This was my third time participating in the Centurion at Blue Mountain, and my second time doing the C100. My goal was just to try and beat last year’s time and hopefully to finish in the top 100.
623 riders lined up at the start line, which was considerably fewer than last year. I was fairly close to the front, joined by Andy Mill and Andrew Krucker from Speed River Cycling Club. The weather was grey and cloudy, but the temperature was quite comfortable, around 15 Celsius. Rain was not expected until later in the day, after the race had finished.
As always at the Centurion, things started right on time and we started rolling out at 8:30am sharp. The first 5 km or so were neutral and the lead vehicle dictated a 25 km/hr pace until we turned onto Grey Road 19. As soon as the car pulled off, things began to string out as the stronger riders surged away. This first climb, which averaged almost 5% for over 5 km, would split the field and sort the riders by ability. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay with the lead group, and had decided not to even try, focusing instead on keeping a steady pace and staying with the second group. I could see the leaders all together up ahead as they went over the top with a distinct gap. I didn’t panic and maintained my best effort without blowing up. I knew there was still 160km to go.
After reaching the top of the escarpment I found myself in a fairly small group. We worked together briefly, but our numbers quickly grew as more riders topped the climb and caught up. Together we made good time and it wasn’t long before we caught the leaders. Such a large peloton made for easy riding all the way to the first feed station in Creemore. I heard that there was a four man break up the road… including Andy Mill of course : ) At this point I was feeling good. But it wouldn’t last long. The second big climb would string us out again. With 100 km to go, the big guns went clear and I would never see them again.
By the time I topped this climb, I was once again in a small group of only 6 or 7 riders. Now I had to start working and took my turns on the front. I made a respectable contribution to our efforts for a while. Eventually we picked up a few more guys and another group caught us. Our numbers grew again and we became the official second chase group with about 40 riders. I was able to drop back and sit in again, trying to conserve my energy for the upcoming KOM and the final hills after that. I knew the end would be very challenging and there were a few times were I had to hold myself back and not take a pull, determined to ride smart instead of hard.
At the 120 km mark we reached the KOM. Last year I started too hard at the bottom and faded half way up… getting dropped at the feed zone. I was determined to stay with the group this time and tried to keep a more steady pace. I felt like I had done so much better today and I actually found myself passing a lot of others on the way up. My time was 10 seconds faster… it felt like more… but at least it was an improvement. Once we got over the climb I found myself closer to the front again and had to take a few more pulls. The winds were slowing the pace now too, and I wanted to save my energy for the last climb so I dropped back.
As we started up the last ascent I was near the front again and hoping not to get dropped. It was uphill for the next 15 km and the effort to keep pace was starting to wear me out. My legs were burning and it felt like this climb would never end. Eventually I reached the top and got to rest as I crouched into a tuck for the final descent… the same hill we had climbed at the start of the race. After a while a different kind of pain was experienced as my quads and neck muscles started to burn from holding a tuck position for 5 km. I was right at the front of the group when we reached the left-hand turn onto Ostler Bluff Road for the final run-in to the finish. There was about 4km to go and a couple of guys jumped out front and tried to get away. I got on a wheel and just hung on with no intentions of trying to go since I always get blown away at the end. When the leaders started to tire, somebody else moved up and I held my position at third wheel. I knew that there was a pile of riders stacked up behind me, but I didn’t ever look back. My plan was to hang on and give it all I had in the sprint. We reached the roundabout and the final kilometer where everybody started to make their moves. Everyone was riding flat out and I got passed by many of them. I finished in the bunch, crossing the line in 93rd place with a time of 4:41:28… 4 minutes faster than last year so I was pretty happy.