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:
http://www.ontariocycling.org/web_pages/results/20130421-210852-cbresults.htm

3 comments:

LARRY BRADLEY said...

You never stop amazing me you tough bugger! Be safe out there Richard. Congrats on some amazing racing this season. Many huge results to come!

richard westwood said...

Coming from you, Larry, that is a compliment. Thanks dude!

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