.

The section along HWY 35 from Dwight to Dorset went sort of how I expected with the pace settling down somewhat. But my reverie broken was frequently interrupted by a break away attempt by Phill, usually joined by at least one Team London rider, and inevitably there would be the mad surge to keep up with the CHCH guys as they chased the break back down. It wasn't always the CHCH guys closing the gap but often enough to be noteworthy. The plus side of all the cat and mouse was that a) it kept me warm, and b) the trip to Dorset passed very quickly.

Turning South West towards Baysville brought us straight into the 30 kph head wind. Having ridden the same Muskoka 70.3 bike course numerous times during the Fletcher's Meadow Cross Trainers (FMCT) annual pilgrimage to Muskoka, this was my favourite part of the course. It was the fastest, least hilly part of the bike course and I generally liked to go to the front of my "buddy" train and put in a long pull over this section. Not today! With the angry winds howling, I slipped to the very back of the peleton and hid from the wind. It was while at the back of the pack that I noticed Coach Kris in the wheel van behind us and I was able to drop back and retrieve a bottle of water from him. Thanks Kris! No more wheel spray for me, I was moving up to bigger and better things.

Coach Kris drove the Via Ciclante wheel van behind the M2 wave.
One moment, the weather would be dry...

...the next moment, it would be raining.

Somewhere between Dorset and Baysville, Phill broke away from the pack yet again, joined by one of the Team London guys, Carlos Goncalves. Perhaps it was because of the head wind but the pair managed to establish a bit of a gap. It seemed nobody was willing to put in the effort to chase the pair down. For awhile, the gap seemed to grow but such is the nature of this section of the course with it's long line of sight that Phill and Carlos were kept in check and basically allowed to dangle out front to tire themselves out. The catch was made just before Baysville but as we entered Baysville, another Team London rider, Kees Louws snuck off the front. I think nobody really noticed at first because everyone slowed down for the feedzone in Baysville but once we turned East onto Brunel Road, Marco from Cipollini Racing pointed out to me that there was a guy off the front.

As with Phill's break away attempt, the peleton didn't seem too concerned about chasing the Team London rider down and, as with Phill and Carlos, he was allowed to dangle of the front. Having rested myself most of the way between Dorset and Baysville, my legs actually felt pretty good. The last thing I wanted was for the race to finish in a bunch sprint, especially knowing the CHCH guys tended to be good sprinters (which probably accounted for their tending to chase down any breaks). I knew also that the course became increasingly more difficult from here to the finish with numerous short but tough hills. So I went to the front, in particular to try and make life a little more difficult for the CHCH guys. If I could tire them our by attacking on every hill then maybe somebody else, Phill or even one of the Team London guys (I liked their style) could take the win. As I attacked the next hill about a kilometer and a half from the turn onto South Portage, one of the CHCH guys made to jump on my wheel only to be held back by his team mate. "No, he's ok," I heard him say, meaning I wasn't a threat; let me go. With that challenge ringing in my ears, I time trialed my way up to the Team London guy, rested a bit behind him and then took a turn at the front just as we turned onto South Portage. I was hoping that the two of us could make a go of it but as I made the turn, I took a quick glance back to see the entire peleton barreling full speed towards us. It seemed at least somebody in the peleton did see me as a threat.

