Race Report

May 21, 2012

Yet another unstoppable presence at the Niagara Classic! – Race Report


Alarm went off at 5:30 AM and was on the road with Tim Horton’s in hand by 5:50. Grace and I drove down to the 12.4 km circuit near Fonthill Ontario and met the rest of the race team upon arrival. This time we had representation in 3 categories: Blake in M3, Kelly in Masters Women, and Tom, Adam, Quinn and myself in E4.

The course is 11 km of shallow, kind of false flat descent followed by one kilometer up a painful hill that gets progressively steeper as you get to the top, peaking out at around 15-16%, and gaining roughly 100 vertical metres. It’s a race circuit built for puncheurs, guys that can put out a tonne of power in 1-5 minute bursts, and recover in time for the next one. Last season in this race I tried to ride off the front on the last lap before the road really steepened and ended up being caught, finishing 4th. I felt I had unfinished business here and wanted to perform well. I have worked hard on shorter efforts in the off season and with my sprint win at Good Friday I felt I was capable of winning this race if it came down to a final hill sprint. But to make it come down to that, I’d need teammates willing to chase down and discourage breakaway attempts, as well as a guide me through the crazy descent that leads right up to the beginning of the climb on the last lap.

An additional “cookie” that was news to me was announced at the start line that they would be awarding KOH (King of the Hill) points for whoever was in the top 3 at the top of the climb on laps 2, 3 and 4. I didn’t know that this little side contest was going to be held but it didn’t really change much in terms of my overall race strategy. I was there to win, and get the upgrade points.

So the starting horn went off and Blake and the rest of the M3 field began the day’s races, with the E4 field starting 8 minutes later. The first lap was fairly uneventful for me; I stayed near the front at all times, typically two or three wheels back, doing very little actual work. No major attacks were launched and the climb up the hill was very orderly and slow. I stayed seated the whole time and spun a 39X23, and found myself the first to the top by a healthy margin. Too bad this one had no KOH points!

The next lap, a rider from Ottawa Cycling Club soloed off the front and everyone let him go. Andrew House, myself, and a few other riders did a bit of tempo on the front to keep this breakaway attempt in sight, and he was caught at the base of the climb on the second lap. I found myself in the top 3 or 4 on the steepest section of climb and thought I’d test out my legs and everyone else’s, so I stood up and accelerated a little bit and took first place points for the first KOH. I immediately sat up and waited for the peloton to scoop me back up after getting across the line.

The third lap Quinn patrolled the front and regularly took turns setting the tempo. This was great as it allowed me to drift back and talk to Adam and Tom: If any attacks went off, Quinn would have them covered. As we approached the windy downhill section that leads up to the climb, Andrew House made a move that I followed: he had been active the entire race and wasn’t shy to do any work, which meant he was pretty strong. I got on his wheel and hung on for one crazy ride. Let’s just say Evel Knievel has nothing on the way this guy went through this section. We utterly bombed down through the twisty descent, hands on the drops, using the whole right side of the road, leaning through turns at 75 km/h. It was crazy. When we finally rounded the final right turn to begin the climb we had a bit of a gap so I took over the duties on the front. As I moved ahead I heard Andrew drop his chain and I looked back to see him slow down abruptly. So much for the breakaway! I was still ahead of the main group by a handful of seconds still and thought that I could grab the KOH points again by just riding tempo up the climb. So I rode up the hill off the front and grabbed maximum points again. Sweet deal. The peloton again scooped me up at the top of the hill.

