Sunday, July 26, 2009

Race Report: Provincial Road Race Aldershot - July 26th, 2009

Race Report: Provincial Road Race Aldershot
78.75km Bike (7 laps of 11.1km course from Aldershot to Waterdown)
75 Participants in Masters 2 Category
Weather: Thundershowers

If there is a single message I can take from what I have learned this year is that my race performance is almost a mirror image of my training efforts. In order to achieve success, my final preparation needs to be very specific to the nuances of an upcoming event. My training regiment for the two weeks prior to the Provincial Road Race consisted of dropping swim training completely and limiting my run training. I had 4 hill repeat sessions where I forced my body to experience the same amount of elevation gain that I would go climb up in the upcoming race. I raced against the clock each time up the Scarborough Bluffs, averaging about 5minutes of near max effort and then cruised back down the hill recovering for just under 3 minutes. I was able to remain extremely consistent throughout the 9 ascents of each training session saving a max effort for the final climb. I was most interested in simulating race conditions especially for the second half of the race where my body would have already been under significant stress for over an hour. I figured that I may be able to separate myself from my competitors during the final 3-4 climbs. I am convinced that I am no faster than the majority of riders in my category and certainly slower than those who specialize in sprinting. Where I am able to distinguish myself in the Maters 2 category, is when my aerobic system is put to the test; during a road race this does not happen until after the 1st hour of racing is complete. My aerobic ability is aided by gradual climbs where the advantage gained by drafting is limited. The upcoming race appeared to suit my strength well with just over 200meters of climbing in each 11km lap.

Thunder and Lightening
The race was scheduled to start at 10:45am on Sunday morning. The early morning weather was dry but the clouds were moving quickly and there were some nasty looking ones coming our way. I was ready to go with my numbers pinned to my jersey at 10:15am and ventured out for a very slow warm up ride focusing more on my mental than physical state. I felt some rain drops and headed back to the registration area for cover under the canopy of some large trees. The skies began rumbling and all of the cyclists in the area (including me) headed for the shelter of the concrete park bathroom structure and the wooden registration area stand. What a site we made dozens of us cyclists with minimal body fat in thin skin tight gear shivering together in the tiny sheltered areas waiting for the storm to pass. The scheduled start time came and went as the thunder and lightening worked its way through the park. I sat down against the wall arms wrapped around my knees trying to keep my focus on retaining my energy for the upcoming race. Some riders had originally continued warming up in the rain, now they were wet miserable; fortunately I was just miserable. The delay lasted 52 minutes.

As the storm clouds passed and the rain slowed a rider came down from the start area and announced that the race would start in 10 minutes. Cyclist began to emerge from the shelters and onto their bikes as they headed up to the unsheltered start area. We all waited shivering in the light rain hoping for the race to start and the break in the clouds to blow our way as soon as possible. The race organizers reduced the race by one lap as a result of the weather delay. Finally the race began and of we all went, initially I was about two thirds of the way back from the head of the peleton. The road was fairly narrow with the yellow line rule in effect; no more that 3 riders could fit across the road for most of the 1st half of the loop. I worked my way up to the near the front of the pack by mid way through the second lap. The course was wet and some puddles had formed. All of the riders were very careful on the 1st lap slowing way down to navigate the slick corners. On the second lap on the way into the finish area there is an ‘S’ turn on a down hill slope, a rider a few ahead of me went in too fast and fell down sliding across the road. The guy in front of me went down as well as began sliding out towards the side of the road. Thankfully I was on the inside of the turn and was able to remain upright. The unfortunate circumstances for the two riders provided a natural break in the peleton and a perfect opportunity to make the gap permanent. I am not sure what the proper protocol is for this situation in a road race, but in the Tour de France the lead riders would have waited for the group except for if it had occurred near the end of the race. I did not follow the Tour’s protocol and sprinted to the lead of the race spurring on the other riders with calls of ‘Let’s Go!’ No one was interested in putting in any extra effort at this point. They may have felt that it was too early in the race to attack or they may have been following an unwritten rule of road racing. I better brush up on the proper protocol or risk being ostracized. I slowed my pace and waited for the group to catch back up.

I now stayed right at the front of the race and struck up a conversation with Carlo Capaldi, one of the top racers in the M2 category. I asked him why he did not join me in attacking; he replied that the time was not right. I knew that if someone like Carlo had joined me we would have had a great chance at staying away for the rest of the race. I had planned to make a break with 3 or 4 laps remaining with Marc Mazer, but I reacted to the circumstances that presented themselves and was now a little out of breath. Another rider went down on the corner leading onto Plains road. Once again I was fortunate to be on the inside of the turn and avoided the accident. Carlo Capaldi flatted just after the corner ending his day, yet he remained and even cheered me on from the finish area. I began looking around for Marc in hopes of signaling a break during the start of the 4th lap as per our plan. Marc must have seen me looking for him as he rode right up well positioned for a break right behind me.

As we started the long gradual climb on the 4th lap I gave Marc the key word ‘Scott’ to indicate attack and I sprinted out ahead of the group. I narrowly squeezed through a gap on the right side, which closed down delaying Marc from joining me off the front. The break failed but I kept the tempo high as the peleton caught back up. Michael Cummings made a non decisive move off of the front of the pack by merely increasing the pace on the gradual climb. I bridged up to Michael unfortunately pulling the whole peleton with me. I encouraged Michael to keep the pace high as he seemed to signal for me to take a shift at the front. I asked him to hang on a little longer while I recovered while following his wheel. I took a shift on the front and then stayed right near the lead as Gary Serra took a long turn in front on the ride back down towards Aldershot. A solo rider took a flyer off the front getting about 100 meters away from the pack heading into the corner on Plains road. After the corner I decided to try and bridge up to the rider. The peleton ignored my move as I was able to join up without pulling any one else with me. I started working with my new breakaway partner, encouraging him to keep the pace high; I noted that he was mostly silent and breathing heavily. He did however mention that we would be caught on the climb, that negativity is completely unwelcome on a break. I glanced back to see what kind of a lead we had on the peleton, and was overjoyed to spot Marc Mazer working his way towards us just out ahead of the group. I slowed my pace to wait as I shouted coordinating messages to my ‘I think I can’t’ partner and Marc.

With Marc on my wheel I now began to pull the break up the climb taking the lion share of the work. As per his own prediction the unknown rider dropped back to the pack on the climb and was replaced by a much more spirited cyclist in white who had decided to bridge the gap to our break-away. The three of us worked together for a short period as we crested the top end of the course. Marc had some front derailleur problems and was unable to keep pace. I offered up my condolences and made a quick decision to press on with the rider in white leaving Marc to his fate (Sorry Marc), as the peleton remained in pursuit not far behind us. The two of us forged on down the hill together, however, the other rider slowed considerably when facing the wind each time that he took the lead, forcing me to get back in front and push the pace. The rider seemed eager to make the break work and was able to keep a good pace while climbing. I began to think that we might stand a chance of staying away from the peleton as we finished the 5th loop. Unfortunately as I got out of the saddle at the steep part of the course just past the start line the eager rider’s front wheel touched my back wheel and he was sent crashing to the ground. There were plenty of people around to attend to him thankfully and luckily he was able to get up and finish the race with a bloodied elbow and knee.

I was now completely on my own with 2 full laps remaining in the race and only a few hundred meters in front of the peleton. I slowed my pace slightly as I contemplated what to do next. It seemed unlikely that I would be able to hold off the group alone for 22km’s with only a slight lead and I had already exhausted so much energy with my multiple attacks. As I turned right onto the beginning of the climb I decided to go for it, pushing myself to my limits as I had done in training. I put my head down and peddled hard not daring to look back until the top of the climb some 5km’s up the road. Fortunately the gap had grown as the peleton what out of sight. I pushed myself hardest on the descent worrying that I would be caught as that is where a determined chase group would have the greatest advantage. As I passed through the start/finish area I was encouraged by many onlookers, which felt great. I continued to put out a maximum effort focusing my mind on the pain that the great riders of the Tour have to go through in order to obtain success. I pressed on through the final lap rising out of my saddle each time I felt my pace slowing and remaining as aerodynamic as possible through the long descent. I crossed the finish line in 1st place with arms raised 45 seconds ahead of the peleton.

I found out later that Michael Cummins had got to within 50 meters of me during the 6th lap but could not close out the final few meters. Michael told me that I had increased the gaps on the descents as the peleton could not organize itself to chase me down and ultimately gave up settling instead on positioning themselves for a sprint for second place. Marc chose a good wheel for the final sprint finishing 5th overall earning him the 1 point that he needed to upgrade to M1. I am thrilled with the result an honored to have won the Provincial Road Race Championships at the Masters 2 level for 2009. The result bumps me up to the Master’s 1 category where I will face an entirely different level of competition. I look forward to the challenge and to working within my new team; Wheels of Bloor.

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