Up to now, the entire peleton remained intact; nobody had gotten dropped. I spent the remainder of the race (well, almost) at the front, attacking every hill. I'm not sure what the net effect on the CHCH guys was. I'm hoping I made them suffer but though bigger guys, they were surprisingly strong even on the hills and any gaps I did establish was immediately nullified once the road leveled off again. In fact, one of the CHCH guys seemed to take up my challenge and began to attack the hills himself ahead of my attacks and as we made the left turn onto North Portage road, it was a CHCH guy on the front followed by me followed by I don't know who else because somewhere along the way we had begun to jetison parts of the peleton. The climb up North Portage road was hard and I was starting to feel the cumulative effort of all my attacks in my legs. There wasn't much respite on the following descent as the CHCH guy kept pedaling and began to distance me. A Team London guys went by and I hooked onto his rear wheel before we made the left turn onto Canal road. Another climb, this one shorter but steeper and the CHCH guy was still on the front but as we reached the top of this climb, one of his team mates counter attacked. Surprisingly, nobody went with him. Maybe nobody could; the pace had been brutal the last few kilometers. But a short while later, Phill made a faux attempt to bridge the gap with the peleton in chase. Not wanting to do all the work himself, Phill sat up and the pace slowed a bit with the CHCH guy still out front. But the pace picked up again as we rounded the curve into the last major hill on the course and everyone went by me. At least, everyone who was left. I tried to respond but I guess I had burnt one too many matches and my legs had absolutely no power. What was left of the peleton, 11 guys, rode away without me. I tried in vain to catch back on during the following descent. The wheel van passed me just before the bridge and I was able to catch a bit of a draft just briefly (Thanks Kris) but my legs just had nothing. Fortunately, there was nobody behind me so it didn't really matter and my 12th place wasn't threatened in any way as I crossed the line.

Phill managed to finish strong with the front pack, finishing in 5th place. Apparently, the CHCH guy got caught before the finish and finished behind the front pack about midway between the pack and me. My friend and fellow training sufferer, Laura, came in 4th in her race.

Distance: 94.5 km
Duration: 2:44:11
Avg Speed: 34.5 kph
Intensity Factor: 99.9 % of FTP (I think it may be time to do another FTP test)
full results:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bloomfield Classic and Calabogie Classic - 2013 Report

Bloomfield Classic

With the UCI World Cycling Tour qualifying race fast approaching, Andy and I elected to add the Bloomfield Spring Classic Road Race to our already busy racing calendar. The Calabogie Road Classic was already on the menu for Sunday but the course is mostly flat and not good training for World Tour qualifier. The Bloomfield race, however, was very hilly and thus very suitable as a training race.

The alarm on my Blackberry blared angrily at 4:45 Saturday morning. I was packed already so it was just a matter of driving to Coach's home to hitch a ride in the club van. After a quick breakfast, we were on the road to Bloomfield, NY by 6:30 AM. Three and a half hours later, with Coach driving, we arrived at the school parking lot to sign in and pickup our race numbers.

This Spring has not been good for cyclists with below average temperatures and more rain than usual. On this morning, we had also to deal with 45 kph winds gusting to 60 kph. I took the time to swap out my front 66 mm Carbon race wheel and brake pads with my regular aluminum training wheel and pads, fearing how the strong gusts would affect my steering with the much wider race wheel. By 10:35 AM, I lined up with Andy for the 4 km neutral roll out.

Andy and I lined up for the start of the Bloomfield Classic.
Twenty six cyclists started the 5th wave of the Bloomfield Classic, comprised of 9 Masters 40+, 15 Masters 50+ and 2 Juniors. Interestingly, 9 of the 26 were from Ontario with 4 from Zuck Team, 3 form Team London, and Andy and me from Kurzawinski Coach. I found myself at the front of the pack for the neutral rollout but once we crossed the start-finish line, I quickly found myself at the back as the entire pack attacked en masse and I had to dig deep just to stay with the pack. That was my warmup.

Course profile of Bloomfield Classic.
The first couple of kilometers of the 18 km course include a couple of rollers which, done in the small chain ring at club-ride pace, probably aren't too bad. But big-ringing them at race pace, those rollers felt more like hills. I was able to work my way back to the front by riding up the windy side of the road but here I emphasis the word "work" as there was nothing easy about it. After the rollers was a long downhill where I was able to catch my breath and let my heart rate return to a more reasonable level. Steering became a bit of an issue on the long downhill with the wind gusts bursting in from the right side but not pedalling for awhile was a welcome relief. The fun began once we made the right turn into the head wind.

You would think that once the pack turned into the head wind that the pace would settle down as those at the front of the pack dealt with the strong head wind. But, no, we made that turn and the front rider attacked. I was about 3rd or 4th wheel going into the turn so it wasn't too bad closing the gap but that front rider put in such a strong pull that the entire pack was strung out single file for most of that "bottom" section of the course.

