Sunday, April 25, 2010

Flat...Sabotage...Triumph!

Before the story, how about a (revised) breakdown of Tall Tree Cycles' Results:


3rd Matt Surch
14th David Stachon
28th Rodd Heino
37th Todd Fairhead
91st Anna O'Brien - 4th Woman!!!!
48th Steve Bosworth
59th Jamie Pold
70th Jim McGuire
71st Pascal Marais
74th Mike Abraham
74th Thom Johnson
96th Neil Scheimann
132nd Mark Carver
133rd Jeff Ryan
134th Glenn Murray
136th Chris Simmons


Neil got the jump below and posted about today's Paris-Roubaix from Almonte. Great to read his account of the bizarre series of events that transpired today. I'll elaborate a bit.

I share Neil's affinity for the Almonte Roubaix. It would not be unfair to say I put a lot of my eggs in the Roubaix basket. Its my favourite local 'race,' but it comes early in the season, so it can be difficult to prepare for it. Four years ago a group of about 9 of us rode the event for the first time, on fixed gears. To the oganizers' delight, we returned the following year with gears, and finished about an hour sooner I suspect! That was a tough one, I didn't prepare very well and could not hold onto the lead group. In 2009 I had many more miles on the road in advance of the race, plus two hard races under my belt in the weeks prior, so I was able to ride a good race. I chased a break and managed to finish in 15th with Neil, only a couple minutes off the winner. I learned a lot, as I do each time I race on the road, so I immediately looked forward to the 2010 edition of the Roubaix.


As Neil writes below, we talked strategy this morning. We knew Osmond and Aaron would be the major protagonists on the road, so all we really had to do was stay with them. We felt pretty confident that a number of other Tall Tree riders would put in strong rides; Rodd, David, and Todd were quite likely to be in the mix, and Jamie, Mike, Steve, Thom, and Pascal all had form to draw on. It would really be about positioning for the guys with less power to call on. Our wild card was my long-time friend, "BMX" Jim McGuire, soon to be Tall Tree club rider, and strong ally.


As Neil and Jay detail (see Jay's great report on www.ottawabikes.com), the start of the race was pretty quick, like last year. To my chagrin, the beautiful buff dirt of last week was now covered with a thick coating of gravel. Wheels churned the surface into a broiling froth, spraying chunks in all directions as wheels flailed through shifting furroughs. Carnage was avoided...somehow. I staged well enough to move close to the front before hitting the gravel, then followed Oz up to the front with Neil close-by. Stay up front and out of trouble was my aim, which led to a good bit of riding on the front. I was keen on seeing what was coming.


After the fresh gravel subsided we had a short respite before heading into the woods. I moved to the front for the 90 degree turn and rolled in third or fourth wheel. Not willing to follow a wheel into a rock, I move forward and assumed the lead position, keeping my pace consistent. I'd focused on this sector during our pre-ride, knowing it is always decisive. Smooth lines were at a premium, and I was happy to find that I was able to come out of the first and second sectors in the lead position. Safe, and not blown up; excellent.


Oz was knocking on the back door, followed by a couple others, but there was no point in really trying to get away. I knew I was by no means strong enough to go away with a small group so early. Neil was with us and a selection of others, including both David and Rodd, within a minute or two. Excellent. As Neil writes, Greg rolled away without a response, and slowly built a gap. Neil and I were not keen to thrash ourselves to reel him in. Then I flatted.


I gave Rodd notice as I pulled to the side. Jim rolled up within a minute as I fumbled with my tube and CO2. I was panicking, think Lance in Ride Across the Sky. I can normally fix a flat rather quickly, but not so well when my hands are shaking with adrenaline coarsing through my veins. Tube out, tube in, CO2 on...not enough gas...seeped out sitting around. Canister two, gas in, unthread, valve core comes out with it!!! Swearing. Extract valve core with much effort. Replace. "Pump Jim?" "CO2." On it goes. "How does it work? Uh, I can't get it to work." Pascal, Jamie and Thom now stopped with us. "Pump?" Pascal delivers. Frantic pumping. Pathetic wheel intallation. "Ok guys, team time trial." Off I go, trying to gradually wind it up. I look back, I've opened a big gap. Damn. What to do? Better keep the hammer down. Time trial, five minutes to make up. Good luck.... Better to try.


One simple word describes the next 15-20k: pain. That's it, pain. Mostly in the legs, then in the lower back. It seems riding hard into head winds hurts my lower back. Must be the stupid hard pedalling. Many carrots dangled for a while. Mostly solo riders, then a group, the one Jay was in. A couple from his group tried to latch on , but I just couldn't slow to collaborate. I had to go as hard as I could if I was to have a chance to catch the second pack, the one with Steve in it (and maybe Todd). I thought of slowing and letting the others catch me so I could ride with them. No, what if the next group was around the next corner....it was possible. I had to remain in the hurt locker, keep stretching the back out and pedal.


I passed a rider who could hang for a bit. He put in a great pull for me and I bridged up to a friendly face, David Bilenky. It was a good time to ease up for a minute, we we rode side by side. Approaching an unfamiliar turn option with three arrows pointing to it, I mentioned it to David. He wasn't having any of it. In no uncertain terms he told me it was definitely not the turn; the correct one was a little further up. I remembered the correct turn up the road from last weekend, so I didn't put up much of a fight. But the arrows were there.....they were. Surely others would be confused?


