JRod, Mouckie and I spent the night in London so that we could be relaxed and ready well ahead of the early race start times. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to check anything out which was a shame because it was my first time in London. Hopefully I'll have another chance to check it out in the future! Strangely, the downtown area seemed very quiet when we arrived at 9:30pm on a Saturday night.
The Springbank Criterium is located in Springbank Park which is in the west end of London along the Thames River. The fairly technical 2.2km circuit consists of a short climb of 15m elevation along the narrow river roadside, a bike path at the southwest region, a very wide 2-lane start/finishing striaght after a tricky chicane, and a tricky off-camber corner on the southeast end of the course. Here is a link to the Strava segment below:
Firstly, I'd like to congratulate everyone on the To Wheels Epic Sports Performance BCC race team for coming out and putting down a strong showing on home soil! Well done, my friends!
For the entirety of the race, the leap group had a motorcycle escort. Sometimes it was easy to figure out a move was going if you were at the back of the group because you could hear the motorcycle accelerate to stay ahead of the charging riders!
Truth be told, I was nervous for most of the race given the close-quarters nature of the course, this being my first crit race, and the memories of the GFRR crash. There is clearly a lot of talent in the Junior Men field and I’m honoured to race with them as they develop into speed demons. However, the race etiquette for many of them require serious work. For instance, holding your line around windy turns with a curb on either side goes without saying.... there were many times that riders would be pinched into the curb by poor cornering. On the river section, there was a pretty bad crash when one of the Juniors was pinched against the curb at 45km/h and went down tumbling very hard. Crashing is part of the sport, but most of the crashes I’ve witnessed so far could have easily been avoided if people just pay attention to their surroundings!
After a few laps of the crit, Mouckie was clearly warmed up and began riding super aggressively. He would move up to the front on several occasions and set a blistering leg softening tempo. Following likely his biggest move off the front, he unfortunately overcooked the off-camber corner and ended up flipping onto the grass still attached to his bike. Thankfully, he was all right but was unable to chase down the peloton. Considering how well he was riding in the first half of the race he seemed poised to get a proper breakaway going - perhaps next time! Indeed, the Elite Women’s, Elite Men’s and the Master 1 race results showed us why this course is perfect for a well-oiled and small breakaway (of as little as 1 rider!!!) to pull away from the peloton given the benefit of being able to take the most direct line through the windy course.
So anyway, it was Michael Jaffray and I left in the field. From that point on, several attacks from the various teams would be quickly neutralized by the larger teams. One thing is for sure, the Junior men teams have been coached to not let many moves go!
Of special note, Jaffray road a solo lap off the front with about 8 laps to go. Sadly, no one seemed interested in following so he opted to get back into the group. In my opinion, he should have kept pushing. What can I say? The man is a monster!
I was generally absent for the first ¾ of the race since I wasn’t feeling as comfortable as I normally do in a race. Despite this, I put in a big attack with about 5 laps to go just after the chicane on the northwest end of the course. I saw that James Keezer (Midweek) and Mark Van Doormaal (Lapdogs) followed me, both of whom I would happily form a breakaway group with, as well as a couple others I couldn't see clearly. The peloton would be stretched into a long line for the chase. Once we came back around to the chicane, I let up since it was clear we had gotten chased down by the savvy racing from the Juniors. In hindsight, I should have kept pushing hard to break that elastic since I still had lots of gas in the tank and there were certainly some tired legs in the field. Again, my confidence just wasn’t there this race and so I would disappear back into the anonymity of the peloton.
From that point on, my plan was to try to protect and leadout Jaffray for the bunch sprint. The pace was quiet for the last 3-4 laps. The finishing sprint played out as follows: on the last lap, I attempted to pull Jaffray up to the front of the peloton and was hoping to initiate a leadout after the chicane. As we approached the chicane, I noticed he had rejoined the back of the peloton and found myself near the front alone with a pack that was 7-8 riders wide. Leadout trains were starting to form left and right with Kallisto-FCV and NCCH P/B Dec Express (Juniors), Waterloo Cycling Club, and a couple of others I cannot remember. I found it impossible to find a safe pace line to join and had to slowly ramp my speed solo in the open road with the hopes I could at least cling onto anything that went and left a gap. With about 400m to go, I had to really push to stay near the front (1000+W) and with about 250m, I had to initiate my sprint or be engulfed by the group .... about 100m from the line, I was completely overtaken by Rune Schaefer (Esteemtraining.com) and Cameron Mason (Kallisto-FCV). They took 1st and 2nd respectively in the combined field. Great work boys! Those were mean sprints.
For 3rd place (1st in E3), I duked it out with the best placed E3 rider from the Good Friday RR (Willam Laurie from the Holiday Inn team). Poor Willam had his name mispronounced by the race officials 2 races in a row.... it’s Willam, not William! Anyway, we photo finished with Willam just edging me out at the line. I always wondered how racers know when they’ve won or have been beaten in a photo finish but it was clear to me at the time that I was beaten by ~a rim’s depth.
Overall, I'm certainly happy I was almost able to edge Willam out given how far out I had to hammer... I’m also delighted to bring a podium finish home for the team, especially given how well Mouckie and Jaffray animated that race. Thanks for riding an awesome race, guys! One thing is for sure, I need to get out for some more crit practice!
Please feel free to comment and follow-up with your own race experience.
Full results here:
P.S. More pictures here (paywall for high quality without watermark):