Bloomfield Classic - 1 lap = 18 km.
With the wind coming West by South-west, fighting the wind was easier over the second half of the course than the first but then there were the hills to deal with. At first, I attacked the hills with the lead riders but after doing this a couple of times, I discovered I could start the hill at the front of the pack, climb the hill at my own pace while drifting back through the pack, and save my "matches" for the inevitable attacks that I knew would come later and, in general, the second half of the course did become easier than the first.

The expected attacks came once we made the right turn to start the second lap. The first attack came right at the turn as the road pitched upwards. Closing that gap wasn't too hard for me, probably due to my new-and-improved power-to-weight ratio. When the second attack launched into the cross-wind, just passed the start-finish line, I didn't jump right away because Andy was ahead of me and, thinking he might make the break, I hugged the yellow line and blocked. I did jump once riders started coming around me on the windy side but by this time the gap was wider and I had to dig deeper than I thought possible to close the gap in that crosswind. When I finally did reach the front group, I was dangerously close to crossing the yellow line and almost seeing stars. I steered my bike over to the right just as the pack seemed to slow a bit and my front wheel got caught up against the rear wheel of the rider ahead. Boom! I went down.

I unclipped and stood fairly quickly, in time to see Andy barreling towards me. I nearly stepped right in his way as he crossed the yellow line to get around me but stayed my ground in time to avoid a second collision. Once Andy went by, I jumped back on my bike and began to pedal but didn't get very far with my handlebars twisted to one side. Off the bike, front wheel between my knees and the handlebars were soon straightened and I was back on the bike. Now I had to stop again to explain to the motorcycle commissaire that I was ok to go on. By the time I got going again, the front pack was already at the bottom of the long descent and making the turn onto the bottom section of the course. There was no hope of me catching them now.

Surprisingly, there were still stragglers riding by as I got going again and I was able to start working with one of them. We picked up and 3rd guy and between the 3 of us started to pick off stragglers ahead of us. I expected that as we passed stragglers that they would hop on the train and begin to contribute to our chase group but as it turned out we would pass them and drop them. Either they weren't strong enough to stay with us or they had no fight left. I suspect the latter.

Going into the 3rd lap, our pack of three became two as the heavier guy in our group wasn't able to keep pace on the hills. That was unfortunate but on the other hand, the remaining guy was pretty strong so I wasn't too disappointed. Half a lap later, the Pro peleton passed us and, rather than hitch onto the back as my riding partner did, I stayed to the right and let them by, as we are supposed to do, and just like that our chase pack was reduced to just me. It was at this point I considered calling it a day at the end of the lap. I've quit races before when things didn't go as planned and it didn't sit well with me afterwards so I steeled myself to finish.

As I crossed the finish line at the end of the 4th and last lap, Coach was there with the van. I was never so happy to see him. I was also extremely satisfied at having finished the race. As it turns out, I actually didn't do too bad either, finishing 8th in the Men's Masters 50+ out of 15.

Bloomfield Classic full results

Showing off my newly-air-conditioned jacket after the race.

Calabogie Road Classic

Waking up Sunday morning, with abrasions on my shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee, I had expected to be in more pain than I was but, after a good night's sleep, I didn't feel too bad at all. Moverover, upgrading to Master 2 meant my race didn't start until 11:17 AM instead of the 9:00 AM start I had last year so I was able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast before the race. And though it was cold on race morning, the wind was gone and the sun was out.

Relaxing before the call to the line.
Forty three riders started the M2 race of 75 km or 15 laps around the 5 km long race track. The peleton was well-behaved heading down the start-finish straight and around corners 1 and 2. The first attack didn't start until corner 3. After that, there were attacks on pretty much every one of the 19 corners for about the next 7 or 8 laps.

