Whereas O-Cup Calabogie was a non-stop hammerfest at warp speed 10 from start to finish, and served merely to pass the time until, John "Leg Day" Lobraico activated his overdeveloped quadriceps to sprint to victory, the Niagara Classic was a proper bicycle race. We had every element that one likes to see on the UCI World Tour races that you illegally stream onto your laptops. Hills, sprints, breakaways, banter, bridging and blocking. Its just in Niagara, we get to play Sagan, Contador and Wiggins for the day (well, for an hour and a half at least).
Here is my account of the E4 race, and once again I call upon my fellow teammates to embellish the tales of heroism and stupidity with more outlandish stories of foolishness and bravado, to make you want to feverishly read on despite knowing that none of us actually made the top 10 despite having a team 7 deep!
The Niagara classic is essentially a 12.5km rectangular loop with a steep hill at the start, which is roughly equivalent to the first half of Brimley, (but a bit steeper). In E4 we do the loop 5x.
We rolled out under a retro Corvette pace car and went straight up "The Wall". First time up was pretty tame , but my learned teammates has already pointed out that the hill in the latter stages of the race would define the outcome, so I wasn't too concerned about the tepid nature of the first ascent. Following the climb is a most rewarding stretch of about 4-5km of balls-out (or female equivalent) downhill, and in our category a chance to catch your breath at >60kmh. Everyone in our field were busy catching the aforementioned breaths only to marvel upon Mr Jason Shuker taking the race by the scruff of the neck to burst into a solo breakaway right at the top of the climb. It was awesome! Off he went. Mark Middleton sat at the front talking trash and convincing the fast looking Bateman Boys not to chase him down. The first lap was truly pedestrian because of Mark's efforts, but again in the back of my noggin I was trying to remember all that I had been told about "the Wall" making the race, so just to chill. The race would light up all in good time. Jason soon came back in to the fold, his sponsors having had adequate TV exposure with his rampant attack of the front.
So came the start the 2nd lap and we put 3 BCCers on the front up the climb. It was really cool, Mark M, myself and Taylor (ToWheelsBCC), three abreast, across the width of the road, bossing the climb. Staying at the front was a priority to manage the accordion effect of the climb and to ensure we could climb it at our own pace, but mainly to ensure our travelling fan club of photographers and personal social media representatives (Dan Y, Jason S and Christophe, Alexx, Paul VD, (kudos to you all)) could get the appropriate shots for instagram to ensure the world knew of our lionhearted acts of daring. We immediately started looking more aero.
Then, then main event; a bunch of 4 (non-BCC) guys sneaked away, crafty devils, and built a handy gap of about 30 seconds. Most of the race was then spent trying to reel them in, but they were strong, and furthermore they had a team of fat-arse Bateman's blockers who sat on the front of the peleton shutting down every attempt to get a bridging paceline going. It got to the point that Alex and I had to box them in to allow the pace line to continue, a tactic that I had not come across before, but which worked quite well. BCC worked the front hard with Taylor, myself, Alex, Chris and Steve on laps 3 and 4 trying to reel them in. We had little help from other teams, and sadly we made little progress, except to hold the gap at around 30 seconds. These pulls hurt my lame attempts at climbing in laps 4 and 5, and I could feel it to the extent that I put myself right on the front again on the last climb, not just for the photo op (honestly), but because I knew i would probably die on the climb and it gave me some room to fall back through the peleton and definitely not get dropped.
I got dropped.
According to my obsessive poring over Strava analytics I was 9 seconds too slow up the climb. But so were Steve J, Chris W and Mark M, who also missed the selection so once again we had to put together a BCC paceline to bridge and such was the pace now, it took us 5km of gunning it to join back on (9 bloody seconds cost us 5km of chasing!!). The last 4km cooled a touch as everyone loaded their guns and prepared for the big boy sprint which was a long 1.5km straight shoot out over punchy rollers. In the last 500m the lead out started right. Brain-of-Britain here decided to go left, which was utterly idiotic thinking that I could go that far out uphill on my own, and so I unceremoniously died 250m before the line to roll in 20th (18th in cat). I saw my teammates whizz past which was great, and i leave them to tell you how their races unfolded. I am very disappointed with my placing but still happy in the fact that I was properly involved in the race. I just need to learn that racing is not like a club ride. It is the result that counts. And so I will now go away and get more cleverer about bike racing.
As usual the support from BCC was absolutely awesome. Having good friends watching the race and cheer (scream) your name when your legs are on fire and when you need to extract a few extra beats out of a periarrythmic heart muscle is incredible, and for me meant that 9 seconds wasn't 20! Another Classic BCC race day out.
So Proud of you Steve... First Race!