Which Road O-Cup’s should people do next year? (My rookie* season in review)

I wanted to do a quick summary of my first road season now, as it is clear that I won’t be able to attend either of the Kitchener crits or Bike the Bruce.  Too bad as I was really hoping I could swing both of the criteriums, but such is life.

My main goal of this write-up is to encourage anyone who’s considered racing in the past to seriously consider coming out to a race or two (or four, or five…) next year to give it a go, and which races you might want to consider to start off with.  It’s a hell of a lot of fun, you’ll get to push your limits, and you don’t necessarily need to reach the podium to achieve your goals.  For those 35 or over, you can also choose to race entirely with other individuals of the same age, almost all who need to get to work on Monday.

Each of the races I started this year were different in style, competition composition, and teammate composition.  All provided great learning experiences and improved my overall riding & racing ability.   I’ve written up all of the races individually either on the main page or on the Race Team forum, so I won’t rehash them here – but will list some of the key attributes for anyone trying to decide which to enter next year:

Good Friday Road Race: April 14th, 64km, a 4 lap flat course with one sketchy gravel section.   90 at the starting line for M3 alone, so the largest field I competed against.  Also potentially my peak fitness point, as crazy as that is (due to a super high volume of winter training).  Alex raced with me, but we never really got to work together due to the way the pack was compressed and the difficulty in moving around.  I tried everything at this race – starting a break, chasing a break, leading the pack, etc.  Did way too much work and luckily have someone else’s video to re-watch how much energy I cost myself in the off-season so I don’t repeat mistakes.

Should this be your first race? Debatable.  The pack is tight due to the yellow line rule, and the flat course means that it will likely be a large amount of people coming into that final corner ready to contest the final sprint (44 of 90 finished with zero gap in my race).

Calabogie: April 23rd.  Didn’t go this year, but did most of it last year.  This race is a far drive but I think it is a good starter race for anyone considering racing.  A nice wide open race track that loops ~11 times (I think).

Steve Bauer Classic: May 20th, 62km 5 loop course with a steep climb at the end of each lap. 45 started for M3.  Got to race with Luke and Simon for the first time and it was awesome.  Big takeaway here was how much fun I had racing with a semi-plan with teammates.  A crazy good time.  Hard as hell, but a great time.

Should this be your first race (or second/third)?  Sure thing.  This course was a heck of a lot of fun – though punishing.  The hill really breaks things up and there is a climb versus a sprint finish so I think it’s easy to call this one of the safest races.  I think that anyone who enjoys a few climbs and pushing themselves should consider racing this even if they don’t plan on racing anything else.

Racetiming Crit: May 28th, 1 hour short loops around an industrial park.  61 people in a combined E4/M3 field.  My result was better in Good Friday but I still view this as one of my best races.  Conserved more energy but still mixed it up and had a bunch of fun.  Was solo here.

When should you race this?  When you are confident.  This is a crit and a mixed field – so I would not make this your first race unless you are already confident in a pack setting, at speed, in tight corners (think Turbo Tuesday, but with 50 people).  That said, it made me realize how much I love crits and I’ll race this again next year without hesitation.

KW Classic: June 4th, 64km, 5 laps of rolling terrain.  ~50 in M3.  Got to race with Luke and Simon again, which definitely made the race prep and first couple laps more interesting as I had a team goal to work for.  The more time that passes since this race, the more I think I just had a bad day (though not as bad as Luke).  I don’t think I made any real mistakes in tactic choices, but I just couldn’t execute like I should have been able to.  This race definitely showed me that cycling races, like all sports, has its down moments.

Should you race this?  Yes.  I found the pack a bit sketchier than other races, but going to chalk that one up to it just being a weird day overall.  The roads need quite a bit of work that I hope gets done before next year’s race, but the overall route is quite fun due to the rolling terrain. 

So why post this now?  2 reasons: 1) There’s one more road race this year that you might want to consider – Bike the Bruce.  Last year’s course looks great from the videos I’ve seen, and I wish I could go there to have some fun.  2) You’ve got most of a season left to come out to Turbo Tuesday to get some speed/skill practice.  It’s my favourite night of the week as you get to push yourself as hard as you want to, with no fears of being left behind if you need to ease up for a bit.  We’re starting to get a great mix of riders out now so you don’t need to be Group 0 to enjoy it.  Come out, push yourself, learn how higher speeds are easier in a group, and generally have a blast and a few laughs. 

Cheers all and enjoy the weekend!

*I'm choosing to discard the 99% of a race I did in 2016 to call this my rookie year

Views: 90

Comment by Kaerynne Nakamura on June 30, 2017 at 3:31pm

Hugely informative as always! Thanks James, I have to admit I was totally lost and didn't even know the questions to ast this year. I'm really looking forward to racing next year! K

Comment by Tim Leung on June 30, 2017 at 7:09pm
Thanks for this post James. I always found it to be a mystery between all these crit races running in Ontario. Probably too late for me this year to consider any crits as that wasn't part of my winter base prep.. and not yet at cat2 w/kg level but almost there. :) Will definitely hope to race all or most of the series next year just for the fun of it. It will have to be all in or nothing at all.
Comment by Christopher Wu on June 30, 2017 at 7:33pm
Great post James. I haven't raced this year due to scheduling conflicts, but I've done all those races across the last couple of years and if you're the competitive type, it's a heck of a lot of fun.

My experiences are a little different than yours, Calabogie and KW classic being my favourites (might be because they're the only ones I've done well in). Will agree that Good Friday is a sketchy for a first race and I'd throw Springbank into that mix as well.

They're a great way to test yourself, but the biggest thing I learned is that riding smart is just as important and can make up for a lack of fitness. It really changed the way I think on the bike.

Tim - you can still do the Kitchener and Cambridge Crits! I've been off the bike way too much lately but I'm going to give them a shot anyways and have some fun.

And as James mentioned. Would love to see more people join us on Tuesdays!
Comment by James Eaton on June 30, 2017 at 9:21pm

Kaerynne - ask anything, any time!  The one thing that will be quite different for you is that the field size will be much much smaller.  That might make for more opportunity for things to be broken up than the M3 or E4 categories.

Tim - do not wait for a specified level or type of fitness.  A big learning for me this year, that Chris pointed out as well, is that race experience and riding smart makes a massive difference.  Choosing when to spend your energy is much more important than your FTP.  I made significant mistakes in retrospect in Good Friday and Steve Bauer on that front.  So throw yourself in there and start getting some experience.

Chris - I think Calabogie is a great course and race, I just didn't race it this year due to scheduling.  Have never raced Springbank, but given its nickname (Crashbank), I don't think that's likely a good first race.   I wish there was some way to swing those crits that weekend in July - have a blast there!

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