Calabogie Race Track
I could feel the previous day's race in my legs but happy to be able to respond to the attacks. While Phill and Camilo took turns in bridging and joining most the attempted break-aways, my plan was to just sit and watch for the first 11 laps. For the first 5 or 6 laps, I focused on staying near the front and with each attack, I worked hard to stay close to the front. But as I became accustomed to the rhythm of the attacks, I found I could sit further back in the pack, avoiding the dreaded accordion effect by anticipating attacks before they happened. I'd like to be able to say "before I knew it, lap 11 had come and gone" but in actual fact, it took some steely resolve to keep my focus and stay in the race. Lap 11 did come and go but I counted every lap.

By the time lap 11 came and went, it was pretty clear that nobody was going to get away. There were some strong riders in the pack but every time a group of riders went, there were equally strong riders at the front to chase them back down. It was a stalemate much as I expected it would be without much of a wind to make things hard for the chasers. I waited for the last lap.

Beginning lap 14, the pace picked up. Team CHCH, who had no fewer than 7 riders in the M2 race, marked each attack that was made and on for the last lap sent 2 riders to the front to make the race hard. I moved my way toward the front expecting all hell to break loose at any time. Things did start to get a bit hectic around corner 10 and as we turned corner 14 I stood to try and get a better position going up the small climb over 'Ralph's Bridge' but had to break as everyone moved over to the right side ahead of the right-hander on corner 15. From here, it was a fast downhill through corner 16 into the sweeping right hander at corners 17 and 18. I was on the inside of the track heading into the downhill but moved over to the outside to hide from the wind thinking also wanted to be sheltered from the wind as we came around corner 19 and onto the finishing straight. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to have this idea and, I had to brake as riders ahead of me cut the last corner to start their spin. In retrospect, I should have stuck to the inside of corners 17 and 18 to be on the outside for the last corner. I would have then been able to carry my momentum onto the finishing straight and might have finished higher up. As it was, I finished 18th, just behind Camilo and just ahead of Phill. All in all, though, it was a great weekend of racing.

Left to right, Camilo, me, and Phill.
full results:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Battenkill 2013 - Report

Andy and me before the start of the race.

I was at least out of the wind, standing beside my bike in the staging corral, five minutes before start time. But it was colder than I'd like. Still, it had stopped raining at least. When they called our heat to the start line, Men 4-D, Andy was still not back from the car where he dashed off to retrieve his Gatorade bottle. I managed to snag a spot reasonably close to the front of the 68 rider pack. Andy arrived a few minutes later and "excused" his way towards the front, sneaking in just behind me.

We had re-conned the course, in the dark, the evening before taking 2 hours to drive over the hilly terrain. It was pretty flat and friendly for the first 8 km so we'd figured to use this stretch as our warm up. But the pace was so casual, it wasn't really much of a warm up. The pace picked up on making the left turn onto Eagleville Road. A quick left, then a right through the covered bridge and then a hard right exiting the bridge. "YIKES!!!" The guy to my right went down hard on the damp pavement. I heard the familiar crunch of carbon hitting pavement as I went wide to avoid the carnage. Sprinting hard to catch back on, I glanced behind me. There was already a sizeable gap. Most of the pack managed to get back on but I'm fairly certain there were at least a few riders had their race end right there behind the crash barely 9 km into the race.

The hard right-hander exiting the covered bridge caused at least one crash in the Mens 4-D field.
The next few kilometers felt a lot more like a race until the road began to rise about 12 km in. Then the pace slowed down in anticipation of the climb to come. The climb was gentle at first becoming gradually steeper until after about 4 km the road kicked up. We rode hard up this steep section. But it wasn't a long stretch and I was soon speeding down the other side chasing riders ahead of me. Towards the end of the 1 km descent, I was confronted with flashing lights and other riders yelling "hold up, hold up!" I squeezed the brakes and managed to stop in time. Just! Ten or so riders straddled their bikes ahead of me. Still staddling my own bike, I sidestepped my way to the side of the road just in case anyone's brakes needed a tune up. Peeking ahead through the forest of bikes, I could see a body lying prone in the middle of the road.