David let me go soon after and I got back on the gas. Wouldn't you know, Aaron and Oz approached from behind a few kilometers down the road. What the? I surmised they must have taken the wrong turn and been spit back out on Darling after a lengthy detour. They were maching, and I knew there was NO chance I'd be able to hang with them for the next 40k, but there was a small chase group approaching! I was back in the game! Near despair morphed into hope; perhaps I could salvage this ride. Nobody knew whether others were ahead, there was no way to know. We were now three Cyclery riders, a Brockville rider, Keirnan Orange, A Scott rider, and me....I think. One of the Cyclery riders, Steve Proulx, had also flatted and avoided the detour. We made for a pretty able group, and shared the work well as we marched on...and on. Aside from the fading dots of Aaron and Oz, we saw no one.


Attrition hit with about 15k to go when we shed the Scott rider. I was watching the others closely to gauge their condition. Keirnan was riding well, and I contemplated seeing whether he'd want to try to work with me to counter the impending Cyclery attack. Would they have the juice to Domo us? I wasn't sure. Approaching the final Sugarbush wooded sector, I knew I'd have to be very observant and look for an opportunity. I felt confident that I could open a gap through the woods. If the others got through close together, they could counter on the final road section of 3-4k, but I had to go for it. Last week I rode the sector twice at full speed, so I knew what to expect, and I was ready. Approaching the climb into the woods, I attacked. We're not talking fireworks here, just the best I could muster. I got in with a clear path ahead of me and pressed the meat. With only a few minor mistakes, I came out with just one Cyclery rider, Craig "Smoking Gun" Hawkes, in pursuit, with perhaps 20 meters between us. But I let up before the exit, and then accellerated again. The gap grew. I hunkered down and drove it hard. The gap was growing. I didn't allow myself to let up, I couldn't leave anything to change. Go. I was not confident enough to keep from looking back every 30 seconds, despite a growing gap. The final stretches felt far longer than they should have.


Approaching the last turn I spied Oz backtracking, obviously winding down after finishing. He gave me an inspiring thumbs up. "Huh, that must be a good sign," I though. Turning the final corner I scanned ahead for other riders. There were none. Zipping up the jersey I unceremoniously crossed the line an still saw no one but Aaron. "Where is everyone?" "Its just you guys." "Am I third" "Yes" "Oh. My. God."


I still can't believe it. What a roller coaster ride of emotion and pain the race was. I'd resigned to the fact that I'd finish wayyyyy back, only to find myself far exceed my top-10 goal, and secure my best ever road result (not that I've raced a tonne on the road!). I'd been hoping for some time while labouring on the bike that Neil would salvage a result for Tall Tree today. But as fate would have it, he'd double flat, Rodd flatted, and I had the good fortune to be in the right place in at the right time. On the one hand it feels odd to celebrate the placing when many of my competitors were sidetracked. But then, I did suffer a great deal today as I fought to salvage my ride. I never gave up, and I worked hard with my group and executed my plan through the final sector. I'm proud of today's effort, and finishing 'on the podium' of the Roubaix will be an accomplishment I will draw on for years to come. It'll make a great story too.


Thanks to all my team-mates, official and unofficial, who sacrificed their race to help me today. Tall Tree pulled out a terrific result today. Many thanks go to David Bilenky for his guidance as well; Guiness to come. And a big thank you to the event organizers for their hard work putting on the event, always a highlight of the season. Saboteurs may have thrown a stick in the spokes today, but this was one for the books!

11 comments:

David Bilenkey said...

Great write up Matt. Congrats again!

Madmountainmike said...

Awesome report as usual. All that hard work this winter has paid off...3rd in a ridiculously strong field of riders and a ridiculously hard race. Big congrats !

Matt Surch said...

Thanks guys!

Anna O'Brien said...

Just to clarify: I was 4th woman (not 2nd) and yes, I did beat Neil.

Chrisssssss said...

Great job buddy, Feb. riding does pay off.

I was on water bottle pickup duty, hence the 136th.

Jay said...

Bilenkey saves the day! well done Matt!

Disco Stu said...

Matt, congrats on an amazing ride!! Glad to see all of your hard work paid off.

rob.parniak said...

Well done Matt! I guess this proves that you should never give up when dropped as you never know what's going on up the road!

Mansfield was okay. I was 4th -- 45seconds down. The most dramatic part was waking up to a domestic dispute of some kind in the room across the hall in the hotel Sunday morning. Shortly after the yelling stopped about a dozen cops showed up followed by a forensic investigation truck and eventually the undertaker wheeling away a body on a stretcher! Cripes!

Matt Surch said...

Second time writing this for one post: Oh. My. God.

Rob, it seems we all came away with odd stories this weekend. I'd rather get lost any day...

I suspect you were not terribly happy about your position, but I suspect a bit more mtb riding to tune up will help a lot for the next round. The southern Ontario folks get a bit of a jump on the trails. I'm certain your base will serve you well. I look forward to chasing you in Tremblant!

Pascii said...

Correction, it's "Smoking Guns", plural.

Great ride, great race.
My thanks to Officer BMX Jim for marshaling me out of the woods for the final hammer.

Matt Surch said...

Of course, that makes more sense Pascal!

Jim mentioned that he turned himself inside out into and out of the woods and you were the only one who could hang on. Awesome! Jim has some serious power; I could tell you both put it all into the finish. Looking forward to seeing Jim in green as soon as the new kit arrives.