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.

Epilogue:
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.

Stats:
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:
http://www.ontariocycling.org/web_pages/results/20130513-105815-lobresults.htm


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