It wasn't long before volunteers were waving us through. With one ambulance on the side of the road, lights flashing, and another screaming towards us from the road ahead, we gingerly navigated our bikes single file past the guy lying in the middle of the road on his side and were soon back up to speed. After a sharp left onto Juniper Swamp Road, we approached the first serious climb of the day.

With gradients above 12.5 %, the Juniper Swamp climb was hard. Having lost 10 pounds since the start of the year, I've been extremely happy with my power-to-weight improvement this year but I was getting dropped by the guys at the front and had to dig way deeper than I wanted to just to stay with the pack. Thankfully, the climb wasn't overly long and it all came back together on the following descent. Then we were onto a gravel section over some tough rollers leading up to the second major climb of the day.

The second climb of the day was hard because a) it was on gravel and b) it was on longer than the first. Being on gravel meant there wasn't as much room to maneuver and much of the climb had to be done while seated, for the traction. Being longer meant more burning in the legs before the top of the climb. As we started the climb, I noticed Andy to my left, standing already. After a 6 month layoff last year for personal reasons, Andy returned to racing in the Fall and promptly broke one of his ribs in the last race of the season. He worked hard on the trainer through the Winter to try and regain some of his cycling fitness but was concerned coming into this race. "You'll be fine! I told him confidently, "this race is meant for you." Andy is normally a stronger rider than I and being 15 pounds lighter I was sure he'd have no trouble staying with the pack. As it turned out, I was wrong. This climb popped him from the front pack. I, on the other hand, was still in touch with the front pack as we crested the top... or so I thought!

The descent down the other side was long and fast. It too was on gravel. I could see a group of 4 or 5 riders working together 200 meters ahead and tucked in to give chase. Feeling someone on my wheel, I flicked my elbow for them to pull through. Nothing! Glancing back, I saw a train of wheels behind me. "No way!" I thought. I stopped pedaling and took a drink of my water bottle before riders began to pull through.

With more guys working, the gap to the 4 or 5 guys ahead closed pretty quickly. Once together, the pack we formed an echelon but without the urgency of a break-away or chase group. The road was gravel for awhile which meant eyes ahead but once we turned onto pavement, I looked around for Andy. I drifted back through 5, 10, 15, 20 riders, looking, looking... No Andy. Bummer! It looked like I'd be without a team mate for the rest of the race.

At 42 km, we turned onto Joe Bean Road for what was, technically, the hardest climb of the day. Thankfully, that climb was on pavement. There were some steep sections on the climb where the gradient climbed above 10%, but with the climb over 2 km long the pack didn't so much attack the climb as grind it out. The steady effort was much more to my liking. At 57 years old, I can still do the shorter, anaerobic efforts. But my anaerobic efforts aren't as effective as those of a younger man. This type of climbing was right in my wheelhouse. I crested the top close to the front of the pack.

We had another long descent following the Joe Bean climb followed by a fairly lengthy net downhill stretch where I had time to take stock of how much effort I had put into the race so far. I was tired, I realized. I wasn't completely spent, I still had a lot left to give, but there were still two major climbs in the last part of the race, and I was hoping to have conserved more by this point in the race. To further dampen my spirits, I discovered that I wasn't even in the front pack. A break of 6 riders had established a gap of at least a couple of minutes and our pack seemed completely unconcerned about chasing. "When did that happen?" I thought. I resolved to be smarter about sitting in the draft at least until the 80 km mark for the start of the penultimate climb. "Think like Stan!" I told myself. That strategy worked. By the time we turned onto Meeting House Road, I was less fatigued and ready to tackle the final two climbs of the day. I even had time to take in and appreciate the beautiful scenery along this section of countryside.

Meeting House Road wasn't so much a climb as a series of steps. For me, the "climb" was quite manageable. I didn't have to turn myself inside out to stay with the pack as I did the first two climbs. We passed the "20 km to go" sign somewhere along here and I began to feel energized in anticipation of the race to the finish. The race was taking its toll on my body but the adrenalin was flowing the race was becoming more fun and less work.

