Ricky: Bubbles, hold the bernoculars. If this thing's down there, Julian, I want you to shoot him, then I'm gonna jump on top of the @#$%sucker with a net and we're gonna have to beat him with everything we @#$%n' got.
Ricky: turns his attention to the camera crew]
Ricky: I could need some help from you dicks, alright?
Turned out to be a mountain lion, but they were ready for anything.
Inspiring, Trailer Park Boys is. After getting Rendalled at the Clarence-Rockland Classic last week, we Green Bastards agreed we ought to try to shake things up a bit come Saturday in Almonte. Press the issue, along with the meat. We'd try to make a move before the first woods, aptly named Forest Road, and thin the field to form an 'elite' group out of the woods. Maybe it'd work, maybe not, but one thing was certain: the woods would be crucial, akin to the real Roubaix's Forest or Arenberg (Secteur 18), except early rather than 160k into a race that's only 85k. Similar, except for the small fact that nobody ought to be shattered on entry.
|The Forest of Arenberg, aka, the trench, traditionally falls as Secteur 18 in Paris-Roubaix. Some nice background on the Arenberg here.|
So we press the pace a bit on Quarry Road heading toward Forest Road. Its windy, quite, so our efforts amount to nothing. By 'we' I refer to Neil, who is with Kunstadt/Scott for the season, Imad, of the same team, and Rob, fellow Bastard. While the pace we set did shed some riders, it had no effect on those who would contest the race, so we eased up and waited for the approach to Forest Road. Todd and Alex moved up to shelter me, which was most appreciated, and we headed onto the highway for a short transition into the woods.
As usual, riders were aggressive heading into the woods. I headed in about 6th wheel, while Neil was right at the point. Expecting soft ground, we instead found ourselves rolling on frozen, fast dirt. I'd made the mistake of shifting into my small ring, expecting bog. Nope, instead, I lost ground and had to work hard to stay close to the front. Riders were all over the track, avoiding ice puddles, ruts, and other obstacles. Neil seemed to be driving the pace really hard, and continued as we shifted into the second secteur, separated by about 150m of dirt road. Here we found rougher conditions, and more ice. Carrying more speed than Osmond Bakker from behind, I attempted a pass through the weeds as Osmond dodged to avoid an ice trench. Our sides collided and Osmond bounced off, leaving me with nothing but the sound of crunching ice. I grimaced, hoping he did not land in the ice-water with his body. That'd be hideous. Following Evan McNeely up the right as Neil and others went hard on the left, we strung out a bit. Carnage ensued as Neil went over the bars at the stream crossing, which led to both Evan and one other down. I squeaked by unscathed, and was out on the road with Osmond, Imad, DSJ, and a few others with a bit of a gap. Aaron Fillion was back, and Osmond urged us to press the pace to keep him from connecting, knowing that Aaron would be a tough challenger to his chances. Looking around and finding no fellow Green Bastards, in addition to needing to recover from a near anaerobic effort through the woods, I was not prepared to drive the pace. Nobody else was willing to go 100% either, so Aaron and a significant number of others bridged up and formed a group of about 25. I suppose this constituted more of a front group than a break.
Rendalls outnumbered all other teams in the group, with DSJ, Aaron, Mason, Kiernan, Rob O and Glen Rendall (at least) in the bunch. Shades of Clarence-Rockland. DSJ attacked often, and Doug VdH and Warren of Nine2Five, Iman, Neil, and I chased. Eventually, Kiernan Orange road away, looking strong. After catching him and fending off some more Rendall attacks, he rode off again. After catching him again, Osmond and Mason escaped, while the rest of us looked at each other, wondering who might go.
