The Mississippi Mills Grand Prix Stage Race was the final O-Cup event for 2013. The Elite 1/2 and Masters 1 men would compete in 4 events scheduled over 3 days… The Blakeney Circuit Race, the Clayton Time Trial, The Almonte Crit and the Pakenham Road Race… all other categories could only participate in the Clayton TT and the Pakenham RR. For us, only the time trial counted as part of the O-Cup series.
When I checked out the MMGP on line, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about signing up. I probably would have been more keen if I hadn’t just done my first time trial with Speed River Cycling Club a few weeks before. It was pretty agonizing! (You can read about it here) Also, Clayton is a long way from Guelph and I didn’t feel that it was worth the effort to travel that far for a 30 minute time trial. When reviewing the technical guide I saw that the O-Cup TT course was very similar to the one I had done with our club… an out-and-back 18 km route. Hmm, I was one weekend away from completing my goal of racing the entire O-Cup series events, so I really needed to do this one to finish the task.
As expected, Andy Mill was in, so I didn’t have to go alone. OK, let’s finish what we started!
I thought about renting a real TT bike for the weekend, but couldn’t find one. But I was able to get the next best thing because fellow club member, Gabhan Chalmers, lent me his aero bars, lycra shoe covers and a TT helmet.
Then the organizers made a change to the event that I thought was pretty significant. They doubled the distance and made us ride the course twice. The 18km TT I signed up for was now a 36 km TT! Ouch!
On the Wednesday before the time trial, I attached the bars to my bike and moved my saddle as far forward as it would go on the rails. Then I went for a test ride. Wearing the TT helmet I felt a little conspicuous, but it was important to try out the gear. Instead of riding the course from our club TT, I stayed closer to home and decided to ride a 17.3 km section of Wellington Rd 34. On the way from my house to the starting point at Victoria Rd was the first time I had ever tried aero bars. They felt too high. I still had one spacer under my stem so I pulled over to the side of the road and removed it to drop my bars all the way down on the head tube. This was much better for now.
I rode the 17.3 km route twice. Stopping between laps to adjust the angle of the bars. Just like the first TT I rode with the club in May, there was a headwind on the way out, but it was not as strong. Without the peer pressure of other riders to motivate me, I didn’t ride quite as hard and my heart rate was actually a little lower than last time. But my pace was up to 38.8 km/hr for the first 17 km. Wow! The helmet and bars really seemed to make a difference. Maybe I should shave my legs too!
On Thursday night Andy emailed me the regulations on bike set-ups to make sure mine complied with the UCI. It was a good thing because I didn’t know that in addition to various measurements, your aero bars had to be adjusted so your arms were parallel with the ground. My set-up was angled down a little so I had to correct it. Now, the bars were a little too high again, so I removed a spacer under the armrests and angled the bars up again. That seemed to be an improvement overall but now the bolts were too long without the spacers and I had to go to Canadian Tire on Friday morning to get some shorter ones. Then I was set up as best as I knew how.
Andy met me at my place after work on Friday and we had dinner before making the 5 hour drive to Pakenham. We arrived at our Bed & Breakfast pretty late, around 11:30 pm, but fortunately our start times were not until 10:12 am so we didn’t have to get up too early.
A great breakfast of bacon, potatoes, French toast with maple syrup and fresh fruit was prepared for us before we drove to Clayton, which was about 15 or 20 minutes away. The weather was damp and cool, with grey skies and light drizzle. It was supposed to dry up around 9am. We signed in and got ready. It seemed like everybody had a TT bike, and skinsuit. Many riders had disc wheels. I still hadn’t shaved my legs : )
After warming up, we went to the start area and had our bikes checked for compliance. The road was almost dry by now and it looked like the rain was done. Andy went first at 10:12 am and I followed 1 minute after. There was a small start ramp that we launched from. Somebody held on to our bikes so that we could clip in. We got a countdown and then we were off.
I hammered the pedals off the ramp and got my speed up as quickly I could. After a few seconds I was doing 50 km/hr and my heart rate was almost 170 BPM. I forgot to start my Garmin but I realized almost immediately so the info was not far off. There was a cross headwind on the way out, but the course was more downhill and the pace was pretty high. I was feeling pretty good. The position on the bike was surprisingly comfortable and I felt pretty aero. I did my best to give it everything I had and stay just below my anaerobic threshold. My heart rate was around 166BPM average and at times I could feel the lactic acid building up in my legs. I was worried that I might be starting too hard but I didn’t really know what to expect or how to pace myself so I just went as hard I could.
A few rolling hills would hurt from time to time, but I actually got into a fairly good rhythm and was feeling surprising good. The first turnaround at 9km seemed to come pretty quickly. As I was approaching the cone, Andy was heading back toward me. He didn’t seem to be too far ahead at least. After I made the turn and headed back, it also seemed like the guy behind me was not catching up, so that was another good sign I thought.
The mental game began on the return leg though. I could feel the uphill and the pace was dropping. At times I had to get out of the saddle and grab the drops. I could seem my average speed falling on my Garmin even though there was some cross tailwind. Now I was in pain. Now I was trying to hold on to the next hill crest… the next sideroad… the halfway point. The last 2 km were marked and then the last 500m. Andy was passing me on his second lap and it still didn’t feel like he was making that much time on me, so that was still encouraging. I called out my number as I passed the timekeepers tent before rounding the orange cone in the road. I was halfway done.
Once again the outward leg seemed easier and the pace went up again. I tried to make up time, but overall I was fading compared with the first lap and I lost time. I tried to motivate myself mentally with various thoughts. “catch Andy”… “don’t get caught”… last chance this season to make the podium” … “ wouldn’t that be nice to tell my kids when they ask how I did!”
After the third turnaround I knew I was three quarters of the way there and I just gave it my best. My heart rate was as high as it had ever been. I finally made it to the end. I finished in 8th place with a time was 56’:48” … 2’:48” behind the winner.
Andy finished in 4th place beating me by 1’:44”. That was enough to make him the overall winner of the M3 category in the O-Cup standings! Once again, well done Andy!
So that’s it. Mission accomplished. I raced the entire O-Cup series with Andy. It’s been a hell of a ride : )
Big thanks to Gabhan for the aero gear! It made a big difference.
Next up was the Pakenham Road Race in the morning.