Turning onto Stage Road for the final climb, one of the 'Through It All Body Shop' guys attacked the group. I recognized the plan and stood on the pedals to follow. "Woah there, big guy!" my legs told me, "where do you think you're going?" Cramps activated my right thigh in a way that wasn't helpful. I sat, downshifted and watched the 'Through It All Body Shop' guy ride away.

Spinning an easier gear worked for me. I was able to control the cramping and make it to the top of Stage Road third from the front. A second guy from our pack, attacked near the top, establishing a bit of a gap on the descent and I was able to close that gap on the downhill without cramping. Excited now, I passed the break-away rider to let him know I was with him and glanced back to see how much of a gap we had. At least 10 guys were stuck to my wheel. My heart sank! So much for that break-away!

They say it helps to visualize the things you want out of life, especially in sports. Visualize yourself sinking that basket, scoring that goal, doing that solo break-away for the win. In the weeks and days leading up to the Battenkill race, I had done a lot of visualizing. It seemed reasonable on paper: attack on the last climb using my superior power-to-weight advantage, extend the gap on the descent using my superior descending skills honed from past motorcycling days, then use my superior time trialing ability to stay away from the chasing pack over the final 4 km to the finish. These visualizations returned to mock me as I led the pack of 15 riders over the final flat 4 km to the finish. Being at the front now wasn't a concern. We were going slow enough that there really was no effort involved at all. Anyone could come around me if they wanted to and a few did. We turned onto Main Street, 400 meters to go, and again I was at the front. It didn't matter. For one thing, we'd be sprinting for 8th place. For another, I don't have good sprint legs. And this early in the season, with no sprint training at all... forget about it! So when the first rider attacked with less than 300 meters to go, I just gave it everything I had crossing the finish line, 8th in the pack and 15th overall, happy just to be finished.

My race over, I found my daughter, Alysha, by the finish line and we waited together for Andy to come in. Andy came in alone 34th overall, finishing between the stragglers of my group and the stragglers of his group he had left behind on the Joe Bean climb. Andy also was happy to be finished but, understandably, not as happy with his race. "Too bad you don't drink, Andy", I thought as I led the way to the Brown's Brewery tent for some much deserved Oatmeal Stout. Well... Alysha and I had the stout. After the stout, I filled up with some Brown's Best Bitter. Man, that was good beer. So good, in fact, that I made Andy take a detour to Browns Brewery on the way home, where I picked up some "supplies" to bring back. In the end it turned out I did win after all :)

This Whiskey Barrel Aged Porter is the best beer I've ever tasted.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Good Friday Road Race - 2013

Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential - Winston Churchill

I was confident of my fitness coming into the Good Friday Road Race, even though my Winter training had focused on running as opposed to cycling. I had been maintaining my bike fitness throughout the Winter, I'd put in a big block of bike training heading into the race and I'd scheduled the week ahead of the race as a recovery week to be "fresh" for the start of the first race of the season. My fitness was good!

On the other side of the coin, my mental preparation for the race was lacking. Having crashed out of this race the previous year, I approached this race with trepidation. Driving to the race site felt more like driving to a job interview. And when my 3 team mates advanced towards the front of the start line, I lingered near the back for awhile, not keen on jumping into the fray too early.

Mark (left) and Phill (right) lined up for the start.

Camilo up near the front.

Me lingering near the back.

Start and Finish for the race was in Ancaster Fair Grounds. The race started and we turned the first corner onto gravel. Oh boy! I managed to more or less hold my position through the gravel section. Then we made the turn onto Trinity Road South and all hell broke loose!

I hung on for dear life as the peleton accelerated violently over the first flat section. We hit the rollers just past Book Road and riders passed me left and right. I dug deep, burying myself to try and hang on but it was a losing battle. "This wasn't supposed to happen, what was going on?" I'd worked hard over the Winter to get my weight down. "I should be dropping these guys on the rollers," I thought, "not the other way around". Not for the first time in my short cycling career, I wondered whether, at 57 years old, I'd gotten in over my head. Glancing ahead of the pack, I could see the source of the peleton's urgency. Two riders had shot off the front. The rest of the peleton was chasing them down. I cursed and hung on, barely, at the back of the peleton.