The fourth lap was interesting. With Quinn diligently patrolling the front again, I dropped back, and spoke to Adam and Tom, who told me that there was some talk between a few teams conspiring against me. Adam also told me he’d move to the front on the last lap and put in everything he had for me before the base. Awesome stuff. I moved back to the front and watched Quinn put on a domestique clinic, chasing down attacks and doing regular turns into the wind. A Hamilton Cycling Club rider attacked here from behind my wheel, and Quinn chased him down, but the two of them formed a gap in the process. The peloton let them build a gap, and the biggest breakaway of the day was created. Niles Vaivars counter attacked here and I followed his wheel as the peloton strung out at 45 km/h until he gave up and pulled off. The gap between the peloton and the two man break stayed fairly constant throughout the lap and I knew that they would be the first two over the hill for the final KOH points. This was fine by me as I was sure that the rider from Hamilton CC hadn’t grabbed any points before and I was pretty safely installed as the KOH winner at this point. As the hill approached again another thought popped up in my head: I could attack on the hill, gap the peloton, bridge up the break, and then work with the other two the whole final lap. If it worked we’d have two WCC on the podium! However, I knew there was some added risk to this – the peloton would probably chase like crazy, as they had been glued to my wheel the whole race up to that point. If they reeled us in and counterattacks flew, I’d probably have a hard time responding after such a major effort. However, I knew we had Adam and Tom back in the peloton to a) discourage chase efforts and b) if they caught us, respond to counter attacks and allow Quinn and I to recuperate. Team sport indeed!

So I went for it, and dug pretty hard up the climb and just kept on riding hard over the top. I spun out my 53X12 on the descent, and eventually caught Quinn and the Hamilton CC rider. I encouraged Quinn and the other rider to work hard as I knew the peloton would be strung out absolutely hurtling towards us. We each did a couple of turns at the front, and sure enough the peloton reeled us in, headed by team CHCH and Andrew House of CoachChris after about 4 km of chasing. The pace slowed down and Adam moved to the front, where he started attacking, chasing down others, and just generally rode like a rabid animal. He stayed on the front as we approached the twisty final downhill and I got on his wheel and hung on for another white knuckle roller coaster ride to the base of the final climb. We rounded the final bend and Adam pulled off: he had “got me to the base” and his work was done.

Here’s where things got really interesting. Adam’s kamikaze descent and overall ridiculous pace setting had dropped a few riders and put many others into difficulty. However, there were still many riders still very much in a good position to attack if they still had it in their legs. I was faced with the prospect of being the lead out man for the remains of the peloton up the shallower part of the climb. No one else seemed keen to provide me with a wheel to follow to the steep section. This made things risky for me as I knew the sprint would begin as soon as the road got steep, so I absolutely had to make sure I wouldn’t overextend myself and not be able to respond when that happened. So I rode a decent tempo at the front of the group, holding close to 30 km/h up the shallower grade section. I refused to look back as I feared that Andrew and the other strong riders were right behind me licking their lips as I wasn’t in the optimal position at this point and didn’t want to show any weakness or doubt. As soon as the road got steep I just stood up and opened the throttle the whole way for the first time the whole race. I was in a gear that seemed way too big on a 15% grade but I just grimaced and kept on hammering. I looked back a couple times and saw I had a decent gap on the rest of field. I could hear Grace and my parents cheering me on as my strength started to fade over the last 15 metres or so… fortunately I had opened up enough room to hold on for the victory. I crossed the line in first with absolutely no celebration: I was hyperventilating big time and my legs were completely drenched in lactic acid. I pulled over to the side of the road, laid my bike down, noticed that I had climbed the hill in a 39X21 (4 less teeth than last year!), and promptly laid down on my back and just swallowed huge gulps of air for several seconds as my teammates converged around me offering their congratulations. It felt great to get another win for WCC but this one was truly a gigantic team effort. Quinn’s work over the first few laps and Adam’s hard effort and maniacal descent on the last lap gave me the opportunity to win. I would not have been able to do it without them.

Tom ended up producing a good hill sprint as well, finishing 4th, just edging out Andrew House at the line. Not a bad punch after two weeks off the bike! Adam and Quinn, despite their efforts, finished up near the front in 8th and 12th respectively. In the other categories, Kelly demolished the Masters Women field by a minute and a half, and was beat only by four Elite 3 women, who were a maximum of ten seconds ahead. Not a bad first O-Cup for Kelly! In M3, Blake found himself sitting pretty third rider back, right at the base of the final climb, only to flat as soon as the road got steep. Brutal! It must be noted we had the very real opportunity to put three WCC riders on three different podiums! The next big race is the KW classic on June 10, where we hope to make a big splash and get as many riders on the podium as possible. Hope to see lots of WCC jerseys there: racing or spectating!


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