Kitchener Twilight Grand Prix
Last weekend was a busy one as Cycle Waterloo hosted two events … the Kitchener Twilight Grand Prix on Friday evening, and the Tour de Waterloo on Sunday morning. The Tour de Waterloo is one of my favourite road races of the year but I can’t say the same for the Twilight GP. Crit racing is just not my thing. Last year I raced the beginner/sportive category, and although I achieved my best placed finish (7th), it was still a really tough event for me. This year I was required to do the intermediate race, presumably so that novice riders could stand a better chance of staying in. The problem was, I had no chance of staying in contention in the intermediate race, where the calibre of riders was well beyond my capabilities. I expected a challenge, but this race was just out of my league. I was off the back and pulled from the race after 8 laps. Very disappointing.
As soon as the whistle blew, the race was on full tilt. I started fairly close to the front, but I just slipped back with every lap. In the first 10 minutes I saw one guy wiped out on corner 1, and then another guy crashed hard on corner 4 a short time later. At least I got out in one piece!
With the taste of blood in my lungs, I watched the end of the race from the sidewalk, wishing I still had my $75 entrance fee so I could buy some beer.
I must say that it was a great race to watch though, and the finish was pretty spectacular. Two guys popped off the front with 3 or 4 laps to go, and held on until the last corner. Then, just as they were being caught, a bunch of guys in the peloton crashed and at least one of the breakaway riders held on for the win.
The elite race was just as exciting. They were going so hard that the field was strung out in one long line with guys getting ejected out the back on every lap. Less than half of the starters finished any of the mens races. Crits are cruel to race, but fun to watch. I think I’ll stick to spectating in the future.
At least my legs would still be pretty fresh for Sunday : )
Tour de Waterloo
I had high hopes for the Tour de Waterloo and was hoping to improve on my tenth place finish from last year in the 76km event. We ended up having six guys from Speed River Cycling Club in the race, but we were still hugely outnumbered by NCCH and Novofit who had 10 riders or more. After a high speed neutral rollout that felt like a 40km/hr average, the race was on and it didn’t take too long for a 9 man break to get away that contained 2 or 3 each from NCCH and Novofit. Their teammates clogged up the front of the bunch and let them go and nobody seemed too concerned about it. Having seen this too many times in other races, I tried to motivate some guys to work together to bring them back before they got too big of an advantage, but nobody was interested yet… or they had one of their guys in the break already. The pace slowed considerably and I was getting antsy. After about 45 minutes the break got out of sight and one of my teammates finally agreed it was time to start chasing. Four of us went to the front and started rotating. One of the NCCH guys got into the paceline and tried to break things up which was pretty frustrating, but we did our best to ride around him. After about 10 minutes Rob and I were first and second wheel and we missed a turn. The peloton made a left turn behind us as we went straight on. Just like that we went from the front to the back, and by the time we realized our error and made the U-turn, the bunch had got a good gap and we were chasing hard to get back on. Unfortunately Rob didn’t make it. I was hanging off the back for a while and it seemed that two guys had decided to single handedly chase down the break and they were driving hard. It took a while for me to move back up to the front. The breakaway was in sight again and I was keen to bring things back together so I got into the rotation and started working with one guy from FMC and some triathlete who were just givin’ ‘er. All was going well for a while and we were closing the gap. I was on the front with about 13km to go and we were approaching a hill. I pulled off and one of the NCCH guys attacked. As we hit the hill I knew I had to stay in contact or I was done, but when I stood up to crank it, my quads started cramping. I couldn’t turn the pedals and just stalled while everybody rode by. I sat down and tried to get my muscles to obey, but it was no use. When I crested, I was off the back and still struggling to get my legs to work. My race was over and all I could do was watch the peloton ride away. I soloed to the finish line in 44th place, more than 3 minutes down. It was pretty disappointing. In fact my whole season has been pretty discouraging. But this Tour de Waterloo turned out to be a good old fashioned bike race and I gave it a shot to be in the mix.