Friday, April 30, 2010

My Roubaix Ride and Steed Report

All pictures of race courtesy of Zara
The entire set of photos is here

Well with the agony of Roubaix over for another year, more and more I come to understand that to complete the Roubaix is feasible for many, to be competitive at the front requires both luck AND fitness.

At the RWR Clarence Rockland Classic a few weeks back, I definitely had luck. Once when the peloton shattered, I was lucky enough to be around enough guys willing (and able!) to work to get back to the group before it was too late, and of course lucky enough not to flat, which befell many of my competitors.

This weekend was the annual OBC Almonte Paris Roubaix, almost 90 km of rolling terrain, mostly gravel road and some all out trail, others have already described the course.

We arrived at the arena to a line of perhaps twenty racers, harried volunteers and the usual hubub.

Grab our numbers, get some pins, and back out to Glenn's team bus (crew cab truck with covered bed natch)

Pin on the numbers and go do some efforts

Zip to the top of the neutral section to czech out the first dirt section, and wouldn't ya know it? Fresh gravel. Knowing this is always a 55 km an hour downhill start, the thought of 140 some racers barreling down loose gravel eager to get good position gave me the willies. I vowed to be in the front to the first little climb, then settle in.

Back to the start, line up at the front, van pulls out and I hop right in behind the van. Perfect! Just stay with the van. So I do, and we make it up to the top behind the van and it's game ON!
Held my position all the way to the first climb, knowing the gravel was fresh I made sure I cut the corners correctly and stayed in the middle.

The first section is a long winding dirt road with short steep blind hills, and tricky little corners, most entertaining surrounded by 80 or so eager Cat 1/2/3s and Masters. Have a glance around and see Matt, and Neil, then a bit later David back to my right.

Remembered to ask Neil at the start when the first woods section was coming, and he reminded me. Wanted to be near the front for that section as last year I was caught behind a crash, and missed the group. Not this year if I could help it.
So left onto pavement, and the next right is the woods. Of course I am not the only one who is thinking to be first into the woods, and the pressure from behind was increasing as guys streamed by on my left. Crap! Don't get boxed in. Quick glance over my left shoulder, and slip into the surging stream like an eager salmon. Hard right into the trail, and I'm in a double line of riders absolutely pinning it through here. Most riding blind hoping the person ahead neither crashes or leaps aside to quickly reveal a sharp rock you'll pinch flat on for sure. No crashes, no flats, left out of the woods, onto a farm road and another selection as the group accelerates. No problem staying in the mix

Roll back up towards the front again, czech again and Matt, Neil and Dave and Todd are still with us. Things are looking good, but of course we're only 20 some km in...

A short while later, Matt flats. See more on his story here

That sucks, as I know how much Matt digs this race.

Roll up to Neil and let him know, he slides back into the pack offa the front, no sense pulling with a teammate out the back, we'll sit in for a while and see what's what.

Back onto a paved road, the pace relaxes a it, as Greg is long gone off the front,

Osmond is trying to muster some help chasing, but of course who is going to work for Osmond and then have him leave you behind? Being alone without teammates must suck, of course he won anyways...

Back to the race, rolling along the paved road then left onto dirt again, we get to the infamous construction zone, where not moments before, I had bottomed out both of my Grand Bois 30c tires, and didn't flat. Gloating to Chris Reid on my tire choice, what happens? Psssssst flat rear. Crap!

Pull over to the side, Doug Van Den Ham, and another are also there changing flats. I win the flat change race and am back riding before the others and start the long lonely chase back to the pack, get out to Wolf Grove road and turn left.

Just past the turn I see a Cyclery rider changing a flat tubular, looks like Steve Proulx, climb a bit, looking for black arrows on yellow signs, see a post with three right hand turn signs on it and follow it. Start rolling down a small dirt road, one lane, super fun up and down. As I start a stiff little climb I look up to see Aaron and Osmond followed by my lost packmates, approximately 20 strong bearing down on me at a great rate of speed. Dive into the bush, they're yelling wrong way, so I wait until most have passed, jump back on and chase, very confused at this point. I wonder if I have missed a turn and they are now looping back to me. What to do? Someone fills me in that they got to a dead end, turned around and Osmond and Aaron pinned it. So by the time I got back out to Wolf Grove and turned down onto Darling, an agonizingly long straight road, I could see the whole race unfolding. Aaron and Osmond way up ahead, what looked like a cluster of maybe 10 guys, which I now know contained Matt, Craig, Steve Proulx and Kiernan among others. Imad was slowly coming back to me, so I caught up with him, we started working, and we were then caught by a group of maybe 15 or 20 riders.

This is ok I think, we can catch the guys ahead, if we work together.

Nope. Never did, we spent the rest of the ride just riding hard, like an A loop in the park. Most seemed content to just roll fast to the finish, and not much rotating was done.

Ah well, good workout nonetheless.

To the end, we all stayed together, then a sprint, which I had no interest in contesting, hence 14 places behind my teammate David, who obviously had more sprint in his legs than I.

Now the Steed Report:

I rode my True North Custom for both the CRC, and the Almonte Roubaix. It has served me well since I received it in early spring 2007. I guesstimate I have somewhere near 20000 km on it since then. It handles with aplomb in all situations, yet I do not feel that I am compromised even on out Wednesday Night Worlds up in the Park.

It handles everything I can throw at it and really loves to go down, and at just nineteen pounds, with 31c tires, cages and pedals, it climbs well too.

I had an interesting experience the other week. I had been riding the True North quite a bit on fast rides in the Park, so had a sense of how it felt. I then rode my custom Steelwool cross bike, which I have sensed is quite a bit stiffer, and immediately noticed that the expansion strips on the Island Park bridge felt quite harsh. Pulled over to czech the pressure and nope, felt like the 55 to 60 I run normally. Odd. And then, once onto the parkway, I found that I was not able to stay on top of my Steelwool, I was forced to shift down and sit down, whereas with the True North, I was able to really wind it up and stay on top of the gear. I know that the Steelwool is made with relatively inexpensive tubing, while my True North had every tube optimized for my weight and riding style. It really shows.


Dan O said...

Cool race, report and pictures. Enjoying reading it.

Anonymous said...

Osmond just kicks azz.

I heard he (or still does) do some training with Paul Datars...
If you have ever biked with Paul Datars... he's one strong very scientific rider...
I heard the guy has his walls plastered with bikes. He has his own testing facility etc... from what I was told.

So, there is no doubt that Osmand wins. Plus, didn't he use to win the O-cups way back when...