O Cup #3 was the Springbank Road Race and today was my third consecutive year participating. I’ve had mixed results at this criterium style race, held on a narrow 2.2 km course through Springbank Park in London. In 2013 I got dropped with 3 laps to go for the DNF. Then in 2014 I got my best O Cup result ever, finishing 11th in the M3 field. I haven’t done much racing since mid season last year and I didn’t really know what to expect. This was my second race this year after skipping the Calabogie Classic, and I was hoping for a strong performance.
Mark Chappel is my new race buddy from SpeedRiver Cycling Club and we drove down to London together but arrived a lot later than we had hoped due to a highway closure on the 401. We had just enough time for one warm-up lap on the course after we signed in and pinned our numbers on. It was a beautiful sunny morning, about 12 Celsius at start time, with no wind. I was positioned in the third row when the whistle blew to start to race.
The guy in front of me couldn’t get clipped in and actually toppled over on the grass at the side of the road. I felt bad for him as I passed him and moved up as near the front as I could get, taking the inside line around the first corner. Everybody seemed to make it safely around the first two corners which slope downhill onto the back straightaway along the river. The pace was high as we hit the uphill curve at the end of the straight. It’s not much of a hill, but for me it’s like a mountain and I always struggle to hold my place on this part of the course. The accordion effect from taking two consecutive corners makes it particularly hard if you are at the back and I was determined to hold my position and not slip back. I was about fifteenth wheel, and I stood up and sprinted up the hill to hold my place as we turned the fourth corner and headed back towards the start. There’s a chicane in the road before hitting the home straight and it’s easy to get squeezed out into the curb if you’re on the inside, but thankfully I made it through without any problem… for now.
I was finding the pace very steady… but high! I was suffering. My Garmin said 41.7km/hr average… and it didn’t ever change. With every lap the “hill” hurt more, but I was still in it until almost the halfway point. I think it was the eighth lap when I started losing ground. Mark passed me and I was a few wheels behind him for a couple of laps. The Garmin still said 41.7 km/hr average. Then, on the tenth lap I was deep in the red after the uphill section and I got squeezed out at the chicane and had to brake to avoid the curb. A bunch of guys passed me on the left and I was almost at the back of the pack. I was still in contact at this point and had no problem hanging on, but I couldn’t move up on the narrow course. The next time we hit the “hill” I had to brake again from the accordion effect and found myself in too big a gear to stay on as the front of the bunch accelerated. A gap opened up and I had to burn a match to get back on. At this point a bunch of guys had been popped and the field was almost half the original size. I was now the lantern rouge. I couldn’t move up and found myself getting gapped on the third and fourth corner of every lap and burning a match to get back on. On the fourteenth lap I couldn’t close the gap. Ultimately I just didn’t have the will today and I gave up and let them go. The Garmin still said 41.7. It was a tough race, but I really believe my failure was more psychological than anything. I was definitely hurting, but I stopped believing.
Mark, on the other hand, had a really strong race and finished in eighth place. Well done!