Last season, my first with BCC, I recall that a lot of members participated in the Centurion Blue Mountain, in both the C50 and C100 events. That is 50 and 100 miles for those new to the club. The week earlier I had ridden the Epic Tour Halton 140 km. and that was enough for this newbie, coupled with the fact that Centurion would probably entail staying the Saturday evening prior to the ride. So it was off my radar.
I am not sure when exactly but one morning Wayne announced that he was riding Centurion and probably driving up the Sunday morning. This would mean that the 2014 event was on the radar screen and once Andrea and Ivana said they would also be interested, the three of us started making plans to join Wayne and see what happened.
Sunday morning at 4:30 a.m. there was Wayne pulling up to my house, as planned, with Andrea riding shotgun (damn!), and after loading my bike we were on our way to pick up Ivana. To make the early morning drive more tolerable we feasted on zucchini bread and espresso.
Before we realized it we were following signs to the Village and despite the race (wait, did I say race?) beginning at 7:45 a.m., we unloaded the bikes and made some last minute wardrobe changes based on the current temperatures we encountered. Then it was on to registration where the hardest decision was what colour of Centurion T-shirt we wanted.
Heading to the start corrals and trying to get up towards the front entailed navigating other riders who were dealing with their pre-race nerves, and wanted to stay as close to the front as possible. The last thing they needed was 4 riders sporting BCC jerseys wheeling their bikes on the rear wheel past them, after climbing a barricade to get closer. I think once Ivana blazed the trail I might have said “I’m too old for this %^it!”, or maybe that was my inner voice.
Okay we make some last minute wardrobe decisions (bury the skull cap and full finger rain gloves in a jersey pocket) and wait for the countdown to the start. Not too bad at the start, as luckily we were forward enough to escape the mayhem that ensued behind as riders realized they would spend energy sorting out into groupings of riders more their speed. Soon we had a BCC train forming, with Mounty and Mike at the front, pulling Laura, Andrea, Ivana, Marco, Wayne & me. Then all of a sudden we turned onto Grey Road 19 and there were the series of climbs both John LoBraico and Jeff had warned me about. At this point I think the train started having passengers decide that they would or could not keep on, and I will be the first to admit that I bailed and decided to ride conservatively to save something for later.
It was interesting to see that you would pass some riders, only to have them catch you later, or better yet to have some go by you, and steadily you would pick them off one by one. I used to compete as a long distance runner in my age group, so racing and controlling your effort was not too foreign to me, but on a bike was a bit different. The club Saturday and certainly the Sunday long rides were good preparation for something like this, but I had more of a sense of urgency today, probably due to nerves,, plus I was racing on an unfamiliar course and did not know what to expect. The feed zones were great, as you could take a bottle or water or Gatorade, Powerbar gels, bananas or small bunches of grapes on the fly. I chose to pull over and transfer the Gatorade into my own bottle, which cost me about 45 seconds, and probably gave my left hamstring a short reprieve, since that was something I had not encountered before on a ride, but then after those climbs I was not surprised.
Now I will be the first to admit that I am far from Alberto Contador’s biggest fan, but will confess that I found some groups of riders along the course and jumped on (or rather sat on) and enjoyed the tow in true Alberto fashion. There was one group of 6 riders where there were two near the front that were content to take their shares of pulling, and when they felt would come off the front and come back in two or three down the line, and the rest of us did not complain. It allowed us to keep a steady cadence and catch solo or small packs of riders, who once they were picked off struggled to get on a wheel, but the pace did not allow them to stay on before they were dropped.
Once we returned through the village of Ravena, things started feeling familiar, and soon I realized that we were retracing the roads we had just ridden. That meant that those series of climbs would now be descents, but even I was not ready for the views of Georgian Bay, while still trying to keep my eyes on the road. Between the view, and watching the speed of my Garmin stay over 60 km/h plus, it was exhilarating to be descending and I could only imagine how pro riders feel as they are going down hills with switchbacks in Pro tours at even higher speeds, where there may not even be a barrier stopping them from going off a cliff with one wrong turn.
My goal at the back on my mind was to finish in three hours, and time was working against me, but then I realized that I could probably pull it off, and my legs responded by churning away and feeling stronger with every revolution. This I will attribute more to the kilometers put in this season on my new carbon steed, and the way that the bike had started to feel as if it was becoming an extension of me.
As I crossed the finish line I heard the announcer saying my name and BCC, then adding that I was one of the older age groupers competing in the C50. Thanks buddy for bursting that balloon! Now my secret was out. Plus I had left it all out there, what a great feeling to push yourself beyond what you thought possible.
My chip time was 2:58:59.9, placing me 20th of 51 in my M60-64 category, and 411th of 980 overall, average speed of 29.1.
I will let my clubmates share their times and stories, but know that next September I will return to better my time and enjoy another great day of racing……yes, I said racing!