Craig’s Canadian Masters Nationals RR Report
Today was a shocking day for me as (a) I’m not a very good road racer and (b) I was flying solo in a race that, on paper, looked to be a classic strategic affair. Since my focus over the last 6-months has been squarely on the points race I figured I was entering the road race just for fun and I had no expectations.
- Paper View
The paper view of the course showed that there would be four distinct climbs on the course and all of them were medium in length and none with grade steeper than 4%. My wife and baby decided not to join me for the weekend so after waking up at 6am (No matter how hard I try I can never sleep in) I ate breakfast and decided to drive the course. I’m glad I did as it made me realize that the hills on the course had the potential to be selective, assuming someone decided to really push the pace up the entire climb. Driving the course also made me realize just how bad the wind would be.
- Handlebar View
As always I tried my best to start as close to the front row as possible. I waste a lot of energy doing this but I find that I waste just as much energy starting near the back and stressing out about my positioning that I might as well waste the energy on the front. There were a few attempted breaks, only one of which I was able to get into containing two CIBC/Quebec racers and two ERTC riders. I did not feel confident about the composition because without any Calgary Cycle guys present it was obvious to me that the break would never succeed so I played my role, albeit poorly, until the peloton caught us. The wind was pretty strong at this point so everyone seemed content to wait it out.
Once the course turned left onto the main Highway a few my guys tried there luck and looking back I found it funny (by funny I mean instructive not laughable) that the break did not form in some dramatic attack but rather by guys just rolling off the front, very casually, almost like they were just fooling around. Before I knew it 5 guys (2 Calgary Cycle, 2 ERTC and 1 CIBC/Novabrik) had pulled this intelligent move and were 30 seconds up the road.
At this point all of the guys left in the peloton knew that they had made a mistake and really wished that they too were in the break. When this happens it means that no-one is going anywhere because as soon as a move is made everyone jumps on the wheel in hopes of the free ride up to glory. Obviously I was one of those guys.
We rolled along pleasantly for some time until I made a fake move off the front right before the feedzone to ensure that I had enough space to get a feed. I’m glad I did because as soon as I got my bottle a CIBC guy put in a hard attack and I was lucky enough to have my new bottle in the cage and was ready to respond. A good portion of the peloton was not so lucky and as a result lost their feed opportunity. In the ensuing minutes the pack decided to sit up and shout insults at the CIBC guy all the while the break continued to work like clockwork and put in more time. I was starting to feel dejected about the missed opportunity so I put in some more attacks in the hopes of getting a small group organized to get up to the race, but with three teams represented in the break it was hard to find folks with the same agenda.
After the turnaround I continued to try and get a group going but I soon realized that each of my attacks were attracting less and less interested parties. A Manitoba guy went with me for awhile but we shut it down after gaining no more than 5 seconds. Finally I went and no one responded. I felt a little stupid sitting out in front of the Peloton as no-mans land in no place a sprinter like me wants to be.
What was going through my head? I was telling myself that I was throwing away any chance of success and that at any moment the pack was going to come screaming past me and I would get dropped and roll in 20 minutes down on the winner. My only comfort was that I truly didn’t care about the race and was really just looking forward to the crit the next day.
As time passed I realized that I was actually making time on the peloton and the lead group was becoming clearer and clearer in my view. At one point an official came by and said that I was 40 seconds behind, which meant that I had made it half way across the gap. I was starting to feel cocky at this point and thought that I’d make it to the group before the right turn back onto the main highway – I got close, probably 20 seconds, before they accelerated again and I nearly died inside. For another 20 km’s I chased – I went from feeling like a machine to feeling like dog crap. More than once I turned around to see the peloton in the distance thinking about how much time I would have to rest before they caught me.
Just before the drop into the River Valley I finally made it into the group. After a few missed turns I regained my composure and started to take pulls. There was no way I was going to put that much effort into making it into a break without trying to make it stick. To be honest I thought the peloton would be on us in no time so I was completely shocked when an official rolled up and said that we still had a 1:20. I rolled through with increased vigour. In the last feedzone I picked up a watered down coke and once the caffeine and sugar hit my bloodstream I knew that I was going to be able to finish with some gas in the tank (I don’t care what people say about Coke I personally think it’s the best energy drink in the world – maybe not the best “watching movies” or “Driving Truck Across the Country” drink but the best energy drink ever created.)
Everyone in the break realized that there was no way we were going to get caught and with this excitement in hand we all continued to roll towards the finish. Just for clarity but “all” I mean the ERTC and Calgary Cycle guys as the CIBC guy was doing a fantastic team job of sitting-in as he knew that his team sprinter was in the peloton and that a re-group was the best thing for his team – Kudos to him for putting up with all our insults and attempts to manipulate him. He was a good team player and I wish he was on my team!
Some cat-and-mouse ensued with 5km’s to go and Blain Ritcher of ERTC put in a VERY HARD effort right before the line but Lady Luck was on my side and I, with the tailwind in mind, I pulled out of the slipstream early, with probably 200 meters to go and drove for home.
Did I deserve the win? No. I just rolled the dice and it could have easily ended with me not making the break and finishing DFL. There were some fantastic sprinters in the field and to beat them I would have had to have all my energy at the end. It just goes to show you that results don’t always tell the entire story of a bicycle race as all those guys in the pack, and behind, may just have tried a crazy move that didn’t work out.
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