As we progressed, our numbers slowly dwindled, and we approached the sandy switchback and long trail-like secteur at about 60k in, I reminded Neil to sit up and be ready for attacks off the top of the climb, and positioned myself at the front heading in. Shifting to my small ring, I pulled a Schleck, dropping the chain. As I coasted to guide it on with my hand, the pack streamed past. Fortunately, I had room to regain ground heading up, but was not about 8 back, with the strongest guys ahead. Sure enough, they drove it full gas off the top, and I chased to regain contact, ultimately following Evan with Imad on my wheel. Exiting the trail, we headed into a full head wind as the front group continued to hammer. We worked together to try to regain contact, ultimately working with Marc Boudreau and a couple others I can't recall...things get fuzzy. After pulling as hard and often as I could manage, and doing my darndest to follow Marc, I was back on the tail end of the pack. So gassed I was, I didn't even realize that a number of the other guys had not made it with me. I hung on until the attacks started flying, and being on the tail and recovering, I was completely unable to follow them. I kept it steady and watched them roll away. Ate food, drank, pedaled. My legs were ok, but I just didn't have the aerobic ability to go with them. Hang tight, try to keep them in sight, and hope to catch a few in or just after the woods.
Windy. But not demoralizing. Just hard to see the race ride away and not be able to do anything about it. I maintained visual contact, and could tell that the attacks were subsiding, but I wasn't gaining. Getting close to what I figured had to be the turn onto the final wooded secteur, I saw a rider get dropped, and could tell it was Kiernan. He'd worked hard earlier, benefiting his team-mates. I aimed to catch him.
The woods were once again more frozen than usual, and consequently, as rough as ever. In my small ring, my chain derailed, convincing me that a chain catcher is indeed a necessary addition. With nobody in sight in either direction, I simply got off, replaced it, and got back on. Coming out of the woods, it was clear I'd maintained my gap to Kiernan, and that he was cooked. Within a kilometer, he was sitting up waiting, and I was happy to let him take my wheel. As we headed into the twisty dirt road approaching the final paved road, I spotted a small chase group about 1 kilometer back. Warning Kiernan, I upped the tempo to solidify the gap, pressed on, sprinted out of the final turn, and crossed the line alone, ready to hear who'd taken the cobble. DSJ it was, with Neil on his tail! Second place to Neil Schiemann! While I thought I must have been somewhere between 10 and 15 in, in fact, I was 9th, since I'd actually dropped some of the guys I thought were ahead, to my surprise. So that's two 9ths in a row, and both on the Steelwool Truffle Pig cross bike, proving that it is indeed, a reliable companion.
Rob and Jim were in soon after, followed by Todd, Mike, Alex Michel (new TT rider), Steve, Anna, Andy, Jamie - in no exact order. Turns out Rob, Alex and Todd all crashed in the first woods, and Todd actually got his head run over by another rider! And his helmet is broken! Damn! Rob dangled off the front group out the woods, but was too gassed when the pace went up to stay. Jim tailed the group, pulling like a locomotive, dangled for 20k, but just couldn't get there. Steve had the best race ever, riding smart and strong the whole way. And Anna rode into second, behind Tricia Spooner, ahead of half the pack, stoked, smiling the whole time, and proud to have ridden with a strong group of guys as an equal contributer for the whole race, dropping many in the woods!!! Alex's race just didn't go well at all, but he sure did look good in the kit! And he treated my Secteur 18 loaner right. Andy had a steady ride, but Jamie suffered all day due to illness. The one cast member who's name has been conspicuously absent all this time is Dave Stachon, who was poised to be a big gun for us on Saturday after competing in the Cape Epic mtb stage race up to the beginning of April. Alas, Dave took a puncture in the first 5k, and packed it in. Compounded by all the crashes in the first woods, its safe to say we took a punch in the mouth, but hey, we'll be back next year.
I solicited the others to send me a pithy one-liner characterizing their races, but ended up getting full accounts, so I'm hoping they'll post up such morsels in the comments.
The first and only photos I've seen so far are here, and results are at cyclocross.org.
Next up, the Wheeler's Mufferaw Joe sportif on May 1st, followed by our Ride of the Damned on May 15th. Stay tuned for forthcoming details. We're looking for a few volunteers, so get in touch if you are interested.