This year marks my first return to the OBC Grand Prix (and in fact any similar type of road race) since 2007. That being that case, while I have been riding strongly in the A-loops this year, I came to the race with a little bit of nervous energy emanating.
It was great to have finally received the new kit just the night before, especially the bib shorts - very nice and comfy ! The weather was looking good, 600 or so racers, a bunch of green Tall Tree jerseys on their road bikes, and Greg generously getting up at ungodly weekend hours to help out with feeding.
Being an old man now I get to shut ‘er down after 4 laps and 84 k, it was enough for me, and it’s not like dudes such as David Gazi, John Gee, Rob Orange, Ron Amos, Chris Olsen are exactly over the hill....and those are just some of the local old speedsters...with almost 100 in the field there were bound to be some fasties from afar.
On the first climb up Fortune I was not expecting the narrowing of the road to one lane and with that got squeezed a little further back than had planned. The A-loop fortune climbs are FAST so I was a bit worried that I would be too far back and stuck in a pack of ...um...larger riders that would be slower climbing and hard to pass. As the road opened up to 2 lanes at P10 I worked my way up the pack. Apparently at some point on Fortune the aforementioned John and David took off on a break....by the end of that lap they had 2 minutes on the pack...that is like 7 % faster...amazing !
I was keeping an eye on road racing veterans Rob and Ron, just to try and emulate and learn from their actions. They of course were only interested in controlling the pack as their team had John in the break. While the end resulting time for the pack was similar to previous years, the pace throughout most of the race seemed relatively docile. With this I tried to stick with the front 25-30% of the group as much as possible to avoid any sketchiness. Alas after coming through the S/F on the second or third time I heard a big crash at the back....and later witnessed photos. Was glad to have steered clear of that.
I was feeling good each time up Fortune as well as any of the other climbs where a bit of tempo was put on, and as a generally crappy descender, I was feeling reasonably confident in the descents....I guess doing the A-loops helps, as well as the fact that the pavement was dry !! On the third climb up Fortune I saw Dave popped near the top and expressed surprise as he has been riding very strongly this year. A few meters after the top there was Jamie, he gave me some words of encouragement and a little push on the back as I passed him with the front of the pack. Shortly after this point there was another break of 2 riders. One of the Lapdogs racers that was up near the front with me tried to get a chase going to jump in. I was contemplating it for a moment as I was feeling good and strong, but in the end I let my lack of experience and confidence win out and decided to play conservatively as I had no idea what the final 36 or so km’s would hold. I know...conservative does not win road races, you have to take risks, but as someone who does not really consider himself a road racer, my goal in this type of event is usually just to finish with the pack and not get shelled...so I stuck with the goal.
As always - the high speed group descent down to the junction left the air thick with the smell of brake pads. On the first lap down I found myself boxed into the right-hand side and feared a bit of a jump on the small ensuing climb. I managed to get through the field and back up closer to the front where I wanted to be, but reminded myself to stick to the left on the subsequent approaches to this sharp left turn. On the second time down I was still in highest gear and there was a dude slowing way too much in front of me, so I had no opportunity to change gears or get around him as I was concentrating on slowing my machine enough to mach his unexpectedly extreme slowdown. This left me having to mash with the ensuing jump and took a bit out of my spindly little legs.....the next times I was sure to get into a lower gear earlier !!
On the last climb up Fortune the lead 50 year olds had started to catch us. Poor start timing, perhaps it was because our group start was at least 1 minute delayed for some reason. But it led to a lot of confusion as we ended up pulling a bunch of them along with us. Apparently there was no instruction at their start to not mingle in with other races...perhaps it was felt that there was no need due to the timing...however it lead to some consternation and frustration in our group. I’m not sure where the pack caught the second break, but we did. John and David however were never to be seen and finished at least 2 minutes up. There was some sketchy moves in our group a couple of times, one REALLY bad move just as we jumped back across P8 to head to the finish. Some dude swerved hard left putting a couple people onto the grass and almost taking out Ron Amos who I was just right and behind of. It was sheer stupidity !
Of course I have no power for the sprint and happily came in about 37th of the 95 starters. Number one and two were the break, there was about 50 in the pack, and the rest were back somewhere with a couple abandoning.
At the finish I chatted with friends and competitors, had some out-of-towners like the Lapdogs guy and others who were near the front congratulating me on a good race. It all felt good and I enjoyed the experience. Congrats to all the Tall Tree racers that came out in the various categories.