First O-Cup = first ass-kicking!
Yesterday I started my racing season and participated in my first race in the Ontario Cup series… the Good Friday Road Race in Ancaster. It was a chilly morning, around 0 Celsius, when I left Guelph around 6:45am. There was still snow in the fields by the road and it was cloudy and grey. It felt like I was heading to a Spring Classic. But the weather was promising for the day with a forecast of mixed sun and cloud, and a temperature of 8 Celsius. I was pretty excited to finally start the cycling season after a long snowy winter.
The Ancaster Fairgrounds was the venue for the 61st edition of this race which featured a new course for 2013. I parked in the muddy lot and went to sign in and pick up my number. After getting ready I only had time for a short warm up before heading to the staging area. I found 3 other team mates from Speed River Cycling Club who were also participating in the M3 race… Andy, Gord and Andrew. While we were waiting for the start, a race official came looking for some of us… apparently we didn’t show our race license at registration. This would appear to be rookie mistake number one. Although I showed my license to the girl who gave me my numbers and took my signature, I was supposed to show it to someone else. It wasn’t clear, but hey, lesson learned… as long as we showed it after the race, we would not be disqualified and our result would stand.
There were three races starting 3 minutes apart at 8:30am. The Elite 4 men first, followed by the Master 3 men, and then the Master/Elite 4 women. When our turn came, the whistle went and we took off. Within Ancaster Fairgrounds, after the first left hand turn, the road changed to gravel. I was not expecting this! There was a short straightaway then another left turn before the paved road began again. I was a little concerned about riding this gravel section three more times in a pack. Sure it was very Paris-Roubaix, but not something I was comfortable with. In the end it turned out not to be a problem… I saw one guy go down here on lap 2 and that was it.
Once we hit the asphalt the pace went up. The first lap was pretty hairy… the accordion effect resulted in repeatedly slamming on the brakes and then hammering it with every bump in the road. We were packed in like sardines with nowhere to go. Strategy was out the window. All my preconceived plans of trying attacks or trying to follow the breakaway were instantly nullified. I was half way down the field with no room to move without violating the yellow line rule, or being a major dick. So we just rode along… slamming on the brakes, then hammering it, and trying not to crash. I was scared to take my hands off the handlebars!
Near the end of the first lap, as we approached the Fairgrounds, the officials signalled us to stop. The race was neutralized due to a nasty crash in the S4 group ahead. We had to stop while carnage was cleared off the road and medics attended to a serious injury. After several minutes we were instructed to proceed. As we got moving again, I somehow veered into Andy and got tangled in his handlebar and fell off my bike. It was really embarrassing! I jumped back on as quick as I could. So far this race was not going the way I had expected!
After going through the Fairgrounds and heading back out on the second lap, we had to stop again at the crash site and wait until we were instructed to proceed. This happened again at the end of the second lap as the injured rider was still on the road. (I hope he’s ok!) Apart from that, the ride was pretty monotonous until the end, except for the one guy who wiped out on the gravel section, but he was ok.
Andy Mill went on the attack going through the Fairgrounds on lap 3. He streaked up the inside, passed the field and crossed the line in first place, but there was no getting away. He rode the last lap with the front of the group. I was probably a third of the way back and thinking of how I could move up and what I could do at the end. I was able to move up a little, but it was still too tight to do much. After the final turn, the attacks started and everyone hammered up the final stretch to the Fairgrounds. After a few seconds a gap formed and I realized that I din’t have anything left in my legs. I was toast. Suddenly I was going backwards. One moment I’m a third of the way from the front, the next I’m being passed by half of the field. I was pretty surprised at how much all these guys had left. Just like that, my race was over. I limped in 33 seconds behind. It was disappointing, but at least I gained some experience and learned a few things.
The other boys from Speed River Cycling Club put in a great effort. Andy tried one last attack at the end but ran out of gas before the line. He finished with the front bunch in 18th place. Gord also finished with the group… everybody getting the same time.
My first O-Cup was in the books. 53rd place. Not exactly what I had hoped for… but I was kinda relieved to finish in one piece.
Until next time : )