I am not the man to do lengthy posts and rarely comment on the site, but I thought I'd share my first experience ever in a bike race. I quite enjoy reading race or ride reports, such as Christian Dognon conquering the Pyrénnées or Paul, Mouck or Jason sharing their race experiences. I'm always impressed at the level of detail of their recollection and now understand why.
What a wonderful event organized by a bunch of nice and welcoming people from the town of Terra Cotta in Caledon. This is a race that takes place each year on the long weekend Monday in August and you can buy a one-day license for the event. The 8.7 km course is on closed roads and there is no yellow line rule.
In addition to youth races, there are three adult races: a 26 km Beginner race, a 52 km Intermediate race and a 104 km Elite race. As I never raced before, I enrolled in the 26 km. Other BCCers rode the intermediate: Alex Mulholland, Sage Koh, Deanna Solomon and Colin Matsalla. (Did I miss anyone?)
Here are the results:
Not to brag, but I finished 12th overall in a field of over 100 participants, and third in my age group of 50-59. Not knowing how these things work, I went to store my bike in the car after the race and get my camera, and as I was walking back I heard my name called to the podium but was too far to make it in time, so I missed my first ever moment of public adulation! Ah well, next time. Nevertheless, I picked up my medal and then proceeded to get free snacks and a delicious Neapolitan pizza washed downed with a cold beer.
Now on to the race. I showed up early in order to get my race number and chip, do a good warm-up and try to line up not too far back at the start. After ingesting a banana and an orange, I juiced myself up with a shot from a gel squeeze bottle that cost me almost $10. This stuff is better be good! When the announcer called the competitors to the start line, people rushed to get a good spot. I fared not too badly with only 30ish people in front of me.
The course starts on King Street going east, south on Heritage Road, west on Old School Road and North on Winston Churchill. It's flat except for a big uphill on Heritage and an equivalent downhill on Winston Churchill.
The adrenaline was flowing and the announcer tried to calm our nerves. It was a neutral start on King all the way up to the first turn where the big hill waited for us. Since it was a neutral start, I switched to my small ring as the pace was not too fast in preparation of the hill climb. That hill is about 500 meters from start to end (maybe 50 meters vertically). The elevation is manageable at first but the end is much steeper and you must get out of the saddle. Being in the small ring allowed me to spin up for most of it and I did only a bit of energy-draining out-of-the-saddle effort.
The first pass was not too bad and I kept with the pack in a good position. After recuperating, I proceeded to move up the peloton to try to be in the top 15-20 riders. I found it was not too hard to move up by taking a tow from another rider also moving up to the front. It was also manageable to get back in the pack when a rider left a small gap open. It was also pretty safe and civilized: some riders would remind others to hold their line on the first few 90 degree turns. There was an iffy moment when someone ahead braked hard and forced a cascade of breaking down the pack, but everyone kept their cool.
We were going at a good clip until we completed the first loop on King Street, where everyone was trying to stay fresh for the upcoming Heritage Road climb. This is when a breakaway took place that saw 6-7 riders break the main peloton. I completed the climb with my heart rate at 100% of max and hanged on to the chase group with about another dozen riders. I took some gel and drank water to recuperate as our group chased the breakaway. They had maybe 10 seconds on us and we kept them in site. (I say 'we' but took absolutely no pulls whatsoever!) As we completed the second loop we were getting closer but nobody wanted to go too hard before the third and final loop's climb. So the breakaway edged further away as we worked on the third installment of the Heritage Road Hill. Again, with my heart beating at exactly 100% of maximum I hung on to the wheel in front of me to dear life and as he was getting cooked I managed to pass him and make my way to the back of our chase group.
We continued on our merry way, but catching the breakaway was no longer in the cards. When we did the 90 degree turn on Winton Churchill, one rider miscalculated his turn and didn't hold his line. In order to prevent a crash he hit the gravel and had to come to a full stop. The rest of us continued, and we were now down to 10 riders. The two riders pulling at the front were completely cooked after awhile in the slight headwind, and speed came down to below 30 km/hr. My neighbour politely asked them to 'make way' and they more or less obliged as we sped ahead to go down the steep descent just before the soft turn into King street for the last kilometer to the finish line. With the end in sight we all started to sprint to the finish line. Unbeknownst to me, the two riders I was sprinting closest to were in my age group. The winner beat me by 1" and I had the same time as the second place finisher, but he did beat me by half a wheel.
I tried to take pictures of fellow BCCers, they are not very good, but here they are.
Start of the intermediate race:
Alex finished a couple of seconds back in the intermediate race in a bunch sprint. Here he is in the main pack:
Deanna riding away:
Sage on his way to climb the hill:
I couldn't stay to learn how the other BCC members did, so I'd love to hear about your experience.
As many of you I get tremendous enjoyment from this wonderful sport and being a member of BCC is a large part of this with the camaraderie, and the fun and challenging group rides. Thanks Dan for making this such a great cycling club!