The Lake of Bays Road Race (LOBRR) takes place in the Muskoka region just outside of Huntsville. The course leaves the Deerhurst resort via an 8.7km stretch along country roads, does a 76km clockwise loop around Lake of Bays, and then returns to the resort from whence it came. Being on the Canadian Shield, the race is jam-packed with rolling hills that provide seemingly endless battlegrounds for dishing out pain. Last year, the first iteration of the LOBRR took place in May and an unexpected weather dip brought us harsh winter-like conditions with gusting winds, freezing rain, sleet, and even hail during the race. As a result of the aftermath (of which a lot of positive comments still stemmed!!!), the race organizers (Wheels of Bloor) decided to push the date back to August making it the last O-Cup race of the year. Since I had trained outside all winter in advance of the 2013 LOBRR, the poor conditions of the race favoured my time spent outdoors in bad weather and seemed to give me an edge in the final stages of the race when everyone including myself were suffering from the day’s onslaught. Despite the change in start date, I discussed with my teammates in advance that this would be a target race for me since I was returning after having won it previously. They were kind enough to agree and I was excited to help them whenever and however I could in the other races leading up to it. With that said, despite knowing the LOBRR course suited my riding style, the conditions were likely the most important factor in last year’s result. Moreover, moving up to E3 meant a strong and more experience field to battle it out with. Sometimes you wish you could shut off all the doubt and worry leading into these competitions and just prepare with a clear and focused mind…. perhaps this is a skill I will learn someday.
Leading up to the race, I got extremely busy with lab work and non-cycling related life stuff (does that even exist?!) and this is good because it kept my training volume low by default. I still tried to maintain intensity but mostly focused on resting my legs. I say this explicitly because if you know anything about my bike riding adventures, you know I like to push myself and cycle all the time. With monster cyclist Michael Jaffray being unable to make the race due to the wonderful news of newborn Evelyn on the scene and Mouckie coming into the race with only enough time to squeeze in a week block of training after a few weeks off due to a bad elbow injury, it seemed like odds were against us but we decided to capitalize on our camaraderie, teamwork, and patience as our best bets on the day.
Before the race, my main plan coordinated with other riders was to try to get away in a select group in the unrelenting rolling hills NE of Baysville. Accordingly, Mouckie and I only marked moves in the first half of the race and tried to keep our legs as fresh as possible for the planned attacks later. In the event of a bunch sprint or if Mouckie joined me in a break, we had discussed plan B as heading any sprints off at the pass by attacking in a 1-2 punch close to the finish line (basically similar to last year’s plan going in). In the minutes leading up to the start, it was cool to find out that us Elite 3 Men would race on our own in a separate group than the Juniors because they were racing for their Provincial championships and deserved an unhindered chance to compete for that title. As a result, we would finally be able to have a race without trying to juggle the dynamics of 2 different fields with differing goals vying for the same positions. Our 24 strong field contained a selection of beastly dudes ready to duke it out on a beautiful windy course around Lake of Bays.
The pace through the first hour of the race was tougher than we had anticipated, with each climb being more painful than the last. As a result, no real moves stuck in the first hour. About 45km into the race, Chris Bozek (Real Deal) and Aaron Hamill (WCC) launched an attack and picked up a 10-15s gap off the front of the main field. A few others tried to bridge up to them, and so Adam Bird and Larbi Benhabib (both Real Deal) marked that move. Since 3 dangerous Real Deal riders were moving up to the front, Mouckie and I sensed the danger and shut down the gap right away. After our group passed the juniors playing cat and mouse with each other over their Provincial Championships along Hwy 117, Scott Elliot from Midweek launched a strong solo attack off the front at the 50km point. He was able to hold the gap at nearly 30s for over 10km…. beast! Unfortunately, he had chosen the wide open SW road along Hwy117, and the peloton, knowing he was a serious danger to let go, kept him in their sights the entire time and eventually decided to pull him back before we got through Baysville.
