Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eastern Ontario CX Upper Canada VIllage

Mike ripping in Upper Canada. (photo: Graham Page)
I've lived in Ottawa most of my life. I grew up here, but it took a cyclocross race to get me to Upper Canada Village for the first time. Not that I didn't want to go as a kid; I simply never did. In hindsight I can't understand how that happened, or rather didn't happen...better late than never.

Despite the Village being closed for business on Sunday, I still got a chance to get a sense of the place, and I look forward to going back with my family. It would be nice to race there while the place is open, but I suspect they are too busy for that to be safe for the kids running around.

Those of us visiting the Village for the first time to race didn't know what to expect from the terrain. I was surprised, pleasantly, to see a fair sized hill in the centre of the course with a fast downhill into a hairpin that looked fun. The course looked expansive, though didn't feel that way once riding. Following a good sized B field, a small A group lined up just as the clouds positioned themselves for a dousing. As we were about to launch the rain began.

With Steve Proulx racing the Anvil in Nepean, my next closest competitors in the Masters A field were Craig "Smoking Guns" Hawkes and Charles Plamondon. Both were vying for big points, as was I, so I knew I'd have to ride well. Neil and Imad would surely apply pressure from the Senior group, and I'd aim to go with them and work hard to stay out of trouble.

Off to a good start, Neil forgot or ignored my advice to cut the first turn  by using the dirt shoulder, allowing my to come up his inside and lead the pack into the first section of grass. My pace was clearly not as fast as that pressed by the usual suspects at the front, which meant the field was still pretty close over the first half of the lap. Neil and Craig were in tow, while Charles, Todd, and Marcel (among others) chased. On either lap one or two, Neil attempted to remount on a hill with a barrier at the base, and erred (his chain dropped). I pressed the meat hard and created a gap with Neil and Craig about 5 seconds back. With a fair bit of wind along the St. Lawrence River gravel road, I'd planned to try to avoid pulling into the wind solo a lot, but now I had no choice. I accepted the race would hurt more than I had hoped, put my head down, and rode. Nearing two laps to go, I committed an unforced error approaching a set of double barriers; I failed to unclip and ate it. My bike landed on my ear, but everything was A-ok, so I was able to get back on and keep going without delay. However, Neil was now on my wheel, and I'd have to fight.

After pulling for a bit, then changing positions and following Neil through the wind, he outpowered me on the first run-up, only to have me close by taking a drier line up to the second hill-mounted barrier. Right on his tail, I was careful not to position myself in such a way that I'd hit him if he slid out. He held his lines, leaving me little room to make a move, until rolling onto the flat pavement we'd started on. Since it had rained hard for a good half hour, I was not confident about taking my dirt line, figuring I might sink in enough to slow down rather than gain ground. Heading toward a 90 degree turn onto an uphill paved path, I attempted to get in front, but Neil closed me down. We headed up the hill, Neil in the saddle, my watching. I couldn't tell whether he was tired or waiting, so I went again, attempting to get to the hairpin turn at the top first. Neil countered, and held even with me, him on the left, me on the right. This placed me on the outside of the turn, the weaker position. Nevertheless, I kept my speed up all the way to the top, and tried to turn. But Neil wasn't giving up any ground, which meant I ran out of room to turn and wound up augering into one of the course stakes and tape. Full stop, Neil was off, and I was off the bike to turn it around and finish off. One turn to go, there was not a change I'd catch up, so that was that. My gamble didn't work out, but it was fun trying. Next time perhaps I'll have the presence of mind to ease up and dive under....

Todd finished 3rd Master, his best result to date, after Charles Plamondon, followed by Jamie and Jim in 4th and 5th (also top finishes), and Andy came in mud covered 10th, grinning. Earlier Tanya and Mike battled it out to strong finishes, 3rd and 2nd, respectively, gaining valuable points for the overall competition. The course had become greasy, and was fun all around. It turned out to be a power course, but the effort was pretty steady, with the only spikes coming on the two hill run-ups. I look forward to racing at the Village again.

While we were racing in Upper Canada, Rob Parniak hit up the Anvil at the Nepean Equestrian centre....and won the Master A race! Congrats Rob, way to go! It was a great deal for Steelwool and Tall Tree riders.

Next up is the final race of the season, #10 in Almonte. With snow on Wednesday and rain to come, I suspect we'll get another taste of classic cyclocross conditions come Sunday. I'll be gunning to secure the series victory, and Rob could take the third spot if the stars align. Meanwhile Mike's in the running for the Master's B second place spot; I'm not sure whether its mathematically possible for him to overtake Jay Heins. Thom and Will will be there with their tent, coffee and pastries for folks to enjoy, so keep an eye out for them. It ought to be a great cap to the season, so c'mon out, and don't forget your cowbell!


Madmountainmike said...

Thanks Matt, actually I am technically in first now as of the last 2 weeks if considering only the best 6 races. I could finish anywhere between 1-5 depending who shows up and how things unfold. Jay can gain more than me as his lowest point race is 4 pts less than mine. Will be a showdown ho-down !!

Matt Surch said...

Excellent Mike, we'll be there nice and early to see you folks go off, and rock the cowbells.