Friday, April 10, 2009

Race Report: Good Friday Road Race April 10 2009

Race Report for the Good Friday Road Race – Flamborough, ON April 10th, 2009

Race Facts (some can be found on the race website
I raced in the Master 2 category.
81 cyclists started the race with me in the M2 Category.
The race was 4 laps around an 18.5km course: 74km total.
The race conditions were ideal for the time of year; moderate winds, clear skies, dry and cool (5 Celsius).

This was my second time entering the Good Friday Race. I competed last year in the M2 category and finished 17th out of 54 riders in the same time as the winners. My strategy last year was to stay near the front of the pack and look for a break to happen and maybe join it if possible. Waiting for the final 100 meters to dual it out with the Sprinters, is not a strategy that works for me based on my poor sprinting skills. During last year’s race, no break-away developed, so I made my own break with about 6km’s to go. Unfortunately no one came with me to help make the move a success, and I was eventually caught by the pack with about 1 km to go. I hung on for 17th place in the sprint to the finish.

This year my strategy was to make a break earlier, as soon as mid way through the race if possible (after the 2nd lap). If my break was unsuccessful I would rejoin the peleton and make another break as soon as I could muster the strength. I would keep doing this until the unlikely scenario of the plan working and me winning the race. A more likely scenario would have me trying desperately to hang on to the back of the peleton after several failed attempts to break away. My sprinting skills remain low, so saving my energy until the end was still not a good plan.

I reviewed my race plan over the phone with a friend Ian while I drove from my in-laws house, where I had dropped off my family (wife, kids & dog) and changed over the kid’s seats into my mother in-laws car. Somehow I was running a little late, but still had enough time left to check in and have a quick warm-up before the race. Despite having attended the race last year and getting directions from Ian, I managed to miss my turn, so I turned in at what I thought was the next possible spot. I figured that I could work my way down to the start from the next road. After a short 4km drive to the next intersection, I rolled down the car window ask directions from the policeman directing race traffic. He explained what road I needed to take to get to the starting area. I interpreted the information from the officer as follows: go back to the main highway and take the next road in. On my drive out to the main road, I checked the time and figured that I was okay, that my warm-up would just have to be cut even shorter. After driving out the 4km then down the highway a bit and back in another 4km to the 1st intersection, a second policemen told me that I had an option of parking here and cycling down to the start or going back to the main road and driving further down the to the road that I was supposed to have taken in the 1st place. I made a split second decision to turn the car around. I cursed myself as I sped down the side road for not having listened to the 1st policemen or Ian more carefully.
Finally heading down the right road, I passed many cyclists who were warming up for the race. Cars were parked like there was an auction going on, all up and down both sides of the road. I parked at the end of the line of parked cars, furthest away from the start area. I got out and began walking to the registration area to pick up my race numbers. The distance from my car to registration turned out to be about 1.5km thanks to the record turn out. I did get my warm-up in, but not how I expected as I had to jog quickly back to my car and change like superman while listening to a race report from my friend Larry Bradley who had competed in the 1st wave of races earlier that morning. The most difficult part was trying to calm myself down enough to attach 8 safety pins and the race numbers to the back of my jersey.

The race started and I settled in to a comfortable position in the peleton behind a rider who seemed confident on his bike and made every effort to communicate pace changes and road conditions. I could hear a horn honking constantly close behind me, which I interpreted as a celebration of the race. I soon realized that the driver was a race official trying to enforce the yellow line rule, which states that riders may not cross the yellow line that runs down the center of the road. It was amazing how often the horn sounded in the 1st lap. Several riders were rightfully disqualified for failing to adhere to this rule meant for their own protection. With no shoulder on the right and a center line limiting where we could ride our bikes, 81 riders strings out a long way down the road. When I looked back to check out how many riders were behind me, I realized that my comfortable position was in fact dead last, thus accounting for how load the car horn was right behind me.

I stayed at the back of the peleton for the 1st lap and a half. If I was going to make a break after the 2nd lap, I would need to work my way up through the congested pack. My move from the back to the front took 10 km’s. I was thankful to have been able to get to the front without any spills, speed changes are magnified at the back which is most dangerous when slowing down. At the front the riders were a lot more aggressive, yelling at each other: ‘move over’, ‘coming through’, ‘Take your turn’, ‘that guys blocking get around him’. My plan was to take no turns at the front of the peleton, when I was in a position to take a turn at the front I would make a break. Unfortunately this happened at a less than ideal position in the race, with a tail wind on a flat, where it would be relatively easy for the group to catch me. Regardless of the less than ideal spot, I put my head down and went for it. After a couple of minutes I looked back and saw that I did not create that much of a gap, so I decided to soft peddle waiting for the peleton to catch me and then launch another attack. When the pack caught me one of the guys said to me that we should really work together, that there was no sense in going it alone. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, I was trying to win the race, why would we need to work together? I soon found out that there were 2 riders already up ahead that the peleton was working to catch. I had been so far back in the pack that I did not realize what was happening in the race – lesson learned.

I then became a team player and worked with some guys at the front of the pack to catch the 2 break-away riders. Derek Koops who finished 3rd last year and this year, worked with me taking turns leading the chase. Mike Ring, another strong rider in the M2 category took over the lead of the chase on a hill (his specialty). After a few more minutes, I realized that the chase group was not organized enough, a few riders were breathing heavy and some others were trying to slow down the pace in support of their team mates up in the break.

The chase was taking its toll on the lead 2 riders who were clearly in view. The 2 riders were no longer working together and had split up. It was at this point that I launched my second attack, determined to chase down the lead riders and pass them. With my head down, I took off from the front and no one followed. I found out later that Ian had helped me out by getting to the front of the Peleton and then slowing the pace, thanks Ian. I quickly caught the first cyclist who was sitting up waiting to rejoin the peleton, and then set my sights clearly on the lead rider. I came up to the 2nd rider (Andy Leger) and put in a burst to try to go right by. Andy had been saving himself for a bit in order to counter my attack. Andy locked on to my rear wheel with about 1.3 laps remaining. It became clear to me that I wasn’t going to shake Andy, so instead I signaled him to take a turn in the lead. Andy responded to my body signals and verbal requests by taking his turn. We started working well together alternating shifts at the front. Andy had more speed on the hills and I carried the load on the flats and down hills. I used all of my energy in making the break a success and had nothing left for a final Sprint. Andy pulled away on a slight hill with about 1km remaining earning a well deserved victory. I gave it all I had finishing 5 seconds behind. Through our hard work together over that final 25 km’s, Andy and I built up a 90 second lead on the peleton. This was a considerable accomplishment considering that in all of 2008 racing season there was no break-away that succeeded in the M2 category.

I was so happy with how the race transpired; it wasn’t exactly as planned but the overall result was great. The race organizers the Hamilton Cycling club did a great job and had a record turn out for their hard work. The organizers even made the effort to have the medals engraved with race details, and finishing position on the back. I look forward to attempting more break-a-ways in the 2009 season and hopefully accumulating enough points to move up to the top race category for my age - Masters 1.