By the time we angled onto Sawmill Road, the paced eased considerably. A small break of 3 riders established itself a gap of about half a minute and the peleton seemed content to let them stay there. I moved to the right to hide from the wind and attempted to move up as best I could. But with over 70 riders vying for position along the narrow country lane, moving up was hopeless. Coach's advice echoed in my head: "Be patient and wait for the space. Don't be fighting always!" So I held my position on the leeward side of the pack and inched my way forward whenever I could. It took 2 more laps of the 15.9 km course for me to work my way forward to where Phill and Mark were at the head of the peleton.

"Camilo's in the break," Phill told me as I finally made contact for the first time in the race. "Nice," I thought, "we won't have to do any work." With a rider in the break, we wouldn't be expected to do any work in closing the gap to the break-away 
riders. In fact, the peleton were just starting to get a chase organized as I arrived at the front with a rotation taking effect among the front 7-10 riders or so. Being at the front with Phill and Mark, we took our place in the rotation but instead of pulling through when our turn came, we would slip in behind the first or second wheel, relinquishing our turn at the front. This served two purposes: it saved us from doing any real work and it also disrupted the organization somewhat because the guys behind us now had to accelerate past us to take their turn at the front. Needless to say, our actions were not too popular among those doing their share of the work. 

"Pull through!" one rider yelled at me. 

"I have a team mate in the break, " I informed him. 

"You don't have a team mate in the break! He shot back disdainfully. We argued back and forth for a bit until, uncertain, I asked Mark, as I passed him, whether Camilo was in the break. Mark nodded his head affirmatively. I continued my disruptive behaviour.

Riding at the front of the peleton was easier for me than fighting for position further back. Yes, I was exposed more to the wind but there was a lot more space at the front. Moreover, the pace was a more steady compared with the accordion effect experienced further back in the peleton and I felt much more at ease. Riding at the front did require a more aggressive riding style but the increased workload was worth it to escape the stop and go surges experienced further back in the pack.

We caught Camilo at the start of lap 4. I gave him a pat on the back as I rode by, hoping the donkey with the mouth behind me took note of my team mate from the break. Camilo looked exhausted. With a break of 2 riders down the road and our team mate no longer part of the break, we were now obligated to do our share of the work up front. Mark rode up beside me. "I guess it's our turn to work now, " he quipped. I smiled back, happy to play the domestique role, and together we established a rotation of two, lifting the pace of the peleton. Seeing our commitment to the chase, riders from other teams began to participate more actively and the break was absorbed before we reached the bend onto Sawmill Road.

Along Sawmill and again along Carluke, there were several attacks and counter attacks as a few riders, including Phill, tried to get away. But these attacks were quickly marked. The peleton wasn't taking any chances this close to the finish. Once we turned into the headwind on Shaver Road, the attacks ceased and nothing much happened for the remained of the lap.

Predictably, the pace picked up again at the start of lap 5, the last lap. I hung on, fairly close to the front at this point, protecting my spot along the yellow line on the side away from the wind. Such was my mentality, I became so insistent my place away from the wind that rider after rider passed me on the right and by the time we angled onto Sawmill Road for the last time, I found myself at the very back of the peleton. "How did that happen?" I wondered. "No matter," I thought, "I'll conserve and work my way back up on the windy side when we turn North". We turned North but I didn't actually start to work my way forward until we reached Butter Road, halfway along Shaver. By this time, the pace of the peleton was already beginning to pickup, in anticipation of the sprint to the finish, but I was able to makeup a lot of places by sticking to the yellow line which was now on the windy side of the peleton.

We made the final turn onto Book Road and I was close enough now to the front to see Phill make a break for it. But moving up any further was no longer an option. Riders jammed the full width of the lane and attempting to move up was futile. In fact, even maintaining my position in the pack became difficult as riders more aggressive than I began to squeeze in ahead of me. A couple of riders tried crossing the yellow line to move forward but the commissaires soon put a stop to that, disqualifying at least three offenders.

