Tour De Waterloo Race Report
Woke up at 6:45 am, quickly changed into my WCC kit and spun the 7 km to the Research Park (With a quick coffee stop at McDonalds on the way of course). Got my registration from Kelly Ellis and spoke with a few WCC members about the event before lining up at the start. After a 5 km neutral rollout, we hit the hills just outside of Erbsville and made our way towards Bamberg. I saw early on that Stephen Baker was active at the front, especially on the hills. Judging from his performance at Centurion last year I knew he was a guy to watch out for, so I moved to the front of the race. Curtis Gloade was there and I put in a relatively soft effort on the last uphill before Bamberg, and somehow we were given a free gap by the peloton. They don’t hand them out that easy in E3! I continued riding a solid tempo and Curtis and I traded pulls effectively. The gap between us and the pack stayed very small and we were both kinda hoping that some other riders would bridge up to us to form a stronger break. We did have 120 km to go after all. So sure enough, as I was taking a quick nature break, my favourite partner in crime, Derek Snider and another Master’s rider (sorry we never exchanged names) rode across to us. I finished my business and latched onto their wheels, and we consolidated into a break of four.
We proceeded to do as much work into the wind as could, and continued to plug along trying to expand the gap between us and the pack. We flew up highway 121 through Millbank at about 46 km/h average, but the gap never got much bigger than a minute. Near Conestoga Lake it seemed like the pack was just toying with us and letting us hang out there with a 25-35 second gap that they could close at will if they wanted. I said to Curtis that we could look forward to a fair bit of rest if we got caught as we’d likely have some very fresh teammates in the pack at this point. But we just kept plugging away and on one of the first climbs near the lake we dropped Curtis. From then on, it was just Derek and I trading pulls with the Master’s rider following wheels. I knew we’d have to lose him eventually if he was just gonna wheelsuck in a 3 man break but the peloton was too close at that point to work against my breakaway partners. Eventually we finished the “lap of the lake” and turned East towards Glen Alan. On the first hill out of Glen Alan we lost unnamed Master’s Rider. Guess he was on the limit just staying with us. So now we were down to two, with a gap of about 45 seconds on the peloton, with about 40 km to go. After trading a few more pulls Derek and I had brief conversation:
D: “I don’t think I can do this for another hour.”
G: “Well you’re gonna have to.”
D: “Alright, you convinced me.”
G: “Good, I’m glad that’s settled.”
We rolled through Yatton, and then Wallenstein. I sucked back a gel going down the hill to the Conestogo River on Hergott Line. Originally I had planned on attacking on the Hawkesville hill but with the southern wind, the peloton right on our heels, and the fact that I had broken away WAY earlier than I had intended, I quickly scrapped the idea of attacking my breakaway partner on the hill. Derek and I rode up the hill side by side, kinda listening to each other breathe, each of us trying to get up the hill as fast as possible without dropping the other. It was an interesting game. We rounded the corner onto Kressler and did as much work as we could for each other, but we were pretty toast at this point but I still thought we had a shot at going to the line together. I was doing a bit more work than he was at this point but knew it was completely immaterial: to win the race I had to keep the peloton away and to do that I had to ride as hard as I could. When we turned onto Westmount and re-entered Waterloo I knew it was gonna be close. Derek said to me, “You can win this race, just take me to line with you, please!” I rode as hard as I could down Westmount and completely refused to look back: I knew they would be absolutely flying towards us. We turned onto Bearinger and I punched that last little hill, and pretty much heard Derek’s whole body shut down on him. He was off my wheel and it was just me with 200-300 metres to go. I got into my 53-12 as I turned into the research park and just mashed it as hard as I could. At this point the peloton was right on me, and the sprinters started hammering and quickly closed the gap to me with literally 30 metres to go. One guy, Steve McKee (Nacsworld) got me at the line by inches, knocking me down to second place at the finish.
Overall a satisfying but slightly frustrating finish to get nipped at the line like that, but on the other hand it was amazing to ride in a breakaway for 120 km and ALMOST pull it off. They say the breakaway victory in cycling is the most glorious of all the ways to win, the peloton must underestimate the break’s strength to let it be established, then it requires an incredibly hard effort from a small group of riders that aren’t teammates, and you must work together against a much bigger and stronger entity: the chasing peloton. Then once you’re pretty sure that’s been accomplished (and it rarely is), you have to come up with a way to beat those temporary teammates to the line, be it through brains or brawn. No wonder they’re so rare in the pro ranks.
So it would’ve been nice to pull it off, but it just wasn’t to be. My legs are completely toast: that was my biggest effort of the year so far, bar none.
Big thanks to Curtis for his work in the break, and Adam, Tom, Quinn and the rest of WCC crew that raced today for their support disrupting chase efforts in the pack really helped keep me off the front for the day. It was right down to the wire with them: my breakaway wouldn’t have happened without them.
I’d also like to give huge kudos to Derek Snider, who went way beyond his limit in the break with me. We did the majority of the work in the 4 man break, then we did all the work in the 3 man break, then we traded pulls evenly right up till we hit Benjamin Rd. I really wanted to take him to the line with me, the guy deserved it just as much as me but unfortunately with 350 metres to go he completely imploded and managed to lose 18 seconds to the winner of the race. Absolutely heart breaking: he worked his ass off with me in the break for pretty much 3 hours and went home with nothing to show for it. But I guess “that’s bike racing.”
Finally, another huge kudos to all the volunteers and organizers of this event. Registration was easy, the jersey looks great, signage on the course was perfect, the course was well thought out (i.e. the Hawkesville hill at the end was well placed in a sado-masochist sense), the intersections were well-controlled, the continental breakfast was awesome, the post race pulled pork was awesome-r, and there were even more than enough porta-potties! I can’t stress this enough: Malcom, Blake and everyone else involved nailed this event. They provided a Gran-Fondo that catered to racers and recreational cyclists, and managed to raise 30K + for two great causes at the same time. Absolutely amazing. And they worked wayyyy harder than the breakaway to make this thing happen. Thanks so much guys, can’t wait till next year.