Let me preface by stating that I got double booked with my cousin’s birthday party on Saturday night at a club, and my wake up time the next day at 5am.
0500, the birds are asleep, I’m asleep, the world’s asleep, but not Fernando. Fernando my cat 5 teammate for TRU cycling – Jax Bicycle Center, is already calling me telling me that he is already at my house. Still in a dream, I begrudgingly get out of bed and get ready for the Ontario GP.
It’s not only dark out but it’s cold, how cold, officially 28* at the starting line. Man I miss cat 5 racing, said no one ever. Fernando is set and ready to go, he races smart and uses his big motor to claim second place in his last cat 5 race.
My race is much different from his, I am not ready, I do not have the fitness, I did not put the sufficient amount of hours in. Still, I do have the drive and the confidence in the pack. I set up in the very front of the line to start, this helps with not having to work so hard from the get-go. We begin to make our way around the mix of lefts and rights though Ontario, ca. This is an all cat 4 field, something new to Ontario GP, something we’ve wanted for a while. What I’m certain no one wanted was a field of 125 rides with every slot on the roster spoken for. Even with the nice sweeping turns of the Ontario GP, it’s still just too congested to move around with any comfort. The pros may be able to handle a field this large but the 4s are just not ready to be grouped so largely together.
My fitness is suspect, and that is made clear right away as I find it hard to hold wheels, I maintain or gain position though handling skills alone. With no real power, it is hard to assert myself, and I am giving more spots up than I’m used to. There is also a safety issue, in every race there is a chance for a crash but for some strange reason riders are slowing before turns that need no decrease in speed. This is making everyone edgy and that feeling spreads though the peloton like a biblical plague.
I keep thinking, “this is the first race of the year, remember that” and it’s helping. Without the power to get away from trouble I find myself zig-zagging though people to stay away from others. The big scare of the race was when the pack was out of saddle for the traditional out of the turn sprint before braking into the next turn, when the rider in front of be had a blowout. Not a big deal, it was the second one of the race. This one was directly in front of me and the rider slowed down quite fast. I was able to get clear and even point him out as he didn’t even bother to follow etiquette and raise his arm, alerting the riders behind that he was stopping.
I finished the race the same way I always do, with a sprint. Obviously it is not a go for broke sprint as some riders don’t sprint they are not in top ten. I like to very money’s worth and push until the end. I finished 51st out of 125. Not impressive, but for sure where I belong.
The second race was almost 5 hours after! This was hard on me psychologically but good for my body. I also got to enjoy some great racing with my team doing well. My second race was the cat 4-5 with a sold out field of 75. Now 75 riders I can live with, 75 cat 4 and 5s… well that’s not as inviting. I did what I typically do and I started as close to the front as possible. I had warmed up better than I ever have and I think that was a major difference in this race. I was able to move from the middle to the front with no problem. The group was not as full and there were more than enough openings. I had planned to either attack or go for a preem, a preem is a mid-race race in a way. It’s a way to build excitement and pick the overall speed of the race up. You get prizes for crossing line after they announce a preem lap. I was not able to get in a position to go for one but by trying to I realized that I could get to the front and even pull. Knowing I could go up and pull was a big confidence boost that later paid dividend a few laps later. There was 5 laps to go and as always people forget how to race as soon as they hear “we have 5 to go”. There was a mix up and one rider took a closer look at the ground in front of me. As I heard his face make contact with the floor, and that awful sound a bike makes when it ruthlessly slams into cement I took my advice and just kept pedaling. His bike landed not 3 feet from where I rode past him. It was hard to not look back and wonder how he was, and his loud release of air, the sound one makes when they are punched in the gut, was not comforting at all knowing there was still 3 laps to go I kept my eyes on the road and the riders in front of me.
I began to notice more and more anxiety in the group so with two to go, I made the choice to get to the front and avoid any mishaps. As I moved to the front the pack was just starting to begin their 2 laps to go shuffle. They wait around for someone to go, not wanting to be the one to pull, slowing the race and making things dangerous. I used this to my advantage and got to the front and pulled hard to keep the pace up and keep myself out of trouble.
I heard one team say “mark everything”, which meant don’t let anyone make a move without following them. This would prove a bad choice, by aggressively marking everyone that moved to the front they changed wheels one too many times and, although it’s not certain who caused the crash, that horrible sound of carbon snapping was heard by me for a second time. There was a mass pile up on the last lap, two of my teammates we’re in the crash. I was on the opposite side of the crash and the crash spilled over to my side the rider in front of me fixated and went into the pile… a few others made it out. I was able to get out-of-the-way and into the chase for the few who did not slow down. I caught a few as I sprinted until the line. I placed 20th, but my teammates could have done better than that. But that’s racing for you, you have to be able to find a way to race with no fear, while understanding that crashing is an eventuality.
When my race was over so was I the fact that I had 3 hours of sleep got to me. I know a lot must improve but I am happy with what I was able to with what I had to work with.
The next morning I woke up after 13 hours of sleep.