OK so here is the first race report I’ve written in a few years, it promises not to be as eloquent, nor as detailed as Rodds since he covered a lot.
So as per usual I’m always a little late going and mentally and physically challenged in the morning. I was the last to get out for a warm-up and while it was sufficient with a couple of intense pushes it really was not ideal in length.
Lining up at the last minute beside Dave about 50 back we were chat chatting and Dave mentions that we were kind of poorly seeded should have talked strategy prior....oh well, we’ll just work our way up close to Rodd, get him to the finish and let him go. I’m thinking...there is no way in hell I’m going to be anywhere near Rodd at the 85 km mark !!
The weather stated a bit chilly but in the end I was dressed ideally with two undershirts, jersey and arm-warmers.
So 50 back is not ideal but I know both Dave and I will move up on the first two climbs, which we did, him on the left and me on the right sometimes, on road sometimes on shoulder. I was feeling my lack of warmup on these pushes but knew (hoped) that I would have a chance to settle in and recover a bit before any real attacks happened. I love Rodd’s audio descriptor “a cacophony of missed shifts and dropped chains”. Yup it was cacophonous !
The pace stayed reasonably high for the flat straightaway but in the pack I was able to recover enough and respond to any accelerations. Dave and I were bobbing back and forth and at some times could even chat a bit with friends and competitors. There were a few little accelerations but nothing crazy...couple of guys of the front early but no interest in chasing them down it seemed. Eventually at one point I no longer noticed Dave bouncing around for a while so with a couple of looks back and seeing no green I decided to move up to Rodd (if I could). There wee a couple of pushes into some turns that make moving up and hanging on in some cases a bit of work but made my way up to Rodd and bounced around beside and behind him for a while. As Rodd mentioned, at about 30 km in there was a sharp right (west) turn onto a fairly soft gravel road. I felt OK for a little bit but must have been more drained than I thought as I lost my grip on Rodd and others, and started to get passed by Alex Michel and a couple others. Usually I will turn myself inside out to stay on Alex’s wheel but in the soft gravel and headwind my spindly legs just did not have the power. The back of that group was splintered and there were a 2 or 3 guys strung out over the next 50 meters or so ahead.....but as much as I worked to bridge to a wheel, they all worked at least as hard and after 10 minutes of gradually losing a little ground I had to call a truce with myself and think a bit more strategically. While feeling a somewhat dejected at having been shelled, I was at the same time happy to have stayed with the lead pack of uber-fasties for that length of time, and I knew there would be good groups behind to jump on with....the question was “when”?
It felt like a looooong way on my own through both gravel and headwinds and tailwinds and pavement. All the while I could see the few riders off in the distance ahead....so close, yet so far ! Eventually after about another 10 minutes I noticed 3 guys 100 m back so started to soft pedal and sit up. Unfortunately right before they caught me I threw off my chain (the second time in the race - the first was near the start and I was able to shift it back into the ring), this tmie however the shifting was not working. In a panic I hit the breaks and jumped off the bike to manually put the chain back on the ring but it was too late.....whoooosh they went by as I jumped back on the bike. There was NO WAY I could catch on to the 3 of them from a dead stop and gave up after a couple of minutes. I was cursing my stupidity.....I waited so long for this opportunity and blew it ! So on I went for the next 10 minutes or so with the idea that there is no point in expending too much energy now, just wait for the next group and be satisfied with that. Eventually a large group of about 20 came into sight of my rearview mirror on a paved headwind section. I was glad to join them and the pace seemed surprisingly slow even tho there were some strong riders in this group, Greg Zuliani, Chris Mullington, David Bilenkey, Stu Blunt, Jason Cheney, Jon Gee, Chris Olsen and uber-triathlete Cynthia Wilson. I guess only a few of the 20 were actually working so I ended up joining the 6 or 7 that were rotating through. I did have a chance to chat with Cyn and Greg and commented at how fast his brother Chris had gotten. At one point in time Cynthia decided she had enough of this pace and put it into overdrive and steadily rode away. Shortly after that we came to a small gravel downhill and bridge. Some of the guys in the group were clearly not as comfy on the gravel and while they were not necessarily sketchy, they were kind of “blockie”. Coming around the left side at the bottom of the bridge I pulled around and ahead standing on the pedals uphill, I had no intention of jumping and really just wanted to get in a stretch and in front of the “blockies”. Well in my inexperience I guess I opened a gap and that ruffled a few feathers as about half the group came along behind me and subsequently passed me 30 seconds later as I tired out a bit and had to work to hang on to the last wheel of this group as apparently the other half of the 20 or so splintered off the back. Jason C. made some kind of remark about my move but I didn’t hear what is was exactly...nevertheless it was clearly an expression of displeasure. I think in the end it all worked out for the best as we had some strong riders that kept the pace high. Chris Mullington was an absolute fiend as he time trialed off the front a few times, sometimes pulling us along, other times flying on his own !
Back onto paved road and a bit of the last climb hurt spreading things out a bit but not too much that the group broke up...no big attacks there, at least not that I remember....maybe there was a few who flew off. Anyway there was still a group of 8 or so that savoured the flat pavement and then the sweeping left downhill, (me off the back as always on downhills) but caught back up in a couple seconds. As we made the last turn toward the finish some of the group sprinted. This cowboy is NOT built to be a sprinter and I simply savoured the reasonably good finish rolling in moderately just ahead of Craig Hawkes. About 1 minute behind the previous group, 5 behind Rodds and with a few others in between.
I was glad to be done and chatted with Greg who looked destroyed, Rodd and Marc Lapointe who looked fresh and Alex.
It was a good race - a sufferfest for me at many times but it all goes in the bank and I was happy with my top 25% placing which was better than expected. Stu came in a few minutes later with some bad cramps, then Pascal brought it all home having left everything out on the road after playing good samaritan.
The hamburger helper “meal” was rather below standard, but the race organization was quite good and it was awesome to see 140+ races and a virgin event.
That’s long-winded enough...see ya in Almonte !