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.