Monday, April 12, 2010

Clarence Rockland Classic

I promised I'd write up a bit on the race just past for Tall Tree riders, so here we go.

First a bit of backgound; the RWR CRC was organized by folks who know what makes a good race. Glen Rendall, Ron Amos and all the riders of Ride with Rendall have extensive experience with road racing, cyclocross and cyclosportives. They knew that cyclists like a challenge, and anything that can be described as epic (whatever that means, since it means different things to different people.)
Add in rough roads where picking a line mountain bike or cyclocross style adds to the challenge. This was not a road race where just following the wheel in front was the best strategy. It was full on concentration and reading as much of the ground as you could see and hope to have a bit of luck.

We had five riders in the field sporting the TT kit, myself, Pascal, Mike, David and Andy. Pascal was excited to try his hand at road racing, I believe Mike has done the Almonte Roubaix among many others, Dave is quite experienced, and Andy has done a couple too, namely the Hastings Hilly Hundred.

Pascal picked Mike and I up at eight we were in Rockland by 9, just enough time to get registered, pin on our numbers and get on the bikes for a half hour warmup. I elected to check out the start of the course as race research (thank you Google Earth!) had me concerned about the two starting climbs, as I knew that over a hundred and forty people attempting an eight percent climb less than a km from the start would equal carnage, therefore a good warmup and proper pack positioning would be key to not getting caught behind people missing shifts and the like.

So we all lined up right at ten, and rolled out. We were lucky enough to have a rolling OPP enclosure for the whole race, being waved through intersections sure was fun!
Sure enough the first climb was a cacophony of missed shifts and dropped chains, I thankfully was well positioned out to the side and made my way to the front ten or so guys. A brief flat section, hard left and then another 500m long 8 percent climb strung things out even more. Being a decent climber I knew these would be my best chances to get up towards the front and stay out of trouble and I did just that. Having reccied the start of the race course that morning I knew that after the second climb we would have a relatively smooth straight tailwind section, and the pace would be on, and it was. Included in today's group was no fewer than three National Champions (road track and cross) and of course all the local hammers. After that climb, we were cruising along the next section at over 45 km an hour.

The joy of pack riding is that 45 km an hour feels relatively easy. Keep your eyes peeled for squirreliness, watch the front of the pack to see if they accelerate and relax. Drink a bit, have a shot blok.

Approximately 25 km in, with a right hand turn onto a headwind gravel section, the groups shattered. In fact just moments before teammate Mike had pulled up alongside, looking good and feeling comfortable. After the right hand turn he was shelled and never made it back on. Their were groups all over the road, five and six at a time.

It wasn't pretty.

I pulled and pulled, barely holding 26 km an hour into the headwind, then looked back for help. Only five or six riders were with me, they pulled though and so it went for over 10 km, with a slowly regrouping peloton dangling 250 or 300 m up the road.
It was torture.

We got back together after some very strong pulls by Casey Roth of the Ride with Rendall team, as well as some good solid work from Glenn Rendall himself, and Alex from the Wheelers (Thanks Alex!), as well the winner (by just one second!) of the female race, a pro racer from a UCI team.

So phew, back on with thirty of so guys, gulp down some Shot Bloks (1 at a time!) and have a look around again, Yep all accounted for, no one out in front, we could see the police car in the distance. Aaron's national jersey, Osmond and Derrick and Greg still there... good!

We made a right turn onto some lovely smooth roads and it must have been a tailwind as we were rolling at high 40s and over 50 for quite some time. That was fun!

Then at about the sixty km to go mark I seem to recall Osmond and another rolled off the front, and then Aaron followed? I dunno anyone want to fill me in on that? I was too busy concentrating on holding my wheel and not hitting potholes as we were now on a rough paved section with heavy cross winds, and I was, as they say, in the gutter. The pace was really starting to heat up and I was doing my best racer boy imitation by not letting a gap open in front, and riding as close to the side of the road as possible as we had a wind off our left.
Ride close and no one can draft you, fewer guys to sprint against, natch.

So after that the group was down to perhaps twenty? Looking down at my computer I saw less than ten km to go (phew) and did a bit of work at the front with Alex.

I'm quite the newbie at this, so I probably pulled too much as when the inevitable acceleration on the last hill came at three km to go, I was unable to respond. Damn.

Four (five?) of us got spat out, Steve Proulx, Alex and Kiernan the junior, and by the time we got to the top of the hill the remaining nine or ten guys were 50 m up the road, and of course that was it.

Alex and I two man TT'ed it to the line and made sure the two behind didn't come back, Alex gapped me on one of the downhills and I just made sure to not get caught as I had nothing left.

So I finished four and a half minutes back of the winner, but only a minute back from the last in the now very small peloton.

Our next finisher was Mike. He was not as lucky as I in finding break mates willing and able to pull through together during the peloton shattering headwind section, but nevertheless ended up a strong 33rd, with an average of over 33 km an hour, just 12 minutes back from the winner. Impressive!

Dave had some bad luck with flats, we'll leave it at that.  Andy, too, had a catastrophic failure only 20 km in.

Pascal left it all on the road and had a great ride in with Vince Caceres, owner of The Cyclery.
I know Pascal was very grateful for the assistance shortly after finishing, so thanks Vince! He rode very well to finish with an average of over 30 km an hor, no small feat considering the wind and the rough loose gravel.

All in all, coupled with our Battenkill results this weekend, I'd say an excellent showing for Tall Tree riders.

I'd like to award a Tall Tree spirit award to both Pascal and Tanya, Tanya's story you know, and it of course exemplifies the spirit we seek to embody here on team green, but what hasn't been mentioned is when Pascal saw Andy on the side of the road with his exploded tire, he turned back, giving up draft buddies (no small thing in a ride of this nature) to see if he could help, of course Andy's tire was shot, and Andy got a lift back, and Pascal went on, but later on Pascal also stopped and gave Dave, our other teammate his pump. So great work all!

Sorry no pics, the ones I took from the peloton were too blurry, (kidding)

I did see Bernard Durand of Eurosports taking many snappies, so if I find some online, I'll throw em up here.


Madmountainmike said...

Awesome report Rodd, I'll throw down an additional 2 cents when I get the chance.

Bernard mentioned that pics would go to RWR so hopefully they will be up on their site.

Pascii said...

Good write-up Rodd.
Again, thanks to Vince from Cyclery. My ride would not have been the same otherwise. Sorry I couldn't pull as hard...

Matt Surch said...

You paint a great picture Rodd, nicely done. The wind was just what it took to make the race shape up into a proper spring classic, it seems. Pascal would make one helluva domestique.

David Stachon said...

Good stuff Rodd.

"cacophony of missed shifts and dropped chains"

....I think this could be an inspiration for a Steve Reich opus. Right up Matt's alley.

Matt Surch said...

Mmmm, I like how you think David.