"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/PBNJ.ca 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.
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|