Racing to not be last!
Ontario Cup #2 is held at the Calabogie Motorsports Park. It’s a long way from Guelph, but the wide 5 km closed track with 20 corners looked like an awesome event that was too good to miss. Andy Mill joined me from Speed River Cycing Club and we drove the 400+ kilometres up to Renfrew on Saturday afternoon and spent the night there. Saturday’s weather was ugly, with snow, flurries and temperatures that dropped below -6 Celsius. Although the forecast for Sunday was pretty good with sun and a high of 8 Celsius, it was a cold start at -2 Celsius for the M3 race at 9am.
About 80 riders lined up for the start of the race. Andy and I were in the first row. When our turn came, the whistle blew and we were off. Starting at the front I just followed the wheel ahead and tried to stay on the sides to avoid any crashes. The first lap was a chance to check out the course. Compared to the Good Friday Road Race, we had lots of room to move up if needed.
The track was wide with sweeping corners and there was no yellow line rule. It looked like Calabogie was the perfect opportunity to try and execute some strategies that I never had a chance to try at the last O-Cup. At the start of the race I was near the front and Andy was already pulling. After the first lap, I decided to move to the front. I wanted to know if I could get away, or at least find out what it was like to do some work and see how I felt. I was out front but the peloton was still attached, strung out behind me. I was just taking a pull. It felt like I was on a club ride taking my turn. That was promising at least.
For the next few laps I stayed in the pack, moving up and down as the group surged and ebbed over the course. About half way through the race I decided to try an attack. Although I started from too far back in the field, the others didn’t see me as any threat and I managed to get away. This would prove to be my best chance in the race but any hopes of 6 or 7 strong riders going with me and working together to form a successful breakaway didn’t materialize. One rider that did come with me moved ahead and encouraged me to go for it. I was fading at this point, but it was motivating to have a wheel to grab and I picked up the pace. But any chance of getting a gap quickly evaporated shortly afterwards as the race was neutralized due to a crash in the women’s race. One of the riders was down on the road and we had to stop before passing by slowly. Everybody came back together again. Andy pulled through and I rode another lap near the front. I decided to try one more attack on the following lap and rode out front as hard as I could. But it was futile… nobody came with me and I ended up back in the pack after burning another match.
You would think that I would give up by now, but I didn’t think that I’d have much chance in a bunch sprint, so I tried to get something going again on the next lap. This time the front of the race was a little strung out with Andy and another guy on the front. I pushed forward and instead of attacking, I just moved ahead and took a hard pull with the hope that the guys at the front would go clear. I was still hoping for a break to form, and more importantly to be part of it. But I just ended up burning another match and this one seemed to be my last. Andy pulled through and continued to ride at the front with another guy, but I got swallowed by by the peloton for the last time. Now I was going backwards.
At this point one guy had gone clear but Andy soon bridged up to him, towing another rider with him. The three of them opened up a gap on the field for a while, but near the end of lap 10 the peloton decided it couldn’t afford to let them go. The pace shot up and I found myself struggling. Everybody passed me and I got dropped. Just like that. I was dead last! It was so frustrating. I was riding as hard as I could trying to hang on, hoping that the field would slow down again and I could get back on. But the gap kept growing and I realized that my race was over.
It was really disappointing. I even considered pulling out at the end of lap 10… there didn’t seem to be much point in doing a solo lap and taking last place. But that’s not my style and I realized that I had to finish. I just ground it out as hard as I could. I knew I wasn’t getting back into this race, but I noticed a couple of guys struggling at the back of the peloton and I decided to try and catch them. My only goal now was to not finish last. Sure enough, 3 or 4 riders got dropped and I eventually reeled them in. I ended up in 74th place, 2:26 behind the winner, while Andy took 15th place in the sprint, earning his first point.
I have to admit that I’m surprised at how tough this M3 category is. I had assumed that starting at the bottom would mean that I would be more evenly matched with a fair number of the other riders. So far I’ve been dead wrong! Hopefully I will get stronger as the season progresses though, and I am not giving up. After this ass-kicking my first thought was that I might have spent too much energy riding at the front and attacking. Perhaps I should have tried to stay in the pack and make it to the end, hoping for a better result in the sprint. But after taking some time to reflect I am ok with how things went. I really have no regrets. I actually acomplished some of the things I set out to do… even though they didn’t work out : ) I attacked for the first time. I took a pull. I learned that I can get away. This was more good experience that I can learn from and build on in races to come. And Calabogie really was a cool venue… I’m so glad I experienced this race.
2013 Calabogie Road Classic – M3 Category