Exiting Baysville, the pace and scrappiness picked up rapidly and it became increasingly clear that no one in the field wanted to let anything get away. Multiple attacks were launched on the first hill heading north on Brunel Rd, but everyone seemed to be able to stay with the changes in pace. At about 67km in, Larbi, Mark (Lapdogs), Mark Brouwer (Neworld), and I and a few others tried to do damage on the field as a countermove to previous attacks. We tried again and again to keep the pressure on the descents after climbs but we were marked at every move by the field and no one was keen to pull through afterward or would pull through to the wrong side - I’m looking at you Mark Brouwer! Sadly, we were only able to hope that there were legs in the group hurting enough to create a gap. After a bunch of failed attack attempts on the front, I got frustrated and got back into the peloton to recover since I knew that the last 15km of the race is brutally exhausting and was of course raced accordingly…. Plan B seemed a lot more appealing at this point.
After we finished our loop of the lake and turned NW into the hilly 8.7km finishing stretch, the pace climbed up to over 42km/h average for the rest of the race. According to Strava, we raced that finishing stretch faster than all the other groups that day! Constant attacks were coming from Mark (Lapdogs), Chris, Larbi, Adam Bird (Real Deal), Mark (Neworld Cycle), Tommy Waldeck (Octto-Cervello), Derek Snider (Speed River), and others I cannot recall. Mouckie and I were able to stay in the top 5-6 riders for most of the climbs, but they were putting me under increasing pressure and I started to worry I wasn't going to be in good stead to contest the win with the relentless rollover pressure on the descents. Even with a draft, will power needed to prevail.
With 2.5km to go, Derek Snider laid down a vicious attack and looked troublesome at about 15s off the front. At 1200m to go, he was caught by a crazy keen chase group that still had ~13 riders in it and so it seemed to be coming down to a bunch sprint. As this was happening, Mouckie was covertly shepherding me up the wind sheltered west side of that group to 2nd position as we made the right-hand turn onto Deerhurst Dr. with 1km to go. Mouckie then put an epic hammer down keeping the pace so high that it prevented any attacks on the descent into the final climb. As a result, the field was stretched out into 1 line which gave me first dibs on attacking the hill and I was also able to recover (a bit) hanging tightly to a teammate’s rear wheel. After giving me the signal to go, I sprinted hard to try to get a quick gap from those behind us. From my limited perspective, it appeared that I got a very small gap and so it was now or never! As I crested the steeper part of the kicker and the finish line and crowds were coming into view, I started to worry that I may not have enough gas to maintain the effort for the full 500m and get to the finish line first. I reminded myself that it doesn’t matter just keep hammering! In the final 100m, Larbi and Mark made their presence known both physically and vocally as they exited my draft and started roaring up my sides. I found the few fumes I had left in the tank for one last hard push with less than 50m to go and managed to just hold off two super strong men to the line….. and then the moment suddenly became clear: Holy crap, we pulled off another win together in similar style to last year’s slog…. teamwork prevails!
The finishing sprint moment described above is reflected fantastically in the photo series below from Ivan Rupes Photography (and to a lesser degree in my power profile on Strava). In the photos, you can see the moment I’m nearly overtaken as Larbi and Mark exit my draft but I don’t give up and find that little bit extra to stay ahead of them. By far, my favourite picture is the last one of rock solid teammate Mouckie celebrating our victory – you killed it again man!
Here is the overhead racetiming.ca pic showing how close the sprint was:
Here's my favourite shot from the day of Mouckie celebrating our win:
Special thanks for this race result goes to Andrew Mouck and his lovely wife Leigh for lugging my ass up to Muskoka, putting me up for the night in a beautiful cottage on Lake Muskoka, and for making this weekend a memorable one. Importantly, Mouckie kept his legs and mind limber all race which allowed us to execute our plan B to perfection in the closing kilometers. I also want to thank my kind and committed parent's for driving up to the event to support us as they always do. Moreover, I want to thank everyone who came up to me and shared their kind words of support both at the event and afterward. I’m truly humbled and motivated by your kindness, positivity, and commitment to the sport. We all support each other’s goals of becoming better cyclists and teammates. Finally, I want to thank DY, Beaches Cycling Club, and To Wheels Epic Sports Performance BCC race team for their ongoing and unwavering support in these O-Cup races.
More photos on SportZonePhotography:
Race recap by avatar on Strava flyby: