My first Podium! (sort of)
I was pretty pumped to take part in my second Tour de Waterloo. This is my favourite cycling event that I’ve done so far. It’s well organized, great value for the cost, and conveniently close to home. The opportunity to ride with many elite racers and the rolling 130km course challenged me to the max. Contrary to last week’s miserable Centurion experience, my bike was adjusted and ready to race well in advance, and I had gone to bed early and gotten a good sleep the night before.
I was joined by Bayden Pritchard, Andy Mill, Rob Nespolo and James Kritz from Speed River Cycling Club. We arrived early and I was fortunate to lay claim to a virgin porta-potty for the purpose of maximizing my power/weight ratio : ) Things were going well so far! We picked up our race packets and got ready. I’m not sure why, but the number plates with the timing chips that you attach to your bike are absolutely massive at the TdW! They’re bigger than the ones you normally pin to your jersey! It’s like riding with a billboard on your bars!
After a warm-up ride, we lined up and waited for the start. It was going to be a sweltering hot day with a high of 32 Celsius and humidity index near 40! There was a neutral rollout for a couple of kilometres before the race officially started. I was near the front, but the group was huge and there was a lot of movement up the sides. I tried to maintain a position somewhat near the front and keep an eye on Andy and Bayden who were up ahead. We rode together in a large mass for a while at a fairly high pace and eventually the field broke up into several groups with about 70 riders going clear. The pace stayed fairly high with frequent surges over the rolling hills until about 40 km in, when a break of four finally got away. Andy was up there and I assumed Bayden was too, so I just sat in while the peloton chased. When we turned onto Road 121 through Millbank, I was nicely positioned 7 or 8 wheels back while Sound Systems and Village Cycle were doing all the work at the front to make sure that the gap remained manageable. We were averaging close to 50 km/hr for about 18 km along this fast straight section of road and I just sucked wheel the whole way : ) The break was holding steady about a minute or less ahead. At around the 70 km point, they were as close as they had been yet, and it looked like they were going to get reeled in. Then as we were starting up a hill, two riders took the opportunity to peel away and bridge over. One of them was from Village Cycle and I thought about jumping on his wheel but his team mate at the front had backed off the pace abruptly and I hesitated and looked around for a moment. By the time I realized what was going on, I had missed my opportunity to go with them. Then two more guys shot off from behind me. One of them was Bayden who I thought was already out front. The four of them got together and eventually bridged up to the breakaway. Sound Solutions and Village Cycle sat up and the peloton seemed a little stunned for a moment.
Wow! That was a pretty textbook move. I was definitely regretting not going with the first guy when I had the momentum. Even though the chance of me making it over, and surviving if I got there, might have been slim, I doubt I’ll see too many opportunities like that to get into a break.
Once everybody realized what had happened, it was time for some of the others to start working. Arthur Parsons and a couple of other guys moved up and started to pull in an effort to catch the break. I knew better than to contribute to the chase if I wanted to help my team mates. But now the peloton was driving the pace up and I needed to make sure that I didn’t get dropped. Even though I had no intentions of pulling, I found myself at the front a couple of times just because I was fighting so hard to stay with the group on the hills. Then James Kritz pulled up to me and asked how I was feeling. He wanted to try and get across too. James is a strong rider and I doubted I could hold his wheel long enough to get clear from the peloton. I asked Arthur and another guy if they wanted to try and we gave it a shot. No luck. The group was determined not to let anyone else go and they were coming with us. I was officially out of gas from the effort and my water was almost gone. I needed to grab a bottle at the feed zone and just hang in.
With 8 guys off the front now, they were driving the pace and the peloton was chasing hard. We were also hitting a bunch of rollers and it was getting painful. I didn’t know where the feed zone was and was not in a good position when we hit it. I wasn’t able to get a much needed bottle. Guys were attacking hard on the hills and I was staying with them, fairly close to the front until we hit the last hill approaching Hawkesville Rd. Then everybody drilled it and I got passed by the whole group before we were half way up. Just like that, I was finished again. This time was more frustrating than ever. I had almost made it.
I looked behind me and there was nobody in sight. There was a little under 20km to go, it was smoking hot and I was out of water. I rode to the end by myself, passing a couple of riders along the way. I’m not sure if they got popped from our race or if they were doing the 70km, but every time I looked back there was nobody coming to help. I lost about 4 minutes on the peloton by the time I reached the finish. I ended up 64th overall but my time was 12′:19″ faster than last year, so I was pretty happy.
Three of the guys were waiting for me at the end… James had finished 17th, Andy was 8th and Bayden had won! Rob came in with the next group and together, Speed River Cycling Club ended up earning 3rd place overall in the team category, so that was pretty cool. Finally after all of these attempts, I have officially made the podium!
The five of us sat down to enjoy lunch and swap stories. The 2013 Tour de Waterloo turned out to be another hell of a race! Everybody went for it. Everybody suffered. Everybody rode their guts out. You just can’t beat that!
The food was great! The experience was great! Thanks to McCabes, Cycle Waterloo and all the volunteers for another great event! Can’t wait to do it again next year : )
Big congratulations to Bayden on the win!