The pack slowed to a crawl as we made the turn North onto Trinity, accelerated violently, and then slowed again as, I guess, the front of the pack weren't quite ready to make the final mad dash to the finish. A couple of hundred meters later and it was on like donkey kong as all hell broke loose. I started to sprint as riders ahead of me were up out of the saddle, weaving side to side. But visions of last year's crash filled my head and I sat up, having no desire to risk a trip to the hospital for the reward of a sprint for 30 or 40th place. I crossed the line dead last out of the pack.


It was with a bitter taste in my mouth that I made my way to the team bus following the race. Sharing war stories with the guys helped somewhat but finishing at the very back of the pack did not sit well with me. Whether the caliber of racing M2 is that much higher or a lack of race-specific training on my part or perhaps a bit of both, it seems I still have some making up to do. And with an extremely front-loaded race season, there's not much time to lose.

Yes, we had a team bus for this race.

Coming into the race, I had a number of fall-back goals. Reaching the podium wasn't a realistic goal for me as the fast and flat course didn't really suit my strengths. I was 95% certain the race would finish in a bunch sprint. That the race was won with a solo break away surprised me as I hadn't even known there was a rider off the front, such was my lot on being relegated to the back of the pack. I had hoped to earn some O-Cup points by coming in the top 15 but that didn't happen either. Failing that, I had intended to help my team mates but as a team we came up short there as well, not really having a plan going into the race. My final two goals were to not crash and try and get in a good workout and those, I did achieve. I didn't crash and I got in a good workout, with an Intensity Factor of 97% of FTP for the duration of the race.

All in all, it wasn't a brilliant day for the Kurzawinski team so we may have some work to do as a team as well. 

It looks like a couple of young guys I don't know did fairly well in the Elite 4 category. I don't know what happened with Brandon.
Elite 4 Men Results - 63.6 km - Average Speed 38.4 km/h
7 MARSHALL, Travis KURZAWINSKI COACH/PBNJ.CA 1h 41' 58" 02' 42"
13 SREBLOWSKI, James KURZAWINSKI 1h 42' 02" 02' 46"

A couple of the young guys.

In the Elite 3 Women's race, Jen just narrowly missed the podium, garnering 4th place.
Elite 3 Women Results - 63.6 km - Average Speed 33.1 km/h
4 FAWCETTE, Jennifer KURZAWINSKI COACH/PBNJ.CA 1h 55' 27" 00' 00"

Jen lined up for the start.

In our M2 race, Phill wasn't quite able to make his solo break away stick as he cramped up within sight of the finish line. Mark also had to pull out due to cramping while Camilo succumbed to his efforts in the early break of the day.
Master 2 Men Results - 79.5 km - Average Speed 38.7 km/h
44 WESTWOOD, Richard KURZAWINSKI COACH/PBNJ.CA 2h 04' 15" 01' 00"

In the M1 race, Stan had to stop on the last lap to remove a broken spoke from his rear derrailleur and finished behind the pack. I'm not sure what happened to Andy.
Master 1 Men Results - 95.4 km - Average Speed 40.2 km/h
49 BLAZEK, Stanislav KURZAWINSKI COACH/PBNJ.CA 2h 27' 30" 05' 08"
52 D'ANGELO, Andy KURZAWINSKI COACH/PBNJ.CA 2h 29' 53" 07' 31"

Andy (left) and Stan (right).

Marek held his own in the Sportif race. 
Sportif Men Results - 31.8 km - Average Speed 34.8 km/h
9 KRZTON, Marek KURZAWINSKI COACH/PBNJ.CA 0h 54' 46" 00' 00"

Our bus driver, Marek (second from right).

Shanta won her very first road race, albeit against a small field but well done nevertheless. Congratulations, Shanta!
Sportif Women Results - 31.8 km - Average Speed 28.2 km/h

Shanta on the podium for her first race.

full results here: