The Centurion in Ellicottville would prove to be the greatest physical challenge of my life to date. This 160km race included five categorized climbs with a total elevation gain of over 2,000 metres.
It was foggy and surprising cold for August when I arrived in Ellicottville around 6:30 am. The downtown was closed to all traffic with the start line located on the main street. It was only 8 Celsius at start time but the temperature was supposed to go up to 21 C so I decided to go with just arm warmers. I was shivering as we waited at the line, however the cold would quickly be forgotten on the first climb that came within minutes of the race beginning. I had started near the front of the field but got dropped before the top of the first hill. During the descent a bunch of us were able to chase back on, but it took a considerable effort. This situation repeated itself on the next couple of climbs, with each effort taking more of a toll. I was still with the front group by the time we reached the KOM at around the 73km mark, but the big guns attacked at the feed station and I got dropped for good. I exceeded 91 km/hr on the following descent but there was no hope of regaining contact with the leaders.
At this point there really wasn’t a lot of other riders to work and I found myself almost alone. After passing a few small groups, me and one other guy grabbed the wheel of Doug Blades from Team IFG. Doug turned out to be a real machine on the flat! I tried to do my part and share the work up front, but Doug ended up pulling for the majority of the remaining race until the last climb. The third guy never took a pull. Along the way we picked up two more riders who had been dropped from the lead group. They also never took a pull and Doug and I did all the work at the front, with Doug doing about 70% of it. The final climb came with about 8km to go. It was about 5km long with a short downhill section prior to the last climb to the summit, then a 3km descent to the finish line back in town. I tried to hammer it out as consistently as I could. My legs were burning, but a gap was forming between me and the others and I found myself going off the front during the ascent. I have to admit that I was in agony, praying for the end, as I ground it out to the top. Finally I got there and gravity took over. I got in a tuck and enjoyed the ride down to the finish, pedalling as much as I could . The third guy in our original chase group caught me at the bottom but seemed to hold up at the end to allow me to cross the line ahead of him.
I ended up finishing in 28th place with a time of 4:43:05 and a pace of 34.1 km/hr.